Looking for the best lightweight hiking shoes for women? Hiking shoes have evolved dramatically since their inception. Gone are the days of heavy leathers; in their place has risen waterproof, lightweight, synthetic hiking shoes made for every terrain. You may ask yourself why you need hiking shoes.
Can’t you just pop on your favorite pair of sneakers and hit the trail? That all depends on your intended use, but few things can take your outdoor adventure from exciting to miserable quite like the wrong hiking shoes. If they pinch, rub, slip, or lack support you will be left cursing every step.
That is why it is paramount to understand how to identify the best hiking shoes from their knockoff counterparts. Here, we will take a look at what goes into making the best hiking shoes, what to consider before you buy, and the brands that are currently leading the market!
Lightweight Hiking Shoes For Women
1.) Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 GTX ($150)
- Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz.
- Features: Gore-Tex Boot Liner, Sculpted Anatomically To Hold Foot, Advanced Chasis, Shock Liners And EVA Heels Cups Provide Support, Mud Guards, Integrated Toe Caps, Dual Rubber Sole For Aggressive Grip
- Pros: Weight, Durability, Comfort, Performance,
- Cons: Price, Warm With Gore-Tex
If you are traveling with only outdoor adventure on your mind, then these Ultra 3s may be just what you need. Often voted one of the top hiking shoes on the market, these are built with only the rocky trail in mind. Salomon has strong name recognition and there is a good reason for that.
From their waterproof but breathable design, down to their grippy and rugged bottom soles; these shoes will support you through every trail hike on your trip. The reason the Ultra 3 stands out in the line-up is their Advanced Chassis surrounded by foam, that will have your feet forgetting you’re walking in the wilderness at all! This technology also allows for a more stable heel membrane that will keep you upright.
Naturally, their design is aimed at only intense outdoor sports, and we wouldn’t recommend them for a city-oriented trip. However, they’re super useful for tackling mountains. The only reason these take the number two spot is they’re a little more aggressive than what most hikers need and the price. I use these as my go-to hikers in the Canadian Rockies for dry day ascents.
2.) Merrell Women’s Moab 2 ($99)
- Weight: 1lb. 15 oz.
- Features: Suede Leather, Mesh Upper, Rubber Toe Caps, Closed Tongues, EVA Footbeds, Air Cushion Heels, Nylon Arch, Vibram Outsole, Deep Lugs
- Pros: Affordable, Rugged, Comfortable
- Cons: Style, Not Great For Difficult Terrain,
Merrell has long been known as an outdoor manufacturer that puts comfort and quality first. Their Moab 2s are just one example of this motto. With the amazing Merrel air cushion midsole technology, you’ll be able to tackle any terrain with ease as your shoes work overtime to absorb the shock and keep you in stride.
They are extremely lightweight at 12 ounces and are covered in breathable mesh inlays that prevent sweat buildup, keeping your feet cool and dry. These shoes are a great fit for almost every hiker out there and can go from flat pavement to steep grades without missing a beat.
They’re definitely more skewed to casual use and well worn trails as they lack key performance. Most notable is the weak toe caps, heavier weight, and soles better suited for mud not rock. However, for long multiday hikes these are tremendous on trails like the Applachain Trail or similar less technical terrain.
3.) Salomon OUTline GTX ($130)
- Weight: 1lb 5 oz.
- Features: GORE-TEX Liners, Midfoot Shanks, Protective Toe Caps, Gusseted Tongues, Ortholite Footbeds, Deep Lugs
- Pros: Super Comfortable, Great Blend Of Shoe And Hiking Components
- Cons: Low Top Ankle Support
Like many of the hiking shoes on this list, the Salomon OUTline women’s hiking shoes give you the lightweight, breathable uppers of a trail runner and the rugged outsole of traditional hiking boots.
In fact, this is probably the only hiking shoe in the Salomon lineup that has more of a running shoe feel without sacrificing their well-known heavy-duty hiking durability. The ankle cut is low, the Quicklace system is less bulky, the flexibility has been enhanced, and their Contagrip outsole will keep you upright and sturdy in mud, over rocks, and in streams.
They do require a bit of a break-in period to fully form to your foot, but once they have, your feet will be more than pleased.
4.) Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry Hiking Shoes ($140)
- Weight: 2 lb. 2.8 oz.
- Features: Waterproof Nubuck Leather, Moisture-Wicking Nylon Mesh Liner, B-DRY Waterproof Membrane, O FIT Insoles, Dual Density EVA Midsoles, Nylon Shanks, Protective Toe Overlay, Asymmetric Collars For Better Ankle Support, Toothy Side Lugs
- Pros: Sturdy, Traction, Solid Feature Set, and Very Comfortable.
- Cons: Heavy, Lacks Great Toe Protection
Oboz has made waves in the outdoor footwear sector by not only making “footwear for every adventure,” as their motto states, but also the social and environmental activism that permeates the company.
As a hiker, you’ll love their extremely tacky tread, excellent toe protection, lightweight nature, maximum waterproofing, and intense breathability. As a nature enthusiast, you’ll also feel genuine in your purchase, knowing that every pair sold means a tree is planted in their honor.
And this isn’t just for PR! The humanitarian efforts run deep with Oboz! Every shoe not sold is donated to Project Sole, their headquarters are entirely wind-powered, and they only contract their materials from suppliers that meet their environmental and social standards.
If you want outstanding hiking shoes and feel sustainability is a core value for you, definitely go with the Oboz Sawtooth low hiking shoes.
5.) La Sportiva Ultra Raptor ($130)
- Weight: 1lb 5 oz.
- Features: Nylon Air Mesh, Thermoplastic Urethane Reinforcements For Heel Support, Compression-Molded EVA Midsoles, Nylon Shanks, Modulated Toe Spring, Rubber Outsoles, Impact Brake System
- Pros: Comfortable, Performance, Lightweight, Style, Toe Cap
- Cons: Mixed Stability
By now, you’ve probably heard the new mantra, “One pound on your feet is like five pounds on your back.” Now, enter La Sportiva Ultra Raptors. Technically the Raptors are classified as a trail running shoe, but their quality, function, and lightweight design make them phenomenal women’s hiking shoes as well.
Weighing in at just 10.3oz, they are some of the lightest hiking shoes you can find without sacrificing the features needed to be agile and stable during your trek. The Impact Break lugged system makes you light on your feet, reducing the stress on your joints, while the rock guard gives you maximum toe protection, preventing bumps and bruises along the way.
If you’re looking for a lightweight hiking shoe option that doesn’t skimp on durability, you should definitely check out the La Sportiva Ultra Raptors.
6.) Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX ($135)
- Weight: 1 lb. 8.6 oz.
- Features: Ripstop Mesh Upper, TPU Toe Cap, EVA Midsole, Traxion Rubber Sole
- Pros: Light, Durable, Comfortable
- Cons: Stiff Sole
It was only a matter of time before Adidas decided they wanted to break into the fast-growing hiking shoe market. They didn’t hold anything back when constructing their Terrex Swift R2.
These phenomenal hiking shoes are both stable and supportive, as well as durable and stylish. Their synthetic upper gives them immense breathability, and their Continental Rubber outsole cannot be questioned (even though it isn’t Vibram).
7.) Vasque Grand Traverse ($119)
- Weight: 1 lb. 6 oz.
- Features: Suede Leather, PU Coated Mesh Exterior, Dual-Density EVA Footbed, Vibram Ibex Sole
- Pros: Comfortable, Lightweight Approach Shoe, Versatile
- Cons: Durability
No hiking shoe list could be complete without mentioning one shoe from Vaque’s fantastic line-up. The Grand Traverse is unique, as it perfectly melds all the great aspects that makeup both a hiking shoe and an approach shoe. The outsole is just about as grippy as you can get, propelling you over obstacles with minimal effort. As a bonus, it weighs almost nothing.
8.) Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX ($170)
- Weight: 1 lb. 8.4 oz.
- Features: GORE-TEX® Membrane, TPU Exterior Resist Abrasions, Toe Cap Guards, 4mm Ortholite Inserts, Vibram Megagrip Outsoles,
- Pros: Style, Comfort, Performance, High Quality,
- Cons: Pricey, Stiff For Everyday Use,
You may recognize the name Arc’teryx from their long line of high-quality outdoor wear. Until now, Arc’teryx had experimented in outdoor footwear but had yet to settle on a hiking shoe – that is, until 2019.
Their flagship Aerios FL hiking shoe comes with all of the quality we have come to expect from the brand, with a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, a strong toe protection cap, properly threaded outsoles, and stylish exterior – all at just 1.5lbs. If you have the money, these shoes are definitely worth the investment.
9.) The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX ($120)
- Weight: 1 lb. 3.2 oz.
- Features: Polyurethane Coated Leather Uppers, GORE-TEX Membrane, Thermoplastic Quarter Provide Structure, Thermoplastic Shanks, EVA Cradle Guide Midsoles, Vibram Rubber Outsoles,
- Pros: Stability, Traction, Decent Price, Comfort, Price
- Cons: Tongue Fit Doesn’t Work For Certain Feet
If you’re looking to transition from trail runners to proper hiking shoes, the North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTXs are a great option. These shoes are built in the same lightweight rocker style as a trail runner, but the EVA midsole gives you extended cushioning at the heel keeps you on the move in any terrain.
While the uppers and base are a little stiff for multi-day treks, they provide excellent support and stability during single-day hikes where your load is a little lighter.
However, where these hiking shoes really excel is their Gore-Tex membrane that provides fantastic waterproofing even in soggy, rainforest-like conditions.
10.) HOKA ONE ONE Sky Arkali ($199)
- Weight: 13.26 oz.
- Features: Matryx Upper, Rubber Toe Cap, EVA Midsole, Vibram Megagrip Soles, Multi-Directional Lugs, Adjustable Heel and Ankle Straps,
- Pros: Super Lightweight, Adjustability, Comfort, Traction
- Cons: PRICE, Lacks The Support Most Need
While there are a few brands that seem to be hopscotching from trail runner to hiking shoe and back again, the Hoka One One Sky Arkali takes the hybrid design a step further. To put it simply:
“The Arkali is a beautiful distillation of a runner, hiker, and approach or climbing shoe, all in one,” said Jared Smith, the product manager for Hoka One One.
With Hoka’s signature super-cushiony midsoles, phenomenal heel and ankle straps, Vibram Mega-grip high traction outsole, and rubber wrapped toe box, you can run, hike, or climb near-vertical landscapes with ease.
If you’re the type that goes out to explore all the elements of the great outdoors and want a beautifully designed shoe to lead you through these adventures, definitely go with the Ski Arkali! These are made for those are climbing mountains, scrambling, and need an agile shoe.
11.) Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX Hiking Shoes ($150)
- Weight: 1 lb. 2 oz.
- Features: Vibram Megagrip, GORE-TEX Construction, Anatomic, High-Rebound Footbeds, EnduraLast EVA Midsoles
- Pros: Lightweight, Comfort, Traction
- Cons: Narrow Footbed
The Vasque Breeze LT Low hiking shoes have unmatched durability that puts them at the top of the hiking shoe game. These shoes can be beaten, battered, and traverse hundreds of miles without putting so much as a seam out of place.
Their ruggedness makes them a favorite of serious hikers, and their overall comfort and waterproofing only solidify their place at the top. While all this can be said of most Vasque hiking shoes, what sets the Breeze LT version apart is how lightweight they are, considering their heavy-duty capabilities.
These shoes weigh in at only 1lb 6oz, making them one of the lightest in the Breeze lineup. When you combine all these characteristics, you get an unparalleled hiking shoe that can take you across the country and back again, and still have miles of life left in them.
12.) Altra Lone Peak 4.0 ($120)
- Weight: 1 lb 2 oz.
- Features: Mesh Upper, Integrated Tongue, MaxTrac™ Rubber Outsoles, Energy-Return Compound System, ZeroDrop Platform For Low Impact Landings, Wide Footbed
- Pros: Super Comfortable, Lightweight
- Cons: Wide Fit Makes It A Little Clunky
Many would-be trail runners are making our list due to their versatility, lightweight nature, and excellent shock absorption. The Altra Lone Peak 4.0 is no exception.
These shoes are quickly becoming a favorite among minimalists and ultralight thru-hikers due to their weight and comfort ratio. When everything has a purpose and must serve that purpose well, the Altra Lone Peaks fit right in.
13.) New Balance Women’s 10v1 Minimus ($115)
- Weight: 12.6 oz.
- Features: Midfoot Wrap, Lightweight Midsoles, Vibram Outsoles
- Pros: Lightweight, Decent Cushion For Weight, Agile,
- Cons: Lacks Support, Cushion
New Balance was started as an arch support company that didn’t begin manufacturing their own shoes until almost 30 years into their business. Since then, they have become one of the world’s largest shoe manufacturers, while never losing their core value of superb support, fit, and comfort.
Naturally, those values were carried over when they began dipping their toes in the hiking shoe market. The New Balance WT10v2 Minimus perfectly reflects this ideology as one of the most supportive hiking/running shoes that money can buy. They resist impact, have a breathable, lightweight mesh upper, a grippy Vibram outsole, and flexibility rarely found outside of approach shoes. If you decide on the WT10v1, it’s easy to say that your joints will thank you.
14.) Saucony Peregrine ISO
- Weight: 1 lb. 2.4 oz.
- Features: Reinforced Outsole, Foam Midsoles, Everun Topsoles, Deep Lugs, PWRTRAC Rubber Outsole
- Pros: Protection Underfoot, Comfortable Ride
- Cons: More Running Shoe
Saucony Peregrine sneakers have long reigned supreme as one of the best trail running shoes money can buy. Now, they have leaped over the line with the Peregrine ISO. These rough and tumble hiking shoes will have you bounding over boulders, scrambling over rocks, and trudging through streams with the same ease as if you were on a paved track.
What makes these hiking shoes so superior? The answer is in their ISOFIT technology and moldable comfort. This revamped upper ensures these hiking shoes adapt to every flex and bend your foot goes through. The ISOFIT also gives these shoes unbelievable breathability, making stinky soggy feet a thing of the past!
The updated lacing system keeps your foot in place even in the harshest terrain without ever restricting your range of motion, and the improved ankle collar eliminates chafing and potential blisters. Not to mention, they are very stylish!
15.) Vivo Tracker
- Features: 3mm of traction, Premium action leather waterproof
- Pros: Comfortable Barefoot Feeling, Packs Up Small, Stylish
- Cons: Not for Multi Day Hikes
I just got my hands on Vivo’s awesome Tracker boot and I am in love. Vivo is an amazing footwear copany that creates barefoot shoes, meaning it literally feels like you’re walking barefoot when wearing their shoes. I know it sounds weird, but I never thought how comfortable it could be. These boots are made from high quality leather and designed to stay comfortable when doing any kind of hiking. These are minimalist walking boots with waterproof lining and thermal protection.
The sole provides 3mm of traction and a removable thermal insole good for all seasons. What I love the most is that these shoes are waterproof and breathable while still being extremely stylish. Don’t think just because you are outside doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish. Seriously, these look amazing! (Use code “WORLDPURSUIT” for 10% off)
What To Consider in Women’s Hiking Shoes
To find the best hiking shoe catered to your lifestyle, it’s important to assess what you want you want them to accomplish. For example, if you are a day hiker who prefers simpler trails, a heavy-duty shoe with excessive arch support may be overkill. However, if you are a backpacker, thru-hiker, or regularly scaling difficult terrain, these factors, as well as excellent waterproofing and durability, become almost mandatory.
A very tacky grip is an essential factor if you spend a lot of time hiking on loose shale, climbing boulders, or face a lot of ascents and/or descents. If you are a “fast-packer,” finding something light weight will likely be your top priority, and if you face an environment with excessive rain, you will be looking for shoes made from quick-drying materials. Once you have thoroughly evaluated your hiking goals, you will know what features are most important to you!
Nothing is worse than finding the perfect pair of hiking shoes just to find the fit is too small, too narrow, too constricting, or just not right for the shape of your foot. When you try on your hiking shoes, can you splay and wiggle your toes without hitting the sides? Is your arch firmly supported without slipping within the shoe on up or downhill climbs? Is your heel kept securely in place? If the answer to these questions is yes, you likely have found a good fit! However, it’s essential to read over the manufacturer’s specs to understand if their styles run small, large, narrow, and/or wide.
There are few other things that can ruin a fun day outdoors than soggy feet. Even if you primarily hike in the desert, you can still run into monsoon-like rains and flash flooding. That’s why hiking shoes with durable waterproofing are so crucial for every adventure.
Gore-Tex or GTX is something you can expect to see a lot while you shop. This breathable, waterproof material is regularly used in outdoor footwear and apparel as a way to keep moisture from getting in while venting the internal sweat out. You may also run into shoes labeled with a polyurethane or PU coating. This is an external waterproofing treatment that’s not as good as Gore-Tex at wicking away moisture, but if you find a shoe with both, you can trust that you have maximized on your moisture prevention.
The structure of hiking shoes includes a midsole, insole, and outsole. The insole is generally a removable layer that is going to provide you with additional cushion and impact resistance. They range significantly in thickness and are made from a wide range of materials, so choosing the right insole is one of personal preference and necessity.
The outsole is the material on the bottom of the shoe that gives you the traction. You want to make sure the lug pattern on the outsole is well-spaced, and the materials used are of high quality, such as Vibram.
The midsole is the main structural component of the shoe that separates the insole and the outsole. This is where you’re going to maximize or reduce the cushion, bounce, and softness. These are generally made from either EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) or PU. EVA midsoles are softer, but tend to pack down, giving them a shorter lifespan. On the other hand, PU midsoles are going to be much stiffer but will be in it for the long haul. Ideally, finding blended midsoles is key to gaining the positive attributes of both.
Hiking Shoe vs. Hiking Boot
The debate still rages on whether to choose hiking boots or hiking shoes. However, the science is stacking up on the side of shoes, and hiking boots just can’t keep up. The first reason for this is weight. More and more, we are hearing that “1lb on your feet equals 5 on your back,” and those that have tested this theory agree.
With less weight on your feet, you are less prone to exhaustion, your speed increases, and your ankles stay strong throughout your trip. Just due to basic construction, hiking boots simply cannot reduce their weight enough to be equal even to the bulkiest of hiking shoes.
The other fiery question lies in ankle support. Because hiking boots go over the ankle, they are assumed to have superior ankle support than hiking shoes, and therefore considered to be better at preventing twists and breaks. We won’t say that this is completely false, but here is a scenario for you.
Think of the flexibility in a shoe as you stand on a rock. The slight flexibility of the sole allows your foot to move with the obstacle, keeping your ankle stable and on track with your feet. Now think of a hiking boot on that same obstacle. The rigidity keeps your foot in place, and if your body goes one way and the boot goes the other, well … bad things happen.
While some people need the extra padding and weight distribution to prevent their ankles from weakening, most of the time a hiking shoe does just as good a job – and sometimes more efficient – of keeping your ankles protected.
Types of Hiking Shoes
You’re going to see all kinds of labels when you search for the best hiking shoes. Sometimes, it can be hard to keep all the variety straight. So, here are some of the common types of hiking shoes you’re likely to come across, and what they mean for you and your feet.
You will often see shoes labeled with a “mid” after the brand name. This simply refers to the height of the ankle support. A mid hiking shoe is one that will come to the middle of your ankle.
Just like mid, low hiking shoes refer to those that sit low on your ankle. These have a similar cut to your average hiking shoe and are generally the most popular because they’re the lightest in weight.
These are becoming huge for fast-paced hikers and minimalists. This is because trail runners cut down the weight even further, without giving up the supportive midsole and outsole traction of a hiking shoe or boot. However, these are much more flexible, which makes them less suitable for extremely rocky terrain.
Approach shoes are a hybrid between a hiking boot and a climbing shoe. Their extremely tacky outsole gives them phenomenal traction on loose gravel, or really any type of rocky surface. However, most approach shoes lack the same insole as a standard hiking shoe, which means they are less suited for long-distance backpacking.
Features To Seek In Hiking Shoes
What is a hiking shoe if not its stand out features? Some are a matter of preference, while others should be considered a deal-breaker. Here are some of the best features to look for when choosing your next hiking shoe.
All the highest quality hiking shoes feature Vibram rubber outsoles, and with good reason. This material is known the world over for its exceptional grip and durability on every terrain.
The lugs on the bottom of your shoe are similar to the tread on your tire. They are what provide you with traction, propel you forward, and wick away water and mud. Properly spaced and deep cut lugs are an important feature that should not be overlooked.
While some flexibility in a hiking shoe is nice, too much will put your ankles at risk. You want to look for a hiking shoe that has somewhere between a medium and a hard level of flexibility.
Gore-Tex, sometimes labeled as GTX at the end of a brand name, is a waterproofing technology that changed the game for hiking shoes all the way back in the 1970s. With all that history, it’s still the number one waterproofing feature you can find on a pair of hiking boots. Unless you’re hiking in extremely dry climates, Gore-Tex is a must-have feature.
All insoles are somewhat padded, but you’ll need to take into consideration the amount of cushion you need overall. Always make sure to try on your shoes before you purchase, and ensure that the padding offered is suitable for your needs. However, additional insoles can be added later if things change.
There are a lot of obstacles that will be thrown your way while out on the trail. Branches, roots, twigs, and rocks are all lying in wait to stub your toe and trip up your stride. That’s why the best hiking boots come with some form of toe protection that gives the front of the shoe a barrier from these would-be hazards.
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