Hiking Boots Full Performance Review 2021

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Hiking boots are critical to your comfort and performance on the trail, but this no more means a stiff and burly model which will weigh you down. The trend is toward lighter materials that still offer decent support, and waterproof boots will be the most popular by far (most are offered in a non-waterproof version for hiking in hot or dry climates). Our picks to find the best hiking boots of 2020 here are divided into three categories: lightweight boots for day hiking and fastpacking, midweight options that work very well for some backpacking trips, and heavyweights for rough terrain or hauling a huge load. To learn more on selecting the right boot, see our comparison table and purchasing advice below the picks. If you like to go even lighter and faster, see our article on the very best hiking shoes.

Hiking Boot Categories


Boots in this lightweight category are, and in addition, light and flexible but tough enough for an extended day hike or short overnight backpacking trip. Options add the budget-friendly Keen Targhee II to the light and fast Salomon X Ultra Mid 3. Waterproof liners will be the norm, but they’re usually the less costly type (read: non Gore-Tex). Materials found in the construction trend toward much make use of mesh and nylon with leather mixed in. This keeps cost and weight down, but doesn’t make sure they are as durable as some pricier full-leather options. Additionally you won’t see as stiff of a structure, as the boot’s shank and support won’t be very substantial. Given that you’re not carrying much pack, that shouldn’t be considered a deterrent.


Midweight boots are skilled compromisers, with enough support to transport much load but without feeling like someone stuffed lead in your socks. It’s a rapidly growing category, reflecting demand from backpackers and serious day hikers for a light but capable option. It is also home for some of well known boots (the Salomon Quest 4D 3 and Lowa Renegade are both midweight). Solid support underfoot makes the boots a lttle bit stiffer than your entire day hikers however, not excessively so. Due to the quality of materials and construction techniques, prices in this category usually start at around $200. At that price, the standard of the waterproof bootie boosts and you’ll typically find GTX (Gore-Tex) in the name.


Stiff, tough, and intensely reliable, boot legends of days gone by were manufactured in the heavyweight category. Classic models just like the Asolo TPS 520 and Zamberlan Vioz GTX remain popular for all those wanting a full-leather design, however the shift towards lighter weights in boot construction has expanded the category to add models just like the Asolo Fugitive GTX.

Generally, heavyweight boots are designed for tough, rocky trail and long slogs with heavy backpacking packs (also, they are a fantastic choice hiking with a loaded down baby carrier pack). As the thick upper materials and Gore-Tex lead to excellent performance in the wet and snow, they’ll run warm in hot conditions (some prefer a non-waterproof leather boot instead). Their solid structure also takes a number of the strain out of long ascents by keeping the heel from dropping at each step, and makes them often friendly with strap-on crampons for light mountaineering. Your final tip: don’t grab among these boots and head right to the trailhead for an extended trip. Spend enough time to break them in and you’ll have a backpacking footwear partner for a long time to come.


From an instant look at our comparison table above, it’s clear that hiking boot weights vary a whole lot. You can choose an over-the-ankle design from over 3 pounds to half that regarding the Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid (essentially a trail runner with higher ankles and waterproofing). What’s equally evident is the way the various weights impact on a boot’s performance. To start out, as the correlation isn’t perfect, a lighter boot generally will offer you less support and lateral stability. If you’re carrying much pack, this may present a problem, but also for thru-hikers or minimalists, going lightweight could be a great idea.

Testing the Altra Lone Peak 4 Mid in Washington State’s Enchantments
If we can, we try to keep carefully the weight of our boots to the very least, providing enough comfort and support for the weight of our pack and the conditions, but and never have to lug around anything extra. Based on the trip, this may mean a lightweight trail-runner style for fastpacking completely up to burly boot just like the Asolo Fugitive GTX for trekking through Nepal. If you’re likely to choose one boot to accomplish everything, the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX does an excellent job balancing weight and performance.

Hiking Boots vs. Hiking Shoes

Among the first decisions in choosing hiking footwear is selecting either an over-the-ankle boot or low-top shoe. Each style has its respective strengths, and we utilize them interchangeably for hiking and backpacking trips. We’ve discovered that hiking shoe models vary as much as the boots in the above list, so you can decide on stiff and supportive right down to light and nimble.

Ultimately, the differentiators are ankle protection and stability. For rocky terrain, water crossing, snow, and to carry a backpacking pack, a boot is our desired option. However the low-top style trims away material and weight, so that it is the clear choice for all those centered on moving fast and light without a sizable pack. There isn’t a definite right answer in this debate, however the weight of your gear and the conditions you’ll be hiking in could make the decision a whole lot simpler.

Stiffness and Stability

Generally, a hiking boot was created to be stable, which typically involves a bit of hard plastic inserted between your midsole and outsole, referred to as a shank. The distance of the plastic may differ from slightly below the arch to the full-length of the boot, according to intended use. The benefit for a stiff boot is that the heel won’t drop on an ascent, which helps reduce calf fatigue. For this reason the stiffness of a boot increase along using its technical abilities, culminating in extremely unyielding mountaineering boots that may better handle long summit pushes. On the other end of the spectrum, some lightweight boots don’t have this additional structure, instead resembling a tall, flexible hiking shoe.


Regardless of what marketers say, making a boot waterproof inherently impacts breathability. By keeping water from entering from the exterior, less moisture (your sweat) can easily and easily escape from the within, which means all kinds of waterproof footwear can run warm in the summertime months. There are, however, big dissimilarities between boot models within their ability to ventilate.

We’ve discovered that heavyweight leather boots with a Gore-Tex lining tend to be the worst performers, as the Gore-Tex Surround in the mesh-heavy La Sportiva Pyramid is a step above. Among, the Lowa Renegade and Salomon Quest 4D 3 both perform decently with their nylon and leather construction and Gore-Tex liners, and so are completely well suited for summer backpacking trips. The cheaper membrane in the Oboz Bridger Mid boot fell short of these pricier options inside our testing. Alternatively, for anyone who is willing and in a position to ditch the waterproof lining altogether, the Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid and Hoka One One Sky Arkali mentioned previously {are exce

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