Summer is here, and that means you can go out and enjoy all kinds of fun outdoor activities. If hiking is your pastime of choice, then you already know there’s one component that’s more important than any of your other gear: your footwear. Your shoes play an integral part in the amount of enjoyment you’ll be able to have hiking, which requires many hours on your feet and possibly through some pretty rough terrain. A good pair of shoes or boots can go a long way to getting you to your destination in one piece—whether that’s to see a beautiful view or a pristine waterfall.
The comfort of the shoes is probably the most important aspect to consider while shopping. You’ll want your footwear to be durable too of course, but even if you had the toughest, most rugged hiking shoes with all the bells and whistles imaginable, if they weren’t comfortable, you’d still be in agony by the time you stopped for lunch along the trail. Things to look out for to increase comfort include a good, padded sole and a fit that’s as close to perfect as you can get.
There’s thousands of hiking shoes to choose from—seriously, thousands—so how’s an outdoorsman supposed to choose the one that’s just right for their summer excursions? Aside from comfort and durability, take into consideration the applications and terrains that the footwear was designed for. Many hiking boots have been designed for different landscapes or seasons. Since it’s summer, you’ll want to keep a special eye out for shoes that provide you with a lot of ventilation.
As you probably know, a significant portion of excess heat will exit the body through the extremities, particularly the feet. When it’s 92 degrees out (or 33 C for you metric folks), the last thing you want is for your feet to be encased in shoes that are keeping all of the heat in. It’s not just smelly socks you have to worry about—all that extra heat is going to make your feet sweat.
If you’ve ever had this happen before while on a hike, you know that it can make movement feel slippery, since unless you have a remarkably excellent fit, your foot is liable to slip around a bit inside the shoe. Properly ventilated shoes can help avoid this, and it’s actually more important than you’d imagine from a safety standpoint, if not one of comfort. One more thing that proper ventilation is going to help you with, and it’s a big one: blisters, the absolute bane of hikers everywhere. If your feet are wet, you’re going to be much, much more liable to get a blister or five. Even if you’re not trudging through a river, sweat will provide more than enough moisture to promote blisters. Get well ventilated shoes.
There are a few merits of low cut summer hiking shoes. While high cut hiking shoes absolutely have their benefits and are great for certain scenarios, low cut footwear offer a host of positive features of their own. Most noticeably, this kind of shoe tends to be significantly lighter than mid or high cut hiking shoes, and certainly moreso than full-on boots. If you plan to go hiking on a well traveled path where the additional protection of a high cut really won’t be terribly necessary, there’s little benefit to wearing a high cut shoe, since it’s just going to increase the amount of weight you have to lug around on your feet.
A quick note on weight: it’s a lot more important than novice hikers might think. The key to effectively hiking, especially for long distances or through challenging terrain, is to limit the amount of weight you’re carrying, especially on your feet. Heavy footwear can drain your energy faster than a moderately heavy backpack.
Lighter footwear also tends to be less rigid by design. Hard soles can lead to blisters after only a couple of miles, which is why even heavy full-on hiking boots use their flexibility as a major selling point. Speaking of selling points, have you ever heard the phrase ankle support? High cut shoes and boots usually purport to offer ankle support as a primary feature, but this term is more or less a marketing phrase—strong, limber ankles are what provide ankle support.
Assuming you’ve had enough of this little hiking footwear lesson, let’s get to looking at some actual hiking shoes! Remember—comfort, durability, ventilation, and weight are what you want to be looking out for. Without further adieu, here’s our hand-picked list of the 15 best hiking shoes and boots for men this year.
#15 – Adidas Outdoor AX2 Hiking Shoe
The AX2 Hiking Shoe from Adidas is a really great shoe for many reasons, but here’s our favorite: it’s both ventilated and waterproof. Well, it’s marketed as being waterproof anyway—don’t plan on submerging your feet in the closest stream and expect to walk away completely bone dry. But the AX2 from Adidas is an excellent choice for hikers who happen to be going out in the rain or similarly somewhat-wet conditions. Since in these kinds of scenarios moisture is present, it means that without keeping your feet as dry as possible you’ll be more vulnerable to blisters, as we discussed in the opening of this list. The AX2 offers a great balance of ventilation (to keep your feet dry from sweat) and moisture protection from the environment.
The shoe also features a molded sock liner, which makes it a bit more comfortable since the sock liner will help it fit. You’ll also find that the sole is quite comfortable and soft without being squishy—the last thing you want while hiking is to feel like you’re walking on Jell-O. These shoes are easy to wash too, because the sole is removable. If you’ve ever tried to wash shoes with a sewn-in or glued in sole, you know that by the time they finish tumbling around in the dryer for an hour that the sole is most likely not going to be attached. So why not make it detachable? Overall the AX2 offers a great value for light hiking in wet and dry conditions.
#14 – Columbia Men’s North Plains Trail Shoe
This trail shoe from Columbia (the shoe manufacturer, not the country) offers a fantastic balance between price and performance. It’s quite reasonably priced yet very well made. The shoe is appropriate for a variety of applications outdoors, including hiking. While it isn’t waterproof, it is well ventilated, which means that for those hot dry days of summer, your foot is going to be able to breathe. The low cut design will give you a good range of mobility, so if you’re going to be traveling over some fairly unpredictable terrain, you’ll be able to move comfortably.
The North Plains trail shoe is also incredibly light for a shoe with these features. In fact, it’s one of the lightest outdoor-appropriate shoes that Columbia makes. Weighing in at a mere 11.9 ounces, the shoe weighs less than a pound. This is likely thanks to its smart design choices and the suede leather/textile build material, but it also doesn’t hurt that the shoe is so well ventilated—that’s going to mean less material and thus less weight, offering you the best of both worlds. This is one shoe that’s not going to slow you down, so if you like to get quite active during your hikes and you want to save a bit of money, it might be a very wise choice indeed.
#13 – Merrell Men’s Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe
The Moab Ventilator is a hiking shoe from Merrell that’s packed with features and has a considerably low price point. The manufacturer describes it as the “essential” summer hiking shoe, and with all of the design elements of this shoe, they just might be on to something—the shoe has been designed to be breathable. The Moab is a desert, so this ventilated shoe had better live up to its name. We think that it does, because you’ll find that the open-window mesh on the top of the shoe allows air to flow in and out to reduce sweating, perhaps even in the Moab. While these ventilation meshes mean that the shoe is not waterproof, that won’t be a concern if you plan on wearing it while hiking in a hot and dry environment, which is exactly what the shoe has been designed to do.
The shoe has also been designed to not only be comfortable, but to fit onto your foot snugly. To accomplish this, it uses a lattice-style overlay of straps made from Dura leather. These straps also happen to provide openings for the ventilation meshes. As for comfort, that’s primarily accomplished with some pretty innovative design work on the sole, which is built for support. The shoe will keep your feet safe thanks to the bumper protection at the heel and the toe, and the TC5+ rubber compound outsole is tough and durable. The Moab Ventilator really is perhaps the “essential” summer hiking shoe if you’re going to be in a hot, dry area.
#12 – Mohem Jason Men’s Casual Trail Shoes Outdoor Hiking Shoes
As far as “casual” trail shoes go, these Men’s shoes from Mohem Jason are pretty hardcore. The shoe features a durable outsole with a really unique print that allows you to move backward just as well as you can forward. The manufacturer calls this a Multi-Directional Traction (MDT) system, and when you’re out on the trail, it can subtly enhance your mobility while maneuvering through difficult terrain. The lace-up system on this shoe is also quite convenient—your laces won’t be getting in the way of your hiking. This shoe is a great budget buy that will get you over a hill or up a mountain.
#11 – Adidas Outdoor Men’s Ax2 Breeze Hiking Shoe
Not to be confused with AX2 that we examined above, the Adidas AX2 Breeze differs from the other model in that it’s designed to be as well ventilated as possible. If environmental moisture isn’t a concern for where you’ll be hiking, this version of the shoe offers as much ventilation as you’re likely to get out of a hiking shoe. Since it’s ultra-ventilated, the shoe is also extremely lightweight. For quick movement in a dry environment, this is an excellent pick.
#10 – Salomon Men’s X Ultra Prime Multifunctional Hiking Shoe
This hiking shoe really is multi-functional and absolutely loaded with useful features that hikers are sure to appreciate. The breathable mesh is going to ensure that your feet stays well ventilated, and the design of the shoe has been made to offer a snug, comfortable fit. The fit is a big focus of this shoe—the manufacturer calls their design Advanced Chassis Technology. While you might not have ever thought of where you put your foot as a “chassis,” this high end hiking shoe will make you reconsider that position. Having a fit like this means that moving over tough terrain is as easy as it can get.
#9 – Vasque Men’s Mantra 2.0 Gore-Tex Hiking Boot
The Mantra 2.0 from Vasque is one of those shoes that screams masculinity. With an almost military style appearance, this low-cut hiking boot has a really cool feature that we’d love to see on more hiking boots: a speed lacing system. Not only can you get these hiking boots on and off really quickly—which might be pretty nice if you need to leave an area in a hurry for any of the curve balls that nature likes to throw at us—the laces will never get in your way or tangle while you’re hiking. The manufacturer claims that this shoe offers the same stability and grip as a backpacking boot, and if you give it a try, you’ll likely find that it comes pretty close—depending on the environment you’ll be traversing, it might be even better thanks to its lightweight design.
The Mantra 2.0 features Gore-Tex. Fans of Seinfeld will remember George’s oversize coat, but in this context it means that the shoe has been designed with a breathable membrane made out of the iconic material. The Gore-Tex material has been fashioned to be porous so that air can move freely but water can’t get in. It’s also pretty comfy. The outsole of this shoe is durable and features a gripping imprint to promote traction no matter what kind of terrain you’re crossing. This is thanks to Vasque’s partnership with Vibram, as the outsoule is actually made by that company—known for its rugged products.
This is a very durable shoe appropriate not only for summer, but probably every other season as well.
#8 – La Sportiva Men’s Primer Low GTX Trail Running Shoe
These low-cut trail shoes from La Sportiva have been completely optimized for running. If you prefer the great outdoors to the treadmill, these shoes have a lot of features to make the process as comfortable as possible. They feature a polyester mesh build material as well as Gore-Tex waterproof lining—making them appropriate for any season. The outsole is tough and rugged, and the gusseted tongue makes them fit snugly.
#7 – North Face Men’s Hedgehog Fastpack GTX Hiking Shoes
While the North Face is known for its cold weather lineup of products, these Hedgehog Fastpack hiking shoes are an excellent pick for summer. Thanks to the Gore-Tex membrane build, the shoes are both waterproof and provide excellent ventilation. This durable mid-range priced shoe has a PU-coated leather build material and an intelligent lace-up system that keeps your laces out of the way while you’re making your way down the trail.
#6 – KEEN Men’s Targhee II Hiking Shoe
KEEN makes a great hiking shoe. In just a moment we’ll be discussing the Marhsall WP, but first we’d like to quickly examine the Targhee II. It’s a bit lower on the price spectrum, but it’s still an excellent, traditional hiking shoe option. The rubber outsole has one of the most traction-friendly designs you’re likely to see, and the leather build material means that it’s going to last you through at least a few summers, even if you’re an avid hiker. This is a simple but rugged shoe appropriate for all seasons.
#5 – Salewa Men’s Wildfire S GTX Technical Approach Shoe
The Wildfire S is a “technical approach” shoe, which means that Selewa put a lot of thought into the design and packed the shoe with features. The fabric/synthetic composite build material means that it’s durable yet lightweight, and the Vibram sole gives it plenty of grip and traction over a variety of different environments. The shoe has been developed with blister avoidance specifically in mind, and it accomplishes this through highly technical balancing and a snug fit.
#4 – KEEN Men’s Marshall WP Hiking Shoe
This hiking shoe from KEEN features not only a very interesting look, but a surprisingly effective design. If you’re a hiker who likes to make good time getting to your destination and thus you move a little faster than average, this is more than likely the shoe for you—it’s been designed for speed and comfort. The comfort is thanks to a delightfully soft sole, but quite a lot of it also has to do with the fact that this shoe is very well ventilated—as you know by now, having good ventilation is extremely important to not only stay cool during your hike, but to lessen the degree of foot sweating, which can lead to blisters.
Just because the inside of the shoe is so soft doesn’t mean that the outsole (the bottom of the shoe) isn’t surprisingly durable. The bottom of the shoe is made of a solid rubber and has been imprinted with a pattern that promotes as much traction as possible. This is great for uncertain terrains as well as ones that might be a bit slippery in the rain. While you probably won’t see much of that during the summer, morning condensation can make leaves a lot more slippery than you’d think. The Marshall WP hiking shoe is a great way to combat this.
The material this shoe is made from is a leather and synthetic composite which has been developed to be as light as possible, yet also waterproof. How is this shoe both so well ventilated and waterproof? It’s because of a pretty innovative design from KEEN. The shoe features a breathable membrane. The membrane is porous enough to let air in and out of the shoe, but dense enough to keep water out. While the Marshall WP is a bit on the pricey end of the spectrum, it can offer a footwear experience that’s sure to impress even the most avid hiker.
#3 – Adidas Outdoor Men’s Terrex Swift R
The Adidas Terrex Swift R has been designed for total comfort. The impressive elements of this shoe mean that it’s not only durable and comfortable, it’s been designed in such a way that it almost feels like Adidas was trying to make the perfect summer hiking shoe. They came pretty close with this one, as the outsole features a ton of traction, there’s a sock liner to ensure that the shoe fits snugly, and the midsole is very light yet also provides a lot of extra cushion—important for those long days on the trail.
#2 – Salomon Men’s Evasion Aero Hiking Shoes & Collapsing Water Bottle Bundle
Only real hikers will truly appreciate the novelty of a shoe that comes with a collapsing water bottle. It seems a little gimmicky, but the Evasion Aero is actually a really great shoe. It’s durable and looks great. The outsole is rubber and features a high-traction design, and the design of the shoe makes for a snug, secure fit. At a mid-range price point, this footwear is a smart choice for hikers on a budget who also want the benefit of a light yet rugged hiking shoe.
#1 – KEEN Men’s Voyageur Hiking Shoe
This low cut hiking shoe from KEEN has a rubber sole, two inch heel, and a mesh side to promote good ventilation on the trail. The leather is waterproof, but the mesh allows for air circulation. The heel is contoured and locks so that you can get the most ankle support possible—though remember our talk about that in the beginning of this piece. The shoe only weighs a single pound, so it won’t slow you down. The other features of the shoe such as the dual density footbed and the torsion stability ESS shank will help you get the most comfort and traction possible during your next outdoor adventure.