The best lightweight hiking boots can make all the difference between comfortable backpacking trips and a miserable slog through the backcountry.
The simple truth is that not all hiking boots are created equal, and many are poorly made, with low-quality soles, poor grip, poor waterproofing, and downright uncomfortable designs.
The result of this can be disastrous. There is absolutely nothing worse than getting a blister while on a long hike or having to walk all day with soggy feet.
For longer trips, this can even turn from an annoyance into a very dangerous situation that could slow your progress and make it difficult to get to safety or cause lasting injury to your feet.
The best hiking boots negates all of these factors, and are well worth it to ensure you are able to enjoy your hike as intended.
After all, who wants to spend all weekend in dire discomfort when you could be enjoying the gorgeous sights and sense of achievement that comes with hiking.
It can be difficult to determine which hiking boots are worth their weight, and which will let you down once the going gets tough.
While many brands make extravagant claims of quality and durability, the proof is often only revealed once you’re already out using the boots in the wild.
To make sure that you’re able to have peace of mind and quality when looking at hiking boots, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best hiking boots available.
In this article, I’m going to look at the brands and their reputation, as well as the boots and their various features to help you make an informed decision about your next pair.
To help with this I’m going to include a buyer’s guide beneath the chosen boots to explain some of the key features to look out for in a quality hiking boot, as well as an FAQ to answer some common questions regarding hiking boots and their use.
All of this should help you to find the right boot for you, and get you out into the great unknown in comfort and safety.
Now let’s take a look at the best lightweight hiking boots of 2021.
Vasque is a well-known brand that makes tough backpacking and hiking boots, and the Breeze AT is no exception.
The Vasque Breeze AT features an excellent and aggressive Vibram rubber sole and a very strong tread, these boots are grippy in even the most slippery environments. The ankle support is good and the laces are relatively strong, securing the boot.
The eyelets seem a little flimsy compared to some other types, but they are well-positioned and give the boot a snug fit.
The downside is that there aren’t many color options for this boot, however, the available style is relatively neutral so it fits in anywhere.
The Vasque Breeze AT Mid boot is best suited to a hiker with average to wide feet. People with narrow feet should take a look at something else.
I have used the shoe versions of Vasque when thru hiking both the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail. So I can advise that they are one of the best lightweight waterproof hiking boots that will get at least 1000 miles good use before needing to be replaced.
Merrell is a brand that doesn’t really require an introduction, but for anyone who doesn’t know they are one of the most respected boot brands in the world thanks to a longstanding focus on quality and toughness.
The Merrell Moab 2, or Mother Of All Boots 2 (as they like to call them), is a rework of the original featuring a 100% suede upper, a Vibram sole, and an excellent insole that is comfortable and easily removable.
The tread of the Merrell Moab 2 is well designed to give an assured multidirectional grip in all conditions.
This mid boot also comes in a wide range of styles to suit anyone who wants to benefit from Merrell’s excellent design. They are comfortable and require little or no break in time.
The non waterproof Merrell Moab Ventilator is one of the best hiking boots for the desert.
The Merrell Moab Mid boot is best suited to a hiker with average to wide feet. People with narrow feet should take a look at Scarpa or Salomon.
I wore these boots while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and they are the boots I currently wear today, in fact, I’m wearing them as as type up this review. They will last around 1000 miles of backpacking before they are worn out.
The KEEN Targhee III is a great wet weather boot that is best suited to hikers with wider feet. Featuring a very nice Nubuck leather upper that is waterproof and very sturdy, along with a grippy rubber sole and substantial toe protection.
The tread also gives away this boot’s intention, with thick large treads perfect for handling the wettest, sloppiest conditions you dare to cross.
The one drawback of this design is that it won’t be as breathable as some synthetic and suede boots, however, it makes up for this by having some of the best waterproofing of any boot on this list.
The KEEN Targhee III are the best hiking boots for wide feet. They have a large toe box which suits people with wide feet. Hikers with narrow feet will not like this boot, hikers with wide feet will love this boot above all others.
On the other end of the spectrum is the incredibly comfortable ALTRA Lone Peak Mid, which is eye-catching and far more modern looking.
The hiking boots best feature is the lightweight feel of this boot. It is one of the best lightweight hiking boots on the market right now.
The synthetic materials make it breathable and fast-drying, while still having respectable water resistance. The insoles are comfortable and the eyelets are sturdy which is surprising on a lighter boot.
The only drawback is of course this boot won’t be quite as sturdy as a leather boot, though it will be much easier to break in and very comfortable right out of the box.
This is one of the best ultralight boot for backpacking which has a wide toebox and hikers with middle to wide feet will love this boot.
These are one of the best lightweight hiking boots that feel more like trail runners than boots.
Salomon is another well-known brand, especially among those who love anything to do with mountains.
They produce equipment for extreme sports and environments including skiing, which means they know exactly what it takes to make a boot for extreme conditions.
The Quest 4 also shows that not all synthetic boots need to be lightweight. These are an aggressive and tough mountain boot with excellent ankle support, a very strong tread, and very secure eyelets for a superbly secure package.
The Salomon Quest boot is best suited to hikers with narrow to middle width feet. Hikers with wide feet should look at Merrell, Vasque or Keen.
This is one of the best waterproof hiking boots for narrow feet and carrying a heavy pack.
SCARPA is another very popular and longstanding boot brand known for quality and toughness and has been in business for 70 years, becoming one of Italy’s most popular and prestigious brands.
The Terra GTX hiking boot is a true mark of the craftsmanship this brand is known for, with a study 100% full grain leather upper, strong eyelets combined with a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, and Vibram rubber sole.
This is a complete pair of hiking boots, and every aspect of the design is well thought out and designed making it a true leader in toughness and protection.
The Scarpa Terra boot suits narrow to middle width feet. Hikers with wide feet should look elsewhere.
These are the best hiking boots for muddy conditions. I have used these hiking boots on muddy trails in Canada, New Zealand and Tasmania, Australia.
If you want the benefits of SCARPA’s experience and quality but prefer something more modern looking, then the Kailash has you covered.
It has most of the same amazing features as the Terra, but in a slightly different configuration and with more sturdy ankle support and better toe protection.
The Scarpa Kailash boot suits normal width feet. Those with narrow or wide feet can give this a try too. This is one of those boots that fit all people except the extremely wide or narrow feet.
They are a little heavier than the Terra’s, but this isn’t surprising given their heavy-duty construction. As a result they will require a little bit of a break in period to allow the boots to mold to the shape of the feet.
Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid GTX : The Hoka One One Speedgoat Mid GTX is a great lightweight hiking boot that will be added to the list above very soon.
La Sportiva Nucleo : The La Spotiva Nucleo is a lightweight mid hiking boot with a Gore Tex membrane and good grip.
In this buyer’s guide, I’m going to look at some of the key features of the best hiking boots.
This will help you to find a hiking boot that is suitable for your needs, as even among the best hiking boots there are certain features to look out for that can be easily overlooked.
The materials used in your particular boot will make an enormous difference in how it performs. It will affect the waterproofing capabilities of the boot, its weight, how hard it is to break in as well as how breathable it is.
It will also affect how grippy the soles are and how comfortable the boots are, meaning this is definitely something that you need to pay attention to when looking for a new pair of boots.
Some boots will have 100% leather uppers, which is great for waterproof hiking boots, is very long-lasting, and very sturdy, however, it can make the boots uncomfortable at first and harder to break in.
Eventually, leather boots will become quite comfortable, however, particularly when used over a long period of time.
Synthetic boots tend to lean more towards breathability than waterproofing. Modern hydrophobic coatings and liners such as Gore-Tex and Teflon make these boots very waterproof while still allowing the sweat and moisture inside your boot to evaporate. Most of the boots in this review use a Gore Tex membrane or some thing similar.
The synthetic hiking boot is often a little easier to break-in. The break in period often won’t be quite as tough and durable and leather boots.
Finally, there are suede uppers, which is a very nice material that feels very comfortable and looks great. While it isn’t as tough as leather it is pretty strong and makes a nice middle ground between the synthetic and leather choice.
Most soles nowadays will be rubber or from a proprietary brand known as Vibram. Vibram soles that are not only tough and comfortable but works well on rocks and roots.
Make sure you choose a material that suits your intended use as well as the climate you intend to use them in.
Tread is another very important aspect of a hiking boot and it’s arguably one of the main things to set a hiking boot apart from smaller walking shoes.
The tread on the best lightweight hiking boots are typically quite aggressive and grippy, as it’s designed to provide traction in extremely difficult terrain.
The drawback is that very aggressive tread can be a little uncomfortable on easier terrain or be an overkill on simpler paths.
The wear of the tread will typically be more noticeable on boots with a more extreme pattern, however, it is usually bulkier and should last a relatively long time.
There are many different patterns used and these differ widely between brands and even different boots within the same brand.
Some treads are designed for wet, slippery environments, while others are designed for dry terrain, so again this is a case of knowing your environment and making an appropriate choice to ensure you get the best performance possible out of your boots.
Lacing is another often overlooked element of good boot design. A good lacing system is what keeps your boots secure and safe while walking, and this is particularly important on rough terrain with high ankle boots.
The whole point of a high ankle design is to help support the ankle with the demands of rough terrain, and good lacing should help the boot to provide this support.
Poor lacing can make this support precarious and unreliable which can be uncomfortable at best, and dangerous at worst.
Another important part of this is where the eyelets are positioned and how sturdy they are. Good eyelets are key to making the lacing comfortable and reliable, providing a strong anchor for the lace without compromising it.
Eyelets should ideally run up the ankle to keep the boot secure and help it to secure your ankle.
Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Boots
The best lightweight waterproof Hiking boots don’t always need to be waterproof to be worth their salt, however, most of them are.
Non waterproof ventilated hiking boots can be useful for the right environment such as hot deserts. But most people seem to prefer waterproof hiking boots to deal with extreme weather including sudden storms and wet weather.
While even the best waterproof hiking boots can be overcome by weather and conditions which are bad enough, good waterproofing should help keep your feet dry and comfortable most of the time. Dry feet is important for helping prevent blisters and frostbite in very extreme conditions.
Some boots rely on the waterproof qualities of leather, a reliable choice favored by many boots, while other boots prefer to use synthetic materials such as Gore-Tex or waterproof membranes inside of a synthetic outer. GTX hiking boots are popular for muddy trails and wet weather hiking.
Some say that leather is the most reliable waterproof material for hiking boots, but there are many synthetic options that have comparable waterproof performance and the added bonus of breathability for faster drying out quickly.
Sizing and Comfort
Finding a hiking boot that fits can be one of the most frustrating parts of this process. Not all brands have exactly the same amount of space inside the boot, due to differences in the shape of the boot and the type of insoles used.
You want your boots to fit well because if they’re too big they will be incredibly uncomfortable and cause blisters, even when wearing multiple pairs of socks (this can actually make blistering even worse!).
Meanwhile, boots that are too small will cause pain on your toes and friction which will cause a host of other problems.
While boots almost always need breaking in a little bit to be comfortable, a short test walk will tell you whether the boot will break in nicely or if there is a fundamental problem with the fit.
Don’t be afraid to get a refund or try a few different boots to ensure you get a pair that will suit your feet. But check the return policy of the place you purchase. All the retailer linked above have good return policies so look to purchase from them.
What’s the difference between walking boots and hiking boots?
It can be hard to spot the difference between these two types of hiking footwear. The key difference is that walking boots are usually considerably lighter, with less extreme tread and a less sturdy build than heavier walking boots.
This is because walking boots are not expected to cope with the extreme rigors of hiking while hiking boots are built to cope with these more demanding environments.
Giveaways are how aggressive the tread is and the weight of the boots. For a lot of people hiking shoes are a better option than a hiking boot.
How to break in hiking boots?
Breaking in hiking boots is a really important part of making sure your new boots are as comfortable as possible for actual hiking.
Breaking them in will make the insoles much more comfortable, and also help prevent blisters where your toes and ankle move inside the boot.
There are a few good ways to break in boots.
One popular method is to wear your boots around the house for a while, which sounds very strange but it will help you to break them in and start to force the boot to shape around your foot without putting too much pressure on it.
Heavy duty boots that are not broken in can lead to blisters.
Is it bad to run in hiking boots?
It’s definitely possible to run in lightweight hiking boots, but they’re not designed for continual running over long distances.
This is partly due to the fact that they are much heavier than trainers, making running harder and less coordinated, but they also don’t provide the type of support and sole that runners need to protect their joints from damage during running. It is better to buy a trail running shoe.