To help you find the best women's hiking shoes of 2019, we researched 65 pairs, then picked the top 13 for our thorough side-by-side testing process. We threw all kinds of terrain and conditions at these shows to separate the top contenders from the rest of the pack. After miles of varied terrain, we found the best for gentle trails, rugged terrain, and extended adventures with a heavy pack. We also considered bad knees, high arches, wide feet, and cost.
The Best Hiking Shoes for Women of 2019
|Price||$110.00 at Amazon|
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|$134.95 at Amazon||$159.95 at Backcountry||$120.00 at REI|
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|$199.95 at Backcountry|
|Pros||Comfortable, stable, great traction, durable||Great traction and stability, durable construction except for the laces||Very comfortable, lightweight, waterproof||Comfortable, waterproof, excellent traction||Comfortable, adjustable heel/ankle, great traction|
|Cons||Upper absorbs water (but doesn't leak), a little heavy||Difficult to tighten the toe box due to the speed lace system, release button got jammed, a little stiff||Not the best traction, questionable durability||Needs breaking in, runs short||Not waterproof, runs wide, wild style may not be for everyone|
|Bottom Line||The Sawtooth II excels at day hikes, longer adventures, and tricky terrain, making it an easy pick for our Editors' Choice Award.||An excellent all-around hiking shoe that is waterproof and supportive.||An exceptionally cushioned shoe that is also lightweight and waterproof.||Good at most things and great at some. It's an all-around solid hiker at a good price.||Hoka One One owns the comfort metric! The Sky Arkali is both cushioned and reponsive, and offers a dialed in fit, making it our Top Pick for Comfort.|
|Rating Categories||Sawtooth II Low BDry||Terrex Swift R2 GTX||HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit WP||Merrell Moab 2 WP - Women's||Sky Arkali|
|Water Resistance (15%)|
|Specs||Sawtooth II Low BDry||Terrex Swift R2 GTX||HOKA ONE ONE Tor...||Merrell Moab 2 WP...||Sky Arkali|
|Weight per pair (size 7)||1.83 lbs||1.36 lbs||1.55 lbs||1.69 lbs||1.69 lbs|
|Width Options||Regular, Wide||Regular||Regular||Regular, Wide||Regular|
|Upper||Leather & textile||Synthetic mesh||Nubuck and suede leather||Suede leather, mesh||MATRYX|
|Midsole||Dual density EVA||EVA||EVA and RMAT oversized midsole||EVA||PROFLY|
|Sole||Sawtooth||Continental Traxion rubber||Vibram Megagrip Hi-traction with 5mm lugs||Vibram TC5+||Vibram Megagrip Hi-traction with 5mm lugs|
Best Overall Women's Hiking Shoe
Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry - Women's
The Oboz Sawtooth was our top-rated hiking shoe last year, and the new Oboz Sawtooth II is nicely updated without sacrificing any of the features we appreciated in the original design. These shoes are incredibly supportive and comfortable for all-day hikes, especially when carrying a 20-30 pound pack. The midsole is plush, and the proprietary insole (the best of the bunch) provides structured support, making the Sawtooth II an excellent option for multi-day trips. The lugs are chunky enough to shed mud and grab on loose surfaces, while the rubber is soft enough to grip rock slabs and logs. Oboz's BDry waterproof/breathable membrane kept our feet dry from rain and ventilated away sweat. One of the updates in this model includes larger vents for increased breathability. While some hikers with a very narrow foot might want to wear a thicker sock for optimal fit, we appreciated having a little more room in the toe box to allow our toes to wiggle and splay. The shape of the upper combined with the shape of the insole holds the heel perfectly in place minimizing lifting and rubbing.
The only thing we don't love about the Sawtooth II is the weight. It's the heaviest shoe we tested (though just by a bit), and in our bucket test, it absorbed a noticeable amount of water making it even heavier. If weight is a deal-breaker for you then the Salomon X Ultra 3 is worth a look. However, we believe that the extra protection, durability, and comfort of the Sawtooth II makes it well worth the added weight.
Read review: Oboz Sawtooth II - Women's
Best Bang for Your Buck
Merrell Moab 2 WP - Women's
The Merrell Moab 2 WP is a classic hiking shoe that continues to deliver. It is relatively affordable, reasonably lightweight, and received top scores for traction. The ankle height is a little lower than some of the other models we tested, allowing water to go over the top sooner, but we found the Moab 2 WP to be completely waterproof on the trail and in our "lab" testing. Indeed, this shoe does well in every category and at an excellent price.
We did find that the Moab 2 was not comfortable right out of the box. However, after a couple of short hikes the fabric relaxed allowing for more flex and less pinch. It also runs a little short, which is something to keep in mind if you are between sizes or like to hike in a thick sock. If you never require a waterproof shoe, you can save a little weight and a few dollars with the Moab 2 Ventilator, a nearly identical hiking shoe that does not offer water protection but is extra breathable.
Read review: Merrell Moab 2 WP - Women's
Top Pick for Fast and Light Hiking
Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX - Women's
Is it a hiker or a trail runner? The Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX is a bit of both! Salomon took the look and feel of a trail runner and added more support in the heel and made the upper stiffer. The result is an excellent option for those who like to hike fast or trot on the downhills. The Gore-Tex liner and synthetic upper help keep your feet dry when splashing through streams and puddles. Moreover, it comes with a supportive insole. We especially appreciate the traction from the Contagrip sole in a variety of conditions, from loose dirt trails to rocky scrambles. This pair performed well across the board and in particular on fast hikes.
The X Ultra 3 doesn't have the same plush feel that some of the newer models with oversized midsoles provide, but it is never uncomfortable, and we like the support and stiffness in the heel when hiking downhill for miles. It did feel better without a heavy pack though, and as such, it is the recommended model for moving fast and light. The Quicklace system is not for everyone; some people love it, and some people hate it. If you don't mind the inability to fine-tune your laces, the Salomon X Ultra 3 is only ounces heavier than a typical trail runner, and it won't weigh you down while you fly down the trail. It's worth noting that the mid-cut boot version gained the Editors' Choice Award in our ladies hiking boots review, thus proving this model's prowess in multiple versions.
Read review: Salomon X Ultra 3 - Women's
Top Pick for Comfort
HOKA ONE ONE Sky Arkali - Women's
Hoka One One's hiking shoes are setting a new precedent for comfort. This year the Hoka One One Sky Arkali narrowly nudged out the Tor Summit WP as our Top Pick for Comfort, but truly they are both very comfortable shoes. The Sky Arkali has a slightly more responsive midsole than the Tor Summit without losing any of the cushioning, and we fell hard for the velcro adjusting straps on the heel and ankle that make for a perfect fit. The oversized soles look heavy but are not, and the shoes are remarkably supportive, sensitive, and agile. The Sky Arkali is a hybrid hiking and approach shoe, with sticky rubber soles and a protective rubber rand on the upper that offers excellent foot protection. We tackled lava rocks and steep trails confidently.
The Sky Arkali has a very roomy toe box. So, if you have a narrow foot, you may struggle to get these to fit well. There are a lot of lace holes to help adjust the fit (as well as those velcro straps), but they run wide, so a thicker sock may be needed. The Sky Arkali is not waterproof and leaked quickly in our bucket test. Yet, they kept our feet quite dry on rainy hikes. However, if waterproofness is as important as comfort, consider the Tor Summit, which has a waterproof liner. Lacking such a liner, the Sky Arkali is more breathable, adding to its overall supreme comfort.
Read review: Hoka One One Sky Arkali - Women's
Great for Wide Feet
Keen Targhee III Low - Women's
If your feet are on the wide side, you'll want to consider the Keen Targhee III. This comfortable day hiker is a great option for those who have a hard time getting a good fit in most other models. It comes with a supportive insole and a lot of cushioning in the midsole. We like the traction we got from KEEN's proprietary "all-terrain rubber," and their signature rubber toe cap adds durability while protecting your toes from accidental toe stubs.
This shoe comes with a waterproof barrier that does a great job of keeping rain and other moisture out, though the leather upper does limit the breathability. We got a little overheated in this model when we tested it in the southwest desert. If you do have narrow feet, you might have a hard time getting these to fit right. For all the wide-footed ladies though, these fit the bill! They also come in a mid-height boot, which is our Best Buy winner for our Women's Hiking Boot Review.
Read review: Keen Targhee III Low - Women's
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior Review Editor Laurel Hunter has her basecamp one short block from the National Forest outside of Bend, Oregon, and has a couple of pups eager for daily trail miles. Laurel was raised by an avid outdoor adventurer and has been outside most of her life. Her obsessive pursuit of perfect gear is backed by decades of trail running, mountain biking, hiking, camping, and outdoor experience. Using her training as an artist, she thinks well outside the box for her gear testing and pays attention to every detail. When she's not reviewing gear for OutdoorGearLab she is using gear on the trails right outside her home and dreaming of the perfect course for her mega pump track.
Cam McKenzie Ring also contributed to this review. Cam has spent years testing shoes with OutdoorGearLab, and has experience with dozens of women's hiking shoes. Her unique position of having witnessed first hand the trends and evolution of hiking footwear over the years gives her insight into this category that few others have. She's also no stranger to the outdoors, having spent a lifetime climbing and five years working for Yosemite Search and Rescue.
The first order of business in identifying the best women's hiking shoes was determining what was out there. We searched the market, and after looking very closely at over 65 different pairs of shoes from various manufacturers, we chose the 13 models discussed here, which we consider the cream of the crop. We wore them on hikes all around Central Oregon, racking up the miles to see how they fared over time. We hiked short, rugged loops, swapping shoes between laps for direct comparison. We performed traction and waterproofness tests. We were deliberate and thoughtful with our test design - for example, comfort critiques are limited to consideration of the midsole only, as the overall fit will vary between users. We evaluated the other key performance indicators in a similar fashion, ultimately compiling what we learned in this comprehensive review.
Related: How We Tested Hiking Shoes for Women
Analysis and Test Results
We tested these hiking shoes for many months, hiking dozens of miles in each along the way. We wore them in a variety of terrain; from soft trails in the forest to scree-covered buttes to rocky scrambles. We tested each pair while wearing a light daypack and a heavier 20-30 pound load, wore them back to back on wet and/or technical scrambles and carefully assessed all of their features along the way. We then rated them on specific criteria, including how waterproof and durable they are, and compiled all of our findings for you here. We'll go through each of our test metrics below, explaining why certain things like support or traction are important to consider, and which models excelled in which areas.
Gearing up for the outdoors can be an expensive endeavor. People used to buy one pair of leather hiking boots to last a decade or two, but today's hiking shoes typically last a fraction of that time. If you hike a lot, you might blow through one or even two pairs a year! While the products in this review are not exorbitantly priced, if you're replacing them a couple of times a year, year after year, that expense adds up. If this sounds like you, see our Durability section below and choose something that ranks high in that category.
Our Best Buy winner, the Merrell Moab 2, is an excellent example of high value in hiking footwear. It gets the job done well enough in a variety of conditions and terrain without costing a bomb. It's not the best, but for the majority of hiking objectives, it'll do just fine. Another tip for finding value in hiking shoes is to consider if you truly need a pair of waterproof shoes. If you don't, most of the models in this review are available in non-waterproof versions, which are significantly less expensive than their water-resistant counterparts. As a bonus, non-lined shoes almost always have better breathability, too, which is great for summer hiking.
Comfort is queen when it comes to hiking footwear! We may squeeze our feet into some uncomfortable shoes for a night on the town, but when it comes to hitting the trails, it's imperative to have shoes that are cushioned and comfortable. Whether you are spending hours or weeks on the trail, a shoe's comfort will greatly impact your experience. Comfortable shoes are well-padded, supportive, and correctly sized. Too loose or too tight, and you'll end up with hot spots, pressure points, and blisters, oh my! A good fit is important, and also highly subjective, as what fits one person's long and narrow feet with a high arch might not feel that great on someone else that has wider feet and a flatter arch. We tried to eliminate fit from our consideration for this score and instead considered factors that will affect every user, such as the amount and style of cushioning.
The standouts in this category are the Oboz Sawtooth II, the Hoka One One Tor Summit and our Top Pick for Comfort, the Hoka One One Sky Arkali. All of these shoes have ample cushioning that is plush but not too soft. Both of the Hoka One One models have super thick midsoles to cushion your ride, and while the brand claims that the Sky Arkali is "responsive" cushion to the Tor Summit's "plush" cushion, both felt pretty darn cushiony compared to the competition. They absorb the impact of each step without feeling too soft or squishy. If you're looking for the most padding out there, a Hoka One One hiking shoe may be the shoe for you. They do have a distinct look that might not appeal to everyone, especially the Sky Arkali. As for the Sawtooth II's, they are less plush but provide a lot of cushioning and strategic support and perform exceptionally well when carrying a heavier pack.
Another critical factor for us in the comfort category is having ample cushioning under the entire foot. Though your heel tends to hit the ground first when walking on level ground, once the angle increases, most people step with their forefoot first. Some shoes, like the Keen Voyageur, have little to no forefoot padding, and that affected our overall comfort. Others, like the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 WP, have minimal padding throughout the sole, making that shoe the least comfortable option that we tested.
As many features impact shoe stability, we considered several things when scoring each pair for support. We analyzed the support under the arch, the lateral stability and stiffness of the sole, and how well we could adjust the shoe with the lacing system. Hiking shoes are by nature less supportive than a full boot, so note that these scores are relative to each other and do not account for the support that you would get from a proper boot. If you have unstable ankles or plan on hiking with a heavy pack and/ or for prolonged periods, you will do better in a full boot.
When it comes to arch support, the shape of your foot will determine how much you want. If you have flatter feet and put on a shoe with a pronounced arch, it's not going to feel stable or comfortable at all! Conversely, little to no arch support can feel brutal to someone with regular to high arches. According to the Institute for Preventative Foot Health, only about 4% of the US population have "flat feet," or fallen arches. Since this condition seems to affect people who spend a lot of time moving on their feet (e.g. hikers and runners), it is probably more of a consideration for hiking shoe companies than other manufacturers. Still, having proper arch support from the get-go might be one way to avoid fallen arches later in life.
Some models have excellent arch support, like the Oboz Sawtooth II, Hoka One One Sky Arkali, and Keen Targhee III Low. The Sawtooth II comes with the best insole of the bunch, with extra padding and a molded arch that holds its shape. Those with flatter feet may want to consider the Ahnu Montara III, which has little arch support.
Lateral stability is also crucial in a hiking shoe because, unlike tennis or basketball where you move side to side, you are generally hiking in a forward direction. However, if you are boulder hopping, scrambling, or hiking in rough terrain you will benefit from a stable shoe. This result is a product of the aforementioned internal arch support and also the flexibility and firmness of the sole. If you can wring a shoe around like a wet towel, its stability will leave a lot to be desired. While stiff soles are great for adding stability, if they are too stiff, you'll lose flexibility in the forefoot, which will make it harder to hike up steep terrain. Here again the Oboz Sawtooth II stands out from the rest of the pack with ample flexion in the forefoot and limited side-to-side play.
While most of the shoes in our test group have good overall stability, there are a few that don't impress us that much. For example, the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 WP is so soft that we can twist it in half! While hiking shoes offer more flexibility at the ankle than hiking boots, you still want your foot to be secure with your heel in place. The uppers on shoes like the Oboz Sawtooth II come up slightly higher on the top of the foot (along with the laces) which allows us to tighten the ankle opening sufficiently to keep our feet comfortably in the shoe while minimizing heel lift. The Hoka One One Sky Arkali takes the design up a notch by incorporating velcro straps for the ankle and heel that allow for dialed in support. Even the slightest heel lift can be a recipe for severe blisters over time, so if you can't get a good fit in that area, it'd be wise to consider a different pair.
Traction is an important factor to consider in any hiking footwear. Slipping feet could land you on your rear end, or contribute to twisted ankles. Several things combine to affect a shoe's traction, including the stickiness of the rubber and the size and shape of the lugs. Vibram, the gold standard for high-end hiking shoe soles, literally makes dozens of different formulations with varying degrees of surface grip.
We primarily evaluated the traction on steep and unconsolidated dirt trails, but we also tested them on sandstone slabs, wet boulders, and lava scree. Above average traction on dirt is usually achieved through deep lugs that can dig into the ground with each step. Having "multi-directional" lugs (ones that look like zigzags or arrow tips) will also help your soles grip in a variety of directions. We liked the traction best on the Merrell Moab 2 WP, Oboz Sawtooth II and Adidas Terrex Swift. The lugs on these models are wide and grippy and work equally well on dirt and rock.
When it comes to traction on rock, the stickiness of the rubber usually has more to do with how well your feet can grip the surface rather than the shape of the lugs. Hard and stiff rubber doesn't grip as well as softer and more pliable formulations. The Merrell Moab 2 WP is a top performer on bare rock. The rubber is soft and sticky, and we scrambled all over rocky slabs in this pair without any slippage issues.
The flexibility of the forefoot will also affect traction. If you can't bend the front of your feet, or the sole is too thick to feel the rock (as with the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP), then you may have a hard time achieving secure footing.
The lighter we can keep all of our gear, the more enjoyable our whole experience will be on the trail. Hiking shoes are getting so light as to almost be on par with trail running shoes. Here is the weight of each pair in the women's size seven that we tested them in.
There is about a half a pound difference between the heaviest and lightest pair in our test group. This added weight might not seem like much (it's only four ounces on each foot), but we could feel the difference. So why, then, did we choose the heaviest model as our Editors' Choice winner? While we applaud manufacturers' attempts to move in lighter directions, sometimes that comes at the expense of other important factors like comfort, stability or durability. The Merrell Siren Edge (1.2 pounds) is light but provides little cushioning or support. The Oboz Sawtooth II (1.83 pounds) feels heavy but has a molded heel counter and a thick and rugged sole. When it came to evaluating our favorite shoes, we realized that a slightly heavier shoe is not a deal breaker if it gives us all of the other features that we want. If you are looking for the lightest options that are also high performing, then consider North Face Safien and Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX. These both strike a sweet spot between being lightweight but still supportive.
We are also impressed with how lightweight the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP is. It looks like it is heavier because their soles are so thick, but the Tor Summit weighs in at 1.55 pounds.
Many hiking shoes come in both a waterproof and a non-waterproof model. The best option for you depends on the climate where you live. Live in the desert and never plan to hike in the rain? Then forego the Gore-Tex and opt for a breathable pair with a mesh lining instead. While the technology in waterproof barriers, like Gore-Tex and eVent, helps vent your body's moisture (aka foot sweat) while keeping nature's moisture out, they still lead to hotter feet overall than a breathable mesh liner. Better to prevent the sweat from building up in the first place than having to worry about venting it. However, keep in mind that weather is unpredictable and an afternoon rainstorm far from the trailhead can make for a soggy, uncomfortable hike. If you live in a wet climate or are planning any long trip into the mountains, a waterproof shoe is a necessity. We did a variety of tests to determine water resistance, including splashing around in streams and also a 10-minute bucket test with 3 inches of water in it. Most of the models that we tested are the so-called "waterproof" versions, but we also included a few non-waterproof models, including the Keen Voyageur and the Hoka One One Sky Arkali.
The first thing that stood out to us from our bucket test is that the technology of the waterproof barriers and uppers mostly results in hiking shoes that are pretty close to fully waterproof. While the bucket test doesn't 100% correlate to a real-world stream crossing, it does help to illustrate that if water is getting into your shoe when crossing a stream, it's most likely coming in from the ankle opening and not the upper or even the gusseted tongues.
To further refine our water resistance score, we examined how much water the shoes seemed to absorb after 10-minute bucket test, and how high off the ground the ankle opening sits. A higher ankle opening better protects from errant splashes of water, and the absorption rate is also vital. Picture hiking in a light drizzle or through wet grass. If the upper sheds water with no absorption, that'll keep your feet drier in the long run while maintaining the shoes' dry weight.
Of the waterproof shoes we tested, the Hoka One One Tor Summit WP has the highest ankle opening at 3.75 inches, whereas the Merrell Siren Edge Q2 WP has the lowest at 3.25 inches. The Vasque Talus Trek and Keen Targhee III have lower openings (3.5 inches), and their uppers absorbed a lot of water, which is why they received a relatively low score even though they are "waterproof."
Those shoes with a waterproof liner that did not fare so well include the Ahnu Montara III, and the Merrell Siren Edge Q2. The Montara has a shorter tongue gusset, so when submerged in three inches of water it leaked at the low point. We couldn't pinpoint precisely why the Siren leaked, but it saturated through after about seven minutes in the bucket.
As for the non-waterproof mesh-lined shoes in this review, the Keen Voyageur and the Hoka One One Sky Arkali lasted less than 60 seconds in our bucket test. These shoes are in no way dunk-proof, but their uppers do shed light rain and dew, which may be enough for your hiking objectives. Additionally, the Sky Arkali's ankle opening is a whopping 4 5/8 inches high, giving some added protection.
Often, hiking shoes will wear faster than any other piece of gear in your hiking arsenal. A typical pair with an EVA midsole lasts between 300-500 miles. If you hike only a few miles a week, it could take you years to get to that point, but regular hikers might go through one or two pairs a year. Those with polyurethane (PU) midsoles are thought to last longer, maybe even twice the mileage, but that extra durability comes at the expense of comfort. Normal wear and tear on any shoe packs down the midsole and wear down the outsole, so stiffer midsoles (like a dual-density EVA vs. a soft one) and harder rubber soles last longer overall.
While we couldn't put 500 miles on each pair for this review, we did hike in them all extensively and inspected them for signs of damage or potential weak spots. We read through online user reviews to identify any consistent wear patterns and looked through our girlfriends' shoe racks to examine how their shoes were faring. In an effort to reduce weight, a lot of midsoles are left almost entirely exposed. Since that material is softer than rubber, it is more prone to catching on vegetation, tearing out, or separating from the upper.
We also considered the various uppers used, and how prone they are to snagging, unraveling, or other types of wear. While the cut-out leather and mesh uppers of the Oboz Sawtooth II and Merrell Moab 2 WP help keep the shoe ventilated, anywhere you can see the stitching is a potential point of weakness. Thankfully, those areas are double or even triple stitched and should stand up well to wear and tear. The synthetic uppers on the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX and Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX impressed us with their abrasion resistance as well. Finally, it's always good to examine the toe box, as that's another area that is quick to wear out. A full rubber toe cap like the ones on the Keen Voyageur and Targhee III models last longer than most.
The Oboz Sawtooth II has a 3-D molded heel counter to increase its longevity. This extra piece of rubber on the heel helps maintain the shape and structure of the back of the shoe and prevents it from caving in. The Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift RT GTX also has some rubber on the heel, improving its durability as well.
Choosing the right pair of hiking shoes can often be a confusing process, as there are so many different options available and features to consider. We hope we helped you narrow down your choices and find the right pair for your next adventure, whether that's a hike close to home or a bigger objective.
— Laurel Hunter & Cam McKenzie Ring