The 8 Best Men’s Hiking Boots to Buy in 2018

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Stripped to its essentials, hiking is effectively walking. The terrain may be a trail rather than a sidewalk or manicured suburban lawn, but the actions — putting one foot in front of the other — are the same. What you put on your feet, however, can make the difference between a stellar outing and an exhausting slog on tired feet. For some, basic “day hiker’ low-top shoes will suffice, but if you’re looking for ankle support, more reliable waterproof protection, a sturdier platform for hauling a heavy pack, or just some added armor against the elements, there’s no substitute for a solid pair of hiking-specific boots.

A general rule of hiking dictates that wearing one pound on your feet is the equivalent of carrying five pounds on your back; a good guide is to balance your ambitions, the boots’ features, and their weight to find the sweet spot. Those who need support for weak ankles should look for models that cover the ankles, but those that climb higher will offer even more support. The same rings true for wet conditions; typically the higher the boot, the better the water protection. All-leather models boast a classic aesthetic and typically last for years, but they can run hot and sometimes require a break-in period. Boots made of fabric or mesh, meanwhile, breathe well, but may not deliver the same sort of weather protection. Most modern boots provide out-of-the-box comfort, though it’s still a good idea to wear them a few times before taking on a miles-long hike. With all that in mind, here are the best hiking boots on the scene right now.

Our Top Picks

01 of 08

Best Overall: Danner Explorer 650

Danner Explorer 650
Amazon

Portland, OR-based Danner has been making some of the world’s most reliable hiking and work boots since 1932, and all that expertise has been channeled into the Explorer 650. Using their Danner Light—the industry’s first waterproof boot—as a point of inspiration, the Explorer 650 takes Danner’s signature heritage look and adds all the best modern tech.

Designed to be lightweight without sacrificing performance for days on the trail, the uppers merge full-grain leather materials with panels of large, durable nylon to make the boots light and breathable, drastically reducing the break-in period. After analyzing wear patterns and traction points on their prototypes, they also shaved off unneeded rubber under the arch to lighten the boots to a humble 33 ounces (per pair). The six-inch-high boot comes with a 100 percent waterproof barrier that allows internal moisture to escape without letting water in for all-day comfort. A rubberized Vibram SPE midsole provides a platform that’s both durable and comfortably cushioned, while the best-in-class Vibram Escape outsole, custom-designed for the Explorer 650, utilizes self-adapting lugs and a specially formulated Megagrip compound for incredible traction on both wet and solid surfaces. The entire footbed is constructed of open-cell polyurethane for better heat dispersion and circulation, with three layers of varying density—and can be removed if you prefer an after-market model. It comes in khaki, dark brown/lime green, and the soon-to-be-classic brown/green color combo.

02 of 08

Best Value: Forsake Trail Hiking Boot

A relative new-comer in hiking footwear, Forsake embraces the principle that hikers don’t have to look like Hummer-esque monsters to perform well. Dubbed an urban “sneakerboot” that’s ready for all-terrain adventures, the Trail boot carries enough savvy design details to make it suitable for city exploration thanks to bold white soles, pops of orange, and the traditional metal eyelets. Style aside, the boot still performs admirably on the roughest of trails, and at a price that’s forgiving on your wallet.

With Forsake's Trail boot, you get full-grain leather uppers that provide 100 percent waterproof protection, reinforced with their proprietary HydroGuard internal membrane, which is seam-sealed but breathes admirably, with a gusseted tongue to keep water and debris from sneaking through the lace eyelets or the space between the tongue and upper. The midsole and footbed follow a familiar pattern: compression EVA and open-cell PU respectively, to offer long-lasting support, rebound, and comfort. Underneath, Forsake employs their own Peak-to-Pavement outsole, which uses inner lugs for grip on loose terrain (dirt, gravel, scree, and mud) with wider outer lugs for traction and stability on hard surfaces.

The boot comes in two relatively traditional colors — tan and tan/cypress — as well as a stand-out “stone” design that’s a far cry away from the tired hiking boot designs that clutter most retail shelves. To demonstrate their love of the outdoors, Forsake has also partnered with Carbonfund.org to offset the energy used to ship store samples. They also package the shoes with recycled paper and have removed all non-recyclable packaging from their shoe boxes.

03 of 08

Best for Backpacking: Vasque Saga LTR GTX

Seasoned backpackers know that finding the right boot is something like hunting for a unicorn. The Saga LTR GTX from Vasque may upend that frustration. Made with the needs of a backpacker in mind, this new hiking boot offers protection and durability without sacrificing the nimble, athletic performance you need while spending days on the trail.

Compared to other all-leather boots, this one looks more like a sports car than an SUV, with a streamlined profile in both the upper and the outsole construction. The rugged 2mm all-leather upper will endure years of abuse, with a molded TPU toe, heel, and lace yoke for added armor and breathable ports to keep things comfortable in all conditions. The upper collar is equally constructed for durability and marries nicely with the thick tongue, with a pull-on back strap and easy-to-adjust lacing. As if that wasn’t enough, the Saga LTR GTX also uses a Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable membrane for additional weather protection. The dual-density ATC midsole is reinforced with a TPU shank to enhance stability and comfort while resisting torsional flexing. And its outsole is just as robust.

Vasque worked with Vibram to develop the Contract Grip, molded in the premium Megagrip high-performance rubber compound, to provide sure purchase on the muddiest, wettest, most vertical, and unpredictable trails, with a lug pattern that provides max ground contact and loads of edging on loose terrain. With a weight that clocks in at three pounds and five ounces, they are far from featherweight. But serious backpackers know there’s no substitute for seriously reliable hiking boots.

04 of 08

Best Lightweight: Altra Lone Peak Mid Mesh 3.5

Thru-hikers on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails swear by Altra, and while they typically opt for low-top trail runners, the Lone Peak Mid Mesh 3.5s offer the same benefits that have earned Altra so much adulation, along with a bit more ankle support and overall protection.

Born from the elite running space, Altra was the first to introduce “zero drop,” meaning that the padding height at your heel and your toe are the same. However, zero drop doesn’t mean ditching the padding, it just means letting your feet work the way they were naturally meant to, rather than placing them on a big ramp of EVA foam. The Lone Peak Mid Mesh uses a moderate degree of padding to protect you from rocks and roots, and uses their A-Bound cushioning to deliver energy return and reduce ground impact.

Altra’s other signature — their foot-shaped toe box — might be even more revolutionary as it lets your toes relax and splay naturally, which provides a shocking degree of added control and stability compared to models that shove your toes into a tight box. A Maxtrac rubber outsole compound delivers solid grip in a variety of terrain, with a tread pattern that puts the lugs below your metatarsals for serious traction on steep climbs and descents. All-mesh uppers allow it to breathe better than a marathon runner, while a four-point gaiter trap keeps dirt, dust, sand, and debris from sneaking inside (the gaiter is sold separately). You wouldn’t want this for long hard days in variable weather or when hauling a heavy pack, but for fast-and-light assaults, it’s footwear perfection.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08

Best All-Leather: Danner Mountain Light II

A slight upgrade to the boot that changed the world of hiking, the origins of the Mountain Light II trace back to 1979, when Danner introduced the first boot with a one-piece leather upper and a Vibram sole, making it the first seriously weatherproof hiking boot to hit the market. The II doesn’t modify the original too much, but they did integrate a Gore-Tex lining to provide complete waterproof/breathable protection. And the outsole is made of Vibram Kletteerlift, engineered from comfort and durability, with superior shock absorption and solid traction on wet, slick surfaces.

But, let’s revisit that one-piece all-leather upper, which eliminates openings in the tongue area and cuts down on seams to really bolster durability and weather-proofing. It also established the now-classic aesthetic that almost all boot-makers strive to achieve. The leather endures a five-point quality inspection at their Portland, OR-based facility before the boot is hand-crafted with a stitch-down construction, which provides a wider platform for increased stability under foot. Since they feature a stitch-down design, they also qualify for recrafting by Danner which allows you to get the boot fixed after you pound it into submission over the ensuing decades. Considering the retail price can be upwards of $300, that’s a nice add-on for something that’s more of an investment than an impulse purchase.

06 of 08

Best for Wet Climates: Oboz Bridger Mid

Wet trails are unavoidable, and while most boots on this list offer varying degrees of weatherproof protection, the Oboz Bridger Mid utilizes three core components to make up their proprietary B-DRY waterproof system: a tape-seam polyurethane film bootie, hydrophobic upper materials, and a textile lining that wicks sweat away to prevent wetness from growing inside the boot. 

The all-Nubuck leather uppers nod to the heritage hiking aesthetic, with a pliable, comfortable collar and lightweight metal hardware. Yet unlike most leather models, customers say that the Bridger Mid requires almost no break-in period, thanks in large part to Oboz’s removable O Fit insole, which includes pods of low-density EVA for cushioning, medium density EVE for underfoot support, a moisture-wicking top layer, a high-density EVA sculpted arch to place the foot in a neutral position, and an equally dense, deep heel cup for support and natural cushioning. Its outsole looks like it was grafted from the mouth of a predator, with a nylon shank for stability and toothy side lugs to find grip in off-camber trails along with 4-mm directional lugs studding the rest of the sole.

07 of 08

Most Stylish: Red Wing Iron Ranger

Recently adopted by the discerning urban hipster, Redwing’s iconic Iron Ranger is more work boot than hiking boot, but a legacy of fine craftsmanship means the Iron Ranger will perform as admirably on the trail as in the coffee shop/open workspace.

This six-inch boot is made of premium oxblood mesa leather alongside brass hardware, speed hooks, and Goodyear welt construction for years of use and abuse. The style traces back to the needs of Minnesota mine workers, with an oil-resistant outer sole, triple-stitched seams for bomber durability, and a double-layered toe cap to protect your feet from unforeseen trail hazards. A durable Vibram 430 mini-lug outsole provides grip. The water-, stain-, and perspiration-resistant leather carries a more natural look than other boots, which will age beautifully and crease out based on the demands of your stride. Out of the box they should feel tight as the leather will stretch, though customers and Red Wing themselves recommend sizing down a half or full size.

08 of 08

Best for Variable Terrain: Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX

Trails that proffer the full range of terrain require a boot that’s more flexible and lower-profile than a mud-stomper, and that’s where the Zodiac Plus GTX excels. The mid-height boot boasts a Gore-Tex waterproof/breathable lining for all-day comfort along with 1.8-mm suede uppers, and ACTIVimpact tech, which uses materials that help absorb the negative impact of ground shock to reduce the stress on your lower limbs and more easily transfer energy into the next step.

An asymmetrical lacing system, which employs traditional eyeholes as well as metal loop latches, helps dial the fit and reach almost to the toes, though Scarpa’s Sock-Fit DV construction already delivers a surprisingly comfortable, snug fit right out of the box. You also get premium grip thanks to the Vibram Drumlin/Mont outsole, which will find purchase on the slipperiest of slopes thanks to the aggressive lug pattern under foot.

Our Process

Our writers spent 5 hours researching the most popular hiking boots for men on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 15 different boots, screened options from 10 different brands and manufacturers, read over 20 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 6 of the boots themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.