Boots are the hiker’s most vital piece of gear. Covering long distances with sore, bruised, or blistered feet is not a pleasant experience. When looking for the best hiking boots, it is essential that they be lightweight and durable enough to withstand the punishment of covering long distances. When you add the weight of a pack, the added support of a well-made pair of hiking boots can make or break your trip.
With so many new brands and styles available, it has become increasingly harder to determine which brand is right, after many years of experience hiking trails all across the United States, the following are some of my top picks in hiking boots.
1. KEEN Durand MID WP
One of the finest hiking boots I have ever worn, the KEEN Durand MID WP fit wonderfully right out of the box. They are built to last. I found them to be extremely lightweight while providing excellent support. They are waterproof and even when walking through the rain or through shallow creeks and streams my feet remained completely dry.
I did notice the sizing ran just a little under the same size in other well-known hiking brands; they fit more like my tennis shoes than a pair of hiking boots. They are really comfortable and I have started wearing them on a daily basis, even when going in to town to the grocery store. The KEEN Durands will keep your feet super warm, which is a little inconvenient in the heat of the summer, but they are just about perfect in the cooler weather of the mid and late fall.
2. LOWA Renegade Deluxe GTX Mid
The waterproof LOWA Renegade GTX Mid hiking boots are perfect for long day hikes and weekend backpacking excursions. With ample comfort and support at a very low weight, the LOWA Renegade GTX features waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX liners and water-repellent nubuck leather uppers with Cordura nylon ankle bands for comfort and flexibility. The linings wick moisture to help keep feet dry inside. The LOWA Renegades are both comfortable and sturdy.
3. KEEN Liberty Ridge
Designed for the serious backpacker and hiker, the KEEN Liberty Ridge boots are tough and fit well with minimal break-in. These boots are designed to be supportive and comfortable on the most harsh and rugged trails. Perfect for wet weather or crossing creeks and streams, the waterproof upper and KEEN.DRY breathable, waterproof membrane are an excellent combination to keep your feet nice and dry. These boots are really impressive. It only took me a single cross-country hike to break them in.
4. Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boot
The thing that really stands out about this boot is the solid outsole that provides an excellent grip even on damp or wet surfaces. They have a molded nylon shank, and a compression molded EVA midsole. I found them to be pretty nice in the warmer weather. They weren’t too hot, and with a pair of heavier socks they did a good job of keeping my feet warm in the early fall as temperatures dipped into the lower 30s. The omni-grip soles work great on the ice and snow covered trails, and they are waterproof and pretty flexible. They did run a little narrow, but they were pretty easy to break in and after a few times wearing them they fit much better. I wear a size 10, and if I had to do it over again, I would get the 10.5s as they seem to run just a little small. Overall, they are a rugged and comfortable hiking boot.
5. Vasque St. Elias GTX
The lightest backpacking boot from Vasque, the men’s St. Elias GTX is built to take on tough trails. The all-leather uppers are combined with GORE-TEX waterproof liners that let your feet breathe while protecting them from the elements. The urethane shanks give solid support and protect your feet while the soft EVA footbeds and midsoles absorb shock and cushion remarkably well. I found the Vibram outer soles preformed pretty well in rugged terrain but not as well as the Danners did in mountainous areas.
6. Merrell Men’s Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
The Merrell Men’s Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots are comfortable, versatile, and work well on just about every type of surface. The leather and mesh design is very lightweight. The boots do a great job of keeping your feet dry while allowing them to breathe. I really like this boot when hiking long distances in warmer climates. They have an air-cushioned heel that absorbs shock and Vibram soles that are perfect in hilly mountainous terrain.
7. Danner Crater Rim GTX Hiking Boots
The Danner Crater Rim GTXs are hand-made in Portland, Oregon and worn by the American Special Forces in Afghanistan. That’s a pretty good recommendation, Afghanistan is one of the most rugged areas in the world. These boots are tough, but they tend to be a little heavy. Nonetheless, they perform excellently when traversing rugged terrain. They take a little getting used to, but the serious hiker will appreciate the durability and the fact that they protect your feet and ankles in even the most rugged terrain.
Your feet are without a doubt your most important piece of hiking equipment; therefore, quality hiking boots are one of the best things you can add to your arsenal of outdoor gear. Hiking boots are made for different types of terrain and it’s important to choose wisely, especially if you are heading for a challenging backcountry hike.
If you are carrying a pack while hiking, a true hiking boot with more ankle coverage and stiffer midsoles will protect your ankles and give added support that is a must—especially if your ankles sprain easily. Remember the right set of hiking boots can make or break your experience in the outdoors.
This article was produced in partnership with KEEN.
Image by Tami McDaniels