When should you wear lightweight hiking boots on the trail? Any time you can. Backpackers like to say that one pound on your feet equals six pounds on your back. For day hikes, and even overnights on easy terrain when you don’t need the support or cushion of a heavy boot, light hikers are the best pick, and they’re comfortable for walks in the park, too.
- Get the Right Fit: Your shoe size may not be the best fit for a hiking boot. First, measure your feet (there are plenty of online shoe size charts to help you determine your shoe size). Try on your boots at the end of the day, when your feet are at their widest. Wear your hiking socks, and insert orthotics if you use them. Spend some time walking around. Try to walk up an incline. Be sure you heel doesn’t slip, and that the inside of the boot is tall enough so that your feet aren’t cramped. A little bit of extra length can keep your toes from squishing into the front of the boot when you’re walking downhill, too.
- Get the Right Height: Low and mid-cut light hikers both have their place. Low cut boots – basically shoes – are perfect for day hikes on well-maintained trails. Mid-cut boots give you more ankle support, which is important if your ankles are weak or if you’ll be carrying a heavier load. Mid-cuts also do a better job of keeping out mud and water purely due to their extra height.
- Go Waterproof, Unless…: “Waterproof” light hikers typically have an inner membrane that keeps water away from your feet. Boots with Gore-Tex and similar membranes breathe, although not quite as well as boots without waterproof liners. Boots with waterproof/breathable liners will cost $20 or $30 more per pair. Wet feet and socks make any hike miserable, so only go with non-waterproof boots if you’re hiking in hot climates in dry weather. Otherwise, waterproof boots are definitely worth the extra money.
Our Picks for the Best Lightweight Men’s Hiking Boots on Amazon
Best Protection: Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof Hiking Boot
Tall enough to give you plenty of ankle support, these have impermeable leather uppers and a Gore-Tex liner to keep you dry, and they come in 14 colors. Columbia
Most Breathable: Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
Breathable mesh uppers and a waterproof/breathable liner keep your feet comfortable, while an air cushion in the heel softens the impact of each step. Merrell
Easy to Pack: KEEN Men’s Targhee 3 Low Height Waterproof Hiking Shoe
These are compact enough to fit in a carryon, but full of features like leather uppers and a waterproof/breathable membrane to keep you dry. KEEN