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 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 Our expert reviewers spend days testing and comparing gear so you know how it will perform out in the real world. Find out more about how we test and compare products.

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Pat Kinsella

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 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