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Best Hiking Boots (2023): Walking Shoes, Trails, Backpacking

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Best Overall BootSalomon Quest 4 GTX

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Everyday Walking ShoesZamberlan 334 Circe GTX (Women’s)

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Backpacking Boots That Last YearsDanner Mountain Light (Women’s)

Read moreIn the traditional world of hiking boots, practicality is king, with solid ankle support and a nice bit of leather keeping your feet dry and ankles intact as you head for the hills. Things are changing fast, though, with the modern technology found in running shoes being co-opted into walking boots and trail shoes, helping to reduce weight while increasing comfort, speed, and performance.

As a result, there are now hundreds of pairs to choose from, including tried-and-tested traditional leather clodhoppers, ultralight trail running sneakers, and a whole host of hybrid designs, like approach shoes for scrambling and pillowy soft designs for epic through-hikes and all-year adventures.

For more of WIRED’s outdoor guides, check out our Hiking Gear 101 guide, Best Baselayers, Best Tents, and the Best Rain Jackets.

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Photograph: Salomon

Best Overall BootSalomon Quest 4 GTX

Head to any serious hiking spot and you’ll see at least one person wearing a pair of Quest 4s. Perennially popular and for good reason, the Salomons boast superb levels of comfort and support without the bulk typically associated with traditional walking boots. If the On-Running Cloudtrax (below) are sneakers, the Salomons feel like ski boots, but that’s not a criticism. The extra height and support is most welcome when walking for long distances and when carrying a full pack.

Despite testing countless pairs of newer, lighter, and more stylish boots, when the miles get long and the terrain serious, I reach for the Salomon Quest 4 GTX. The suede leather and rubberized toe-cap make them impressively robust, they’re easy to clean, and the all-encompassing Gore-Tex liner offers complete waterproofing. The outsole is deep, aggressive, and impervious to unexpected slips, and top marks go to the metal lacing system, especially the middle eyelet that grips the laces securely, meaning you will rarely need to tighten them once tied. They’re not as forgiving underfoot as many of the newer running-shoe-inspired designs, but there’s plenty of shock absorption in the balls and heel.

Photograph: Zamberlan

Everyday Walking ShoesZamberlan 334 Circe GTX (Women’s)

These boots from a handcrafted Italian heritage brand are the best hiking boots I’ve ever tested. I wear these as my normal, everyday walking shoes. The fit is spectacular. Zamberlan’s X-Active Fit on a woman-specific last (the form around which the shoe is molded) fits my narrow feet and ankles even better than heat-molded boots. Even the tongue is elasticized and padded; I can tie the laces quickly and tightly without adjusting the pressure on specific parts of my foot. There’s plenty of room in the toe box for long days. A wide heel and big sticky Vibram soles keep me stable while skipping around rocks and logs. And each shoe is still almost as light as some of my trail running sneakers. It boasts Gore-Tex Extended Comfort waterproofing, which claims to keep the boot waterproof for the boot’s lifetime. I haven’t tested that yet (I wear hiking boots for years) but it is a comfort to know that they will be resoleable in the United States when their time comes.—Adrienne So

Photograph: Keen

For The 10,000 Steps CrewKeen WK400

Not to be confused with the questionable MBT “muscle toning” sneakers of the ’00s, Keen’s WK400 walking shoes feature a shaped inner plate and super-thick curved midsole designed to propel you forward, creating a more efficient stride. Think of the Keen.Curve sole design as a pedestrian version of a performance running shoe—that often features carbon plates for maximum energy return. But in the case of the WK400, the energy boost is focused toward the back of the foot rather than the toes.

The curved sole does leave you teetering a little when standing still, but once strolling the feeling of added momentum is instantly apparent. These shoes love to walk, and the exaggerated arch will push you forward. They boast sneaker-like comfort with plenty of cushioning around the heel and tongue, and the wider sole, with well-spaced rubber tread, gives an impressive amount of stability over uneven terrain. That said, given these shoes aren’t waterproof and lack really deep mud-loving lugs, we recommend them for power walking, easy trails, and urban jaunts rather than off-road adventures.

Photograph: Danner

Backpacking Boots That Last YearsDanner Mountain Light (Women’s)

If you think of “hiking boots,” the iconic boots that you picture are probably these. They’re not the lightest boots, nor the most nimble, and the fit is perhaps not as dialed in as some of our other picks. However, they’re the boots that you want to be wearing while backpacking or if you have to flee a natural disaster on foot. They’re still made by hand in Portland, Oregon, and my pair is 15 years old and still going strong. They have the fewest panels of any boot listed here, with a single piece of smooth full-grain leather making up each part of the upper—no worries about loose stitching or leaking here. Just clean the boots off with a damp cloth and re-dress them every few months with a single tin of Danner dressing (that will also last you several years) and they’ll be good to go. I also have a pair of the Jags ($200) that have a flat sole and which I can use while biking and skateboarding, too.—Adrienne So