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The best hiking boots are, of course, going to be a somewhat personal choice. But certain brands and models keep floating to the top of lists.
My previous hiking boots were a pair of Merrell Moab FST 2’s which had racked up about 400 miles — but they had fallen apart long before that. Moabs have their loyal fans but they did not fair well for me.
Previous to those, I wore a pair of Sketchers. Also not great! But I loved them so much; I’d never owned such comfortable boots.
Note: The Catskills ripped up both pairs in no time.
Best Hiking Boots
These days, the only problem with choosing new boots is dealing with the sheer number of options — which leads to the dreaded internet research overwhelm.
Personally, I prefer hiking boots over hiking shoes. I like the ankle support that hiking boots give me, and boots keep my feet drier during mud season and for stream crossings.
I asked around for a list of the best hiking boot brands to consider. Here’s what I found…
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Hiking Boots & Comfort
All the major brands seem to do quite well on this score. In terms of the comfort they provide, modern materials are, frankly, amazing.
Of more concern are things like breathability and specific fit.
I’m lucky. My feet seem to be pretty average and do well in almost any hiking boot or shoe. But if you have a wide foot, or need a wide toe box, these are important things to factor into your research.
One tweak you can make to your fit is to learn some new ways to lace your hiking boots. Different lacing systems can provide relief from your toes to the top of your foot.
Hiking Boots Styling
Honestly, not a huge concern for me. My aesthetic is Doesn’t Look Shit.
I will say that I never loved the way my Merrell’s had only one layer of lace hooks above the ankle. That meant the upper part of the boots slightly flared away from my shins and I felt like I was walking around in a pair of chunky flowers. (Whereas my trusty old Sketchers had two pairs of hooks above the ankles which meant I could always get a tight seal.)
Waterproof Hiking Boots
If you’re hiking in the mountains, I don’t know why you wouldn’t want waterproof boots or shoes. Absolutely crucial.
In dry terrain, I can see the case for going with a more breathable pair of hiking boots or hiking shoes. But this website is mountain-hiking.com, not desert-hiking.com.
Winter Hiking Boots
I run hot when I’m hiking and my feet don’t get seem to get very cold in the winter. So I don’t need the extra insulation that winter hiking boots provide. I wear the same pair of boots all year around. Again, I’m lucky.
But this is a concern for many people, and something to think about if your extremities feel the cold quickly.
Hiking Boot Materials
Especially if you hike in rough terrain like the Whites, Adirondacks and Catskills, your hiking boots need to hold up well under a lot of wear and tear.
These days, the sole of a hiking boot is almost never the issue — it’s the uppers that break down and cause problems.
This is where my Merrell’s really let me down, and they did it almost right away. They began to come undone with rips quickly turning into holes and leading to major leaks. And this was with less than 200 miles on them. In this regard, they were actually worse than the Sketchers, which I never expected to be super-durable.
The Sound of the Brand’s Name
Yeah, I’ll say it.
Vasque sounds cool!
Keen? Okay, dude, that’s great…
Best Hiking Boots Brands
Here is the list of brands I considered for my new boots. My top choices are near the top. Lower down, the brands are not ranked in any order. Please keep in mind that these are not product reviews or recommendations. This is a list of popular brands and models right now.
- Vasque Breeze AT GTX (men’s / women’s)
- Altra Lone Peak (men’s / women’s)
- Oboz Bridger Mids (men’s / women’s)
- Salomon Ultra GTX (men’s / women’s) — Jul 2022: I’ve recently received some negative feedback on these boots concerning the sole becoming less grippy over time, so do your own research / double-check with friends or GTX owners online
- La Sportiva Wildcat or Trango
- Asolo Fugitive
- Topo Athletic Trailventure
- KEEN Footwear
These brands can be expensive, especially the ones near the top of that list. But I have learned several times in the mountains that it’s worth paying extra bucks for quality gear.
If you have specific model recommendations that you personally really love — or really hate! — please comment below and I’ll update this list.
My Final Choice
In the end, I went for these Vasque Breezes. I’m so happy I did. What a truly amazing difference a great pair of boots makes.
My brand new Vasque Breezes…
One hour later…
Currently (January 2023) I have about 400 miles on my Breezes. They’re holding up magnificently; absolutely rock solid so far. Still a non-swampy waterproof pleasure to do long hikes in.
Note: they did take about 30 miles to break in fully, but since then they feel great, and every time I put them on I feel so good. A friend bought the women’s model and had a similar experience with breaking in her Breezes. She also replaced her laces because the factory laces kept coming undone, which is a fair point; I may do the same this season.
However, both our pairs are still 100% watertight. My feet never get swampy. Gore-Tex is amazing.
Going forward, I can’t imagine switching to another brand. I trust these things completely. Well worth the extra bucks, IMO.
If you’re looking for a new pair of hiking boots, I hope this list of hiking boot brands is a useful jump-off point for you.
In the meantime: more gear posts!
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4 responses to “Best Hiking Boots & Brands”
Wider toebox and narrow heel is a tough combination to fit. I found a pair of Tecnica boots (women’s 18 Forge GTX) that I am looking forward to wearing on ADK hikes this summer. Will let you know how they are working out. These boots do require a break-in, and are constructed to have a customizable upper and footbed (the retailer does this with a specialized device). I plan to make use of this after I’ve hiked in them a few times.
Agree with you on the Merrell’s, and loved, LOVED, my Salomon insulated boots, which really got a workout with a winter single season.
That’s awesome, thanks so much for this info. LMK how those Tecnica’s work out. Hope you enjoy some great miles on them!
I have the Tecnica’s and I love them! They are a solid, heavy boot, so not the best if you want to go fast and light. But if you want to have a custom fit and feel like your feet are protected from anything, these are your boots. Note that they require special heat molding equipment to fit properly. Most people find them pretty uncomfortable until they’be been molded to your foot. They are not supposed to be sold without being molded, but few stores in the Eastern US have invested in the equipment. Fortunately, Paragon Sports in NYC does have the molding equipment. It’s about a 30 minute process all together, but well worth it.
Wow, that sounds kind of amazing. Great info. Thank you, David.