Anyone who has spent any time on the trail knows that proper footwear can be the difference between an enjoyable hike in the wilderness and an excruciating slog with soggy feet and painful blisters. But choosing the right footwear for hiking isn’t always as easy as eyeballing some kicks at the local gear shop and picking the ones you like the best. Sometimes it’s a lot more complicated than that. Things like climate, terrain, and anatomy can play a vital role in proper shoe selection and getting it right can sometimes mean taking a lot of factors into account. In other words, picking the right shoes can be difficult. But have no fear; we’re here to help!
- 1 Are hiking shoes for you?
- 2 Factors to look for when selecting a hiking shoe
- 3 Five best hiking shoes for men – our picks
In this article we’ll help you decide whether hiking shoes are right for you, break down some of the important features to look for, and give you some suggestions for some of our favorites. So let’s get to it!
Are hiking shoes for you?
The first step in picking the proper hiking shoes is to decide whether or not you want hiking shoes (versus boots, sandals, or trail running shoes) in the first place.
Each style has their advantages but since this is an article about hiking shoes, we’re going to focus on how they shine! Hiking shoes strike the perfect balance between the rugged stability of a hiking boot and the easy agility of a trail running shoe. Hiking shoes offer the loads of support, lots of traction, and the rugged uppers that will help keep you going for many miles.
What they lack in the ankle stability of a traditional hiking boot, they make up for in their light weight, versatility, and comfort. Basically, they’re really great jack-of-all-trades footwear that will help you cover many miles.
So, what things should you consider when purchasing a hiking shoe?
Factors to look for when selecting a hiking shoe
Waterproofing and breathability
When selecting a hiking shoe it’s really helpful to know the type of climate and terrain in which you plan to use them. If you are going to be hiking through boggy swamps or soggy rainforests you may want to look for shoes with Gore-Tex uppers that will help keep the water out.
If your hiking plans are primarily taking you to arid deserts, you will want to focus on breathability and ventilation. And remember that all the waterproofing in the world won’t do you much good if the water comes over your ankles!
Sometimes it’s best to look for a non-waterproof but exceptionally breathable shoe that will dry out quickly in the event that your feet get wet.
There are some lucky people who can go through life logging many miles on the trail without ever suffering an injury. They wear whatever shoes were on sale and don’t get what all the fuss is about. And then there’s the rest of us.
If you’ve been treated by a doctor for bad feet or angry knees, there is a pretty good chance that at some point along the way you’ve been prescribed a pair of custom orthotics. If you’re used to wearing orthotics in your work or running shoes, you’re going to want to wear them for hiking as well.
If you fit into this unlucky camp, be sure to choose a hiking shoe with removable insoles so that you can slip your own orthotics in. Even if you don’t have custom orthotics, you might find that some of the over the counter insoles support your foot better than the ones your shoes come with. Removable insoles are always a good feature to look for in shoes.
Toe protection and other ouch prevention features
If you’re hiking through tough and rocky terrain there is a pretty good chance that at some point the front of your foot will make unintended contact with a rock. As you can imagine, this doesn’t feel very good! To prevent this from causing more pain than necessary, look for shoes with rubber protection in front of the toe to help absorb some of the impact. Hiking shoes are great in that they generally offer your feet a lot of protection from the elements.
One of the biggest benefits of hiking shoes over traditional athletic shoes is the fact that they provide exceptional traction on tough terrain. This might not be a big deal if your adventures are limited to the local bike path but once you start gaining some elevation or getting farther off the beaten path, you’re going to need more traction.
Look for hiking shoes whose soles have thick lugs made from sticky rubber to get the best grip. An excellent example is Salomon’s proprietary Contagrip outsole, which is great for all types of trail and terrain. Solid traction can be the difference between heading down the mountain on your feet and sliding down it on your butt. Take traction seriously.
With all that in mind, here are a few recommendations to get you started!
Five best hiking shoes for men – our picks
Teva Raith eVent
Most people think of Teva as the makers of really great hiking sandals (and they are!) but their high quality trail products don’t end there. Consider, for example, the waterproof Raith eVent hiking shoes. These lightweight hiking shoes are designed to keep your feet dry and supported in damp conditions. The nylon shank in the midsole keeps your foot stable and comfortable while the Spider365 outsole gives your foot grippy traction in even the wettest conditions. The insoles are removable allowing these shoes to accommodate a variety of custom orthotics or over the counter insoles. While these shoes can be worn in any weather and type of terrain, it is in wet and slippery conditions that they really shine.
Merrell Moab Ventilator
With a name like Moab Ventilator, you can probably guess what these shoes were designed for. Breathability in hot conditions is the name of the game with these bad boys and they do their job admirably. A web of leather across the upper helps to provide structure to the lightweight and exceptionally breathable mesh liner. And just because these shoes are designed to be super breathable doesn’t mean that they can’t stand up to some moisture. While these shoes are not totally waterproof, Merrell’s M Select Dry technology will help protect your feet from occasional splashes of water and these shoes’ ample ventilation will allow them to dry out quickly in the event that they do get wet. The Vibram Multi-Sport sole provides excellent grip and durability in a variety of conditions and the rugged front bumper will help keep those toes happy no matter how many rocks you kick along the way. By the way, Merrell also makes an equally awesome Gore-Tex version of this shoe if waterproofing is what you’re really after!
If you are looking for a shoe that is equally at home on the trail and in town, the Vasque Juxt is it. This is a shoe that can do double duty. While its rugged suede construction and sticky sole is tough enough to take on all but the gnarliest of trails, its understated style and supreme comfort make it great for walking around town. If you’re going on a big trip and only want to take one shoe that can handle any situation your adventures throw at you, the Juxt is it. Hikers looking for extra arch support will appreciate the stability provided by the Juxt’s TPU heel/arch stabilizer and everyone will love the secure lacing system that is sure to keep your foot in place. This shoe is the perfect option for anyone looking for one piece of footwear that can pretty much do it all.
Salomon Eskape Aero
Salomon’s Eskape Aero is a lightweight and super breathable hiking shoe designed for hikers looking for rugged performance, excellent foot support, and lots and lots of grip. This shoe’s outsole features multidirectional lugs made from two different densities of rubber to provide tons of traction in all sorts of conditions. While not waterproof, the synthetic upper will keep your feet dry by quickly letting water out. This shoe’s toe bumper and hard rubber outsole offers loads of protection to keep your feet happy no matter what the trail throws at you. And did we mention that this shoe is super light? The Eskape Aero by Salomon is the perfect choice for a hiker looking for a lightweight and breathable hiking shoe that is loaded with impressive features.
Keen Targhee II
Keen’s claim to fame is making shoes that will get you through whatever life throws your way. From the trail to the sidewalk to the office, they’ve got something that will get you there in comfort and style and their take on the hiking shoe is no exception. The Targhee II is a waterproof and supportive shoe designed to help you go the distance on all types of terrain. The multidirectional lugs provide excellent traction and the EVA cushioned midsole and metanomical footbed give your feet lots of support. Like many of Keen’s shoes, the Targhee II is outfitted with a big and burly front bumper to protect your toes from painful stubs. These shoes are exceptionally sturdy and ready to take on anything you can throw their way! And if you decide that you love the Targhee but would prefer it in a boot rather than a shoe, do not despair! Keen makes a boot version of the Targhee II for those wanting a little more ankle support.
You may also like to read:
- Our top picks for best hiking boots for men
- Why the Navy Seals wear the Salomon Quest 4D GTX hiking boots