Best Hiking Boots of 2024

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four of the best hiking boot brands

Best Hiking Boot Brands

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The best hiking boots for you are always going to be a personal choice. But certain brands keep floating to the top.

Quality hiking boots are a critical barrier between you and rugged terrain, and good boots are the foundation of any successful, enjoyable hike. Let’s look at the essential technical requirements of top-tier hiking boots, delve into the modern advancements in materials and construction that enhance performance, and discuss the paramount importance of comfort on the trail.

Advances in synthetic fibers, waterproof membranes, and bio-mechanical design have revolutionized what modern hikers can expect from hiking boots. The integration of materials like GORE-TEX for breathability and waterproofing, coupled with robust yet lightweight Vibram soles for unmatched grip, has set a new standard in the hiking community.

But these technological feats haven’t compromised the comfort that is so crucial on long hikes. Modern boots now come with memory foam insoles, padded collars, and ergonomic footbeds that conform to the unique contours of each hiker’s feet. Endurance is linked to comfort. The modern focus on comfort is as much about enhancing performance as it is about ensuring an enjoyable experience.

From the technical specifics that keep you steady on slippery slopes to the subtle stitching that wards off hiking blisters, every detail matters.

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A Brief History of My Hiking Boots

My first pair of hiking boots were from Sketchers. Not great in terms of toughness or longevity, but I loved them a lot. I’d never owned such comfortable boots. Starter boots. No regrets.

My next boots were a pair of Merrell Moab FST’s which racked up about 400 miles. Unfortunately, with less than 100 miles on them they started to fall apart. They were never nearly as waterproof as they were supposed to be, and the upper material began to fray and tear almost immediately. Moab FST’s have their loyal fans, but they did not fare well for me.

My third was a pair of Vasque Breezes. I loved these boots immediately, and I loved these boots hard. Highly recommended. Notes below. Here’s the women’s model.

Since October 2023, I’ve been wearing a pair of Keen Targhee III’s, which I am also loving. They were immediately comfortable and they’ve served me very well in The Catskills and in Co. Wicklow, Ireland. Here’s the women’s model.

Since May 2024, I am breaking in a pair of Vasque St Elias boots in black (supplied by Vasque). I suspect these will fair very well. Vasque make first rate gear. Here is the women’s model in brown (also provided by Vasque, and which a friend is testing for me).

My comments are based on long-term multi-season testing, not single-weekend-magazine-type-testing. Unless otherwise noted, all my footwear is purchased and dragged through the high peaks of the Catskills and Adirondacks, some of the most rugged terrain in New York.

Let’s step forward and learn what makes a hiking boot truly exceptional and how it can elevate your hiking adventure from routine to remarkable.

Anatomy of the Best Hiking Boots

When selecting the ideal pair of hiking boots, the technical specifications are what set the best apart from the rest. Here’s a breakdown of the critical features to consider:

  1. Tread and Outsole Grip: The outsole of a hiking boot is your interface with the ground. Look for Vibram soles, or similarly reputable brands, known for their superior traction. Deep, multi-directional lugs provide grip on various terrains and help prevent slips and falls.
  2. Midsole Construction and Support: The midsole, often made of EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) for lighter boots or PU (polyurethane) for durability, dictates the boot’s cushioning and stability. A quality midsole supports the arch and softens impacts. TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) shanks or plates add rigidity, crucial for carrying heavier loads and traversing rocky paths.
  3. Waterproofing Technology: A boot’s ability to repel water while maintaining breathability is pivotal. Technologies like GORE-TEX linings and hydrophobic upper materials keep feet dry from external moisture while allowing sweat vapor to escape, ensuring comfort in wet conditions.
  4. Upper Material and Durability: The upper should balance toughness with comfort. Materials range from full-grain leather, known for durability and water resistance, to synthetic textiles that offer lightness and quicker drying times. Reinforced areas, particularly around the toe and heel, protect against abrasion and extend the boot’s lifespan.
  5. Ankle Support and Collar Padding: Ankle support is integral to preventing twists and sprains. The best hiking boots provide a snug fit around the ankle, aided by padding and a well-designed collar. This support is essential when carrying a backpack or navigating uneven ground.
  6. Lacing Systems: A boot’s lacing system can significantly affect its fit and comfort. Look for rust-proof eyelets and locking hooks that allow for a customizable fit, keeping the foot secure and minimizing movement within the boot that can lead to blisters.
  7. Insole and Footbed Comfort: The insole, or footbed, is responsible for the boot’s interior comfort and fit. Premium hiking boots often come with ergonomic, removable insoles that provide extra cushioning and can be replaced with orthotic inserts if necessary.
  8. Weight Balance: A well-designed hiking boot distributes weight evenly across the foot to minimize fatigue. Lightweight boots are preferable for day hikes, whereas sturdy, heavier boots may be better suited for challenging, multi-day treks.
  9. Breathability: Proper ventilation is crucial to keep feet cool and prevent moisture buildup inside the boot. Breathable fabrics or strategically placed vents are features to look for, especially if you’re hiking in warmer climates.

By paying close attention to these technical specifications, you can choose boots that offer the perfect blend of protection, comfort, and durability, ensuring every journey is as enjoyable as the destination.

When researching “best hiking boots,” keep these specs in mind to find footwear that will truly stand up to the challenges of the trail.

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Best Hiking Boots in 2024

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.

Here are the best hiking boot brands right now…

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 Like Crap.

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.

My Vasques also had two pairs of hooks, and I liked the feeling of extra security.

The Keen Targhee III’s I’m currently wearing have just one pair, and now I appreciate how this makes putting on my hiking boots just a little bit easier and quicker. They also look fine.

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, not

GORE-TEX is the go-to material, here. It’s amazing. Absolutely worth spending the extra few bucks.

FYI, Keen have their own propriety waterproof fabric and system. So far, it’s doing great.

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.

Best Hiking Boots Brands

Here is the list of brands I’ve considered for my 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.

  • Vasqueimage hiking trail Breezes (men’s / women’s) — I loved these so much
  • Vasque St Elias (men’s / women’s) — currently testing
  • KEEN Targhee 3 (men’s / women’s) — I’m loving these
  • Oboz Bridger Mids (men’s / women’s) — my friends swear by these
  • Salomonimage hiking trail Ultra GTX (men’s / women’s) — in July 2022, I 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
  • Altra Lone Peak (men’s / women’s) — similarly, in 2023, I heard the materials on these have may slipped a little
  • La Sportiva Wildcat or Trango
  • Asolo Fugitive
  • Topo Athletic Trailventure
  • Scarpa
  • Hoka
  • Columbia
  • Chacos
  • Montrails 
  • Lowa 

These brands can be expensive, especially the ones near the top of that list (except for Keen which are pretty good value). But I’ve learned several times in the mountains that it’s usually 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.

The Best Hiking Boots 2024

I highly recommend the Vasque Breezes, and I am currently really enjoying my Keen Targhee III hiking boots.

Vasque Breezes

What a truly amazing difference a great pair of boots makes. My Vasque Breezes took about 30 miles to break in but, after that, they felt great. Every time I put them on, I felt good. And they were incredibly grippy; I trusted every footstep.

A friend bought the women’s model and had a similar experience with the break-in process. She also replaced her laces because the factory-supplied laces are over-long and kept coming undone, which is a fair point.

But throughout their lifespans, both our pairs remained 100% watertight and our feet never felt swampy.

My brand new Vasque Breezes…

best hiking boots: vasques


One hour later…

best hiking boots: vasques

In the end, I got an astonishing 650 miles out of my Vasque Breezes! They were still waterproof and breathable when I tossed them out. That’s amazing. I only let them go because the toe-box became worn down and my toes got banged up on long descents; but this was only at the very end of the life of the shoes. My friend who had the women’s model noticed the same issue. But I suspect this was an end-of-life issue, and it was just time to move on to a new pair.

Keen Targhee III’s

Because these are a good deal less expensive than the Vasque models, I had my doubts, but they have been working great for me. They are light on the feet and were comfortable right out of the box; no break-in period required. These boots feature a rugged, water-resistant leather and mesh upper that keeps feet dry while allowing for breathability. The mid-height design offers excellent ankle support for challenging terrains. A dual-density EVA midsole ensures superior cushioning and stability, while the aggressive rubber outsole provides excellent traction on various surfaces. With their comfortable fit and robust construction, the Keen Targhee 3 Mid Height Boots are perfect for those who want reliable footwear on their outdoor adventures. I’m a believer.

Get access to hyper-detailed trail guides, insider tips, and expert advice. Join a vibrant community of like-minded hikers, receive exclusive content, and embark on unforgettable outdoor adventures. Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or just starting out on your hiking journey, this website provides invaluable resources to help you explore the best trails in the Catskills, Adirondacks, Hudson Highlands, Berkshires, and beyond. Get access now to all content on this website instantly and enjoy unique supporter benefits.

Care & Maintenance

Proper care and maintenance are paramount in extending the life and performance of your hiking boots. Here’s how to keep your boots trail-ready for years to come:

  1. Cleaning After Each Hike: After every hike, remove any dirt, mud, or debris using a soft brush or cloth. For stubborn grime, use a mild soap and water solution, but avoid harsh detergents that can degrade the materials. Make sure to clean out the soles’ treads to maintain traction. I clean my boots at the trailhead which is a fun leave-no-trace thing to do.
  2. Drying Your Boots: Never force-dry your boots with direct heat from radiators, hairdryers, or fires. Excessive heat can damage the leather and weaken adhesives. Instead, remove the insoles and let your boots air dry naturally in a well-ventilated area. Stuffing them with newspaper can help absorb moisture and maintain shape.
  3. Waterproofing Treatments: Periodically apply a waterproofing treatment suitable for the boot’s material. For leather boots, conditioning them with a leather-specific product can prevent cracking and drying out. For synthetic materials, use a spray-on waterproofing agent to preserve the fabric’s integrity and water resistance.
  4. Proper Storage: Store your boots in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, which can degrade the materials over time. Keep them in a breathable bag or an open space to prevent the buildup of mold and mildew. I had a mold/mildew problem on a pair of shoes and it was a disaster! Mold and mildew are impossible to get rid of, if they ever set in. Always air dry your boots
  5. Laces and Eyelets: Inspect the laces and eyelets regularly for wear and tear. Replace frayed laces to prevent breakage on the trail, and ensure that eyelets are not rusting or coming loose, which can hinder secure lacing.
  6. Insole Care: Remove and air out insoles between hikes. If they begin to show wear or an unpleasant odor, consider replacing them with new insoles that provide continued support and cushioning. You’re worth it!
  7. Seam and Adhesive Checks: Regularly check the seams and areas where adhesives are used. If you notice any separation or damage, take your boots to a professional for repair before the problem worsens.
  8. Rotation: If you hike frequently, it’s helpful to rotate between two pairs of boots to allow each pair ample time to air out and recover between hikes. This can prevent overuse and extend the life of both pairs.

Yeah, it’s all a bit of a drag but caring for your hiking boots not only prolongs their life but also ensures they provide consistent support, comfort, and protection on your hiking adventures.

Final Word

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!

Read More

Read how to prevent and treat hiking blisters.

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4 responses to “Best Hiking Boots of 2024

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

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