Which men’s hiking shoes are best?
Whether you’re new to hiking or have earned your trail legs on days-long thru-hikes, you know the value of solid trail footwear. Gone are the days of lacing up five-pound hiking boots for a quick mile or two through the woods. These days, men’s hiking shoes are comfortable, lightweight and ready to wear straight off the shelf.
For hikers who hit the trail in warmer weather, the Keen Men’s Voyageur Mid Hiking Boot is the best choice.
What to know before you buy men’s hiking shoes
When and where you’ll hike
Men’s hiking shoes vary in terms of their ability to shed water, their traction and their warmth. If you prefer a hike above the treeline in cold, dry weather, you’ll want a different hiking shoe than if you’re traipsing through swampy ground.
The insulation of your hiking shoes matters, too. Winter hikers will need more insulation than their summer counterparts. Of course, some hikers solve this dilemma by choosing a two- or three-season boot and swapping out the socks.
Hiking shoes are available in a variety of materials. Each has pros and cons.
- Leather (full- and split-grain): Leather is a highly durable, rugged material that offers excellent waterproof qualities. It is also much heavier than other materials, and for this reason there are few all-leather hiking shoes.
- Synthetic (vegan) leather: Choose this option for the same benefits of leather, minus the animal products.
- Synthetic materials: Synthetic materials are optimal for lightweight, flexible hiking shoes. They’re easy to care for, and many offer good protection against trail hazards, especially when toe bumpers and other safety features are added. On the downside, synthetic materials offer little, if any, water-resistant qualities.
- Leather/synthetic combo: The most common and popular shoe is a combination of leather and synthetic materials. This makes for a more substantial shoe that is still light enough to move fast on the trail and breathable for hot, sweaty hikes.
Type of terrain and load
Before buying hiking shoes, consider the terrain you’ll be hiking in and the load you’ll be carrying. Most hiking shoes are designed for moderately challenging terrain and small backpacks of 20 pounds or less. If you’ll be scrambling on steep inclines or carrying a large backpack, you may want to consider hiking boots instead.
What to look for in quality men’s hiking shoes
For warm weather hikes, nothing keeps your feet more comfortable than mesh inserts. Not only do these reduce the weight of your hiking shoes, they also allow air to flow through, keeping feet cool and dry.
And if your feet do get wet, mesh inserts allow them to dry faster.
The best men’s hiking shoes have safety features to keep feet comfortable and protected on the trail. These might include:
- Heel brakes
- Reinforced toe box
- Stiff midsole
A supportive insole helps keep feet comfortable on long hikes. This is especially important if you suffer from heel pain or foot conditions like plantar fasciitis.
Many hikers don’t consider the importance of a padded tongue until after their hike. Even a thinner, summer-weight padded tongue protects the top of your foot from scrapes while increasing the breathability and comfort of your shoe.
How much you can expect to spend on men’s hiking shoes
Expect to spend $60-$250 on quality men’s hiking shoes.
Men’s hiking shoes FAQ
Should hiking shoes be larger than regular shoes?
A. Because some hikers like to wear thicker socks when they hit the trail, some people advise purchasing hiking shoes one size larger than your regular shoes. While this might work in some cases, there are a few guidelines that can help you get the right fit.
- Wear the socks you intend to hike in.
- Step into your shoes unlaced, and slide your foot all the way forward.
- If you can slide a finger between your heel and the back of the shoe, it’s a good fit.
- Lace your shoes.
- The tongue should rest comfortably on the top of your foot, feeling more like a hug than a squeeze.
Do hiking shoes require a breaking-in period?
A. Although low-cut hiking shoes offer less protection than their ankle covering hiking boot counterparts, there is one benefit to choosing shoes over boots. While hiking boots can take a long time to truly mold to your foot, most hiking shoes are ready to go when you buy them, with no (or a minimal) breaking-in period.
In some cases, you may need to break in stiffer, off-trail hiking shoes, but for the most part you can lace them up and go.
What are the best men’s hiking shoes to buy?
Top men’s hiking shoes
What you need to know: Hot-weather hikers will appreciate the cooling details.
What you’ll love: The mostly-leather upper is interrupted by mesh vents that keep feet cool. Multi-directional lug soles provide excellent traction in the slipperiest conditions, and the footbed is flexible but still supportive.
What you should consider: The mesh vents mean that this shoe is not waterproof.
Top men’s hiking shoes for money
What you need to know: These shoes are light for rock scrambles and quick moves.
What you’ll love: The upper is suede leather with integrated mesh for superior breathability. The TechLite midsole is comfortable and supportive and the omni-grip outsole provides good traction but won’t scuff up floors.
What you should consider: The soles are too thin for seriously rocky terrain.
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This is an excellent all-around hiking shoe.
What you’ll love: The soles are synthetic and provide a good bit of traction. They have a mesh and suede upper that offers breathability and comfort. They are also available in 21 colors and regular and wide widths.
What you should consider: The tops of the feet were not as well protected as some hikers would like.
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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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