Hiking gear

As many trail runners already know, hiking not only allows you to enjoy some quality time with nature, but also provides strength training for muscles that you may not be getting from road running. Instead of doing some squats or lunges in the gym, head out into the great outdoors for some natural challenges like climbing rock beds and jumping across streams. Whether you’re new to trails, serious backpacker headed to the Appalachian Trail, or casual day hiker, we’ve researched the best footwear for any excursion.

Hiking as Strength Training

If you’re not already a trail runner or regular hiker, it can take time to get used to the climbs and rougher terrain. But hiking can be a great form of cross training to test your agility, balance, and lateral muscles.

Nicole DeBoom, former professional triathlete and founder of Skirt Sports explains how her and her husband (Tim DeBoom, Ironman Hawaii World Champion) hit the trails for cross training to break up their running routines and prevent injury. She said, “Tim is a firm believer that the uneven surfaces and conscientious footing encourages our bodies to use different support muscles, tendons, and ligaments. A good hike can ‘turn on’ muscles that have been ignored through repetitive run training.”

Hiking Boots vs. Trail Shoes

For some expeditions, old running shoes just won’t cut it. How you plan to hike will impact what kind of boots or shoes you need to keep your feet comfortable and protected. Generally, hiking boots tend to be more stable, durable, and grippy than trail-running shoes, though you can still find breathable, flexible, and lightweight models. Ultimately, select the type of footwear that’s most comfortable to you.

Day-hiking boots: Ranging from mid- to high-cut, these boots are intended for day hikes or short trips with light loads and usually require little to no breaking in.
Backpacking boots: Typically high cut for more ankle support, backpacking boots are stiffer and more supportive for longer backpacking trips with heavier loads, and especially good for off-trail travel.
Hiking shoes: These shoes have similar flexibility and support as day-hiking boots, but have a lower cut for more breathability and less weight.
Trail runners: Intended as running shoes, trail runners don’t tend to have the best traction at a slower hiking pace. More rigid shoes with deep lugs are better for more rugged trails and day hiking, while others are more lightweight for even trails and ultra distances.

How We Rated Them

We researched 18 expert sources and 3,000 consumer reviews to select the top 10 hiking boots and shoes for 2019. To determine our Total Expert Score, we calculate the ratings from expert review sites, such as Outdoor Gear LabMountain IQGear We Are, and Wirecutter, and convert them to a 100-point scale to make it easier for you to weigh the best options. Our Consumer Score represents the percentage of consumers who rated the product at least 4 out of 5 stars on retail sites like AmazonREIZappos, and Backcountry.