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How we test hiking boots
All of the boots on this list have been put to the test over a number of miles in different climates and on different terrains. When we were walking, we were looking for how well they gripped to different footpaths, how waterproof they were when the weather took a turn and how supportive and comfortable they were by the final miles of a hike.
We also looked for the extras like toe protection — designed to stop you losing a toenail if you hit a rock on the trail, ankle protection, and Ortholite insoles.
The requirements for the best hiking boots are simple — to keep you comfy as you walk. Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, will stay a serious hiker from enjoying their daily constitutional. (Well, we’re not too keen about the rain, actually.) But whether or not you enjoy that hike is going to first depend on what’s on your feet. If your boots chafe, slip, or leak, you’re not going to have a good time.
So, to find the best protective footwear for communing with nature, we tested a slew of models in the mud, slush, rain, and sun to find the best boots for specific hikes and hikers. Trudging and traipsing over hundreds of miles we assessed each pair for its comfort, grip, foot and ankle protection, and weatherproof qualities.
Depending on your particular style or the type of hikes you favor, we’ve got the right pair for your peregrinations. Read on to see which boots made it onto our list of the best hiking boots to buy in 2022.
What are the best hiking boots?
All the boots in our “best of” are worth your investment. But for overall performance on a variety of trails in different weather conditions the Scarpa Maverick Mid GTX and La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II GTX are the best choices for most hikers. Both boots are waterproof, comfortable, and deliver solid traction in varying weather conditions.
Serious hikers who consider trekking across, say, Switzerland’s alpine hut trails may want heavier boots with more protection. For those stalwarts, Asolo’s Fugitive GTX’s are our favorite.
The best hiking boots you can buy today
In Italian, scarpa means shoe. So it might seem a little, well, presumptuous to call a company, Scarpa, but this bootmaker pulls it off, developing a solid fanbase over the years with its stylish yet practical hiking shoes and boots.
Scarpa’s Mavericks have all the necessary features one should look for in a hiking boot. They are snug without being binding, come with Ortholite insoles to squelch odors, and use a Gore-Tex liner to keep things dry. In our tests, the Scarpa Mavericks did a good job handling a variety of hiking trails, from mud to rocks.
From our first steps in the Scarpa Maverick Mid GTX boots we found them to be extremely comfortable. The outsole is a good balance of stiffness and flexibility. It’s firm enough to protect the bottom of your foot over rough terrain while remaining pliable enough for comfortable all-day treks. The Mavericks also strike the right balance in styling. The ziggurat side panels acknowledge their technical heritage, yet they maintain a level of sophistication so that the topsides don’t look like they were designed for the disco.
Some wearers may find the uppers lack sufficient padding but it helps reduce the boots’ overall weight. And over miles of hiking we never had an issue with chafing. As a further sign of how much we liked these boots, we often found ourselves pulling on the Mavericks well after our official testing period was over.
Back in the post-hippy seventies, Timberland made a name for itself as the go-to waterproof hiking boots for American backpackers who wanted to get away from it all. Some of the company’s boots, like the Mt. Maddsen’s we tested, still flaunt that traditional leather upper design — but there’s a lot going on under the top that keeps them up to date and competitive.
First off, these aren’t your grandfather’s Timberlands. You no longer have to spend days breaking them in before your camping trip. The Mt. Maddsen’s were supple and comfortable right out of the box. The mid-rise uppers are soft and while the boots are heavy compared to models like those from Scarpa and Salomon, the Timberlands can inspire confidence and make your feet feel like they are protected from the elements, even though they do not have the work-boot like heel and toe protections that the Asolo boots offer.
Timberland uses its own “Timberdry” waterproof system, which we never had cause to complain about. Its outsoles are also surprisingly flexible and tenacious, and the boots are roomier and more forgiving than many others. Certainly, the Timberland Mt. Maddens are not a technical boot, but they’re still solid after all these years.
For occasional hikes and everyday comfort, La Sportiva’s Ultra Raptor II GTX are hard to beat. They are forgiving and light enough to be worn all day, grippy enough to handle slippery trails, and subtle enough to wear in most offices.
Using Gore-Tex for waterproofing and an Ortholite interior sole to keep your feet comfortable, La Sportiva deploys some unique elements to make everything just a little bit kinder to your feet. The boots use an elastic material around the counter lining, for example, with a folded over piece of material to help you pull the boots on. It’s easy on your Achilles tendon and unlike the usual loops at the heel of most boots, it won’t get caught on twigs and underbrush.
The outsole of the Ultra Raptor II deploys La Sportiva’s own design intended to prevent you from sliding down hill. The company calls it an “impact brake system” with forward-oriented oval studs, and we have found it particularly effective in some of the company’s trail running shoes, as well as with these boots on loose dirt downhills. In fact, we found these boots had the stickiest soles, second only to the Innov-8 boots in this review.
One additional piece of advice: these La Sportiva boots tend to be use a smaller form than other models, so we recommended going up a half size from your usual to get the right fit.
Inov-8’s (pronounced, “innovate”) claim to fame is its hyper adhesive, shock absorbing graphene foam sole. Indeed, compared to other hiking boots, we found the RocFly G 390 was like walking around with gum on the bottom of your feet — and we mean that in the best possible way. The RocFly’s are light and comfortable, and the larger lugs underfoot along with the graphene composite gives the wearer a confidence few other boots can match.
The overall design of the RocFly is more similar to a trail running shoe than a boot. The mesh uppers are breathable but not waterproof, for example, which makes them light and cool enough for hot summer sojourns. The softer, cushier soles are also great for longer hikes and those of us with more sensitive knees.
However, while the sticky soles do an excellent job clinging to rough rocks, there’s not much foot protection here. The RocFly’s don’t have a solid toe box, for example, or side foot and ankle protection to guard against sharp rocks and missteps. Furthermore, if you tend to pronate, these boots offer little support to correct your gait.
Merrell’s Moab 2 boots are distinctly American: They’re big, they’re boxy, and they give your feet plenty of room to move about in. Emulated by many other bootmakers over the years, Merrell’s models are durable without being stodgy and are often sufficiently insulted to do double duty as winter boots for urban commuters.
True to form, the Moab 2’s were one of the roomiest models we tested. If you order a wide width, wide is what you shall receive. And the boots offer good lower ankle support, lots of upper cushioning, a padded tongue, and a solid toe cap to keep you from stubbing your toes.
The Moab 2’s have one of the harder soles we tested, but we also found it was particularly adept in certain challenging situations. The Vibram TC5+ sole that Merrell uses for these boots is specifically designed to work on wet ice. It does a remarkable job doing so, as if there are tiny cleats under foot when you’re walking across patches of melting ice. It’s also significantly better than other boots at holding onto slick rocks that we skipped across while fording a local stream.
There are softer and more supple boots on the market, but no other model provides such a well-rounded combination of grippiness, insulation, and comfort at such a competitive price.
With a classic Tyrolean design, the Asolo Fugitive GTX’s are reminiscent of lace-up hiking and ski boots of the ’50s and ’60s. It’s an attractive retro style for a pair of sturdy boots that will keep your feet solidly planted on terra firma.
The Asolo Fugitive GTX’s have a roomy fit, second only to the Merrell Moab 2’s we tested. The boots are structurally firm and offer extremely solid protection for your feet, the best in this regard that we tested. A hard toe box protects you up front, there’s high ankle coverage, a gusseted tongue, and a suede and nylon upper with metal lacing loops to cosset your foot. A Gore-Tex liner keeps you dry.
Taking its name from a northern Italian town, the Asolo’s idiosyncratic design with its hardware lacing and tough, arched sole definitely won us over after miles of hiking. The arch support helps roll your foot forward, and the boots gave us the stability of a mountain goat. Standing on a ledge or at the top of a rocky trail, these boots make your feet rooted to the spot. Some people may find the styling excessive as if you should be yodeling in the Alps. But if you’re planning on strapping on some crampons to traverse a glacier, these are the boots for you.
With a name more typically associated with skis and bindings, Salomon’s Cross Hike boots make the ideal footwear for an apres ski trek. Their design is reminiscent of high-tech alpine ski boots yet their light weight offers your feet relief after a day of downhill skiing.
A close competitor to the Scarpa Mavericks in this review, the Salomon Cross Hike boots similarly boast Gore-Tex waterproofing and an Ortholite inner sole and very comfortable uppers. For the outsole, Salomon uses a design with large lugs that work well in loose dirt and slush; they’re less forgiving, however, on city sidewalks. Our pair of Cross Hikes had a distinctive neon sole, which we found was not as grippy on slick rocks in the rain as other boots.
The most distinctive aspect of the Salomon Cross Hikes, however, is its “quicklace” system. Rather than standard laces, the shoes use a fixed, single-pull tie, which you then tuck into a pocket at the top of the tongue. We’ve never found the approach that much faster that tieing up standard laces, but it does give the boots a tidier and smoother appearance. Occasionally, we found the excess lacing loop dangling over our boots, although it never snagged on anything on our hikes. Still, the quicklace system receives mixed reactions. You’ll either love it, or hate it.
Not all hiking boots have to be boots. Witness the low-rise shoe-like option from Vasque, the Breeze Lite Low GTX hiking boots. The Breeze Lite Low is a lightweight hiking shoe inspired by trail runners.
When you don’t want to look like you’re going on a hike — or just need something with added traction but not all that ankle protection — a hiking shoe will do. We’ve found that Vasque’s models offer superior adhesion on loose public trails and enough traction for the occasional scramble over a rock field. For waterproofing, the Breeze shoes rely on Gore-Tex and use a Vibram Litebase sole that Vasque says is 50 percent thinner than previous soles and 30 percent lighter.
In terms of fit, while comfortable, the Vasque shoes have a narrower design than the other models we tested. And of course, being low-cut shoes they offer less protection than the boots we tested. However, if you’re considering something less obtrusive and lighter that some of the big hiking boots here, the Vasque Breeze Lite Lows are a more affordable alternative.
How to choose the best hiking boot
The first priority for any hiker should be comfort. The bad old days of having to break in stiff and uncomfortable boots before a trip are thankfully a thing of the past. We still recommend that you spend a couple of days in a new pair of boots before committing them to two weeks of wandering around the fjiords of Norway, but when you first put on new boots, they should feel comfortable from the start. With most of today’s technical materials, they aren’t going to get more comfortable the more miles you put in.
Dealing with weather is the second factor for hikers. If crossing the lava flows of Iceland is what you’re after, you’re going to have some days of rain, and you won’t have time to waste drying out your boots along the way. So waterproof boots are a necessity, including gusseted tongues, which are attached to the shoe all along sides to keep out dirt and water. Most of the models we reviewed have both features.
When choosing the right hiking boot, also consider the type of trekking you usually prefer. Different outsoles are often designed for different types of hiking. For example, softer, stickier soles are great for scrambling over smooth rocks and slippery terrain, while some soles, such as the particular Vibram sole used in the Merrell Moab 2 boots are specifically intended to deliver extra traction on melting ice. Furthermore, harder soles underfoot may not provide much shock absorption but will deliver more protection from jagged rocks and uneven terrain.
Finally, consider the construction of the hiking boots. If you’re a hot-weather, public trail day hiker, you’ll want a boot that is light and breathable. On the other hand, if you often find yourself on more challenging hikes in cooler climes, you’d be better served choosing a heavier boot with more foot protection and greater warmth.