Like the tyres of a car, the most important part of your outdoor equipment is the bit that grips the road or trail, and a good quality pair of hiking boots are the critical tools you need to enjoy the outdoors. The very best hiking boots will not only be comfortable, grippy and supportive, but will also be adapted to the type of hiking you're most keen on.
That might be anything from speed walking on low-level, long-distance trails, casual countryside footpath rambles of a weekend, or more serious expeditions into the wilder parts of the world. Either way, there's a boot at a budget point that will suit you down to the ground. A well-chosen boot will stave off blisters, provide ankle support to ensure a minor slip doesn't mean a painful twisted ankle, as well as protect your feet from sharp rocks, stones and casual toe-stubbing moments.
While there are a vast range of boots on the market, don't be dazzled by shiny fluorescent colour schemes, or put off by traditional leather numbers – the key is in the fit, and the purposes, terrain and situations you plan to put them to use in. Usually a balance of durability and weight is a good rule of thumb, but don't let that stop you picking up a bargain.
This guide to the best hiking boots for men should help you find the right pair for you (we also have a dedicated guide for the best women's hiking boots).
The best hiking boots you can buy right now
Although it's a fierce battle, the Roclite G 345 GTX are the best hiking boots right now. These T3 Awards 2020 prize-holders will enable you to move fast and light through any terrain. We're partial to a bit of tech at T3, and trail experts Inov-8 have an award-winning trick up their sleeve (or sock): a Graphene-infused sole unit. The wonder-material adds strength, hardness and elasticity, resulting in up to 50% better wear – especially relevant for these deep 6mm lugs. It's not all marketing talk either, with these gracing the feet of athletes taking on some of the toughest outdoor challenges around, such as the UK's ultra-marathon Spine Race.
Designed for fast hiking, the grip is certainly phenomenal on wet rock and muddy grass alike, a fact aided by the highly flexible but shanked midsole. Weight is minimal, leaning into that trail running heritage, at 345g (size 8.5), you'll barely notice these on your feet - certainly until the miles really stack up. The bellows-style tongue is another trail-essential, keeping small stones and dust out of your boots, as is the low heel, allowing a full range of movement while providing more support than a standard shoe with the extra front lacing.
Elsewhere the Gore-Tex liner should keep damp at bay, while a Powerflow midsole delivers a claimed 10% better shock absorption and 15% better energy return than standard midsoles. With brand new colourways for 2020, this fast-and-light hiker is guaranteed to keep you right-side up and dry on the longest days out.
The Hanwag Banks Winter GTX boots are immediately recognisable as being based on the Hanwag Banks pattern, offering a robust and relatively traditional walking boot platform. That's no bad thing, the nubuck upper offering excellent durability but relatively low weight, and a traditional mountain boot sole that'll grip mud, rock and snow equally well.
Hanwag has not been idle on the winter front though, adding in a variety of anti-cold technologies to keep your toes comfy. These include a higher-than usual ankle, trapping warmth and also increasing support, an insulated aluminium-layered footbed, and a Vibram Icetrek sole material that grips better in icy conditions. However, what you'll notice first is the inside of that raised ankle, resplendently lined with Gore-Tex Partelana. This gives a plush and snug fit to comfort the coldest feet, while still remaining breathable. Although too soft for hardcore mountain adventures, these Hanwags look and feel the part for low-level trekking and winter walking in serious comfort. (There's a women's version too: check out the Hanwag Banks Winter GTX Women's Boots here.)
Read more: Hanwag Banks Winter GTX boots review
The Hoka OneOne TenNine Hike GTX are set up for trail speed, armed with a long pedigree of fast and light trail tools that have won epic endurance races round the world. The obvious feature – that jutting 'Hubble geometry' heel provides masses of energy retention, while an endlessly deep sole unit soaks up everything the trail can throw at you. The physics are in your favour too, with an enormous contact area via the Vibram Megagrip sole and chunky 5mm lugs, there's very little chance of parting company with the earth in these monsters.
Weighing in at a mere 504g, an inner Gore-tex lining keeps toes dry, and recycled materials in the upper go some way to salving your sustainability concerns. On the downside, RRP is relatively forceful for a dedicated speed-walking boot, and Hoka OneOne's own instructions warn not to 'operate vehicles' or 'navigate stairs' while wearing the boots – so Crib Goch is right out. And the design and colourways isn't Overall, the Hoka OneOne TenNine Hike GTX are innovative, eye-catching, and deliver an enormously plush ride as promised. No all-rounder, but as a dedicated fast-tracker, these are perfect.
Read more: Hoka OneOne TenNine Hike GTX review
Slimline, minimalist but practical is what we have some to expect from the Canadian uber-outdoor brand Arcteryx, and the Acrux TR GTX boot is yet another good example. A high rubber rand protects much of the upper from sharp rocks and abrasion, bending into a 'SuperFabric' upper – the latter employing unique micro-plated technology to remain lightweight but robust.
An almost-obligatory Gore-Tex liner will keep damp at bay, and overall weight is low for a mountain boot, at a claimed 550g (heavier than the Inov8 Rocklite, but lighter than the Hanwag Banks), leaving more spring in your step at the end of a long day. Underfoot the Vibram Megagrip outsole and aggressive lugs will deliver non-slip traction on rock, mud or scree alike, while the low heel will give plenty of flex in the ankle for moving through rugged terrain. Overall there's little to dislike here, and much to commend in an all-round trekking/hiking boot for most occasions.
There's a lot of innovation packed into the Columbia Facet 45 Outdry Boot, but the biggest draw has to be that Back To The Future-esque lacing system, not only looking very futuristic, but even dubbed a 'kinetic lacing' system by Columbia. This system grips the foot better than you might expect, also aided by the sock-like ankle system. As there are no laces or closures to fiddle with, this is very low hassle, though a firm yank is required to don/doff them - fortunately aided by large finger loops front and back. Angular-shaped overlays add protection to the toes and the upper textile, as well as lay down more of the 'facet' design ethic.
Elsewhere, there's an OutDry membrane to keep damp out, a beefy Omni-Grip sole that'll stick to most surfaces without marking them, and, less obviously, a deep heel cushion. That helps create a generous pocket that traps the heel neatly, preventing heel lift and ensuring a good fit. Although the Facet 45's will quickly run out of puff on a serious hillwalking expedition, they're perfect for low-level rambles and an ideal crossover town-country option for lighter walks. Either way, till the real hoverboards arrive, this is your next best bet for all-round walking comfort…
Other models: Columbia Facet 45 Outdry women's
For the hardiest hikers, the Inov-8 Roclite Pro G 400 GTX might be the best hiking boot for you. These combine the Graphene outsole found in our number 1 pick (tweaked to add water-dispersion grooves, to make these even gripper on wet ground) with a super-protective Schoeller ceramic-coated fabric upper. Inov-8 has also added extra cushioning in both the forefoot and rear, and a high-cut ankle collar for extra stability. They're slightly heavier than the lightest of the Inov-8 boot range, but they're still impressively lightweight. If you're looking for a boot that'll enable you to move fast and light over the trickiest terrain, these are a great choice. Head to our Inov-8 Roclite Pro G 400 GTX review for more info.
The Mammut Kento High GTX is all things to all people; a highly versatile hiking boot that’s not only lightweight, but also surprisingly practical as an all-rounder. There’s a bit of everything in the Kento High GTX. These walking boots, available for men and women, are hardy enough to accomodate strap-on crampons, but designed first and foremost to deliver hiking and walking comfort. This is aided by a Michelin Alpine Lite 3970 sole. The Nubuck and softshell outer soak up sharp-rock punishment without falling apart, and the robust rand is there to fend off the worst those mountains can throw at your feet. Weighing in at a lightweight 620g, this is one of the best hiking boot options for alpine exercusions, and an excellent option for pretty much any mountain adventure.
Winner of the T3 Awards 2019 for Best Hiking Boots, the waterproof Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX (Gore-Tex) will see you over any mountain pass, powering you onwards in sheer comfort come rain or shine. They’re a backpackers dream too, supporting you under heavy pack loads, and are designed to fully cradle and support your foot and ankle with each step. Foot fatigue is reduced, which is a boon on longer, heftier walking days, and the EnergyCell EVA midsole helps to reduce shock impact.
Though they’re fully robust, the Quest 4D 3 GTX aren’t as heavy as you’d think and are breathable enough to be worn during the warmer months whenever you need full support. The Contragrip sole with deep lug pattern dishes out mega traction on mixed terrain, boosting your confidence to tackle harder trails that may have previously felt out of reach. SensiFit tech provides a secure fit by cradling your foot from the midsole through to the Lace Locker lacing system, while a gusseted tongue stops debris and small stones from sneaking into your boots. Wear your Quest 4D 3 GTX’s with a pair of proper hiking socks and get out on the trail. They’ll have your back each step of the way.
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There is a reason boots have been made out of leather since pre-Roman times: it's hardwearing, organic and ages beautifully. The Keen Innate Leather WP is a take on a traditional hiking boot that packs in some very high-end leather from a Leather Working Group (LWG) tannery (the gold standard in responsible leather), but marries it up with a decidedly modern sole unit for improved comfort – the best of both old and new.
The eco credentials extend beyond the leather, with a PFC free durable water repellent coating and odour control using a natural probiotic and no pesticide, while a durable secure fit lace system with robust aluminium eyelets keeps everything anchored to your feet. Keen’s in-house waterproof membrane should keep damp at bay, and a stability shank adds stiffness for longer outings, finally the All-Terrain rubber outsole is designed to provide grip on uneven or slippery surfaces in all weathers. The best of old and new, all in the same boot?
The Adidas Terrex have been a fixture in best hiking boot circles since they first launched, and this latest update is no exception. The big news is that Adidas has teamed up with Parley for the Oceans to take plastic pollution that is collected on shorelines and in coastal areas and recycle it into the upper elements of the Free Hiker Parley. Aside from subtle design tweaks, the overall product remains broadly the same, just with a whole lump of good recycling karma. The Primeknit upper still has an elasticated sock-like fit that grips the foot and prevents friction blisters (you may want to size up for the best fit), and at 400g for men's and 340g for women's, these are very lightweight indeed. Stiffer EVA sections of the sole unit provide stability, while the bulk of the midsole is Adidas’ Boost material that delivers impressive energy return on each stride. Finally the outsole is mounded from grippy Continental rubber, with decent lugs to deal with muddier moments. For stylish boots ready to wear right out of the box, these are well worth a look.
The Zion Mid Gore-Tex, Merrell’s super-comfy new hiking boots, are well cushioned and dish out big grip to keep you upright on slippery terrain. Lightweight yet tough, they’re perfect for those of you who want a pair of easy to wear hikers that can be worn to the pub after a day on the trail. Merrell has designed them with a wipe-clean ballistic mesh and full-grain leather upper, with a rubber toe cap and a bellow tongue protecting your toes and feet from debris on the trail. Gore-Tex is on board for waterproofing, and a Vibram Megagrip sole with 5mm lugs boosts traction each step of the way. The Zion Mids are breathable too, ensuring you don’t end up standing in a pool of sweat after an intense hike.
Deceptively lightweight, the Hoka One One Sky Kaha is an astonishingly soft and comfortable hiking boot, but also delivers on support and strength too. This might well have something to do with the name (the Māori word for strength and support), but definitely does have something to do with the spec-list. There’s the surprising inclusion of a super-robust full grain, waterproof leather upper, a Vibram Megagrip hi-traction outsole with massive 5mm multi-directional lugs, and EVA/Rangi foam midsole, tasked with delivering all that bounce. Finally a full eVent waterproof bootie should keep the wet outside where it belongs – ideal for the damp days ahead.
AKU is often underestimated as a brand, and the Trekker Lite III is an impressive underdog, boasting a Rolls-Royce build quality and yet impressively low weight. These are hiking boots in the traditional sense, and are given huge rigidity with a 6-4mm Nylon lasting board. That rigidity is all on your side though, with a sculpted rocker sole that rolls with the stride, and an enormously breathable upper of suede, air8000 and welded PU film that helps to keep weight down to an impressive 570g a boot. The outsole is no less robust, and with a deep tread and the magic grippiness of Vibram Curcuma these should stay right-side-up whatever the conditions. A worthy addition to our best hiking boots guide.
Winter boots may be popping up like mushrooms now, but the gorgeous Danner Arctic 600s are a little bit special. A suede upper really looks the part, and the traditional lacing is augmented with a side zip, enabling you to don your boots in a jiffy. The spec is what you’d expect from a high-end pair of hiking boots, including 200g PrimaLoft insulation, a waterproof membrane and DWR coating. They also have one cunning trick up their sleeve (or rather, sock): Vibram Nisqaully Arctic Grip. This Vibram sole compound grips even sheet ice, so there’ll be no more sliding around, gripping onto the nearest bit of fence, on frosty mornings for you.
- Complete your kit with a pair of the best walking trousers and the best waterproof jackets
- Illuminate your trail with one of the best head torches for running or hiking
How to choose the best hiking boots
The two key things to prioritise when hunting for the best hiking boot for you: finding the right boot style for the activity, and getting a really good fit for your individual foot shape. The fit will vary by brand and style of boot, with some coming up much narrower (or broader) in the midfoot than others. It's absolutely vital to try boots on before embarking on an expedition, and usually wearing them round the house before removing the retail labels is enough to show up any hotspots that could lead to painful difficulties further down the line. Head to our guide to how to break in hiking boots for some top tips (and our guide to how to treat blisters if the worst comes to the worst).
Although there are some stunning and super-technical hiking boots that might catch your eye, make sure you actually need the features they're offering before you shell out. Super-stiff mountain boots can be a trial on casual Sundays strolls, but equally, rocking up in trainers for a snowy ascent is a terrible idea. Generally though, the extra support of a good hiking boot will see you happily meander wherever the fancy takes you.
The golden rule is to buy what fits, and a model that suits your main use. In terms of brands, at the more robust end of the spectrum La Sportiva, Scarpa, Mammut, Lowa and Aku all build boots that will shame a tank, while at the lighter, summery end Teva, Keen and Salomon bring considerable expertise to the table.
Hiking boot materials and technologies?
Construction-wise, old-school full leather hiking boots are rare beasts these days, not only because of cost but also because they need months of breaking in before extended use. Modern boots use a range of synthetic materials in addition to leather panels, so are much softer out of the box. Indeed, the latest thermo-fitted/NestFit models are pretty much ready to rock straight off the shop floor, although wearing around the house or to and from work is still a good idea before leaving on a major expedition.
Outdoor tech has come a long way in recent years, with huge strides being made in the way the best hiking boots are designed and built, from tech geared to keeping your toes warm in sub-zero conditions, to innovations that help you stay upright on the most treacherous and slippery trails. Here are a few of the most popular hiking boot technologies, and what they do:
- Vibram Megagrip (enhanced traction)
- Gore-tex (improved waterproofing)
- NestFit (bio-mapping for comfort)
- Thermo Tech Application technology (better support)
- CleanSport NXT (odour control)
Best hiking boots: Features to look for
In a nutshell, you're looking for boots that are luxuriously comfortable, unstintingly waterproof, heroically breathable, tank-like in their ruggedness, and offer as much grip as Spider-Man's socks. It’s essential to get the right rating for your hiking boot – wearing B3 double-boots for summer trekking will be hell, as will attempting the likes of Indicator Wall in Converse. Overall, you’re looking for ankle support from a boot – which in the hills can be vital when a stone shifts underfoot – but also a comfortable fit.
A snug (not tight) fit minimises heel lift, as well as assorted blisters at ‘hot spots’ like heels and toes. When seeking out winter boots (B1+) this is particularly important, as a loose fit will see your toes smash into the toe box when using crampons, and the stiffer sole will also exaggerate heel lift unless the heel pocket fits just right.
The accepted wisdom is to try on hiking boots in the afternoons, once your feet have expanded, and take a range of socks to try them on with. Thin office socks are helpful to show up any obvious shape mismatches and pressure points, before moving on to your preferred walking sock.
Do experiment with sock fit as well as boot fit, as even the most expensive socks are cheap compared to boots, and some of the more specialised socks can make a real difference to your hiking comfort.
Hiking boots come in different weights. Generally speaking, any weighing 400-500g and under are best suited to speed hiking, trail running (some types, not all) or day to day offroad use. Dog walkers and fairweather hikers, you'll like these ones.
Hiking boots that are tough enough to withstand multi-day hikes, where you might be carrying a heavy load on your back, are usually heavier. The trade-off for that extra weight is that these types of technical boots are much more supportive.
Do I need specific boots for hiking?
Hiking boots, as a term, is a broad church, but the main reasons you’ll need some for the rough stuff are their blend of protection, grip and stiffness. Standard street boots – Doctor Martens, for example – might offer some ankle support by lacing up high, but a lack of ankle padding will cut you to ribbons on a long trek.
Most modern hiking boots include a waterproof membrane, which will be useful when you head off the beaten track. In addition, hiking and mountain boots often incorporate a raised 'rand', a rubber buffer over the leather of the boot nearest the sole, which protects the boot from sharp stone cuts when walking across scree.
Hiking boot soles will also be much stiffer than street shoes/boots to shrug off rough surfaces, incorporating aggressive tread for better grip on wet grass, moss or mud, and often cleverly-placed sticky rubber areas for extra grip on wet rock. That stiffer sole gets a grade from B0 to B3-B0 and below, making them fine for casual summer hikes, but too flexible for crampons. Meanwhile, B1-3 boots offer increasing levels of stiffness to accommodate increasingly technical rigid crampon use. This might sound excessive for the causal walker, but if you’re hill walking in the UK winter, opting for a stiffer crampon-compatible walking boot is highly recommended, as conditions can change fast.