The best hiking shoes 2024: trail-friendly shoes for all seasons

Collage of the best hiking shoes
(Image credit: Future)

The best hiking shoes are a great option if you're hiking in warmer climes, 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 insist 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.

The quick list

The best all terrain shoes

Person's feet wearing Helly Hansen Switchback low-cut Trail HT hiking shoes

Low-cut leather hiking shoes for day hikes and trail-based adventures in almost all conditions  (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Best all-terrain hiking shoes

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men's / women's
Weight (per shoe, size 11): 448g
Materials: Leather and polyester upper; EVA insole; rubber outsole
Compatibility: Day hiking, multiday hut-to-hut trekking and light backpacking

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable out of the box
+
Good waterproofing and breathability
+
Recycled polyester and responsibly-sourced suede used

Reasons to avoid

-
Mud may build up on lugs due to close pattern
-
Animal products used - not suitable for vegetarians

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.

Read our full Helly Hansen Switchback Trail Low-Cut Helly Tech hiking boots review

The best for day hikes

Person walking wearing Columbia Peakfreak II Outdry Waterproof hiking shoe

The Peakfreak II is a hiking shoe that feels like an extension of your foot, and is comfortable right out of the box (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)
Best for day hikes

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men’s / women’s
Weight (per shoe): 406g / 14.3oz
Materials: Polyester upper and lining; PU footbed; POE midsole; rubber outsole
Compatibility: Hill and mountain day hikes, as well as approach routes up to low alpine

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic fit
+
Impressive waterproofing
+
Good reinforcement

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively heavy
-
Not a true 4 season shoe

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.

Read our full Columbia Peakfreak II Outdry Waterproof Walking Shoe review

The best four season shoe

Person's foot wearing Zamberlan Hike Lite GTX RR hiking shoe

We tested the Zamberlan Hike Lite GTX RR hiking shoes on via ferrata routes in the Tyrols, and even ascending to the top of the Harauer Spitze (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Best four season shoe

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men’s / women’s
Weight (per shoe): Men’s: 385g / 13.5oz; Women’s: 340g /12oz
Materials: Hydrobloc suede upper; Gore-Tex lining; EVA wedge midsole; Vibram Pillow outsole
Compatability: Hill walking, hiking, trekking, approach, scrambling, via ferrata

Reasons to buy

+
Comfortable out of the box
+
Premium materials
+
Versatile - can be used for scrambling

Reasons to avoid

-
Includes animal products
-
Some scramblers may prefer a more rigid shoe
-
No recycled content

 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

The best for demanding terrain

Scarpa Rush Trail GTX hiking shoes on log

The Scarpa Rush Trail GTX gives confidence on the most technical trails (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Best for demanding terrain

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men’s / women’s
Weight (per shoe): Men’s: 455g / 16oz; Women’s: 430g / 15oz
Materials: Suede + mesh upper with a Gore-Tex lining; TPU midsole; Presa outsole
Compatibility: Hill and fell walking, and approach routes up to low alpine

Reasons to buy

+
Secure fit inspires confidence
+
Should grip well on slippery ground
+
Long lasting

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively expensive
-
Suede requires maintenance

Essentially the low-cut version of Scarpa’s Rush Trail GTX hiking boot, this premium walking shoe has a handsome and functional design, and on test we found it was more than capable of taking on a diverse range of trails into the low alpine region, and beyond in good conditions. The suede upper is sumptuously soft and immediately comfortable straight out of the box. 

The Rush boasts both extra ankle padding and an ‘Autofit’ collar, which improves the connection between foot and shoe, reduces stress and improves comfort levels. The tongue is fully integrated (keeping out trail debris) and the lace system is super sturdy, further enabling a firm and secure fit, and providing excellent confidence on even the most technical trails. Suede offers a degree of water resistance, but these shoes also have a Gore-Tex membrane to complete the weather protection. There’s extra protection around the toe box and heel and a really robust DST plastic insert on each side of the midsole, where the heel runs into the midfoot, acts as another shield. 

There is a reasonable amount of rigidity across the length of the shoe, enough to make it a good performer on more technical trails where rock edging is required, but not so much that it feels too stiff on less demanding terrain. There’s a good amount of cushioning in the midsole, which cuts out any real trail feedback, but will serve you well over longer distances. The Presa outsole offers excellent grip, and these are among the best all-terrain walking shoes you will find.

Read our full Scarpa Rush Trail GTX review here

The best for speed on technical trails

Man's foot wearing AKU Rocket DFS GTX hiking shoe

The AKU Rocket DFS GTX is surprisingly light, and feels comfortable and nimble on the trails (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)
Best for speed on technical trails

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men's / women's
Weight (per shoe): 370g / 13oz
Materials: Fiber fabric and microfiber upper; Gore-Tex lining; double density PU midsole; Vibram Megagrip outsole with Vibram Rocket Traction lugs
Compatibility: Speed hiking and low-grade scrambles come rain or shine

Reasons to buy

+
Good waterproofing
+
Secondary lacing system for a close fit
+
Superb traction

Reasons to avoid

-
Higher list price than Scarpa Rush Trail GTX

Boasting ironclad traction, lightweight materials, waterproofing courtesy of GORE-TEX and a clever dual lacing system, AKU's Rocket DFS GTX aims to launch above the rest of the hiking shoe competition and into the stratosphere – or perhaps more accurately to a mountain summit near you.

The Rockets make use of AKU’s Dual Fit System (the DFS in the name). This is an extra set of laces, reminiscent of Salomon’s Quicklace System, that can be used to tighten things up around the midfoot for increased precision on technical terrain. On test, we found them to be very capable scramblers indeed. They also look heavier than they are, their technical boot-like appearance belying the fact they weight less than many light hiking shoes. Once on, we found them to be comfortable and nimble on the trails.

Vibram Megagrip technology is present to ensure traction on a variety of terrain types, whether its bone dry underfoot or dripping wet. The Rockets also use deep ‘Traction Lugs’ that boast micro-lug shaped elements to increase the amount of rubber in contact with the ground at any one time.

All in all, the Rocket is a very capable fast-hiking shoe that’s surprisingly light given its technical aesthetics.

Read our full AKU Rocket DFS GTX review

The best for muddy conditions

Merrell MQM 3 GTX hiking shoe on stone bench

The Merrell MQM 3 GTX is reassuringly stable, and can even handle some occasional running (Image credit: Jonathan Manning)
Best for muddy conditions

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men’s / women’s
Weight (per shoe): Men’s: 640g / 1lb 7oz; Women’s: 542g / 1lb 3oz
Materials: Gore-Tex membrane; Breathable mesh and TPU upper; 100% recycled laces and webbing; Merrell Air Cushion heel; EVA foam footbed; Vibram TC5+ outsole
Compatibility: Hiking and trekking in all kids of conditions

Reasons to buy

+
Grippy Vibram sole
+
Contains recycled materials
+
Lightweight at 640g per shoe

Reasons to avoid

-
Narrow to medium fit won't suit everyone

Built on the platform of an excellent Vibram sole, with a stiff shank to help with stability on uneven ground, the Merrell MQM 3 GTX has a mesh upper, saving considerable weight compared to nubuck and leather walking shoes. This upper also allows for a more contemporary look, which is handy if you only want to take one pair of shoes on a hiking holiday or like to head into town straight after a walk, with a choice of black, grey, blue and bright orange colours. The shoes are lined with a Gore-Tex membrane to keep water out and we found they also provided a good degree of breathability for sweaty feet. However, if you step in a puddle that’s too deep, the water will squelch around inside the shoe until you pour it out.

Arguably the most impressive element of the MQM 3 is the Vibram sole, made exclusively for Merrell. It grips well on gravel trails and fire roads and on test it coped admirably with mud, expelling it from its 5mm lugs to maintain a decent foothold in gloopy conditions.

Merrell suggests that the MQM 3 is agile enough to run in, but the rigid shank that runs through the shoe and stops it bending like a plimsoll, means it’s far from ideal for jogging. The thick, cushioned sole unit also denies the shoe the same feel for the ground delivered by supple trail running shoes. On the plus side, this cushioning offers good protection against pebbles and stones, while the stiff shank (reinforced with a rockplate) keeps the shoe reassuringly stable on broken terrain, even when carrying a heavy pack. The Gore-Tex membrane provides effective waterproof protection, while the billows that run down either side of the tongue stop annoying grit and sand getting into the shoe.

Read our full Merrell MQM 3 GTX review

The best for fastpacking

Salewa Dropline GTX hiking shoe on log

The Salewa Dropline GTX has a beefy toe claw for confidence climbing and braking (Image credit: SportsShoes)
Best for fastpacking

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men's / women's
Weight (per shoe): 294g / 10.4oz
Materials: Exa Shell Over Injected 3D Cage upper with Stretchable Air Mesh and Tpu film; Gore-Tex waterproof lining; Ortholite footbed; EVA midsole; Pomoca Dropline outsole
Compatibility: Backpacking, thru hiking, fast packing, general walking

Reasons to buy

+
Rocker shaped sole unit
+
Stable and lightweight
+
Lace cover keeps debris out

Reasons to avoid

-
Laces can easily come untied

Thru hikers are notorious for choosing hiking shoes instead of boots because they’re lighter, cooler and quicker to dry. Many of the best hiking shoes are made too stiff to provide stability. Or they’re sneaker soft, and their midsole’s break down before you have racked up the miles. The Dropline, however, has plenty of stability, but for us it feels more like a sneaker on steroids than a hiking boot. Just cut shorter.

On test, the confidence this shoe offered was great – an anti-rock heel cup and lacing that ties into the heel and the sole of the shoe is all part of Salewa’s secret recipe, with the brand claiming that the heel-to-toe transition saves energy. The Gore-Tex lining provides breathable waterproofing, but the Dropline is also available in a non-waterproof version. The rounded, low-profile Pomoca outsole has a lot of lugs, but they’re not deep, and can get clogged in muddy conditions. The mesh covering over the tongue and under the laces kept dirt and debris out, however, and an extra beefy toe rand shows that Salewa expects this hiking shoe to be used hard. 

Rear our full Salewa Dropline GTX review

The best sneaker like shoe

The North Face Vectiv Taraval hiking shoes on grass

Plush, grippy soles and a lightweight, breathable upper make these shoes ideal for hot, dry days on rocky trails (Image credit: Future)
The best sneaker-like hiking shoes

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men’s / women’s
Weight (per shoe): 313g / 11oz
Materials: Synthetic leather and breathable mesh upper; VECTIV™ Technology soles
Compatibility: Quick day hikes

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent breathability
+
Rocker sole helps momentum
+
Good toe protection

Reasons to avoid

-
Not suitable for technical hikes
-
Not suitable for rainy weather or bogs

Intended for fair weather day hikes on a variety of surfaces, where we found that these shoes really shine is in their comfort. OrthoLite footbeds and a thick rocker sole with a 6mm drop feel super plush underfoot while helping to propel you forward with each step. The soles are surprisingly grippy and stable on rough terrain, while the breathability of the uppers is really remarkable on a hot day, as we found out on test.

These shoes aren't for anyone planning a technical hike or hiking in rainy weather or across bogs, as the breathable uppers mean your feet will be instantly soaked (though they’ll dry out quickly). They’re best save for bluebird days when you just want to stride across the countryside in comfort, and despite their lightweight appeal, you’ll be impressed by how much toe protection you get when you bash into a rock on the trail.

In summary, we like the breathability and comfort of these shoes for sunny day hikes, but would leave them at home for rainy days and boggy crossings

Read our full The North Face Vectic Taraval hiking shoes review

The best lightweight shoe

Person's feet wearing Salomon Outpulse Gore-Tex shoes

The Salomon Outpulse Gore-Tex is a sporty-looking trail running / hiking hybrid (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Best lightweight shoes

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men’s / women’s
Weight (per shoe): Men’s (size 11): 377g / 13oz; Women’s: 300g / 10.5oz
Materials: Synthetic MCL upper; Gore-Tex membrane; Fuze Surge foam compound in the midsole; Contagrip rubber outsole
Compatibility: Quick day hikes, fast packing

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight and speedy design
+
Includes recycled materials
+
Attractive price

Reasons to avoid

-
Lower protection than other shoes on test
-
Less robust
-
Outsole can collect mud

Not for the first time, the Salomon family has produced a marvelous mudblood with the Outpulse, which is part hiking hoof and part trail-running shoe – but we mean that in a positive sense. If you’re looking for lightweight footwear, built for moving at a fast trot across walking trails during day hikes, then this shoe could be for you. Obviously there are compromises that need to be made with such a design. 

Don’t expect the level of protection that a more traditional hiking shoe will offer your feet – the Outpulse doesn’t feature a big chunky toe-cap or outsole, and neither will it likely last as long as some of the heavier and more robust walking shoes on the market. But, what they do have is a fully breathable and waterproof upper (thanks to the Gore-Tex membrane), a highly cushioned and dynamic midsole loaded with Fuze Surge foam, and a reasonably grippy Contagrip rubber outsole with artfully arranged lugs providing propulsion traction at the front and braking control at the rear. There’s a modest 10mm heel-to-toe drop on these shoes, which kept our centre of gravity nice and low and helped with balance during the testing period. 

Your feet are securely and comfortably cradled by the SensiFit design, while the geometry of the chassis and midsole creates a reverse camber effect, which helps your walking cadence flow nice and efficiently, further enhanced by the ‘Energy Blade’, a lightweight TPU plate incorporated into the well cushioned midsole. The integrated tongue keeps debris out of the shoe, and the flat laces don’t tend to come undone. These shoes don’t offer enough support for backpacking, but if you’re travelling light, tackling terrain that isn’t super technical and want to cover ground quickly, the Outpulse are perfect. 

Read our full Salomon Outpulse Gore-Tex review

The best for trail feel

Man's feet wearing inov-8 Roclite Recycled 310 hiking shoes

The inov-8 Roclite Recycled 310s are pitched at walkers and fastpackers who want to stay nimble and quick (Image credit: Pat Kinsella)
Best for trail feel

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men’s / women’s
Weight (per shoe): 310g / 10.9oz
Materials: Knitted 100% recycled rPET yarn upper; Bloom foam midsole (10% algae biomass); natural gum rubber undyed outsole
Compatibility: Hiking and fastpacking in warmer conditions

Reasons to buy

+
Extensive use of recycled materials 
+
Very comfortable with good trail feel
+
Lightweight and breathable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not waterproof
-
Not much foot protection

British brand inov-8 has been leading the way recently with the durability of its shoes – and specifically the toughness of their graphene-based outsoles – but this hiking shoe indicates they’re making positive steps in the direction of sustainability too. Made from 90% recycled materials – mainly previously discarded plastic bottles – the Roclite Recycled 310s have a pleasingly light environmental footprint. Even the laces are recycled, and the midsole features foam that’s 10% algae biomass (which contributes positively to the environment when harvested). Pitched towards walkers who want to stay nimble and quick, our test revealed that they’re extremely lightweight and easy to wear, and the relatively small heel-to-toe drop (8mm) kept our centre of gravity nice and low. 

However, they are not especially supportive or well-armed for providing foot protection – there’s no waterproof membrane (although this does mean they breath nicely and dry quickly), and while there is a rand of sorts around the mostly mesh upper, it’s not going to put up much of a fight against sharp stones and sticks. There’s no graphene in the studs of these shoes, but the 6mm lugs on the natural gum outsole are very grippy, and the design doesn’t collect too much mud when you’re on mucky trails. The Metaflex feature means they move dynamically with your feet, providing decent levels of trail feedback and making them slipper-level comfortable. The look and colors used is all quite understated, but this fits well with the excellent eco-conscious approach of these shoes.

Read our full inov-8 Roclite Recycled 310 review

The best for summer hiking

Person's foot wearing Merrell Speed Eco Waterproof hiking shoe

The Merrell Speed Eco Waterproof works best for fast and light hiking in summer conditions (Image credit: Alex Foxfield)
Best for summer hiking

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men's / women's
Weight (per shoe): 340g / 11.9oz
Materials: 77% recycled jacquard upper; 50% recycled EVA foam footbed and EVA midsole; 30% recycled rubber outsole
Compatibility: Fast and light hiking in summer conditions and casual strolls

Reasons to buy

+
Includes plenty of recycled materials
+
Waterproof, with good breathability
+
Wide, grippy outsole

Reasons to avoid

-
A little large for its size
-
Low cut means water can get in without gaiters
-
Lower level protection than others on test

This is a super little hiking shoe from Merrell that's commendable for its eco-credentials. For easy going strolls and summer speed-hikes it’s a good lightweight option, with the bonus of a decent level of waterproofing. We found that, for technical missions, expeditions and scrambling exploits, it’s not protective enough but you’ll still get plenty of use out of the Speed Ecos for less demanding pursuits anyway.

It's the brands most sustainable and eco-friendly hiking shoe to date. There’s about as much recycled material in here as in a kid’s elementary school robot costume. They boast a sneaker-like aesthetic and, weighing in at just 340g per shoe, they’re clearly aimed at the summer speed-hiking brigade. Comfy from the word go, they’re the kind of shoe you will reach for time and time again for casual walks and backcountry strolls.

One aspect the Speed Eco are a little light on is protection, with only modest reinforcements around the heel and toes. Not one for technical stuff then and, despite being waterproof, they are quite low cut, so boggy ground is a bit of no-go. However, for harder-packed trails and summer conditons, they're a solid, sustainable option.

Read our full Merrell Speed Eco Waterproof review

The best for stability

Danner Trail 2650 Campo GTX hiking shoes in shallow puddle

The Danner Trail 2650 Campo GTX have a snug, comfortable fit, and feel not unlike trail running shoes (Image credit: Danner)
Best for stability

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men’s / women’s
Weight (per shoe): 340g / 12oz
Materials: Leather and textile upper, Gore-Tex membrane, Vibram Megagrip sole, open-cell Polyurethane footbed
Compatibility: Hiking

Reasons to buy

+
Waterproof and breathable
+
Vibram Megagrip soles inspire confidence
+
Removable OrthoLite footbed
+
Wider sizes available

Reasons to avoid

-
Sock style can be hard to pull on with high arches
-
Not insulated
-
Relatively expensive

The Danner Trail 2650 GTX looks and in some ways acts like one of the best trail running shoes, but is surprisingly robust for hiking in wet weather and over uneven, rocky terrain. This sock-like style of shoe is designed with a heel tab to pull them on while the laces serve just for a little tightening. They can take a little effort to pull on if you have high arches but, once they’re on, we discovered that they feel fantastic with a snug, comfortable fit, lots of flex and three layers of removable, breathable cushioning.

With uppers made from durable leather, abrasion resistant and a Gore-Tex membrane plus chunky Vibram Megagrip soles, these shoes are sturdy and suitable for long hikes and give loads of stability on rough trails.  These hiking shoes are high priced, but they are built to last.

Read our full Danner Trail 2650 Campo GTX review

The best for comfort

Person walking on train wearing The North Face Vectiv Exploris II Mid Futurelight hiking shoes

These synthetic hiking shoes deliver great grip on steep trails and superior waterproofing capabilities, and are surprisingly lightweight and comfortable (Image credit: Future)
Best for comfort

Specifications

Gender specificity: Men’s / women’s
Weight (per shoe): 330g / 11.6oz (women’s 4)
Materials: Synthetic
Compatibility: Hiking