If You are doing Street Photography, the chance might have been high that if You asked for gear advice, the answer would have been “invest in good shoes”. Since I was traveling, the choice of shoes became a little bit more important and I didn’t want to walk for hours on a mountain in Indonesia, potentially destroying my normal shoes and even injuring my feet. Therefore, I spent some time investigating to find the best hiking shoes for my trip. With the right set of hiking shoes, You will feel more save while photographing which will also result in more motivation and fun. While being less tired, You will overall enjoy the hikes much more and the photography results will also be a lot better.
In the following, I want to present the best hiking shoes that You should take for Your next travel and photography trip. There are all sorts of different boots for hiking, from light-weight shoes to full duty hiking boots. Whatever Your goal is, I will present You all kind of different hiking boots and You can choose which fit You the best.
The Best Hiking Shoes
The list is divided into lightweight hiking shoes and the heavyweight hiking boots. Depending on the difficulty, length, and requirements of the hiking shoes, You can decide which will work best for You.
Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes
You don’t need the full ankle support, or heavy boots when You are just looking to hike on some relatively easy trails. Lightweight Hiking Shoes are improving steadily and are also more suitable now for even heavier use.
Merrell Moab 2 Hiking Shoe
The original Merrel Moab Hiking Shoe was released more than 10 years ago. Becoming one of the most popular hiking shoes of its kind, there is a lot of pressure on the newest version to perform equally well.
The foundation of the success of its predecessor was a great comfort. Although the overall comfort level was already quite high, there was still some room for improvement. In the all-new Merrel Moab 2, there is a huge step forward when it comes to the level of comfort.
The footbed is now supportive and does follow the natural arch of Your food, which does add a lot to the comfort level. In addition to the improved footbed, there is quite a lot of cushioning that supports the underfoot. With this combination, the Merrel Moab 2 is fit for longer trails.
The shoe is also available in a lot of different variants, for example with different width, or ventilation and also in a non-waterproof style.
The Merrel Moab 2 is not designed for a maximum of stability. Which isn’t a bad thing, if You are only in lighter terrain and actually value the flexibility and comfort more which the shoe is focused on.
If You plan to carry a backpack full of photography gear, the boot might not be the best choice, as the added weight might cause some problems. In case You are traveling light and don’t have much weight on Your shoulders, then the flexibility of the shoe might come in more handy.
There are probably quite a few people still out there using the 2006 version. This describes the durability of the new Merrel Moab 2 best. There might be a few scrapes on the surface, but the structure of the shoe stays intact. Even for heavier use, the shoe should hold up quite nicely.Check the current Price
Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX Shoe
Adidas is not only in the market for lighter sneakers or sportswear, but also getting more serious when it comes to hiking shoes. The Adidas shoe is one of the less flexible shoes and keeps its shape even for a long time of use. Together with a fine design and availability in different colors, Adidas really created a hiking shoe that is not only stylish but highly functional.
The shoe is not exactly flexible and is more designed to have a protective feeling. Following this principle doesn’t create the most comfortable shoe. If You are having problems and feel that the form doesn’t really fit Your foot shape, then it won’t get better over time. On the other hand, if You are trying on the shoe and it does fit very well, the added protection can benefit You and the experience will remain very well over its use.
Although the Swift R2 GTX is a low-cut shoe, the focus is still on a good protection and stability. What it loses in comfort it adds up in protection and support. It is a good fit for more challenging terrain but does give the freedom of a low-cut shoe.
The hiking shoe by Adidas is on the lighter side, but that doesn’t subtract anything from the durability. Due to its stability-focused design, the shoe offers a great protection and does very well in more challenging terrain. It might not be the comfiest shoe, but it will definitely hold up a lot longer, than other shoes, that are more designed for flexibility. So if You are a regular hiker and need a hiking shoe that can take some amount of punch and the form is comfortable for You, then the Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX is the ideal choice for You.Check the current Price
La Sportiva TX4
You can already spot on first sight that the La Sportiva TX4 is kind of unconventional and doesn’t follow the traditional direction of hiking shoes. With its splurge of rubber areas, the shoe is made not only for hikes, but also some climbing. It does have a fantastic grip but is offset by a faster wear and tear.
The flexible design of the shoe does allow for some of the comfiest shoes that You can buy for hiking. The Vibram sole does provide a lot of grip and while climbing, the shoe will not feel like a bulky hiking shoe, but more like a light-weight trail shoe. The shoe doesn’t have any ankle support and to make up for that, the shoe has a wider sole, which is great for the overall comfort.
Comparing this shoe to other hiking shoes is quite difficult in regards to the stability. La Sportiva comes not with a lot of support mechanisms and is designed for maximal flexibility. On slippery ground and not very rough terrain, the shoe does great. You can very smoothly surpass smooth rocks and don’t have to worry to lose Your foothold. In mud or rough terrain, the shoe isn’t a great fit though.
A good portion of the shoe is made out of rubber and a general very thin mesh. While the rubber does hold very well and only can come short in very small areas, the mesh does suffer under heavy usage. If You aim to take this shoe to a hard test and plan to climb narrow cracks and rub the mesh against the rocks, then it does wear very fast. In case You simply need a very comfortable shoe and are walking a lot on slippery grounds, then the La Sportiva TX4 is made for this surface.Check the current Price
Oboz Sawtooth Low Bdry
The Oboz Sawtooth Low Bdry isn’t exactly one of the lightest hiking shoes out there. It is definitely made for some rougher terrain and more serious hikers. Designed as a mid-cut hiking shoe, it does offer great stability and traction. Although the shoe is on the heavier side, there is a great focus on offering a good breathability.
It doesn’t may look like it on first sight, but the shoe is despite its heavier design quite comfortable. The heel is 3D molded and is on the most up-today standards of design. For some added comfort, the dual-density EVA does offer some cushioning in the midsole.
The name of the “Sawtooth” does derive from its unique sole design. You can see, the rubber does alternate with the normal sole. This offers a great grip, especially when You are walking on wet ground, the liquid has room to withdraw. The Nubuck leather does also provide a good protection and stability all around.
Nubuck leather in combination with the other textile that is built for longevity makes a heavier shoe, which resists the usual wear and tear. The material and design ensure that You will enjoy the shoe for a long time, even when You are a very regular hiker and decide to take the durability to its test, the shoe will hold true to its promise. Being a little heavier than other shoes, the weight does prove as beneficial when You are searching for a hiking shoe that can withstand greater stress.Check the current Price
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX Low Rise Hiking Boots
Slow and steady doesn’t always win the race. Recently, there has been a trend to cover as much distance as possible while being on a hike. Fast hiking does allow You to see different areas and doesn’t confine You to certain places. The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX is exactly made for this group of hikers. With a low-cut design and Vibram rubber on its sole, the shoe is made for fastpackers that want to move quickly.
The focus of this hiking shoe is to be light and quick. But that doesn’t mean that they left out any of the comfy features. The Hedgehog still comes with a lot of cushioning and is surprisingly comfortable. For the best waterproof ability, North Face integrates the Gore-Tex fabric which is a great choice for a waterproof membrane. It is not only highly functional but is very comfortable. The insole does provide very little support to the foot arch, which You might get used to at first.
When it comes to the stability and grip of this hiking shoe, North Face does integrate a Vibram rubber outsole. This sole does provide a great grip and will help You to move very fast in most terrains. There is also a lot of focus placed on the midsole and with a dual-density compression-molded EVA Cradle Guide, the midsoles do support a very hiking pace.
Rubber is not always a great choice when it comes to the durability. It does wear down rather quickly when in heavy use. However, the Vibram rubber soles are quite sturdy and are made to resist a long distance. The shoe is made out of a mix of leather and tightly woven mesh, which has been proven to work great for hiking shoes. Overall, the shoe does support Your desire to hike more quickly with its rubber sole. It isn’t made for the roughest locations, but it does hold up very well on most trails.Check the current Price
Best Hiking Boots
Now let’s go to the big boots, that are able to carry You for a great distance and will also stay comfortable under the most intimidating conditions. If You plan a travel where You will walk a lot through wet grass, or have to traverse shallow water, then low-cut Hiking shoes won’t help You much. For these challenges, You are far better off with higher hiking boots that cover Your ankle. They are also more suitable for colder weather and will keep You warm when going the distance. Here are five Hiking Boots that You should consider buying if You want a maximum of comfort, protection, and insulation.
Salomon Quest 4d 3 GTX
The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX is the third iteration of the popular Salomon Quest 4D. Continuing the high quality of this hiking boot, the new version is a strong performer again. The grip is excellent, the comfort has been improved with a new and improved flexible foundation and the boot can endure a lot of stress. In terms of weight, there isn’t any improvement and the boot stays in the more heavier section, taking into consideration that there are a lot of other improvements, that is pretty okay.
After buying, the boot may appear a bit stiff and it is true that You need to spend some time in it to get to the maximum comfort level. Moving on from the first few steps is a real pleasure though. There is a lot of padding, the lacing system keeps everything tight around the foot, without limiting Your flexibility. The rubber of the outsole has been improved and does not also offer a better grip, but does give a better feedback when walking and overall just feels better. In terms of comfort, this boot is one of the best available.
The reason to buy a Salomon Quest 4D 3 is mainly its high ankle support. Even in the hiking boot category, there are not a lot of boots, that gives such a high support like the Salomon Quest 4D. Given the nature of the boot, it is often desired that the boot is a little more stiff to give a better stability. The third version of this boot does a great job of offering just enough stiffness, without feeling like the movement or flexibility is limited.
Long trails and hikes demand a lot from this boot. However, the Salomon Quest 4D 3 is no fraught and does keep its promises. The toe cap will keep Your foot safe even though the boot might look a little bit used in the front. Additionally, the leather and textile mix is a great combo that will last You for many difficult trails. Apart from some minor optical scratches, the function of the boot will remain intact.Check the current Price
Lowa Renegade GTX
The Lowa Renegade can be compared to the Salomon Quest 4D 3. In comparison, the Renegade proves to be a bit lighter, while still having a good performance. Stability wise, the Renegade does save its weight by switching to a polyurethane frame. Overall, the lightweight comes at the cost of long-term durability and the boot is not really made for heavy users that plan on putting on a good mileage.
While other hiking boots of this size need some time to really be comfortable, the renegade can be taking on a trail pretty much right away. The lighter frame means that the boot is a little more flexible and the soles are one of the best You can experience. Even with a heavy backpack, the sole does a great job and supports the weight very well. If You take a break, You can quickly loosen the laces and the boot will feel like Your comfiest sneaker.
The Lowa Renegade is not the stiffest boot that You can purchase. It is a great mix of flexibility and stability. Therefore the boot isn’t made for the most difficult trails, where You absolutely need a high ankle support, but if You need more support than compared to the low-cut hiking boots, then the Renegade is a great improvement. For most hikes, the stability will be absolutely adequate, while proving to be very comfortable.
If You are just doing a few shorter but challenging hikes per year, the Renegade will keep You company for a long time. However, if You are a very serious hiker, the rubber on the front of the shoe can cause some issues and might lose its stability over time. The rubber on the sole and the rest of the shoe are very sturdy and don’t pose any problem. In case You notice any problems on the front of the shoe, You should take some precautions and the boot will stay in a good condition for longer.Check the current Price
SCARPA Zodiac Plus GTX
Similar to the Renegade, the Zodiac Plus is a great lightweight shoe that is ideal for not too challenging terrain, but for surfaces where You feel safer with a high-ankle boot, rather than a low-cut hiking shoe. It does very well even for full-day hikes and heavy backpacks. It does very well in all regards and if You are searching for an all-around great hiking boot, the Zodiac Plus does have it all.
In terms of comfort, the Zodiac Plus is very much on par with the Renegade. The boot provides a good combination of stiffness while being flexible enough to support the natural form of Your foot. Going downhill, the boot does a good job in keeping a tight grip. The lacing of the Zodiac Plus is arranged very neatly and doesn’t possess any risk of constriction.
The midsole of the Zodiac does feature different kinds of synthetic material. The combination of EVA and PU achieves a great balance between the stiffness and flexibility. It is absolutely no problem to carry a lot of weight with this hiking boot and You shouldn’t be worried of losing Your grip.
In contrast to the Renegade, the Zodiac Plus is a lot better manufactured and the materials used seem to do better under heavy strain. The leather may look used after a few days in the wild, but that doesn’t take anything away from the great quality of this boot. I am confident, that these boots will last a lot longer than the Renegade and therefore are more suitable for hikers of You that plan to go on many trips and need a light, but sturdy boot.Check the current Price
KEEN Targhee III Mid Leather
The Keen Targhee III Mid Leather is one of the most affordable hiking boots and does cost less than $150, which is a great deal for such a mid-cut boot. That doesn’t mean that the quality is lower than the other shoes that are on this list. The stability and support might not hold up against a Renegade hiking boot, but if You are searching for a very light mid-cut hiking boot, then the Targhee III should be Your favorite.
The strongest selling point of this hiking boot is its great comfort. Taking the boot straight out of the box and on the trail, the boot feels good from the start. The cushioning does work very well and if You are staying on the path for the trail, the shoe does show its full strength. For those hikers with wider feet, the form of the Keen Targhee III should be also very convenient for You. On the other hand, if You have rather small or narrow feet, this boot might leave too much space on the sides.
With the priority being on the lightweight and a great comfort, the stability definitely does fall short. The boot is not made for challenging trails and it can feel a little unstable walking under very rough conditions. If You want a boot that feels absolutely safe, then You should look for other options on this list. The Renegade for example or the Salomon Quest 4D do a far better job but are also a little bulkier. Carrying heavy backpacks is not a problem for this boot and the added weight is compensated very well.
Although being on a tighter budget and being priced lower than most other boots, the Targhee III can withstand hikes for a very long time. Given the nature of the boot, You won’t take very hard challenges anyway, but the leather and rubber combination is very well manufactured and will guarantee a lot of joy for You on normal hikes.Check the current Price
Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
Merrell is a very experienced company when it comes to the best hiking boots. The Merrell Moab 2 is no different. I introduced already the low-cut design version of this boot and if You are looking for a model with a little more ankle support and stability, then You the Moab 2 Mid might be the better choice for You. With a price of far below $150, it is also a great budget option.
Merrell does keep a cohesive philosophy concerning the design of their shoes. If You have a different shoe from Merrel, then You will already appreciate the great comfort they offer. Their Mid-Cut hiking is no different. The cushioning has improved and the sole does a better support to Your foot. Overall, the shoe is very light, which does emphasize the comfort even more.
The stability isn’t really given and it is advised to take the boot, not on very rough trails where You need a higher ankle support. While the grip might be still alright for a normal hiking and the higher arch support does provide more security, it isn’t really fit for anything challenging. Being loaded with weight is still not a problem for this shoe though.
This time, the price does reflect in the long-term durability of the boot. For far under $130 the shoe is manufactured quite nicely, but it does show that the material is not really the most durable one. Under heavy usage, the boot will wear down rather quickly. In case You plan to just do some occasional hikes, then this boot might still be good for You. Despite the lack of really high-end material that is focused on durability, the comfort is on a very high level and the stability is alright under the assumption that You are doing average hikes and don’t plan to conquer off the path terrain.Check the current Price
Different Hikes and the Boots You need
The listed hiking boots and shoes do cover a lot of different areas. From lightweight hiking boots, that are great for a short walk in the woods, to models, which whom You can conquer even the most difficult trails.
Which shoes You need depends on the kind of hiking You are looking forward to. Here are three typical hikes and the suitable footwear.
Are You living in an area where You can go spontaneously on hikes or aren’t driving very far? Day Hikes are great on the weekend to leave the stressful everyday life and spent some moments in nature. During the hikes, You can relax perfectly, spent some time near a lake and be physically active.
Usually, these hikes are not the most difficult one and are more a leisure activity, than a serious sport. If You are seeking to just relax and have a good time, then lightweight hiking shoes are ideal for these types of hikes.
If You are walking on public trails, low-cut hiking shoes do very well for You. Should You live in an area where rain is to be expected or You have to walk through shallow water, then high-cut boots are a better fit for You.
For such easy hikes, the Merrel Moab shoes and boots are recommended.
Now we are getting a bit more serious and for a weekend hike, You need boots or shoes that are comfortable throughout the weekend. Additionally, the material shouldn’t show any signs of wear and tear during the weekend hike other than superficial signs on the surface.
When You are walking for a longer time, the stability becomes increasingly important. The path might not always be easy and can request You to put some physical effort in the hike. The increased difficulty can lead to a rapid fatigue which can increase the risk of injuries.
If You are not a very experienced hiker, then a high-cut boot that also covers the ankles and offers a little more stability would be a better fit for You.
Are You an adventurer that searches for the toughest challenges? Do You want to go off the path and explore the nature Yourself and conquer even difficult mountain trails?
Then high-cut hiking boots are recommended if You are looking for an adventure apart from the trails. High-Cut boots are very comfortable, giving You a good stability and also protect You from the water.
Even in warm weather, the boots are holding up very well and allow for a good airflow. Newest technologies and materials allow even the boots to be waterproof and being able to breathe.
Most hiking boots are nowadays waterproof. Newest materials are able to withstand water and keeping Your feet dry while not being overly warm or uncomfortable. A lot of boots already have the label “GTX” in their name.
This means that they are using the waterproof membrane by Gore-Tex. They promise that Your feet will stay dry when walking through a shallow stream, or mud. But how good is the Gore-Tex membrane really?
Gore-Tex has tested their own products and here You can read how well they do even in the most absurd situations.
The technology does keep Your feet dry in most situations. Be aware though, that Your ankles can give water the opportunity to enter the shoe. If You find Yourself often in situations where You have to walk through undergrowth then a boot is a better choice than a shoe. With tight laces, You can prevent water from entering and stay dry.
Although having waterproof boots sounds like a nice feature, the question is if You always need them. Are You living in an area that is very arid, then waterproof boots might be an overkill and a feature that is not necessary?
After all, the waterproof membrane does limit the breathability slightly and if You don’t need such a membrane it is better to just avoid those shoes and buying hiking boots that don’t come with a waterproof membrane.
My recommendation would be that You only buy waterproof boots if You really need them. In mountains where the weather can change quickly and You are not prepared for rain, having waterproof boots can be a blessing.
On the other hand, if You are buying non-waterproof boots, You still have the options to either protect Your boots with some coatings or wearing some waterproof socks.
One obstruction that can lessen the joy of hiking is water entering the boot. Another one is the boot limiting the feet to breathe and let enough air into the shoe for some ventilation. Going on a hike is a highly physical activity and without enough room to breath for Your feet, they will get sweaty very quickly. This is not only uncomfortable but can increase the risk to catch a cold.
As already stated in the paragraph above, waterproofing systems do limit the ventilation of the boot. They don’t allow direct intake of air and are surrounded by a special membrane. Although modern materials used by the Gore-Tex membrane are already a huge step forward, they still aren’t perfect.
Heavy leather, which does provide a lot of stability isn’t exactly the best choice for a hiking boot that offers great room for breathing either.
If You are putting on long distances in warm weather and are afraid that Your feet will be sweaty very quickly, then You should look out for models that abstain from using too much leather and rather use the modern lightweight material.
Enjoying the Hike
Finding the perfect boot is not always easy. Often times the hiking shoes will feel different after having a longer walk, compared to their initial form after taking them out of the box. I wouldn’t recommend to buy hiking boots and taking them straight to test by planning a longer trip with them.
Rather test them a few times before, or simply wear them during Your everyday life to get a good feeling for them.
With these tips, You should be able to buy the perfect hiking boots and combine the joy of photography and being in nature.