Best Hiking Shoes & Boots

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When preparing for a backpacking trip, footwear will be one of the most important gear decisions you’ll make. Blisters, strained muscles, and scrunched toes can quickly ruin any backpacking trip, so this is an area where testing and experience go a long way.

At CleverHiker, we almost always backpack in lightweight trail runners for our spring, summer, and fall trips. They keep our feet nimble, minimize blisters, dry quickly, offer excellent traction, and don’t exhaust our legs over long days of hiking. They also don’t require a break-in period and typically last about 500-700 trail miles.

That said, footwear is a highly personal choice, so we recommend finding what will work best for you. Below we discuss the critical considerations for purchasing hiking footwear and recommend our top choices for trail runners, hiking shoes, and hiking boots.

Saucony Peregrine ISO

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WEIGHT: 1 lb. 5 oz (pair)

We’ve been hiking with Saucony Peregrines for years now and they’ve remained at the top of our list for good reason. In 2019, Saucony released the new Peregrine ISO (men’s and women’s) as the successor to the Peregrine 8. The ISO retains of the qualities we love in the Peregrine- lightweight, incredible traction, comfort, and quick dry times – and somehow made them even better. One of the most notable upgrades is the ISOFIT system, which is essentially a sock-like upper that morphs to your foot as you lace, providing a more comfortable and customizable fit. The Peregrine ISOs are a well-rounded lightweight trail runner that will keep your feet happy on the trail all day long.

Altra Lone Peak 4

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WEIGHT: 1 lb. 3 oz. (pair)

The Altra Lone Peak 4 (men’s and women’s) are incredibly popular trail runners in the lightweight backpacking community. They’re lightweight, comfortable, and feature a very roomy “foot shaped” toe box. The Lone Peaks have a cushy sole, dry quickly, and have great traction for rugged mountain terrain. Altras are built with a zero-drop build, meaning the heel and ball of your foot will be the same distance from the ground (more on this below). Altras have a unique look and fit due to their wide toe box, but as far as functionality goes, they’re at the top of the list for trail runners.

Brooks Cascadia 13

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WEIGHT: 1 lb. 8 oz. (pair)

The Brooks Cascadia 13 (men’s and women’s) trail runners are quite popular in the backpacking community. They have a comfortable sole and a more durable upper mesh section, so you’ll be able to clock more miles in them. They’re a bit heavier than shoes we prefer to hike in, but they’re still within reason. The traction is adequately grippy and they feel comfortable on the foot straight out of the box. The Cascadia 13’s do have a more narrow fit than others, such as the Peregrines or Altras. One area where the Brooks Cascadia 13’s really shine is in their durability. Our biggest gripe is that they don’t dry quite as quickly as some other footwear on this list.

La Sportiva Bushido II

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WEIGHT: 1 lb. 5 oz. (pair)

The La Sportiva Bushido II (men’s and women’s) is a burly, technical shoe with awesome traction. For rough terrain, the Bushido II offers a toughness and durability that can be lacking in other trail runners. Updates in 2019 include a rubber-capped toe, a comfortable tongue design, and increased durability. Our biggest issue with the Bushido is the stiff sole, which can be great for those looking for more protection under foot, but we generally find this to be less comfortable and a bit of an overkill for more casual hiking trips. If you’re looking for a durable and more technical shoe with excellent traction for rough trails, the Bushido II is worth considering.

Salomon X Ultra 3 Low

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WEIGHT: 1 lb. 10 oz. (pair)

The Salomon X Ultra 3 Low (men’s and women’s) is a burly trail ready shoe with a comfortable fit, awesome traction, and more durability than their trail runner counterparts. The Ultra 3’s come with their signature one-pull quick lacing system, which can take some getting used to – people either love it or hate it. We’ve found that these shoes to need a bit more time to break in compared to others. Also, the toe box is more narrow, so those requiring a wider fit may want to look elsewhere. Salomon does offer this shoe in a waterproof gore-tex model. Though heavier than what we usually wear on the trail, what you get in the Salmon X Ultra 3’s is a burly, durable, and well-built hiking shoe. If you want more ankle support, they also offer this shoe in a mid height model.

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