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If you’re an outdoor enthusiast (or just starting to become one), hiking is the baseline. Whether you want to do more backpacking, kayaking, rock climbing, trail running, fishing or some other outdoor activity, you’ll have to start by becoming an experienced hiker. Anytime you’re moving by the power of your own two feet in the outdoors, you’re hiking.
As a result, the best hiking boots are a crucial piece of outdoor gear and a stellar gift for any outdoors enthusiast.
Anyone who spends time outside regularly will likely tell you that their footwear is their most important piece of gear or apparel. You can get by in the outdoors with a shoddy pack, poorly-fitted jacket or headlamp with bad battery life. If you’re wearing a bad pair of hiking shoes, however, you could be looking at a hike filled with blisters, rolled ankles and just all-around discomfort.
The point is: If you’re going to skimp on something in the outdoors, just don’t let it be your footwear.
Hiking boots vs. hiking shoes
Gone are the days when “hiking footwear” exclusively referred to bulky, full-leather boots straight out of a 1950s Forest Service poster. Today, hiking footwear expands far beyond boots. Depending on experience level, time of year, route length, weather conditions and the difficulty of your intended trail, you might want to wear high-top hiking boots or lower-cut, more minimalist hiking shoes (or even hiking sandals).
However, in most cases, you’ll be choosing between hiking boots and shoes. “The weight you’re carrying, whether on your body or in your backpack, is going to affect the durability of [your hiking footwear] and how much support it gives you,” says Salt Lake City-based outdoor gear guru Katie Kommer. “The weight you’re planning on carrying should inform the style of shoe you choose.”
Multi-day backpackers will want a heavier, more supportive hiking boot since they’ll be carrying more weight. Day-hikers carrying a light (or no) pack can get by with hiking shoes or low-cut hiking boots, but keep in mind that these shoes aren’t just lighter, they also offer less ankle support and protection. The best day hiking boots will be both lightweight and supportive.
“Hiking boots are probably the best option for someone just getting into hiking,” says Kommer. “They’re sturdier, they’re going to last longer and they’re going to be comfortable for long days. On the other hand, for someone who is coming from a more athletic background, hiking shoes or trail runners will fatigue you a lot less, because you aren’t carrying as much weight with every step. Also, on more technical terrain, you want a lighter, smaller, more nimble shoe.”
What to consider before purchasing women’s hiking boots
Climate: The season and weather conditions you plan to hike in are critical factors in determining your hiking footwear. If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, you may want to put waterproofing at the top of your list. If you’re regularly hiking in winter conditions, or you live in a higher altitude region, such as Colorado, where you may be hiking in the alpine, then traction should be a key factor you look for.
“In the winter, I like trekking shoes that are waterproof and have grippy soles, so I can tromp through the mountains,” says AMGA ski mountaineering guide Winslow Passey of “In the Company of Guides,” who has guided clients everywhere from Mongolia to Antarctica to Nepal. “In the summer, I prefer a cushy trail runner with a wide toe box.”
Length of Your Hike: The duration of your hike is also important to consider. As Kommer notes above, hiking boots will offer more comfort for multi-day hikes or hikes where you’re carrying a heavy pack. But hiking shoes, and some lightweight boots, will generally help you better preserve energy, so they’re a great choice for long single-day missions. “Over long days, it helps to have less weight on your foot,” she says. “But if you’re just getting into hiking and going for short hikes, or if you’ll be on the trail for multiple days in a row, then a sturdier, more supportive boot is best.”
But if you’ll be on the trail for days and days, or you’re a beginner hiker not concerned with covering a ton of ground fast, then a sturdier boot is best.
Terrain: For more technical outings (think scrambling up a mountain, exploring a slot canyon in the desert Southwest, etc.) traction is paramount. If you’re hiking on rock, scree, talus or other rough terrain that’s not a simple dirt trail, look for soles with grippy material like Vibram and moderate lugs to provide adequate traction.
Experience Level: Generally, more experienced hikers will prefer a lighter, more nimble shoe. Lightweight hiking shoes mean less weight with every step and more maneuverability on technical terrain. However, they also offer less support, protection and comfort, too. Newer hikers will appreciate the added cushion and support of a hiking boot and won’t be affected by the tradeoff in added weight.
We’ve hashed it out with expert female hikers and gear gurus to bring you the 20 best hiking boots for women, complete with all the foot support and protection you need to stay comfortable in the outdoors. (Men, don’t worry, we have a list of the 20 best hiking boots for you, too!) Keep scrolling to shop them.
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Top Hiking Boots for Women
Merrell Moab 2 Mid GTX Hiking Boots
Best Women’s Hiking Boots for High Arches
- Sizes: 5-12
- Wide fit available
- Out-the-box comfort
This Merrell boot has a contoured footbed, molded arch shank (a supportive structure located between the insole and outsole) and zoned-in padding at the arch and heel — making it one of the best hiking boots with arch support you can find. The Gore-Tex offers a waterproof build, allowing you to stay protected in downpours or when crossing through shallow streams, but these also have a breathable upper that dries well. “These are crazy comfortable out of the box,” Kommer says. “You really don’t have to break them in, and they last forever. For your first pair of hiking boots, these are great.”
Altra Lone Peak Mid Hiking Boots
- Size: 5.5-12
- Zero drop
- Weather-resistant bootie design
The 12 ounce Lone Peak mids (also available as trail runners) are another lightweight hiker. Both Kommer and Passey highly recommend these shoes, and they feature a zero-millimeter drop that will appeal to more experienced trail fiends. These all-weather shoes feature an eVent weather-resistant bootie that maximizes breathability, a DuraTread outer and responsive midsole. Customers love the mid-height build (which offers ankle support without making the boot feel heavy) but note that the shoe runs a bit small. In addition, “the zero-millimeter drop could take a bit of getting used to,” Kommer adds.
Columbia Newton Ridge Plus Hiking Boots
Best for Bunions
- Sizes: 5-12
- Vintage leather look
- Wide fit available
As the top-rated hiking boot on Amazon with over 13,000 five-star reviews, this Columbia pair is the real deal. Leather and mesh create a waterproof mountaineering-style boot. While this option looks heavy-duty, it’s comfortable and reasonably lightweight. A lace-up closure provides a secure fit. It comes in fun color options as well as all-black. These are also one of the best hiking boots for bunions because they’re available in wide-width options, which some customers note create a comfortable fit for their bony foot protrusions.
Oboz Bridger Mid Hiking Boots
Best Beginner Hiking Boots
- Sizes: 6-11 (wide fit available)
- The brand plants one tree for every pair sold
- B-Dry waterproof membrane
Marrying a vintage design with modern tech, these Oboz hiking boots are among the best leather hiking boots money can buy. The all-leather uppers are waterproof but breathable and the burly four-millimeter lugs on both the side and sole offer reliable grip. Oboz plants a tree for every pair of its shoes sold, so you’re helping the environment when you buy a pair of these, too.
Timberland Chocorua Trail Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots
- Sizes: 5-11
- Wide sizing available
- Traditional leather aesthetic
Timberland’s Chocura hiking boot features a durable lug sole with a super thick heel that’s shock-absorbing, plus a waterproof full-grain leather upper to keep feet dry. Both these features might make you think the shoe is bulky, but it’s quite lightweight (in fact, the women’s size seven is only one pound).
Salomon Vaya Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots
Best Woman-Specific Fit
- Sizes: 5-10
- Full Gore-Tex sole
- Lightweight boot (11 ounces)
Constructed specifically for a woman’s foot with an ergonomic snug fit, this Salomon shoe sits just above the ankle, providing extra stability. An OrthoLite insole provides top-level cushioning and breathability to keep prevent odors from forming. A stitch-free construction and laces that lie flat reduce pressure points and friction. The sole is all Gore-Tex, so you know nothing from the outside will hit your feet. “It’s supportive, but still really lightweight, so it’s great for someone looking to do a thru-hike like the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and wanting a traditional hiking boot that’s still light,” Kommer says.
Hoka One One Tennine Hike Gore-Tex Boots
Best Lightweight Hiking Boots for Women
- Sizes: 6.5-11
- Unique forked-extended heel
- Ripstop nylon upper
For a cute hiking boot, the Tennine certainly has an intriguing look. But anyone that has ever run in Hoka One sneakers knows the value of a thick sole. The extended heel provides not just a bold appearance but allows for a smooth gait, peak traction and efficient heel-to-toe transitions. Gore-Tex used in the construction is sustainable, as is the recycled polyester employed in the pair’s laces, pull tab and webbing. And, a Vibram Litebase outsole construction ensures these won’t weigh feet down in the slightest, with the pair clocking in under one pound.
Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker Fusion
Best Ultralight Hiking Boots
- Sizes: 5 – 11
- Ultralight (8 oz for W Size 7)
- Wide, comfy toe box
The Hokas are a superb option if you’re looking for the best lightweight hiking boots for women. But the DayLite Hiker Fusion from Xero Shoes is simply the cream of the crop if weight is your concern above all else. At a mere eight ounces, these ultralight, minimalist hiking boots are lighter than most trail running shoes, not to mention a sliver of the weight of most above-the-ankle boots. They still offer 3.5-millimeter lugged dual chevron treads for excellent traction, though, and the abrasion-resistant welded upper, equipped with tension straps to keep your feet in proper position, provides stout support. They’re also one of the best hiking boots for wide feet, with an ultra-wide toe box.
The North Face Vectiv Exploris Mid FutureLight Hiking Boots
Best Cushioned Hiking Boots
- Sizes: 6-11
- Vectiv Propulsion technology
- Runs small; size up
For a very cushiony option, The North Face’s Vectiv Exploris is decked out with technology to propel you forward as you walk. The sleek construction helps reduce fatigue in your leg and maximizes energy. The footbed is partly made with recycled rubber and is super grippy. One reviewer commented that these even worked on slippery pond rocks, which we know is one of the slickest surfaces around.
Vasque Breeze Lt Low GTZ Hiking Boots
Best Lightweight Backpacking Boots
- Sizes: 6-11
- Breathable mesh upper
- Sneakerlike weight
The Vasque Breeze is a deceptive boot. It looks like a full-fledged hiking boot but has the weight and feel of a sneaker. It’s also one of Kommer’s go-to boots for moderately experienced hikers looking for support and a traditional boot feel without having to compromise on weight and breathability (as opposed to bulkier options like the Danners). “These could totally go head-to-head with the Salomon Vayas,” Kommer says. “They’re very well-ventilated and super lightweight but still offer that classic, supportive, hiking boot style.”
Keen NXIS Evo Mid Hiking Boots
Best Vegan Hiking Boots for Women
- Sizes: 7-15
- Superior breathability
- 100% vegan construction
These lightweight boots feature a mesh lining that keeps feet breathable and dry and a classic Keen Vibram sole with four-millimeter lugs for great traction on scrambles. Eco-friendly buyers will appreciate the 100% vegan build and the abrasion-resistant, biodegradable TPU outer plating.
Danner Jag Hiking Boots
Best Classic Model
- Sizes: 6-10
- Vintage leather look
- Ortholite footbed
While this pair debuted over 40 years ago, it’s still one of the best hiking boots for women for a reason. Constructed with a suede and knit upper, this heavy-duty Danner boot is durable and sturdy while still being comfortable. It’s also waterproof with a rubber sole that will always keep you upright no matter how rocky or smooth the ground becomes. The drawbacks of this shoe are its bulky weight, poor breathability and stiff build, but if comfort and protection (and finding vintage, stylish hiking boots) are your main concerns, the Danners are a great choice.
Salomon CrossHike Mid Hiking Boots
- Sizes: 5-10
- 10 millimeter drop
- Quicklace closure system
With multi-directional lugs, a closed-mesh upper and waterproof Gore-Tex membrane, this is a versatile hiking boot hybrid. It offers a hefty 10-millimeter drop and stout support that weekend warriors will appreciate but remains fairly light, weighing just under 12 ounces. “The Salomon CrossHike is almost designed to be a trail runner’s boot for when you’re cross-training by hiking. It’s a really cool concept and construction,” Kommer says.
La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX Hiking Boots
Best Women’s Hiking Boots for Backpacking
- Sizes: 6 (36.5 EU)- 10 (41 EU)
- Narrow fit
- Grippy Vibram outsole
For multi-day treks into the backcountry, these have a thick, treaded sole and Nano-Cell technology for breathability. Molded insoles provide some cushion, so you shouldn’t feel every pebble or branch underneath your step. The pair is also waterproof and fairly lightweight, given the stoutness of its build. Without a doubt, the Nucleo High II is one of the best hiking boots for ankle support. It also excels when it comes to breathability — this is a shoe designed for warm-weather climes (think desert hiking). As far as high-cut, supportive, comfort-focused boots go, these are surefire summer hiking boots. One thing customers should note, though, is that La Sportiva boots and shoes generally run small and narrow.
On Cloudridge Hiking Boots
Best Modern Design
- Sizes: 6-11
- Deep lugs
- Speedboard footbed
If you love On’s popular running shoes, you’ll want to reach for the brand’s Cloudridge hiking boot for hitting the trails, too. The pair offers a similar aesthetic and design to the label’s trail running shoes, using signature technology that maintains the rolling motion of your foot even on bumpy terrain. This not only offers underfoot support but also prevents tension buildup, allowing you to finish your hike without giving up and helping to prevent injury. The style is also lightweight, making it great to pack on camping trips.
Hoka One One Speedgoat Mids Hiking Boots
Best Cold-Weather Hiking Boots
- Sizes: 5-11
- Lightweight (11 ounces)
- Anatomic ankle collar
These minimalist, four-millimeter drop mids have the same cushioning and responsive toe for hard pushes found in Hoka’s Speedgoat trail shoes, but this version has a more supportive upper and ankle collar. Kommer keeps these in her quiver for winter hiking. “The crazy-aggressive Vibram base makes them super grippy, but they’re still lightweight with a ton of cushion,” she says. “They’re great for high-alpine days or more scrambly stuff.”
Teva Grandview GTX Hiking Boots
- Sizes: 6-11
- Quick-drying bootie build
- Wide toe box
With a more compact yet still rugged look, this waterproof Teva bootie is ready for anything that comes its way. The rich leather upper is equipped with quick-dry webbing, while a nylon construction supports your foot as the terrain below you changes. The outsole should keep you stable on both wet and dry terrain. And made with a Repreve polyester yarn composed of recycled plastic, this pair is one you can feel good about buying.
Hi-Tec Skamania Hiking Boots
Best Budget Hiking Boots for Women
- Sizes: 5-11
- Wide sizing available
- Removable contoured footbed
When it comes to a quality, affordable hiking boots, you can’t get much better than this pair from Hi-Tec. Thick padding along the collar and a secure vamp promote a comfortable, locked-in fit. These also come in wide-width options for anyone who needs a bit more room up front.
Keen Targhee II Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots
Best Women’s Hiking Boots for Wide Feet
- Sizes: 5-11
- Sustainably certified
- Runs small; size up
Reviewers rave about the large footbed of this Keen style, which makes it one of the best women’s hiking boots for wide feet. An all-terrain rubber sole, which is also waterproof, ensures you can take this pair from flat soil to rocky hills.
Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 Hiking Shoes
- Sizes: 6-12
- Quick-dry mesh upper
- Wide toe box
These nimble trail shoes will serve more experienced hikers well, complete with a locked-in TPU heel counter, an aggressive Vibram outer and a comfortable, wide toe box that’s “great for letting your toes splay out,” Kommer says. “The Ultraventure is an awesome shoe for someone who doesn’t like the narrow width of the Hokas and other similar shoes, but also doesn’t want to go with a zero-millimeter drop option.”
What to look for in the most comfortable hiking boots for women
Fit: When searching for a new hiking boot, fit is a top concern, says Dr. Brad Schaeffer, podiatrist and owner of Sole Podiatry NYC. “A good hiking boot will provide stability and support for the foot, limit injury and provide adequate shock absorption and comfort.”
When trying on hiking boots, make sure there is plenty of space in the toe box without your foot feeling loose inside the boot. To test this out, Dr. Schaeffer says to stand upright and slide your foot forward until it hits the front of the shoe. You should be able to slip your index finger between the heel and back of the boot. He also adds that your heel should not lift as you walk. “If this is happening, it will provide an opportunity for blisters to form,” he notes.
Vionic Innovation Lab member and New York-based podiatrist Dr. Jackie Sutera adds that since feet swell due to activity, it’s best to try on shoes at the end of the day when feet are at their widest. And, when trying on boots, she recommends wearing “socks that aren’t too bulky, as these can make the boot fit tight.” That said, it’s important to remember to fit your boots for the climes you plan to encounter. If you’re doing a lot of winter hiking, for example, it makes sense to get boots that fit when you’re wearing bulky, warm socks.
For women in particular, Kommer recommends always going up a half-size, since their “feet typically swell when hiking,” she says. “I wear a 7.5 in Converse and Chacos, but all of my hiking and trail running boots are size eight.”
If you suffer from any foot concerns like plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, hammertoes, or bunions, look for styles with support features (such as contoured footbeds, deep heel cups or wide, flexible toe boxes) that cater to each issue. For additional underfoot support, Dr. Schaeffer suggests using Dr. Scholl’s heavy-support orthotic.
Materials: Dr. Sutera recommends styles with breathable, waterproof material to protect feet from the elements and outsoles that are both thick and incorporate anti-slip traction. Keep in mind that waterproofing and breathability go hand in hand. For example, while the material Gore-Tex is known for its superb waterproofing, its poor breathability makes it slow to dry, so Gore-Tex heavy uppers often stay waterlogged longer than other materials.
“I would only seriously recommend Gore-Tex for hiking through snow,” Kommer says. For longer thru-hikes, she’s less than thrilled by the material. “If you hike through a stream with a Gore-Tex boot and it gets waterlogged, it’ll take much longer to dry out and create excessive rubbing, making you more likely to blister.” That said, some hybrid builds can incorporate Gore-Tex uppers without compromising breathability.
Design: Dr. Sutera recommends hiking boots that hit higher on the ankle with midsole support for the arch to prevent sprains. But remember, added support will generally necessitate added weight. The drop of the shoe (or change in height between heel and forefoot, usually measured in millimeters) is also important, Kommer says. “Zero drop hiking boots and shoes can be great for more experienced hikers and trail runners, but most new hikers are going to be more comfortable with a bit of drop in their shoe.”
“Another thing I wish every female would know when they’re buying shoes,” Kommer adds, “is to truly go by feel. Don’t go for the boot that looks the best. Go into a store and try some on or buy them from a retailer where you can easily return them if you don’t like the fit.”
How to break in your hiking boots
Even if you just bought the best pair of hiking boots in existence, they aren’t going to perform perfectly on your first hike. Even with modern innovations in footwear technology, most hiking shoes take a bit of time to break in and conform to your foot.
Kommer recommends giving your boots at least 15 to 20 miles of trail time (over multiple hikes) before heading out on a serious hike or deciding to return them. “Give a pair of boots a couple of tries before deciding it’s not for you,” she says. “I recommend a solid three or four hikes, at least. Remember, even though many boots today are super comfortable out of the box, if you’re switching from one style of shoe to another — like going from hiking in a shoe with five millimeter drop to one with zero-millimeter drop — it will take your calves, Achilles and all your joints a little bit of time to adjust.”
Kommer adds that hiking socks shouldn’t be left out when you’re purchasing your first pair of hiking boots. “Think about it,” she says. “If you’re spending $150 to $200 on hiking boots, it’s worth it to buy the $20 pair of Darn Tough socks.”
Meet the Author
Owen Clarke is a lifelong outdoorsman and outdoor sports journalist. In addition to contributing to Footwear News, Owen is an editor-at-large for Climbing, executive editor for Skydiving Source and Indoor Skydiving Source, and a regular contributor to Backpacker, Outside, SKI, Trail Runner and a variety of other outdoor publications. He is an avid backpacker, climber and motorcyclist and has logged miles on two feet (and two wheels) in mountain ranges from North Africa to the Andes to the Balkans. In 2019, he became the first person to hike a new 170-mile loop trail around Slovenia’s Julian Alps.
Meet the Experts
Katie Kommer is an outdoor gear and apparel writer, trail runner, climber, skier and backpacker based in Salt Lake City. In addition to writing for a variety of digital publications, such as Garage Grown Gear and Popular Mechanics, Kommer works as a gear guru on the sales floor at REI. She is also the co-founder of the blog Small Towns to Summits, which combines “storytelling and sociology in order to share how nature inspires and connects us all.”
Winslow Passey is an AMGA-certified ski mountaineering guide at In the Company of Guides. Passey has guided for two decades on mountains around the world, including nine expeditions to Denali (20,310 feet), 11 to the Nepalese Himalaya and five to Antarctica. The latter entailed summits of Vinson Massif (16,050 feet) and ski expeditions to the South Pole. She has also completed several first ascents and ski descents in Antarctica. Prior to Passey’s 20-year guiding career, she spent eight years working in a variety of wilderness programs, honing her skills in mountaineering, rock climbing and backcountry skiing.
Dr. Jacqueline Sutera is a New York-based podiatrist specializing in the prevention and treatment of foot pathology. She is a Vionic Innovation Lab member, as well as a Fellow of the American College of Foot & Ankle Surgeons and a member and spokesperson for the American Podiatric Medical Association and the New York State Podiatric Medical Society.