Salewa Alp Trainer Mid GTX (in men’s and women’s): These hiking boots have all of the bells and whistles that boots can possibly have, including an excellent lacing system; securely locking lace hooks; protection that runs along the toe, sides and heel of the boot; a neoprene cap on the back of the boot to prevent dirt and water from running down; double insoles that you can wear together or apart for a more customized fit; a 3F ankle stabilizer; and highly technical Michelin-brand outsoles. This Salewa pair offers good support on rocky and uneven terrain, and you can confidently descend thanks to the excellent grip.
We almost made these boots our top pick because of all those features, but multiple testers experienced heel rubbing. One tester told me that despite wearing proper hiking socks, her feet were so sweaty and wet in these boots that she developed blisters. The blistering problem was likely caused by the boot’s somewhat narrow fit (which will fit only certain feet) and its lack of built-in ventilation. The same tester reported that the fabric at the back of the heels was already showing signs of wear after her 30 miles.
Scarpa Zodiac Plus GTX (in men’s and women’s): We tested only the women’s model of the Zodiac Plus GTX. Although it was well-received among our female testers, it fell shy of being a top pick because the design was geared toward mountaineering. These boots are a good fit for hikers who a plan to tackle challenging terrains often, but most people won’t find their extra stability or foot protection necessary. Plus, the snugness of the boot means it won’t fit all foot types. I also found that the firmer sole didn’t flex with the foot easily, and one tester said that the lack of cushioning left her with sore feet after an alpine descent.
We also tested the Scarpa Zodiac Tech GTX, which is a beefed-up version of the Plus that comes in only men’s sizes. This boot is for serious hikers and mountaineers, so while it does offer some cool features (such as an ankle cuff to prevent water and debris from entering, rands that run nearly all the way around, and crampon compatibility), we think it’s just too much boot for most people. One tester found that his feet were constantly sore while hiking mountain trails, and he had to switch out the insoles even after breaking in the boots.
Asolo Thyrus GV (in men’s and women’s): Out of the box, these boots were the most comfortable of any we wore, bar none, which was surprising given the stiff look of the all-leather one-piece upper. The padded foam surrounding the ankle is formfitting, so the boot snugs up tight to your ankle and prevents dirt and grass from entering. It doesn’t have much in the way of a rubber rand on the toe, but we found that while trekking over roots and boulders, our feet were well-protected. Water beaded right off these boots, too. Despite the solid upper, our feet didn’t feel hot, even in close to 90-degree weather. The Asolo pair fit true to size, and we found it to be versatile, suitable for both groomed trails and mountain hikes. However, we discovered one problem: All of our testers noticed that these boots started to show slight signs of wear on the leather segments after just 10 miles on the trail. These boots also lacked some of the extra features that our top picks offered.
Keen Targhee EXP Waterproof Mid (in men’s and women’s): The Targhee EXP is an update of the classic Targhee that looks less like a traditional hiking boot and more like a hybrid of a boot and a running shoe. It’s similar to the Merrell Moab 2, our budget pick, but perhaps a bit more stylish. Of the boots we tested, the Targhee EXP offered the most room in the toe box, so you might want to try this boot if you have wide feet. Even the standard width should accommodate most wider feet just fine, although these boots are also available in wide sizing. The rubber toe cap offers good protection, too.
We found one major drawback, though: No matter how hard we tried to lace these boots snugly at the ankle, we couldn’t get them tight. Dirt and leaves entered the top of the boot easily via the space between the ankle and the boot, and when we took these boots off, our socks were visibly dirty (but dry, because the waterproofing worked just fine). That flaw set this Keen model just behind the Merrell pair in our budget-pick lineup, but it’s certainly not a bad pair of boots.
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid (in men’s and women’s): These boots had excellent traction, even over loose rocks. The lacing system locked our heels in place, too, and the tongue came up high enough to prevent dirt from entering. Multiple testers reported that the Lowa pair was slightly stiff out of the box and required a lot of breaking in, but others said they loved that it offered good ankle support for carrying heavy packs. In the end, these Lowa boots fell short in ventilation: Our feet were too warm in the hot summer weather because of the all-leather upper and insulated insoles. These boots are definitely more suitable for people living and hiking in cooler climates.
Arc’teryx Bora2 Mid GTX (in men’s and women’s): These are not your traditional hiking boots. They have no seams and no tongue. Instead, these all-synthetic boots consist of soft padded liner booties (winter options are also available online) that cover your foot and then slip into a harder rubber outer boot. Our testers liked how these Arc’teryx boots offered good stability, keeping their feet locked down on rocky trails. The boots were impressively comfortable, we were able to break them in quickly, and the lacing system was exceptional (well-made lace locks secured the laces more tightly than on any other boot we tested). The major drawbacks were the price (at the time, they were 25 percent more expensive than the other boots we tested) and the waterproofing system. The booties are meant to keep your feet dry—and they do—but the outer boot still fills with water while you’re crossing a creek, which produces the effect of walking in a water-filled bubble. Your feet will be dry, but if any water splashes over the top edges of the boots, both the outer boots and the inner booties will take more than a day to dry out.
Oboz Bridger BDry (in men’s and women’s): This Oboz model is a rugged-looking hiking boot with serious outsoles that provide excellent grip. All our testers reported feeling stable in this pair in even the slipperiest of conditions. However, every one of our testers also noted that these boots were too hot for midsummer hiking (likely due to the all-leather upper). In addition, I had a hard time keeping the laces tight, even after I employed a few different lacing techniques. Size-wise, we found that these boots ran small (most of our testers went up a half size), but because Oboz builds their last in a V-shape, the toe box is wider than the heel. This design will accommodate most foot shapes.
Danner Explorer 650 (in men’s and women’s): These old-school leather boots get serious style points (you may have seen them on Instagram), but they’re pretty basic when it comes to functionality. This Danner pair doesn’t offer any added toe or heel protection, and the lacing system is similar to that of your average high-top sneaker. These boots also rise quite high and snug on the ankle, a design that seems like it would be great for keeping out debris but actually caused discomfort and blistering for our testers. Our testers noted that the Danner boots kept their feet dry during wet hiking—but during our water tests, some of the water soaked into the boots rather than beading off.
Vasque Breeze III Mid GTX (in men’s and women’s): Online reviews rave about the 2.0 version of these boots, but we found the 3.0 version to be less than impressive. The fit ran slightly small, and one tester complained of blisters after 7 miles of hiking with a child carrier. The design has shifted slightly from the previous version, and from what we can tell, Vasque has downsized the toe cap and traded durability in favor of a more lightweight and breathable boot (this design adds mesh vents). However, another one of our testers complained that these boots were too hot for day hiking in California. This pair comes in both medium and wide sizing (as well as narrow for women). For considerably less money, though, our budget pick performs just as well for lighter hiking and is also available in varying widths.
Teva Arrowood Riva Mid Waterproof: These were the only men’s hiking boots to fail our water test. After only a few minutes of our wading through a creek, water leaked in around the toe and along the side of the boot (where the upper meets the sole). After almost 24 hours, the inside was still damp to the touch. Additionally, we found these boots to be overbuilt for a casual day hike along a groomed trail and underbuilt for a longer day trek with some backpack weight.
Ahnu by Teva Montara Waterproof: Teva recently bought Ahnu, a much-respected women’s brand. Teva has promised a redesign of this popular boot next year, but we found this model to be a bit less versatile than the other boots we tested. The full leather upper, combined with the fairly dated lacing system, left little room for personal fit adjustments. The boots also ran narrow for us, so if you have a high arch, this boot definitely isn’t for you. Plus, if you’re feeling pressure on your foot or experiencing heel slippage, changing your lacing technique won’t help in this case.