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Published Mar. 28, 2022

Are the hiking boots for women much different from those for men? In some ways, yes, and in other ways, no. Hiking boots across the board all share similar qualities, and there are certain things to look for to find the right fit for your needs. 

The hiking shoes we discuss in this roundup are ideal for women’s feet, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t work for anyone else. In the end, you want shoes that you feel comfortable and confident hiking in on the trail. Check out the buying considerations below before you get to our top picks for the best hiking boots for women. 

Things to Consider Before Buying Women’s Hiking Boots

There are several types of hiking footwear, and each kind has its benefits. Before choosing the best women’s hiking boots for you, get to know what to consider before buying hiking shoes. If you couldn’t find the perfect fit on our list, you’ll still be equipped with the knowledge you need to make a more educated buying decision.

Boot Type

There are three main types of hiking boots classified primarily by their weight and some features.

Lightweight: These are boots that contain high levels of comfort and mobility, but they tend to be slightly less technical and durable due to the lightweight materials. Although some features will be reminiscent of trail runners or trainers, they often still have boot-like features such as a high collar to protect your ankles and a more secure lacing system. 

Midweight: Likely the most popular type of hiking boots, midweight boots are a great balance between lightweight materials and durable construction. Most notably, midweight boots will usually have added protection on the toe box, a thicker sole, and more robust body materials. Midweight boots generally have decent water resistance added too.

Heavyweight: When you picture hiking boots, you probably think of slightly more clunky heavyweight boots. While these can take some getting used to, they are a more technical, durable, and sturdy design than the other types listed. They will often have waterproof uppers and protect over the ankles. Heavyweight hiking boots are best suited for technical terrain and are meant to withstand harsh weather and trail conditions. Heavyweight boots tend to be much stiffer in construction and take far longer to break in than other design options.

Most boots take a while to break in, and how they fit your feet or pair with your hiking pants may differ. We recommend trying the various styles of boots in-store to get a feel for how they work on your feet. 

Support

People choose to hike in boots versus other types of footwear because they offer more support. There has been some contention among the footwear industry whether more support is good or not, and there are minimalist hiking shoe designs that provide a happy medium. In any case, support has long been a recognizable factor in hiking boots. 

The main areas to look for support on hiking footwear are the ankle coverage, traction, and the type of midsole and outsole. Ankle support is not standard for trail running shoes or even some hiking shoes, but boots have an upper that extends over the ankle with a lacing system that secures the boot.

Ankle Support: How far the boot extends above your foot will often tell you how much ankle support it has. Not all materials will be as supportive as others, and how secure the lacing system is can also influence this. Ankle support is helpful, especially on uneven or rocky terrain or if you have a history of ankle issues, but it is not necessary. 

Upper Material: All shoes have an upper. It is the material that connects to the sole of the shoe extending up over your foot. The material the upper is made from, and the overall design will influence how supportive those shoes are. For instance, leather uppers offer a stronger, stiffer shape and are more supportive. Synthetics are also popular since they require less upkeep than leather and certain ones, like nylon, are extremely durable. The thickness of the upper can also influence the level of support. 

Traction: The sole of the shoe will tell you what you need to know about the traction. Traction is a huge part of the support you have while hiking because if you don’t have good traction, you’re going to be slipping and sliding around the trail. Look at the lugs on the bottom of the shoe to give you an idea of the type of traction it provides. The larger the lug, the better the shoe is for mud or snow. If rock scrambling is a concern, smaller lugs made from stickier rubber work best. Hiking boots should include a lug and traction description and compound type within the product description. 

Midsole: Midsoles on hiking boots will either be made from EVA foam or PU (polyurethane) or both. The midsole, along with the rubber sole of the boot, helps with shock absorption while you hike, adding a higher level of comfort on rocky terrain. The type of midsole also correlates with the boot’s weight class. Lightweight boots will have thinner midsoles, while heavyweight boots will have thicker, stiffer midsoles. 

Lacing System: The laces and the lacing system on the boots matter a surprising amount in terms of support while hiking. You want a lacing system that keeps the laces secure and to the desired tightness despite your continued movement while walking. Laces that loosen while you hike mean that the boot will also likely loosen, causing it to slip around on your foot. 

How much support you want in a hiking boot is really up to you. For instance, I prefer hiking in lower-profile shoes that do not have ankle support. This is a personal preference, and I have found that it works well for my needs. I swap out to a shoe with more coverage during the winter or add gaiters to my existing shoes. Just remember the type of boot you choose also needs to correlate appropriately to your hiking socks

Water Resistance and Breathability

Many hiking boots are designed to be somewhat water-resistant or even waterproof. While these are great for a variety of conditions, whenever a boot has a higher level of water resistance, it will also be less breathable. 

How water resistance a boot needs to be is primarily determined by the climate and conditions of your hiking area. For instance, if you hike in the desert of Utah most often, having a fully waterproof boot may not be necessary. Whereas more water resistance makes sense if you hike in mountainous terrain with several creek crossings and high chances of daily rain. 

Waterproof boots are often made using materials like Gore-Tex on the exterior, or they may use a fully waterproof lining. If they don’t use fully waterproof material, they’ll be treated with a water repellent coating. These coatings wear off over time and need to be reapplied periodically for best results. 

If you enjoy having a more breathable hiking shoe that utilizes a lot of mesh instead of full material uppers, you can add gear like gaiters to your pack to provide a higher level of water resistance when needed. 

Best Overall: Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex

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Why It Made the Cut

The Salomon Quest 4 hiking boot ranks on several of our hiking boot lists for its durable design and stability on a variety of terrain. 

Key Features

  • Weight: 2.9 lbs (pair)
  • Boot Type: midweight
  • Best Use: backpacking

Pros:

  • Highly water resistant
  • Durable and long lasting 
  • Works well in mud and snow

Cons:

  • Sizing can be tricky
  • Long break in period 

The Salomon Quest 4 Gore-Tex Women’s hiking boots are an excellent option for women that hike all year round. The enhanced stability and support of the boot combined with their trail runner inspired design provide a comfortable hiking experience. 

The Gore-Tex waterproofing makes for high performance in mud, snow, and rainy weather. However, wearing these highly water-resistant boots does mean you’ll have less breathability. The Mud Contagrip® uses a deep, sharp lug traction design to give you ideal grip and stability on several types of surfaces. 

This boot can also function as a winter hiking boot in mild conditions, but they lack insulation for extremely cold temperatures. It is a great choice for women planning any backpacking excursion. Be aware that sizing may be slightly off from standard shoe sizes, so trying these in person is recommended. The break-in period will be longer than a standard trainer, so give yourself plenty of time before taking these on a long hike. 

Runner Up: Saucony Peregrine 12

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Why It Made the Cut

The Saucony Peregrine 12 hiking shoes provide a lightweight hiking experience with some standard sturdy and protective hiking boot features. 

Key Features

  • Weight: 1.17 lbs (pair)
  • Boot Type: lightweight
  • Best Use: day hikes, trail running, backpacking

Pros:

  • Rock plate in sole for added durability
  • Secure fit true to size
  • Breathable 

Cons:

  • May not last as long as hiking boots
  • No ankle support

If you’re not a fan of traditional, clunky hiking boots, the Saucony Peregrine 12 is the trail runner/hiking shoe for you. They are lightweight while still being quite sturdy. Although they don’t have the ankle support of a boot, they do have fantastic traction to keep you moving forward on rocky, loose terrain. The shoe’s sole includes a rock plate for added protection and durability.

The nice thing about hiking shoes versus boots is that they typically do not take as long to break in and are much easier for travel. That way if you are traveling to your hiking destination, these don’t take up as much space. Plus, the newest models of this shoe are lighter than the older designs. 

They provide a snug, secure fit that can make you forget you’re wearing hiking shoes. Like most lightweight shoe designs, these will not be as durable or long-lasting as other types of hiking boots. If you are someone that prioritizes weight and wants a hiking shoe that feels more like a trainer without compromising that much-needed traction, these will carry you through even the most demanding of hikes. 

Best Waterproof: Keen Targhee III WP Mid

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Why It Made the Cut

The Keen Targhee III is a well-designed and affordable hiking boot with high levels of water-resistance and durability. 

Key Features

  • Weight: 1.80 lbs (pair)
  • Boot Type: midweight
  • Best Use: backpacking, day hiking

Pros:

  • Great value
  • Durable
  • Comforable 
  • Less bulky 

Cons:

  • Not as supportive as more robust boot designs

In terms of value, comfort, and water resistance capabilities, it is no wonder that the Keen Targhee III is one of their best sellers. This boot is a midweight design that feels more like a lightweight one when you wear it. It still has some ankle support, but it is not as high or rigid as heavyweight boots. 

These are the ideal choice for many women and they are far more affordable than other high-quality boots. Still, you aren’t sacrificing much in durability or functionality on the trail. Since the boot uppers are made from leather, these are not a vegan-friendly product, and be aware that leather often takes more upkeep than synthetics. Proper maintenance of leather on boots is essential for boot longevity.

The waterproof membrane is more functional than boots that use Gore-Tex as it allows moisture to escape the boot while preventing moisture from entering. That way, you have decent water resistance without compromising too much in terms of breathability. 

Best Lightweight: Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid

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Why It Made the Cut

The Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid is a lightweight hiking shoe that can hold up even in technical terrain. 

Key Features

  • Weight: 1.05 lbs (pair)
  • Boot Type: lightweight
  • Best Use: trail running, backpacking, day hiking

Pros:

  • Waterproof yet breathable
  • Offers some ankle protection
  • Great for wide feet
  • Good fit for fewer blisters 

Cons:

  • Not as durable or stable as more robust boot options

The Altra Lone Peak ALL-WTHR Mid hiking boots are an excellent choice for women that want an ultralight shoe with the technical abilities of a hiking boot. This boot design builds off their popular trail runner and also comes in a lightweight men’s hiking boot design. 

The thing that sets these apart from their other trail runners is the over the ankle collar combined with the waterproof eVent upper. Together, these add some additional support and protection that most trail running shoes do not offer. While these are excellent additions, they do only create somewhat of a middle ground between trail runners and hiking boots. It is a great shoe, but it will still not be as durable to sturdy as other more traditional hiking boots. 

While these can likely tackle more challenging terrain, most wearers seem to find the best success wearing them on relatively established trails. These boots can carry you comfortably for a long distance as they have a wide toe box and overall fit along with a zero-drop shape cutting back on break-in periods. 

Best Value: Mountain Warehouse Women’s WP

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Why It Made the Cut

The Mountain Warehouse Women’s WP boots are a budget hiking boot that manages to have decent weather protection, fit, and traction. 

Key Features

  • Weight: N/A
  • Boot Type: midweight
  • Best Use: day hiking

Pros:

  • Affordable
  • Comfortable
  • Water resistant
  • Made from some recycled materials

Cons:

  • They’re a budget boot so they won’t be as high performing or long lasting as other options 

If budget is an issue for you, but you still want a place to start, check out the Mountain Warehouse Women’s WP hiking boots. These will not be top of the line in performance or durability, but they will get you out on the trail with a low price tag. 

For the overall value, these are not bad boots. They utilize EVA foam for a comfortable feel while walking, they have deep lugs for good traction on slippery surfaces, and they are water-resistant. These boots will not be fully waterproof as they offer some breathability with mesh in the uppers. 

The major downside of this boot is that it is a budget buy. The manufacturer isn’t overly transparent about materials, weight, or production practices. Still, these are a decent starter boot for someone that wants to get into hiking or if you are buying boots for your kids and they’re bound to outgrow them quickly. 

How We Made Our Picks

Finding and narrowing down the best hiking boots is difficult not only because there are a lot of options but everyone has their unique style and preferences. Whether you gravitate towards hiking boots or shoes, it may take trial and error to find that perfect fit. 

Beyond our buying considerations, we looked at a few primary factors when choosing the best hiking boots for women: 

  • Intended Use: The terrain you are crossing and general climate should be primary determining factors in the type of hiking boots you choose. I tried to include hiking boots that fit a variety of uses. Also, ask yourself how often you plan to hike and if you plan to have just one pair of hiking shoes or different ones for different uses. 
  • Sustainability: Shoes are tough to find a sustainable option. The materials are difficult, if not impossible, to recycle or reuse, and most shoe brands plan obsolescence into their sales models. So, the best you can do is look for general product transparency and search for brands that value durability or repairability. 
  • Durability: Look at the material used and if the shoe utilizes a durable construction. In an ideal world, companies would list the project longevity of the boots, and some brands do list an average mileage. Other considerations in durability and longevity include required maintenance to upkeep shoe quality. 

Other considerations, including verified customer reviews, general product knowledge, and company-specific research were considered. 

FAQs

Q: What hiking boots are most comfortable?

The hiking boots that are the most comfortable will be the ones that fit your feet and your hiking needs the best. Someone hiking in an arid climate may not like the same boots someone hiking in a tropical climate, simply because of the differences in terrain and weather. Then, consider your foot shape and strength. Many hikers can work up to wearing more minimal hiking shoes, but many find more support comfortable while hiking.

Q: Should you buy hiking shoes in a bigger size?

If you buy hiking boots in a bigger size than your normal shoe, it should be because they fit correctly. Ideally, you can fit your index finger between your heel and the back of the shoe. That small amount of space prevents your toes from getting bruised when making descents and still allows for enough room to wiggle your toes.

Q: Should hiking boots be tight or loose?

Hiking boots shouldn’t be tight or loose. They need to be snug enough not to move around much while you are hiking because that will cause hot spots. Still, they need to offer enough wiggle room for your toes. When trying on boots, wear the socks you plan to hike with most often and try them on at the end of the day. Hiking makes most of our feet swell, and that’s normal. So, try to mimic the experience as much as possible to get the right fit. Many retail stores will also have a calibrated device to measure foot size.

Q: Should you wear two pairs of socks when hiking?

Wearing two socks while hiking used to be relatively standard, but now it isn’t necessary. Wearing a sock liner with a thicker hiking sock became popular because most hiking socks were great insulators but not very good at channeling moisture. Now, hiking socks are more developed and have better capability to do it all with just one sock layer. Many hikers still find success wearing a liner with their socks to prevent blisters and regulate temperature, but it isn’t as common as it once was.

Q: What is the difference between hiking boots and hiking shoes?

The difference between hiking boots and hiking shoes is their construction and features. Both work quite well for hiking, but hiking boots are more robust, water-resistant, and durable than most hiking shoes. Hiking shoes tend to be more akin to trail running shoes, and sometimes they are trail runners. They are lighter, more flexible, breathable, and take less time to break in for hiking.

Final Thoughts

The best hiking boots for women are the ones that check all of your boxes in terms of durability, comfort, and support. Not everyone likes to hike the same trails, and not everyone needs highly technical hiking boots. Many hikers prefer a lower profile, minimal shoes for hiking. It all comes down to your personal preferences and the gear that keeps you happily hiking day after day. 

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