The Best Men's Hiking Shoes

Salewa has been making mountaineering boots and trail running shoes for many years now and introduced a shoe for the mountain hiker. They designed the Wander Hiker, which ended up being one of the more interesting, well designed shoes in this test. Other products such as the Salomon X Ultra and Lowa Renegade, which have been around for a while, simply fine tuned a reputable shoe. All of these shoes were tested in the field, ranging from short and steep jaunts up the foothills of Colorado’s Front Range to all-day slogs in the high alpine. The terrain encountered was a healthy mix of long miles on established trails, extensive off trail bushwhacking, ridge scrambles, scree slopes as well as just walking around town. Over the course of the summer, more than 200 miles were logged on these five shoes.

Review Year
Best in Class
Overall Rating
Price
Name Overall Rating Ratings The Good The Bad Price
Salewa Mountain Trainer L
94
Best in Class
2015
Stability 9
Protection 9
Comfort 8
Construction 9
Performance 9

Ultra high quality design and construction

A Gore-Tex version of this shoe is available

Shoes are burly enough for all classes of hiking and approaches

Fit must be precise

The most expensive of the test group

Leather may be hot in warm and dry climates

Probably overkill for casual hikes

MSRP
$199.00
BEST DEAL
Arc’teryx Acrux FL
93
Support & Stability 9
Quality & Construction 8
Comfort 7
Weight 10
Protection 9

Extremely burly technical footwear

Gore-Tex lining available on some models

Great for approaches as well as hikes

New product from respected core mountain brand

The second-most expensive in the test group

New technology takes some getting used to

May seem overbuilt, unfamiliar or clunky to some

MSRP
BEST DEAL
La Sportiva Synthesis Mid GTX
92
Support & Stability 8
Quality & Construction 8
Comfort 8
Weight 9
Protection 9

Exacting fit

Waterproof and breathable new Gore-Tex Surround technology

Highly supportive

Cuff helps keep debris out

Versatile for hiking and running

Medium to low volume fit requires precise sizing

Not the cheapest of the bunch

Break in period may be required

Some people find the Gore-Tex version too hot, may be overkill in dry climates

MSRP
BEST DEAL
Salomon X ULTRA 2 GTX
91
Best in Class
2018
Stability 9
Protection 7
Comfort 9
Construction 8
Performance 8

Quicklace technology

Protective toe-cap

Excellent support and stability

Reasonable Price

Quicklace takes getting used to

Mesh lining prone to fray or rip

Poor protection

MSRP
$145.00
BEST DEAL
Vasque Inhaler Low GTX
90
Support & Stability 8
Quality & Construction 8
Comfort 7
Weight 8
Protection 9

Air permeable heel and toe vents help with some breathability

Waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex liner

Vasque history of design and quality

Great balance of burl and weight for all types of hiking

Interesting and dynamic outsole

Not the best runner of the bunch

Gore-Tex booty may be too hot, especially in dry climates

Fairly traditional construction and lacing system, nothing fancy

MSRP
BEST DEAL
ECCO Mens Biom Ultra Quest II
90
Stability 7
Protection 8
Comfort 7
Construction 9
Performance 9

More breathable and lighter than the Yak leather version

Biom Natural Motion technology really does work

Also available in Gore-Tex

Versatile for hiking and running

Low volume fit requires precise sizing

Not the cheapest

Break in period may be required

So light you feel a little naked

MSRP
BEST DEAL
Salewa Wander Hiker
90
Stability 9
Protection 8
Comfort 7
Construction 8
Performance 8

Best in class grip

Option for wide version

High quality leather lining

GumFlate midsole for comfort, stability

Susceptible to heel blisters

Tongue is not bellowed

Expensive

MSRP
$199.00
BEST DEAL
La Sportiva Genesis Low GTX
90
Stability 9
Protection 9
Comfort 6
Construction 9
Performance 7

High quality leather & construction

Gore-Tex surround technology

Good protection

Requires a little bit of a break in period

Heel rubber tab peels off

Somewhat pricey

MSRP
$180.00
BEST DEAL
Merrell Moab FST Waterproof
87
Stability 8
Protection 5
Comfort 10
Construction 6
Performance 8

Comfortable out of the box

Offered in wide version

Lightweight & breathable

Solid grip

Mesh lining prone to fray or rip

Minimal protection

Cheap Construction

MSRP
$130.00
BEST DEAL
Lowa Renegade GTX Lo
86
Stability 8
Protection 6
Comfort 5
Construction 9
Performance 8

Well constructed

Available in wide version

High quality leather

Moderate break in period

Pricy

Minimal protection

MSRP
$210.00
BEST DEAL
Chaco Trailscope Waterproof Shoe
84
Stability 7
Protection 6
Comfort 9
Construction 7
Performance 5

A non-flashy, versatile light hiker

Breathable mesh/suede upper

Comfortable, easily removable mesh-lined footbed

Gusseted tongue helps keep out debris

Higher volume fit not the best for scrambling and precise foot placement

Conservative styling

Soft lining takes longer to dry

MSRP
BEST DEAL
N/A
Salomon X ULTRA 2 GTX

Within this particular testing class, the Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX had the comfort of a Merrell, the construction of a Lowa, and performance in a class of its own. This is the kind of shoe where if the fit is right, you’ll probably remain loyal for life. But the trick will be in getting use to the Quicklace system.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at GearTrade.com

La Sportiva Genesis Low GTX

Once a high top boot, the La Sportiva Genesis has crossed into low-top hiking territory and does not disappoint. One of the most versatile shoes in its class, the Genesis provides both a stable and durable shoe with unmatched protection and high quality construction.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Merrell Moab FST Waterproof

The Merrell FST Moab Waterproof hiker carries on the Merrell tradition of ultra comfort, only this model takes it a step further with some features that make it a more versatile shoe. It blends the comfort of a traditional hiker, the feel of a lightweight trail runner, and the grip of an approach shoe. Despite the moderate score, the out-of-the-box comfort was excellent.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at REI.com

Lowa Renegade GTX Lo

The Lowa Renegade is a European-designed hiking shoe with quality construction and provides excellent performance. Despite a moderate break-in period, this waterproof hiking shoe works for long daytrips and can last a long time due to its durable high quality leather.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Salewa Wander Hiker

The Wander Hiker is a solid all-around functional hiking shoe that utilizes unique technology, including Michelin outsole tread and a GumFlate midsole, to provide your feet added benefits when out for a quick day trip or an extended multiday excursion. Unlike other Salewa shoes, this model is good for wide feet.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Amazon.com

Salewa Mountain Trainer L

The Salewa Mountain (or MTN) Trainer is an Italian-made hiking shoe, like the La Sportiva, featuring quality construction, fit, and performance as the top priorities. With Salewa, you get a precision yet slightly more forgiving fit. The upper is leather as well for awesome protection even when carrying heavy packs.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at CampSaver.com

See All Men's Hiking Shoes Reviews

Men’s Hiking Shoes Review Results

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Finding the right shoe can be a long and painful process. Advancements made in low top hiking shoes, this has made the search a little easier over the years, negating the need for a big, heavy, uncomfortable high top boot. An obvious observation made in the 2017 test was shoe companies are making shoes more comfortable without sacrificing really any support or performance. Essentially all the shoes in this test group fit well and were offered in a wide size and the shoes constructed with high quality leather that was easy to break in. EVA material (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) is used consistently across the board, with its dense foam acting as an excellent and durable shock absorber in the soles of all these shoes. Originally making its name in the running scene, EVA has become standard in a lot of hiking shoes and the comfort benefits are welcomed. It is also consistent with the eco-friendly nature of the industry in the sense that it is easier on the environment with the absence of chlorine used in its production and less toxicity after discarding. It’s also easy to recycle and a lot of shoes use recycled EVA in their construction.

New technology was used in some shoes such as the Wander Hiker offering innovative features like the GumFlate and Michelin outsoles, or Gore-Tex Surround on the La Sportiva’s or Quiklaces on the Salomons. The Lowa Renegades seem to rest on the laurels of past success. The high quality Nubuck leather, Gore-Tex lining and Vibram soles are all fine and reliable attributes of a high quality hiking shoe, but after having seen and experienced some of the newer innovations listed above, hopefully we’ll start to see things like that implemented in the Lowa, especially in the category of comfort. The Merrell Moab FST was consistent with what we’ve come to appreciate about the Merrell brand, with a touch of performance in its Vibram grip and lightweight, sporty look, but it would be nice to see more durable construction used throughout the entire shoe without having to jack up the price. It’s certainly possible as evidenced in the Salomon.

Comfort 

The most comfortable shoe in this test was, by far, the Merrell Moab FST, thanks to its out of the box fit. The design of this shoe was centered around its comfort. The least comfortable shoe was the Lowa Renegade, which had a pretty terrible insole, stiff flex and the least amount of breathability.

Protection

The shoe with the best protection was the La Sportiva Genesis, with its Gore-Tex Surround design and burly toe guard. Both of these features were put to the test in some of the rougher terrain of the entire test group, withstanding numerous miles off-trail bushwhacking, boulder hopping and traversing uneven, unstable terrain. The shoe with the worst protection was the Merrell Moab FST, which had nothing more than a flimsy mesh exterior, weak toe guard and no real protection around the foot.

Construction

The most well constructed shoe was the Lowa Renegade, which helped justify the high MSRP a bit. High quality leather and a Gore-Tex outsole put this shoe in a class of its own. The shoes showed basically no signs of wear after prolonged trail hiking in some of the more rugged parts of Rocky Mountain National Park. The shoe with the worst construction was the Merrell Moab FST, but this shoe wasn’t designed to be a workhorse, it was designed for its comfort and traction.

Stability

The shoe with the best stability was the Salewa Wander Hiker, mainly due to its GumFlate, which provided unrivaled balance and confidence on rough mixed terrain. This innovative technology made travel through just about any terrain that much better and easier, and combined with the superior traction of the Michelin rubber, the Wander Hiker stood out against some pretty solid competition. The least stable shoe was the Merrell Moab FST due to its thin footbed and flimsy, exposed exterior lining. That being said, this was yet another category where the shoe still excelled in certain areas, but just wasn’t able to compare well with the other shoes. What the Moab FST lacked in thickness or protection, it made up for in its Vibram grip and shock absorption in the heel.

Wander Hiker stability means solid grip

Performance

The highest performing shoe was the Salomon X Ultra 2, excelling in all environments and terrain. From long 15+ mile days in the Sangre De Cristos, to grip around boulder fields where sure footing is paramount and then the longevity and day in day out comfort on a five-day backpack in the Weminuche Wilderness, the X Ultra 2’s didn’t show any weaknesses.

The lowest performing shoe was either the La Sportiva Genesis or Salewa Wander Hiker, as they were more true hikers. They were by no means low performing shoes, just didn’t match up well to the competition in this pool.

Test Methods

This year’s hiking shoes were tested using a pretty simple method – lots of hiking. Specific criteria we rated were stability, comfort, protection, construction and performance. Stability focused mainly on the various soles, whether it be an outsole, insole, midsole or anything and everything in between, and how those soles worked in conjunction with the rest of the shoe. All the shoes in this test group had good ratings in stability, mainly due to them all using the same general technology. Each of them had good shock absorption, some sort of additional layer between the mid and outsole and most of them had a footbed that cradled the foot, providing all day comfort, which in turn, helps stability. Most of the shoes had out of the box comfort, with a few needing some breaking in, but all in all, low top hiking shoes have become popular in the outdoor world as a viable alternative to big, heavy, uncomfortable boots thanks mainly to this comfort coupled with comparable stability and high performance.

The X Ultra’s were tested on a number of 15+ mile days in the Sangre de Cristos of Colorado. They were also tested on a 5-day traverse in the remote Mount Oso Massif of the Weminuche Wilderness, San Juan Mountains, Colorado. The Salewa Wander Hiker was broken in on a number of steep 5- to 6-mile hikes on Mount Morrison outside Morrison, Colorado as well as many climbs of South Boulder, Bear and Green Mountains above Boulder, Colorado. Once broken in, they were worn on long 15+ mile days in Rocky Mountain National Park and 10+ mile days in the Sawatch Range. The La Sportiva Genesis were tested initially in the foothills outside Golden, Boulder, Fort Collins, and Morrison during the break-in period, and then progressed to a weekend of off-trail bushwacking on 13ers in the Holy Cross Wilderness. The Merrell Moab FST’s were tested on 25-mile day hikes throughout Colorado such as the Barr Trail on Pikes Peak, a 15-mile, 5,000 foot vertical day on Longs Peak, and some easier 13ers with minimal bushwhacking, but long approaches. Testing was also conducted on a three-day backpack trip in the Maroon Bells Wilderness bagging numerous 13ers around Willow Lake, Willow Pass, and Buckskin Pass as well as a 7-mile approach in with a heavy overnight pack. They were put to the test regarding their scrambling ability on the Sleeping Sexton next to North Maroon Peak. Finally, the Lowa Renegades were tested on numerous trails and craggy peaks throughout Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as trails around the foothills of Golden and Boulder, Colorado.

What are Hiking Shoes?

Within the hiking shoe category are waterproof hikers and breathable (non-waterproof) hikers which can come in the form of simple hikers or walking shoes, trail runners, approach shoes, and hiking boots. The basic hiker or walking shoe are overall the most versatile shoe in the hiker category as they get used for day hikes, overnight backpacking trips, approach scrambling, and just around town. Trail runners have become versatile as well, but are mainly used for trail running and approach shoes are more designed for scrambling. Boots are, and always will be, great for backpacking and carrying heavy loads, but don’t have anywhere near the versatility and overall comfort of low top hikers.

The criteria used to rate these low top hiking shoes were stability, comfort, protection, construction and performance. This criteria was applied in a number of outdoor arenas including quick day hikes ranging anywhere from 1-3 hours, long day hikes ranging from five to 10 hours, and multi-day backpacking trips that included long approaches, off trail bushwhacking, and high alpine climbs thrown into the mix. These outings provided a well rounded idea of what these shoes had to offer across these five criteria. The main things that made these shoes good were all day comfort, breathability and solid grip. A shoe, such as the Merrell Moab FST, provided all day comfort, kept water out but provided some breathability and performed admirably with its Vibram sole grip. On the other hand, some of the attributes that make these products good can also make them bad. For example, the Merrell Moab FST was the most comfortable in its class but it also had the poorest construction in terms of durability. The high quality leather of the Salewa or Lowa hikers required longer, more uncomfortable break in periods. The La Sportivas had great all around protection, but also had a bit of a break in period and were tailored to narrower feet.

Shoes in this category ranged in price anywhere from $135 to $210. This seemed to correlate with the materials used, as shoes with high quality nubuck leather products costing more, while the simple and comfortable Salomon and Merrell shoes were on the lower end of the price range. Nevertheless, despite the low price, the Salomon performed the best overall in its class. Merrell’s were the most affordable, with the Salewa and Lowa shoes closer to the “luxury” side.

Glossary of terms :

Gore-Tex Surround : Breathable technology that provides waterproofing while allowing moisture to escape from the bottom of the shoe rather than just the upper and sides.

Vibram Sole : Reputable rubber sole technology

Vibram Renovo : A style of Vibram designed specifically for grip scrambling

Vibram Megagrip : A style of Virbram designed for a more all-terrain use

STB Technology: Foot stability system that wraps and unifies the midsole with the upper for locked-down fit

Impact Brake System: Portion of the outsole that provides 20% increase in traction and 20% decrease in impact

Toe Guard: Reinforced rubber cap at the toe that provides additional protection for the front of your foot

EVA: Ethylene-vinyl Acetate. A harder Foam rubber typically used in midsole construction

TPU: Thermoplastic Polyurethane foam used in midsoles that advertises being three times more temperature resistant when compared with other midsole materials.

Ortholite: Type of insole footbed

Contragrip: Salomon’s proprietary outsole rubber tread

Quicklace: Salomon’s quick and easy lacing system that negate the need for knots and any excess lacing is tucked into a convenient mesh pocket in the tongue of the shoe

Nubuck Leather: High quality leather used in a number of high performing hiking shoes

GumFlate: Salewa’s midsole featuring special cushioning that adapts to the ground on contact

Michelin Tread: Salewa’s outsole rubber tread

Gusseted Tongue: The tongue of the shoe that prevents dirt, water or small rocks from entering through the lace eyelets

M Select Dry: Merrell’s proprietary moisture-wicking waterproof technology

M Select Fit.Eco: Merrell’s proprietary footbed, crafted from blended EVA offering superior support, stability and contoured comfort.