The Best Women's Hiking Shoes

The waterproof women’s hiking shoes were each selected from a recognized manufacturer of quality hiking footwear, with a focus on the most current technological product available in the category. Many have a predominantly leather upper, offering waterproof protection and at a price point of $150 or less.

To conduct the test, a team of avid hikers put each these women’s hiking shoes through rigorous exercises. Each tester hiked for a minimum of 20 miles in each pair of women’s hiking shoes. For thoroughness, they hiked over surfaces that included jagged talus and smooth boulders, loose rock and gravel and packed soil, inclines of 10-45 degrees in both wet and dry conditions. Feedback on each of the women’s hiking shoes was then collected from each tester and compared, side-by-side, to determine the overall performance levels in the category.

Hiking shoes, versus boots, are defined by an ankle shaft height that stops just below the ankle. As a result of their reduced height, women’s hiking shoes are typically lighter than women’s boots, and are preferred by many hikers for this reason. A tradeoff with the shorter ankle shaft is reduced ankle support. As a result,women’s hiking shoes may not be the best option for hikers with less stable ankles prone to twisting. There are vast differences in the type of shoes that fall under the Women’s Hiking Shoes category. Hiking shoes can range from rugged, deeply lugged and reinforced shoes, to super lightweight, minimalist shoes – which are more akin to a running shoe with a beefed up tread. Newer materials such as Vibram, EVA plastics, nylons and treated mesh have allowed both women’s hiking shoes and boots to evolve drastically in their level of comfort, protection and performance from the heavy, leather and steel toed, hiking boots of the 1950’s and 60’s. And wonderfully, these technologies continue to refine, effecting energy return, weight and other important product aspects.

Women’s hiking shoes are specifically engineered to fit to a woman’s foot size and physicality. Ideally, they are built from a woman’s specific last, and we’ll call out any that aren’t in our reviews. They may include enhanced padding and or arch support. The price of women’s hiking shoes also varies greatly. It is recommended that price play a lesser role in choosing the right hiking shoe than aligning the qualities of a particular shoe with your particular hiking style, foot shape and other needs.

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
$109.42
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
N/A
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
$185.00
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
N/A
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
$93.47
Keen Targhee II WP Hiking Shoe
86
Best in Class
2016
Support & Stability 8
Quality & Construction 8
Comfort 7
Weight 6
Protection 7

Excellent traction and stability

Highly protective sole and toe guard

Wide, comfortable foot box

Excellent padding

Requires break-in

Runs a half size small

MSRP
$125.00
BEST DEAL
$74.83
Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry Hiking Shoe
85
Support & Stability 8
Quality & Construction 7
Comfort 7
Weight 6
Protection 7

Optimal base and sidewall traction

Highly protective

Molded heel counter for added stability

Some break-in required

MSRP
$135.00
BEST DEAL
$140.00
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
$129.99
The North Face Storm II Hiking Shoe
83
Support & Stability 8
Quality & Construction 6
Comfort 8
Weight 6
Protection 5

Lightweight

Optimal padding

Excellent sole protection

Limited toe protection

Snug toe box

MSRP
$110.00
BEST DEAL
$58.47
Vasque Talus Trek Low Ultradry Hiking Shoe
78
Support & Stability 5
Quality & Construction 6
Comfort 5
Weight 6
Protection 6

Solid traction

Well ventilated

Stiff

Require break-in

Loose heel hold

MSRP
$139.99
BEST DEAL
$139.95
Columbia Grand Canyon Outdry Hiking Shoe
74
Support & Stability 5
Quality & Construction 4
Comfort 5
Weight 5
Protection 5

Lightweight

Highly flexible

High level of trail sensitivity

Limited protection

Foot fatigue on uneven terrain

MSRP
$115.00
BEST DEAL
N/A
Keen Targhee II WP Hiking Shoe

In a head to head comparison of leather waterproof hiking shoes, the Keen Targhee II hiking shoe placed highest in stability, traction and protection. It proved to be a highly comfortable and durable shoe recommended for use across a variety of trail surfaces and lengths. Be sure to allow some time for break-in.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at REI.com

Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry Hiking Shoe

In a head to head comparison of leather waterproof hiking shoes, the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry hiking shoe proved to be an excellent choice for traction, stability and protection. An exceptionally durable shoe with extra heel stability, this shoe functioned well across a variety of trail surfaces. Be sure to allow some time for break-in.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at CampSaver.com

The North Face Storm II Hiking Shoe

In a head to head comparison of leather waterproof hiking shoes, The North Face Storm II hiking shoe proved to be a protective and extremely comfortable option. The 5mm lugs on the Vibram outsoles provided excellent traction across a variety of trail surfaces. The EVA foot beds and thick heel and tongue padding provided optimum comfort and fit.   

Read the Full Review Shop Now at Backcountry.com

Vasque Talus Trek Low Ultradry Hiking Shoe

In a head to head comparison of leather waterproof hiking shoes, the Vasque Talus Trek Low Ultradry hiking shoe offered excellent traction and waterproofing, but fell a short on stability. They provided quality protection and cushioned comfort over a variety of trails.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at REI.com

Columbia Grand Canyon Outdry Hiking Shoe

The mid and outer soles of the Columbia Grand Canyon Outdry hiking shoe were springy and flexible. Low profile 2-mm lugs provided decent traction over a variety of surfaces. The thinner mid and outer soles resulted in foot fatigue after a few miles. The shoes kept feet dry in damp and wet situations.

Read the Full Review Shop Now at

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 Backcountry.com

See All Women's Hiking Shoes Reviews

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Review Results

Traction and Stability

The wraparound outsoles of the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry in action

The best traction performance in the women’s hiking shoe category was experienced in the Keen Targhee II, Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry and The North Face Storm II hiking shoes. Each of these shoes sport technologically designed rugged outsoles, made from gripping materials and contain deep 5 mm lugs that grab trail surfaces and stand above mud and debris. We loved the wide forefoot on the Keen Targhee II and Oboz Sawtooth, and found the multilayered wraparound aspect of the Oboz Sawtooth an excellent design for rugged trail performance. The Vasque Talus Trek Low UltraDry hiking shoe also performed well, but was limited somewhat by a shallower 4 mm lug depth. In the traction arena, we were disappointed with the Columbia Grand Canyon OutDry Hiking Shoe. The outsole on these shoes is notably shallow, with a small 2 mm lug depth that failed to grip well on steep or wet surfaces.

The rugged outsoles on the Keen Targhee II Hiking Shoe

Similarly, the Keen Targhee II, the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry and The North Face Storm II women’s hiking shoes provided excellent foot stability. All of these shoes incorporate protective midsoles that keep the feet from flexing down on uneven trail surfaces and getting fatigued. The midsoles on the Vasque Talus Trek Low UltraDry hiking shoe provided equal quality sole protection. However, it’s overly stiff construction led to some unwanted up and down heel movement during strides. Again, the Columbia Grand Canyon OutDry hiking shoe underperformed in this area, with too much flexibility in the midsoles to protect the feet from uneven trail surfaces.

Protection

The Keen Targhee II Hiking Shoe’s thick rubber toe and heel guards provided above average protection against rocky impacts.

For ultimate foot protection, the Keen Targhee II was a clear winner. The ample rubber toe guard on this women’s hiking shoe stood up to intense toe-to-trail impacts, diffusing the contact and bouncing the foot away. Additionally, the shoe’s molded heel guard provided excellent protection in the rear. The Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry was a close second in this area, with its sturdy leather and rubber toe guard, and molded rubber heel guard. Thinner, and slightly less protective, rubber toe and heel guards are built into The North Face Storm II hiking shoe. While the Vasque Talus Trek Low UltraDry shoes offer a double-layered leather toe guard. Although the Columbia Grand Canyon OutDry women’s hiking shoe sports an ample leather toe and heel guard, the predominantly mesh upper and shallow outsole design left the sides of the feet notably susceptible to trail impacts on uneven surfaces. As noted under the traction section, the deep, technologically designed, outsole construction of the Targhee II, Sawtooth Low BDry , Storm II and Talus Trek Low UltraDry hiking shoes provided excellent sole protection across all trail types. These protective aspects were reduced in the Grand Canyon OutDry’s thinner outsole construction.

Support and Comfort

Ample padding throughout the interior of the The North Face Storm II women’s hiking shoe gave it an exceptionally comfortable wear.

No other women’s hiking shoe in this test measured up to The North Face Storm II for cushioning comfort in an upper. The ample padding throughout the Storm’s upper shoe swaddles the foot in a soft, but secure hold. Additionally, the combination mesh and supple leather upper design offers a highly comfortable flex during strides (as a side note, after badly bruising my big toe, this was the only shoe I could hike in for a while, as it placed minimal pressure on the top of the toe when bending). It should be noted that this shoe is cut narrower in the toe box than the Keen Targhee II and the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry, which provide a more comfortable fit for an average to wide foot. The multiple density EVA midsoles built into the Targhee II, Sawtooth Low BDry, Storm II and Vasque’s Talus Trek Low UltraDry all provided ample cushioning, bounce and support. The Columbia Grand Canyon OutDry’s Techlight lightweight midsole also did a good job, but was unfortunately compromised by the thin outsole.

Molded heel hold on both Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry (shown) and Keen Targhee II hiking shoes served to hold the feet firmly in place across every surface.

For ankle stability, the stiff molded construction heel holds of the Targhee II performed exceedingly well. While the thick cushioning in Storm II offered a soft, but firm hold. The slightly lower ankle height of the Talus Trek Low UltraDry, combined with its overly stiff midsole that caused some vertical slippage, limited this shoe’s stability performance. While the predominantly mesh ankle area in the Grand Canyon OutDry’s provided average performance.

Waterproofing

Our testers found the waterproofing qualities on the Vasque Talus Trek Low UltraDry, and all of the hiking shoes we tried, to hold up well in wet conditions.

All women’s hiking shoes in this test held up as expected under moist or wet conditions. We did note a small amount of intermittent seepage in the Columbia Grand Canyon OutDry hiking shoes during very wet hikes.

Durability

A higher leather-to-mesh ration on the Columbia Grand Canyon OutDry hiking shoe would enhance its overall durability.

The ratio of leather to mesh in the uppers, and depth and quality of materials employed in the outsole construction of the women’s hiking shoes in this test led to some differentiation in their durability performances. The Targhee II, Sawtooth Low BDry and Talus Trek Low Ultradry women’s hiking shoes are all constructive with predominantly leather uppers, with mesh panels interspersed for breathability. This leather construction held up to the rigors of the trail better than the predominantly mesh materials employed in the Storm II and Grand Canyon OutDry hiking shoes. In the Talus Trek Low Ultradry we did note some compression on the side leather after use, which weakened their stability. Similarly the thick, multilayered construction of the outsoles on the Targhee II and Sawtooth Low BDry stood up exceptionally well to compaction after multiple uses. Small features including laces, holds and tab pulls held up well in all of the women’s hiking shoes tested.

Conclusion

Although our ratings rank each woman’s hiking shoe for overall quality, the best in class winner may not be the right fit your exact hiking needs. Please be sure to read through each description thoroughly to identify which shoe is best suited to your particular needs. For instance, if you like steep and rocky trails, the exceptionally rugged and durable and qualities of the Keen Targhee II and Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry hiking boots could perfectly suit your needs. While a casual day hiker seeking a super cushioning, flexible hiking shoe might do better with The North Face Storm II. And an athletic hiker heading out on primarily even, earthen trails would thrive in the Columbia Grand Canyon Outdry hiking shoes.

We have learned that each small factor in a hiking shoe’s construction plays a unique roll in the type and quality of performance it provides. For example, the texture of a lace can determine how well it stays tied. And the design of, and padding around, the system that the lace runs through will affect how evenly the lace holds the foot in place and whether or not you will feel that hold while out hiking. New technologies, including multiple density EVA midsoles, short nylon shanks and molded Vibram outsoles, have come a long way in providing enhanced cushioning and foot protection for avid hikers. While molded heel cups and formed insoles do due diligence to keep the foot in place to help avoid banging and blistering on steep trails. Even the depth and shape of the lugs on the base of a shoe can affect how accurately those shoes will grip the trail or whisk away debris. Although price is always a factor in selecting the right hiking shoe for your needs, it shouldn’t be the only one. Think about the trails you intend to tackle (i.e. even or steep inclines, rocky or earthen, frequent or occasional) and then base your hiking shoe choice on that which best addresses those needs.

Test Methods

Hiking shoes, including the Oboz Sawtooth, were worn on over 20 miles of varied terrain.

To accurately assess the performance of a women’s hiking shoe, a number of testers put each product through rigorous hiking, on over 20 miles of varied terrain. During these hikes the testers pay close attention to the level of product performance across six factors most affecting a hiker’s foot comfort and risk of foot or ankle injury on the trail. These factors include:

Traction 

All of the women’s hiking shoes tested were put through miles of use to assess how well they performed and held on to various surfaces. Shown is the Keen Targhee II.

Slipping and falling is simply not an option when hiking. It is essential that the outsole of a hiking shoe adequately “grip” the surface of the trail under varied conditions. Trail surfaces can be flat or steep, wet or dry, and can have surface textures ranging from smooth and earthen, to loose sand or gravel, or rough or slick rock. A quality boot needs to grip the trail in every one of these conditions. Technical factors that effect traction include the material that the outsole is constructed from (with Vibram, a slightly sticky plastic, being one of the most highly regarded at this time) and the depth and design of the lugs (or small protrusions on the base of the outsole). The lugs serve to sink into softer surfaces to provide traction, grab onto rough surfaces to provide hold and also to move water, mud and debris from the base of the shoe.

Stability

The midsole, and outsold of a woman’s hiking shoe serves to protect the soles of the feet from experiencing trail fatigue, especially on uneven surfaces. Shown is the Vasque Talus Trek.

Feet can become achy or experience trail fatigue if they are not protected from the uneven and often jagged surfaces that exist on most hiking trails. To protect the soles of the feet, quality hiking boots are built with a sturdy midsole, of varying densities (thicker in the middle and thinner on the ends so as to allow flexibility where the foot bends). This midsole keeps the sole of the foot relatively flat and deters it from conforming to, or wrapping around, each rock or root on the trail – which and lead to base of foot bruising and fatigue. In some hiking boots a short, stiff shank is also added to the center of the midsole for added protection.

Protection

Quality toe and heel guards protect the feet from front and rear impacts on the trail. Note the thick heel guards built into the Oboz Sawtooth Low BDry Hiking Shoes.

Beyond the stiff midsoles and thick outsoles that help protect and cushion the soles of the feet, a good hiking shoe needs to also protect the foot from toe, heel and side impacts. It is almost inevitable that at some point your toes will come into contact with a boulder that you didn’t quite lift your foot high enough to step over. This is a big ouch, and potential end-of-fun-day-hiking, if your shoe doesn’t provide the protection required. The best toe and heel guards are constructed of thick rubber overlays, which cover most of the toe and heel areas. Rubber serves to bounce the foot away from impact points and also to diffuse the blow. Another common hiking shoe toe and foot guard construction is made by adding a second layer of leather to the tips of the shoes. The leather functions similarly to rubber, but with a bit less shock absorption. The sides of the feet can also be vulnerable to rocks and uneven trail surfaces, if not adequately reinforced. As feet move along uneven trails they often tilt from side-to-side, bringing them into contact with loose rock or talus. Uppers with reinforced lower sides, of rubber or leather, function to protect the sides of the feet in these circumstances.

Support 

The supporting attributes of a hiking shoe serve to keep the ankles from twisting, and arches from collapsing, while hiking the trails. Padded ankle cuffs, and stiff molded heel cups are some of the most effective ways to support the ankle – with a combination of the two being ideal. Molded insoles of newer plastics such as EVA are often stiffer in the center, providing extra arch support while still allowing flexibility where the foot bends. These insoles can typically be interchanged with an orthotic if needed. Hiking shoes should be stiff enough to retain their shape around the ankle during repeated use.

Comfort

The ample padding on The North Face Storm II Hiking Shoe provided cushioning comfort around the foot and ankle.

Hiking shoe comfort is dependent on fit and padding, as well as the majority of the protective and supportive properties mentioned earlier. Since every person’s foot is shaped differently, the cut of one shoe may work well for one individual but not another. Considerations such as toe box width, and lacing system flexibility will be influential in determining which hiking shoe is the fits best. Padding, however, is universal to a comfortable shoe. Thick cushioning around the ankle cuffs (to avoid chaffing) and below the tongue (to keep laces from digging in) is essential. Further advancements in energy returning materials will continue to add bounce and cushion to the inner and midsoles of quality hiking boots.

Durability

How well a hiking shoe lasts is dependent on the quality of both its materials and construction. All parts of a hiking shoe should be able to stand up to repeated scuffs and scrapes. Uppers should have enough heft to not buckle and loose shape where they continually flex around ankles and bend above toes. Outsoles should resist compacting too quickly as the miles accumulate. And sturdy seams, thick durable textured laces, and well-wrought attachments between the various components should hold up to strenuous use. Better quality materials and construction do tend to cost a bit more, but may not be needed for an occasional, or casual, day hiker.

Depending on the specific hiking shoes being tested factors may also include:

Weight

The weight of a woman’s hiking shoe can influence its wearability. Shown is Columbia Grand Canyon OutDry – one of the lighter shoes in this test.

In the lightweight hiking shoe category the weight of the shoe will play a role in determining its overall performance rating. The density of the construction materials used typically affects weight. Newer technologies continue to provide the strength required, for a shoe to withstand the rigors of the trail, to less dense and weighty materials.

Waterproofing

When appropriate to the category, the level of waterproofing is also be rated. Waterproofing includes both the shoe’s ability to repel moisture in moist circumstances as well it’s ability to resist leaking when submerged repeatedly, to just below the ankle cuff, in puddles of water. Another consideration in the waterproofing rating is breathability. A waterproof shoe often maintains a high level of breathability through treated mesh panels and a waterproof membrane around the shoe interior. A good hiking shoe needs to retain its breathability to wick away sweat, and to keep feet dry and blister free.

What are Women’s Hiking Shoes?

A below ankle design is one of the features that define women’s hiking boots. Shown is the Vasque Talus Trek Low UltraDry women’s hiking shoe.

Hiking shoes, versus boots, are defined by an ankle shaft height that stops just below the ankle. As a result of their reduced height, hiking shoes are typically lighter than boots, and are preferred by many hikers for this reason. A tradeoff with the shorter ankle shaft is reduced ankle support. As a result, hiking shoes may not be the best option for hikers with less stable ankles prone to twisting. There are vast differences in the type of shoes that fall under the Hiking Shoes category. Hiking shoes can range from rugged, deeply lugged and reinforced shoes, to super lightweight, minimalist shoes – which are more akin to a running shoe with a beefed up tread. Newer materials such as Vibram, EVA plastics, nylons and treated mesh have allowed both hiking shoes and boots to evolve drastically in their level of comfort, protection and performance from the heavy, leather and steel toed, hiking boots of the 1950’s and 60’s. And wonderfully, these technologies continue to refine, effecting energy return, weight and other important product aspects.

Women’s hiking shoes are specifically engineered to fit to a woman’s foot size and physicality. Ideally, they are built from a woman’s specific last, and we’ll call out any that aren’t in our reviews. They may include enhanced padding and or arch support. The price of women’s hiking shoes also varies greatly. It is recommended that price play a lesser role in choosing the right hiking shoe than aligning the qualities of a particular shoe with your particular hiking style, foot shape and other needs.