If you’ve ever gone on a hike in running shoes and felt a bit unstable, it’s probably because (shocker) running shoes are not meant for hiking. A proper pair of shoes is crucial for safety for any type of activity, but especially for hiking, which puts lots of pressure on your feet. We reached out to New Jersey podiatrist Sarah E. Haller, DPM, AACFAS, to get her recommendations for hiking boots that work for all kinds of terrain—from flat and forested to steep and mountainous. She sees everything from ankle sprains to broken toes and foot fractures and is also featured on TLC’s My Feet Are Killing Me, so she knows a thing or two about foot and ankle safety. Before making any plans, read her top recommendations for the five best hiking boots for women.
1. KEEN Women's Targhee II Hiking Shoe
When we think of hiking shoes, we normally think of clunky boots, but this pair is far from it. It’s made with 100 percent nubuck leather, for goodness’ sake. Dr. Haller puts it best: “This shoe has a great heel counter [i.e., the thick rubbery part on the bottom of the heel] that helps stabilize the foot when walking on gravel trails. They aren’t too heavy duty, so they’re best for a low-key walk/hike.” Think more nature walk, less steep terrain.
2. Five Ten Women's Camp Four Hiking Shoe
“This brand is worn by Navy SEALs for both training and missions,” says Dr. Haller. As if that weren’t enough to pique our interest, she went on to explain why we civilians need them: “The lug sole design is supportive but also allows for adaptation on advanced and rough terrain. I really love that they have a leather upper, which adds even more support to prevent the dangerous ankle roll.”
3. Merrell Alverstone Mid Waterproof
At first glance, these look kind of like a cool pair of high-tops, not hiking shoes. But Dr. Haller approves of them for their more technical details, like an antimicrobial treatment on the interior to keep foot odor and fungus away. “The toe box in this shoe [the front part of the shoe where the toes sit] is wide, which is best for people with toes that like to spread out so they don’t get too crampy and uncomfortable mid-hike,” she tells us. But if you’re looking for a pair that can withstand lots of time in the water, she suggests opting for canyoneering shoes instead, which fend off fungus and prevent your feet from slipping around inside the shoes.
4. CLARKS WOMEN’S WAVE HIKER ANKLE BOOT
While this shoe might not look like much, Dr. Haller explains that it actually has a lot more safety features than a typical sneaker. “This style of hiking shoe has a surprising amount of traction and features a more secure lace-up front with additional cushion around the ankle. I’d suggest wearing these on a low-key hiking trail that’s well paved with sand or soil,” she says. “But what I really love about this pair is that it allows for more flexibility than the other rigid options, so it feels similar to a regular old sneaker, which novice hikers will appreciate.”
5. Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
The most common foot injuries Dr. Haller sees? Sprains and fractures. And these hiking shoes help prevent both. “This shoe is lighter than some of the other options, yet still suitable for rugged hiking trails, thanks to a high upper and grommets along the ankle that allow for a secure, pull-tight fit,” she says. “Because of that, your feet will stay super stable while walking on rocks and uneven terrain, and these shoes prevent a lot of mid-foot twisting that can send people to my office for sprains and fractures.”
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