Updated November 2017
In time for the holiday season, we updated our review to bring you the latest and greatest, ensuring that our award winners remain the best choices on the market. Not only did we award new Top Pick winners, like the Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX and the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi, but we've added in the newest offering from Keen, the Targhee III.
Best Overall Model
Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX
Beefy yet nimble
Stable and speedy
Excellent water resistance
Many seams could present durability issue in long-term
Not necessary for light hiking
Impressing our experts yet again, the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX
wins our Editors' Choice award for the second year in a row. Not only is this award-winner comfortable, but it offers exceptional breathability and ankle support, and is incredibly waterproof. As a result, we were able to travel into varied terrain in all conditions without hesitation. The Quest 4D earned high marks across the board, from comfort to traction, and we would absolutely recommend this model to anyone on the hunt for a supportive, durable boot that will take them as far as their legs will allow them.
Read review: Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee II Mid
Exceptional toe and foot protection
Low stability for less-than-robust ankles
Winner of our Best Buy award for the third year in a row, the Keen Targhee II
is a wallet-friendly contender that performs well in most conditions. Equipped with rugged, durable soles, and high-quality leather, Keen has made a model that will last through several seasons of typical use. No matter if you are looking for something to tackle your local trails in, or embark on a long-distance backpacking trip, the Targhee II will keep your feet warm, dry, and comfortable.
Read review: Keen Targhee II
Top Pick for Lightweight Hiker
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP
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
Standing out from the pack with a design and flashy colors that are a far cry from the traditional leather hiking boot, the Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP
reminded our testers of a moonboot. With a moonboot-syle look that you can't knock til you try it, this award winner is unbelievably comfortable, thanks to a thickly cushioned sole that is wider than most. Not only that, but it earns top marks for stability and traction on the trail. While the waterproofness could have been better, the light weight and on-trail performance was so exceptional that we had to give this boot the Top Pick for Lightweight Hiking award for the second year in a row.
Read review: HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP
Top Pick for Scrambling
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX
Sticky rubber and great edging on rock
High price tag
Requires continued maintenance of leather outer
New to the pack this year, the Scarpa Zodiac GTX
is the winner of our Top Pick Award for Scrambling. Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, the Zodiac is a mid-top boot that envelops its wearer in sticky rubber, providing excellent traction and a solid edging platform. In fact, it is one of the best in varied rock scrambling terrain, or on snowy hikes that require kicking adequate steps. The narrow sole also accommodates strap-on crampons, making it a good choice for early season thru-hikes or as an approach boot on alpine objectives. While the rigid sole does not smear as well as others, and the Adidas Terrex Scope GTX might be a better choice for sustained rock climbing, the merits of the Zodiac GTX are hard to overlook, and we easily recommend it as a Top Pick for Scrambling.
Read review: Scarpa Zodiac GTX
Analysis and Test Results
Over the course of two 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.
We put 13 of the best boots (nine pictured here) out there toe to toe to find out which ones were the top performers.
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 model.
Ready to put down some miles? We hiked hundreds of miles to test these boots for you.
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 Salomon Quest 4D
define initial comfort. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX
are comfortable for midweight boots, and feel great from day one, requiring no break in period that has been typical of hiking boots of years past. 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
, X Ultra Mid 2
, and Moab Ventilator 2
are the most comfortable straight from the box. The Quest 4D 2
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
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.
We noted the number and type of lacing eyelets, how the heel box holds the back of the foot, and whether there's any slippage. The Asolo Powermatic
models featured our favorite lacing systems, with the La Sportiva TRK
close behind. The fit and construction of the ankle collar are super important when logging many miles or traveling steep grades. The Tor Ultra
and Terrex Scope
have similar ankle collars that balance comfort and ankle stability. The Targhee II
and Moab Ventilator 2
have shorter cuts that deliver minimal ankle stability but are quite comfortable.
How well the boot breathes, keeping you cool and dry
Blisters form due to heat and friction, and damp skin has lots of friction. Nobody wants blisters, and picking the model that fits your feet and keeps you cool and dry is vital. The mesh upper of the Moab Ventilator 2
is the most breathable product we tested. Of the midweight models, the Quest 4D 2
breathed better than others, and our testers with sweaty feet appreciated it.
Our testers put each model through the wringer, measuring their level of breathability in all types of terrains and climates.
Overall, the HOKA ONE ONE and Salomon models are the clear comfort champs, tying with a score of 9. Comfort scores contribute 25% of each product's total score.
The Tor Ultra Hi comes equipped with ubercushy soles, an above-average lacing system, and solid breathability.
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. Models 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 2
has the tallest ankle collars at 6.5 inches, followed by the Powermatic 200
at 6.25 inches. The La Sportiva TRK
and Tor Ultra
both measure 5.5 inches, a notable height for their mid weight. We also measured the width of the sole at the forefoot. A wide forefoot provides a more stable platform and resists rolling. The Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP has the widest forefoot
, 4.7 inches at its widest point, providing incredible side to side stability. The Scarpa Zodiac
by contrast, measures only four inches, making it more susceptible to rolling, but giving it higher performance in edging ability.
Consider edging ability when looking for a boot to travel through rocky terrain.
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 2 GTX a 9 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 Asolo Powermatic
also received accolades in this metric, which comes as no surprise with a plastic/urethane shank, as these mid and heavyweight models focus on stability and support. Also notable are the Scarpa Zodiac
, and the Tor Ultra
Hiking through the bog was a great way to test waterproofness and mud traction in general. PIctured here is the Editors' Choice winner, the Quest 4D.
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.
During our backcountry exploits, in a wide variety of terrain types, we were able to test for traction on wet and dry trails, damp and dry rock, snow, and mud. It should come to no surprise that the models made by the companies that are known for their quality rock climbing footwear rose to the top in regards to traction. With incredibly sticky Stealth rubber, the Adidas Terrex Scope
scored a perfect 10, with the Scarpa Zodiac
and La Sportiva TRK
coming in close, with a score of 9.
Off trail rock scrambling provides a great test for traction and stability.
Moving on to loose terrain, we tested these boots in off-trail travel on High Sierra backpacking routes and alpine climbing approaches and descents. In looser ground, we found a narrower midsole offered better edging performance, rolling over less when plowing through scree and hopping over talus. Our favorite pair to take into the boulder fields and scree slopes was the Scarpa Zodiac
, with its blend of stiffness and nimble sole.
Our expert testers putting the boots traction performance to the test in loose scree conditions.
With a record-breaking snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, we were given lots of opportunities to test these boots prowess in snow and mud. The best performers had stiffer soles for edging, and serrated lugs to kick steps in mature summer snow, and that indeed dislodged mud. The Quest 4D
was a favorite of testers, followed by the Scarpa Zodiac
We took each model on a long snowshoe hike to help determine which were most comfortable.
While these are different traction scenarios, we assigned all the products an overall traction score. In the individual reviews, we discuss how each one performed during the traction tests. We weighted traction 15% of the total score.
A lightweight trip along the Sierra High Route was a great place to let the X Ultras run.
All else being equal, lighter footwear is better. You expend considerable energy lifting an extra half pound with each step. Hiking specific boots are heavier than hiking shoes and are worth the extra weight when support and stability are a priority. Midweight hikers have designs that focus more on stability, ankle protection, and durability - they don't just focus on shedding 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 are based on the size 11 (US) pairs we used in our testing.
The Hoka One One Tor Ultra Hi WP is the lightest product we tested
at 2 pounds 4.7 ounces, which is incredible considering how much boot you get with so little weight. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX
weighs in as second lightest, with most other models falling just shy of 3 pounds per pair. These lightweight hikers are quite exceptional 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. This ankle support makes this lightweight boot the best of its class for heavier loads.
These mid-top hikers were comfortable right out of the box, dispatching 45 miles in 4 days without any blisters. Pictured here is the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX.
The Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX is the lightest midweight hiker we tested
, with the Keen Targhee
and then Merrell Moab Ventilator
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 this metric as 15% of the total score.
No footwear remains waterproof forever, but we expect the waterproof lining of this boot, the Keen Targhee II, to give way before most of the other competitors.
We all want dry feet when hiking. Dry feet are key to avoiding blisters, and staying warm when hiking in the cold and wet. Almost all of our test models feature some waterproof/breathable fabric membrane, except for the Merrell Moab Ventilator
which we chose to test for use in hot and dry climates. Most models use a Gore-Tex brand membrane, while Hoka One One
uses an eVent fabric, and Keen
uses a proprietary KEEN.Dry membrane.
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, but the waterproof membrane also extends through this gusset. We measured the depth of water one wades into with each boot before it floods in over the top. The Asolo Power Matic 200 GV had the highest flood level
at 5.7 inches, with the Quest 4D 2
scoring second highest with a height of 4.5 inches. The La Sportiva TRK
has a height of 5 inches, yet the Gore-Tex lining only protects up to 2 inches, making it useful in the shallowest of wet crossings.
Second, we took each boot through the stream test. Representing the typical use of an extended backpacking trip, fording streams is a better test than standing around in water, which is a task a rain boot, or molded winter boots would be better suited for. The apparent lack of waterproofness in the Moab Ventilator
took it out of contention in this metric, and others had varying degrees of performance. Most impressive were the Salomon Quest 4D
and the Asolo Powermatic
. The two pairs we had the most trouble with were the Tor Ultra Hi
and the La Sportiva TRK
, which let water into the toe box within seconds of being submerged to ankle level.
Most of the boots were waterproof enough to handle the usual wet crossings you find out on the trail. Individual scores are highlighted in the table above.
Since no boot is entirely resistant to wetting out, either from the outside or the inside (read more about this in our Buying Advice article), we also noted how quickly the inside of the boots dried out after becoming wet. We found that although the Tor Ultra Hi
let water in, it also dried out very quickly. After starting with wet socks, our feet (and socks) were dry within 45 minutes!
Reviewer Ross Robinson rock hopping across a river that carved out the Colca Canyon in southern Peru, one of the deepest canyon systems in the world.
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 nine models in this review held up well through the two-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 a couple of seasons of on and off use.
Skiing down massive scree fields? Light and mid-weight boots will not last as long under this kind of abuse!
While our review boots did not specifically begin to break down within our relatively short testing period, we researched reviews and talked to users to see how the models made of the lighter weight materials fared over time. We found the durability of the La Sportiva TRK
was explicitly called into question, with rand delamination and cuts to the outer over the course of a season.
After a full season of use, the light materials of the Sportiva TRK are showing heavy wear.
No boot is immune to damage, but we rated the Asolo
as the boots that stood out as the most durable pieces we reviewed thanks to their reliance on thick, durable leather outers rather than flimsy synthetic materials. The Merrell
and La Sportiva
products scored the lowest scores in this category. We assigned durability 10% of the total score, admitting that a two month testing period is a short amount of time to flush out the exact differences in longevity between models. As we'll note in the following section, though, there are several simple ways to prolong the life of your footwear.
No matter whether your boots are made from synthetic fibers or natural leather, proper treatment is needed to ensure they remain water resistant.
Care and Feeding
Some actions 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 Power Matic 200
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 more cumbersome 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.
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 Asolo
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 regions, 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 an excellent 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.
Durable and waterproof, the Asolo has the tallest collar height in our test, though needs to be treated with aftermarket products like Sno-Seal to keep shedding water.
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 than 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. See our complete gaiter review
- Insoles are essential 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.
We hope this extensive review helps you find the perfect boots and allows for many miles of happy trails in them!
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!