by Jim O’Leary
We’ll start things off with the boot most people start hiking in, the Merrell Moab 2 Mid GTX. It’s not the stiffest, or the longest-lasting, option on the list, but it’s not really competing with everything else on this list. Rather, it’s competing with the old sneakers you’ve been hitting the trails in. Unlike those tennis shoes, these Merrell Boots are honest-to-goodness boots perfect for day hiking, with Vibram outsoles for enhanced traction on tricky terrain, and a waterproof membrane providing waterproof/breathable protection so you can keep logging miles even when the weather isn’t perfect. However thanks to the sneaker-style midsole, and famous Merrell lasting, these Merrell Hiking Boots feel more like sneakers on your feet. That means no break-in time, seriously cushioned comfort, and a lighter feel on your feet than many “better” boots can offer is what you get with the Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid GTX, one of the best hiking boots of all time.
Designed For: Comfort, Last Minute Hiking Trip
For a more traditional hiking boot experience, consider the Asolo Fugitive GTX Boots. They’re not specialist boots built for one particular discipline, rather solid all-rounders that can help you scramble up the trail all summer long, and stay on your feet when the weather starts to turn in the fall. Partially that’s due to the GORE-TEX Membrane waterproofing, but it’s also a question of the construction. Using burly ballistic nylon and suede leather, these Asolo Hiking Boots are reinforced with a rubber toe cap, it shrugs off terrain and trail hazards that would shred a lesser boot, while the polyurethane midsole and Duo Asoflex lasting board under your feet provides more protection and support when wearing the Asolo Men’s Fugitive GTX Hiking Boots you’re used to in a boot this light.
Designed For: Hikers wanting support
The most important part of any hiking boot is the fit, and since size only measures the length of your foot, not other factors like width or toe box height. So while the supportive midsole, grippy outsole, and GORE-TEX waterproofing may seem familiar, this is a different boot. And with that comes a different fit, and depending on you and your foot shape that could be a better fit. So don’t get too caught up on brands and models, instead focus on finding the boot that does what you need that feels best on your foot.
Designed For: A great fitting hiking boot
Speaking of aquatic adventures, there’s a reason why river guides and serious paddlers all over still swear by these Keen classics. The Keen Men’s Newport H2 Sandal is rugged, with an enclosed toe and a grippy outsole helping you find footing on river rocks or mountain summits. And they’re light, with a well-strapped sandal construction that not only holds you as securely as any low-rise hiker, but also allows for massive drainage and ventilation potential keeping your feet feeling fresh no matter where you’re headed. Plus, they’ll give you some of the most distinctive tan lines in the world.
Designed For: River rats
This is the boot you wear when you’re heading to class before hitting the trail. These Oboz Hiking Boots have a mellow-lugged outsole splits the difference, avoiding the “hayseed in his hikers” look while you’re in town, while still finding enough traction on the trail to keep you from looking like a city slicker. The all-leather construction is water repellant membrane, shedding light rain and helping you cross puddles (or overflowing gutters) with confidence, and shields your feet from trail hazards or urban filth with ease.
Designed For: On and off trail use
Another way to mix style and performance is to grab the throwback, Vasque Clarion 88 Hiking Booots. Using colorways found in Vasque’s 1988 catalog, these hikers have old-school cool written all over them so you can wear them without shame when you stop by the coffee shop on your way through town. But you’ll feel good at the trailhead too, knowing there’s a Vibram outsole under your feet and GORE-TEX over the top helping you enjoy your time outdoors too.
Designed For: Style
Vasque has options for people more worried about tricky terrain than fashion too. The Talus XT has the same GORE-TEX and Vibram technology you’ll find in the Clarion ‘88, but it rides a bit higher than most mid-rise boots. These Vasque Hiking Boots provide protection from trail hazards and a touch more support for more comfort carrying heavy loads through difficult terrain. Don’t get us wrong, the mesh upper isn’t bad looking by any means, but it’s there because of it’s abrasion-resistant construction that handles bumps and scrapes better, meaning you’ve got plenty of miles left in these boots even after your feet feel heavy at the end of a long hike.
Designed For: Heavy use with added support
On the other end of the spectrum you have a boot that isn’t actually Salomon Hiking Boot, that’s not really a boot, but still gives you boot-like protection and stability. You can have GORE-TEX on your feet, with plenty of support for your feet with pretty good traction too, while wearing the Salomon X Ultra that weighs basically half as much as most “regular” hiking boots.
Designed For: Fast and light adventures
The beautiful thing about hiking is there’s no wrong way to do it. You can be peak bagging deep in the wilderness, or just cruising a local park. You’re still hiking. And you don’t need all the bells and whistles, and the price tag that comes with it, to go hiking. This boot is a perfect example of that. It does have a brand-name outsole, because Vibram really is great at grip. These Merrell Hiking Boots don’t have GORE-TEX. Your feet won’t get soggy, it’s got Merrell’s own MSelect Dry waterproof membrane technology. But you’re not paying a premium to get that. Classic lacing system, and reliable textile-and-leather construction has these boots focusing on what’s important. Specifically- protecting your feet so you can focus on exploring new trailheads and seeking new summits.
Designed For: Classic fitting boot