Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes for Backpacking

If you are in a hurry or don’t want to read all the reviews, Keen Voyageur is my choice for the best hiking shoes.

Hiking is a wonderful way of exploring the great outdoors, and as I live in a city it refreshes me every weekend when I get out onto a hill and get in a decent long hike.

Related: best hiking shoes for women and best vegan hiking shoes and boots.

If I am walking the Camino in summer I use the best hiking shoes I can afford, and I usually take along minimalist sandals to wear in the evenings. These sandals are great, they give my feet a rest and they are incredibly light. For the West Highland Way in Scotland, it always needs to be boots due to the uneven rough paths.  In Ireland the hills are so boggy I prefer boots and gaiters.  Hiking in the Rockies while in Canada I wore mostly shoes as our hiking routes were dry.

Best Hiking Shoes Reviewed

Depending on the terrain and the weather I like to have a good choice of hiking shoes, walking boots or trail running shoes for my many treks.  As I am generally a fair weather hiker I have good experience in buying lightweight hiking shoes that I use all summer long.

1: Keen Men’s Voyageur Lightweight Hiking Shoe

Keen Men Voyageur Hiking shoes

 

The Keen brand, from the USA, offers a range of quality, sturdy hiking, and outdoor shoes and boots, of which this is one such. It’s made from leather uppers with a breathable mesh lining and has a sturdy and very strong and grippy rubber sole. It’s a very nicely made protective shoe and is waterproof with a protective tongue and lace-up closure. You can buy this good-looking and rugged hiking shoe in a range of colors, and in most sizes up to 17 (US male), and while it’s one of the more expensive on the list we recommend you have a second look at it.

Key Features – US made, large sizes, leather upper, rubber sole, breathable lining

2: ASICS Men’s Gel Venture 6 Lightweight Hiking Shoes

ASICS Trail Running Shoe

We’ve included this as it is a best seller within the category, but it’s more of an outdoor running shoe than a dedicated hiking shoe. Nevertheless, if you’re comfortable with that, then it’s from a quality brand and is a nice shoe with synthetic uppers and quality, strong leather sole. The rear has GEL cushioning, too, which is helpful when moving at speed. A removable sock liner might appeal to some, but we really think there are better choices on this list for hiking.

Key Features – sporting brand, running shoe, sock liner, tough cushioned sole

3: Merrell Women’s Siren Edge Lightweight Hiker4: Merrell Women's Siren Edge Hiker

This neat and tidy hiking shoe is from Merrell, one of the leading names in the field, and is a ladies shoe. It’s available in sizes 5 to 11, and is a well-made quality item. Featuring a Vibram sole for added grip and durability, and with breathable mesh construction, it is designed with comfort in mind, and also has a contoured footbed with odour control. Ghillie laces, a carefully designed bellows tongue to deter debris, and seamless overlays add to the appeal of this quality women’s hiking shoe.

Key Features – Merrell brand, Vibram sole, full range of sizes, bellows tongue

4: Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Lightweight Boot

Columbia Women's Newton Ridge Plus

This top quality women’s hiking boot combines leather and suede upper with a strong rubber sole for durability and comfort and is available in three colors. It comes with some advanced features including a Techlite midsole for cushioning and weight saving, and the sole is designed for maximum grip. Fully waterproof and a full ankle boot design, a mesh tongue for added breathability and a simple yet strong lace-up closure make for a very nice boot, but be aware it’s not the cheapest.

Key Features – women’s boot, leather and suede, advanced mid-sole, rubber sole

5: Elaphurus Lightweight Mid Trekking Lightweight Hiking Boots

Elaphurus Lightweight Mid Trekking Hiking Boots

This best-selling men’s lightweight hiking boot is not from a major brand, but nevertheless gets some excellent reviews for what is budget-priced yet decent boot. It’s made from suede with a breathable mesh tongue for comfort and features a strong rubber sole that is designed for added grip. The lining is meshing for breathability, and the lace-up closure and full tongue provide waterproofing. Stylish and available in a selection of colors, this is one for those on a tight budget.

Key Features – budget price, color choice, suede and mesh, rubber sole

6: Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Lightweight Vent Shoe

 Merrell Men's Moab 2 Vent Shoe

This is another shoe from Merrell, and we make no excuses for including a few examples from this brand as they are quality shoes. This is a lightweight men’s shoe rather than a boot-fit, and is made from suede leather and mesh for waterproofing, plus it has rubber toe protection built in. It features a foam tongue in bellows style for keeping debris out, is waterproof and lace-up, and Vibram sole for durability and grip. If you want the best you should take a look at these, and they are sensibly priced for quality hiking shoes.

Key Features – men’s shoe, Merrell, Vibram sole, leather and suede upper, breathable

7: Merrell Lightweight Trail Chaser

Merrell Trail Chaser Hiking Shoe

If you’re into hiking with the family, this is one for the kids. It’s a Merrell shoe, so comes with the quality you expect from a top brand, and has a rubber sole and a suede and mesh upper construction. It has a hook and lock closure system for added comfort and fit, and a removable inner footbed. It’s available in an attractive range of colors and suitable for boys and girls, and can be had in a full range of little kid and big kid sizes, at sensible prices.

Key Features – kids shoe, all the sizes, rubber sole, suede and mesh, great colors

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8: Under Armour Women’s Post Canyon Lightweight Shoe

Under Armour Women's Post Canyon

Our last selection is one for the ladies; it’s made by Under Armour and is a very tough ankle boot design that comes highly rated by customers. A leather upper makes for added comfort, durability and keeps the water out, while the rubber sole offers a strong and durable grip. Rubber toe cap inserts provide protection, a storm proof membrane is included to keep you dry, and a strong rubber heel is specially designed for added grip. A nice boot but not the cheapest, though still worth looking at.

Key Features – women’s boot, ankle boot, leather upper, rubber sole, toe protection

9: Timberland White Ledge Men’s Boot

Timberland White Ledge Men's Boot

Another brand with a strong reputation for quality goods at sensible prices is Timberland, and this is a hiking boot for men that has many fine attributes. It’s an attractive design made from leather and with a rugged rubber sole, is a full ankle boot design for added comfort, and is fully waterproof with an oiled finish. A padded collar and rear pull loop add to the comfort and fit, and it is available in a full range of sizes and a variety of colors. There is also a women’s version. Not the cheapest, but a quality item.

Key Features – Timberland, rubber sole, leather oiled upper, padded collar

That’s our list of the best lightweight hiking shoes, so what else do you need to take into consideration? Let’s have a look.

Hiking Shoes v’s Sneakers or Runners?

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 trail runners are a good choice. For long multiday hikes of more than a few days, I prefer the support of hiking shoes.

Sneakers or Runners are great for an easy day in relatively flat tracks. Sneakers are not built to support your foot, ankle and lower leg when climbing up or descending steep tracks. This will result in stiffer legs and sore ankles at the end of the day. 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 man-made surfaces and at the same time you will very quickly start to feel all the tiny stones as you hike along beautiful tracks.

Hiking Shoe Support

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 the support at the end of your Achilles tendon and around under your ankle and down the side of your foot. 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).

Traction and Grip

The sole of your hiking shoe is built for surfaces that are natural and not man made. Hiking shoes have deep lugged soles to stop slippage on almost any surface and they disperse the shock throughout your shoe and provide extra cushioning for your feet.

Shoe Comfort

Walking on tracks made from tiny stones my feet start to feel each stone through the sole unless I have a good quality hiking shoe.

Hiking Shoes Buying Guide

We are talking about hiking shoes and boots in this review, but with all types of shoe, there are certain considerations to take into account. The following list should cover them all:

Comfort and Fit

Many of the considerations we mention will seem like common sense, yet it is surprising how often people pay too little attention to the likes of comfort and fit. You are going to 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 as well as inducing blisters, and too tight and you will find things very uncomfortable. Take your time to get the fit right, and choose carefully.

Grip

For any terrain – rough or smooth – you need shoes that give you a sensible level of grip. Hiking shoes will have been designed with this in mind, but you should check through customer reviews and have a good look at the soles too.

Weight

You need to be comfortable not just in the fit of your shoes, but also in the weight. All shoes carry some added weight, but you don’t want to be burdened by needlessly heavy footwear. You want to be able to wear your shoes for a long period without them encumbering you. Check different pairs side by side as a weight comparison, or check manufacturer specifications for details.

Testing

It’s difficult to test shoes comprehensively, but we recommend you do check them out prior to making your decision. You can also – as above – use customer testimony given in online reviews, as this will highlight problems in the main.

Price

Always a consideration is cost. The best advice is to have a look at what is available – hence our list of the top 10 – and set your budget accordingly. As this is an item you are going to need a lot of use out of, and one that will be subject to a deal of wear and tear, it is probably sensible to spend the most you can afford on the best quality shoes.

Shoe Sizing

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! Also, pay attention to the width, as with walking shoes this is as important as the overall size, and see our tips on comfort above.

Waterproofing

Waterproofing your hiking shoes is a very important 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.

Durability

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 are shoes that are going to come in for some very hard use, so check the materials they are made with, and also read the customer reviews for added information.

Soles

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.

Breathability

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.

That’s our list of considerations to keep in mind when buying walking shoes, so let’s take a look at the details of the top 10.

Our Conclusion

Finding the best hiking shoes – like all footwear – are a personal choice. We will say that the big name brands – such as Merrell and Timberland – offer quality items and that most of the shoes on this list are great quality and will do the job. We should also add that the price range covered is from around $25 to more than $200, so your budget is going to have an impact.

We’ve included best-selling examples for men and women, so take another look and get some quality hiking boots so you can enjoy your exploring to the full.

Best Hiking Boots

When you are out on the hill or on a long trek, your hiking boots are among the most important pieces in your kit. You need a good pair of boots or shoes to suit the terrain. Some people, for example, prefer shoes for trekking or hill walking, but for me, a good pair of comfortable and neatly fitting boots gives me the support and comfort I need for some of the rugged terrain.

Read our review of lightweight hiking shoes.

It’s the same for walking other trails – even simple cross-country hikes on the Pennine Way in England, or a hike around the Scottish Borders – the choice of footwear is a personal one.

This review is looking at the top 10 hiking boots you can find on the market today, for hikers who want to get the best out of their free time on the trails, so let’s have a look.

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