Updated: Oct 21
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.
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! [*] 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
1. Salomon X Ultra 3
The Salomon X Ultra is a line of hiking and trail running shoes. These hiking boots are designed for durability, so they can handle a tough path no matter what pace you're going at. This pair of hiking boots also includes Descent Control Technology, so they're perfect for technical hikes - even when you're headed down a steep path.
Maximum traction for rocky terrain
Breathable to avoid uncomfortable sweaty feet
Versatile, whether you're a hiker or trail runner
Some users report discomfort with the tongue of the shoe
This hiking boot is waterproof, so you can wear it on a dry hike up a mountain or during a river walk in a slot canyon. They're also super lightweight hiking boots, so you won't have to worry about your shoes weighing you down. With an over-the-ankle design, you'll enjoy solid support.
GORE-TEX liners provide waterproofing
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, which is 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
Runs narrow and small
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
If you plan on hiking in colder climates, good hiking boots with fleece lining are a must. These are some of the best hiking boots for staying warm through snow, wind, and rain. With 200 grams of PrimaLoft insulation and a 100% waterproof exterior, you'll keep your feet dry and warm. Plus, the outsoles of these hiking boots have multi-directional lugs, so you get a great grip on all terrains.
True to size
Don't require much breaking in
Can't be worn year-round
Best Men's Hiking Boots for Beginners
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
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.
Waterproof hiking boots
Great for all terrains
Not the best hiking boots for steep inclines
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 keeps 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
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:
Map and compass
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.