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9 Best Hiking Boots for Beginners + Hiking Gear List (The Basics)

Updated: Dec 28, 2023

In search of the perfect lightweight hiking boot for your next backpacking trip? Check out this guide to the best beginner hiking boots, plus a quick start equipment list.

woman in forest experiencing the benefits of hiking

Hiking is one of the best forms of exercise you can do. Not only does it get your heart rate up, but it also helps build stronger muscles and bones, boosts heart health, and improves your sense of balance. Spending time outdoors can also improve your mental health, too! [*] Hiking can boost your overall wellness. No matter how you look at it, hiking is a win-win.

When you step out onto the trail it's important that you have the right hiking boots. Not all hiking boots are created equal. The right option for you will depend on what type of terrain you're taking on. Let's discuss the best options for men's and women's hiking boots.

Best Women's Hiking Boots for Beginners

Image of womens Vasque Breeze LT NTX hiking boots

This hiking boot is an outstanding choice for beginners seeking the perfect hiking boots. These lightweight boots provide exceptional comfort, feature breathable Gore-Tex protection, and boast a durable lug pattern for stability on diverse terrains. It's advisable to size up by half for an optimal fit because they tend to run small. Step confidently into your hiking journey with these reliable boots designed with beginners in mind.


  • Comfortable

  • Lightweight and breathable

  • Impressive waterproof capabilities


  • Runs small

Image of womens Salomon X Ultra 3 hiking boots

For beginners embarking on their hiking adventures, the Salomon X Ultra 4 stands out as a superb choice. This modern and versatile hiking boot by Salomon excels in delivering a harmonious blend of comfort, stability, and lightweight performance. Featuring a waterproof synthetic upper, these boots ensure dry feet during your outdoor pursuits. Enjoy the freedom of movement with the well-padded ankle and tongue, while still benefiting from ankle stability and a reliable platform underfoot. The Contagrip outsole provides excellent traction on various terrains.


  • Maximum traction for rocky terrain

  • Breathable while still waterproof

  • Versatile, whether you're a hiker or trail runner


  • Some users report discomfort with the tongue of the shoe

  • Runs big, bulky laces

Image of womens Danner Women's Hiking Boots

The Hoka Kaha 2 GTX emerges as an exceptionally comfortable and supportive choice. These boots offer a stable, cushioned, and wide base, complemented by a swallowtail heel shape that instills confidence, especially in challenging mountain terrains. Crafted with a durable blend of leather and Gore-Tex materials, the Kaha 2 ensures reliable protection from the elements for numerous adventures ahead. It's important to note that, given its substantial watertight technology, this boot may not provide as much breathability as some other options. Nevertheless, its unparalleled comfort and support make it an ideal companion for beginners venturing into the world of hiking.


  • Ultimate comfort

  • High-quality design

  • Excellent waterproofing


  • Expensive

  • Thick sole

  • Gore-Tex is not as breathable

Image of womens Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid-Height Trail Runner hiking boots

Altra is known for its hiking shoes and trail runners which typically come in a lower height. However, they also make ankle-height boots using the same technology, which results in great lightweight hiking boots. The Altra Lone Peak boots use eVent, a membrane similar to GORE-TEX. Plus, they include the Altra EGO foam which is responsive and comfortable.


  • Wide toe box

  • Designed to encourage proper form

  • Outsole pattern offers grippy traction


  • Not weatherproof

  • Runs narrow and small

Image of womens Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP hiking boots

The Merrell Moab boots offer impressive water resistance compared to standard hiking boots, yet still provide plenty of breathability so your feet don't get uncomfortably hot. They're a leather hiking boot, so you can expect them to last quite a long time. Plus, these boots have a more narrow tow box than other hiking boots, so they're great for people with narrow feet. With that said, it's best to size up, so order a half or whole size larger than you usually do.


  • Excellent grip on many surfaces

  • Metal hook lace closure allows you to tighten the boots

  • Merrell Air Cushion absorbs shock in the heel and adds stability

  • Leather construction will last for many hikes


  • Laces tend to come untied

  • Some users report issues with waterproofing

Best Men's Hiking Boots for Beginners

Image of mens KEEN Targhee III Mid WP hiking boots

These are some of the best hiking boots for men thanks to their 4mm multi-directional lugs which will give you a grip on any surface. They're also mid-height, so you have great ankle support. Plus, you get KEEN's patented rubber toe guard which protects your toes in the event that you run into anything while hiking. This pair of hiking boots are also waterproof, thanks to the KEEN.Dry membrane.


  • Great for all types of weather

  • Super supportive on uneven surfaces

  • Rubber outsoles leave no imprints or traces when walking indoors


  • Runs small

Image of mens Saloman Quest 4 GTX hiking boots

These boots are some of the best beginner hiking boots because they're a combination of traditional hiking boots and modern trail runners. They have deep lugs that can grab onto any surface but are made from breathable GORE-TEX that will keep you dry. They also include a reinforced toe but remain flexible on the rest of the foot. They won't have the ankle support of a traditional boot, but they're still some of the best beginner hiking boots.


  • Super comfortable

  • Waterproof hiking boots

  • Great for all terrains


  • Not the best hiking boots for steep inclines

Image of mens Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP hiking boots

This hiking shoe ranks amongst the best beginner hiking boots for several reasons. First, they're made of a combination of mesh uppers, performance suede, and proprietary M-Select Dry membrane that both keep water from entering the show while letting any inner moisture out. They also have impeccable arch and heel support via contoured footbeds, so you'll stay comfortable all day long.


  • Can be worn year-round

  • Sizing options for narrow and wide feet

  • Merrell Air Cushion absorbs shock and aids with stability


  • Doesn't include GORE-TEX, which is the leading performance material in hiking boots

Image of mens ALTRA Lone Peak All-WTHR Low Trail Running Shoes

If you're looking for a versatile shoe that you can wear on and off the trail, look no further. Although they aren't technically boots, these still rank among the best beginner hiking boots. They're extremely lightweight with a wide toe box. You get plenty of wiggle room to ensure proper circulation. They include a "zero drop" profile, which keeps your toe at the same height as your heel, which lends itself to a natural gait. They offer grip and protection against rocks, and yet still feel super comfortable and light.


  • Responsive, soft Altra EGO foam

  • Encourage low-impact form during runs

  • eVent bootie keeps your feet dry

  • Lightweight but keep feet protected


  • Fits loose, even when laced

How to Choose Hiking Boots

There are a lot of options when picking out hiking footwear. Do you go for a hiking boot or a trail runner? Are waterproof boots really necessary? How much ankle support is too much ankle support? Do you need nubuck leather, full-grain leather, or synthetic nylon? The questions go on and on.

The truth is, there's no right or wrong answer. Instead, it depends on where you're going. Hiking boots are made specifically for rough terrain, so they have a lot of ankle support and a rubber outsole to provide grip. Many are leather boots. This can make for a very stiff boot, so there is usually a break-in period. If you're planning on getting a traditional leather boot, you should also consider getting a waterproof hiking boot. This will allow you to enjoy the boots on all kinds of paths.

Meanwhile, hiking shoes are best for day hikes. These are usually the most lightweight with less ankle support. They're designed so you can move quickly. You'll find many of the best waterproof hiking boots in this category.

Trail runners are a bit different - they have the lowest cut and are the most lightweight. They're less durable, so you need to replace them more often, but they help you move fast and stay light on your feet.

Other Hiking Equipment

What else should you bring on the trails? here's a beginner's list of key equipment:

  • Hiking backpack

  • Snacks

  • Water

  • Map and compass

  • Weather-appropriate clothing

  • First aid kit

  • Knife or multitool

Hiking really is one of the best ways to get some movement in. However, the boots you choose will have a huge impact on your experience. Most hiking boots have a waterproof and breathable membrane, but you'll need to seek out the right ankle support for your particular trails. You'll also want to choose a toe box that gives you room to move and the right outsole for enough grip.

Once you have your perfect pair of shoes picked out, hit the trails! Be sure to track your progress in a hiking log.

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site, including text, graphics, images, and other material, is provided solely for informational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your specific condition.

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