In our earlier reviews we discussed some of the differences between hiking shoes and boots and mentioned some noteworthy shoe options in the men’s and women’s categories. Whether you go with a shoe, boot, or trail runner, your footwear is the most important–and essentially the only–purchase you need to make to enjoy recreational hiking. Camping, backpacking, and fishing trips will always mandate their own gear requirements, but you will still need quality shoes (or boots) to get you to your destination and keep you comfortable along the way. In this review we will focus on the men’s boot category and talk about some of the best available models for taking on the tough terrain of the great outdoors.
The Best Hiking Boots Top List
Hiking boots come in a variety of weights, styles, and weatherproofing options, but most can be quite versatile. The sturdiness of a boot’s construction makes them ideal for taking on particularly rocky, uneven, and root/debris-covered terrain–as this is the most likely terrain to cause an ankle to roll, twist, or sprain. Boots have a higher likelihood of having a waterproofing option, thus making them more suitable for wet conditions and hiking in the snow. Ultimately however, the preference lies in the individual user when it comes to hiking footwear. Below we will look at some of the best hiking boots currently available and what gives them an edge over their competitors.
Salomon Quest 4D GXT
Where to buy:Amazon $171.34
The Quest 4D GXT Men’s Hiking Boot by Salomon is one tough son of a boot–that is to say its engineered to be an incredibly efficient trail hiker and backpacking boot. While a big drawback to many hiking boots is their long break-in time, the Quest GXTs come fitting snug and exceptionally comfortable straight out of the box, allowing you to take to the trails sooner with more confidence in your gear. The Quest boots are loosely modeled off Salomon’s ground-covering trail running shoes, a design that allows for more aggressive and fast-paced hiking, perfect for “slackpackers” and “fastpackers” that move quickly and carry little gear.
Though minimalist in design, the boot features a combined synthetic and leather upper with Gore-Tex waterproof membrane and padded toe box for optimal protection from weather and debris. The 4D Advanced Chassis midsole is designed to enhance stability, but the oblong angle of the footbed and proportion of the insole and outsole can actually be problematic for hikers with weak knees or orthotics. The Quest 4D GXT doesn’t offer much ventilation and takes long to dry, though they do much better compared to heavier leather boots. For hikers wanting a protective midrange boot that can perform like a shoe, the men’s Salomon Quest are a great pick.
Vasque Breeze GXT
Where to buy:Amazon $109.97
Like the Salomon Quest, the Vasque Breeze GXT was designed to perform like fast-paced trail runner with the protection and stability of a boot. To that end the Breeze performs its duties exceptionally well at a much lower price point than comparable models. The Breeze line of boots are some of the most well-ventilated boots on the market, making them a great buy for hikers in hot and dry environments, and the inclusion of Gore-Tex waterproofing on the GTX model extends the boots performance to blend breathability and weather protection.
A thick-lugged Vibram Contact outsole make these boots ideal for taking on slick and rough trails without slipping or stumbling. The inclusion of Vasque’s Arc Tempo Last midsole is thinner than most and ideal for feet with high arches, allowing for a more powerful, agile, and stable stride–but it may be awkward for some hiker’s used to the rigidity of classic boots. The tough nubuck leather uppers on the Vasque Breeze GXT protect from excessive abrasion, even when you put these boots to the test of their claims–going fast.
Hi-Tec Altitude IV
For hikers that want a boot that will hold up to its claims of durability and protection from the elements, even with prolonged use and exposure, few models will beat the Altitude IV Men’s Hiking Boot by Hi-Tec. The Altitudes are designed to keep your feet warm, dry, and cozy no matter what mountain you climb, stream you cross, or snow you hike through. To that end, the Altitude IVs aren’t particularly stylish, nor are they going to offer you much in the way of ventilation.
The boots are made of synthetic textile and nubuck leather, seam-sealed for ultimate waterproof protection. Rustproof metal grommets keep the laces tight, secure, and resistant to breaking from friction and a fully gusseted tongue serves to keep debris and moisture from entering the boot. An injection-molded EVA midsole and removable Comfort Tec sock liner provide cushy comfort and keep the arches of the feet in proper alignment–a must-have for lengthy hikes and changing terrains. The Hi-Tec Altitude IVs require very little break-in time and are quite snug out of the box, a surprise considering the construction of the boot and an advantage over many comparable models.
Hikers looking for a versatile boot that will do equally well in hot/dry conditions and cold/wet conditions will want to consider options, as the Altitude can make your feet feel hot, sweaty, and confined. But if you plan to spend a lot of time summiting snow-covered peaks and charging through slick and rugged mountain trails, or you just want a protective and comfortable boot built to last, the Hi-Tec Altitude IV is a tough contender.
Merrell Moab Mid GTX Multisport
Where to buy:Amazon $109.70
The Merrell Moab Ventilators are some of the most lightweight and breathable hiking shoes and boots available. But for those hikers that demand a boot that is equal parts well-ventilated and waterproof, the Moab Waterproof Multisport is a versatile hard-charger. Many shoes that feature a Gore-Tex membrane take away from the shoe’s breathability and increase the amount of time it takes for the shoe to dry if it is completely submerged and soaked–that’s not the case with the Merrell Moab Multisport.
The generous amount of mesh used in the uppers combined with the extra waterproofing features help to circulate moisture and dry efficiently, but when compared to other popular waterproof boots the Moab GTXs lack protection from abrasion and puncturing. These boots are a perfect choice for hot environments where you are likely to encounter some kind of soggy terrain or weather conditions. Whether on a fishing trip, canyoneering, or trekking through dew-covered grasslands, these boots will perform as intended. The GTX come at a higher cost than the non-waterproof Moab Ventilator but offer a few more color options.
Scarpa SL Active
Where to buy:Amazon $299.00
Though the most expensive boots featured here, the Scarpa Men’s SL Active Hiking Boots are also among the most heavy-duty and innovative with award-winning features. Starting on the outside, the Scarpa SL uses supple yet extra-thick Sherpa leather treated with a tanning process to increase its durability. The lacing system uses individual pulley systems in each eyelet to ensure an even cinch and always tight fit, a feature often lost on weaker fabric lacing systems. A rubber rand wraps the full perimeter of the boot to protect against puncturing and abrasion and to prevent moisture from seeping through the upper-sole line.
The SL Active is quite tall from heel to collar to prevent ankle rolling and twisting, while oval cutouts replaced with thinner leather to give the ankle equal parts support and flexibility. Vibram Biometric outsoles provide industry-leading traction on nearly any surface you take a step. Inside, a dual-density midsole and ViscoFlex memory foam footbed provide some of the best cushioning available in a hiking boot, while a Cocona (coconut fiber) liner fabric serves a dual purpose of wicking away moisture and inhibiting microbial growth so your feet always feel dry and fresh.
The flaws found in this boot are minimal: they have a slightly narrow heel profile, trap heat in hot environments, and can be difficult to lace tightly above the ankles. Looking at the SL Actives you would think they’d weight a ton and are stiff as a brick, but they are in fact quite lightweight, flexible, and capable of carrying you over peaks and valleys on a variety of trail conditions.
And Just in case – What is a Hiking Boot?
Hiking boots are the category of outdoor footwear that offer the most protection and durability. While trail runners and hiking shoes are meant to be comfortable and keep you light on your feet so you can cover maximum distance, boots are the heaviest and burliest variety of hiking footwear–though they aren’t without their advantages. Hiking boots are built to offer the most support and stability to the entire foot while in motion, particularly the ankle, heel, and arch of the foot.
Tough rubber soles with deep lugs, stitched nubuck leather, rubber and suede upper construction, and waterproof protection give boots the ability to protect the feet from the abuses of the environment much more so than hiking shoes. The added materials and protection of boots translate to a heightened cost when compared to shoes and trail runners, but perhaps the biggest drawback is the added weight. A heavier shoe means you will be able to carry less on your back and cover less ground at a slower pace, something to consider depending on your individual hiking preferences.
The choice is yours whether a hiking shoe or boot will best serve your individual hiking needs. Boots have their advantages in overall protection, durability, support, and (more often than not) comfort, but they are not always the most ideal footwear for all hikers. Be sure to try on as many options as possible and get a feel for what boot will be most comfortable and practical for the trails you will be hiking. Please comment and let us know what you think about the models we’ve featured above, or let us know what your preferred hiking boot is and why. Subscribe to our page for more reviews and the latest on other outdoor gear, including the upcoming women’s hiking boot review.
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