Scouring the market for the perfect pair of hiking shoes for the Camino de Santiago while staying within budget constraints can sometimes feel like a journey in itself. Perhaps not quite a thousand miles, but quite the odyssey nonetheless. Over time, and after logging thousands of hiking miles, I have developed a sixth sense for recognizing the right shoe – almost being able to determine the hiking shoe’s worthiness for the trails from a mere glance at the shelf.
The cruel sting of a blister or the gnawing ache of overworked feet can transform an exhilarating hike into a grim test of endurance. But the antidote to this predicament is surprisingly simple – all it takes is a pair of decent Camino walking shoes. And contrary to popular belief, boots, which have long been touted as the panacea for all hiking-related woes, are likely not ideal for your Camino journey.
My favorite budget hiking shoes are the The North Face Ultra 109 WP, an affordable pair of all-around shoes. However, if you want the absolute best, nothing beats the combination of comfort, traction, and durability offered by La Sportiva Spire GTX, though they are pricey.
Related: the best hiking shoes for women.
An increasing number of hikers are ditching traditional hiking boots, turning instead to hiking shoes. These low-cut hybrids are an adventurous amalgamation of the sturdiness of boots and the agility of running shoes, striking an excellent balance between traction, comfort, water protection, durability, and weight. They’re a godsend for those who seek a reliable, resilient foothold on the Camino de Santiago trails.
Navigating the market is akin to threading your way through a thicket of brands. Choosing the best hiking shoes can seem daunting, almost like ascending a peak without ropes. To keep blisters – the hiker’s nemesis – at bay, you must seek out shoes that comfortably fit your feet throughout the day. The shoes must be suitable across varied terrains, withstand fluctuating temperatures, and bear the weight of your backpack while still offering enduring comfort.
In the spirit of camaraderie that connects all who walk the Camino, I’ve taken it upon myself to research the maze of popular models, scrutinizing their strengths and weaknesses with the same discerning eye as one might examine a topographic map. I’ve also penned a succinct yet comprehensive buyer’s guide outlining the factors you must consider while shopping for Camino hiking shoes. In essence, a compass to steer your selection process in the right direction.
Finally, if you need great sandals for the end of the day, check out these minimalist sandals.
The Top 10 Hiking Shoes Reviewed
The following is a roundup of my favorite hiking shoes – from supportive models that help with carrying a full pack to ultralight options if you are walking for only a week or two:
1. Salomon X Ultra 4
- Weight: 13 ounces
- Waterproof: Not these, but you can buy the same as waterproof
- Colors available: 6
I love the Salomon brand; almost anything made by this European outdoor brand is comfortable and high quality. Overall this is a great hiking shoe.
Imagine an outsole capable of stability on any terrain that Mother Nature throws at it. This is exactly what the All Terrain Contagrip® does. It relishes in the challenge of diverse surfaces, offering both durability and a confidence-inducing grip, whether you’re treading on wet, dry, hard, or loose ground.
These look like your regular running shoes, but they have a hiking shoe tread on the bottom. So while they feel like running shoes, Salomon Ultra 4 has the sole and traction of a hiking shoe. The outsole offers robust lateral support and unyielding protection. Yet, in its strength, it never compromises on mobility or flexibility.
The Quicklace™ lacing system is both minimalistic and powerful, designed for one-pull tightening that’s as easy to put on as it is to take off. However, I am still finding it difficult to be a fan of these lacing systems on any hiking shoe brand. It feels like something designed for kids. That aside, there is a handy pocket for convenient storage to stop the lace from jumping around as you hike.
The OrthoLite® insole is shaped to mirror the natural contours of your foot, elevating the comfort and performance of your shoe. It delivers exceptional cushioning, breathability, and durability.
One of the best things about this hiking shoe is a tight mesh that acts like a glove, preventing debris from sneaking between your foot and the footbed. This results in far fewer stones or dirt getting into the shoe.
These are great long distance hiking shoes that will have no problem with the additional weight of your backpack. Although not that important, one thing I particularly liked about these hiking shoes is their sleek design – they’re far more eye-catching than most other hiking footwear out there.
- Thoughtful, lightweight construction
- Nimble but grippy
- An appealing design
- I don’t love the lacing system
Here are a few comparisons I have written between Salomon and other hiking brands:
2. La Sportiva Wildcat
- Weight: 12.3 ounces
- Waterproof: No
- Colors available: 3
The La Sportiva Wildcat is the mid-range between the slightly cheaper Ultra Raptor IIUltra Raptor II and the more expensive Ultra Raptor GTX, which is intended for hiking. This is another European outdoor brand from Italy this time.
The La Sportiva Wildcat shoe is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts. It comes with a crossover appeal as they are great as a hiking or trail running shoe. They blur the line between lightweight hiking shoes and trail runners, and Wildcat successfully grips most surfaces easily. It’s a capable companion in normal conditions but isn’t that great when things turn wet. Those in need of waterproof hiking shoes will have to look elsewhere, but waterproof shoes are not needed on the Camino de Santiago. In fact, waterproof shoes will cause hotter feet and can make you more prone to blisters
On the other hand, La Sportiva Wildcat is very generous when it comes to cushioning and support, it will keep your feet comfortable and isolated from sharp rocks. Another great thing about these shoes is the mesh upper, which will keep your feet cool during summer hikes.
La Sportiva Wildcat is a worthwhile investment as a decent trail runner and a solid hiking shoe. While not the best choice for those who often hike in wet conditions, these shoes are excellent for day hikes during hot summer months.
They are suitable if you are walking on the Camino for two weeks or less. If you are walking for longer, I suggest a walking shoe with more support like the Salomon above.
- Great as a trail running shoe and light hiking
- Mesh upper keeps the feet cool
- Lightweight but stable
- Not for wet conditions & surfaces
3. Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX
- Weight: 1.37 lb
- Waterproof: Yes
- Colors available: 4
Vasque was started in 1964 in Red Wing, Minnesota. This might be a brand you have not come across before, but they make a great range of trail runners, hiking shoes, and boots in a more traditional design. They use leather uppers that often result in a stiffer construction, they are built to last. The Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX is an entirely different story – they are feather-light trail running shoes with a modern design.
Besides the low weight of just 1.37 pounds, Breeze LT Low GTX flexes quite a lot underfoot. In terms of performance, the model comes with an energetic, comfortable midsole and Vibram Megagrip rubber.
When it comes to downsides, it seems like the model’s trimmed-down trail runner construction could impact its long-term durability. While it does come with a Gore-Tex lining (a synthetic rainproof hiking shoe fabric), the mesh upper of Vasque Breeze is surprisingly thin. In addition, the mix of light and modern materials used in this shoe’s manufacture isn’t suitable for rough and rocky terrain.
Nevertheless, Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX is still a fantastic choice for those looking for a more stylish option that won’t let them down during lighter backpacking trips.
- Vibrant, multi-colored look
- Great for trail running and short hikes (a week or so)
- Lightweight with good grip
- Questionable durability
4. Keen Targhee Vent
- Weight: 1.85 lb
- Waterproof: No
- Colors available: 4
There’s a good reason why so many hikers consider Keen to be one of the best manufacturers of hiking gear. The Keen Targhee Vent shoe is an excellent example of how to modernize a classic design. Though I find them a bit of a burly hiking shoe, at the same time, my other half loves them. Although there are newer models, like the Men's Circadia VentMen’s Circadia Vent and the Men's Newport Hike, the Targhee Vent is a best seller for a reason.
This particular shoe is an update of Keen’s older Targhee Vent model. While not groundbreaking, the new changes turn this hiking shoe into a genuinely worthwhile investment. Most importantly, Keen decided to trim down the extremely wide footbed of the previous iteration. The result is a much less sloppy hiking shoe over rough terrain.
Other features I like are the well-cushioned interior, reasonable weight, a mixture of durable leather construction upper with mesh lining for good breathability, and great odor control. Besides the ample ankle support, Keen Targhee Vent also offers excellent traction and plenty of support. This is a lightweight comfortable shoe that needs no break-in.
- Modernized classic Targhee design
- Well-cushioned interior with a good fit
- Great for shorter backpacking trips
- Not built for narrow feet
5. Adidas Terrex AX4
- Weight: 1.73 lb
- Waterproof: No, but available in the GTX model
- Colors available: 5
Who doesn’t know about Adidas? Founded almost a century ago, this German company is one of the world’s most renowned sportswear manufacturers. I love Adidas running shoes, but they have been pushing into the hiking shoe market for a while. The Adidas Terrex AX4 is an update on the Terrex Swift R2 GTX, which underperformed and disappointed me. This walking shoe is much better made.
Where the previous model was stiff and rigid, these are very comfortable right out of the box. The Adidas Terrex AX4 wears like a walking boot but with lower weight and a lower ankle. This makes it an excellent choice if you are looking for flexible trail runners with ample protection.
At only 1.53 pounds, these lightweight hiking shoes give great support. In fact, many use them as trail running shoes. On the other hand, these hiking shoes come with durable, well-spaced, and deep lugs for good traction. Gone is the tread pattern resembling the car tires, directly resulting from Adidas’ partnership with Continental. Now they use a more traditional lug pattern. Terrex AX4 is a grippy hiking shoe, there’s no doubt about that.
As with other brands, this hiking shoe now contains at least 50% recycled material. We will see much more of that in the years ahead.
- A lightweight hiking shoe with excellent traction
- Outstanding protection from the trail
- Very stable for low-cut shoes
- Very little toe protection
6. Oboz Sawtooth II Low
- Weight: 1.95 lb
- Waterproof: No
- Colors available: 3
Hiking shoes made by Oboz are stable and protective for a good reason – the manufacturer is located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains in Montana. Updated last year, the company’s Sawtooth II Low undoubtedly deserves its place among the best walking shoes available on the market.
They are also offered in a mid-height boot style; Sawtooth II Low sports a very durable build. The proprietary heel counter of this shoe provides the wearer with steadiness over uneven terrain and holds its shape well. It’s a great choice for folks who want their boot to provide above-the-average support and stiffness.
Other great things about Sawtooth II Low include a wide toe box and a specially sculpted O Fit insole that provides ample heel and arch support. In addition, the model includes an upper with moisture-wicking properties.
Unfortunately, Oboz Sawtooth II Low hiking shoes are not waterproof, although a waterproof variant is available. Furthermore, this shoe runs surprisingly warm – you may experience overheating issues during long distance trips. As such, it’s much more suitable for shorter day hikes.
- Sturdy, durable design
- Moisture-wicking upper
- Wide toe box
- It runs warm – not for hot weather backpacking
7. Altra Lone Peak 4.5
- Weight: 1.31 lb
- Waterproof: No
- Colors available: 5
Altra is well-known as a running-centric brand – their lightweight, heavily cushioned shoes are very popular with ultralight backpackers. The company’s Lone Peak 4.5 men’s shoes continue the same tradition and are a great option for minimalists and thru-hikers.
An update of an older iteration, Lone Peak 4.5, comes with a simplified lacing system and an upgraded midsole. However, the formula remains essentially the same – this is still a super-light option that looks and feels like your regular running shoe.
In use, Altra Lone Peak 4.5 is a solid performer as a shoe that provides decent traction and stability. While not as tough as hiking boots (nor a wet weather hiking shoe, for that matter – it won’t keep your feet dry), it is decently tough, and its thick cushioning offers some protection against sharp rocks.
All in all, Lone Peak 4.5 is one of Altra’s better offerings and a great choice for ultralight hikers. For rocky terrain and steep climbs, however, you’re better off with regular hiking boots.
- Super light
- Heavily cushioned and very comfortable
- Provides solid traction and stability
- Not suitable for rugged terrain
8. Merrell Moab 3
- Weight: 1.93 lb
- Waterproof: No
- Colors available: 12
Merell’s original Moab shoes were held in high regard by hiking beginners and professional hikers alike. The all-new Merrell Moab 2 Vent hiking shoes aim to carry on that tradition. Coming at a genuinely reasonable price, Merrell Moab 2 offers quite a lot for the money.
Considered to be the best hiking shoes in this price range, these suede-style sneakers are comfortable right out of the box. The footbed of this shoe offers ample support, while the extra padding provides solid underfoot protection on the trail. However, remember that this isn’t a hiking boot and is more suitable for day hiking than serious outdoor adventures.
Nevertheless, Merrell Moab 2 Vent offers decent traction thanks to its trusty outsole with an attractive tread design. So while they don’t offer the best hiking experience, they’re a pretty good match for moderate-difficulty day hikers. Thanks to its mesh sections along the sides and top, Merrell Moab 2 Vent hiking shoe is also very breathable.
An important thing to mention here is that there’s also a waterproof hiking shoe variant of Merrell Moab 2 that costs $25 more. if you want to read more about Merrell shoes, check out our Merrell vs Oboz comparison as well.
- A genuinely affordable hiking shoe
- Excellent comfort and support
- Very breathable – suitable for warm weather hiking
- Too flexible for heavy loads
9. Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX
- Weight: 2.78 lb
- Waterproof: Yes
- Colors available: 2
Next up is something completely different from Merrell Moab 2 – a hiking shoe that could easily be mistaken for a low-top mountaineering boot. Extremely durable, stable, and supportive, Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX undoubtedly deserves its spot in our roundup of hiking shoes.
As we already mentioned, one of the most significant advantages of Dragontail MNT GTX is its durability. Resembling hiking boots in construction, this hiking shoe uses thick, full-grain leather that easily handles wear and tear. When properly cared for, Dragontails can last for years.
Traction is yet another field in which this shoe/boot excels. The outsoles feature thick lugs that won’t let you down in both wet and dry weather. And, as the name suggests, this boot sports a Gore Tex membrane that does a great job at repelling water.
A fantastic off-trail companion, Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX is undoubtedly a worthwhile investment. As an actual mixture between a boot and a hiking shoe, it’s one of the unique offerings on the market.
- Extremely durable hiking shoe/boot
- Excellent traction and support
- Water-repellent construction
10. The North Face Ultra 109 WP
- Weight: 2.04 lb
- Waterproof: Yes
- Colors available: 2
Those who search for the best hiking boots and shoes often look for versatility. They want their hiking boot to be a great all-around product that offers support, comfort, traction, and protection on the trail. The North Face Ultra 109 WP shoe is one of such products – it’s an all-purpose model like no other.
One of the best hiking shoes money can buy, Ultra 109 WP feels like it’s already been broken in – the shoe is ready to hit the trail right out of the box. Its toe cap is sufficiently wide, while the high-quality insole provides comfort inside and outside the city.
In terms of support, Ultra 109 WP sports an EVA midsole and an ESS shank, which work together to promote stable and supportive movement across rough terrain. While you can’t expect the long-term durability of a regular hiking boot, this shoe is well-built and should last you for years.
Finally, Ultra 109 WP comes at a genuinely reasonable price, rivaling Merrell Moab 2 in that regard. So if you’re looking for an affordable all-around shoe, get this one – you won’t regret your decision.
- Very affordable and versatile
- Offers boot-like support and stability
- Waterproof (Hydroseal / Dryvent)
- Questionable long-term durability
An Extra – Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX
- Weight: 1.64 lb
- Waterproof: Yes
- Colors available: 5
Compared to Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX in terms of weight, these shoes are on the opposite side of the spectrum. Nevertheless, hikers who need light gear for faster transport are bound to love the Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX – they’re a great choice if you want to shave weight and move quickly on the trail.
The first thing to notice about this hiking shoe is its impeccable design. Available in five different colors, it can be used in town and on the trail alike. Despite their minimalistic design and low weight, these trail runners are made out of very durable fabric.
In addition, Aerios FL trail runner comes with a Gore-Tex membrane that prevents water from getting through the shoe to your foot. In terms of support, the model uses a compressed EVA midsole and a TPU shank. This shoe is supportive and quite helpful with torsional stability, although it can’t be compared to hiking boots when it comes to these departments.
For some, lightweight hiking shoes are the best for hiking. If you count yourself among these individuals, Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX is a fantastic choice – it’s an ultralight hiking shoe that successfully combines support, stability, and water resistance into one great package.
- Minimalistic, superlight
- Provide support and stability
- Water-repelling Gore Tex membrane
- For trail use only
Hiking Shoes vs Trail Runners vs Sneakers for the Camino
In four words – support, grip, traction, comfort.
There is an argument that trail runners are as good as hiking shoes. There is a convergence between hiking shoes and trail runners. In dry weather with little chance of rocks or in any way damaging my toes, I believe that the lightweight runners are a good choice. For long multiday hikes of more than a few days, I prefer the support and soles in hiking shoe construction.
Sneakers or trail runners are great for an easy day in relatively flat tracks. However, sneakers are not built to support your foot, ankle, and lower leg when climbing up or descending steep trails. This will result in stiffer legs and sore ankles at the end of the day. In addition, sneakers are not built to protect your toes during descents. The last issue I have with sneakers is that the sole is not good enough for the grip needed away from artificial surfaces, and at the same time, you will very quickly start to feel all the tiny stones through the sole as you hike along beautiful tracks.
Best Hiking Shoes Buying Guide
These are the most important factors to keep in mind when shopping for hiking shoes:
Comfort is undoubtedly one of the most important considerations. If the shoe is painful, you’re bound to have an unhappy time during your backpacking trip – it’s as simple as that. So instead, aim for a model with a plush interior and a wide toe box – our top pick, La Sportiva Spire GTX, is an excellent choice in that regard.
Many of the considerations we mention will seem like common sense, yet it is surprising how often people pay too little attention to comfort and fit. For example, you will be wearing your hiking shoes for long periods at a time, so you need the fit to be perfect, and you want to feel comfortable. Too large, and your feet will move around, which is bad for your balance and induces blisters, and too tight, and you will find things very uncomfortable. Take your time to get the fit right, and choose carefully.
Be careful with choosing the right size of shoe; it might be prudent to have your feet checked for size, as many people routinely think they are one size when in fact, they are not!
One of the most significant benefits of hiking shoes over boots is that they’re a lot lighter. Still, not everyone hikes in the same way – some people want their shoes to be as ultralight as possible. If you’re one of them, Altra Lone Peak 4.5 lightweight shoes are a great choice, as they weigh mere 1.31 pounds.
You need to be comfortable not just in the fit of your lightweight hiking shoes but also in the weight. All shoes carry some added weight, but you don’t want to be burdened by needlessly heavy footwear. In addition, you want to be able to wear your shoes for an extended period without them encumbering you. Check different pairs side by side as a weight comparison, or check manufacturer specifications for details.
Support and Stability
These parameters are equally important. How much support and stability a particular shoe can provide depends on several factors, such as the shape and thickness of its midsole, insole, and outsole. Models such as Merrell Moab 2 Vent, Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX, and Salomon X Ultra 3 are great in this department.
As long as you buy good fitting, lightweight hiking shoes, you will not notice the areas where your foot and ankle are being supported. (Shoes should be snug and not tight.) Usually, the best way to understand the support hiking shoes give you is to put them on after wearing sneakers for a few hours. You will then feel support at the end of your Achilles tendon and around under your ankle and down the side of your foot. Also, assuming your shoe fits well, you will notice that your foot does not slide back and forward at any time – your foot stays in place whether you are going up or down a hill (you might get a little slippage on very steep downhills).
Dry feet provide more warmth and comfort than wet ones. Shoes with a Gore-Tex (GTX) barrier can be absolute lifesavers when you’re hiking in rain or snow. You’ll find an abundance of GTX hiking shoes in our roundup, with Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX being a standout.
Waterproofing your hiking shoes is a critical issue and one that you should not overlook. Even in the glorious environs of Northern Spain, where you will be walking the Camino de Santiago, you will encounter rain and wet ground, so you need your shoes to be waterproof. Of course, all of those on the list are designed to be so, but some have extra precautions such as specially designed tongues, so check them carefully for the best designs.
Traction is an essential factor. Unlike shoes with shallow lugs, which perform best on hard-packed trails, footwear with deep lugs provides excellent footing in loose dirt and mud. See Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX, Garmont Dragontail MNT GTX, and Vasque Juxt hiking shoes for hiking shoes with exceptional traction.
The soles of your walking shoes are the part that will do most of the hard work. Many people have their own choice of material for soles – you will find various options, including rubber, which is a common choice in many walking soles, and others such as Vibram, which is a rubber sole designed by a company in Italy with plenty of expertise in the area, and a strong reputation.
Just like with all of your other hiking gear, you’ll want your shoes to be durable. Your footwear will suffer a lot more wear and tear than anything else you’re wearing. For heavy-duty options, check out our reviews of La Sportiva TX4 and Oboz Sawtooth II Low hiking shoes.
Another point that ties in with all the above: you not only want your shoes to be comfortable, sensibly priced, and waterproof, but you want them to last a reasonable amount of time. These shoes will come in for some rugged use, so check the materials they are made with and read the customer reviews for added information.
Not all hiking shoes are created equal – some are budget-oriented, and some come packed with several convenient features. For example, if you’re looking to save money, you won’t go wrong with The North Face Ultra 109 WP, an affordable pair of all-around shoes. If you want the best of the best, however, nothing beats the combination of comfort, traction, and durability offered by La Sportiva Wildcat.
It isn’t easy to test shoes comprehensively, but we recommend you check them out before deciding. You can also – as above – use customer testimony given in online reviews, as this will highlight problems in the main.
Last but not least, we have to mention breathability. You need your shoes to provide adequate breathability for your feet, as they will be enclosed for a long time. The shoes on our list have all been designed with this in mind, so check for added features that may help.
The Best Shoes for the Camino de Santiago
The best shoes for you will likely not be the best shoes for everyone. Try them on, and make sure they are good for you. I wrote guide this while thinking about the best shoes for the Camino de Santiago. The shortest time I have walked on the Camino is two weeks. Usually, I walk for four weeks. Because of that, I want a sturdy hiking shoe that will provide good cushioning for the whole time.
Whether you’re only occasionally hitting local trails or you’re off for an epic outdoor adventure on the Camino, you want your feet to be comfortable and protected from rough terrain. And for that, you need a pair of quality hiking shoes.
Hopefully, my review of the market’s most popular options will help you find the proper footwear for your needs. Remember that your shoes take more punishment than all your other hiking gear combined – choose wisely!
And remember that choosing the right pair of shoes is not enough. You also need the right socks. Check out my Merino Wool vs Coolmax comparison to learn more about different hiking sock fabrics.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.