All products and services featured are independently chosen by editors. However, FN may receive a commission on orders placed through its retail links, and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.
A stout, dependable hiking boot is your ticket to the wilderness. Whether you’re approaching an alpine climb or whitewater run, packing into the backcountry for a two-week trip, or merely out for a day hike with the wife and kids at your local state park, having a pair of solid hiking boots is the first step in almost any outdoor endeavor.
Simply put, you aren’t going to get far without the right pair of hiking boots. This probably explains why hiking shoe sales are skyrocketing right now, as more folks experience the outdoors than ever before.
While hiking boots can vary widely in price, generally, they’re a piece of outdoor gear that can last quite a long time. (As a full-time mountain and adventure travel journalist, I’ve put over 1,000 hard alpine miles on my current boots, and they’re still in great shape.) The moral of the story here is that if you plan to spend a lot of time on the trail, don’t shy away from a slightly more expensive pair simply to save cash. A durable, high-quality boot is a solid investment.
The Different Types of Hiking Boots for Men
The main divisions between hiking boots relate to how sturdy the boot is and how high above the ankle it stretches. There are three main classes of hiking boots, outlined below.
1. Hiking Shoes
Hiking shoes run below the ankle and typically feature flexible midsoles and lighter builds. These shoes are a great option for day hikes, particularly on mellow, well-tracked terrain. If you’re carrying an overnight pack, you probably want something that hits above the ankle for more support. However, many experienced backpackers prefer to go backpacking in hiking shoes, or even rugged trail running shoes.
Hybrids are a blend between backpacking boots and the hiking shoes we discussed above. They may sit just above the ankle, but don’t offer the firm ankle support that true backpacking boots do. These boots will flex well and be easier to break in, but don’t have the same support or durability in their internal frame that standard hiking boots offer. They’re a great option for day hikes and short backpacking trips with light loads. Hybrid shoes are also generally quite breathable, so many choose to use hybrids on summer hiking trips.
3. Backpacking Boots
Backpacking boots are probably what you think of when you think of hiking boots. Rugged and above-the-ankle, these boots feature stout midsoles and uppers that provide support for carrying heavy loads over rough terrain on multi-day trips. That said, many backpacking boots work great for day hikes as well. For cold weather hiking, even during day trips, backpacking boots are a great choice — simply because their sturdier, bulkier build means they’re almost always warmer than hybrids or hiking shoes.
How to Find the Best Men’s Hiking Boots for Your Needs
What you’re looking for in your hiking boots really depends on what purpose you want them to fulfill. Like we discussed above, there’s a variety of hiking boots to fit various outdoor missions.
Here are the main components of a hiking boot:
- Upper: The material used to construct the boot upper will play a role in the boot’s weight, water resistance, overall durability and breathability. Many hiking boots are constructed with leather uppers, whether full-grain, split-grain or nubuck. Synthetics, like polyester and nylon, are also common upper materials, while many styles employ waterproof membranes like Gore-Tex. Each material has its tradeoffs. Full-grain leather is more durable but less breathable than synthetics, for example.
- Midsole: The shoe midsole provides support and cushion for the bottom of your foot. If you’re hiking on scree or talus, for example, you’ll want a stiffer midsole to absorb the impact. Most midsoles are either EVA or polyurethane. The former is lighter, cushier and cheaper, while polyurethane is typically a bit more stout and is a common midsole material for backpacking boots.
- Outsole: The outsole is what comes into contact with the trail, so it needs to be rugged and provide adequate grip. Almost all boot outsoles use rubber, though additives like carbon are often added to backpacking boots to make the outsole more firm and durable. Hiking boots also incorporate lugs (small bumps and ridges) on the outsole to provide traction. Thicker, deeper lugs are used on backpacking boots, while hiking shoes will have thinner, smaller lugs. If you’re planning on doing a lot of alpine scrambling or hiking over talus and scree, then a tacky rubber outsole will come in handy. For wetter, muddier terrain, widely-spaced lugs can help shed mud easier.
- Internal Structure: The internal structure of your boot is one of the most important aspects. Some styles, like hiking shoes, will feature minimal internal support. Backpacking boots should have sturdy internal support to keep your ankle secure when packing heavy loads on uneven terrain. Inserts like plates and shanks are commonly found in backpacking boots to help keep your foot secure in your shoe.
In addition to the above features, if you’re looking at snow hiking or mountaineering, crampon and microspike compatibility is another factor to consider.
Ahead, shop the best hiking boots for men — many of which this author has personally tested — from respected brands like Merrell, Timberland, Hoka One One and more.
Merrell Moab Speed Hiking Shoes
Best Men’s Hiking Shoe for Warm Weather
At $120, the Moab Speed from Merrell is a stellar budget option, but it’s a high-quality hiking shoe, too. This lightweight shoe features an ultra-breathable mesh and TPU upper coupled with a 100% mesh lining. A toe cap and rock plate offer solid rock protection, while an EVA foam insole with a 50% recycled top sheet provides eco-friendly internal comfort you can feel proud of. The Vibram outsole sports tacky 4mm lugs, great for scrambling moderate terrain. For fast-moving, warm-weather missions, the Merrell Moab Speed is an affordable and reliable choice.
Arc’teryx Aerios FL Hiking Shoes
Best for Technical Hikes and Scrambles
I appreciate my Aerios FL’s Vibram Megagrip outsole when scrambling on techy terrain, but the minimalist build makes it a stellar lightweight hiking shoe across the board. An integrated TPU shank provides decent support, while the outsole is breathable enough for warm weather hiking. I’ve taken this shoe on several Class IV scrambles in the Colorado Rockies, and it performs almost as well as an approach shoe but is much more comfortable when it comes to longer day hikes in the 20-mile range.
Timberland Garrison Trail Boots
Most Stylish Trail Boot
If you’re looking to add a little swag to your trail attire, the leather Timberland Garrison Trail boots are a great way to do that without compromising on quality or functionality. Made with ReBOTL recycled material (which contains at least 50% recycled PET), and built with leather sourced from a tannery rated Gold or Silver for environmental responsibility by the Leather Working Group, these boots are also eco-friendly. The Timberland Garrison Trails are sure to turn a few heads when you bust ‘em out in the backcountry.
Salomon Quest 4 Hiking Boots
Best Day Hike/Backpacker Hybrid Boots
The Salomon Quest 4 provides a high level of foot protection and support with a sturdy build thanks to the innovative ADV-C 4D Chassis. This is a supportive shoe that still allows you to move fast, and it was inspired by Salomon’s trail running expertise. According to Salomon’s website, the Quest…
Read More:The 20 Best Hiking Boots for Men to Wear on Any Outdoor Adventure