The Best Hiking & Backpacking Boots of 2021
If you were to talk to any avid backpackers or hikers, they would all tell you the most important accessory in accomplishing a climb and enjoying the hike is your boots.
Hiking boots offer the support and grip it takes to accomplish any climb safely and comfortably. If you have been on a hike or backpacking trip and have not brought the proper boots, then you know how important these accessories are to ensure you have an enjoyable time and can focus on the task at hand, which is having fun and completing your climb.
Below we have listed the best hiking boots of 2021, and why these are truly better over the rest.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 16 hrs of research
Tough and strong
Reasonably light at 640g
Awesome grip and stability
Top 9 Hiking & Backpacking Boots
1. Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
Tough and strong
Reasonably light at 640g
Awesome grip and stability
Not the best fit for wide feet
For all-around performance, serious short hikes and lightweight backpacking, the Salomon Quest 4D are the best hiking boots available. It isn’t cheap, but it’s not obscene either, and although it’s an all-rounder, everything about it seems less like a compromise and more like an ideal balance.Read more
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX is not too heavy but not too flimsy; well-built, but very comfortable. If you’re planning to visit the Arctic with a heavy pack, or you’d prefer an ultra-light boot that imitates a trail runner, then there are better options that meet each of those conditions head-on. That being said, the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX should suit the majority of conditions very nicely.
The previous model (the Quest 4D) was a favorite of hiking gear specialists for many years, and the32 has improved a couple of small things, most notably the appearance.
These hiking boots from Salomon are quality boots made to last. They have a gore-tex material that makes them waterproof which means that no matter the terrain you find yourself in, your feet will stay dry and you can continue to carry on.
These hiking boots have a fit rating of 88%, which means that they fit well and are accurate to the size chart. It is best to check your size using the seller's size chart, so you make sure to find the right hiking boots that fit you perfectly.
The pair of shoes is made from a gore-tex material which makes them not only durable but also waterproof. This means that these boots can be worn in the toughest conditions and will continue to trek through.
2. Vasque Breeze III GTX
Toe and heel ventilation
Sizes run small
The Vasque Men's Breeze 3 GTX boots are built for hikers and backpackers. They are light, comfortable, and best of all, offer great support. You really won't go wrong, but you will go far with these on your feet.Read more
Altogether, if you are looking for lightweight hiking boots to prevent your precious feet from becoming fatigued during a long hike, these Vasque Men's Breeze 3 GTXs are just what you are searching for.
These backpacking boots from Vasque abrasion-proof and waterproof, which means that if any rocks or sharp objects scrap the boots they will not be cut. They are also waterproof to keep you trekking even through wet environments.
It's been said by avid hikers who used these hiking boots on a large expedition that they are some of the best trekkers on the market today. Why is that? Well according to the testers who tried them, they are stable, fit quite nicely and allow you to feel steady on any terrain.
Along with the steady support that these boots offer, is the fact that they are breathable. This means no sweaty, uncomfortable feet as you hike up the grand Pacific Crest Trail. If your feet do tend to sweat a lot, you should consider investing in a socks for sweaty feet. These will help you to wick away the moisture which will provide you more comfort in your boots.
3. Timberland WHITE LEDGE
Boot collar is padded
Built from durable quality leather
Could offer better traction
We were happy to find these quality hiking boots are 100% waterproof and that's because top quality waterproof leather is used in the construction of the boot, even the tongue is fully waterproof.Read more
These rain boots are clearly built to give a top performance for all types of hiking and they give good comfort even if the boots are worn all day.
The level of waterproofing is outstanding and means that you can hike confidently in wet or snowy environments and you will not be distracted by the discomfort of wet feet.
These boots have a fit rating of 87% which means they are true to their fit if you stick to following the size chart provided by the seller.
For grip, the sole sports lugs which grip and hold the ground but less likely to pick up and carry wet mud, we particularly liked the perforation system which gives good air ventilation and still ensures the boots stay waterproof.
4. Merrell Moab 2
Offer great protection
The sole is squeaky on some terrains
These hiking boots brought to you by Merrell are not only heavy-duty boots that will keep you protected and secure while on your hiking trip but they are also quite stylish. These hiking shoes are DESIGNED by a well-known brand and when looking to get gear from a well-known brand you can expect that you are getting quality.Read more
They offer great protection as they are quite high on the ankle which will not only keep your ankles protected against critters and insects but also provide your ankle with stability in case you slip. The last thing you want while out in the middle of the wilderness is to slip and roll your ankle. That is why high ankle hiking boots are important as they will give you extra support and ensure that you will complete your hike without issue.
These offer great weather resistance as all any boot should, they will not only protect you against the weather elements but also from dirt and other things you would expect while out in the wilderness.
These boots are quite true to their fit and as long as you know your boot size or follow their size chart you should have no issue finding your perfect sized option.
This pair of hiking boots are made from 100% leather and mesh which means they will last. The soles are also made from Vibram rubber which can take a beating. If you are looking for a tough new pair of hiking boots, these just might be the ones for you.
5. Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II
Durable sole and overall construction
Not the best fit for wide feet
Constructed from durable and robust leather which is ideal for the many different weather conditions and environments that these high performing hiking boots will encounter.Read more
Two weeks of testing showed these winter hiking boots to be well up to standard. Walking in these boots on different surfaces, the performance remains very good.
The warmth factor is impressive, trudging through snow and yet still nice warm feet; importantly, no entry by water. Compared to previously tested boots, these feel light and the soles shed any attempts from mud to cling on.
We are definitely sure that these hiking boots will be a perfect addition to your hiking footwear, as their materials are waterproofed.
For breaking in the boots they do need a few days but no over-the-top discomfort or blisters while going through the breaking in process. After a few days, they will fit perfectly.
The sole is soft and durable, on really rough surfaces the feeling has been nice and smooth, used on snow the boots give a good level of stability.
6. Keen Targhee III Mid
Waterproof and fairly breathable
A tough upper
Reasonably light (1.14 – 2.3 lb.)
Could offer better traction
These Keen boots are the ideal choice if you are looking for tough backpacking boots that are waterproof and at the same time extremely breathable. They come at an affordable price and they are reasonably light which makes them suitable for backpacking trips. However, for more demanding rough terrains, you might want to check our other suggestions.Read more
These boots from Keen offer great ankle protection in case of a slip or trip and also provide good traction to make sure you stay level footed while on your next hike. This is a very important boot feature, especially for those outdoors adventurers who like to hike on some tough terrain.
These are completely waterproof which means if you hit a body of water during your hike you will be able to keep on trekking without discomfort.
The Keen Targhee 3 have been routinely voted the best-value hiking shoes in previous years. The Targhee 3 is still fairly lightweight but provides better support than the Targhee 2. Both the shoes and the boots are an excellent choice for you if you need extra room across the width and toe box of your boots.
Keen recommends ordering half a size bigger than your usual boot size, as these will fit you better.
These boots are made from %100 leather which means that not only are they waterproof but also will hold up against abrasions or anything else mother nature can throw at them.
7. Timberland Euro Hiker
Offers great protection from the elements
Many different sizes to choose from
The sole is quite soft
When it comes to the classic hiking boot, the Timberland name has long been associated with rugged durability, comfort, and protection from the elements. The Euro Hiker boots serve this reputation well and will serve any hiker no matter what kind of environment they may encounter.Read more
If sized correctly, these boots are superb at offering support for your feet, arches, ankles and honestly the rest of the body as well. They are flexible enough to move with you and strong enough to give you the firm support you need, especially in the weaker ankle area.
With proper care and maintenance, these hiking boots provide great protection against water, slush, and snow. The thick rubber sole protects your feet from sharp objects on the ground, and the reinforced toe guard makes it hard to do any significant damage to the toe area.
They come in a wide range of sizes, and most people found that they fit pretty much how they expected them to fit. However, about 20% of the time, customers found the footwear to be a little on the larger size and doesn't fit like they were hoping to.
These boots are made with a high-quality leather upper, and a natural rubber sole. The ankle area sports a padded collar, and the laces are kept firmly in place with D-ring lacing hardware.
While not the cheapest pair of hiking boots on this list, the overall price is more than reasonable considering that these boots have been known to power through just about any situation. Most customers found that these hiking boots last for quite a few years with proper care and maintenance.
Waterproof protection via artificial leather
Durable rubber sole
Artificial leather, some say its great, others not so sure about artificial qualities
This is a multi-functional boot, trekking, hiking, work, casual. These are good for ladies and men. Taking into consideration the wide functional performance, the price is at a level which is very affordable. The uppers are artificial leather and synthetics and known to offer good waterproof defense. The rubber sole is durable and has good surface grip.Read more
All hiking boots work on giving protection combined with comfort; the durability and quality of the materials used will qualify what level of protection. These are made from artificial leather, the protection is doubtlessly in place. The artificial leather uppers are certainly solid and give and a nice amount of foot support.
Artificial leather will give a good level of waterproof protection though question marks remain as to how durable in the long term such protection will be. Real quality leather gives protection against the weather and this is reflected in the higher price. If you're looking to use these for hiking and you do encounter rough weather, to what level the boots will perform will be dependent on how harsh and prolonged the wet weather will be.
These boots have a lining mesh to give a more skin friendly level of comfort and fit. Offered at true to fit standard sizes, fit works fine. Artificial leather requires a lot less break in time, if any at all. However, the uppers of these boots are solidly built and a degree of boot break in time is worth doing.
An impressive rubber sole with serious traction features, clearly durable. There are people who like artificial leather and there are those who just are not fully convinced. The real consideration is more about the thickness and quality of the artificial uppers, and for these boots it is good. Think about how many shoes are now constructed from synthetics and how well those shoes perform hiking, trail running, track work, working footwear and more. These boots have a solid durable rubber sole. If you're looking for a quality budget boot, this works.
9. Forsake Patch
A nice design
Good level of water resistance for rain and snow
Mid-range price for good quality
Good protection and comfort
This is a boot which works for ladies in all sorts of hiking weather. A premium leather upper boot which gives lots of support and very good protection. A quality boot that strides along at a mid-range price. This means high quality and a nice cost.Read more
The uppers are good quality premium oil-tanned leather. More protection from the inner booty construction works to keep moisture out of the boot while still allowing breathability. The sneakerboot design offers nice protection around the ankle and a built in composite shank gives support on different terrains. The Peak-to-Pavement outsole gives combined protection with impressive traction.
The uppers give a good amount of resistance to weather through the use of oil-tanned leather which means very good water defense at a high level. The internal booty construction is another layer of protection so that these boots are good in rain and snow.
Oil tanned leather has a strong supportive feel to it with a degree of suppleness. This means that on the feet, these boots are reasonably quick to shape and fit This design fits very comfortably around the foot while giving good support.
Overall, the uppers are constructed from quality full-grain leather which is premium oil-tanned, good quality suede, and for support at the ankles ballistic nylon. The soles are rubber and have an impressive traction bite design for great grip on all surfaces.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
In a very real sense, the best hiking boots, no matter the price should be designed to do one thing: protect your feet and ankles from undue stress.
These stresses can include everything from rain and snow to colder temperatures and slippery rocks. Common things encountered on a hike such as animals, roots and fallen leaves can also provide sources of stress to your feet.
The other factor you have to consider is your ankles; you want a pair of hiking boots that will protect your ankles in case you slip. So make sure you get proper ankle protection and support.
The ideal choice should offer at least a very similar level of protection for your feet as some of the most expensive brands on the market today. Thankfully, the hiking boots presented here do just that in a number of ways. The outer shells of these boots often provide protection from the weather or at least allow you to resist its effects quite well.
The soles of the boots protect you from sharp objects on the ground such as rocks and sticks, and the heavy-duty upper portions can often protect you from mosquitos and insects in general.
As we’ve shown elsewhere, finding great waterproof performance no longer means you’re stuck with stiff heavy leather boots.
Whereas earlier waterproof fabrics had a tendency to lock moisture inside as well - increasing the tendency for your feet being uncomfortable and for your socks to rot - waterproof materials are getting much more breathable and mold-resistant. Well-respected brands and materials (such as Gore-Tex) have earned their popularity because they really are worth twice as much as their imitators.
High-tech materials aren’t necessarily synthetic though; some brands are experimenting with new ways to weave cotton and bamboo to provide impressive results, and in this case, it’s the weave and the production that are high tech, while the fabric retains all its wonderful natural qualities.
We wanted to ensure that the best hiking boots on our list were capable of keeping your feet comfortable and dry while sloshing through icy puddles or trekking through the rain for days at a time.
With any luck, your feet will be what’s in contact with the ground the most during your hike. Keeping your balance and stride can mean the difference between injury and having a great time in the great outdoors.
In order to make sure that everything runs smoothly, a hiker needs to have well-fitting hiking boots. If a pair of hiking boots don’t fit well and they are not the right size, it can lead to painful blisters, unstable footing, and significant wear and tear on the feet and body as a whole.
In order for a pair of hiking boots to fit well, there are a few criteria that need to be met. First, there shouldn’t be too much wiggle room around the heel or instep area. If the heels can move back and forth within the boot then that means that it isn’t providing the support that you need, especially in the ankle area.
Second, the boots shouldn’t feel heavy when you’re taking a step. Footwear that has too much weight can lead to a significant amount of fatigue, which can also lead to mistakes that can cause injury.
And last, but certainly not least, you should be able to adjust your boot easily to accommodate minor changes in the size of the foot while still maintaining a snug fit and comfort.
The hiking boots presented on this list are perhaps some of the best options available on the market today in part because so much attention is given to the overall fit and feel of the boots.
Another aspect of hiking footwear that got serious consideration from us, was what materials went into the making of the boots.
Often the materials used will dictate a number of characteristics that every hiker should consider when buying a pair of hiking boots. The materials used can dictate how much protection your feet will have. They can also indicate how heavy the hiking boot will be. And, of course, the materials used are essential to proper fit, comfort, and overall durability.
The boots presented here have a fairly wide range of materials used, both synthetic and natural in composition. Some materials, such as leather provide breathable protection from the elements, while others, like a nylon mesh, allow for great ventilation in and around the feet area.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
A good characteristic that should be considered is the amount of support that the boots provide. While it is related to the overall fit, comfort, and protection offered, it is somewhat different. The quality of the support provided is dependent not only on the materials used to create the boot but also on the quality of the workmanship as well. Supportive hiking boots will not necessarily have ridged sides or a hard sole.
Rather the boot will be able to easily move with the foot and ankle, essentially acting as an extension of your body. The materials will have the ability to bend and shift as needed to offer support where it is needed the most.
When looking for a pair of hiking boots, make sure that they fit properly and that you check the size in the size chart. Without proper fitting boots, they will be pretty much useless. So check the customer reviews or if you can go into a store and try on the boots to ensure they will fit properly.
Make sure that the hiking boots that you are buying are very comfortable, as you will be hiking through some rough terrains. You don't want to end your journey with painful feet, and maybe some foot injuries that you will not able to avoid, in the boots that are not comfortable enough.
Other Factors to Consider
The job of the midsole is to provide cushioning and prevent impacts from sending their shock through to your feet. For hiking boots, stiff midsoles are actually a good thing. If you’re treading over a lot of rough ground or any type of uneven surfaces, a stiff boot is actually so much more comfortable.
We once hiked a mile along a dry riverbed full of smooth football-sized stones in Vibram Five-Fingers, and although they were amazingly comfortable and hadn’t needed any break-in, we really regretted them during that leg of the hike. The Five-Fingers have enough tread that we didn’t feel all the sharp gravel or bracken in other parts of the trip, but they were so flexible and the size was right that the feet wrapped around every stone on this riverbed, and over time that hurts your arches.
Most hiking boot midsoles are made from polyurethane or EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate). Polyurethane tends to be stiffer and harder wearing, while EVA is lighter, softer and cheaper. Manufacturers can create a varied density of EVA throughout the sole, providing more stiffness in some areas and more flexibility in others.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: How to wash hiking boots?
We need to be clear here, washing hiking boots does not collate with treatment for preserving material durability in hiking boots. That need comes after you have washed and dried the boots.
Whatever boots you buy, leathers, synthetic leather or other synthetic uppers you should go with the time tested best method.
A bowl of warm soapy water, a small brush with strong bristles, some toothbrushes will be good enough. Start at the top of the boot where dust and dirt, mud smears are easiest to clean off. Continue this method as you work downwards until you arrive at the outsole. Depending on the traction design, the teeth or grip surface features this is where to start scrubbing with the brush, removing that stubborn dry or wet mud.
Run a tap, or a fresh bowl of water and rinse off the boots, remember to start at the top.
After you wash hiking boots, let them dry and then consider what treatment you may want to give to the upper materials. For example, leather uppers need treatment. A good boot polish will work but you can shop around for more up market treatments.
Synthetic materials tend to dry quickly after washing and think about using a recommended water proofing treatment for the uppers.
q: How to break in hiking boots?
This will depend on the types of materials used to construct the boot.
1. Leather: if you go for thick high quality leather then of course you get a high performing durable boot. You need longer to break in high quality leather boots. Around a month before you go hiking, wear the boots casually, around the home, in the yard, talk moderate strolls.
The aim is to break the leather and get it to shape to your foot. Don't overdo the breaking in process; step by step, you will know when the boot is ready because all the signs will be clear, comfortable, supportive and ready.
2. Synthetic materials and/or synthetic leather: generally these boots are easier to break in; they tend to require less time unless, for example, the synthetic leather types are thick material. If they are, follow the rules for real leather boots.
3. Oil tanned leather upper boots: these are quick to break in, in some cases if the FIT is bang on target, there is no need to break in the boot. However, still wear the booth a number of times before you go hiking, just to be on the side of caution.
4. Fully synthetic uppers: generally ready for action as soon as you take them out of the box. This is the marketing talk you will hear about such boots. However, though in many cases this can be true you still need to check features such as the boot tongue to ensure it gives protection from pressure from the lace up system; if you hit this problem you need to fiddle around and adjust the laces until the boot feels ok.
q: How should hiking boots fit?
When choosing for fit, you must look for a boot that will break in and shape to your foot, especially where leather uppers are concerned.
Choose a boot that is true to size but, if you are going to wear heavy duty thick socks, think about a slightly higher size; shop around, try on some boots if you feel unsure how to order online.
Feet sizes vary, do your research; you need to research different brands that take into account the many different types of foot sizes and shapes.
How should your boots fit? They should fit very well if you put in some personal research. The quality, style and design of hiking boots are very broad; you must check out your options and match the best choice to your needs.
q: What to look for in hiking boots?
This will depend on the type of hiking you want to do, the type of weather and terrain. For what can be casual hiking, short distances in easy weather, lightweight boots made from light synthetic materials, a good rubber outsole and breathability will do fine.
For challenging weather and equally challenging terrains, a solid rubber sole with impressive traction features, uppers made from good quality leather will give good protection in bad weather and lots of foot and ankle support. Check the lace up systems and ensure that the built in boot tongue is well padded and positioned so the lace system will not pressure the upper foot area.
Look for features with built in toe and heel protection and strategic cushioning for shock absorbing. These are the main features to look for if you want problem free hiking.
q: When is it time to replace my old pair of hiking boots?
Standard boots with flat or basic soles should be repaired sooner rather than later; a worn sole can be replaced, but after a while, a worn sole leads to cracks around the sides of the leather upper, and once that happens it’s too late, and the sole can’t be replaced.
All of the hiking boots in this review, however, have high-tech soles, and you’re going to be putting them through so much strain and flex and dusty/muddy conditions. Even an expert repair job is never going to bring a pair of hiking boots back to their original level of safety and resilience. So how often do you need to replace your hiking boots?
About every 500 – 600 miles, as a rule. Proper care can stretch that out a little, and alternating between two pairs of hiking boots can stretch it out further. If you can comfortably carry the weight of two pairs, then switching between them from one day to the next can extend the life of your boots.
Remember that support is just as important as comfort, and if you wear your hiking boots all the time, you may not notice them getting less stable and less firm. If in doubt, get a new pair; you can always alternate them with your old favorite pair of comfortable hiking footwear.
q: Should I consider an insole?
What do you do when the model of your dreams has every feature you could possibly want, and a great style to match, but no arch support? Luckily insoles exist.
q: Are waterproof boots recommended?
When looking at hiking or backpacking boots, it is highly recommended that they are waterproof as when you find yourself outdoors, you never know what you are going to be trekking through.
Most of the time, even the littlest stream can cause the rest of your hike to be uncomfortable if you accidentally step through it, as it will penetrate your hiking boots. If you purchase a pair of waterproof boots, then you will not have to worry about inevitable streams or rivers you will have to trek through to get to your final destination.
So when it comes to waterproof boots, if you can find a pair in your price range and size, do not hesitate to get this extra feature as you will be glad you did.
q: Are boots with ankle support better than boots with no ankle support?
Both types of boots have there disadvantages and advantages depending on the terrain you will find yourself in on your next hike. Ankle support hiking boots are great if you are going to find yourself in a terrain that is off a path and you will find yourself walking through a thick bush. The ankle support will help when stepping on uneven ground and also protect the ankles from sharp thorns or plants that can cause cuts or scrapes.
If you will be finding yourself on a hike that is on a path or flat ground, you will most likely want a pair of boots without ankle support as they will help you to be more mobile and fit better, and you will not need the extra protection from backcountry bush.
Either way, both types of boots are great and will give you the protection you will need to complete your next hike.
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