Tips for Choosing the Best Hiking Boots and Shoes

Tips for Choosing the Best Hiking Boots and Shoes

When you hit the trail, you don’t want to think about your feet. It’s all about taking in the view, the wonder of nature along the way, and the beauty of being out there.

A hiking boot that hits all the marks when it comes to comfort, fit, and performance is the way to go. From easy hikes with young kids to thru-hiking rocky terrain or picking up the pace for a faster hike, here’s what to look for in boots that are designed to take on any trail.

Best for Light & Fast Hiking

Summiting in a day? Upping the pace to turn your hike into more of a workout? Think less structure, more flexibility. Lighter weight shoes and boots with a flexible outsole will help you move faster.

The NXIS in men's & women's sizing offer a good balance of agility and stability. And our new Zionic hiking shoes and boots are our fastest, lightest hikers yet!

Best for All-Around Hiking

One hiking shoe or boot that does it all—that’s the way to go for many folks. Whether you’re tackling a day hike just outside the city or you’re exploring more remote terrain—you’ll want a just-right mix of weight, stability, and grip.

Targhee hiking shoes and boots have the all-terrain traction, rugged durability, and support you need for a variety of trails, while still feeling light and flexible. Our Circadia hikers are a simplified version of Targhee for everyday hiking. Both are available in men's & women's sizing. And Targhee comes in a kids' version for family hikes.

Best for Backpacking, Thru-Hiking, and Summiting

If you’re hiking on tough terrain, for long distances, or with a full pack—you’ll want heavier-duty hiking boots with enhanced support and structure. You’ll be adding a few ounces, but you’ll benefit from the added stability and comfort. Look for a mid-height boot for extra ankle support and stability shanks for midfoot support and to help balance the weight of a backpack.

KEEN’s Targhee III are designed for more hard-core outings.

Best for Warm, Humid Weather

For everything from desert explorations to tropical rainforest treks, consider lightweight low-tops with lots of breathability. The men’s and women’s Arroyo II features the best of both hiking shoes and sandals for enhanced airflow to keep your feet cool on warm-weather hikes.

If water crossings are in the forecast, or you like to travel light, consider going the adventure sandal route. KEEN's Newport pairs airy performance with protection.

Best for Cold Climates and All-Year Hiking

If you do most of your hiking in dry, warm weather, waterproofing might not be necessary. But if you like to hike all year and don’t want to worry about weather, it’s probably worth the extra weight to pick up a pair of waterproof and/or insulated hiking boots.

Best for You

Feet get bigger over the course of the day, and even more so when you’re doing lots of walking. When choosing hiking shoes for backpacking or longer treks, look for a little extra room and a wide toe box (all KEEN hiking boots and shoes feature a secure heel fit with room for your toes). To get a feel for the fit before you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, try on your new boots later in the afternoon, wearing the same type of socks you plan to wear on your hike. Once you pick your pair, wear them around the house a bit before hitting the trail.

You’ll have these hiking boots for years. If you need help finding the right one for you, chat with a KEEN Expert for fit recommendations.

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