My current hiking boots are a pair of Merrell Moab FST 2’s which have racked up almost 400 miles. They are an alcoholic uncle I didn’t like immediately — for good reason.
Sure, they have their loyal fans but now, late in life, they are not fairing well. And I am pretty smug about it. Everyone can tell I was right all along: the rot was fundamental; they stink in a way that means they always stank.
My first pair of hiking boots was a glib pair of Sketchers. Also not great, but I loved them; I’ve never owned such comfortable boots.
The Catskills ripped up those hiking boots in no time, but I refused to let go.
We were good together, Sketchers ’n’ Me, comfortable and cozy in a long-term dysfunctional relationship that served neither of us well.
I treated them badly and then became sentimental when I should have let them go, for both our sakes. Instead, I continued to treat them badly. I was thoughtless. I was casually callous. I wore them until the soles started to come undone and I began to suspect they might murder me.
New Hiking Boots
So now it’s time for a new pair. The only problem is dealing with the number of options to consider and the research overwhelm.
All I know is that I prefer hiking boots over hiking shoes. (I like the ankle support that hiking boots provide, and hiking boots keep my feet drier during stream crossings.)
I asked around for a list of the best brands to consider. Here’s where I’m at…
Hiking Boots & Comfort
All the major brands seem to do quite well on this score. Modern materials are, frankly, amazing in terms of the comfort they provide. Of more concern are things like breathability and specific fit.
My feet seem to be pretty average and do well in almost any hiking boot or shoe. I’m lucky. 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 to your toes or 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. (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
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. After less than a year in The Catskills, my Merrell’s 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 2021
Here is the list of brands I’m currently looking at, with my top choices near the top. Lower down, the brands are not ranked in any order.
- Vasque Breeze AT GTX (men’s / women’s)
- Salomon Ultra GTX (men’s / women’s)
- Altra Lone Peak (men’s / women’s)
- Oboz Bridger Mids (men’s / women’s)
- La Sportiva Wildcat or Trango
- Asolo Fugitive
- Topo Athletic Trailventure
These brands can be expensive, especially the ones near the top. But I have learned several times in the mountains that it’s worth paying extra bucks for quality gear. With these brands, whichever one I choose, I feel like I’ll be making a good investment.
If you have specific model recommendations that you personally really love, please comment below and I will update this list.
If you’re looking for a new pair of hiking boots, I hope this list of hiking boot brands and models is a useful jumping off point for you.
And I will report back on whatever I end up choosing for my new pair.
In the meantime, here is a ton more gear posts to skim.
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