Oh no, it’s that time again, your most trusty companions have finally given up the ghost. You’re left overwhelmed by sadness and a sense of loss. If only you had looked after them better, if only you could have had one last adventure. But alas, the sole has fallen off and you’re going nowhere fast.
Okay, enough drama, it’s time to find a new pair of hiking boots. In this day and age, when there are so many hundreds of boot makers out there, and new technologies available, how does a wild man of nature go about finding the best hiking boots for men?
There is a veritable mountain to climb, do you stick with what you know? Go for the boots your hiking buddies have been raving about? Or try something completely new? Hiking boots have come on a long way over the last few years with many incorporating new technologies that you may be unfamiliar with, that didn’t exist when you bought your last pair of trusty boots.
Come along, and don’t lag behind as we take a step through what boot might be the best for you. While we go, let’s not forget hiking shoes either, since you may find a shoe more suitable for the adventures you have in mind. Later we will take a look at some of the best hiking shoes for men, as well as boots.
What Are Modern Hiking Boots Really Made of?
When looking for a new pair of hiking boots, it’s good to know what desirable features make up a good boot. In a nutshell, a hiking boot is made up of the following;
The upper is the material that holds the boot/shoe together and consists of the main bulk of the shoe. Generally made from leather, synthetic textiles or a mix, the quality can depend on the material used, with 100% leather generally giving a more durable, protective and waterproof boot, while textile boots are generally lighter and more affordable.
Options for the upper include;
- Waterproof lining: such as Gore-Tex
- Ventilation: fantastic for keeping your foot cool in summer but can compromise the effectiveness of the waterproofing.
- Insulated lining: A must for winter hiking, keeping your foot warm and dry whatever the weather.
The footbed or insole is generally removable and is responsible for supporting your foot in key areas such as the arch, toes, and heel. EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) is a common material used for the footbed and is a high-density foam, providing firm cushioning.
Some boots will have moisture wicking insoles, which allow your feet to breathe and prevent them from overheating and sweating.
The midsole, located beneath the footbed, is responsible for providing comfort and stability as well as shock absorption.
Also typically made from EVA, for sturdier boots they can be strengthened with a shank insert, providing stiffness but losing flexibility, which is great for harder terrain but may be detrimental to less extreme hiking or rock hopping.
The outsole is generally made of rubber, or a rubber compound and is responsible for protecting your feet from sharp objects, as well as providing traction, and keeping you vertical. Lugs aid with this, and can be as deep as 5mm.
The pattern, depth, and spacing of the lugs all play an important part in giving the sole good traction. Vibram produces many types of high-quality outsoles, using a mix of rubber, carbon, and silicone to provide more stiffness than usual, for increased durability.
A Note on Height and Fit
Hiking boots can range in height from low cut shoes, mid-cut boots, and high cut boots. Shoes are great for less extreme hiking and summer trips, while heavier, high cut boots offer the most ankle protection and are more generally more suitable for heavier backpacking trips over rough ground.
Finally, it is worth noting that a general rule of thumb when ordering hiking boots is to go half, or in some cases a full size, up, to allow for thicker socks to be worn. However, this can vary between brands and it is always worth checking each individual boot for what the fit is like.
The best practice, of course, is to try them on before you buy. Many boots will require a period of time to break them in, however, break in time seems to be reducing, with many customers happy to use their boots straight from the box.
A Review of Nine Great Boots for Men
Timberland White Ledge Men’s Waterproof Boot
Type: Boot (mid height)
Size range: 7 – 15 (standard and wide)
Specific Features: Waterproof, Breathable EVA footbed, Traction support
Best use: weekend camping trips and light hiking.
Description: Timberland White Ledge Men’s Waterproof Boots are waterproof and offer protection in the rain and for river crossings, but don’t hold up too well to prolonged exposure to water.
The size fits the vast majority of people (86%) as expected, and for many, it doesn’t take very long at all to break the boots in.
The rubber sole is quite lightweight and tends to wear down somewhat quicker than boots with harder soles in the same price range. Many customers agree that it is a good quality boot though and have returned to it time and time again, replacing a worn pair with a new one when required.
There have been occasions when the boot hasn’t lived up to expectations however, and the quality has let people down. Issues have included the eyelets popping out, the sole detaching from the body over time, thus letting water in and the rare occasion where the material has torn on first use.
On the whole, the boot receives positive feedback, with people enjoying the comfort offered, as well as the traction.
Related products: Mt. Maddsen mid WP hiking boots
Vasque Men’s Talus Ultradry Hiking Boot
Type: Boot (mid height)
Sole: Sticky Vibram outsole (synthetic)
Size range: 7 – 13/14(wide/standard)
Specific Features: UltraDry Waterproof protection, Lightweight (2lbs. 9oz.), Comfortable
Best use: Great for anything up to a medium intensity hike.
Description: If you’re looking for a comfortable boot, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more comfortable than the Vasque Men’s Talus Ultradry Hiking Boot, offering very little break in time, with many folks happy to wear them straight out of the box.
Even negative reviewers rate the comfort of these boots and would recommend them as at least street boots. Comfort aside, the Vibram sole has great traction on loose rocks and will keep you standing tall, with many people happy to use them hiking through streams, in snowy conditions or boggier trails.
They are just as waterproof as they claim to be, keeping your feet dry with their all leather upper and ultra dry technology underneath.
Some hikers have complained that they lose traction in wet conditions, and have had no grip on wet rocks or wood, however, only a small number of people have mentioned this issue. A more common complaint is the fact that these boots can feel a little narrow, especially if wearing with thick hiking socks, so it may be worth ordering half a size bigger.
These are far more lightweight than other all leather hiking boots, and as such do not offer such sturdy protection in the ankle. With this in mind, they may not be suitable for extremely strenuous trails.
The advantage is that you’ll barely notice that you’re wearing hiking boots, and will be able to fly up and down mountainsides, and leap from rock to rock.
Related products: Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX and Vasque Mantra 2.0.
Lowa Men’s Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot
Type: Boot (mid height)
Material: Leather and synthetic mix
Sole: Vibram Evo
Size range: 7.5 – 15/16(wide/standard)
Specific Features: All terrain boot, Breathable, Climate-control foot bed, Waterproof GORE-TEX
Best use: Great for lighter trails and backpacking trips that aren’t too strenuous, but not quite suitable for heavy going yomping
Description: More sturdy and protective than most lightweight boots, but Lowa Men’s Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot are not quite as heavy and durable as most mid-weight boots, the Renegade fits somewhere in between. The soft, Vibram sole offers good traction and flexibility.
Obviously this means it will not hold up to as much abuse as a firmer soled boot, but for light hikes this should not be an issue. They offer good ankle support, and will keep your toes and heels safe from slams.
As far as comfort is concerned, these are boots that are generally good to go from the box, with minimum break in time.
The comfort offered while hiking is also to be commended, with many wearers happy with the mix of flexibility and support offered. This is partly due to the derby style lacing, which allows a custom fit to any foot type. Consider ordering half a size up.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect boot, and these certainly are not it. Their main issue is with durability, with an increasing amount of people complaining that the boots started to come apart after sometimes as little as 7 months of use, and more often than not, only light use.
The main problem area is with the sole becoming detached from the body of the boot, most commonly in the toe area. This is certainly something to be aware of if you’re looking for a long lasting boot, especially considering the price, however many customers return to this boot despite this issue, giving credit to its good points.
Teva Men’s Kimtah Mid WP Mesh Hiking Boot
Type: Boot (mid height)
Material: Mix (52% leather, 35% textile, 13% synthetic)
Size range: n/a
Specific Features: T.I.D.E waterproof membrane, Lightweight, cushioned foot bed, Shock Pad heel protection
Best use: most hiking expeditions
Description: If you’re looking for a sturdy, but not too heavy boot, Teva Men’s Kimtah Mid WP Mesh Hiking Boot could be the pair for you. Offering good all round protection, most noticeable in the heel and ankle areas, as well as the flexibility to improve your agility, this is a great pair of boots to consider.
Perhaps for extreme activities you will want a heavier boot, but on the whole these perform well in a variety of arenas.
While being sturdy, they still provide comfort and break is time is low, with many happy to wear them out of the box and test them out immediately. They’re also not a bad looking boot, and will blend in off of the trail as well.
The waterproofing works well and will keep your feet warm and dry, even when covered in snow. For wet grass and puddles, there are no issues, the only potential issue may be that the waterproof membrane affects the breathability of your foot, with some hikers commenting that their feet were too warm at times.
The sole offers good traction, and will keep you going boulder after boulder, right to the summit. All in all a great value boot for any season and for any hikes up to medium in intensity.
Related products: Teva Men’s Riva Winter Mid Hiking Boot
Merrell Men’s Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe
Material: Mix (leather/synthetic)
Sole: Vibram multi-sport (rubber)
Size range: 7 – 14/15 (wide/regular)
Specific Features: Water resistant leather and mesh upper, Breathable and lightweight, Air cushion midsole
Best use: desert trails, light summer hiking, cycling and even everyday use and exercise.
Description: Take a step away from the image of a stereotypical hiker, wearing a pair of big bulky boots and sweating his feet away in the summer heat. Enter the Moab ventilator hiking shoes, the perfect footwear during the hot summer months.
They’re a lightweight alternative to boots that allow your feet to breathe through the leather and mesh exterior. They’re comfortable too, offering comfort straight from the box, with an air cushioned midsole allowing you to make your way down any forest path with ease.
The traction from the Vibram sole is also very good, even in the wet, with the lugs seeming to dig into earth, rocks and gravel, and keeping you safely vertical.
The downside is that come winter, or heavy rain, these shoes may not be so great. They’re simply not waterproof and will not offer the protection sturdier boots will. Having said that they are more or less splash proof, and will not let you down in a light rain, or if you step through a puddle.
They’re a thoroughly decent shoe, as long as you’re aware of their limitations, and which environments they will thrive in.
Related products: Men’s MOAB GORE-TEX
KEEN Men’s Targhee II Mid WP Hiking Boot
Type: Boot (Mid height)
Material: Mix (leather/textile)
Size range: 7 – 17 (regular)
Specific Features: Waterproof, breathable membrane (KEEN.DRY), Contoured heel lock, 4mm multi directional lugs
Best use: a variety of terrain and environments
Description: A solid boot, well made and made to last, the sole offers incredible traction. The lugs seem to bite into whatever surface you’re hiking on, and don’t let go until you’re ready to move on.
According to many wearers, they’ve seen action around the world, from deserts to snow-capped mountains, and all the while, come rain or shine have managed to prevent slips.
The EVA midsole is fairly solid, offering plenty of stability, and is just springy enough to allow the flexibility you need while hiking. For many people KEEN Men’s Targhee II Mid WP Hiking Boot are comfortable from the box, or within a day or so of breaking in, and remain to be comfortable when out and about.
While the waterproofing offered is excellent – standing up against rain, river crossings, snow and puddles – they do tend to get quite hot inside in hotter climates, and the breathability is not quite as good as it claims. This is something many people are happy to live with however, due to the durability of these boots.
Many happy hikers have had the same pair for up to 5 years, and bought another pair right away. A small percentage of reviewers claim the quality has dropped recently, and that while the boots still offer the same great comfort and traction, the durability has decreased significantly, and the boots will start to come apart after a few short months of light use.
Whether this is down to a bad a batch or a wider problem, is unknown. The overwhelming consensus however, is that these are great, comfortable, general purpose hiking boots with amazing traction.
Salomon Men’s Quest 4D GTX Backpacking Boot
Type: Boot (High height)
Sole: Synthetic (Contagrip)
Size range: n/a
Specific Features: Waterproof and breathable (Gore-Tex), Ankle support, Smart lace system
Best use: hiking and backpacking
Description: A great all-rounder, the Salomon Men’s Quest 4D GTX Backpacking Boot will perform well in all four seasons. While these are leather high top boots, offering excellent ankle support, they are not too heavy, and for many are quite lightweight hiking/backpacking boots, in comparison to other brands.
This is not to say that they do not offer a similar amount of protection when you slam your toes or heels. On the whole these boots receive a lot of praise regarding their toughness and durability. They are also quite quick to break in and fairly comfortable.
The grip is also very good, and will keep you on the rocks without much effort, whatever part of the sole you land on. While being grippy, the sole is also very soft, and can wear down quicker than some people would like on a pair of boots in this price range.
There’s no doubting the effectiveness of the waterproofing, and many happy campers have reported successful river crossings and treks through snow, however in some cases it appears that the waterproof membrane wears down quite quickly, and may need to be retreated.
The boots feature a great lacing system allowing you to tighten various areas of the boot, toes, ankle etc, and so enable the boot to fit more or less any foot type.
Some hikers report issues with quality, i.e. eyelets breaking or coming out, but these cases are fairly infrequent.
Ariat Men’s Terrain Hiking Boots
Type: Boot (Mid height)
Material: Mix (Leather/synthetic)
Sole: Rubber compound (Duratread)
Size range: 6 – 12 / 4 – 14 (wide/standard)
Specific Features: Shock absorbing EVA midsole, Water resistant, Moisture wicking foot bed
Best use: casual hiking, construction sites, horse riding in the wilderness
Description: Ariat may not be the first brand you think of when considering hiking boots, however their Terrain boot has many followers and many more converted fans stepping in. The quality is on the whole very high, and the durability reflects this, with many happy customers using their boots for several years.
There are some instances in which this isn’t the case, and there have been concerns that the quality has begun to drop in recent years, with some people experiencing tears and worn down leather within months of light use.
However the positive experiences with this boot far outweigh the negative. Another issue is with the lacing, which doesn’t use all metal eyelets and loops, but features several leather hoops that the laces pass through, making it a little more difficult to lace the boot up as well as you might like.
Many wearers also report that it takes some time to break the boot in, but when you do it is a very comfortable shoe to be wearing out and about. The sole is hard however as doesn’t offer as much flexibility as others, with people having had issues with the hard heel in particular.
However in most cases a replacement insole seems to do the trick. A lot of wearers believe the boots are made a tad on the big side, and recommend ordering a size lower than normal, so beware of this when ordering. This boot doesn’t claim to be waterproof, but it does seem to last well in rain, puddles, wet grass and snow, keeping feet warm and dry.
The traction isn’t as fierce as other brands, but the sole can hold its own on rocky trails, just be careful on wet rocks. This may not be the most suitable boot for extreme hiking, but it seems to be popular for those working in construction who are looking for something a bit lighter. Other fans include horse riders.
La Sportiva Men’s FC ECO 3.0 GTX Hiking Boot
Type: Boot (Mid height)
Material: Mix (Leather and mesh)
Sole: Vibram (Recycle rubber compound)
Size range: 38 – 47.5 (EU standard)
Specific Features: Flex control system, Waterproof Gore-Tex lining, Impact braking system, Mid-weight (18.6oz)
Best use: hiking, running
Description: Another fantastically comfortable hiking boot, in part thanks to the flexible but firm, cushioned midsole, but it is the mesh strips separating the toes and the heel that really allow your foot to feel pampered.
This mesh strip allows your foot to move more naturally when landing on the ball of your foot. For many La Sportiva Men’s FC ECO 3.0 GTX Hiking Boot is a great fit straight from the box, and some have likened them to running shoes, in terms of flexibility, shock absorption, and comfort. They are fairly light as well for this style of boot, allowing you to spring from rock to rock.
They have a Gore-Tex lining keeping them fairly waterproof, and wearers are happy with the protection given in puddles, rain, and splashes, however, due to the mesh strips, they will inevitably allow some moisture if exposed to longer periods of saturation, for example, if hiking in deep snow. On the plus side, they provide great ventilation in summer.
The Vibram sole offers fierce traction in dry and wet conditions and paired with the flexibility and impact braking system, allow you to tackle any kind of terrain without issue, even with a backpack on.
It’s difficult to find much wrong with these boots, they’re comfortable, durable and grippy, and make a fantastic three season boot for hiking, lighter walking, mountain climbing, backpacking and rock hopping. A sturdier, more waterproof boot may be preferred in winter if you plan to trudge through snow up to your knees.
Finally, these are eco-friendly boots, containing many recycled elements, such as the sole, midsole, mesh and laces.
Related products: FC ECO 2.0, FC ECO 4.0
Are Your Boots Made for Walking?
Having had a look at some great boots, it’s time to choose and step to it, because stocks might not last long. Just remember to keep in mind what you want to put your boots through, and buy accordingly.
If you’re looking to go hiking in the Sahara, a pair of hiking shoes might be the best for you, with their ventilation and light weight proving to be a huge benefit. If you’re planning a 12-day backpacking hike up and over mountain ranges, through blizzards and bogs, you’re going to want a high top, all leather, waterproof boot with insulation.
For most people, a mid-weight, mid-height, waterproof boot with great grip will satisfy all of their hiking and backpacking needs. Just make sure the boot fits, and if it doesn’t it’s certainly worth sending them back for a better fitting pair, no matter how good a boot is if it doesn’t fit correctly it’s all too easy to do yourself some serious damage.
What’s the boot that has kept you going throughout the years? Let us know in the comments section.