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With the temps climbing, we're all hankering to get out in the sun more. And with Covid numbers remaining stubbornly high, hiking strikes a perfect balance between being outdoors and being safely distanced. Lucky for us, we’re living in a golden age of hiking boots, as I learned recently when I had to find a new pair. There are a ridiculous array of options, catering to distance, terrain, weather and weight criteria, among many others.
But I’m an intermediate-at-best hiker — Mont Blanc won’t be seeing me anytime soon. So in putting together this guide, I shot for a kind of safe middle — boots that will be more than adequate for a challenging day hike, a camping weekend in the wild, or even a long-but-not-treacherous trek. Within that range, sure, you’ll want to go with a lighter boot for longer distances, and options along that line are included.
But this is really for the amateurs out there (which is why I’m not dealing with hiking shoes or “trail runners” here — you'll want a firm sole and some ankle support!) and beginners who don’t even know they’re about to begin. It's also for those who'd like to spark the brother/father/husband/son/friend in their life to take on a new pastime…one that will reap untold physical benefits. And, yeah, okay, it might get them out of your hair for a few hours (or days) in the bargain. Hint, hint: Father's Day is coming up fast!
I’ve tried to present a fair amount of variety within the following eight options — American-made and imported, thrifty and pricey, old-school and cutting-edge, nondescript and downright pretty. I’ve also indicated which models are available in wide and narrow sizes, for those with more quirkily shaped dogs.
Below, here are my picks for the best hiking boots for men.
Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof
Try to find a “best hiking boots” list that doesn’t include these babies. Go ahead — we’ll wait. See? That’s because they are, indeed, widely and deservedly celebrated: out-of-the-box comfy, waterproof, and yet somehow they breathe. Reader, I bought them, opting for the warm “Earth,” but there are six other colors to choose from. (Oh, and right now, the women's variety is on sale for as low as $103 —that's $42 off!)
Need a second opinion? "If you're considering these, don't hesitate," said one happy trekker. "These look even better in person and live up to their reputation."
Asolo Falcon GV
If you’ve got the scarole, go ahead and splurge on these Italian beauties. They’ve got full-grain leather uppers, a back-tapered ankle collar, and weigh in at under two pounds. As for performance, one reviewer said, “The day after receiving these I left for a 60-mile trip on the Appalachian Trail and these performed perfectly. It poured rain the first two days and my feet stayed dry as a bone. Support and traction were great. Even with no break-in they were quite comfortable, with no blisters.” Bona, but if I’m being honest, it’s mostly about the look.
Arc’Teryx Acruz TR GTX
Another pricey-yet-gorgeous option, the Acruz TR GTX (that “GTX” means the use of breathable-yet-waterproof Gore-Tex) is streamlined to the point of looking almost demure, but don’t let that fool you. As this reviewer testifies, these will deliver on rocky, icy terrains: “Decided to risk them untried on a 17-mile hike on steep and rocky trails in the Tahoe/Desolation Wilderness. These performed great — good insulation from the rocks, and felt as light as trail runners. Not a single hot spot at the end of the day either.” Available only in elegant, hipster-friendly all-black.
Keen Targhee III Mid Waterproof
You don’t need me to sing the praises of this well-established brand; the web is lousy with glowing testimonials (check their hiking sandals too). The Targhee is their sturdy, no-nonsense standard-bearer. "Love 'em," says a five-star reviewer. "Lightweight and super comfy. I’ve tried a LOT of different boot brands for work and some are good but Keen has always been my favorite. High quality and comfort." Weighing in at a sprightly 2 pounds, 2.8 ounces, available in six colors and wide sizes (though I’ve heard the Targhee II is an even roomier option for us Bigfoots), this is a solid choice.
Salomon X Ultra Mid 3 Aero
This is what I'd call a less-is-more option. For one thing, it's a sweetly affordable model from a manufacturer whose boots usually sell at a premium. For another, well...."One of my top boots of all time," said one Cali hiker. "Why? Because Salomon makes them WITHOUT GorTex or any waterproof lining.... Don't get me wrong, waterproofing has it's place. But for 80 percent of my hikes and trips in Southern California, I DO NOT need it. It gets too hot here year round, and I run too hot myself, so having a breathable mesh boot like the X Ultra is AMAZING.
Vasque St. Elias Hiking Boot
This U.S.-based, European-inspired manufacturer is in its sixth decade of shoeing intrepid trekkers, and that venerable legacy (now subsumed under the aegis of Red Wing Shoes) is embodied in the Vasque St. Elias. Though also available in Jet Black, it’s the warm, horsey brown full-grain leather uppers of the Cognac variety that sent me off on reveries of Alpine vistas, fir-lined trailways, and dutiful St. Bernards. "Have had them for approx five months and have been on multiple hikes with these boots," said one five-star reviewer. "I've been hiking in the mountains around Phoenix area, and they are comfortable, and rugged. Took about a week to break them in, but once they were broken in they feel great....Would buy again without hesitation."
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Though designed in Germany and manufactured in Slovakia, Lowa is the official boot sponsor of the American Hiking Guides Association (AHGA). Still not impressed? Well, in 2020 Backpacker magazine inducted this model into its Editors' Choice 25th Anniversary Hall of Fame. As they put it: “Yes, the Renegade is a big, burly leather boot, built for eating miles and slaying rough terrain, but, dang, is it comfortable.” Available in wide and narrow sizes, and six colors. “I never expected to say that any shoe over $200 was a bargain,” says one reviewer, “but at $240 this shoe qualifies.” Update: Right now the beige variety is just $185!
Timberland White Ledge Mid Waterproof Ankle Boot
Another tres affordable option, this one with a bit more reputational gravitas. In a game of word association many people would simply blurt out “Timberland!” upon hearing the words hiking boots. Yep, they’re that established. And who am I to argue? "I have been wearing Timberline White Ledge boots for the last 22 years," said one of over 38,000 five-star reviewers. "For a lightweight waterproof hiking boot they can't be beat." Handsome design, all-business profile, nicely padded ankle collar, available in three colors (including, of course, Timberland’s signature “Wheat” yellow), and wide sizes. PS: At this price point, can you blame me for not listing these first? You might not have read any further...and I simply couldn’t have that.
The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.
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