In the hunt for the best hiking shoes, name-dropping counts.
Finding the best hiking shoes is a tough task. Not every pair of feet are made alike, and neither are your hiking shoes. By sticking to a brand with some serious trail cred, you’ll increase your odds of finding a better fitting pair.
The good news is there are a handful of brands out there who consistently pump out high-quality trail tread. Each incorporates their innovative technology and recognizable designs, putting their own unique footprint on the trail. As long as you know what to look for to suit your unique style and fit, any hiking shoe from these brands should be a winner.
Whether you’re an agile, ultralight thru-hiker or a wildlife-watching trekker, these brands are sure to have something in store for you. Here’s the scoop on the best brands, from A to Z, along with some helpful hints on their most popular hiking shoes.
What do toaster ovens and hiking shoes have in common? Altra.
The brainchild of Golden Harper began in 2008 when he started heating up his shoes in a toaster oven. The idea was to create a flat sole to prevent injury. It sounds like a crazy idea, but it turns out he was on to something.
Altra has swiftly gained cred in the thru-hiking community. Pass by a thru-hiker on the PCT and we’ll bet there’s a dusty pair of Altras on their feet, probably some Lone Peak hiking shoes. Hike a mile in their shoes and you’ll soon understand what the fuss is all about.
Altra employs a cushioned ZeroDrop™ in their hiking shoe construction. Taking the elevation out of the heel means your foot strikes the ground with a more natural movement. Incorporate that with their proprietary wide Footshape™ toe box and you have full foot splay. Altogether, this enhances stability and comfort while fending off nasty blisters.
As for the ladies, Altra has a proprietary technology designed with you in mind. Fit4Her™ conforms to the more narrow, slender form of women’s feet. This provides more arch support and a higher instep, all designed to increase performance and comfort.
Our Recommendation: Altra Lone Peak 4
It all started in 2003 with the birth of their first hiking sandal. Since then, the KEEN product line has expanded with their popularity.
Going beyond the shoe, KEEN has donated more than $15 million to nonprofits and inspires outdoor enthusiasts everywhere to take action and reduce their impact on the environment.
There’s no doubt KEEN has made an impact in the hiking community. Their hiking shoes feature an anatomically engineered footbed that hugs your foot while offering arch support. Pair that with their sturdy outsole construction and you’ll feel fully supported on uneven terrain.
For waterproof protection, they utilize their proprietary KEEN.DRY tech that also enables your feet to breathe at the same time.
KEEN shoes tend to be more stiff than your average athletic-style hiking shoes, but you’ll find the stability to be a suitable fit the whole family will enjoy.
Our Recommendation: KEEN Targhee II
Having been around for nearly a century, La Sportiva knows a thing or two about shoes. Based in a small mountain town in Italy, this family-run business has expanded to North America with an American headquarters in Boulder, Colorado.
Athletic in appearance and backed by trail performance, La Sportiva produces some quality trail shoes. Slip on a pair and you’ll be greeted by excellent traction, ample cushioning, solid protection, and earth-biting soles.
La Sportiva’s proprietary FriXion® rubber gives their outsoles a tacky grip that’s perfect for when the going gets tough. Meanwhile, their snug shoe fit ramps up foot control without feeling too confined. Whether the terrain is dry or wet, their hiking shoes shine in technical conditions.
Enhancing comfort and agility, La Sportiva is best for the hiker or backpacker who values fast, lightweight performance.
Our Recommendation: La Sportiva Spire GTX
In 1981, Randy Merrell began crafting handmade hiking boots with a blend of American Cowboy technology and Italian manufacturing. Since then, Merrell has become one of the most recognizable brands around.
From the minimalist to the long distance backpacker, Merrell offers a range of styles to match every type of hiker with their favored type of terrain. To do this successfully, Merrell breaks down the anatomy of a hiking shoe to tailor it to your needs. While this obviously varies from shoe to shoe, there are a few key components that make Merrell one of the best brands.
For starters, Merrell uses Vibram® outsoles. The gold standard of rubber sole technology, Vibram® outsoles provide excellent traction and durability.
For enhanced comfort and stability Merrell use its own proprietary M-Select™ Fit.Eco+ technology on the contoured footbed. Pair that with the breathable mesh uppers and you have a comfortable and capable hiking shoe.
Our Recommendation: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
Oboz launched in 2007 in Bozeman, Montana. Drawing inspiration from the surrounding area, the creators manifested an eco-minded company focused on producing premium outdoor footwear. Before you open up a fresh box of new shoes, each one passes through the hands of 140 employees to ensure optimum quality.
Oboz hiking shoes have a unique design that marries the sturdy soles of a hiking boot with a hiking shoe fit. The hefty outsoles increase stability, offer good traction, and optimize balance.
Take a look inside and you’ll find their proprietary anatomical O FIT INSOLE™. These insoles are designed with arch support and a deep heel cup to keep the foot neutral on ground impact. The idea here is to create less friction, meaning fewer blisters.
The trade off with Oboz hiking shoes is weight. To increase durability and offer a supportive fit, these shoes pack on a few more ounces than your average lightweight hiking shoes — slow and steady wins the race if you have the help of Oboz to tackle uneven terrain.
Our Recommendation: Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry
You know you’re in for greatness when the French Alps are your stomping ground. Inspired by their grandeur, the Salomon family opened up shop in the small alpine town of Annecy in 1947. What began with ski binding manufacturing has since turned into a full outdoor product lineup, and one of the most respected brands in the industry.
For hikers, Salomon hiking shoes are by far their best invention. Coveted for outstanding trail performance, Salomon is without a doubt one of the top brands serious hikers turn to.
The chassis on their hiking shoes excel in trail performance. Rugged, grippy Contagrip™ outsoles tackle varying terrain with enough flexibility to prevent fatigue. For added comfort, they include EVA cushioning and an Ortholite Sockliner to keep you cool and dry.
One rather unique feature you’ll notice with Salomon hiking shoes is their single-pull quick lace system. Fast and efficient with a customized fit, they eliminates the possibility of sending you and your 40-pound pack spiraling to the ground due to an untied shoelace.
Breathable and durable, the nimble design of Salomon hiking shoes means you can go harder and faster while putting in serious mileage. The only downside is they tend to have a narrower fit. So, if you have wide feet, you’ll probably want to go with another brand.
Our Recommendation: Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX