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Best Trekking & Hiking Shoes Reviewed

last updated Apr 05, 2019

When going out to explore the wild, taking a hike or going up a mountain, it is crucial that you have the proper equipment. Seeing that you will be putting a lot of stress on your feet, the most important part of this equipment will be your footwear. A proper pair of hiking shoes will not only ensure that you are not too hot or too cold, but it will also work to protect your from the surface underfoot, will keep your footing secure, and will ensure the proper support and shock absorption, so that you are comfortable and pain-free throughout your hike.

In a Hurry? The test winner after 19 hrs of research

icon
Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
94/100 our score
Style
97
Durability
94
Weather Resistance
95
Fit
91
Breathability
93
Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
Why is it better?

Leather/Mesh Upper

Toe Bumper Protection

Breathable, Mesh Lining

Anti-Debris Tongue

EVA Foot Frame

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
Test Winner: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
Researched Sources
14
Researched Sources
Reviews Considered
1267
Reviews Considered
Hours Researching
19
Hours Researching
Products Evaluated
20
Products Evaluated
Last Updated:
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By Mackenzie Jervis:

You’ll find that outdated models have been replaced with their latest editions and that the Criteria for Evaluation section had been updated to give you more to the point tips and tricks on how to make the best-educated purchase.

Sorting Options
Style Durability Weather Resistance Fit Breathability By Default
Rank
PictureProduct
Name
Rating
Shops
#1
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94
Style
97%
Durability
94%
Weather Resistance
95%
Fit
91%
Breathability
93%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$89.73
#2
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.8
Style
90%
Durability
92%
Weather Resistance
95%
Fit
95%
Breathability
92%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$149.95
#3
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.4
Style
92%
Durability
90%
Weather Resistance
91%
Fit
89%
Breathability
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$60.99
#4
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.8
Style
89%
Durability
90%
Weather Resistance
88%
Fit
92%
Breathability
90%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$74.27
#5
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.6
Style
90%
Durability
89%
Weather Resistance
88%
Fit
87%
Breathability
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$119.95
#6
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.6
Style
86%
Durability
88%
Weather Resistance
89%
Fit
87%
Breathability
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$137.99
#7
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87
Style
86%
Durability
87%
Weather Resistance
88%
Fit
85%
Breathability
89%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$119.99
#8
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.8
Style
85%
Durability
87%
Weather Resistance
85%
Fit
84%
Breathability
88%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$129.49
#9
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.4
Style
84%
Durability
85%
Weather Resistance
88%
Fit
84%
Breathability
86%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$115.00
#10
The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.2
Style
86%
Durability
83%
Weather Resistance
81%
Fit
84%
Breathability
82%
Price Comparison Last Updated (18.04.19)
$54.00
In Depth Review Top 10
  • Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
  • Salomon Ellipse 2 LTR GTX
  • Hanagal Evoque II
  • Merrell Siren Edge
  • Adidas Terrex Ax2R
  • Merrell Moab FST 2 Mid
  • Vasque Mantra 2.0
  • Merrell Chameleon 7
  • Keen Voyageur
  • Columbia North Plains II
Table of contents
  • Criteria Used for Evaluation
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Sources

10 Best Trekking & Hiking Shoes

1. Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
94
Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
Style
97
Durability
94
Weather Resistance
95
Fit
91
Breathability
93
best offer for today
$89.73
Pros:

Leather/Mesh Upper

Toe Bumper Protection

Breathable, Mesh Lining

Anti-Debris Tongue

EVA Foot Frame

Cons:

Runs Wide

Not As Comfortable As Original Version

The Merrell Moab Ventilator can be used for a variety of activities, including workouts and walking. It’s a low cut, lightweight shoe with plenty of performance features, and is a definite top contender when it comes to footwear for scaling mountains. Most of this sneaker is made of mesh and leather, making it quite breathable and appropriate for summer use. Furthermore, the Mother of All Boots is, arguably, one of the more comfortable products out there.

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Comfort
The Merrell Moab Ventilator has a good amount of padding around the top which creates a snug fit, making it both a comfortable and functional shoe. In addition, it’s equipped with full-length, compression-molded EVA midsoles that supply all-day support and cushioning, preventing arch pain and muscle fatigue that inevitably come from a full day spent walking. Furthermore, the combination of Trek and Super Trek rubber compounds and Vibram Multi-Sport technology offers exceptional grip and durability, making it the best possible choice for your next hike.

Design
The Merrell Moab Ventilator is highly functional, thanks to its exceptional design. It was made with the main purpose of allowing a good amount of airflow to your feet, which makes for a healthier wearing experience, seeing that it’ll prevent the accumulation of moisture that could lead to blisters or bacterial overgrowth. Additionally, it’s available in a number of color combinations, and will easily pair with a number of outfits, should you decide to wear them as a pair of everyday shoes.

Cost and Value
Ranking slightly above average when it comes to cost, the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator is an excellent choice, seeing that it provides the perfect balance between price and value. It’s a versatile shoe, and offers a high quality make coupled with comfortable performance features that will help you along your next adventure.

2. Salomon Ellipse 2 LTR GTX

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
92.8
Salomon Ellipse 2 LTR GTX
Style
90
Durability
92
Weather Resistance
95
Fit
95
Breathability
92
best offer for today
$149.95
Pros:

Contagrip Outsole

Durable Leather Upper

GORE-TEX Waterproofing

Toe Bumper

Women Specific Design

Cons:

Limited Color Options

Expensive

Designed especially for women, the Salomon Ellipse 2 is a mid boot made to provide the best possible performance paired with the highest level of comfort available. It boasts a number of technical features, including an OS Tendon outsole that is usually found in running shoes, that has the advantage of allowing for a better roll-through motion of the foot, ensuring both better cushioning and higher energy return.

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GORE-TEX
Made specifically for wear in rain and snow, the Ellipse 2 is lined with GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Footwear, a version of the material that’s more breathable, and provides a higher level of water protection than its regular counterpart.

Women Specific Design
The shape of men’s and women’s feet vary, which is very rarely reflected in our footwear. However, to allow for the best possible performance, Salomon used gender-specific cushioning, lasts and collar shape, to avoid all preventable issues that may come with an ill-fitting pair of shoes.

Cost and Value
The Salomon Ellipse 2 LTR GTX is a shoe that’s expensive, and this is a fact that’s far from surprising, considering the materials and quality it had been made with. It’s an especially good choice if you’re after a mid style, and you require serious waterproofing and protection - at these two things, the Ellipse excels.

3. Hanagal Evoque II

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
90.4
Hanagal Evoque II
Style
92
Durability
90
Weather Resistance
91
Fit
89
Breathability
90
best offer for today
$60.99
Pros:

Leather Upper

Abrasion-Resistant Toe Bumper

To-the-Toe Lacing

POLIYOU Footbed

Budget-Friendly

Cons:

Minimal Color Variety

Not for Prolonged Hours of Wear

Are you looking for a pair of footwear that will work well on a hike but won’t burn a hole in your pocket? The Hanagal Evoque II is an excellent low-budget option for this type of footwear, seeing that it’s a protective, stable, flexible and comfortable model that’s lightweight and functional for light trails. It’ll allow you to get the perfect fit with a to-the-toe lacing system, and the soft leather upper that will feel soft and supple in contact with your feet.

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Abrasion-resistant Toe Bumper
On and off the trail, this toe bumper is in place to help protect you from any hidden rocks, branches or roots you might encounter on your hike. Abrasion-resistant, the rubber is an ideal choice for those uncertain of the terrain they might be facing, as it will put up with a lot more than your regular everyday sneakers.

To-the-toe Lacing
This lacing system helps to provide a snugger fit, and as such, your feet will feel more comfortable and secure. Moreover, a snug fit means you will be safer because they do not slip around your feet, preventing any internal rubbing, chafing or other movement that may lead to blisters or injury.

Cost and Value
This pair is budget-friendly. It’s a great choice for cooler environments, or if you are uncertain about the long-term nature of your adventures, as they are cost-efficient. With a POLIYOU footbed that is anatomically contoured, and a leather upper, the Hangal Evoque II has a decent combination of both flexibility and stability.

4. Merrell Siren Edge

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
89.8
Merrell Siren Edge
Style
89
Durability
90
Weather Resistance
88
Fit
92
Breathability
90
best offer for today
$74.27
Pros:

Vibram Outsole

Bellows Tongue

Ghille Laces

Air-cushion Heel

Mesh Upper

Cons:

Runs Narrow

Lacks Arch Support

Trail-ready, the Merrell Siren Edge is a pair of sneakers that was made with long-term wear in mind. It’s perfect for prolonged periods of use, which means you’ll easily wear the Siren Edge on the trail, as well as on pavement. Equipped with multi-directional lugs, it gives a good amount of grip during dry-to-wet surface changes, has an anti-debris tongue, and ghillie laces. Furthermore, the Siren Edge will help your feet to remain cool with the mesh lining and upper, plus, its technical features include an odor-fighting M-Select footbed.

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Vibram Outsole
A Vibram outsole helps you to keep your traction while traversing multi-terrain types. Great for light adventures, this product by Merrell is both trail-ready and provides decent traction in low dry-to-wet surface scenarios. Additionally, Vibram outsoles are rather durable, which means you’ll be able to wear this pair of sneakers for months or even years to come.

Bellows Tongue
No one wants pebbles digging into their feet while attempting to enjoy their day on the trails. That’s why your footwear has a tongue, which is designed to keep all debris out. In more rough terrain, this part of your shoe will need to work a bit harder, however. A bellows tongue is completely attached to the shoe, minimizing any chance of a stray pebble entering your footwear when you’re out enjoying yourself.

Cost and Value
The cost associated with this pair of Merrell's is below average compared to the other items on this list. It’s a great option for light trails and even for everyday wear, and it provides all the necessary features to make your hike more comfortable and worry-free. It’s even a good option for those with foot issues, thanks to the Merrell Air Cushion located in the heel, that provides an additional level of cushioning and shock absorption.

5. Adidas Terrex Ax2R

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
88.6
Adidas Terrex Ax2R
Style
90
Durability
89
Weather Resistance
88
Fit
87
Breathability
89
best offer for today
$119.95
Pros:

Rubber Outsole

EVA Midsole

TRAXION™ Technology

Molded Sockliner

Mesh/Synthetic Upper

Cons:

Runs Small

Narrow Toe Box

The Adidas Terrex Ax2R is a lightweight pair of outdoor sneakers made for all types of outdoor activities. Equipped with TRAXION™ technology, the rubber outsole is perfect in unexpected situations where the terrain may switch to wet from dry at a moment's notice. The mesh/synthetic upper allows your feet to remain cool during warmer environments, and the molded sockliner provides a better fit.

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TRAXION™ Technology
The Terrex Ax2R will hold up well on both dry and wet surfaces, as well as a number of various rugged terrains. Built with TRAXION™ technology, the rubber outsole helps you to retain grip, , and the fact that the outsole wraps up around the foot provides a better level of stability should you find yourself on wet rocky terrain.

EVA Midsole
One of the most important parts of any shoe made for performance is the midsole - it’s the part of your footwear that’s in charge of cushioning, shock absorption and support, and can greatly affect your performance if it’s made with the wrong materials. The adidas Terrex Ax2R uses an EVA foam midsole that’s just the right blend of lightweight and protective.

Cost and Value
Considering that it’s a model by a well-known brand that focuses on athletic gear, the Terrex Ax2R comes at a surprisingly affordable price that ranks below average on this list. It has a classic sneaker look that can even work for everyday use, and is definitely a solid choice for when you’re out on the trail, needing something a bit more rugged than a pair of soft lifestyle sneakers.

6. Merrell Moab FST 2 Mid

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87.6
Merrell Moab FST 2 Mid
Style
86
Durability
88
Weather Resistance
89
Fit
87
Breathability
88
best offer for today
$137.99
Pros:

Bellows Tongue

Prevents Odor

Breathable Mesh Lining

Contoured Insole

Heel Air Cushion

Cons:

Heavy

Slightly Expensive

This style by Merrell, as its name suggests is all about fit and superior traction. It’s a pair of mid boots that’ll be more than comfortable out of the box, and that will serve you well on rough terrain, no matter the season. Made with nubuck leather and mesh in the upper, as well as a Vibram outsole, the FST 2 uses all tried and tested technologies in order to give you one high quality boot that’s sure to keep you comfy and protected, no matter how long you plan on going.

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M Select
Merrell is a popular brand when it comes to outdoor gear, which means that their footwear is sure to come with innovations that are not just practical, but also what sets them apart from the competition. One of these features is the M Select, found on the inner of the shoe. It’s a waterproofing, breathable lining that ensures that no water reaches your feet, but that all sweat evaporates from the shoe. Plus, it prevents the appearance of odor.

Merrell Air Cushion
When walking, the foot repeatedly strikes the ground, usually landing on the heel and rolling through the arch and toes. This means that the heels of your shoes are, most often, the first part to go, and that it is this part of your body that takes the most stress. Using an Air Cushion in the heel area, Merrell ensures the best possible shock absorption that not only prevents joint and muscle pain, but also helps stabilize and align your movement.

Cost and Value
With a price that’s above average compared to other models found on this list, the Moab FST 2 may not fit everyone’s budget. Nonetheless, this mid boot is an excellent choice for anyone who likes their footwear to be comfortable straight out of the box, and who values high performance features that have been developed for the best of athletes.

7. Vasque Mantra 2.0

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
87
Vasque Mantra 2.0
Style
86
Durability
87
Weather Resistance
88
Fit
85
Breathability
89
best offer for today
$119.99
Pros:

Speed Lacing System

Nubuck Leather Upper

Dual-Density EVA Footbed

Vibram Nuassi Outsole

Abrasion-resistant

Cons:

Break-in Period

Minimal Color Variety

The Mantra 2.0 is a lightweight, flexible sneaker that is good for moderate terrain and light loads. It is worn best in cool and wet climates, thanks to the waterproof Nubuck leather upper, but will not sacrifice breathability either, as it features abrasion resistant mesh panels that help excess moisture evaporate from the inside of the shoe. It’s a supportive and protective style, with just the right amount of flexibility to prevent you from getting too fatigued on your next trail walk.

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Support
The upper is made of soft Nubuck leather that comes in a 1.8mm thickness. It’s a waterproof material, but what’s more, it provides the perfect support over the top of the foot, preventing you from sliding around in your shoes. The speed lacing system allows for a high level of fit customization, and even works for those with high volume feet who may struggle with other styles.

Protection
The Mantra 2.0 has a thick and wide outsole that provides great protection against stones and rocks on the trail. The Vibram Nuasi construction features a stability shank that is made with TPU, a molded polyurethane midsole that absorbs shock and cushions in all the right places, and a Vibram rubber outsole that gives you plenty of traction, regardless of the terrain and weather conditions.

Cost and Value
Most backpackers don’t mind paying for quality, while others are not too pleased with a hefty price tag. With this pair, however, everyone can be pleased with the midrange of cost association. Furthermore, with the high-quality of material makeup and the secure and durable outsole, this is a pair you’ll easily wear for a number of miles.

8. Merrell Chameleon 7

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.8
Merrell Chameleon 7
Style
85
Durability
87
Weather Resistance
85
Fit
84
Breathability
88
best offer for today
$129.49
Pros:

Rubber Toe Cap

Molded TPU Heel Counter

Vibram Outsole

Removable Footbed

Breathable Upper & Lining

Cons:

Lacks Padding In Heel

May Require Wearing Socks

The perfect pair of hikers for warm weather, the Chameleon 7 by Merrell was inspired by the high level of adaptability chameleons show in their natural surroundings. A low style comprised of mesh and nubuck, this is a breathable and lightweight option for when you want to quickly be on the go, and prefer to skip the hassle that comes with laces and bulky footwear. No less protective than its mid and high counterparts, the Chameleon 7 is, perhaps, the perfect option for those after something more casual, warm weather friendly, or just easy to put on and off.

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Elastic Lacing System
Getting the perfect fit in your sneakers largely depends on the way in which you secure them. While a good pair of laces is important, they can also be a pain, especially if you find yourself in need of a lot of adjustments. The Chameleon 7 features an elastic cord that’s easily locked, and that is perfect for this type of footwear as it will accommodate swelling, and will be less likely to cut into your feet after hours of walking.

Kinetic Fit Base
With a removable contoured insole, as well as an EVA foam midsole, the Chameleon 7 provides a high level of stability and cushioning, coupled with a good level of rebound. What this means is that you will be less likely to experience pain during or after your hike, and your muscles are less likely to get fatigued, ensuring that you can finish just as strong as you started.

Cost and Value
Ranking slightly above average when it comes to price, the Merrell Chameleon 7 may be a bit more expensive than similar sneakers, but then again, it’s completely different than what you’ve probably been looking at so far. It’s an excellent choice for those who like an easy on and off, and the stretchy materials can provide a good fit for those who otherwise have problems finding something that will perfectly hug their feet.

9. Keen Voyageur

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
85.4
Keen Voyageur
Style
84
Durability
85
Weather Resistance
88
Fit
84
Breathability
86
best offer for today
$115.00
Pros:

2-inch Heel Height

75-inch Platform

Removable Insole

Metatomical EVA Footbed

Non-Marking, Rubber Outsole

Cons:

Runs Wide

Runs Small

The Keen Voyageur was made with several uses in mind - you can pick up these low tops if you’re looking for something to work on your trips, or you can wear them on a daily basis as a pair of casual footwear that is durable, supportive, breathable and waterproof. It’s a rather stable pair of footwear with a Torsion stability ESS shank and deep 4mm lugs for great traction, and with uppers carefully selected for their durability, so that you can be sure you’re buying something that’s going to last.

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Breathability
The Keen Voyageur is incredibly breathable while still offering you a good amount of protection should you find that the weather conditions are less than perfect. Using a combination of leather and mesh for the upper, it gives just the right amount of airflow to prevent overheating or moisture retention, and still providing you with the needed protection.

Metatomical Footbed
One of the best parts about any pair of Keen footwear is the fact that they are made with a footbed that’s completely comfort oriented. The Metatomical footbed found in the Voyageur is an internal support mechanism that was designed so as to give a high level of support in the arch area.

Cost and Value
The Keen Voyageur is priced in a decent price range that’s slightly above average compared to similar pairs. It’s a style that’ll give you lots of comfort and practical use, and is a great option for travellers, hikers, backpackers and anyone else who likes a good pair of footwear that feel good on the feet.

10. Columbia North Plains II

The rating is based on the average rating (1-100) from all the criteria in which we rated this product.
83.2
Columbia North Plains II
Style
86
Durability
83
Weather Resistance
81
Fit
84
Breathability
82
best offer for today
$54.00
Pros:

Rubber Outsole

Omni-Grip Traction

Techlite Midsole

Abrasion-Resistant Toe Cap

Waterproof, Membrane Bootie Construction

Cons:

Break-in Period

Not Fully Waterproof

Trail-ready, the Columbia North Plains II can handle light-to-medium rocky terrains, and is a great choice for longer hikes. It’s equipped with a Techlite midsole, premium level Omni-Grip traction, an abrasion-resistant toe cap, non-marking outsole, a leather and textile upper, and is made with waterproof bootie construction to keep you protected from the elements. In other words, the technology is present to allow you to enjoy your day traversing the trail wilds.

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Rubber Outsole
The outsole on the Columbia North Plains II is made with Omni-Grip rubber that will provide you with the right amount of traction you need on both dry and wet surfaces. Even more, it’s a non marking material, which means you’ll be able to wear this model even inside, without fear of damaging the floor.

Waterproof, Membrane Bootie Construction
The bootie construction in the Columbia North Plains II is seam-sealed; thereby, allowing your feet to remain dry. As the upper is not made to be fully waterproof, however, the bootie only serves as 'waterproof' in low-wet conditions. This means if you pass through morning dew, you are likely to remain dry.

Cost and Value
Midrange in cost association, this pair is perfect for those heading for the light-to-medium rocky trails. Furthermore, they provide ample traction, decent low-level waterproofing, an abrasion-resistant toe cap, and a non-marking outsole. As such, this pair is worth every penny.

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Style

When purchasing a pair of footwear for any specific activity, you need to consider what said activity calls for. Naturally, the same goes for the ones you’re looking for here. While you may be tempted to go out in your comfy road running shoes made with a mesh upper, it is important that you know that they won’t possess the qualities you require.

First, let’s talk about different “cuts” in trekking shoes. There are the low-cut, middle-cut, and high-cut designs. The low-cut trekking looks very similar to running shoes; they are lightweight and can often be worn casually but aren’t meant for long treks with large amounts of weight, as it can lead common ankle injuries. The cut in low-cut shoes generally doesn’t reach over your ankles. The medium-cut shoes provide ankle protection from cuts, while also often feature metal lacing hooks at the ankle, allowing for tighter and more accurate fit. Mid-cut shoes provide far better protection but lack the ankle flexibility provided in low-cut shoes. Mid-cut shoes are ideal for regular trekking on uneven terrain. The cut for mid-cut shoes reaches slightly over the ankles.

Now, the last type of design is high-cut shoes. These shoes have very high cuts that provide excellent protection to your ankles and feet and are generally found shoes designed for mountain climbing or heavy off-trail trekking. The high-cut shoes are much heavier and the construction of the shoes are meant to give maximum support while also providing excellent protection. Most waterproof or weather resistant trekking shoes are high-cut because they are much thicker and sturdier.

Just like the types of shoe cuts, there are also different categories of trekking shoes; these categories are generally sorted into light trekking, backpacking, and mountaineering shoes.

Light trekking shoes are low-cut trail shoes that survive adequately on moderate terrain and are usually a good choice for trekking on moderate well-maintained trails. These shoes aren’t meant for extremely rugged terrain and often don’t offer the same amount of protection as other types of trekking shoes.

Backpacking trekking shoes are trekking shoes with a medium to high cut, providing increased durability and comfort, while also offering to sustain heavier weight—like that of a trekking backpack. These types of trekking shoes are also often called “off-trail” shoes and are noticeably heavier than light trekking shoes, allowing them to sustain in harsher terrain and conditions, remaining comfortable even under heavy weight.

The last type of specific trekking shoes are mountaineering shoes; these shoes are often used only to climb large mountains and provide a very high cut, making them uncomfortable for long treks on an even trail. Mountaineering trekking shoes are also designed to protect against the harshest of temperatures and weather, making them ideal as one of the most durable and enduring trekking shoes out there. These thick, protecting shoes offer tremendous ankle protection and are insulated from moisture and cold. Most mountaineering shoes are also compatible with crampons, which are traction attachments made for ice climbing.

A good pair will, first and foremost, be protective. This goes both for the upper and the outsole, as well as the stabilization features found in the shoes itself. Secondly, your chosen shoes need to be durable, able to withstand different weather conditions, and should offer the appropriate level of insulation – wearing shoes that are too hot in the summer may be uncomfortable, but wearing footwear that doesn’t provide the desired level of warmth in the winter can have serious consequences.

In addition to all of this, your chosen hikers need to be comfortable and supportive – if you find that your feet hurt after an hour or two of walking, your shoes are probably the culprit. A good amount of cushioning can lessen the shock your joints and muscles have to withstand, while arch support and a good heel cup can help properly align your feet so that you don’t feel the pain the next day.

Last but not least, you need to consider the fit. A well-fitted pair of footwear will go further than the latest tech features, so make sure that you pick the correct size and width, that the arch of your foot is well supported, that your toes have enough room in the forefoot and that your laces are tied securely, but not too tightly.

Durability

It certainly goes without saying that you don’t want your shoes to be worn out after a few hikes and treks; that’s why durability plays such a monumental role in quality trekking shoes because you don’t want them to wear out ever—period.

Think dirt, rocks, rivers, snow, holes, uneven terrain, and enough hazardous objects to line a mountain twice. In this, there are plenty of reasons to consider your safety, and even more to consider the protection you need to provide for your feet. As casual footwear will not suffice on the trail, here are some of the aspects you should consider when purchasing your next pair of sneakers or boots:

Waterproofing/Water-resistance – This may come in the form of a GORE-TEX (GTX) lining or the lack of breathable mesh material used in the making of the upper. A trail sneaker will, generally, be less breathable than those made for casual, everyday use, as it will most likely be made with leather components. The compromise is necessary seeing that the activity is done in rough terrain that poses many dangers. If, however, you’re going on a casual hike, you can get away with a more breathable (synthetic) mesh. If you are partaking in backpacking through unpredictable terrain, however, you want as much protection as possible; so, you will go with a leather-made design. You never know when you will encounter streams or rivers with no options other than to plow through. You will find other styles with either a full-bootie waterproof membrane or a pieced-together seam-sealed inner layer. If you want a fully waterproof design, chances are, your favorite pair is offered in a GTX version.

Thicker, heavier, and layered upper material – If you want lightweight, you are looking in the wrong direction. This type of footwear is made to withstand constant impact with rocks, corrosion that comes with moisture retention, and long miles through dust and dirt. This means you will, typically, find the proper style is comprised of a material that is heavier, more layered, and tougher than the standard athletic sneakers. One thing for sure is that you won’t be seeing Flyknit or Primeknit uppers on these sneakers. You will find either synthetic or leather. The leather that you will find on them will, generally, be cowhide, as it has the best balance of durability and flexibility. Synthetic uppers do not contain animal products, but rather are either composed of durable nylon or polyester, or a combination of both. The leather is, generally, less breathable and more ideal for rougher terrains as it is tough; whereas, synthetic uppers are less in weight, more breathable, but do not offer as much protection; so, they are great for easy trails.

  • Leather Upper – Perfect for taking a beating and for rougher environments. Although, it is relatively heavy. Great for snow, or rocky terrain.
  • Synthetic Upper – Lightweight and breathable, but may tear easily if snagged on bushes or rubbed on rocks consistently. Great for hot weather.
  • Stiffer Sole/Thicker Sole – The most important component of any trekking or trekking shoe is its sole—or, specifically, “outsole”; a good, durable outsole can mean the difference between a lifetime shoe and a regrettable purchase, which is why knowing the aspects of a shoe’s outsole should always be thought of when buying. In trekking shoes, the outsole should be the absolute last thing that wears down in the shoe.

    A thick, protective outsole is crucial for going on the trail. The required level of protection will, usually, be achieved by using thicker, bulkier materials, which will help prevent any injury from stepping on sharp rocks or from walking on uneven terrain. Almost always, gear for hikers is made with a sole that’s stiffer than that found in your everyday sneakers. This not only adds to the longevity of the sole but gives more stability for carrying your equipment and backpack, as most hikers will carry from 30 to 40lbs, depending on the duration of the trip. If you’re a backpacker and have 40+ pounds on your back, we recommend as stiff of a sole as they come. You will need the extra support and protection for the weight and long miles.

    The technology of the outsole follows a few general rules; first off, a softer rubber outsole provides better traction underneath the foot, making trekking easier by putting less pressure on the foot and allowing for better grip, but a softer rubber outsole also wears out far faster and shorten the lifespan of the shoe. A harder outsole, on the other hand, can last a lot longer, but won’t provide the maximum grip, making trekking in slippery conditions such as rain much more dangerous.

    Polyurethane Foam – One of the more dense materials used in midsoles that are typically longer lasting than others but much less of a cushion.

    Ethylene Vinyl Acetate – Arguably the most popular of midsole materials. EVA is extremely soft and cushioning, fairly durable (not as durable as PU) but much more pleasant to walk on.

    Note: There are multiple components that make up footwear in general. These components include the upper, footbed, inner, insole, midsole, outsole, and sometimes an extra layer called the Topsole. Not every pair will include a pronounced outsole or Topsole. Some styles include one layer, although you will, typically, find most every layer included in the footwear. The quality of the shank, also, is important when considering sturdiness.

    Steel Shank / Rock Plate – Just as you would see in industrial-grade work boots, some high-quality sneakers (and boots) have steel shanks integrated into them. With work boots, they protect against the penetration of external objects such as nails; and here they do the same, except the protection will be against sharp rocks (mainly) and other ground hazards, as there are many. Alternatively, the plate will be made with a hard plastic but serves the same purpose.

    Weather Resistance

    Like durability, weather protection should also be a keen point to keep in mind when looking for a pair of trekking shoes. Many ordinary shoes wear down quickly under the harsh conditions of rain, snow, dirt, or other factors in uneven, long hikes; trekking shoes, however, were made to resist these harsh conditions with specific technology aimed toward weather protection.

    Weather protection is particular and needs to be covered in its own, although it goes hand-in-hand with the overall protection of proper footwear. Generally, footwear for the outdoors includes protection from harsh weather from the main components they may feature, such as Gore-Tex linings or other waterproofing material, and thicker layers to accommodate for extreme conditions if that’s what you may find yourself in. But there’s much more to weather protection than just the basics. In fact, there are too many different types of weather conditions for one type of solution to fit all. As such, you will need to consider every aspect of every specific situation or season you will be in.

    Additional weatherproofing may come in the form of wax coatings on full-grain leather for the purpose of waterproofing if a GTX option isn’t available for that particular style. For the same purpose, you may, also, find a hydrophobic DWR (durable water-repellent) finish or oil coating, depending on the manufacturer’s choice for their footwear. A poorly made product with any weatherproofing method will still leak; so, you need to make sure to only obtain footwear from trusted, reputable brands, which we have listed.

    There are three main types of waterproofing in trekking shoes; waterproof leather, waterproof constructions, and waterproof linings.

    Waterproof leather, which is a waterproof coating of leather that protects water from reaching inside the shoe. These types may be more expensive, as leather isn’t always a feature in trekking shoes, but can be useful in colder and wetter conditions, as leather is naturally resistant to water.

    The second type is having a shoe with waterproof construction; this means that the shoe was inherently designed to be tight in stitching and may contain taping to prevent water from entering the shoe. These shoes are usually labeled with a “weather protection” or “waterproof” offer when marketed. There are also shoes that offer only “water protection” but not “waterproof”, meaning that they can protect against water, but soaking the shoe for long periods of time in wetness can cause leaks to the interior. Many trekking shoes claim to be “water protected” or “water resistant”, but keep in mind that these shoes can still allow water into the interior.

    The third type of weather protection is waterproof lining, which is a fabric in trekking shoes that can be built in to prevent moisture from passing through the material; waterproof lining can be your best option in a weather protected trekking shoe, as they can completely keep moisture out of the shoe, while also offering to increase the durability.

    Additional Points of Weather Protection to Consider

  • Dealing with the elements – Skip synthetic for cold, rockier, and harsh conditions. The leather is much more protective and durable. In scolding heat, synthetic will be your best friend, as you will need the airflow and breathability it provides.
  • Waterproofing is only one form of weather protection – Waterproofing comes in handy if you’re in a wet setting saturated with streams, or find yourself in rain, although it is just one form of protection from the weather.
  • Consider if you will encounter snow on your hike (Usually, more prevalent at higher altitudes) – In snow, waterproofing is needed (go with leather), but you will, also, need extra insulation. In addition to more insulation, you want to consider crampons, micro-spikes, or even snowshoe attachments.
  • Consider Gaiters – Gaiters not only come in handy in the snow to keep the insides of your sneakers snow-free but they, also, keep everything else out. They are a worthy investment and a smart addition to your gear.
  • Hot weather – Cut down on the waterproofing material and go with a synthetic/mesh upper which will allow much more effective temperature regulation. Also, go with a low cut collared sneakers. There are plenty available.
  • Fit

    In trekking shoes specifically, sometimes you shouldn’t worry about fit but instead about prevention of pressure in the feet. Since trek shoes are generally heavier and more constricting, the worst thing you can do is to buy a pair of trekking shoes that are too small or have a clamped toe box that can cause discomfort or even long-lasting injury. It’s never a bad idea to buy up a size when purchasing trekking shoes, as there are many resources that can help ensure that perfect fit.

    One of those resources is socks. Buying a larger size and wearing trekking socks is always the smartest thing to do to make sure your trekking shoes fit properly. Choosing socks with a wider thickness can fill in that size gap and make trekking comfortable and effortless. There are also specific types of socks—cushioned trekking socks—that use modern technology to be precise in their fit in accordance with your trekking shoe. These can also add warmth to the shoe and help bolster water-resistance.

    You, also, want more room in the toe box, as the activity itself can lead to aching toes from constant pressure put on them, and the extra space will prevent that. It’s worth noting that the rugged of these designs has become somewhat of a fashion trend that some companies outside of the niche are capitalizing on. This means, there are styles out there that appear to be made for the trail but don’t have the proper fit or support.

    Benefits of properly fitting footwear

  • Sprained ankle prevention
  • Blister and excess rubbing prevention
  • Comfort through extended miles
  • Prevention from external debris
  • Prevention of pains in the toe area (should have extra toe room)
  • Provides additional support and overall steadiness
  • Also make sure that a proper, durable lace comes with your trekking shoe. Always make sure to first unlace and try on the shoe, assuring a proper fit, before using one of the three knots: the surgeon’s knot, the window knot, or the toe-relief knot. The surgeon’s knot is ideal for when your heel is loose and you find yourself slipping, while the window knot is if you feel pressure points on the top of your foot, and, lastly, the toe-relief knot helps create a stopgap to relieve pressure on the toe box.

    Overall, the most one of the most important criteria when looking for trekking shoes are the comfort and fit, and knowing how to look for shoes that specifically shape your feet can always make for a better experience out in the wilderness. To restate, the heel of the shoe should always lock firmly, while the toe should have ample room to prevent it from hitting your shoe, while other factors such as traction and lacing can also be important.

    Breathability

    Breathability is important, but it’s, also, a contradiction to some situations where a completely sealed sneaker will be more effective. Although, there will be instances where you will need a more breathable pair, and waterproofing won’t be needed.

    In a waterproofed sneaker, airflow will be at an all-time low, and temperature regulation will be minimal. Because of this, your feet will heat up quickly, which is why in hotter weather, a leather-based material is not recommended. Thick leather may lack airflow and is naturally water-resistant; so, along with your feet getting too hot to handle, moisture accumulation from sweating may occur. Only use a leather-based option in hotter weather if you must. This means a strenuous hike where you will need the extra protection that it offers. The same goes for Gore-Tex materials. There is no need for a GTX if you don’t plan on walking through streams or snow. On another note, Gore-Tex is fairly breathable (for a water-resistant material, at least), but not relatively.

    On a hot day where you won’t need full protection and can compromise a little bit, go with a product made of suede leather/nylon if you still want a balance of protection with breathability. For optimal airflow and breathability, go with full synthetic. This means your sneaker will be comprised largely of mesh which will give ample temperature regulation and moisture management.

    Choose wisely, and consider where you will be hiking.

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    Shoes Versus Boots

    Many hikers don't require the full support of a boot, but if you're intending to do some serious mountaineering, a full boot with proper ankle support will fair better for your trek than a low cut shoe or mid boot.

    Hiking Adventures

    Many online travel sites now list vacations to locations with amazing hiking venues. If you're in search of something different to do for your holiday, look online for one of these companies! From South America, to China and Europe, you'll find an amazing trip to be had with incredible views from the top!

    Frequently Asked Questions

    q: What material should I look for in this style of footwear?
    a:

    For the upper, if you are backpacking or doing a strenuous hike, you need to go with the leather, as it is much more durable and water-resistant than any other. If you prefer lightweight with optimum breathability and don’t need the extra protection leather offers, however, you can go with synthetic uppers. The leather is, also, pricier but offers better overall support. For midsole material, you should either go with EVA (Ethylene-vinyl acetate) which is very cushioned or Polyurethane (PU) which is more supportive, dense, and durable.

    q: Should I go with a sneaker or a boot?
    a:

    There are major differences between these two styles. The most notable difference is the ankle support you will get from a boot, and the heavier weight the added material will provide. You should also be aware of MID styles that can be considered boots. MID footwear are models that have a raised rim to provide that extra support and, typically, come in a low version. Boots are much better for backpacking and extended trips on the trail, and we recommend them for those who carry more than 30 pounds of accumulative backpack or gear weight. If you are doing an easy day hike, however, carrying a lightweight pack, you don’t need the extra support, and a great sneaker will suffice.

    q: What types of leather can be seen on this type of footwear other than the common cowhide?
    a:

    Although cowhide leather is common because of its combination of durability, water-resistant properties, and relative flexibility, you will see footwear composed of leather manufactured through different curing methods. This includes full-grain leather which is very strong and holds a great rating in water-resistance and balanced with breathability. You, also, need to consider the thickness of the leather used. An ideal thickness will be in the range of 1.4 millimeters, as higher the thickness the more supportive the footwear will be. You may, also, see Nubuck leather, which is very similar to suede. It’s just as water-resistant to full grain, but much more flexible, although compromises in durability.

    q: Is a break-in period necessary?
    a:

    Yes! Breaking in any style of footwear is extremely important before lengthy usage. This is more important in this particular vein of footwear, as it can easily tear up your feet and heels. Nobody wants blisters, or sores!

    q: What’s the typical break-in period that can be expected?
    a:

    This depends on a couple of factors with the material being one. Full grain leather is much harder and stiffer than any other material generally seen on this type of footwear; therefore, taking much longer to break in properly. Before going on any big hikes, wear your pair regularly for three days or so (or a few small hikes) if they are full grain leather to break them in. Nubuck may take a wear or two to properly break in, but split grain and synthetic footwear require minimal time, as they are naturally flexible. It’s arguable that those pairs comprised of split grain or synthetic don’t need to be broken in at all.

    q: Is there a difference between hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering?
    a:

    Yes! They all include the great outdoors but each is a very different activity and requires different gear. Backpacking consists of long miles where you will be bringing all your camping gear with you and be sleeping under the stars for multiple nights at a time. This means you will be carrying a heavy load and will need more support in order to handle the load.

    Hiking, generally, consists of a round trip that can be done in a day, whether it’s up a trail, the summit of your favorite mountain, or through your favorite county, state, or national park. As it is typically done on maintained trails, and beaten paths, carrying only the essentials rather than a full load that includes a tent, you can get away with lighter options and don’t need the extra support of a MID or boot.

    Mountaineering is the beast of the bunch and is, actually, mountain climbing in its rawest (but still safe) form. You will be scrambling over rocks, off-trail, climbing steep vertical ascensions, and trying to reach summits not accessible by casual hikers and usually where you will get no help if you find yourself in trouble. Mountaineering equipment is extremely expensive, and there are special footwear and gear you will need. In most cases, you won’t get away with anything less than the hardiest products on a mountaineering excursion.

    q: Are women’s styles made different than the options for men?
    a:

    Women are, typically, lighter in weight relative to their size than men’s designs. This goes for footwear in general. The anatomy of a woman’s foot compared to men’s is significantly different; so, there are some companies who make the women’s version tailored to her foot. Most models are just lighter in weight and don’t provide specific features for the women’s version, unfortunately. But, as competition rises between companies, we are starting to see more men- and- women-specific products. A word of advice for women hikers from someone who’s lead hikes of all degrees for 5+ years and counting; even a men’s sneaker that is made of quality and fits well will suffice. Just find the best fit for you according to your preferences.

    Sources

    1. Hi-Tec, Leather Versus Synthetic Footwear,
    2. Merrell Team, What's inside a Hiking Shoe?,
    3. REI Staff, Hiking Footwear: How to Choose,
    4. Sierra Trading Post, Hiking Footwear Guide,
    5. Scott Hicks, How to Choose the Right Hiking Shoes,
    6. The Clymb, How to Buy Hiking Footwear,
    7. HikingDude, All About Hiking Footwear,
    8. Wiki, About EVA Foam,
    9. Wiki, About DWA Coating,
    10. Carol D. Kiesinger | George Alan Smith, Mountaineering,
    11. OGL, Hiking Shoes for Women,
    12. OGL, Testing Hiking Shoes for Women,
    13. Anaconda Stores, Womens Hiking and Trail Shoes,
    14. Wikipedia, Keen (shoe company), Definition, Mar 26, 2018