Updated November 2017
Our team of expert testers took to the trails to ensure that our award winners remain our award winners. In addition to adding the Merrell Moab 2 Mid, we've also included the La Sportiva Nucleo High, a flashy new model. We've also dubbed the brand new Keen Targhee III the winner of our Best Buy award, as it offers exceptional performance at an incredible price. We are stoked to find that the market of hikers, as a whole, is becoming more comfortable and lightweight every year. We also added charts and tables to highlight each model's performance in the test metrics.
Best Overall Women's Model
HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra HI - Women's
Lots of cushion underfoot
Judging only by looks, the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra - Women's
stands out from the pack with its oversized sole and funky graphic design. We soon found out that it stands out in hiking performance as well. The Tor Ultra
takes our Editors' Choice award of 2017 for offering almost everything a hiker could want; stability, support, low weight, waterproofness, and a revolutionary new design that promotes foot comfort to an extreme. Don't be intimidated by this new look and approach, as it will keep your feet comfortable all day and virtually need no break-in period. Our reviewers with wide and narrow feet all found this boot accommodating. Hailing from France, HOKA ONE ONE
has been producing running shoes since 2010, and they have applied their successes in technology from that category to hiking specific boots very effectively. For a decreased $170, check out the similar, mid-rise HOKA ONE ONE Tor Tech Mid
Read review: HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra - Women's
Best Bang for the Buck
Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
Suboptimal support underfoot
Day after day on the trail, we were continually impressed by the Keen Targhee III
. The boots are made with just the right combination of leather and mesh to make them durable and water-resistant, yet still lightweight and breathable. They seem to toe the line between hiking boots and shoes while taking the best features of both categories. Underfoot, they are supportive and stiff enough to hold up even under heavy weight or long days on the trail. Also, they provide excellent traction and protection with the sturdy rubber toe cap and 4mm lug depth of the soles. We also liked the lacing system, which allows the boots to be cinched up tightly, without risking blowing out the eyelets, as the laces go right through the leather of the uppers. All of these factors are highlighted by the fact that these boots are reasonably priced! The Keen Targhee IIIs have the longevity of a more expensive boot while remaining affordable. All of these features make the Targhee the obvious choice for our Best Buy Award.
Read review: Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
Top Pick Award for Durability
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
Good ankle support
Sizing runs big
Lacks support for long hikes
Trailing close behind our 2017 Editors' Choice in our ratings is the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
, last year's returning champion. This is a great boot that shines in its durable construction and waterproofness. The Renegades
are a throwback to hiking-specific boots of yesteryear when you could buy a pair of leather boots and know they would last decades. In that way, these boots are classic; burly, leather, and waterproof. They are lined with GORE-TEX and have a waterproof coating on their Nubuck leather upper to keep your feet dry while allowing them to breathe. Lowa
has also done an amazing job making these boots comfortable as well as durable. They break in quickly and will last you a long time. We are excited about the lightweight, hybrid boots, but the Lowa Renegades
are a tried-and-true choice for a well-crafted, comfortable hiking boot. Consider adding a little flare with the Renegade Pro GTX Mid- Women's
Read review: Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
Analysis and Test Results
Months spent on trail, riverside, and on summit ridgelines exposed the important considerations when selecting a hiking boot: weight, comfort, support, traction, versatility, water resistance and breathability, and durability. Each pair of women's boots were evaluated based on these metrics and then compared with the others. See the table below that summarizes the overall scores of each, then read on for an explanation of how we tested each metric.
The fleet of women's hiking boots are a colorful bunch.
Hiking shoes will often be lighter than boots. The boots selected this year are focused on being light, so the difference between the two categories is becoming less and less significant. The top women's boots tested this year weigh between 1.7 and 2.2 pounds. While lighter footwear makes for more comfortable hiking, this small weight difference is insignificant when considering the benefits and long-term durability of hiking-specific boots.
We evaluated the weight of each pair on and off trail; weight reflected in the chart above was measured by our reviewers to ensure accuracy. While some boots weigh less than others, the lightest did not always feel the most nimble on foot. Actual weight is only one of many considerations when selecting a pair of boots. This metric also encompasses how heavy each pair feels while hiking.
This year, most of the boots tested were lighter than previous years, reflecting a trend toward lighter boot designs. The award-winning HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra - Women
beat the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
, in large part due to their light feel, while still providing the support and comfort of a top hiking boot. Similarly, the Vasque Monolith - Women
and the Ahnu Sugarpine
got high scores in weight, each well under two pounds. That said, the sturdy Lowa Renegade
as well as the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX
and the Oboz Bridger Mid - Women
, (our heaviest boots) each weigh around two pounds per pair (size 7). That is only one pound per foot, giving these boots a light feel, even with the added weight.
Boot support is determined by sole stiffness, midsole construction, arch support, and forefront flexibility. The height of the boot also lends support to the ankles and feet — the higher the ankle shaft, the more stable and supported the ankles will feel. This ankle height is the main difference between a hiking boot and a hiking shoe regarding support. For rugged trails where the ankle is prone to rolling, boots with relatively high ankle heights are optimal.
Stability is synonymous with support while hiking. All of the women's boots reviewed have stiff rubber soles incapable of bending the toe downward toward the heel. This provides support on rugged terrain by limiting the contortion on rocks and roots. Boots like the Merrell Moab 2 Mid - Women's
and the Merrell Capra Bolt Mid - Women
have low ankle heights and offer less ankle support. Many hikers that have used the HOKA feared ankle rolling because of the oversized sole, but the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra
bypasses this issue by having ankle support. When we wore the Tor Ultras
, our feet felt stable on uneven terrain, despite the tall soles.
Midsoles are the layer between the outer sole and the insole. Boots often have shanks and plates either above or beneath the midsole layers, adding support and stability. The shanks serve as a barrier from the impact on rugged surfaces. These inner shanks create additional stiffness that the rubber soles cannot achieve on their own. Hiking shoes do not need this rigidity, but instead offer flexibility that is suitable for day hiking, so they do not have shanks. The overall construction of boots is more durable and stable than hiking shoes.
Arch support varies by foot. Some women may find enough comfort in the original insoles. Other women will need to customize by replacing the original insoles with aftermarket insoles or orthotics. Depending on how flat or pronounced the arches of your feet are, differing levels of support will be necessary. To avoid foot cramps and discomfort, accurately support the arches of your feet.
The Oboz Bridger Mid BDry - Women
has a stiff sole and offers support in this way, but for some, this might be too stiff to be comfortable in the long term. The Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX - Women
scores high in the support metric, because they provide cushioned ankle support as well as a moderately stiff sole, making them a happy medium between the ultra-stiff OBoz
and the lighter weight boots, like the Ahnu
The Columbia Redmond Mid is one of the most flexible boots we tested. With short ankle heights and a flexible sole the boots are best suited for day hiking.
Unlike hiking shoes that are flexible in the sole and forefoot, boots should only offer flexibility in the forefoot. When you take a step, your feet bend upward, creasing at your toes. This area of the boot should accommodate your stride. The HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultras
address this with their rockered sole design. The oversized sole is turned up at the toe and in the heel. This propels you forward as you walk and allows the foot to flex naturally because of the cushion.
We rated the support of all 13 pairs of women's boots based on sole stiffness, midsole construction, forefront flexibility, and ankle shaft support. We reviewed them with and without backpacks up to 40 pounds. Overall, the most supportive contenders are the award-winning HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra - Women's
and the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid - Women's
. For hikers looking for an ultra-stiff boot, look no further than the Oboz Bridger Mid BDry
A quality hiking boot will offer ankle support, arch support, and have sturdy, beefy soles for varied terrain. A comfortable, well-fitting pair will make your day of hiking or backpacking more enjoyable.
Tread on the soles of footwear acts similarly to tread on a bike or car tire. The pattern, spacing, and depth affect grippiness, stability, and handling.
Tread patterns that have spaced lugs in variable patterns manage dirt, sand, mud, and snow by pushing them out from the bottom of the shoe. When these accumulate on the bottom of shoes and boots, it is a result of poor tread design and depth (or there is a better application). Semi-aggressive to aggressive tread patterns are expected design features on the soles of boots.
Granite slabs are the true test of a boot's ability to maintain traction. The slick lichen is unforgiving and only those boots with decent tread and sticky rubber kept us upright on this type of terrain. Shown here is the new Keen Targhee III.
Boots that received the highest scores in traction were able to stick to rocks and talus, handle well in wet and muddy conditions, and protect the foot from debris. The Ahnu Montara
and the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra
are made with Vibram rubber soles, which stick the best to granite slabs and boulders. The new La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX
also performed very well concerning traction, with their Vibram soles and Impact Break System tread pattern. On and off trail, we trusted that the rubber on these boots would stick. Boots like the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
and the OBoz Bridger Mid BDry
have an aggressive tread that provides maximum traction. It is good to think about the types of surfaces you travel over when looking at the tread patterns of different boots. Overall, the deeper lug depths, like those on the Lowa Renegade GTX
, the Keen Targhee III Mid - Women
, or the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra
provide more traction than boots with less aggressive tread.
There are many different tread patterns and types of rubber used for the soles of these boots. These factors dictate the way they handle on talus, loose gravel, and steep terrain.
Comfort is the most important consideration for boots. If you sense discomfort in the fit, sizing, or performance of a pair of boots, you should consider other sizes, models, or styles. Comfortable boots will be more enjoyable on trail. Comfort is a rating that will vary individually. Therefore we have rated each pair of boots based on overall comfort while noting obvious uncomfortable design features. We kept our focus on insole and lining padding, comfort in support, materials, and how our feet felt after many miles on the trail.
The most comfortable boots in our fleet were the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX - Women
, thanks to the padding around the tongue and ankle. The Vasque Monoliths
had a quick break-in period while the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra
had thick soles that remained comfortable, even after days of hiking. We found that few boots came close to HOKA's comfort and unique design. Beyond making our feet feel comfortable, the extra padding in the HOKA
s prevented joint pain in the knees and hips that can flare up after miles on the trail.
The lacing system of the Bridger Mid locks midway for maximum adjustability between the foot and ankle.
What separates a comfortable boot from an uncomfortable one? A lot of it has to do with support underfoot. Many shoes that were lightweight in their design, such as the Merrell Capra Bolt - Women
and the Columbia Redmond Mid - Women
, lacked support and cushion in the sole and became painful after a few hours on trail. On the other end of the spectrum were boots like the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultras
and OBoz Bridger Mid
, which have incredibly thick soles.
A lot of this comes down to personal preference; some people find that stiffer soles provide more comfort, while others prefer a flexible shoe. Adjustability in the lacing system adds to the overall satisfaction. On a wide foot, for example, the Ahnu Montara
was uncomfortable, because the laces are not adjustable toward the toe of the shoe/the widest part of the foot. The Lowa Renegade
, on the other hand, has a lacing system that is adjustable and can be tweaked to provide more support in the ankle than the foot by the locking mechanism at the flexing part of the foot.
Laces tied and feet secure for another trail day! We love the lightweight comfort of this boot.
Water Resistance and Breathability
Water resistance is measured by how dry our feet remained while exposing the boots to typical trail wetness. We walked each pair through creeks up to five inches in depth. We first tested them while walking from one side to the other without stopping. All of the models in our review succeeded. Then, we examined the water resistance when submerged in water while standing in place. Within a couple of minutes in inches of standing water, all of the boots began to absorb water.
The higher ankle shaft heights withstood deeper water crossings, as did the thicker soled boots, like the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra
. Mesh paneling on the Vasque Monolith - Women
is treated with Vasque
's version of GORE-TEX, called UltraDry. We found these boots to be water resistant, keeping water out during creek crossings. The contenders with the best waterproof qualities are the Salomon X Ultra Mid 2 GTX
and all-leather boots, like the Lowa Renegade GTX
, the OBoz Bridger BDry
, and the La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX
A 4.5" ankle shaft height offers water resistance through moving streams and creeks. We loved the security of dry feet while hiking throughout the Sierra.
The GORE-TEX waterproof membranes used in the Lowa Renegade
and the Salomon Ultra
are comparable in breathability to the eVent liners in Ahnu
products as well as in the HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra - Women
. These waterproof linings are also breathable. Although some believe that waterproof membranes limit breathability, we found that all of the linings were adequate in keeping water out while keeping our feet wicked and dry. Breathable mesh panels on the sides of boots and tongues allow for airflow and help maintain dry, comfortable conditions inside.
Leather models are more cumbersome than mesh and synthetic uppers commonly found on hiking shoes, offering less breathability. The Keen Targhee III Mid - Women's
offer the protection of a leather boot while having enough mesh to remain breathable, which sets them apart from other leather models in this review. This is an essential consideration for mid-summer hiking in hot climates. If you intend to hike mostly in dry climates and regions, a pair of boots that do not have a waterproof lining and have mesh on the uppers may be the best option. Most of the models reviewed are available in waterproof (GTX) and non-waterproof models.
Once feet become wet, they are prone to blisters and hot spots. If you intend to hike in a region that could get your feet wet, bring an extra pair of socks. Keeping your feet dry is aided by choosing the best boots for your intended uses as well as noticing when your feet become wet and attending to them. Consider waterproof features as well as breathability.
To lose weight in materials and construction, you might find that there is also a loss in durability. A full-leather boot will last longer than a synthetic leather and mesh shoe. Lightweight boots require little regarding a break-in period and are more comfortable when trekking long distances (when compared to a clunky heavyweight boot). All of these boots have a longer lifespan than a shoe, though they will not last as long as a heavyweight option. We are pleased with the durability of all of the models reviewed and believe they can last for a couple of seasons or more when seeing regular use.
Though we tested these boots for three months, as opposed to years of use on the trail, we got a good idea of what boots would last longest without showing significant wear. The models with all-leather uppers tend to be more durable because they have fewer seams — the first place to show weakness. The Merrell Capra Bolt Mid
boots, for example, are constructed entirely of mesh and showed significant signs of wear almost immediately out of the box. All leather boots, such as the Lowa Renegade GTX
, stand up to wear much better.
Trail work or outdoor labor, requires footwear to be sturdy, durable, and capable of handling dirt. The Keen Targhee II Mid became our go-to boot for working long days building trails in Tuolumne Meadows. We wore these boots day-in and day-out and they maintained their composure and support.
The quality of your boots will have a large impact on your ability to enjoy a hike of any length. However, with many choices available, finding the right pair that suits your type and level of activity can be a tricky task. We tested each model rigorously in a variety of settings and uses in hopes of helping you come to an informed choice. For additional tips on how to get the right boots for your feet, see our Buying Advice