- Quick list
- Best all terrain shoes
- Best for day hikes
- Best four season shoe
- Best for demanding terrain
- Best for speed on technical trails
- Best for muddy conditions
- Best for fastpacking
- Best sneaker like shoe
- Best lightweight shoe
- Best for trail feel
- Best for summer hiking
- Best for stability
- Best for comfort
- Best budget shoe for mixed terrain
- Best value
- Comparison table
- How to choose
1. The quick list
2. Best all terrain shoes
3. Best for day hikes
4. Best four season shoe
5. Best for demanding terrain
6. Best for speed on technical trails
7. Best for muddy conditions
8. Best for fastpacking
9. Best sneaker-like shoe
10. Best lightweight shoe
11. Best for trail feel
12. Best for summer hiking
13. Best for stability
14. Best for comfort
15. Best budget shoe for mixed terrain
16. Best value
The best hiking shoes are a great option if you're venturing to warmer climes this winter, or simple want a lightweight option for your backcountry adventures.
Of course, lower cut footwear doesn't offer the same protection or warmth as the best hiking boots, but that doesn't make it a bad choice. Sometimes you just want a lighter shoe, or to enjoy the flexibility that comes when your ankles aren't encased in layers of padding.
Many of the best hiking shoes are stripped back versions of their hiking boot cousins, often with the same features, such as breathable uppers, waterproof technologies and grippy rubber soles. And ankle protection is a totally personal choice, so don't be swayed by anyone who insista that you need a boot at this time of year. If you prefer a pared back shoe there are certainly plenty of great options to choose from.
In this guide, we feature hiking shoes adept at taking on all types of terrain, pairs perfect for speed-hiking missions, our pick of the best sustainable options, the most comfortable hiking shoes, great shoes for fastpacking and the best budget options. We kick things off with the Helly Hansen Switchback Low Cut Trail HT, which we rate as the best all-rounder.
Meet the expert
You can trust Advnture
Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, Pat has spent 20 years pursuing stories involving boots, bikes, boats, beers and bruises. En route he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked through the Norwegian Alps, run an ultra across the roof of Mauritius, and set short-lived records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s Great Walks. Follow Pat’s escapades on Strava here and instagram here.
The quick list
The best all terrain shoe
These are an excellent choice for hikers looking for a three-season walking shoe. We found them lightweight and nimble, but also rugged enough to tackle most types of terrain, with an outsole that gives great traction and control in most conditions
The best for day hikes
We reckon these are an ideal shoe for day hikes, with an exceptional fit thanks to the Navic Fit lacing system and plenty of cushioning provided by the single density foam midsole. Their OutDry waterproofing make them a standout when the heavens open
The best four season shoe
The long lacing system of these shoes gives them something of the feel of a climbing show, and this definitely boosted our confidence when using them during a challenging via ferrata route. They're more flexible than a standard approach shoe, making them suitable for longer hikes too
The best for demanding terrain
These are a great choice for tricky routes, with extra protection around the toe box and heel and a tough DST plastic insert on each side of the midsole too. We tested them on a diverse range of trails in the low alpine region and they more than met the challenge
The best for speed on technical trails
Don't be fooled by its substantial appearance. This is a surprisingly lightweight shoe that our reviewer rated highly for its scrambling suitability. We also liked the dual lacing system, which provides a confidence-inspiring closer fit around the midfoot
The best for muddy conditions
If you are seeking stability on boggy ground then this is a shoe worth considering, thanks to its excellent Vibram outsole. We found it gripped well on gravel trails and fire roads and coped particularly well with mud. Weight is saved by the mesh upper, with water protection provided by a Gore-Tex membrane
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The best for fastpacking
This is a deceptive shoe, that reads more like a sneaker on steroids than a hiking boot. Look closer though and you'll find the wide lacing and anti-rock heel cup add extra stability and protection where they're most needed. However, we found the low profile lugs could get clogged in muddy conditions
The best sneaker-like hiking shoe
Comfortable Ortholite footbeds mean you won't need to break in these shoes, which are designed for fair weather day hikes rather than challenging conditions or technical terrain. We liked their breathability but will be saving them for sunny days
The best lightweight shoe
Sitting somewhere between a hiking shoe and a trail runner, this is a good choice for fast trails and day hikes, as it doesn't offer enough support for backpacking. We liked the modest 10mm drop, which should add to your sense of balance
The best for trail feel
An eco-conscious design, made from 90% recycled materials - mostly discarded plastic bottles. We found them extremely lightweight and easy to wear, and appreciated the 6mm lugs, which are grippy and don't collect mud easily
The best for summer hiking
A hiking shoe designed for backcountry strolls than technical expeditions. There's some modest reinforcement around the heel and toes, but not enough that we'd use them for scrambling. A generous amount of recycled materials have been used throughout
The best for stability
With three layers of removeable, breathable cushioning and chunky Vibram soles, we love how stable these shoes feel and wouldn't hesitate to hammer them on rough trails. Sock-style shoes can be a little tricky if you have high arches but the fit of these is fantastic once on
The best for comfort
These shoes provide excellent waterproofing at a very reasonable price and the grippy outsoles allow you to move nimbly too. We walked through a bog in them without any problems and found them generally sturdier than your average hiking shoe
The best budget shoe for mixed terrain
Despite their friendly price, these shoes are fully waterproof and offer good protection, thanks their supportive heel cup and reinforced toe cap. The ghillie lacing system provides a really secure hold and we found they coped equally well with hard-packed and muddy ground
The best value
On test we agreed with Decathlon that these are best suited to half day hikes, at up to 700 meters. The retro styling will definitely divide, but beyond looks there's some decent features, with stone-guard projection and a waterproof membrane. We'd have liked a little less cushioning to make the soles more responsive
The best all terrain shoes
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
Functional and fashionable footwear for day hiking, hill walking and hut-to-hut adventures across three seasons, on test we found these walking shoes are reasonably lightweight and nimble, while remaining rugged enough to deal with virtually all kinds of terrain, from sea-level trails to low alpine tracks. The low-cut Switchbacks are instantly comfortable to wear, thanks to the high-quality soft suede used in the construction of the upper. For better breathability and improved weight saving, the main leather chassis is interspersed with dense mesh fabric sections, and the whole upper is wrapped in a Hellytech waterproof membrane to keep rain and trail juice firmly on the outside.
The EVA midsole offers ample cushioning and the rubber outsole has a Hellygrip pattern featuring various shaped chevrons, lugs and ridges to supply an effective mixture of traction and control in most conditions. The tongue is integrated with the upper, to keep grit out, and there are four pairs of lace loops, plus an eyelet at the top, which facilitate a firm foot hold, complemented by a good secure heel cup, to keep your feet from moving around. There’s no surround rand, but the heel cup and toe bumper provide good protection in those crucial areas.
On test in muddy conditions we found the closely clustered lugs did accumulate dirt, as does the mesh on the upper, which is one downside. And you obviously need to be conscious that the low-cut design does not provide any ankle support, so the Switchbacks are best suited to daylong adventures rather than multiday escapades with a heavy pack. But used correctly, they’re a really solid choice for hikers looking for a three-season walking shoe. Built to last, they’re also excellent value.
The best for day hikes
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
We found that the Peakfreak IIs really shine on long, fast day hikes over a range of terrain types, regardless of whether it’s raining buckets, or the trails are sweltering in the sun. Their exceptional fit makes them feel like an extension of the foot, while the cushioning is enough to be comfortable while still allowing you to respond to the terrain beneath your feet. It’s difficult to pick fault when it comes to the day hiking application they were designed for – they’re simply very good hiking shoes.
While Columbia’s original Peakfreaks had a subtle, leathery kind of charm, the IIs are a little more ostentatious, with their colorful (unless you choose the ‘Black, Shark’ option) sneaker like appearance. Leather has made way for a seamless mesh upper enhanced with Columbia’s renowned OutDry waterproofing technology. This all gives the Peakfreak IIs a stylish and modern appearance that’s just as at home in the bar afterwards as it is on the trails.
On test, they were wonderfully comfortable straight out of the box. A single density foam midsole gives ample cushioning, just enough to provide comfort while still allowing the foot to respond to the terrain. Then you’ve got the Navic Fit lacing system, which locks the midfoot down, holding everything securely in place.
The best four season shoe
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
With a luxuriously soft suede upper backed by a Gore-Tex membrane that supplies breathable waterproof protection, these hiking shoes from the Italian mountain and outdoor footwear artisans Zamberlan are an excellent 4-season choice for all kinds of trail adventures, including approach missions, scrambling escapades and via ferrata forays.
Comfortable straight out of the box, the Hike Lite is more flexible and less rigid than a typical approach shoe, which makes it more comfortable for longer hikes, but it does feature a long lace system, more akin to a climbing shoe than a typical hiking hoof, and this adds to the confidence-inspiring close-fit feel. This shoe boasts an EVA midsole that supplies a good degree of cushioning, plus a top-quality Vibram outsole.
The lugs aren’t especially aggressive, but during testing on a range of rocks, various types of trails and a long via ferrata experience, we found that these shoes supplied impressive levels of grip combined with a good amount of feedback from the terrain being tackled.
Read our full Zamberlan Hike Lite GTX RR review