What is it that makes the best women’s hiking boots? There’s no single answer to that because the right footwear will depend on the terrain, the weather, your feet, personal preference and how you intend to approach the trails.
Ankle support is a feature of all the best hiking boots, but some are more supportive than others, designed specifically for long treks under the weight of heavy backpacks. However, if you're going fast and light, you may prefer a low cut hiking shoe because less weight on your feet saves energy and helps avoid muscle fatigue further along the trail.
The best women's hiking boots also keep you comfortable. In wet, cold weather, there's no point having the best waterproof jacket or even the best hiking socks if your feet are soaking, so a waterproof breathable liner is key. But in warm and dry weather, a waterproof-breathable boot will be too hot. For scrambling and rocky hikes, a sticky sole will help you stay rubber side down. On a muddy trail, deep lugs will give you the best traction and prevent you from slipping.
Once you hone in on what kind of boot you’re looking for, based on where and when you’ll use it, you need to think about fit. If you have particularly narrow or wide feet, pronounced bones at your ankles, or an extra high arch, an educated retailer will be able to help you hone in on the right option. Once you've got boots that fit perfectly and your best women's hiking backpack slung over your shoulders, you'll be ready for all kinds of adventures.
How are women's hiking boots different to men's hiking boots?
One first impressions, it may seem that women's hiking boots are simply "pinked-and-shrinked" versions of the men's models. There is, however, a little more to it than that.
The main differences between women's and men's boots are as follows:
- Women's boot are wider in the forefoot and toe area, and narrower in the heel
- Men’s boots are made on a larger last (the molded foot structure upon which a shoe or boot is constructed), to accommodate the additional volume of a man’s foot
- Women's boots usually weigh significantly less
- Men's boots are usually higher on the ankle/leg
- Because women’s feet are usually more flexible, bootmakers often use a stiffer midsole insert to provide more support
- Because women typically have higher arches, women's boots usually feature enhanced arch support
- Because women have a more upright stance, some brands (Lowa, for instance) reduce the heel angle in the women's versions of their boots
The best women’s hiking boots available right now
All of our picks are sturdy, waterproof and comfortable, but we’ve also specified which women's hiking boots are most suited to different seasons and types of terrain.
What are the best women's hiking boots?
Our top all-rounder fabric boot on test is the excellent Scarpa Mistral, and we recommend Ariat’s Skyline Summit if you’re looking for a warmer leather boot.
The best women's hiking boots overall: Scarpa Mistral
A flexible, comfortable all-rounder of a boot that can deal with tough weather and most terrain
RRP: $180 (US) / £150 (UK) | Weight: 540g / 1lb 3oz | Colour: Smoke-lagoon | Compatibility: Happy on established paths and trails through hill and fell
Scarpa’s latest female walking boot, the Mistral, is a flexible fabric model designed with hillwalkers in mind. A suede and fabric upper material makes the Mistral comfortable from the get-go, and these tough boots pack a technical punch, with a built-in Gore-Tex membrane keeping feet totally dry.
Vibram Energy II soles offer great stability and grip, even on wet rock, making these boots versatile enough to take higher onto mountain paths. Cushioning soles give a pleasantly springy feeling to each step you take in the Mistrals, even if you’re covering long distances.
We did find the neck of the boots on the wide side – you’ll need to lace them up tightly for good ankle support and to avoid any rain seeping in. If you find most hill-happy hiking boots are too stiff for you or if you want to invest in just one great pair of walking boots that can deal with a range of trails as well as walking holidays, these are a great investment.
The best women's hiking boots for summer: Ariat Skyline Summit
Warm but breathable versatile leather boots that don’t need much breaking in
RRP: $160 (US) / £170 (UK) | Weight: 538g / 1lb 3oz | Colour: Acorn brown | Compatibility: Happy in grim winter weather on the hillside but is breathable enough to work for casual warm-weather walks
There’s a lot to like about this high-performing boot. The Skyline Summit has all the benefits of warm, naturally waterproof full-grain leather without requiring any breaking in, and is reassuringly comfortable straight out of the box. A Gore-Tex membrane keeps the leather and nylon panels dry even in heavy rain, but still offers enough breathability to make these boots work from autumn right through until late spring – and we found the Skyline Summits warm enough to keep feet cosy even on frosty winter walks.
A great lacing system and high, narrow neck makes the boots feel very stable and snug underfoot – ideal if you find most hiking boots don’t support your ankles properly. Supportive, cushiony insoles add to that feeling of stability, and stop the boots feeling too heavy when you’re covering long distances. They may be one of the pricier boots in our round-up, but you get what you pay for – if you’re investing in your first proper pair of hiking boots, these are an easy choice.
The best women's hiking boots for technical trails: Scarpa Zodiac Plus
Ideal for mountain trekking but still relaxed enough for a more casual walk, these high-performing boots are worth the spend
RRP: $270 (US) / £200 (UK) | Weight: 545g / 1lb 3oz | Colours: Shark and orange | Compatibility: An all-mountain winner - tough enough for mountain routes or scrambling but relaxed and light enough to wear on more casual hikes down in the valley
The Zodiac is that holy grail - a tall trail boot that doesn’t come with the weight or lack of flexibility of a more mountain-focused design. Lightweight and athletic enough to go trekking and backpacking – but waterproof and sturdy enough to inspire confidence on the mountains, scrambling or even on Via Ferrata routes – this is a brilliant boot to invest in if you want a great hiking boot to progress higher into the hills with.
Scarpa’s ‘sock fit’ technology makes the boot fit snugly to your foot with no bunching around the tongue, and the supple suede outer is tough but still flexible, and moulds nicely to your foot. Our tried-and-trusted combo of Gore-Tex’s breathable and waterproof membrane coupled with reliably sticky Vibram soles means you can hike confidently on varied trails and hold your own on wet, slippy surfaces. If you’re getting serious about your walking adventures, these are worth the spend.
The best waterproof hiking boots for women: Aku Trekker Pro
Nimble yet stable three-season boots
RRP: $200 (US) / £200 (UK) | Weight: 525g / 1lb 2.5oz | Colours: Grey/Dark Grey/Black-violet | Compatibility: Tougher three-season hikes in inclement weather and shorter day hikes in winter
Aku’s Trekker Pro stands out for its wonderfully stability underfoot – if you have weaker ankles or tend to lose balance when the trail starts to tire you out, these boots will give you a supported feeling even when you’re testing yourself and covering big distances. That said, there isn’t tons of padding around the ankle – if you’re used to more cushioning, you may want to pair these boots with thicker socks. That same lack of warm padding means these boots are best worn from spring to autumn.
At almost £200 you’d expect great build quality, so it’s no surprise that deep-lugged Vibram soles and Gore-tex waterproofing are both built in to keep your feet dry (so dry that we successfully forded a river in the Trekker Pros) and squarely on the ground. We like the wide rubber toe rand and the thicker shock-absorbing heel, ideal for taking the boots further into rough, rocky terrain.
The best leather hiking boots for women: Lowa Wendelstein II
A full-leather walking boot for everyday rambles
RRP: $325 (US) / £245 (UK) | Weight: 525g /18.5oz | Colors: Gray | Compatibility: Casual walks, countryside wanders and shorter strolls on less-technical alpine trails
Crafted with rugged full-grain leather on the outside and a buttery glove-leather lining, this heritage hiking and walking boot is beautiful enough to wear around town, and technical enough for some mountain wanders. It’s also surprisingly light for a full leather boot. The Wendelstein is well suited to striding up any alpine meadow to a mountain hut, as well as more casual outings on recreational paths, and points of interest.
However, it doesn’t have the squishy midsole characteristic of many modern hiking boots. The midsole is a medium-thin layer of EVA for shock absorption – the same stuff used to give sneakers their springy feel – but the Wendelstein uses a thin layer, not the thick pad found in most running shoes. It is enough for around-town explorations, a hike to a viewpoint, and countryside rambles. The ankle support is excellent, but on long treks the low level of cushioning will start to tell.
The Vibram Marmolada sole offers good grip on easy to moderate terrain, and the sole is replaceable when it wears out; not only does that lower the environmental impact of these boots (because they won’t be landfill-bound once the sole wears out) it also means you get to keep them longer – a good thing, as they’re not cheap. Metal D-ring lace loops make it easy to pull the laces tight to your foot. The boots comes with an extra set of laces, so you can add a dash of color when you’re in the mood.
Best insulated women's hiking boots: Danner Inquire Mid
An ankle-warming high-performing mid-collar walking boot
RRP: $180 (US) / £138 (UK) | Weight: 411g / 29oz | Colors: Hazelwood/Tangerine/Red | Compatibility: An insulated boot for cold-weather treks and hill hiking
Many cold-weather hiking boots have insulation, but lack the support required for bigger adventures. Not so the Danner’s Inquire Mid, which has torsional rigidity, a supportive and shock-absorbing midsole, and a level of technical construction that makes it good for long treks.
The suede upper is supportive but not overbuilt, so there is no lengthy break-in required. Zonal lacing lets you control whether to tighten down in the forefoot or just the ankle, and the gusseted tongue keeps trail grit and snow out. Danner’s proprietary waterproof and breathable lining keeps feet dry, while warmth is provided by a fuzzy faux fur collar, plus 200g of Primaloft Gold insulation (as used by astronauts) in the toe.
The boot rides on a thick and cushioning midsole, with a plastic shank for torsional stability and to protect feet from rock bruising. The shank is visible through the dual-density sole, which offers excellent grip in all conditions, as well as traction for deeper mud and snow – the lugs optimized for uphill, downhill, and wet conditions. A D-ring at the toe lets you attach a gaiter. The Inquire Mid is on the low side of mid-cut, which is ideal for cold-weather outings on bare ground, and snowshoeing in low to moderate fluff.
Best women's sneakerboots: Salomon Cross Hike Mid GTX
A hiking boot that feels more like a running shoe, Salomon’s Cross Hike Mid GTX packs a ton of features into a very light package
RRP: $170 (US) / £165 (UK) | Weight: 340g/12oz | Colors: Phantom, Black & Ebony / Lead, Stormy Weather & Charlock | Compatibility: A mid-cut boot with sneaker-like comfort
A hybrid hiking boot-running shoe, the Cross Hike offers solid grip in all conditions. Aggressive multidirectional y-shaped lugs in the grippy sole provide excellent traction, and in the heel those lugs are positioned for braking. The downside of these fangs is that they do accumulate mud.
The Cross Hike boot is built with a seamless, closed-mesh, debris-blocking upper with a Gore-Tex membrane inside. Protective minimalist rands run right around the boot, and both inner and outer ankles have reinforced padding with a deep Achilles cutout in between that’s covered with soft and stretchy cloth to keep out dirt and leaves. The high-rebound midsole looks massive, but doesn’t feel that way on the trail. A slider tightens and loosens the laces, which makes it easy to adjust these boots on the fly for more support when required.
The Cross Hike boots might not offer enough support for you to carry a multiday pack if you suffer from weak ankles, though, and the laces can loosen up during hikes. Salomon footwear often runs narrow, but these boots don’t – they comfortably fit wider feet (as well as the narrow feet of another tester).
Best women's hiking boots for comfort: Keen Terradora II
Supremely comfortable, light and breathable, these boots were made for summer treks
RRP: $150 (US) / £110 (UK) | Weight: 413g / 14.5oz | Colours: Black and magnet/Magnet and ocean wave/Graystone and shark/Timberwolf and coral/Cherry mahogany and bossanova/Dusty olive and nostalgia rose/Majolica and tapestry | Compatibility: Ideal for summer hiking on less challenging terrain, and backpacking in warmer climates
The deliciously comfortable Keen Terradora IIs feel as light and forgiving to wear as your favourite pair of trainers – if comfort is top of your wish list, these lightweight boots are ideal. The upper fabric may be soft and tactile, but it’s still waterproof to deal with sudden showers, and Keen’s own-brand All Terrain soles offer decent grip on less challenging terrain (but won’t stand up to scrambling over wet, slippy rock).
The Terradora IIs are highly breathable and keep feet comfortably cool in hot weather, but don’t offer much warmth in cooler months – they’re built with summer hikes in mind. Anti-odour insoles are definitely effective at reducing, if not eliminating, sweaty smells after long days of walking, making these boots a good choice for multi-day backpacking routes. Multiple cheerful colourways also make the attractive Terradora IIs stand out in a sea of boring brown and grey hiking footwear.
Best women's hiking boots for muddy trails: Hanwag Banks Lady
These premium quality boots are ideal for colder climates - and will last you for years
RRP: $150 (US) / £200 (UK) | Weight: 525g / 1lb 2.5oz | Colours: Asphalt and petrol/Asphalt and autumn leaf/Asphalt and ocean/Mocca and tan/Navy and asphalt | Compatibility: : Best suited to low-level rambles and hut-to-hut adventures in colder months
These rather luxurious nubuck leather beauties look and feel like great quality – if you want to invest in boots that will last you for years of adventures to come, the Banks could well be worth their steeper price tag.
Hanwag have been making premium hiking boots for 100 years (and the Banks model for 15) and it shows in thoughtful design and solid construction. They recommend their popular Banks boot for flatter walks and hut-to-hut hikes, and we would have to agree – on test we found them waterproof enough to wear in the mercurial British winter, but breathable enough to keep you cool on longer trail days.
Vibram soles with well-placed lugs make these boots reliable even on wet, uneven trails, and thick, mesh-lined ankle padding keeps your foot in place as you stride along. We like that three widths are available – the narrow version of the Banks is ideal if you find most models too roomy.
Best lightweight women's hiking boots: Haglofs LIM
Light, trainer-like comfort that was made for summer treks
RRP: €150 (EU) / £130 (UK) | Weight: 310g / 11oz | Colours: True black/Sage green and deep woods/Hibiscus | Compatibility: Ideal for exploring on your travels or for summer walks – not warm or sturdy enough for tougher mountain trails
You’ll barely feel these fantastically lightweight boots on your feet – at just 310g per boot, the LIMs (which fittingly stands for Less is More) are a world away from clunky traditional walking boots. Despite that barely-there feel, these boots are still waterproof enough to withstand a sudden rain shower, but where they really excel is on warm, dry, summer days, especially if you’re planning on covering long distances – the soles are grippy enough to be reliable on established hill and country routes, and thick enough so that you won’t feel the ground under your feet.
That said, these lighter numbers wouldn’t offer you enough support on scrambles or off the beaten path. The light weight and flexibility of the LIMs make them easy to pack for international travels or backpacking. If you already own a workhorse leather boot and want something freeing and light for the summer, these are a great pick. We’re not sure about the salmon pink colourway, but the tan and black versions are very smart-looking.
Best budget women's hiking boots: Brasher Country Walker
A classic boot that’s at home on its namesake country walks, especially in colder weather
RRP: £100 (UK) | Weight: 650g / 1lb 7oz | Colours: Brown | Compatibility: Well-suited to trails and treks down in the valley, and warm and sturdy enough to wear when the mercury falls
The sheer amount of choice on offer when you’re shopping for women’s hiking boots can be overwhelming, but you can’t go wrong with Brasher’s classic favourite, the Country Walker. Unsurprisingly perfect for country walks (clue in the name), this suede boot ticks all our boxes for autumn and winter rambles: it’s warm, waterproof and sticks to wet trails like glue thanks to Vibram soles. We really rate the Country Walker’s slim-fitting high ankle, which laces up to feel reassuringly solid and sturdy.
These are the heaviest boots we tested, and might start to weigh you down after ten miles or so – but for laid-back countryside strolls on crisp autumn days, you won’t find a better companion, and you definitely won’t get cold toes thanks to plentiful insulation. The Country Walkers also look rather fetching, in a warm brown suede, but be warned – you’ll need to clean them regularly if you venture onto muddy trails.
Choosing the best women’s hiking boots for you
There’s a huge selection of women’s walking boots on the market, and the sheer range can be bewildering. First you need to identify if walking boots are exactly what you require.
If you're intending to move fast through the mountains, without a heavy pack, you might want to opt for a pair of the best women's trail running shoes. The question of trail walking shoes vs hiking boots is not an easy one to answer and sometimes it just comes down to personal preference.
Maybe you're heading out in challenging winter conditions? If so, you will you need to choose from the best women's winter boots to keep you warm, keep you dry and handle the terrain you'll encounter during your sub-zero adventures.
However, if you're taking that heavy pack onto the trails in a conventional manner, the following considerations should help you make the best selection for the adventures you intend to go on.
Leather or fabric?
The first decision to make when choosing from our list of the best women’s hiking boots is whether you want to plump for leather or fabric boots. Leather is warm, long-lasting and naturally waterproof, while fabric boots tend to be lighter and more breathable. Insulated leather is better for winter use, and breathable fabric performs best in warmer weather – so if you can afford to, it’s a good idea to own a pair of each, so that you can tackle hikes in all seasons.
Stiff leather boots have traditionally required some breaking in, although these days many leather boots feel comfortable right out of the box. Lightweight fabric boots are definitely more comfortable to wear, though, and can feel as light and comfy as your favourite trainers. Leather boots tend to require more care to avoid them cracking or splitting, but if you look after them, they should last you for years.
Staying dry while hiking is high on everyone's priority list. If you’re going adventuring in all kinds of weather, you’re going to need boots that can reliably withstand the elements. Heading out in hiking boots that are branded as fully waterproof (rather than just ‘water-resistant’) will keep you drier for longer.
Waterproof boots use a membrane that lets sweat out, so your feet can breathe, but blocks water getting in. Sometimes, it's the conditions are so grim, keeping your feet dry is impossible, but we've written this guide to how to keep your feet dry while hiking to help you avoid the worst of it!
Some boots use branded or own-brand waterproofing technology – Gore-Tex is one of the best known (and best performing). If your boots start to lose their waterproofness, you can re-waterproof them with a product such as Nikwax.
The best women's hiking boots are designed to cover many miles, so they need to be as breathable as possible to stop your feet overheating. Think of them like you'd think of the best base layers: you want them to keep your feet warm, but only to a certain point. Look for a pair with a built-in breathable membrane, and if you want to wear your boots on backpacking adventures in warm climates or for summer trekking trips, pick a lightweight fabric pair.
The soles of your new hiking boots are one of the hardest-working components, so pick sturdy ones that offer good grip. Good soles should be tough and grippy, even on slippy surfaces, but still lightweight and bouncy enough to feel comfortable when you’re walking over long distances. Many bootmakers use branded soles – if in doubt, hardwearing Vibram soles are always a good choice. Look for deep ‘lugs’ (the indentations on the bottom of your boot’s soles) – these indicate that the boots give good grip.
Winter boots tend to have rigid soles, especially if they are graded to hold crampons. If this is the case, you should not be able to bend them one iota, even with all your strength. Soles that are designed more with summer in mind are also likely to be more flexible, which tends to make them more comfortable.
Regardless of which season they were designed for, it is essential to break in hiking boots when they're new, before hitting the trails. We all know that stiff, new shoe feeling — well it's the same with hiking boots. If you head for the hills and they haven't been broken in, your poor feet will pay for it.
It’s important to make sure your hiking boots fit perfectly – it's the best way to prevent blisters. There’s nothing worse than getting a painful blister halfway through a trek you’ve been looking forward to tackling.
Try on boots while wearing your best hiking socks and check that they feel snug but without any rubbing or tight points anywhere, especially around the toes and heel. It's also worth remembering the hiking socks you wear in winter should be even thicker — don't forget them when trying out a pair of boots intended for winter use.
There should be plenty of room for your toes to flex, but when laced up, your feet shouldn’t slip around within the boot. Long descents are an absolute killer if your toes keep on bashing into the front of your boots with every step. If you have wide feet or suffer from bunions, it’s a good idea to look for models that are designed specifically for your feet.
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