What are the most comfortable, driest, supportive and tractive all-round hiking boots for general outdoor activities? We tested the latest, greatest, affordable boots out there to find out what the best hiking boots for men for 2016 are.
These aren’t boots dedicated to mountaineering, heavyweight backpacking, ice climbing or trail running. Instead, we wanted to test all-purpose boots for hiking. The kind that most people wear outdoors and which can handle most men’s general needs. For the purposes of brevity, we limited our selection to above-the-ankle boots fitted with waterproof/breathable membranes and capped the price at $250. We also excluded classic, all-leather designs as those are more suited to casual activities. These are boots you can move in, over long distances. Boots we didn’t feel were up to snuff based on quality or performance also didn’t make the cut; availability of samples also influenced the included products.
We then set about testing the hell out of each boot over a period of several months. This included local circuit hikes, geology field study work, and even a few motorcycle rides for good measure. Terrain included relatively groomed trails, Mount Doom-levels of loose scree, boulder scrambles and even some light climbing. Each boot saw wet and dry conditions, and once we narrowed down our favorites, we focused our destructive efforts on them to test build quality and endurance.
Here’s what we found:
The Best All-Around Hiking Boot: Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX
What do you want from a hiking boot? It should fit well right out of the box, but offer enduring support, especially towards the end of the day when fatigue can result in missteps that can easily lead to tweaked ankles. It needs to be breathable, but truly waterproof. It needs to find grip reliably, lace securely, and handle abuse. And it’d be nice if it came in green. For $230, the Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX nails the mission perfectly.
Despite being one of the heavier boots on test at 640 grams, the Salomons quickly became our favorite boot thanks to excellent fit and stability. The Quest provides a roomy floorboard that allows you to layer socks as needed and isn’t too wide or too narrow, with an open toebox that doesn’t cramp toes on descents. Despite the open feeling, the Quest’s “4d Chassis” provide good arch support, an issue for both primary testers in this review, and it uses a combination of rubber straps and reinforced heel and toe caps to grab hold of the foot securely. The lace system is also notable for providing an unusual locking middle eyelet, which allows the wearer to lock down lace tension for the lower half and leave the top half looser, or vice-versa. Wearing the Salomons, you feel like you can almost stop thinking about your foot placement entirely, trusting the boots to find grip and keep your ankle securely planted.
The sole features a nicely chunky tread pattern for the best grip of the bunch and showed negligible wear over the course of the test. The outer chassis uses both textile and full-grain leather, and likewise came through testing undamaged. Waterproofing comes courtesy of a fully-gusseted tongue and Gore-Tex membrane, for guaranteed dry-foot performance. Breathability was about as good as one could hope for with the heavy-duty chassis and high-top profile, so while they ran a bit warm, the Quests never gave us swampy feet.
The Salomons fit well, proved plenty durable and offered the most confidence while on trail. This is how you make a great boot, a worthy contestant for the best hiking boots for men for 2016-title.
The Best Boot for Picky Feet: Ahnu Mendocino
If your first (or only) concern is finding a hiking boot that is comfortable—especially if you have higher arches—stop reading now and buy a pair of Ahnus. The $160 Mendocino is one of the most comfortable things you can slip into since… well, you get the idea. Using a combination of multiple foam densities and assertively shaped ergonomic support, the Ahnus fit perfectly straight out of the box—minimal break-in, no blisters, with foot coddling comfort all day long. The insole’s great foot feel also gives the Mendocino very good control when climbing or scrambling, too.
Like the other high-quality boots on test, the Ahnus use a leather chassis, a gusseted tongue and a grippy sole. The downsides are minor, but they are there if you spend enough time looking. The eVent membrane breathes well and is really not very vulnerable to soak-through on wet hikes. The soft and comfortable feel does mean the Ahnus aren’t the stiffest and most supportive boots on test—but they still are very solid hiking partners.
But for sub-$200, we’d gladly recommend investing in a fresh pair more often just to enjoy the all-day foot comfort, especially on multiday hikes without a change of shoes in your bag.
Best Boots for Scrambling: Mammut Magic GTX
Make no mistake, the Mammut Magic GTX Mountaineering Boot are top-spec boots, offering exceptional features and mountain-ready grip. Unfortunately, they had to get shuffled away from the top spot thanks to the very focused nature of their mission.
The Ridge Highs are built specifically for via ferrata, or “iron road” route climbing, a term I had to look up on Wikipedia, since I’m not much more than a glorified car camper. The Ridge Highs are built almost like reinforced rock climbing shoes, with an extremely narrow fit, tight arches, and compact toe box. This compact shape would likely make it easier to shove these boots into small cracks and such, but the Mammut’s other unique characteristic is far less helpful, as the heavily reinforced sole is built to stand on rebar-like rungs and climbing mounts with the ball of the foot. Under normal heel-first walking motion, the sole is too inflexible, and the boots force your ankles inward, which isn’t a recipe for comfort after more than a few hours. Hard-core hiker-climbers probably will love these, but recreational-minded folks will want to look elsewhere.
Best Hybrid Hiking Boot/Walking Shoe: Adidas Outdoor Terrex Scope High GTX
Back in the real world and away from the steel cables draped across the Alps, soccer shoe giant Adidas offers one of the better lightweight hiking boots on test, the $200 Scope Highs. Although the Adidas Outdoor boot includes a Gore-Tex lining like a “proper” hiking boot, the outer chassis is a thinner and lighter combination of synthetic textile, with the entire top of the boot finished in a flexible neoprene-like material. The resulting boot is lighter and more breathable than many boots we had on test, and comfort is excellent thanks to how easier the boots’ uppers wrap themselves around your ankles.
Sole grip was very good, and we actually earned a few compliments while wearing the Adidas, so mark up a few extra points for styling, but support wasn’t up to the class leaders like the Salomons. Still, if you don’t necessarily need a stiffer boot but still want hiking boot protection and waterproofing, the Scope High GTXs are the way to go.
Best Value: Keen Targhee II Mid
Keen makes a really nice boot, but there was nothing here that really shined. Fit is roomy, with a nicely protective rubberized toe box, and the sole provided reliable feel and traction. We didn’t get a chance to really push these boots through wet conditions on trail, but the Keen.Dry membrane breathed pretty well and performed admirably in our static (kitchen sink) testing.
Where the Keen Targhee IIs shined was in pure value, offering a great all-around hiking boot for only $135. Durability might not be as good as some of the more technical boots here, but at half the price of the Salomons, who cares if they require replacement a season earlier?