If you enjoy trekking on undemanding terrains such as grassy, muddy or even dirt trails then a good pair of hiking shoes should be your go-to footwear. Hiking shoes, also known as trekking shoes, are low-cut, lightweight and more comfortable to wear than hiking boots.
Undoubtedly, trekking shoes offer decent performance and comfort on easy trails than any other hiking footwear. Their flexible soles allow for better agility on such terrains; however, trekking shoes lack proper ankle support and thus may not be ideal for long hikes or on rocky grounds.
We have been deep in the trenches testing, evaluating and selecting the very best trekking shoes in the market so that you can narrow down to the most suitable pair for yourself.
|Merrell Women's Moab Ventilator||22 oz.||None||Leather, Nylon Mesh|
|Keen Women's Voyageur||13.3 oz.||None||Leather, Fabric Mesh|
|Ahnu Women's Sugarpine Air Mesh||10 oz.||None||Leather, Fabric Mesh|
|Salomon Women's Ellipse GTX||11.3 oz.||Gore-Tex||Synthetic Leather, Nylon Mesh|
|Adidas Outdoor Women's AX2R||12 oz.||Gore-Tex||Synthetic Leather, Fabric Mesh|
These Merrell shoes come in exciting colors such as Sand, Drizzle/Mint, Beluga/Lilac, Granite and Taupe. The company itself is famed for its high-performance hiking footwear of which we can attest to on the Moab Ventilator.
The Moab Ventilator strikes the perfect balance between performance and elegance with very minimal sacrifices. The shoes are jam-packed with useful features such as full leather uppers, Vibram outsole, and ventilating mesh to deliver the best experience when hiking.
The durability and breathability aspects are excellent in these shoes thanks to their leather and fabric construction.
Also, the Vibram outsole will keep your fears of slipping at bay as they offer unparalleled traction whether trekking in muddy or rock-filled terrains. The lug patterns are deep and grippy for a wide range of surfaces.
We were quick to notice the plush cushioning the Moab had on the tongue and collar making them very comfortable to wear. The breathable mesh dispels any moisture in the shoe to keep your feet dry and cool all through.
The M Select Fresh feature prevents odors while the bellow tongue keeps any debris out. The Q Form Comfort feature in the midsole is quite underrated but very important on the overall comfort and fit of the shoe.
The feature quite literally takes into account how a woman walks to offer the best cushioning and support.
The Moab Ventilator hiking shoes offer great support, excellent traction, and durability making them especially perfect for your light to moderate day hiking. The design is also quite aesthetic and comes in many color selections.
That said, you may want to go with a half a size larger to accommodate for the apparent sizing inconsistencies in these shoes. Swapping the included insoles for maybe Super feet ones may also help improve on the comfort and arch support.
As a side note, the Moab 2 Ventilator trekking shoes are also worth checking out since they have slight improvements over this model though they are basically the same.
The wrong pair of hiking shoes can have you risking getting injuries as severe as tendonitis or as annoying as blisters and calluses. The Women’s Voyageur line of trekking shoes from Keen seeks to alleviate these issues.
The shoes are stylish and versatile and available in a number of colors such as; Brindle/Alaskan Blue, Neutral Gray/Lime Green and Dark Earth/Lagoon. The creative blends of colors make them a must-have fashion item that will easily complement your hiking outfit.
While the 100% leather upper with its mesh lining is not waterproof, it is quite effective in promoting airflow, particularly on summer hikes. Even if your feet sweat, the mesh lining will make sure the interior of the shoe is well ventilated.
The shoes are not entirely waterproof, but your feet will remain considerably dry in mud, morning dew-filled terrains and shallow waters.
The Keen’s Voyageur shoes are very comfortable out of the box and may not even require any breaking in prior to your hiking trip.
The wide toe box is quite the big deal on hill descents as your toes won’t stub against the toecap. It is wide enough to accommodate specialty socks and padding for people with plantar fasciitis and bunions complications.
The Voyageur shoes also feature their patented EVA Metatomical Footbed midsoles, which provide stability and support for most foot arch types. To prevent slippage, the shoe has a contoured heel lock.
Besides the inconsistency in sizing, the Keen’s Voyageur trekking shoes are resolute when it comes to delivering comfort and support. The shoes are fairly lightweight and include a roomy toe box and plush padding in the interior.
Unlike other shoes from Keen, the Voyageur doesn’t seem to be very durable with some customers’ report that the soles separated from the body of the shoes just after a few hikes.
Other than the afore mentioned cons, these women’s Voyageur shoes are a worthy buy for day hikes in hot, dry weather conditions.
Firstly, Anhu is said to donate 1% of its gross revenue on a yearly basis to organizations that align with their environmental values. If that doesn’t already reel you in to buying a pair of their Sugarpine Air Mesh shoes then its features definitely will.
Despite the young age of the company, Anhu pooled great minds from other well-seasoned brands to come up with the best possible hiking footwear in the market yet.
The Sugarpine Air Mesh trekking shoes integrate a neutral positioning technology to provide unmatched support and stability. The shoe has a breathable mesh throughout the upper for maximum airflow and ventilation and a well-cushioned interior.
The tightly-woven mesh will keep your feet cool and comfortable thanks to its breathability qualities while the dual-density EVA foam midsole adds on the overall comfort of the shoe. A nylon shank is also added for extra shock absorption and support.
Despite this being a trekking shoe, the manufacturer used top-of-the-line components to ready it for even the toughest of terrains. There’s an abrasion-resistant material over the toe cap to protect your toes against rocks and such, plus shock-dispersal plate is also included for extra protection.
You will enjoy the benefits of premium Vibram outsoles such as flexibility, easy maintenance, and multi-terrain support.
All of these perks come in a lightweight hiking shoe that will have you enjoying your day hikes in no time. Additionally, the shoe is still roomy to accommodate custom orthotic inserts thanks to the removable insoles.
The Sugarpine Air Mesh trekking shoes only have four pairs of eyelets and a short lace-up system. The laces are short enough to not trip over when trekking and long enough to not hamper their tying.
The Sugarpine Air Mesh hiking shoes from Ahnu easily prove that simple designs will always be the most practical. It has a casual style and can be considered to be fairly water-resistant with only the tongue area being the weakest point. A waterproof version is also available.
Even though the Sugarpine shoe made it to our best picks of hiking shoes, it is more tailored to shorter or less strenuous hiking trails due to its reticent treads.
The Ellipse GTX has a neutral design that is meant to accommodate most foot shapes without much discomfort. A welcomed feature on this shoe is its Gore-Tex waterproof lining that keeps off any water from getting into the shoe.
Salomon’s in-house Contagrip technology provides enviable traction on a wide range of terrains be it a rocky trail or even a muddy one. However, you might want to be careful on wet surfaces as the sole doesn’t have that much grip.
Breathability is kept in check thanks to the abrasive-resistant lining while your feet are protected from rocks and hard surfaces by protecting the toe and heel caps.
Weighing in at less than twenty ounces, the Ellipse GTX W has a sturdy exterior geared towards stability and durability of the shoe. In fact, after slipping in the shoes, it feels more like boots than low-cut trekking shoes. However, the stiffness can cause some discomfort especially when on long multi-day hikes.
The first fully waterproof and water-resistant trekking shoe on our list is the Ellipse GTX W from Salomon. The manufacturer nails it on most of the components of the shoe such as durability, waterproofing, stability and fairly on comfort.
However, the shoe’s stiffness and lack of proper arch and ankle support make it suitable for short day hikes else you risk having aching ankles. It’s also excellent for peak bagging given that you don’t carry a heavy pack with you.
The Adidas Outdoor line of products includes the much revered AX2R hiking shoes, which boast of waterproofing properties and supreme traction. In fact, the Gore-Tex lining and the Traxion outsole used in the shoe are conclusive evidence to this.
The AX2R is made specifically for women and will offer traction on a range of trails even under wet conditions. The outsole is thick and has a good grip while the midsoles offer exemplary comfort and support.
Adidas, a seasoned company with decades of experience, takes the best from their other successful brands to make up the most comfortable, lightweight yet rugged hiking shoes for women.
Hiking footwear should snuggly fit on one’s feet while allowing for a roomy toe box and a supportive heel cradle. The AX2R hiking shoes from Adidas attempt just that with their adiPrene insole inserts and toe rand ensuring maximum comfort and impact absorption.
However, the sizing of this line of shoes seems to follow men’s sizes since they come to half a size larger than normal. It is advisable that you go for a half-a-size smaller than normal to compensate for this discrepancy.
Also, keep in mind that the toe box may be a bit too wide for people with narrow feet and may even lead to heel slippage for some.
Adidas does almost everything right with the Women's AX2R hiking shoe from its feathery weight, cushiness, waterproofing ability to its unmatched sturdy build. However, most of these amazing features come at the expense of other useful features.
Waterproofing ability compromises on the breathability aspect of the lining of the shoe, the thin laces may loosen up easily and the sizing is a bit off. You can always get a half-a-size smaller and wear thick socks to address this, but such shortcomings shouldn’t be present in a renowned brand like Adidas.
Interestingly, the wide form of the shoe and overall sizing seems not to be feminine-styled enough.
Related: The Best Hiking Boots for Women
|Columbia Men's North Plains II||11.9 oz.||None||Suede Leather, Fabric Mesh/Webbing|
|Adidas Outdoor Men's AX2||10.9 oz.||None||Synthetic|
|Salomon Men's X Ultra Prime||12.7 oz.||None||Synthetic/ Textile|
|Merrell Men's Moab FST||12.8 oz.||None||TPU Mesh|
|Keen Men's Voyageur||15.6 oz.||None||Leather Mesh|
With its aptly-named Omni-Grip outsole and Techlite midsole, the North Plains II hiking shoes kick off our selection of top-of-the-line men’s trekking shoes.
The clever mesh/webbing design on the upper makes these hiking shoes not only water-resistant but also very breathable since the moisture will easily evaporate out of the perforations. Your feet will remain easeful and dry without experiencing any hot spots.
The outsole in this model provides the perfect grip for wherever the trails lead you. Whether you are trekking through muddy, dirt or snow-covered trails, the multi-directional lugs will guarantee a solid footing every time.
The Techlite midsoles are lightweight and perfectly cushioned to provide long-lasting coziness, high energy return and impact absorption.
That said, it’s important that you break into them first to experience a comfortable fit either by walking up and down the stairs or taking short walks in the house.
The Columbia brand is well-trusted by hikers and sportspersons alike thus you can expect a majority of their products to be high quality and slightly above the market price. The North Plains II shoes are a budget-friendly introduction to premium trekking shoes at best.
They offer great performance for light hikes and can even serve as a trail runner if you are so inclined. You will especially enjoy the comfort and protection the shoes offer during summer hikes; however, it is advisable that you go for a ½ size larger as they don’t fit true to size.
The Outdoor Men’s AX2 hiking shoes are another budget-friendly option for anyone looking to plunge into hiking and trekking. It spots the usual EVA midsole cushioning, high-traction rubber outsole and breathable upper.
The AX2s are super lightweight owing to the EVA midsoles and synthetic midsoles among other creative design. The insoles offer contouring support to any shape of feet, which is not the case in most hiking shoes in the same price range.
Also, the EVA midsoles are able to offer comfort for long hours on the trails due to their flexibility and lightweight forms. The insoles are removable so you can always swap them for your orthotic inserts or other suitable insoles.
You will also enjoy the well-padded ankle support this shoe has to offer with its low-cut profile.
The build of these shoes looks and feels solid with no weaknesses along its seams and parts. The treads are made to be wide-spaced and rigid, which improves on the traction, maintenance and durability of the men’s AX2 shoes. However, the rigidness makes it very easy to slip on wet surfaces or on ice.
The Adidas Outdoor Men’s AX2 are best left for day hikes in warm and dry conditions. The lugs may handle any muddy trails but the upper lining is not readied with waterproofing abilities. Also, the synthetic upper isn’t as durable as leather.
Overall, you get what you pay for when it comes to the men’s AX2 shoes, but it is still a fair trade compared to other shoe variants.
Salomon is not new to the sports gear manufacturing arena and the X Ultra Prime trekking shoes easily prove that point. The shoes are lightweight, sturdily constructed and very water-resistant owing to their full mesh build.
While the X Ultra Prime shoes are not waterproofed, they are quick-drying and will maintain your feet nice and dry all through your hike. Additionally, the shoes are tailor-designed to offer maximum stability and support so that you can tackle any terrain with ease.
The midsoles offer plush cushioning and arch support while the wide low-cut profile provides incredible ankle support. The lug patterns are adequate for trekking on any type of environment, but mostly during light day hikes.
However, the toe cap is very minimal and in extension, the toe box is also just as limited thus pray not to stub your toes on hard surfaces when walking or running.
The men’s X Ultra Prime shoes are affordable, lightweight, comfortable and quick-drying, and definitely worth a look-see. These trekking shoes are near-perfect with only a smidgen of letdowns most notably; the inhibited toe box.
The lack of waterproofing and sizing inconsistencies are to be expected across different brands and manufacturers but the limited toe box space is quite the deal breaker for many.
The Moab FST for men is made by Merrell, which is a reputable company that has continually outdone themselves in manufacturing hiking footwear. Right out of the box, the shoes are visually striking with up to seven color variations.
Their stylish design makes them easily passable as casual wear and can double up as trail runners (though not advisable). The bellows tongue is efficient in locking any debris out of the shoe’s interior and the mesh lining is very breathable.
The padding in the interior is quite subtle, but still adequate enough for maximum agility when on your hike. As with all Merrell’s shoes, there’s ample room under the toe cap to wiggle your toes and protect them during hill descents.
The tongue and collar parts of the shoes are also well-padded for maximum cushioning throughout the entire foot. The EVA midsoles provide form-fitting support to your feet so you can hike for even longer distances.
Also, a molded, nylon arch shank is included in the shoe to allow for support when going for long treks.
The Vibram Mega Grip outsoles provide remarkable traction on wet, muddy and even dirt surfaces among others. The outsole is evidently softer to maximize traction but still remains just durable as the brand is known to be.
The grippy rubber outsole will ensure that you can hop off the streets and onto the backwoods trails without much worry.
If you are looking for a stylish, lightweight and comfy trekking shoe for light to moderate trails then this premium-priced Merrell’s variant is the way to go. It may not be waterproof, but for your typical trail hiking in dry conditions, they offer the best performance.
People with feet that have high arches will particularly love the arch support in these Moab FST shoes.
Of the many variants of the Keen’s line of hiking footwear, the Voyageur trekking shoes caught our eyes. The strong build with leather uppers and rubber outsoles was the perfect diversion from the many synthetic-made variants in the market.
The features and fitting of the Men’s Voyageur shoes were nothing short of incredible, but the sacrifices were just as pronounced.
Primarily, comfort is at the forefront when it comes to Keen’s footwear and with the Voyageur, it’s no exception. The dual-density molded EVA midsoles together with shoe’s Metatomical footbed design allow for comfy form-fitting support all through the entire foot.
Also, the midsoles are removable and swappable with suitable and more arch-supportive inserts.
Breathability and flexibility are further enhanced by the meshing design in the upper while the linings expedite wicking of moisture away from the feet.
To be able to venture into tough terrains more easily, the Voyageur integrates rugged non-marking outsoles with 4mm multidirectional lugs, as well as a stability shank.
The leather is also very sturdy and durable thus providing a protective layer when hiking over rocky trails. The Voyageur also features Keen’s signature toe bumper for protection against toe stubbing.
The Keen’s Voyageur shoes are comfortable out of the box, lightweight and a little pricey as compared to other trekking footwear in the same category. That said, the poor quality of stitching and inconsistent sizing of the shoes are their biggest letdowns.
While the Keen’s brand is world-renowned for bringing forth high-quality trekking shoes to the market, the Men’s Voyageur falls a bit short of expectations just as the Women’s version did.
Related: The Best Hiking Boots for Men
A pair of shoes that fit perfectly on your feet is a good start to protecting yourself from injuries such as calluses and blisters, especially, for adventurous hikers. A good quality hiking shoe should be fairly lightweight and ought to deliver good shock absorption.
That said, some good-to-have features in hiking footwear include roll bars and gel pads which are meant to provide extra cushioning and stability. You will also want to consider hiking footwear that is suitable to the given terrain, individual preferences and weather conditions.
Apart from hiking shoes, there are also two other lightweight hiking footwear namely; trail-runners and approach shoes. Trail-running shoes are ultra-lightweight and mostly geared towards very light trekking or running, the kind that doesn’t need a backpack.
On the other hand, approach shoes are popular among climbers due to their grippy rubber soles that provide traction on steep rocky terrains. Other than that, we also factored other key considerations like the ones below when researching on the best hiking shoes.
While hiking shoes are lighter than backpacking and hiking boots, they are still heavier than trail runners. Lightweight trekking shoes can result in benefits such as less muscle fatigue, less stumbling and in the long-term; avoidance of knee and hip flexor complications.
Lightweight shoes coupled with light gear makes an excellent combo for minimalist overnighters, day hikes and peak bagging.
Generally, the midsole and upper heavily influence the overall weight of the shoe. Lightweight hiking shoes will mostly have EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) midsoles and lightweight synthetic uppers.
You may find some models with leather uppers, but those with synthetic ones tend to be lighter and more breathable. Nonetheless, leather uppers excel at providing the best abrasion-resistance and support.
Leather uppers vary from Nubuck leather, split-grain leather, and full-grain leather, with the latter being the heaviest and most long-lasting. Nubuck and split-grain leather uppers are lighter and more breathable but offer lower abrasion resistance.
There are two main types of midsoles; TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) and EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) midsoles. Most trekking shoes will have EVA midsoles since they are more flexible and lighter than TPU midsoles while mountaineering boots will feature TPU midsoles.
It also goes without saying that EVA midsoles are less durable than the TPU ones and will tend to get “flat” quicker.
The comfort and general feel of any hiking footwear will mostly depend on factors such as the thickness and positioning of padding, the flexibility of materials used, the lacing system, and the soles among others.
The break-in period of the shoe is also something to think about, but it is usually not too long for most trekking shoes. Taking a stroll around your neighborhood or going up and down an inclined surface prior to your hiking trip will greatly improve the comfort and fitting of the shoe.
Trekking shoes should have a snug fit all around your feet with enough wiggle room for your toes. Naturally, our feet will swell through the day thus you should try on the shoes in the evening and with socks on to get a more practical feel of the shoes fitting.
When measuring your foot length, always leave a thumb’s width allowance between the end of the insole and your longest toe.
The midsole, insole and outsole play a huge role in the comfort and fitting of the trekking shoe.
The midsoles are key to the overall support, stability and cushioning of the shoe. Look out for EVA midsoles as they tend to be more flexible and comfortable. However, a firm and supportive midsole will fare much better than an extra cushioned one.
In most cases, the manufacturer integrates a TPU frame/shank to improve the shoes’ hardness and stability as well as an EVA midsole for additional comfort.
When it comes to the insole, be sure to look for antimicrobial and moisture-absorbing qualities. If your trekking shoe of choice doesn’t have such then you can always replace the insole with a suitable one. Actually, replacing the insoles of your shoes can help improve its overall fit and comfort.
To keep your feet dry in wet conditions, most trekking shoes will feature breathable and waterproof membranes. Gore-Tex and eVent are some of the most waterproofing brands we have in the market today.
Unlike non-waterproof variants, trekking shoes with effective waterproofing membranes may result in the feet sweating on dry/sunny days. Sacrifices to be made if you opt for a waterproof shoe include; reduced breathability and added weight.
Therefore, the need for waterproofing qualities may be determined after figuring out where you intend to go hiking and more so the expected weather conditions.
The arrangement of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments in your feet are responsible for the formation of transverse and longitudinal arches in your feet. You will either have flat, neutral or high arches in your feet.
It is crucial that you go for hiking shoes that will support your arch type as failure to do so may cause pain or strain in the arch.
Always go with trekking shoes with the below-mentioned features when shopping for your respective arch types:
The last piece of the puzzle when it comes to comfort and fit in a shoe is the lacing system. You have the traditional lace that involves tying at the top and single-pull/speed lacing system. Primarily, you want a lacing system that doesn’t loosen and will not be too tight on some parts of your feet.
The fit can be easily adjusted in most traditional systems unlike in single-pull systems. However, the upside of the single-pull systems is that they are very convenient to use.
Traction is also a key element to factor in when shopping for backpacking footwear. Trekking shoes with a good grip on the ground will prevent you from slipping and in extension from injuries to that end.
Understandably, traction is mostly maintained by the outsole. It is predominantly made of rubber and in rare cases, some carbon may be added to boost the hardness of the shoe. The rubber itself is very effective in avoiding slipping even when going down steeper grades of terrain.
A well-defined heel zone or heel brake also helps to reduce the risk sliding in steep descents.
Lug patterns are etched on the outsole to improve grip with deeper, thicker and multidirectional lugs being the most effective at this. Also, widely-spaced lugs tend to offer better traction and will allow shedding mud and snow more easily.
A good quality shoe will have the Vibram brand of outsoles, which is renowned for its remarkable traction on various surfaces and its high degree of abrasion resistance.
The longevity of any trekking shoes will be mostly dependent on the materials used and its workmanship. You can also expect that the more durable a shoe is, the heavier it usually is.
TPU is favored for its durability and support thus may be a less comfortable and less affordable than your typical EVA shoes. Full leather is usually more durable than synthetic options, but will also weigh more.
Experience has shown that a shoe with many seams implies many weak points and its durability may not be exemplary. It gets worse when the seams are poorly sewn together. A good workmanship therefore tries to achieve the best balance of style, waterproofing ability and breathability without going ovreboard with the number of seams.
Toe protection is also paramount when considering any footwear to get. This is especially true when hiking as you are exposed to trails with exposed roots and rocks. A rubber toe box (the thicker the better) is a common feature in most trekking shoes.
Other things to inspect on with regards to durability include; quality of stitching, construction of the upper and the rubber density of the sole.
In general, shoes with thinner fabrics and lots of mesh are great in promoting airflow and moisture transfer. Trekking shoes with breathable and waterproof membranes will mostly be expensively priced, but non-waterproof, ventilating shoes are very affordable.
Conclusively, you may also check on specific components that affect breathability in hiking footwear such as the insole and lining.
A good quality pair of trekking shoes will have an insole that is breathable, moisture-wicking and durable. Anti-microbial ratings or such indicators can be a great way to determine this aspect. Note that antimicrobial treatments are mainly done to reduce growth of bacteria and micro-organisms.
The same properties are also desirable when checking the lining of the shoe, which is the fabric inside of the trekking shoes.
The popularity of hiking shoes over other hiking footwear has been picking up pace over the years mostly due to their low-cut design. They offer better breathability and are in fact, lighter than hiking boots.
Choosing the suitable hiking footwear among the many variants in the market can be time-consuming thus we hope the information above will be of great use.
Lastly, if you intend to venture into rough trails with heavy packs over many days then hiking boots may be your best bet.