8 Hiking Boots for Men That Your Feet Will Love
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Good footwear is essential gear for most hiking trips. So here are expert tips for choosing the best hiking boots for men. Plus, some specific recommendations.
The word “hiking” can mean many things, from casual day hikes to long backcountry treks, but even light hiking often means hard work for your feet. And regardless of where or how far you plan to go, you’ll most likely want some kind of sturdy and reliable footwear before you hit the trail.
But what constitutes a good hiking shoe? While big, stereotypical hiking boots make sense in many cases, they are not necessary or even well-suited for all kinds of hiking.
Expert recommendations span a wide range of footwear for different scenarios, generally based on variables like terrain, weather, distance, and weight.
“A lot of the people who thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and do big ultramarathons are doing those events in trail running shoes, and not boots,” says Howard E. Friedman, DPM, a podiatrist on staff at Good Samaritan Hospital and in private practice in Suffern, New York.
“My basic recommendations are to find a shoe that has appropriate traction for what you’re aiming to do, but keeps the weight as low as possible.”
If you’re thinking about investing in new footwear for hiking, here are some tips to help you choose the best boots or shoes for your feet.
What to look for in hiking boots for men
It can be daunting to shop for hiking shoes even if you’re an experienced hiker, let alone a beginner.
Should you buy a bulky boot, or something smaller, lighter, and more flexible, like a trail running shoe? How much traction do you need? Should it be waterproof to keep moisture out, or breathable to let your sweat escape?
Here are some key factors to consider when shopping for hiking boots or shoes:
If you’re hiking a long distance with weight on your back, you’ll want extra support from whatever is on your feet.
You may want to look for big, traditional hiking boots, or at least some kind of athletic shoe with enough cushioning, heel and arch support, and general sturdiness to withstand more rigorous treks.
“The only time I wear full-on hiking boots is if I’m carrying weight on my back,” says Kate Van Waes, executive director of the American Hiking Society.
“I’ll often now just hike in trail running shoes, even those low-profile minimalist shoes if I’m on a day hike.”
Trail running shoes or even sneakers can work well for short, simple hikes, Dr. Friedman agrees, but many people will want something sturdier as the distance or difficulty increases.
“I think if someone is going to be doing a longer distance trip or on technical terrain, that’s for sure where I think boots may be more appropriate,” he says. “I don’t think anyone is hiking to Everest base camp in sneakers.”
The extra support from hefty hiking boots does come at a cost. Bigger, sturdier boots also tend to be heavier, requiring a little more energy to lift your foot for each step.
In some contexts, even a one-kilogram increase in boot weight may lead to significantly higher oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide production, and heart rate, according to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.
“A lot of claims are made about footwear without a lot of proof, but one thing that has been verified multiple times is that every 100 grams of weight on your feet increases your oxygen consumption,” Dr. Friedman says. “So going lower weight on your foot definitely will make a difference.”
Traditional hiking boots are often rigid, which might buffer your feet from rocky terrain, but they can be uncomfortable, too. If you’ve heard of the need to break in hiking shoes, that’s mainly to make rigid boots more flexible, Dr. Friedman says.
“My general recommendation to patients is that shoes should be comfortable when you try them on,” he says. “I think the breaking in probably historically was related more to boots made of stiff leather.”
Still, it is smart to do short “shakedown” hikes as practice, he adds, to test your shoes and to prepare your feet for doing more.
“There are small muscles in the feet, and those will strengthen and rise to the occasion,” Dr. Friedman says. “But you want to give them a chance to acclimate to both the terrain they’re going to be on as well as the extra weight you might be carrying.”
Some people wear big hiking boots in hopes of more ankle support, but evidence for that effect is lacking, he argues. Ultimately, there will be some degree of trade-off between support versus the weight and rigidity of a shoe.
“Personally, I have sprained my ankle wearing robust boots,” Dr. Friedman says. “You could make an argument that you’re less likely to sprain your ankle in footwear that gives you more ground feel, where your foot is able to respond to the terrain better. A lighter weight shoe enhances your proprioception.”
Whatever kind of footwear you choose, one attribute that’s always important for hiking is traction. Good traction helps you grip the ground, thus reducing the risk of slipping and getting hurt.
That benefit may be most obvious on wet, rocky, or rooty terrain. Still, it’s important for any kind of hiking, especially if you’re on steep inclines or carrying heavyweight, which could already make you more prone to falling down.
Big hiking boots typically offer good traction, but so do many sleeker trail shoes—with the added benefits of more flexibility and lighter weight, Dr. Friedman notes.
“A trail running shoe is essentially a sneaker with a more robust sole with more traction,” he says. “The geometry of the tread is specific for improved traction on roots and rocks.”
Another trade-off to consider in hiking shoes is breathability versus waterproofing.
Many people assume it’s better to have waterproof hiking shoes, just in case of rain or a creek crossing, but there is also a downside: Waterproof shoes can make it harder for your feet to dry out from sweat, or from any other water that gets in from above, potentially increasing the risk of blisters or athlete’s foot.
“Unless you’re going to be in wet snow, I usually don’t recommend waterproof footwear for hiking,” Dr. Friedman says. “If your foot is wet from perspiration or if water gets in, it basically can’t get out.”
For most hiking, Dr. Friedman recommends wearing something lightweight and breathable.
Take off your shoes to air out during rests or snack breaks, and wear hiking socks made with wool rather than cotton. Water evaporates faster from wool socks, Dr. Friedman points out, although, “if your foot is stuck in a waterproof shoe, I don’t think it matters what kind of sock is on your foot,” he adds. “Your foot is probably going to stay wet.”
Waterproofing can be useful for hiking in mud, rain, or snow, Van Waes says, but you’ll need to be more vigilant about keeping water out. Consider packing extra socks, too.
(These are the other hiking gear essentials you’ll need.)
The best hiking boots for men
With those factors in mind, here are some of the best hiking boots for men, including a mix of shoe options for various scenarios. (Many of the products below come in multiple options, often as either a shoe or a boot.)
Merrell Moab 2 Vent
This popular model from Michigan-based Merrell offers a nice mix of heel and arch support, traction, durability, and breathability, all in a lightweight load of about two pounds per pair.
It isn’t waterproof, but that’s because the mesh offers ventilation for breathability, helping sweat and other moisture dry more quickly. Since it’s also lightweight, this shoe is especially good for hiking in warm, dry conditions.
The Moab 2 Vent may not be great for long treks in inclement weather, but it is a versatile, lightweight, and affordable shoe (around $100) that can work well for most people in a range of conditions.
Keen Targhee Vent
Also, a vented boot meant for warmer climates, Keen’s Targhee Vent Mid offers a mix of qualities akin to those in the Moab: comfort, lightweight, breathability, traction, durability, and a relatively low price ($140). Like the Moab, it shines on day hikes and short to medium backpacking trips, with a breathable design to help your feet stay cool and dry.
It’s comparable in weight to the Moab at a little more than two pounds per pair, and it’s similarly prized as a comfortable, lightweight, and breathable boot with good traction.
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Salomon X Ultra GTX
Ventilation is a valuable trait in hiking footwear, as Dr. Friedman notes, both for comfort and to reduce the risk of blisters and athlete’s foot.
Many people still want waterproof hiking boots, though, especially when facing the possibility of walking a long way in wet or muddy conditions. There are lots of waterproof options out there, but one popular pair of hiking boots for men is the X Ultra from French footwear giant Salomon.
The X Ultra is sort of a hybrid between a trail running shoe and a hiking boot, weighing only about two pounds per pair despite its sturdiness and durability. If you want a sturdy hiking boot that isn’t too heavy, this could be the boot for you.
It’s good for day hikes or some backpacking trips, and boasts specialized heel traction for more control, especially on descents, even in wet conditions. At $150, it’s also cheaper than some comparable boots.
Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II
This lightweight leather boot from Columbia commonly sells for less than $100, yet still offers a perfectly adequate option for many day hikes and light backpacking trips. Its low price and weight are the main selling points, making leather hiking boots more accessible to budget-conscious and weight-wary hikers.
This may not be the most supportive or durable boot, but if you just want a competent and affordable leather boot for day hikes, it could serve you well and save you money. It is waterproof with limited breathability, though, so unless you’re sure you want a waterproof boot, something vented like the similarly priced Moab might be a better buy.
Danner Mountain 600
If the idea of an old-school leather hiking boot appeals to you, Oregon-based Danner is worth a look. The company makes an array of full-leather hiking boots for men and women, including its popular Mountain 600, which combines the flexibility, traction, and lightweight of a modern trail shoe with the retro look of a traditional leather hiking boot. A pair of these boots weigh just over two pounds, but costs $200.
The Mountain 600 features waterproof suede on the outside, a waterproof liner inside, and a design with minimal seams, so it should excel at keeping water out.
More waterproofing generally means less breathability, though, so be mindful of moisture whenever wearing this or other waterproof footwear, and take breaks to air out your feet when you can.
Lowa Renegade GTX
The Renegade GTX is a highly regarded (and priced) hiking boot from Lowa, a nearly century-old shoe company in Bavaria.
The Renegade features a classic hiking boot aesthetic, similar to the Mountain 600, with a simple, robust design focusing on support and stability. It’s built to handle difficult terrain with weight on your back, so it’s better suited for longer or harder hikes than a smaller hiking shoe or trail runner.
The Renegade features waterproof Gore-Tex, so it predictably falls into the less breathable category of hiking footwear, although it does have perforations in the lining to let air circulate and wick away some moisture.
It’s known for good traction, thanks partly to Vibram rubber outsoles, and for its firm, comfortable fit. Yet even with all its protective heft, this boot is still relatively lightweight for its size and capabilities, totaling about two and a half pounds for the pair. It’s also the most expensive boot in this list, at $240.
Oboz Sawtooth II
The Sawtooth II from Montana-based Oboz is available as a lower-profile shoe or as a mid-height boot, and either version is a great choice for a variety of hiking scenarios. It’s stable and sturdy, and may offer more protection for your feet than many similar shoes and boots, but it’s also lightweight, totaling about two pounds per pair.
The Sawtooth is known partly for its proprietary insole, which provides arch and heel support, stability, and shock absorption, and likely contributes to its reputation for overall comfort.
The outsole adds support and traction, too, with a grippy tread that includes a topographic map of the shoe’s namesake Sawtooth mountain range in Idaho. There are also waterproof versions of the Sawtooth, but they’re more expensive (the non-waterproof shoe is just $115) and lack the valuable breathability of their more ventilated counterparts.
Hoka One One Speedgoat 4
This lightweight trail running shoe, is represents the overall trend of lighter, more breathable footwear for hiking in recent years. California-based Hoka One One made a name for itself by specializing in running shoes after its 2009 launch, but the Speedgoat 4 illustrates the increasingly blurry lines between trail running shoes and hiking shoes.
Both trail runners and distance hikers laud this $145 shoe for its lightweight and breathability, as well as for its comfort and traction—all features Dr. Friedman highlights as important in hiking shoes.
It’s worth noting that leaner shoes like this provide less support, stability, durability, and protection than traditional hiking boots and shoes, so their shortcomings may become more apparent on rocky terrain or in bad weather, especially if you’re wearing a heavy backpack.
Still, each shoe weighs less than one pound, which is a nice change from heavier hiking boots.
Now that you know about these great hiking boots for men, check out these waterproof jackets.
- Howard E. Friedman, DPM, podiatrist on staff at Good Samaritan Hospital and in private practice in Suffern, New York
- Kate Van Waes, PhD, executive director of the American Hiking Society
- Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene: "Physiological Effects of Boot Weight and Design on Men and Women Firefighters"
- Journal of Foot and Ankle Research: "A biomechanical research of foot pressure for lower extremity in gait wearing trail walking shoes"
- Wilderness & Environmental Medicine: "The impact of footwear and packweight on injury and illness among long-distance hikers"