There are a ton of reasons to love hiking: taking in beautiful natural scenery, getting off the couch to explore the outdoors, and—of course—lording your weekend mileage and elevation over your friends and family. However, an often-overlooked facet of the activity is all of the sweet, sweet gear you can adorn yourself with in the name of light-to-moderate exercise. We could talk your ear off about the different kinds of hiking poles, travel backpacks, and hydration gear, but today we’re here to help you source the most important piece of your hiking ensemble: the boots.
It’s important that you know what you’re looking for before throwing down dough on what might only be an overpriced pair of knockoff Timbs. You need to pick the style of boot that’s best suited for the specific kind of hiking you plan on doing, whether that’s going to be traversing well-maintained trails or roughing it as you blaze one of your own. It’s also crucial that you get a comfortable boot, since you’re going to be spending a lot of time in them, and a sore sole or blister can take the fun out of your trip and stop you in your tracks.
So, we wrangled some of the best hiking boots, hiking shoes, and backpacking boots on the market, so you can rent that Zipcar, hit the trails, and then guzzle some well-earned victory beers at the local brewery (the real reason people go hiking).
For the casual daytime trail traverser
Hiking shoes, which aren’t exactly boots, are great for quick day hikes on clear trails. They’re usually more flexible than standard hiking boots, and are significantly lighter, which is definitely something you’ll want to think about if you plan on storing them in a bag or backpack for travel. The Merrell Moab 2 Waterproof Hiking Shoe features Merrell’s classic gorpcore design as well as a Vibram sole for added traction, and the name literally means “Mother-Of-All-Boots.” The eyec-atching HOKA One One Sky Arkali Hiking Shoe also features a Vibram sole, as well as heel and ankle straps to “ensure a supportive lock-down fit.”
You’ll be the (hipster) king of the mountain
Salomon has been enjoying a fashion renaissance, with its rugged, utilitarian aesthetic that's suited for both streets and slopes. This pair of lightweight and supportive mid-rise boots, in addition to looking right at home with a Rick Owens 'fit, are “ideal for fast hiking over moderate to technical terrain in wet-weather conditions,” which would have been perfect and very, very good to have been wearing when I had to move my entire apartment during the deluge that Hurricane Ida unleashed on Brooklyn.
Since when is Columbia sick?
Seriously—these hiking boots by the rain jacket and general outdoor gear specialists at Columbia have a Jordan-esque silhouette and some groovy muted slate tones that are scratching the itch inside our design brains. They’re also workhorses, and feature an Omni-Tech membrane that keeps water out and lets air in; a Techlite+ midsole that provides better cushioning and stability; and an Adapt Trax outsole, which optimizes lug placement for better footing.
I can go Lowa
We know, dude. Just like a good pair of high-cut jorts, these hiking boots by Lowa come in a slew of different shades and provide abundant comfort and support. Plus, they’re lightweight and made with “waterproof, breathable GORE-TEX® liners that keep your feet dry when you're stepping in shallow streams and hiking hard”—perfect for long day treks and weekend backpacking.
You’re deadass gonna hike that mountain
While you certainly could, nobody is suggesting you wear your crisp, laser-cut dress Timbs on a hike. Instead, opt for this pair of Waterproof Ankle Boots by the classic outdoor footwear company. (After all, every respectable gentleman needs at least two pairs of Timbs.) These are 100-percent leather and feature a seam-sealed, waterproof design, a padded collar, and rustproof speed-lace hardware. Plus, if you decide you’re not into them, you could always fill them with dirt and start a garden.
You want to move to Vermont
Don’t we all? Well, if you, too, are stuck in a tiny apartment, dreaming about mountains, good cheese, and some of the best beer in the world, this pair of hiking boots is a good way to pretend that you didn’t just sign a year-long lease in a New York apartment the size of your would-be mudroom in South Burlington. These boots scream “crunchy” in the best way, and feature a suede and leather waterproof exterior, a high-traction outsole, and a lightweight midsole for impact absorption. Plus, 27,000 happy Amazon customers—who gave these boots crazy-good reviews—can’t be wrong.
Not the wind instrument…
...Though we certainly stan oboes. These boots are technically made for women, but since it’s 2021, we wear whatever boots our silly little hearts desire. The Oboz Sypes Mid Leathers feature waterproof nubuck leather uppers, 100% recycled PET laces, and TPU heel clips for additional support. They’re also made with BLOOM, a plant-based foam made with algae biomass “sourced from lakes and ponds at high risk of algal bloom.”
Those boots were made for hiking—these boots were made for… other things.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story.