Updated July 2017
Keeping up with the top models on the market, we added a new contender to the mix this summer. The HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP is even higher-performing than its sibling boot we also feature in this review, the Tor Summit Mid WP. The newcomer takes over in 2017 as our Top Pick when it comes to lightweight, comfortable hiking while offering high-cut stability. The Salomon model is still our top choice all-around, but we also highlight other award-winners that stand out in specific terrain and best value. Over the course of the testing period, our tests uncovered that price is not an accurate indicator of capability in the major performance areas.
Salomon Quest 4D II GTX
3.24 lbs | Upper Material:
Leather and textile
Beefy yet nimble
Stable and speedy
Awesome water resistance
High number of seams could present durability issue in long-term
Overboard for light hiking
Capable on any trail we traveled, the Salomon Quest 4D II GTX
championed over all other models, winning our Editors' Choice Award for 2017. Heading into varied terrain in the backcountry, this would easily be our boot of choice. The Quest 4D
excels in nearly every metric, providing superior traction and water resistance without lacking in breathability. It also features the best support system of all products we tested, to the appreciation of our feet and ankles. The innovative technology and construction found in the Quest 4D II
make this model nimble and comfortable for hours and hours, whether on a short day hike or pounding miles on an extended backpacking trip. What's more, it's even suitable for snowshoeing. It is a mid-weight model, which lightweight fans might not prefer. Yet, it's several ounces from being the heaviest model tested. If you want optimal performance across the board, look no further than this pair from Salomon
Read full review: Salomon Quest 4D II GTX
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee II Mid
2.51 lbs | Upper Material:
Leather and textile
Toe and foot protection
Low stability for less-than-robust ankles
For the second year in a row, the Keen Targhee II Mid
earns our Best Buy award. A top scorer in comfort and weight, and above-average in traction, it's hands-down a great deal. Its comfort lends itself to being worn all day without hesitation, and the lacing system was our favorite in the field of lightweight hikers. Many of our thruhiker friends are Targhee II
devotees. Although it's not the most durable product we tested, some retailers offer the Targhee II
for $105, so it can't be beaten for value. Included in our hiking shoes
review is the Keen Targhee 2, the low-cut version of this boot
Read full review: Keen Targhee II Mid
Top Pick for Lightweight Hiker
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP
2.19 lbs | Upper Material:
Supreme comfort in footbed and upper
Lightweight yet great stability
Unique lacing system increases adjustability
Varied performance in water resistance
Funky looks not for everyone
There are lots of stand-out features of this unique model. Fitting HOKA's modus operandi, the Tor Ultra Hi WP
has a striking appearance in color and sole design. While its looks might be polarizing, it's hard to argue against the indulgent comfort this model provides. Furthermore, the high ankle collar and quality lacing system wrap the boot around our feet to give us a secure feeling. The midsection is stiff, yet the forefoot flexes well, which creates a stable, energetic, and comfortable combination for miles and miles of trail. Best of all, this model is lightweight at 2.24 lbs, a full pound less than our Editors' Choice Award winner! This pair has some issues in water resistance and likely won't last as long as other, beefier models, but if stability, low weight, and comfort to the max fit your needs, this is the one for you. We especially like this HOKA ONE ONE
model for fresh, happy feet on moderate backpacking trips.
Read full review: HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP
Top Pick for Scrambling
Asolo Jumla GV
2.43 lbs | Upper Material:
Grips rock like a firm handshake
High price tag
Low cut limits water resistance
Our Top Pick Award for Scrambling goes to the Asolo Jumla GV
. We were drawn to this model that lives for smearing, edging, and scrambling through any type of rock. If you enjoy backcountry bouldering on rocks you pass along the trail, this boot is happy to oblige. Besides its incredible traction on wet or dry rock, the Jumla GV
is also lightweight and durable. Essentially a high cut, waterproof approach shoe, we love it. While not the best all-around hiker, this product excels in its preferred environment (read: vertical rock).
Read full review: Asolo Jumla GV
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of three months, we vigorously put each model to the test on our feet in a wide range of backcountry hiking environments and specific tests. Throughout the trial period, we compiled meticulous notes on performance. We used these experiences and results to then score each pair of boots across six separate rating metrics to find each model's strengths and weaknesses, and to compare them to each other. Based on the scores in the weighted individual metrics, we calculated an overall tally from 1-100. See the overall scores in the table above.
Twelve of the thirteen boots in this year's Men's Hiking Boots review. The midweights are in the back row (left to right): Salewa Mountain Trainer Mid GTX, Vasque St. Elias GTX, Salomon Quest 4D II GTX, Lowa Renegade GTX Mid, Arc'teryx Bora2 Mid. The lightweights are in the front row (left to right): Vasque Inhaler II, Columbia North Plains II Mid, Asolo Jumla GV, Keen Targhee II Mid, HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit Mid WP, Lowa Tiago GTX Mid, Merrell Capra Venture Mid GTX Surround. Excluded from this photo is the Tor Ultra Hi WP from HOKA ONE ONE.
These scores represent each model's performance in comparison to the other models in this review. Furthermore, each metric's score is a combination of a variety of factors and performance. For example, the score in the Traction metric is an average of each product's scores when tested on dry rock, wet rock, scree, mud, and scrambling individually. We also factored in our backcountry experiences in traction when wearing each pair. Focus on the metrics most important to your hiking preferences and environments to guide you in the search for your unique best pair.
We loved the rockered outsole that powered us forward on day hikes, like this one taken on a short trip to LA. Yes, there are hiking trails in the City of Angels!
Comfort is king when it comes to footwear, and nowhere is this more important than crushing miles on the trails and off. Due to the trend of lighter hiking boots, many are comfortable out of the box. The HOKA ONE ONE models, the Tor Ultra Hi WP
and Tor Summit Mid
define initial comfort. The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
are comfortable for midweight boots, and unlike many other products in their midweight class, they feel great from day one. The following chart displays the scores of the individual products regarding comfort.
We noted three primary attributes when considering comfort:
How the foot feels in the footbed
How does it feel when laced up and standing? Are there any pressure points when laced, and how roomy is the toe box? Does your foot feel it when you step on that pointy rock on the trail? After several hours of hiking, which models still made our feet feel great? The Tor Ultra
, Tor Summit
, Targhee II
, and Renegade
are the most comfortable straight from the box. The Quest 4D II
and St. Elias
did the best job keeping our feet happy after many miles and hours with a moderate pack.
How the ankle collar feels, and how the lacing system works
Like the Salomon Quest 4D II, this boot has an excellent lacing system.
We noted the number and type of lacing eyelets, how the heel box feels on the back of the foot, and whether there's any slippage. The Arc'teryx
models featured our favorite lacing systems, with the Targhee II
close behind. The fit and construction of the ankle collar are super important when logging many miles or traveling steep grades. The Renegade
and St. Elias
have similar ankle collars that balance comfort and ankle stability. The North Plains II
and Jumla GV
have shorter cuts that deliver minimal ankle stability but are quite comfortable.
How well the boot breathes, keeping you cool and dry
The Salomon cruised through warm desert trails easily, with enough breathability to keep our toe box from turning into a sauna. This boot also held up very well throughout all our tests, showing virtually no signs of wear at the end of our trial.
Blisters form due to heat and friction, and damp skin is friction-y. Nobody wants blisters, and picking the model that fits your feet and keeps you cool and dry is key. The mesh upper of the Inhaler II
is the most breathable product we tested. Of the midweight models, the Quest 4D II
breathed better than others, and our testers with sweaty feet appreciated it.
The Tor Ultra Hi comes equipped with ubercushy soles, an above-average lacing system, and solid breathability.
Overall, both HOKA ONE ONE products are the clear comfort champs, followed by the Targhee II and Vasque St. Elias GTX. Comfort scores contribute 25% of each product's total score.
Versatile stability is an important quality in a hiker, as you don't always know what many trails and hiking adventures lie just ahead.
Ankle stability is the defining benefit of boots compared to hiking shoes or trail runners. Hikers who choose boots rather than a low-cut hiking shoe do so for ankle support and torsional stability. Hiking boots with a mid height, or full cut, reduce the chance of taking missteps and twisting ankles. During long days carrying a pack, this support keeps the ankles and feet from tiring. When choosing a boot for stability, first keep in mind that a boot that fits your foot well is necessary for stabilizing your ankle and foot. Try on several models, noting how well your heel and forefoot stay put in the footbed. See the chart below for the overall stability score each product received.
In addition to the many miles we hiked over rough terrain, we took a couple of measurements to quantify how well each product supports the ankle and resists lateral rolling. First, we measured the height of the ankle collar from the footbed to its tallest point of the instep. The Quest 4D II
have the tallest ankle collars at 6.5 inches, followed by the Tor Ultra Hi
at 6.125 inches, then the St. Elias
and the Lowa Tiago GTX Mid, tall for a lightweight model
, at 6 inches. Second, we measured the width of the sole at the forefoot. A wide forefoot provides a more stable platform and resists rolling. The Vasque Inhaler II GTX has the widest forefoot
, 4.75 inches at its widest point, with the Quest 4D II
and both HOKA ONE ONE
models slightly narrower.
Reviewer Ross Robinson showing some stoke at the stable performance of the lightweight Tiago from Lowa.
Finally, we manhandled each product by grabbing the sole by the heel and toe and twisting side to side to get an idea of the torsional stability each provides. This is best described as the boot's ability to resist twisting of the sole on uneven surfaces. Better torsional stability translates to less fatigued feet on rough terrain, especially when carrying a load. Overall, we awarded the Salomon Quest 4D II GTX a perfect 10 in this metric
. It ticked all the boxes (tall ankle collar, wide forefoot, torsional rigidity) in the lab, and gave us tons of confidence to speed through rough terrain in the field. The Renegade
received the next highest ratings. This comes as no surprise. These mid and heavyweight models focus on stability and support. Also notable are the Tor Ultra Hi
, and Merrell Capra Venture
, the most supportive lightweight models. We weighted stability 20% of total scores.
Wearing two different boots simultaneously was one of the best way to discover subtle differences between models. Here, the two Lowa models from this review compete for better traction in muddy slop.
When you place your foot on the trail or a rock, you want it to stay put. Each product we tested has a unique lug pattern and sole shape, and different performance characteristics. In addition to our non-structured backcountry playtime, we devised five tests to compare traction. We poked around some rocky outcrops until we found the ideal slopes, one where half the models performed well, and half went slipping and sliding. First, we tested each boot's ability to climb and descend steep granite slabs. All the competitors handled gentle grades well, and when we started reaching the limits of what is possible in hiking boots, the Capra Venture
and Asolo Jumla GV
stuck the best.
Next, we headed to the river to test out the boots' traction on wet rock. Stepping and hopping across the river back and forth to tease out the differences in traction, we were pleased to find that all these boots were up to the task. Standing out above the rest, though, were the Arc'teryx Bora2
, Tor Ultra
, and Tor Summit
Testing traction and stability on the uneven rocks of a stream in South America.
Moving on to loose terrain, we tested each boot by hiking/running laps up and down thick scree fields in a canyon in southern Peru. While no boot makes scree easy (or fun) to ascend, some are better than others going up as well as coming down. This tiring day produced a winner, the Vasque St. Elias, which nudged out
the Quest 4D II
for efficiency in scree. The Bora2
's bootie kept sediment out of the boot cavity, while most others filled with rock and sand after a few descents. Underperforming in this terrain was the Columbia North Plains II
, with the Jumla GV
Bombing it down sandy/silty slopes on the side of El Misti volcano was one of the most enjoyable parts of testing these boots!
Late fall around Lake Tahoe is a good time to test each model's traction in mud, and snow as well. While no boot prevents 100% of slippage in mud, there were some with lower (and some higher!) tumble factors. Our likelihood of slipping in the Quest 4D II
, Salewa Mountain Trainer
, and St. Elias
was much less than in other boots.
We couldn't stop monkeying around on rocks while wearing this product.
Our final test was to scramble up volcanic rhyolite boulders outside of Arequipa, Peru. When edging and smearing up these class 4 and 5 rocks, it was easy to separate winners and losers. The bulky boots with deep and spaced out lugs, while solid in muddy terrain, performed poorly here. Examples include the St. Elias
, and the North Plains II
. However, the Asolo Jumla GV outclassed every boot in this test
by a long shot. Its Vibram Friction sole, riddled with shallow, small, and varying mini-lugs, created a large amount of surface area contact and scurried up rock faces like an approach shoe. Lagging behind the Asolo
, but still climbing well, were the Capra Venture
, Mountain Trainer
, and Bora2
Are those St. Elias tracks? No, that's just a bear...
While these are quite different traction scenarios, we assigned all the products an overall traction score. In the individual reviews, we discuss how each one performed during the five traction tests. We weighted traction 15% of the total score.
Centered here and on the scale, the North Plains II was the lightest model in this review.
All else being equal, lighter footwear is better. You expend considerable energy lifting an extra half pound with each step. In the same way, hiking boots are heavier than hiking shoes, midweight hikers have designs that focus more on stability, ankle protection, and durability than light weight. Your goal when selecting a hiking boot is finding the lightest model that meets your needs for stability and support. Below is a chart of our weight measurements, which were based on the size 11.5 pairs we used in our testing.
The Columbia North Plains II is the lightest product we tested
, with the Vasque Inhaler II GTX
and HOKA ONE ONE Tor Summit
virtually tying for second-lightest. These lightweight hikers are quite nice when the terrain does not demand as much stability and support. Experienced backpackers with strong feet and ankles may find these lightweight models appropriate under moderate loads. The Tor Ultra Hi
amazed us among the lightweight hikers for its high-cut, ample support and stability, while only weighing a few ounces above the lightest model reviewed. This ankle support makes this lightweight boot the best of its class for heavier loads.
This 'lightest of the midweights' provides solid stability and support when moving through rocky, uneven paths.
The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid is the lightest midweight hiker we tested
, with the Salewa
and then Salomon
boots falling in line next. These models are light considering the stability and additional durability they provide. Despite their added weight, we recommend midweight hikers to folks hiking extended periods with a medium to heavy load. We assigned weight 15% of the total score.
No footwear remains waterproof forever, but we expect the waterproof lining of this boot to give way before most others.
We all want dry feet when hiking. Dry feet are key to avoiding blisters, and staying warm when hiking in the cold and wet. All of these pieces we tested have waterproof breathable membranes in the lining. Nine of the thirteen boots incorporate a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, while the Keen
, both HOKA ONE ONE
's, and Columbia
use either proprietary or other third-party waterproof breathable membranes. The chart below displays the scores each product received in this metric.
First, we measured what we call the "flood level" of each product. A typical design feature of hiking boots is a gusseted tongue. Not only do the gussets keep rocks and debris from entering the shoe, the waterproof membrane extends through this gusset. We measured the depth of water one wades into with each boot before it floods in over the top. The Arc'teryx Bora2 had the highest flood level
or 6.875 inches, as the waterproof section of the bootie extends up the shin. The St. Elias
and Quest 4D II
are the next tallest and handle 6.125 inches of water.
When there are no other options, the Salomon is willing to get wet while your feet stay dry.
Second, we wore each product while wandering around in the shallows at the edge of Lake Tahoe for five minutes. We performed this test after wearing these hiking boots off and on for three months. We flexed our feet underwater and banged into rocks to seek out any potential leaky spots. The only model that leaked was the Tor Ultra Hi
, while all other boots kept our feet bone dry when challenged up to their flood levels. We ordered another pair of the HOKA's to see if a second pair would leak. The second pair did not leak. In the end, we docked some points from this model for inconsistent results in water resistance. We awarded the Quest
top scores for water resistance, which we assigned 15% of the total score. Amongst the lightweight models, the Tiago
received the highest score for water resistance, with a flood level just short of six inches.
Twelve of thirteen hiker models tested, shown here under indirect sunlight after a thorough soaking to time their drying times. The St. Elias dried out first, while the Salomon dried out last by almost 20 hours.
Without factoring it into the scoring, we were curious as to which boots dried out the fastest. We soaked each model inside and out in the morning and then left them in a covered portion of a patio on a day with the high temperature of 71F. While no pair dried quickly, the St. Elias
finished the soonest after seven hours, followed by the Mountain Trainer
and Jumla GV
. The only model to take over 24 hours was the Quest 4D II
, which took almost 27 hours before drying out.
The Mountain Trainer from Salewa performed above average in our stability, water resistance, and especially, durability tests.
All boots wear out. After enough use, seams begin to come apart, waterproof membranes leak, and the sole wears down. This wear and tear are to be expected with time. With today's focus on lightweight footwear, compromises in materials and construction are inevitable. Many hikers praise their boots purchased decades ago that have endured 20 years while failing to mention that the pair weighs four or five lbs, and may have cost 600 bucks in today's dollars.
We were happy to find that all thirteen models in this review held up well through the three-month testing period. No boot suffered damage to the point of losing function. That said, we expect any hiking boot within the price range of these models to last three months of on and off use.
After being abused in rough volcanic terrain, this Arc'teryx product showed wear and tear that we only expected to get worse with more use.
Only three boots suffered wear and tear beyond the scope of minor scuffs. The Capra Venture
had some seams pulling loose where the rubber toe protector attaches to the synthetic upper. This is a common spot for wear on most hiking boots. The arch of the Inhaler
began to deform. Made from softer rubber than the rest of the outsole, it is much more prone to damage. The Bora2
experienced the most wear, although it was also subject to the most difficult terrain we faced overall during a two-day hike up a shield volcano. After the 48 hour trip, rocks had chewed up parts of the outsole and nicked and cut the surface of the leather upper. Furthermore, the rubber rand glued around the perimeter of the boot was beginning to delaminate in one area.
Walking tall in the St. Elias GTX in a desert canyon.
No boot is immune to damage, but we rated the St. Elias
, Jumla GV
, and Mountain Trainer
as the boots that stood out as the most durable pieces we reviewed. The Merrell
products scored the lowest scores in this category. We assigned durability 10% of the total score, admitting that a three month testing period is a short amount of time to flush out the exact differences in durability between models. As we'll note in the following section, though, there are several simple ways to prolong the life of your footwear.
We highly encourage cleaning and caring for your boots in order to increase their lifespan.
Care and Feeding of Hiking Boots
There are a number of actions that increase the life expectancy of your hiking boots, from routine cleaning to pre-treating known wear areas.
Leather hiking boots benefit in waterproofness and durability when a leather treatment is applied. The leather uppers of the St. Elias
benefit from a leather treatment. While the GORE-TEX membranes keep your feet dry inside, the leather on these products soaks up water. This not only makes your boot less breathable and heavier but repeated wetting and drying cycles cause the leather to become less supple over time.
offers a complete line of leather and fabric conditioners, including products for suede, nubuck, and full grain leather. These come in spray-on versions, or in liquid versions that are applied with a sponge. Atsko SNO-SEAL
, a beeswax-based waterproofing for leather, is time tested and works great. Apply it by rubbing it on, and gently heating with a hair dryer to melt it into the leather. Leather conditioners need to be reapplied every few months to yearly, depending on how many miles you put on your footwear. Nikwax products that are designed for synthetic fabrics work well on lightweight hikers that have mixed materials uppers. Using a fabric treatment that maintains the DWR of synthetic materials on the upper means they absorb less water, remain more breathable, and dry quicker.
If your hiking boot has lots of seams like the Merrell seen in this photo, we recommend applying an aftermarket seam sealer.
One of the most valuable tricks for prolonging the life expectancy of your footwear is applying a seam sealer to the stitching in high wear areas. Spend $8 for a tube and 20 minutes applying it to high-wear seams doubles their lifespan. It might not look pretty, but you'll be glad you gripped 'em. Uppers commonly wear out on the seams on the inside and outside of the forefoot, where the boot flexes with each step. The Bora2
has a one-piece leather construction here and doesn't suffer this wear. All the other models have seams in these areas. Regardless of the type of materials and thread used, these are weak points. Small amounts of dirt and sand work their way into these seams and act like internal sandpaper on the thread. These areas are also prone to scuffing on rock and roots. Applying Seam Grip
, or a similar sealer, to these areas keeps out dirt and sand, increases scuff resistance, and has the added benefit of keeping water out. If you plan to abuse your footwear by surfing scree slopes or traversing rocky areas, applying a seam sealer to every visible thread on the upper is a very good idea.
Boots get muddy and dirty, inside and out, but cleaning them of mud and sand prolongs their life. A soft bristle brush and warm water perform the trick best on the outer boot. Using the least pressure necessary, remove all visible mud, dirt, and debris. Do your best to let wet boots dry slowly, out of direct sunlight.
When you take a break for lunch or to rest your feet, the breathability and smell factor of your boots will be improved by removing and drying the insert.
Also be sure to remove your insoles and clean them, and when you're on the trail, always take them out at the end of the day, or even each time you take your footwear off during the day. Shake any debris from the inside of the boot, and remove anything that's stuck to the bottom of your insole. Warm water and a soft brush is the best way to clean your insoles as well. Resist the urge to put shoes or boots in the washing machine, and never put them in the clothes dryer. Insoles that are super funky benefit from a gentle cycle in the washer, but let them air dry. At this point, it is often best to replace the insole with a new one.
And a final note: boots and extreme heat do not mix. We're all guilty of drying them by the campfire from time to time, but the soles melt off if you're not careful. Additionally, leather that dries too fast becomes hard and brittle. If you feel you have to, do not place your boots any closer to the fire than where your bare hand is comfortable for the same amount of time. It's much better to hike another day in damp footwear, then to hike another day in a half-melted boot duct taped to your foot. We know, we've learned the hard way! The trunk or backseat of your car is also a danger zone for boots when it's hot and sunny out. The temperatures here in midday sun cause the soles to delaminate from the uppers in no time at all. Footwear thrown into plastic totes in the back of a truck suffer the same sad fate.
- Gaiters are a wonderful way to prevent debris from getting in your boots that cause discomfort or even blisters. The Outdoor Research Rocky Mountain Low Gaiters
is a great traditional style gaiter. For something a little more minimalist, the Outdoor Research Sparkplug Gaiters
are a great option.
- Insoles are important to help give the proper arch support needed for a long time spent on your feet. The Superfeet Green Premium Insoles
are comfortable and help with the foot ache at the end of a long day of hiking.
During a beautiful sunset is a good time to consider your individual needs in a pair of hikers. Then, you can read our individual reviews to help you find the right one for your bipedal pursuits!
There are so many hiking boots available on the market that choosing one pair is a real challenge. First, determine what types of trails you look forward to hiking, making note of the climates you will encounter, too. Then, using the test results and reviews present here, we hope to help you narrow down your choices to a few models that suit your unique needs. If you need guidance deciding what type of shoe or boot best fits your needs, head over to our Buying Advice article
, where we help you decide what footwear best meets your needs. Good luck in your search, and happy hiking!