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?
The answer lies in the basic construction, which sets them apart from your average tennis shoe. While normal walking or running shoes are built for support on flat pavement, they lack the extra shock absorption, lacing mechanisms, tread, toe protection, and overall durability of even the lowest quality hiking shoe. There is honestly just no comparison. And when you are in the wilderness, you want all the extras that can fit onto your feet. One ankle twist, one slip of the foot, and your leisurely hike turns into a wilderness survival story.
So, what goes into making this armor for your feet? Why shoes and not boots? What features do the best hiking shoes have? Here, we will answer all these questions and more as we wade through the best hiking boots for men.
10 Best Hiking Shoes For Men
1.) Merrell Men’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.
2.) Salomon men’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.
3.) The North Face Ultra 111 GTX ($120)
- Weight: 1 lb. 14 oz.
- Features: Gore-Tex Membranes, Poly Coated Mudguards, Orthtolite Footbeds, Compression-molded EVA midsoles, Midfoot and Forefoot Snake Plates For Protection, UltrATAC Rubber Outsole
- Pros: Stability, Traction, Decent Price, Comfort
- Cons: Heavy For Performance, Issues With Top Eyelet,
While technically marketed as a trail running shoe, the North Face Ultra 111 GTX still manages to check all the required boxes to make into the hiking shoe category. At 1lb 14oz, it is a little heavier than some of the others on this list, but makes up for it with superior traction and stability.
That’s due to their new and improved outsole and lug system that is thicker and grippier than ever before. It has all the style we expect from North Face, while never skimping on the features we all love.
4.) 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).
5.) La Sportiva Men’s Wildcat 2.0 ($155)
- Weight: 1 lb. 12.3 oz.
- Features: Nylon Mesh Upper, Stabilizers For Heel Support, Dynamic Tongue Construction, Dual-density Midsoles, EVA Boards, Nylon Molded Shanks, FriXion® AT Rubber Outsoles, Impact Brake System™
- Pros: Comfortable, Performance, Lightweight, Style, Toe Cap
- Cons: Mixed Stability
Coming from running shoe roots, the La Sportiva Wildcats are the perfect combination of lightweight construction and phenomenal stability and traction. These hiking shoes have a double layer of shock protection, from their generously padded midsole to their “Grippy FiXion AT” outsole. The lightweight synthetic materials are quick-drying, and the GoreTex liner keeps your feet dry.
6.) Altra Lone Peak 4.0 ($120)
- Weight: 1 lb 4.4 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.
7.) 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.
8. Merrell MQM Flex ($110)
- Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
- Features: Thermoplastic Urethane Hyperlock Feel, Breathable Mesh Lining, EVA Removable Footbeds, FLEXConnect Dual-Directional EVA Midsoles, Merrell Heel Air Cushions, M Select Grip Rubber Outsoles,
- Pros: Super Lightweight, Great For Lightweight Day Hike
- Cons: Not Robust For Heavy Hikes,
The Merrell MQM Flex hiking shoes were designed after their previous line of Moab FST’s failed to resonate with the growing population of lightweight hikers. Luckily, they heard the complaints and produced an awesome lightweight hiking shoe that checks all the boxes while remaining under 1.5lbs.
These shoes come with surprisingly good heel and toe protection, breathable mesh inlays, and secure, no-trip laces. Naturally built with ultralight backpackers in mind, these shoes can easily be used for a long-distance thru-hike or just a leisurely Sunday stroll.
9.) Tecnica Plasma S ($180)
- Weight: 1 lb. 14.3 oz.
- Features: Custom Adaptive Shape Heat Moldable Footbed, GORE-TEX Membrane, Overlapping Wrapped Tongue Design, Self Locking Laces, Vibram Plasma Outsole
- Pros: Super Comfortable, Traction, High Quality
- Cons: CAS Must Be Done In-Store, Price
There’s a little back and forth when it comes to the Tecnica brand. Originally, they are known as being a high-end manufacturer of ski boots, but they have decided to lean into the hiking shoe genre. The debate is not over quality, as they are one of the few hiking shoes that are customized and molded specifically to your feet. Instead, the issue is the process.
The process needed to heat mold the shoes to your specifications requires a pretty intense machine that is currently only available at 6 REI stores in the country (Denver, Seattle, San Francisco, Bloomington, Austin and Washington D.C.) However, if you live in one of these areas, you will not find a better fitting, more comfortable hiking shoe out there.
10.) 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.
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.