Every woman knows that nothing can ruin a great day like the wrong pair of shoes! This is especially true in the backcountry where you have nothing but your feet to help you cover those miles.
With so many features and options available choosing the right hiking shoes can be a daunting task but rest assured, we are here to help! In this article we’ll talk about some features to look for in a hiking shoe and give you some recommendations on some of our favorites!
Where will your shoes be taking you?
Before you start shoe shopping it’s important to have a clear understanding of how you hope to use your shoes.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- Will the trail you’re hiking on be flat and grippy?
- Will it be steep and loose or maybe slick and muddy?
- Will you be carrying a pack?
- How far will you be going, anyway?
There is a lot of overlap between different brands and models of trail shoes but getting an idea of what you hope to do with them is a great place to start.
Once you’ve figured out how you hope to use your shoes you can start looking for features that will fit your needs!
What to Look For
This is obviously one of the most important factors in choosing a pair of hiking shoes. This is not the time to embrace the “no pain, no gain” theory of footwear!
These shoes will be carrying you and your pack over rugged terrain for long distances and you want them to be comfortable! It’s great if you think your shoes are cute but it’s even better if you think they are comfortable!
Many shoes will take a while to break in, and that’s ok, just make sure that the shoes you pick will break in to something that works for your body!
Traction is another important consideration when looking at hiking shoes. This is where knowing where you plan to use your shoes will come in really handy.
If you are going to be hiking on any sort of slippery surface (think steep and loose mountain trails, damp and slippery rainforests, etc.) look for shoes with an aggressive tread made of soft, sticky rubber. Just like a good set of snow tires will help you keep traction when things get slick, a good pair of hiking shoes can help you do the same.
Having good traction when you need it can not only make your hikes more enjoyable but it can also make them a lot safer as well!
Support and Stability
If you’ve ever agonized over your choice of running shoes you know how important getting the right support for your foot can be. While hiking shoes may not offer the same type of ankle support provided by taller hiking boots they can still support your feet in other ways.
A nice solid sole can help protect your feet from rocky terrain while providing a stable platform to help prevent ankle rolls. Keep in mind, however, that all that stability comes at a cost. A thicker, stiffer sole may help protect your feet but it won’t be as nimble as a softer, lighter option. Again, knowing your intended use ahead of time can really help you out here!
If you are used to wearing aftermarket insoles in your shoes (either over the counter inserts or custom orthotics) look for a shoe with a removable footbed that will accommodate your insole. Keep in mind that you will be wearing these shoes for long periods of time on rugged terrain. Improperly fitted shoes can cause problems not just in your foot but all the way up your legs and into your lower back. If you need insoles for extra support make sure that your hiking shoes will take them.
The type of protection you will need from the elements is another thing to consider when looking for a pair of hiking shoes. Annoyances like rocks, sand, and water can make their way into your shoes causing blisters, chafing, and a whole lot of discomfort. Fortunately, there are options to keep all these pesky intruders away!
If you will be hiking in an area where you can expect a lot of rain or wet, swampy conditions it is a good idea to consider shoes with uppers made out of Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex is a lightweight, breathable material that does a really good job of keeping water out. Gore-Tex does have some downsides, however, including that once your feet do get wet they will take longer to dry.
If you don’t think you will frequently need your shoes to be fully waterproof it may be best to skip the Gore-Tex in favor of a more traditional fabric.
If you are concerned about keeping water, sand, or other debris out of your shoes you may want to consider adding a pair of gaiters to your hiking arsenal. Gaiters are tubes of fabric made to go over your shoes and around your ankles and calves to help keep unwanted intruders at bay. Again, if water is a concern look for gaiters made out of Gore-Tex.
Price should be one of your last considerations when choosing a hiking shoe. A good pair of hiking shoes will typically cost between $100 and $200. Try not to look too closely at the price tag when choosing your shoes.
It doesn’t matter if you pick the most or least expensive shoes – what matters is that the shoes you choose are the ones that feel best on your feet and best fit your needs. The good news is that hiking shoes are typically a little less expensive than hiking boots and they should last a very long time.
Our Top Picks for the Best Hiking Shoes for Women
True to the demands of their namesake city in the hot Utah desert, Merrell’s Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoes were made to be cool and airy.
With uppers made of breathable mesh, these shoes will help keep your feet cool and dry in hot and soggy conditions. These are the boots to choose if you know that no matter what you do water is going to come in and you want it go back out as quickly as possible.
The downside of all that mesh is that sticks and other debris can occasionally poke through, offering less protection than a more burly boot. The lightweight material might also lead to a slightly shorter lifespan than some more substantial models but the relatively low price of $90 a pop might make that a fair compromise.
Some hikers like to take it easy and smell the roses along the way but others like to go fast! If you fall into the latter category, Salomon’s X Ultra may be the shoe for you.
The X Ultra is a super lightweight hiking shoe with some trail runner tendencies. These shoes are light and nimble, excelling at fastpacking and light trail running. The Contagrip outsoles provide excellent traction on all types of terrain including the wet and slippery stuff.
These Gore-Tex lined shoes are both waterproof and breathable although they may be a little warm in really hot weather. The rubber toe guard on the front of the shoe provides bulletproof protection for those tender piggies. The Salomon X Ultra is a great shoe for those who want to go fast!
While Salomon’s X Ultra blurs the line between being a trail running shoe and a being a low hiker, Vasque’s Mantra 2.0 does the opposite.
This is a shoe that was built to be tough and rugged like it’s high-topped cousins. The Mantra’s durable leather construction and mesh upper allow it to be both strong and breathable. The thick layer of EVA foam in the midsole provides for excellent support, especially when carrying a heavy load.
This shoe has a roomy toe box that can accommodate wider feet and allow for increased comfort if your feet tend to swell after a long day on the trail. This shoe also comes in a “GTX” version which is lined with Gore-Tex making it both waterproof and breathable.
Patagonia is a company with a long history of making quality outdoor gear that is also environmentally friendly and the Drifter A/C Hiking Shoe is no exception.
The “A/C” stands for “air conditioning” because this is made to keep your feet cool in warm conditions. The nubuck leather and breathable mesh uppers are designed to keep you cool and dry. With a well padded heel these shoes are comfortable straight out of the box.
The Vibram Trail Ecostep outsole, which is made of 30% recycled rubber, provides a solid sticky grip on all types of terrain and the anatomically curved EVA footbed provides a ton of cushioned comfort. If you are looking for cool, comfortable, eco-conscious hiking shoes the Patagonia Drifter A/C Hiking Shoe may be the right choice for you. The Drifter A/C also comes in a Gore-Tex model for those needing hiking in wetter climates.
With so many options and features to choose from, selecting a hiking shoe can be a daunting task. We hope that this advice will have you on your way to picking some kicks that will keep you going strong for many beautiful miles!