Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (2024)

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (1)

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Although we love the durability and support of a good pair of hiking boots, many hikers these days are leaning toward lighter, more flexible low-top shoes as their go-to hiking kicks. And as the quality of lightweight shoes has increased dramatically over the years, they're becoming a viable option even on the toughest technical trails.

As they get lighter and more flexible, hiking shoes are starting to resemble trail running shoes—in fact, we've found many of our top trail shoes work quite well in this category too. But regardless of their intended use, these hiking shoes will carry you for hundreds of miles, whether you’re in the woods, bagging peaks, or heading out on a relaxed recovery walk around your local trail system.

The Best Hiking Shoes

Should I Get Hiking Shoes or Trail Running Shoes?

When you’re shopping for a hiking shoe, consider the terrain and conditions you’re most likely to encounter, as well as intended use. For trails that are on the technical, rugged side, look for a traditional hiking shoe. Shoes like the Merrell Moab 3 have multidirectional lugs for extra side-to-side traction, as well as burlier upper material, like suede, to hold up against overgrown trails.

If you plan to combine hiking and trail running on the same outing (or just want a shoe that can do both), you may like a more flexible trail-running shoe that’s lighter and easier to break in than a true hiking shoe. The Saucony Peregrine and Brooks Cascadia, for example, are both several ounces lighter than the average dedicated hiking shoe, but they still keep your feet protected with thick lugs, rock plate inserts, and extra rubber coverage on the toes. They also tend to have squishier midsole foam for softer impacts when you pick up the speed.

On more established trails, you won’t need the same level of traction and support as a true hiking or trail shoe, so a sneaker with shorter lugs and less aggressive tread will work just fine—and, in some cases, even more effectively.

Waterproofing

Waterproof membranes such as Gore-Tex, eVent, or a proprietary membrane made by a company in-house, offer increased protection from wet conditions, which you’ll encounter much more often as you explore dicier terrain. That said, these membranes won’t dry out as fast if your shoe gets submerged, and can make your shoes less breathable and a lot heavier.

This limited breathability has led many trail runners and some hikers to prefer non-waterproof shoes that feel lighter, dry out quicker, and offer a bit more mobility. We mostly suggest non-waterproof hiking shoes below, but many of our recommended models are available in (slightly pricier) waterproof versions, too.

How We Selected

Maggie Slepian, the original author of this guide, has been professionally testing and reviewing trail shoes for over seven years. She used her experience hiking thousands of miles in minimalist styles, beefy off-trail shoes, and industry mainstays to review and recommend the best hiking shoes for runners and non-runners alike.

We also considered variability of terrain, conditions, and distance to find the best fit for a slew of hiking styles. Whether you’re most likely to encounter steep, rocky terrain or rocky, wooded trails, there’s a shoe in here for you. Some models that made the cut work best for long days in the mountains, and others are fast-and-light shoes that serve you best on afternoon outings on local trails.

All of them offer excellent out-of-the-box performance and require little break-in time—something Slepian can personally vouch for. We’ve tested all of these models on trails ranging from steep alpine scree fields to the sandy desert, and we’ve trudged through various conditions during all four seasons.

1

Best Durability

Merrell Moab 3 Hiking Shoe

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (3)

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (4)

1

Best Durability

Merrell Moab 3 Hiking Shoe

Now 45% Off

Pros
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (5)Supportive fit
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (6)Made to take a beating
Cons
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (7)Takes some time to dry

Unlike the trail running shoes on this list, the Merrell Moab Ventilator is a classic, dedicated hiking shoe. Merrell’s boots have long stood the test of time for hikers, and the Moab is a burly, durable option that allows for some extra ankle agility. The shoe has excellent support, especially in the arch, and it’s one of the best options for people who want a boot-like fit without feeling as confined.

This shoe’s Vibram outsole provides solid traction on varying terrain. We also like how well the suede-and-mesh upper resists abrasions, but be aware that it will take longer to dry than the mesh found on lighter trail runners. The standard Moab 3 additionally isn’t waterproof, but you can purchase a waterproof version if you’re not as concerned about breathability.

Buy Women's

Key Specs

Weight11.6 oz. (M/W)
Drop11.5mm

2

Most Comfortable

Altra Lone Peak 7 Hiking Shoe

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (8)

Pros
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (9)Wide, natural fit
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (10)Ideal cushioning balance
Cons
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (11)Opting for zero drop can take some adjustment

Over the past few years, Altra’s reputation for comfortable shoes that hold up on extended hikes has helped make the brand one of the most popular in the hiking community. The Lone Peak is the star of the show, landing in the middle of the brand’s range of models with just enough cushioning and build without feeling excessive.

Altra’s wide toe box is designed to encourage a more natural toe-sprawling stride. The Lone Peak features a generous 25-millimeter stack height that provides plenty of protection but still feels stable, and the upper on the brand's recent iterations has proven to be more durable than previous versions.

Buy Women's Read Full Review

Key Specs

Weight11 oz. (M), 9.2 oz. (W)
Drop0mm

3

Best Waterproof Option

Keen NXIS Evo Waterproof Hiking Shoe

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (12)

3

Best Waterproof Option

Keen NXIS Evo Waterproof Hiking Shoe

Pros
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (13)Breathable for a waterproof shoe
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (14)PFC-free construction
Cons
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (15)Heavy
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (16)Expensive

The Keen NXIS Evo, much like the Moab 3, is specifically designed as a hiking shoe. It has a reinforced forefoot to protect against stubbed toes, and its waterproof upper is as breathable as possible while still keeping you dry.

The shoe uses Keen’s horseshoe-shaped tread for more stability throughout your entire foot strike on uneven terrain, and the outsole also boasts 4-millimeter multidirectional lugs as well as a springy, cushioned midsole. And on top of this shoe’s proven performance on the trail, we appreciate the PFC-free materials that make these shoes more environmentally friendly.

Buy Men’s

Key Specs

Weight13.4 oz (M), 10.8 (W)
Drop8mm

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4

Best Traction

Hoka Speedgoat 5 Hiking Shoe

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (17)

4

Best Traction

Hoka Speedgoat 5 Hiking Shoe

Pros
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (18)Excellent wet and dry traction
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (19)Highly cushioned
Cons
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (20)Toe box might feel narrow
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (21)Tall stack height can feel unstable

Hoka is perhaps best known for its maximum-cushion shoes, and with a stack height of 32 millimeters in the heel, the Speedgoat is right up there with some maximalist road racing shoes. But it’s far from fluff. The 5-millimeter lugs and strategic zonal rubber placement on the shoe's burly outsole enhance grip and support to deliver some of the best traction—in both wet and dry conditions—of any trail shoes we’ve tested.

The Speedgoat fits snugly throughout, which means more stability on tricky terrain, but it might feel too narrow for some people, despite a recent update to widen the toe box. Keep in mind, too, that some people have trouble getting used to such a lofty shoe, and it can feel unsteady at first.

Buy Women’s Read Hoka Speedgoat Reviews

Key Specs

Weight10.3 oz (M), 8.5 oz (W)
Drop4mm

5

Most Versatile

Saucony Peregrine 13 Hiking Shoe

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (22)

5

Most Versatile

Saucony Peregrine 13 Hiking Shoe

Pros
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (23)Lugs provide traction without feeling too bulky
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (24)Supportive fit
Cons
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (25)Narrow fit might not suit every runner

The Peregrine is a trail shoe that works well on a wide range of terrain, from the road to the trail, without ever feeling overbuilt. You’ll understand why the moment you slip a pair on your feet—this shoe one of the lightest train running kicks we’ve tested. And it’s not flimsy, either.

It has a secure and comfortable fit, offering a cozy heel cup for more stability around narrow ankles, and it also has a rock plate for extra protection when you’re galloping through rocks. Want a more waterproof option? Saucony also offers a waterproof version of this shoe, the Saucony GTX, that has a Gore-Tex outer layer that’s effectively impervious to the elements.

Buy Women's

Key Specs

Weight9.2 oz. (M), 8.1 oz. (W)
Drop4mm

6

Most Accommodating Fit

Brooks Cascadia 17 Hiking Shoe

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (26)

6

Most Accommodating Fit

Brooks Cascadia 17 Hiking Shoe

Pros
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (27)Feels natural almost anywhere
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (28)Relaxed fit welcomes wide feet
Cons
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (29)Makes some sacrifices with traction

The Cascadia is one of the most popular all-around hiking and trail shoes we've tested, which we can likely credit to the shoe's unparalleled foot-friendliness. It can fit the bill for just about anyone—it’s wide enough to feel non-constricting without being so wide that your foot moves around, and the out-of-the-box comfort is top-notch, so there's no need to worry about breaking them in.

Despite its lightweight build, we also love how protective this shoe is. This is thanks, in part, to its rock plate and the EVA foam–based midsole. The ride feel springy and responsive, yet flexible and forgiving. The lug pattern is less aggressive than other hiking shoes, though, so you won’t have the best grip in the mud.

Buy Women's Read Brooks Cascadia Reviews

Key Specs

Weight11 oz. (M), 9.8 oz. (W)
Drop8mm

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7

Best Mid-Height

Vasque Here Mid Hiking Shoe

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (30)

7

Best Mid-Height

Vasque Here Mid Hiking Shoe

Pros
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (31)Extra ankle support
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (32)Multiple lacing options
Cons
  • Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (33)Doesn't allow as much movement as a low-top shoe

If low-top hiking shoes makes your ankles feel to0 precariously placed, but boots feel a tad too bulky, you can find a lightweight shoe with improved coverage in the Here Mid. This shoe is still as light and breathable as plenty of other hiking shoes, but it has a raised heel collar that lets you cinch your laces much farther up your ankle—unexpected sprains begone!

The outsole on this shoe is worth mentioning, too. It juts out behind the heel, giving you extra cushioning and traction when you’re clambering down steep trails, and it’s also shaped with a bit of a curve to make stepping over the heel feel less cumbersome.

Buy Women's

Key Specs

Weight12 oz. (M), 10 oz. (W)
DropUnknown

8

What Shoes to Lace Up and Gear to Bring on Your Next Hike, According to Expert Maggie Slepian

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (34)

RW: Do you prefer your hiking shoes to have a waterproof membrane or not?

M.S: I prefer a non-waterproof hiking shoe. I have one pair of winter hiking boots with insulation and waterproof protection, but for my three-season shoes, I find the lighter weight and increased breathability make up for most of the benefits of a waterproof membrane. I wear mostly low-top shoes, so I’m likely to get my feet wet during creek crossings anyway, because the water will come in through the top of the shoe regardless of whether or not it is waterproof. I always wear wicking socks, so if my feet get wet, my socks help them dry quickly, and a non-waterproof shoe is going to dry faster than a saturated waterproof shoe.

RW: Is it okay to wear road running shoes or sneakers while hiking? When should readers upgrade to shoes designed specifically for trails?

M.S: You can absolutely wear road-running shoes or sneakers while hiking. Most sneakers will have adequate midsole protection, secure lacing, and enough traction for easy to moderate trails. Once you get more into the backcountry or on more rugged and technical trails, I’d recommend switching to a hiking-specific shoe or a trail-running shoe. Trail running shoes or hiking shoes will typically have a deeper lug pattern optimized for traction on a variety of surfaces, as well as increased protection through the midsole for rocky, rooty terrain that might feel like it’s bruising your feet in a lighter pair of road-running shoes. But if you’re just starting out or sticking to more maintained trails? Your road-running shoes will work just fine, though you should expect the soles to wear out faster.

RW: What other hiking essentials do you bring with you for day hikes?

M.S: My day-hiking kit consists of a running-vest style pack (I love the Nathan Pinnacle 12), two soft-flask bottles, a light jacket like the Tracksmith Session Jacket, and some quick energy like gels or Honey Stinger Waffles. If I’m heading out on an all-day hike where I know there’s water along the way, I carry a water bottle with a filter like the Sawyer Squeeze screwed on top, and an extra lightweight-but-warm layer like the Artilect Boulder 125 Crew.

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (35)

Adam Schram

Adam Schram is an Assistant Editor of Commerce at Runner's World, though you might see his byline on Bicycling and Popular Mechanics, too. A lover of all things outdoors, Adam's writing career comes after six years as a bike mechanic in his hometown of State College, PA. His journalism experience is steeped in cycling and running gear reviews, and he's also a published creative nonfiction and satire author. When he's not writing, riding, or running, you can catch Adam at home mixing cocktails, watching Star Wars, or trying in vain to do the Sunday crossword. You can check out his latest work below.

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (36)

Maggie Slepian

Maggie Slepian is a full-time freelance writer in the outdoor industry and has tested gear professionally for almost ten years—she is an avid backpacker, trail runner, bikepacker, and horseback rider and has thru-hiked thousands of miles on the Appalachian, Colorado, and Ouachita trails, along with backcountry travel on terrain including coastal trails, the desert, and high alpine peaks. Maggie has written for New York Magazine, Huffington Post, REI, and Outside. She is a columnist with Backpacker Magazine and is the co-founder of BackpackingRoutes.com. Contact her at MaggieSlepian.com.

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert and enthusiast, I have access to a vast amount of information and can provide insights on a wide range of topics. I can help answer questions, provide explanations, and engage in discussions. Let's dive into the concepts mentioned in this article.

The article discusses hiking shoes and provides recommendations for different categories, such as durability, comfort, waterproofing, traction, versatility, and mid-height options. It also addresses the question of whether to choose hiking shoes or trail running shoes based on the terrain and intended use. Additionally, it mentions the importance of waterproofing and the trade-offs between waterproof and non-waterproof shoes. The article concludes with insights from an expert on hiking essentials for day hikes.

Now, let's explore each concept in more detail.

Hiking Shoes vs. Trail Running Shoes

When choosing between hiking shoes and trail running shoes, it's important to consider the terrain and intended use. For technical and rugged trails, a traditional hiking shoe with multidirectional lugs and a burlier upper material, like suede, is recommended. These shoes provide extra side-to-side traction and can withstand overgrown trails [[1]].

If you plan to combine hiking and trail running or prefer a more flexible and lightweight option, trail running shoes can be a suitable choice. They are lighter and easier to break in than traditional hiking shoes. Models like the Saucony Peregrine and Brooks Cascadia offer thick lugs, rock plate inserts, and extra rubber coverage on the toes for foot protection. They also have squishier midsole foam for softer impacts when running. On established trails, where less traction and support are needed, sneakers with shorter lugs and less aggressive tread can be effective [[2]].

Waterproofing

Waterproof membranes, such as Gore-Tex, eVent, or proprietary membranes, offer increased protection from wet conditions. However, they can reduce breathability and make shoes heavier. Some hikers and trail runners prefer non-waterproof shoes that are lighter, dry out quicker, and offer more breathability. Non-waterproof shoes can dry faster than waterproof shoes if they get wet, especially when paired with wicking socks [[3]].

Recommended Hiking Shoes

The article provides recommendations for different categories of hiking shoes:

  1. Best Durability: Merrell Moab 3 Hiking Shoe
  2. Most Comfortable: Altra Lone Peak 7 Hiking Shoe
  3. Best Waterproof Option: Keen NXIS Evo Waterproof Hiking Shoe
  4. Best Traction: Hoka Speedgoat 5 Hiking Shoe
  5. Most Versatile: Saucony Peregrine 13 Hiking Shoe
  6. Most Accommodating Fit: Brooks Cascadia 17 Hiking Shoe
  7. Best Mid-Height: Vasque Here Mid Hiking Shoe

Each recommendation is accompanied by key specifications, pros, and cons [[1]].

Expert Insights on Hiking Essentials

The article includes insights from an expert, Maggie Slepian, on hiking essentials for day hikes. She prefers non-waterproof hiking shoes for their lighter weight and increased breathability. She also mentions that road running shoes or sneakers can be suitable for easy to moderate trails, but for more rugged and technical trails, hiking-specific shoes or trail running shoes with deeper lug patterns and increased midsole protection are recommended. She also shares her day-hiking kit, which includes a running-vest style pack, soft-flask bottles, a light jacket, and quick energy snacks. For longer hikes with water sources, she suggests carrying a water bottle with a filter and an extra lightweight-but-warm layer [[4]].

I hope this information helps! Let me know if you have any further questions.

Tackle Mud and Rocks with the Best Hiking Shoes for Walking, Trail Running, and Summiting (2024)
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