Teva might not be the first company that comes to mind when thinking of the best hiking boots, but that all changes now!
Known for their rugged, comfy hiking sandals, Teva also make our favorite hiking boot, the Teva Arrowood Riva Mid-High. Although these boots are made of high quality leather, they are surprisingly lightweight and flexible and require very little break in time. In fact, most hikers say they fit like a glove from the very first time they’re worn! If you like hiking boots with a classic look but modern materials and technology (you’ll be surprised how waterproof yet breathable these are!), the Teva Arrowood Riva will not disappoint.
Hiking boots can make or break your hike. A ‘bad’ pair can leave you with soggy feet, slipping and sliding in the mud, or nursing painful blisters. A good pair of hiking boots, on the other hand, will leave you free to enjoy your hike in comfort and safety. But what should you look for in a new pair of boots?
Buying new hiking boots is not as easy as it seems. You need to decide whether you want leather or synthetic materials, whether you need waterproof boots or not, and what kind of lug pattern you need. All this depends on your personal taste, your budget, and — most important of all — the kind of hiking you’ll mostly be engaging in.
Hiking boots come in all shapes, styles and sizes, each designed with a different hiker in mind, so we’ve divided our ranking into different categories — best overall, best men’s, best women’s, best vegan, best waterproof, best hiking shoes, and best winter boots — so you can find the perfect pair for you.
Why do you need hiking boots?
“Hiking boots” usually refers to any kind of boot or shoe designed specifically for long walks, hikes, and long backpacking trips. Hiking boots can be mid or high rise, meaning the cover part of or all of your ankle, or they can be more of a low ‘shoe’ style.
Hiking boots tend to be stiffer than normal footwear because they need to hold your ankle and foot in place while you navigate uneven terrain, where you can easily trip and twist your ankle. The outsole is also thicker and stiffer, protecting you from rough surfaces and sharp rocks, and features an aggressive tread which improves your grip on slippery ground.
Most hiking boots are water resistant or waterproof, and some are insulated, so you can hike wherever you want, no matter the weather. Some hiking boots are even designed to accommodate crampons, so you can push yourself even further!
All of this might sound excessive for those of you who like the occasional hike in the countryside, but almost all of these features are essential to your health and safety while hiking. Wearing the wrong footwear can lead to blisters, or worse: you could end up with painful feet and knees, or a twisted ankle.
In any case, hiking with tennis or running shoes will take away from the magic of your hike. There is no need to invest $200 in a state-of-the-art pair of hiking boots if you’re a casual walker or hiker, but it definitely is worth getting your hands on a decent pair of $70 hiking boots.
On the other hand, if you’re a committed hiker or backpacker, it is worth spending the big bucks on a pair of hiking boots. You’ll no doubt appreciate the extra features after six hours (not to mention six days!) on the trail.
What to know about hiking boots
- Uppers are (you guessed right) the uppermost part of the boot. They are also the main barrier between your foot and the elements, and are made of leather or synthetic materials.
- Outsoles are part of the boot that comes into contact with the ground beneath your feet, and are usually made of rubber.
- Lug patterns basically refer to the depth and pattern of the treads on the bottom of your boot. They are all designed differently but all for the same purpose: to increase your grip and stop you from slipping on wet, smooth, gravelly, or muddy terrain.
- Midsoles provide cushioning, comfort, and shock absorption. They also determine whether the boot feels stiff or flexible, and have an effect on how stable it feels.
- Shanks go between the boot’s midsole and outsole, and they are designed to add rigidity so that your foot and ankle don’t have to suffer through all the lumps and bumps on a trail. They are usually between 3 and 5 millimeters thick, and are made of steel or composite material.
- Plates are inserts that go between the midsole and outsole, and underneath the shanks. Much like shanks, they are there to reinforce the shoe and protect you from the terrain underfoot.
Full-grain leather is durable and very resistant. It’s the material of choice for tough boots that need to survive difficult terrain over long periods of time. However, this material requires a long break-in time.
Split-grain leather is lighter and often combined with synthetic materials such as nylon mesh. Great choice if you prefer a lighter, slightly more flexible feel.
Nubuck leather looks and feels like suede, and is water resistant and durable, but also requires a long break-in time.
Polyester, nylon, and synthetic leather are becoming increasingly popular in the manufacturing of modern-day hiking boots. They are easier to break-in than leather, the don’t feel as stiff, don’t require much break-in time, and are usually (but not always) a little less expensive.
Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) foam or polyurethane (PU) foam are materials often used in the midsole. They both provide cushioning, but EVA is softer and cheaper, while PU is firmer and more durable.
Gore-Tex will be familiar to anyone with an interest in the outdoors, as it’s often used in jackets, pants, and, of course, hiking boots. It’s so popular because not only is it waterproof, but it also offers incredible breathability — the perfect combination for a long hike!
eVent is a lesser-known, but still incredibly effective, waterproof technology that is excellent at temperature control. So even if you start hiking in a hot valley and end on the top of a snowy mountain, your feet will stay dry and warm throughout.
Best Hiking Boots Methodology
It took us weeks to build this definitive hiking boot ranking, weeks we spent trawling through thousands of consumer reviews by people who’ve been walking, hiking, backpacking, and running up mountains, down hills, and through forests all over the country.
We even spoke to hiking aficionados and experts to get a sense of who the best of the best are in the hiking boots world.
From these reviews and comments, we created a scoring system to rate the hiking boots on this real-life feedback. Using a scoring scale of 0-100, we formulated an average across different categories for a final tally and built our ranking from there.
Since hiking boots are so different, and designed with different hikers in mind, we chose four of our favorite hiking boots for each category. In all categories we were paying special attention to these factors:
- Arch Support
- Ankle Support
- Quality of materials
- Value for money
Our ranking is one of the most comprehensive hiking boot rankings around, so keep reading to learn more about what you need and what you should go for.
Why do I need hiking boots?
If you’re someone with a love for the outdoors, hiking boots are a must. While you can get away with using sweatpants, shorts, and old t-shirts during walks and hikes (especially in the summer), running or tennis shoes just don’t cut it.
Hiking boots are designed for specific terrains and conditions, from wet and icy to rocky and hot. Mostly, hiking boots are built in a way that protects your feet from sharp rocks underfoot, and that give you enough traction to prevent you from slipping. They also support your foot and ankle, and protect it from potential twists. Other types of shoes just won’t offer the comfort or protection that hiking boots do.
If you don’t usually hike on very harsh terrain, and prefer to feel nimble and light, you could always opt for a good pair of hiking shoes. These are lighter and less cumbersome than traditional hiking boots, and while they offer a little less protection, they can still take you far. Most are just as supportive, grippy, and waterproof as boots, so check them out!
But if you’ll be embarking on longer, multi-day trips, it’s well worth investing in a heavy-weight pair of hiking or backpacking boots, which are hardy enough to withstand the weight of your backpack.
What material should I choose for my new hiking boots?
Hiking boots are traditionally made with a leather upper and rubber outsoles. While leather is still very popular, both for practical and aesthetic reasons, synthetic materials have been gaining ground in recent years. While you might be tempted to choose based on looks alone, remember that leather and synthetic materials can feel pretty different.
Leather boots are usually heavier and sturdier (scroll up to find out about the most commonly used types of leather), while synthetic boots are lighter. Leather also feels more rigid and stable, but also takes quite a long time to break in.
Synthetic boots on the other hand can be worn immediately (although we would still recommend you spend a day walking around in them before your first hike).
Both can be breathable and waterproof, and this often depends on the brand, the model, the seams, and the materials used in the construction of the boot.
One more difference is the price, as leather tends to be more expensive than synthetic. However, as synthetic boots get increasingly more sophisticated and use the latest high-tech materials, this difference is narrowing.
What’s the difference between men’s hiking boots and women’s hiking boots?
You’ll see that we have divided our best hiking boots ranking into several sections, including one for women’s hiking boots and one for men’s. So what is the difference? Surely men and women have similar feet?
Well, this is true, our feet are not that different. But even those small differences in shape and size can change the way shoes and boots feel. That’s why the industry has been improving in leaps and bounds this year, making minor changes to their footwear to ensure that we all get the most comfortable and healthy hiking experience.
Women’s feet tend to be smaller and wider, and women’s hiking boots reflect this (but don’t fret, many brands offer wide models for women too). Another important difference is in the midsole design: women’s boots offer enhanced arch support while men’s are flatter.
Still, much of the difference is in the look and marketing, so don’t be afraid to try on hiking boots meant for the opposite sex if you have unusually big or small feet.
And what about hiking boots and hiking shoes?
While many of us still love the feel of good leather hiking boots, over the last few years many hikers have been moving away from the heavier all-leather models, choosing instead to go for lighter leather, synthetic or combination footwear. But while hiking boot companies have been working on slimming and lightening their footwear, some companies have been doing the opposite.
Running shoe brands have in fact been focusing on adding sturdier and somewhat heavier features typical of hiking footwear, such as thick rubber soles and deeper tread patterns.
In both these cases, the end result is what we call hiking or trail shoes. These shoes have become increasingly popular over the past several years, and now are a common sight while out hiking.
Unlike running shoes, trail shoes have a thick outsole with deep lug patterns to increase traction; their midsole is usually made of EVA foam, or a similar material, their upper is usually made of synthetic material (sometimes combined with some leather), and they boast features such as padded collar or reinforced toe.
When compared to hiking boots, the most obvious difference is that trail shoes do not extend over the ankle. Critics say that this minimal construction doesn’t protect you from sprains, but there isn’t much scientific evidence to support that argument.
One obvious advantage of trail shoes is that they are lighter, so won’t tire you out as much during a long hike. However, if you are on an extended backpacking trip, sturdy backpacking boots may last you longer.
The jury is out, and the decision isn’t an easy one. If you’re a very frequent hiker, you might even consider buying a pair of hiking boots and a pair of trail shoes, so you can choose which one to wear depending on the terrain.
What are the best hiking boots?
We’ve divided this Best Hiking boots ranking into several different categories precisely because it is so difficult to answer this question. The ‘Best’ hiking boot really depends on what you’re looking for, and what kind of hiking you’ll be doing.
However, there are some boots out there that are undeniably head and shoulders above the rest. To choose the best ones we aggregated data from across the internet (you can read all the ins and outs of our Methodology above) and came up with a fair scoring system.
Our data analysis tells that the Teva Arrowood Riva Mid-High is the best hiking boot overall according to thousands of hikers and outdoor enthusiasts. These boots rank so high because of their incredible comfort, superior waterproofing and breathability.
But, because hiking boots are all so different, we decided that we wouldn’t stop at that, and instead looked for the best hiking boots in several categories. So if you are looking for a trail shoe rather than a hiking boot, or if you want a strictly vegan product, or if you’re looking for a very insulated winter boot, scroll back up and read through our ranking.
Hiking is always an enriching experience, but it can be a nightmare without the right gear. Get your hands on these products and make the best of your trip.
- Hydration Pack Backpack ($43): Keeping hydrated is very important during a hike, but it’s not always easy. This Hydro hiking backpack comes with a two liter hydration bladder and cooler bag, and is made of the most durable, flexible TPU material
- Danish Endurance Merino Wool Hiking Socks ($26): Made with high-quality merino wool, these Danish socks will keep your feet cool in hot weather, and warm during the winter months. They are perfect for hiking because the seams and mid to high-level cushioning reduce rubbing, preventing blisters and sore feet.
- Lightweight Parachute Portable Hammocks ($30) :Who wouldn’t want one of these? A lightweight, super comfy parachute hammock that you can take hiking, camping, or even to a music festival. We’ve put a bulk order in!
- LA Police Gear Mens Urban Ops Tactical Cargo Pants ($30): Developed over years of testing, these great value pants are a well-kept secret: durable and comfy, the feature and elastic waistband, articulated knees and gusseted crotch, giving you freedom of movement and flexibility.
- Germ Resistant Portable Urinals for Women ($10): Have you ever been stuck with a full bladder and nowhere to pee? Ever wished our bodies were built a little more like men’s (for practicality only)? This reusable funnel is basically a portable toilet, so you’ll never be caught short!