The best hiking boots and shoes for women

As most people already know, spending time in nature provides both mental and physical benefits. Hiking is an outdoor activity that most anyone can get into; from short hour-long hikes to multi-day adventures. One of the most essential pieces of gear you need is a great hiking shoe.

With so many available, choosing the best hiking shoe or boot can be overwhelming. One of the first things to consider is whether you prefer a boot, a shoe, or a trail runner. This really is a personal preference that hinges on how much ankle and arch support you need. Most hiking shoes these days are a combination of a boot and a full-on trail runner.

The next thing to think about is where you’re planning to hike. While it’s perfectly acceptable to have multiple pairs of hiking footwear (I own four pairs of hiking specific shoes), the general advice is to buy something that will perform well on the type of terrain you plan to hike on the most often – whether that be dirt trails, uneven rocky ground, riverbanks, crossings, significant ascents, and descents, or a combination of all of these. Hiking boots come with different lug patterns on the soles which determine which terrain they’re best suited for. 

The question of waterproofing always comes up when searching for the best hiking boot. If you are hiking in warm, humid climates where your feet will likely be sweating a lot, you may not want a waterproof shoe as sometimes they hold too much moisture in. You want a shoe or boot that is breathable so that your feet do not remain wet and promote the formation of blisters. A boot that is fast drying is always important as well. When hiking in snow and/or colder climates, a waterproof boot will likely serve you better.

Hiking boot weight matters too. A common bit of hiking wisdom/advice is that one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back, meaning that the weight of your shoes impacts how quickly you’ll become fatigued. One study that supports this (and the one most commonly cited) was conducted in 1984 by the U.S. Army, published with the rather lengthy title of, “The energy cost and heart-rate response of trained and untrained subjects walking and running in shoes and boots.”

If you’ve never owned hiking shoes or boots before, you may need to try on multiple pairs before you find the perfect fit. The best time to do this is later in the day when your feet will be at their most swollen. If you normally wear orthotics or arch supports make sure you use them when conducting your test runs. To help you get started, below are some of the best hiking shoes and boots for women.

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots

Lowa Women’s Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot –

69.00Shop Now

These leather boots feature a breathable footbed as well as a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane. The “mid” in the name refers to mid-ankle height. Weighing in under three pounds, these boots won’t add a lot of weight to your feet while providing you with the stability and durability of a leather boot.

However, if you plan on hiking through rivers or on a lot of wet rock, these boots would not be your best choice, as, in my experience, the sole doesn’t provide enough traction on slippery wet boulders.

Merrell All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoe

Merrell Women’s All Out Blaze Aero Sport Hiking Water Shoe –

79.95Shop Now

If you do plan on doing considerable hiking through water and/or combining your hikes with kayaking, the All Out Blaze Aero Sport is worth a look.

These shoes weigh a mere 10.5 ounces, dry quickly, and have extremely grippy soles to keep you upright on rocky river beds and while scaling wet, slick stone. Like most Merrell shoes they have a wide toe box.

Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Shoe

Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 MID GTX W Hiking –

159.95Shop Now

These women-specific boots are designed with something Salomon calls “Descent Control technology,” which consists of two different rubbers on the sole (an especially grippy one in the heel section), an inner last that holds the foot in place even when pointed downward, and an “asymmetrical chassis” developed specifically for women. The chassis refers to the cushioning and stability of the midsole which affects how much you feel what’s under your feet as well as how quickly you may experience fatigue.

Merrell Moab 2 Mid Hiking Shoes

Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot –

134.95Shop Now

If you’re interested in a good all-around hiking shoe, try the Merrell Moab 2. One of the most popular hiking shoes on the market, they come in various iterations, including a waterproof and not waterproof version. According to Amazon reviewers, they offer great arch support and excellent foot cushioning.

If you’ve spent any time on the trails, you’ve probably seen a lot of these suede leather and mesh shoes out and about. They are one of the most popular hiking shoes around.

Altra Lone Peak Zero Drop Hiking Shoes

ALTRA Women’s Lone Peak 3.5 Running Shoe –

137.19Shop Now

Altra Lone Peaks are another popular women’s hiking shoe, especially for multi-day and thru-hikers. My long-time friend and fellow hiker Stefanie Eyestone Weir has done many multi-day hikes, recently (April 2021) completed 240 miles of the Appalachian Trail wearing her Lone Peak zero drops.

She told me that one of the reasons they work so well for her is because they have a wide toe box to accommodate her wide feet.

La Sportiva Nepal Evo GTX Mountaineering Boots

La Sportiva Nepal EVO GTX Hiking Shoe –

525.00Shop Now

For more intense mountaineering or ice climbing adventures, you won’t go wrong with the Nepal Evo GTX by La Sportiva. At a little over 5 ½ pounds, these are the heaviest hiking boots I own. They’re also the most durable and, with an insulated lining and sole, the warmest. These are stiff boots that require some breaking in.

They also have a removable and adjustable tongue that allows you to fine-tune the fit to the terrain. One of their best features is a solid, deep, heel brake – something I was very thankful for while trekking K2.