Are you ready for your next adventure in the great outdoors? But before you hit the trails, there's one important decision to make: hiking shoes or hiking boots? Don't worry, we've got you covered. In this article, we'll be exploring the best hiking shoes for women and providing you with expert advice on finding the perfect fit. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking to explore the wilderness, we've compiled a list of the most comfortable, supportive, and waterproof lightweight hiking shoes out there. So, let's embark on this journey together and find your perfect pair of hiking shoes!
Should I choose hiking shoes or hiking boots?
Hiking Shoes vs. Lightweight Hiking Boots vs. Trail Runners vs. Mountaineering Boots
Hiking shoes are the ideal footwear for day hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities.
They offer a combination of the benefits provided by trail runners and hiking boots. They are more agile than lightweight hiking boots but may lack some protection and warmth.
Hiking boots are designed to provide support and traction on rugged terrain. The lugs on the rubber outsole of hiking boots ensure stability and allow for uphill climbing and downhill braking. These boots also provide protection, warmth, and ankle support. In short, they are like the 4WD for your feet.
However, hiking boots generally provide less ventilation and are warmer compared to other hiking footwear options like trail running shoes, approach shoes, hiking shoes, or hiking sandals. They may not be as warm as dedicated winter boots but offer comfort during long hikes in colder weather conditions or snowy environments.
During summertime, poorly ventilated hiking boots may cause sweaty and smelly feet, increasing the risk of blisters. Many people believe that hiking boots are more prone to blisters due to poor ventilation. To minimize this risk, we have chosen boots with excellent ventilation that can be used throughout the year in most hiking areas. The best hiking boots provide support and traction in all seasons.
However, it's important to note that hiking boots are not the same as mountaineering boots. Mountaineering boots are specially designed with more insulation, stiffer soles for crampon compatibility, and a stronger overall construction, typically at a higher price point.
Moisture and rough terrain may lead to blisters. But with some easy self-care, you can avoid them. Photo by Ebony Roberts.
The Best Men’s and Women’s Hiking Shoes
We hiked with the Spire in hot summer temperatures and the rainy Pacific Northwest (PNW), and the combination of breathability and waterproofness is among the best we have ever experienced. Photo by Ebony Roberts.
La Sportiva Spire Low GTX: The best hiking shoes for light backpacking and technical terrain
Men's and Women's
Weight (Men's): 1 lb 12.8 oz (per pair)
Weight (Women's): 1 lb 8.2 oz (per pair)
Upper Material: Mesh/polyurethane Techlite toe and heel
Waterproofing: GORE-TEX SURROUND waterproof breathable membrane/textile
Midsole Material: Vibram XS Trek rubber
What we liked: versatility, stability, support, suitable for most terrains and conditions, technical and breathable, height of collar keeps water out during creek crossings
What we didn’t like: not available in wide sizes, slightly more expensive than some other options
The men's and women's La Sportiva Spire GTX is our choice for the best hiking shoe because of its overall performance that combines lightweight movement with stability and support. If we had to choose one shoe to handle most situations comfortably and safely, this would be it.
The Spire GTX combines the agility of trail runners with the support and protection of lightweight hiking boots. (La Sportiva even classifies the Spire as a low-cut hiking boot). This shoe stands out for its versatility and comfort; it has rugged outsoles that can handle long days on rocky, technical terrain and breathable synthetic uppers that are ideal for hiking in hot weather. The Spire has become our go-to shoe for walks in muddy areas and our top choice for hiking with a loaded backpack or child carrier.
COMPARE PRICES ON THE LA SPORTIVA SPIRE GTX
The La Sportiva Spire GTX is our choice for the best hiking shoe because of its overall performance that combines lightweight movement with stability and support. Photo by Ebony Roberts.
We hiked with the Spire in hot summer temperatures and the rainy Pacific Northwest (PNW), and the combination of breathability and waterproofness is among the best we have ever experienced (note: non-waterproof trail shoes will always be more breathable than waterproof trail shoes).
Made entirely of synthetic materials, the shoe's system allows water vapor on the inside to escape even through the footbed and midsole, keeping feet sweat-free. The Gore-Tex Surround membrane prevents moisture from entering the shoe.
We appreciate that the shoe sits slightly higher on the leg than other models, allowing for more creek crossings without water breaching the top of the shoe. The height of the collar also prevents ankle rolls, and the padding around the heel prevents rubbing and blisters.
The extended gusseted tongue keeps water and debris out, and the lacing system stays secure.
The lugs on the stiff Vibram XS Trek soles provide excellent traction and protection on rugged terrain. Photo by Steve Redmond.
The lugs on the stiff Vibram XS Trek soles provide excellent traction and protection on rugged terrain.
The supportive cushioning combined with TPU inserts in the midsole adds stability, and the prominent heel brake improves control on descents.
So far, the abrasion-resistant mesh upper has held up well during testing, although it seems more susceptible to nicks and tears compared to shoes with thicker material. However, critical areas have reinforcement for added protection and durability. One notable detail is the hard material on the heel and toe box, providing extra shielding and guard against trail abrasion.
While wide sizes and shoes for narrow feet are not available, the Spire has an average fit that should work for most foot shapes. It's worth mentioning that many customer reviews mention that the Spire fits well for narrow-footed individuals but may not be as suitable for those with wide feet. Although the Spire is one of the more expensive options, its outstanding performance makes it a worthwhile investment for those looking to transition from a hiking boot while still wanting support, protection, and stability.
The Hoka One One Anacapa Low GTX have everything that people have come to love about Hokas-- cushion, propulsion, and support. Photo by Ebony Roberts.
Hoka Anacapa Low GTX: The best hiking shoes for all-day comfort and support
Men's and Women's
Weight (Men's): 1 lb 12 oz
Weight (Women's): 1 lb 8 oz
Upper Material: Nubuck leather/GORE-TEX textile
Waterproofing: GORE-TEX waterproof/breathable laminate
Midsole Material: Compression-molded EVA
What we liked: comfort, cushioning, propulsion, support, lightweight, combats foot fatigue, heel geometry helps with heel-to-toe transition, feels like you can hike farther, sustainability (PFC-free)
What we didn't like: price, takes getting used to the extra bulk
The men's and women's Hoka Anacapa Low are the best combination of a hiking boot and a trail running shoe. With all the elements people love about the brand-- cushion, propulsion, and support--plus added rigidity and thoughtful design features, these hiking shoes stand out. We believe they are a solid choice for almost any trail terrain or as a walking shoe, providing hours of comfortable exploration.
Hoka footwear is known for lightweight comfort, and the Anacapa lives up to that reputation. The rockered sole reduces foot fatigue, provides all-day support, and the extended heel geometry facilitates smooth heel-to-toe movement (though it takes some adjustment to the extra bulk).
Once accustomed to the rockered shape and extended heel, you'll feel like you can hike longer with less effort. And at the end of a long day, the shock-absorbing soles ensure you won't be rushing to take off your shoes.
COMPARE PRICES ON THE HOKA ANACAPA
The Hoka Anacapa's Vibram sole provides excellent traction and stability while maintaining the brand's signature comfort. Photo by Ebony Roberts.
Right away, we noticed that the Anacapa's Vibram Megagrip soles offer excellent grip! When we wore them indoors, they stuck to the hardwood floor like suction cups, and when navigating slippery, moss-covered rocks outdoors, they kept us steady.
The midsole is firmer than the Hoka Kaha hiking shoes we tested, resulting in slightly less bounce. However, they still provide the comfortable, stable ride that the brand is known for, with added rigidity for enhanced trail confidence. The shoe's base is noticeably narrower than the Kaha, which improves agility.
The pull tab is one of our favorite features on the Anacapa. It makes slipping your foot into the shoe incredibly easy and hugs the Achilles, minimizing heel slippage and increasing support. Not only does the cushy pull tab contribute to out-of-the-box comfort, but it also makes the shoe responsive to individual movements, twisting with you as you step.
The lacing system is well-designed, with an additional eyelet placed further back on the shoe. This allows for different lacing techniques to customize the fit for your foot.
The waterproofing system of the Anacapa held up well in the rainy Pacific Northwest weather. Our feet remained dry while crossing water and hiking in the rain thanks to Gore-Tex and a PFC-free weather-resisting treatment.
We have not encountered any durability issues, and the leather and mesh upper has shown resilience against abrasion. Leather covers the areas that experience the most impact, such as the sides and back, and a rubber toe cap adds an extra layer of protection. The gusseted tongue effectively keeps water and debris out, and the padding provides comfort without excessive bulk.
Those concerned about sustainability will appreciate the lightweight leather that is Leather Working Group-certified, recycled polyester materials, and a soy-based sock liner.
We believe Hoka's lightweight shoe is an outstanding option for a wide range of hiking activities, whether it's urban hiking on pavement, hot summer days in the backcountry, carrying a heavy load, or tackling challenging switchbacks. The Anacapa can also double as a trail running shoe and make an excellent travel companion for day hikes (we'll definitely be bringing them on our next trip). With its versatility and ability to handle both backpacking trips and leisurely hikes, the Anacapa checks all the boxes for a quality hiking shoe.
The Vectiv Exploris shoes feature Ghillie lacing-a criss-cross lacing system that stays tightly cinched while you hike. Photo by Steve Redmond.
The North Face Vectiv Exploris Futurelight: Great all-around hiking shoes for urban and day hiking
Men's and Women's
Weight (Men's): 1 lb 8.3 oz
Weight (Women's): 1 lb 4.6 oz
Upper Material: CORDURA ripstop mesh
Waterproofing: 3-layer FUTURELIGHT waterproof, breathable membrane
Midsole Material: Rocker geometry midsole
What we liked: street style vibe makes it a good choice for a mix of city and outdoor adventures, rockered sole provides extra boost, built for variety of trail conditions, lacing system
What we didn't like: shoes run tight, not as durable as other options
The men's and women's The North Face Vectiv Exploris Futurelights are responsive, lightweight hiking shoes with a rockered sole that provides an extra boost forward on the trail and saves your legs on long days. While we believe the Hoka One One Anacapa is a better choice for most people seeking a rocker, we recommend the Vectivs for those who may not prefer the Hokas but still want propulsion and precision. The Vectiv Exploris can be compared to some of the best trail runners suitable for hiking, with a solid construction that provides the right balance of cushion and support for various trail conditions.
COMPARE PRICES ON THE NORTH FACE VECTIV EXPLORIS FUTURELIGHT
The North Face Vectiv Exploris Futurelights are responsive, lightweight hiking shoes with a rockered sole that provides an extra boost forward on the trail and saves your legs on long days. Photo by Steve Redmond.
The Vectiv Exploris shoes feature Ghillie lacing, a criss-cross lacing system that weaves through the material of the shoe rather than through single punched holes. Combined with flat laces, this results in a securely cinched fit while hiking. This lacing system also allows for tightening and loosening different sections across the foot to achieve the desired fit.
The gusseted tongue helps prevent water and debris from entering through the lace holes and is slightly padded for added snugness and comfort.
The Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes: Comfortable, Supportive, and Waterproof
We have conducted extensive tests on over two dozen of the most popular hiking shoe models to assess their stability, support, waterproofness, and durability. Photo by Ebony Roberts.
For the past four years, we have meticulously examined numerous hiking shoes, selecting over two dozen of the finest models to evaluate and review on the trail. To update our list of the best hiking shoes for 2023, we have removed discontinued items, replaced some previous winners with newly-tested hiking shoes, and retained some classic models that still deserve consideration. Our selection consists of waterproof hiking shoes suitable for day hikes and light backpacking, ranging from a few miles of urban hiking to a few days in the wilderness.
Our list of the best hiking shoes includes two winners, two runner-up winners, and ten other top contenders. While our two top winners prioritize different features and characteristics, they are equally suitable for most hiking activities. Above all, they excel in important areas such as comfortable fit, stable grip, durable construction, and the ability to keep your feet dry.
Whether you are in need of agile and fast-moving footwear or sturdy hikers for steep terrain and rocky ascents, we present to you fourteen of the finest hiking shoes and lightweight hiking shoes currently available on the market.
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|HIKING SHOE||BEST FOR||CHECK PRICES*||WEIGHT PER PAIR (WOMEN'S)||WEIGHT PER PAIR (MEN'S)||UPPER MATERIAL||WATER PROOFING|
|La Sportiva Spire Low GTX||Light backpacking and technical terrainRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb 8.2 oz||1 lb 12.8 oz||Mesh, polyurethane Techlite toe and heel||GORE-TEX Surround|
|Hoka One One Anacapa Low GTX||All day comfort and supportRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb 8 oz||1 lb 12 oz||Nubuck leather||GORE-TEX|
|The North Face Vectiv Exploris Futurelight||All-around for urban and day hikingRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb 4.6 oz||1 lb 8.3 oz||CORDURA ripstop mesh||3-layer FutureLight|
|Salomon X Ultra 4||Traction, support, and comfortRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb. 9.6 oz||1 lb. 11.2 oz||Synthetic/ textile||GORE-TEX|
|Hoka Kaha Low GTX||Comfort, high cushionRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb. 11.6 oz.||2 lbs. 1.6 oz.||Nubuck leather||GORE-TEX|
|Keen Targhee III Low WP||Wide feetRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb. 9.2 oz||1 lb. 14.8 oz||Oiled nubuck leather||KEEN.Dry|
|Merrell Moab 3 WP||Affordable hiking shoeRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb. 10 oz||2 lbs. 1 oz||Suede leather, mesh||Waterproof breathable membrane|
|Oboz Sawtooth II Low Waterproof||Backpacking and light loadsRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb. 12.4 oz||2 lbs. 2.8 oz||Nubuck leather||B-DRY|
|The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack II WP Low||NimbleRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb. 8 oz||1 lb 13 oz||Polyurethance-coated leather, synthetic nubuck||DryVent|
|Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX||Fast and lightRead review||Women's Men's||1 lb. 8 oz||1 lb. 11.9 oz||Warp-knit textile||GORE-TEX Performance Comfort|
In conclusion, when it comes to choosing the perfect hiking shoe for women, comfort, support, and durability are of utmost importance. With a wide range of options available in the market, it is crucial to assess your individual needs and preferences. Whether you opt for a hiking shoe or a hiking boot, make sure to prioritize safety and choose a pair that provides excellent traction, waterproof capabilities, and cushioning. So lace up, embrace the great outdoors, and embark on your next hiking adventure with confidence, knowing that you have the best hiking shoes to accompany you every step of the way.