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Whether you’re going for a 30-minute stroll along a neighborhood trail or tackling a multi-day trek in Alaska’s Denali National Park, one thing’s for certain: “hiking” can mean a lot of different things. No matter where your adventure may take you, it’s crucial to find a pair of hiking boots or shoes with excellent grip, good ventilation, and solid waterproofing—if you expect to encounter inclement weather.
We’ve enlisted the help of some of our favorite female trekkers and adventure professionals who’ve hiked loads of big miles and know a thing or two about the good, the bad, and the ugly of hiking boots. We’ve narrowed down their top picks into a list of the 19 best trail shoes for every kind of traveler—from seasoned backpackers, to mellow day hikers, to city strollers who simply want something comfy on their feet.
Keep reading for the best hiking boots for women on the market today (and for men's styles, head here). Once you've got the goods, find a little outdoor inspiration by checking out these off-the-beaten-path Alaska parks or perusing the best national park hiking trails.
What to look for in the best hiking boots
When browsing the myriad of available online hiking boots, the lists of features, specs, and tiny details can seem endless and dizzying, but the most important things to seek out are weight, waterproofing, and grip.
There’s an old backpacker saying that “a pound on your feet is like five pounds on your back.” While that may not be factually true, being bogged down by heavy hiking boots can really dull the mood of an otherwise dreamy hike. A good rule of thumb is to look for trail shoes that are around two pounds for a pair, and definitely not more than three, unless you’re buying insulated mountaineering boots to summit Mount Everest. Which, if you are, you might not need this article.
Many boots will list themselves as waterproof, which means that they are equipped with a membrane that tiny droplets of water cannot get through (often, this is where the Gore-Tex label comes in). This is great if you expect to be trekking through streams and occasional afternoon showers, but keep in mind that most waterproofing isn’t very breathable. If you’re mostly going to be hiking in hot or arid climates, consider a lighter shoe with ventilating mesh side panels.
Lastly, the lugs on the bottom of a hiking boot or sneaker are what give the shoe its grip. The deeper and more pronounced, the more the shoe is able to grab whatever trail surface you’re strolling on.
This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date. Additional reporting by Madison Flager and Elaheh Nozari.
The best hiking boots for women:
Best for casual day hikes
If you know you’ll be hiking through rugged, gravelly, or muddy terrain, here’s an excellent pick for grip: Merrell's ankle-height Bravada, which is available in both waterproof and non-waterproof styles. Women Who Hike founder, Nicole Brown, described the design as “part sneaker, part hiker, with an air cushion in the heel to absorb shock and add stability.” This model, which comes in eight fun color varieties and is made with recycled materials, weighs a mere 8.85 ounces per shoe, making it the ideal weight and size to toss into a carry-on for the occasional international trail. Plus, the Bravada was made by women, for women. A community group called the Merrell Women’s Collective—a group of 60 women united by the trail—worked together to create it.
A welcome update to the much-loved Antora 2 (redesigned to reflect its inspiration, which was pulled from La Montaña de Siete Colores in Peru), the Antora 2 Rainbow Mountain 3 is designed for hikers who like to go fast and light, without sacrificing grip. Vibram TC5+ outsoles provide sincerely awesome traction to help prevent falls and slides while you’re on the trails. Built with 100 percent recycled laces and webbing, the shoe also features a rock plate to protect your precious tootsies from rough, uneven trails.
Most hikers looking for a lightweight shoe with good traction jump straight to the trail runners section at their local shoe store, which might not always be their best bet, explains Jennifer Phar Davis, author and founder of Blue Ridge Hiking Company in Asheville, North Carolina. The former Appalachian Trail record holder says her go-to for all-season, all-terrain hiking is the TR1 Loop by Astral. “Astrals are built for a hiking gait and support a flat foot or heel strike motion,” she says. “Plus, the company is a leader in sustainability.”
Danner makes one of our favorite classic hiking boots, the Mountain Light Cascade (featured below), but it's far from their only solid style. The Campo is ideal for trips when you know you have a hike or two planned and want something sturdier than a sneaker, but don't have the space to bring along a bulky boot. Designed with warm-weather hikes in mind, these are great to bring on trips to the southwest, southern California, or the Caribbean.
According to former Traveler editor and resident outdoor adventurerhigh-tech Meg Reinhardt, the Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof hiking boots saved her feet in the wet Alaskan forest. Merrell's proprietary M Select Dry material seals out water and lets moisture escape, while a protective rubber toe cap adds extra defense and a high-traction sole gives you more control on wet hiking paths. Other perks of the Moab: They have great arch support—a huge benefit for people with flat feet—and are relatively affordable.
These hiking boots are for all the indoor kids—those of us who don't love the great outdoors but are willing to take a day hike (or two) for the sake of a vacation. You need a pair of hiking boots, but you don't want to spend a ton of money, and since you have no plans of tackling any intense terrain, you don't need anything too high-tech. The Columbia Newton Ridge is your best bet—easy to break in, comfortable to wear, lightweight, and one of the most affordable options out there.
Best for longer hikes and rougher terrain
“My favorite hiking boots hands down are Hokas,” says Emmy–nominated makeup artist and travel writer Karim Orange. The Ultra Tor Hi is her go-to shoe for trekking around Moab or embarking on international trips to the Galápagos Islands. Featuring a stable, wide base and an ultra-plush cushion, these babies are sure to keep your feet protected on challenging hikes. “I love that they are extremely durable and waterproof. I've even used them during a snowstorm hiking in the Adirondack Mountains,” says Orange.
Though it’s not as ultralight as the brand’s beloved (and discontinued) Breeze LT NTX, the Vasque Breeze is still a contender for best waterproof hiking boot. On a long backpacking trip in the Alaskan bush of Gates of the Arctic National Park, Traveler writer Emily Pennington strapped a pair of these to her feet and hauled around a 40-pound backpack across a massive expanse of trail-free tundra, slogging along behind the guide. After days of frigid stream crossings, sore muscles, and boulder hopping, she could safely say that the boot’s EVA foam midsole and Trail Strider outsole kept her feet comfortable and blister-free.
A staple of the beloved hiking brand KEEN (these babies have been on the market for over 15 years), the Targhee III offers grippy soles ready to tackle anything from brisk stream crossings to hikes along Yosemite granite, plus an oiled nubuck leather upper that stays supple while also providing much-needed ankle support. Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro and author of the book Nature Swagger, says this is the pair she always grabs when she’s “dealing with slippery or muddy terrain, moist conditions, or shallow rivers.”
Planning a multi-day backpacking trip this season? The Bridger Mid Waterproof are the boots you’ll want on your feet. A flagship shoe of Bozeman brand, Oboz, the Bridger Mid provides crucial ankle support and a sturdy heel cup to properly protect your feet when you’re schlepping a heavy pack up and down mountain passes. Like the Arete Low, mentioned above, it’s going to give you the traction you need on rugged terrain, with a more aggressive outsole for tougher treks.
As the number one shoe for infamous thru-hikes like the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails, Altra’s Lone Peak trail runners are a tried-and-true favorite for many trekkers who want to put in the big miles without a lot of extra weight on their feet. This all-weather mid-design keeps the great features of the original–custom DuraTread outsoles, a wide toe box, and balanced cushioning on the heel and forefoot–while adding a weather-resistant bootie construction with lace-up ankle support.
If you're looking for a pair of hiking boots that'll last forever, you can't go wrong with a pair of Danners. The Light Cascade leather boots are extremely durable and versatile, and given the price tag, are best suited for people with an active, outdoor lifestyle. If you want something a bit more affordable, go with the Danner Mountain 600, which Traveler's former director of operations Paulie Dibner wore for a week of hiking in Africa—and to work. They're more lightweight and take a shorter amount of time to break in than the Light Cascade, too.
Weighing in at just over two pounds, these Vasque boots feel lighter than your heaviest sneaker. They generally fit true to size, and can be ordered in regular or wide sizes, with enough room and breathability to keep feet comfortable on long, hot hikes when some swelling is bound to occur. No break-in period is needed, and the soft, supple material—the shoes are made of nubuck leather and a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane to keep toes dry through puddles—conforms easily to your feet. The boot shaft is a bit higher than other pairs on the list, so be sure to wear a long pair of hiking socks to prevent chafing or irritation around your ankles.
Salomon is a go-to for winter outdoor staples, and these waterproof Quest boots—made to withstand long, harsh expeditions and more technical trails—fit the bill. The sole is built with extra support around the heel to help reduce muscle fatigue, especially when carrying a heavy backpack. Pack these for backpacking trips or vacations centered around a big climb or many days on the trails.
La Sportiva boots offer a middle ground when it comes to price, and don't require much break-in time. These waterproof, Gore-Tex boots provide ankle support and coverage, so you won't be splashing mud into your socks on damp trails. Consider them if you're planning to hike up a particularly steep trail, as the shoe's impact brake design helps improve grip.
Former Traveler editor Jessica Puckett learned the hard way that sneakers don't stand up to all hiking trails, especially the sloppy, muddy ones of Hawaii. “I took my first-ever serious hike on vacation a couple of years ago through a lush jungle on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Even though it was only an intermediate hike on designated trails, let's just say I was a little less than prepared gear-wise. By the end of the jungle trek, my humble sneakers were completely coated in mud, and even after scrubbing them in a nearby creek, I had to throw them out.” She's now a fan of Timberland's Chocorua Trail Waterproof Hiking Boots. The sturdy, all-terrain shoe has a thick rubber sole and a soft cushioned collar that she says requires no breaking in (there's nothing like a blister to ruin a good day outdoors). The best part is the shoe's outer layer, which is coated in Gore-Tex, ensuring absolutely no water or mud will seep through.
Best trail runners and multi-purpose boots
When something is labeled as a “mountain running shoe,” it always makes my head turn, because I know it’s going to be constructed with a sturdy base and excellent traction. That’s why adventure travel writer Bernadette Rankin never hits the trail without her pair of Ultra Raptor IIs. “Its proprietary full-length rock guard protects my feet from feeling tenderized after a 10-mile hike and the ultra-sticky, aggressive lug soles provide the ultimate grip protection, no matter the environment,” she says. Add in the fact that this shoe is made with moisture-wicking AirMesh to keep your feet from overheating, and you’ll see why they’re one of the top trail runners on the market today.
For featherlight on-trail comfort that dries quickly and offers supreme grip on slick trails, the Cloudventure by On Running is one of the best in the market—it's as light as 1 pound, 1.6 ounces per pair. Adventure photographer Paulina Dao loves the shoe for its Helion superfoam cushioning and durability over months of hard use. “I put a few hundred off-trail miles on them,” she says, adding, “they didn't come out unscathed [but] they held up to the test of scrambling through the Sierra.”
Something that often gets missed in the hiking shoe conversation is how important recovery footwear is for the moments in between your big mile days. OOFOS is leading the way in sleek, well-cushioned footwear designed to help you heal faster, and the OOmg eeZee Low is a perfect example of a shoe that masquerades as a sidewalk-faring slip-on but has technical features just below the surface (like OOfoam technology that absorbs 37 percent more impact than traditional shoes, plus grippy soles and great arch support). They’re perfect to throw in your road trip bag for city walks and days filled with short hikes when your feet are in need of a break.