A solid pair of hiking shoes or boots should provide enough support for the feet and ankles.

Major qualities to expect from the must-have hiking shoes include:

Match the type of hiking: light day hikes to heavy backpacking boots
Desired level of comfort: During the selection process make sure to identify the boots that provide a good and comfortable fit.

Types of Hiking Shoes

The proposed hike attempt will have a major impact on the chosen pair of boots with common choices, including the light, regular, and backpacking options.

For those with a light load or hydration pack, wearing a pair of light footwear is more than enough for many.


A pair of hiking shoes (low cut) with a flexible midsole is perfect for the day-hike enthusiast. Other options include the trail running shoes for the more lightweight travelers.


Hiking boots are the most practical option for the day to weekend hiking that plans to travel with a light load.

The mid to high cut boots are great for light travel, but not such a practical choice when searching for the solid support needed on the more heavy-duty backpacking trails.

Backpacking boots

The heavy-duty backpacking boots are most practical for the multi-day hikes that take you into the difficult and backcountry terrain.

Most of these boots are designed with a high cut to give the foot and ankle area more reliable support. They are built with a stiff mid-sole to give the long-term support and durable service.

Mountaineering boots

The most durable and supportive boots are the mountaineering type which is great for glacier travel and accepting the heavy loads.

Best Hiking Shoes and Boots

Rubber sole
Shaft measures approximately 5" from arch
Heel measures approximately 1.5"
Platform measures approximately 0.75"
The oiled leather finish will naturally have some scuff marks on the shoe.
Rubber sole
Shaft measures approximately 4" from arch
Hiking boot in waterproof full grain leather featuring Omnishield water and stain resistant treatment and compression-molded EVA foam midsole
Triangular D-ring and clamshell lacing
Omnigrip lugged outsole
Waterproof full grain leather;Omnishield water and stain resistant treatment;Compression-molded ethylene vinyl acetate foam midsole
Rubber sole
Shaft measures approximately 5" from arch
Heel measures approximately 1.5"
Platform measures approximately 0.50"
Waterproof hiking boot featuring leather upper with breathable mesh tongue and lace-up vamp
Made in the USA or Imported
Rubber sole
Shaft measures approximately 4.5" from arch
Heel measures approximately 1.5"
Platform measures approximately 1"
Mid-height hiking boot featuring breathable waterproof membrane and protective toe cap
M Select Warm 400g Insulation
Rubber sole
Shaft measures approximately 5" from arch
Waterproof hiking boot with Select Dry technology featuring lace-up vamp and padded collar
Select Fresh technology

What are the major materials of hiking boots?

The material for the hiking shoes differs in relation to water resistance, durability, breathability, and weight.

Full-grain leather

A high degree of abrasion resistance and durability comes from the shoes manufactured in full-grain leather. Plus, this material is quite effective at keeping the feet dry.

Full-grain leather is a practical choice for rugged terrain, heavy loads, and multi-day trips.

But, these shoes need plenty of time to break-in and not as breathable or light as the alternatives.

Split-grain leather

A breathable and lightweight material (often combined with nylon mesh or nylon) is the split-grain leather.

This type of leather splits from the rough inner parts to leave a material that is low-cost but less effective at abrasion and water resistance.

Nubuck leather

Full-grain leather like Nubuck leather has received treatment to leave the material with an appearance much like suede. This leather-type material is great at resisting abrasion and water.

Plus, it is a lot softer and more flexible compared to the more traditional solid leather, which means less time is needed to break in the footwear.


Many modern hiking shoes are made using a synthetic leather, nylon, or polyester material.

A positive aspect of these shoes is the low-cost, fast drying, quick to break-in, and lighter. But, a negative to the synthetic boots is the short lifespan and the higher amount of external stitching.

Check out our Hiking Boots Article and Recommendations.