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We’re living in a golden age of the best mens’ hiking boots, as I learned recently when I had to find a new pair. There are a ridiculous array of options, catering to distance, terrain, weather, and weight criteria, among many others.
But I’m an intermediate-at-best hiker—Mont Blanc won’t be seeing me anytime soon—so in putting together this guide, I shot for a kind of safe middle—boots that will be more than adequate for a challenging day hike, a long camping weekend in the wild, or even a long-but-not-treacherous trek like the Alpe Adria or the Camino de Santiago. Within that range, sure, you’ll want to go with a lighter boot for longer distances, and options along that line are included.
But this is really for the amateurs out there (which is why I’m not dealing with hiking shoes or “trail runners” here: you want a firm sole and some ankle support!) and beginners who don’t even know they’re about to begin. That’s where you, the loved one in search of an inspired gift idea, come in. How cool to inspire the brother/father/husband/son/friend in your life to take on a new pastime…one that will reap untold physical benefits. And, yeah, okay, it might get them out of your hair for a few hours in the bargain.
And, hey, if you’re anything like me, the only thing that keeps Christmas shopping tolerable is the occasional gift we buy for ourselves along the way. So, yes, by all means, indulge. It’s been a long year—you deserve it!
I’ve tried to present a fair amount of variety within the following ten options—some American-made, imported; cheap, pricey, old-school, cutting-edge; nondescript and downright pretty. I’ve also indicated which models are available in wide and narrow sizes, for those with more quirkily shaped dogs.
Below, here are my picks for the best hiking boots for men.
Try to find a “best hiking boots” list that doesn’t include these babies. Go ahead—we’ll wait. See? That’s because they are, indeed, widely, and deservedly, celebrated: out-of-the-box comfy, waterproof, and yet somehow they breathe. Reader, I bought them, opting for the warm “Earth,” but there are six other colors to choose from. Need a second opinion? “There was no ‘adjustment’ period with these boots...I put 200+ miles of hiking on these the last 3 weeks in Iceland and never had any problems.” Wide version available.
If you’ve got the scarole, go ahead and splurge on these Italian beauties. They’ve got full-grain leather uppers, a back-tapered ankle collar and weigh in at a barely-there 2.16 lbs. As for performance, one reviewer said, “The day after receiving these I left for a 60-mile trip on the Appalachian Trail and these performed perfectly. It poured rain the first two days and my feet stayed dry as a bone. Support and traction were great. Even with no break-in they were quite comfortable, with no blisters.” Bona, but if I’m being honest, it’s mostly about the look. The most stylish of my selections, with four great color combos (though I’m most partial to the Graphite/Blueberry and Graphite/Nero).
Another pricey-yet-gorgeous option, the Acruz TR GTX (that “GTX” means the use of breathable-yet-waterproof Gore-Tex) is streamlined to the point of looking almost demure, but don’t let that fool you. As this reviewer testifies, these will deliver on rocky, icy terrains; sole firm when you need them to: “Decided to risk them untried on a 17-mile hike on steep and rocky trails in the Tahoe/Desolation Wilderness. These performed great—good insulation from the rocks, and felt as light as trail-runners. Not a single hot spot at the end of the day either. Available only in elegant, hipster-friendly all-black.
Calling all fashion-forward first-adopters! After distinguishing itself in the running-shoe biz, Hoka has brought its breezy, speedy ethos to the hiking boot. And in the Sky Toa that breeziness and speediness is helped along mightily by its ridiculously light weight—1lb.14ozs! “These are perfect boots,” says one effusive user. “I must have tried out 10 different brands before finding these, and I’m so glad I did. If underfoot comfort and ankle, knee, and back support are your primary concerns, buy these boots….When they start catching on, they’re going to transform the way people think about hiking shoes forever.” They’re available in three color schemes (the Black Iris/Blue combo being the real knockout among them IMHO), all of which are, says the manufacturer “100% vegan” (i.e., sans any animal-derived materials).
You don’t need me to sing the praises of this well-established brand; the web is lousy with glowing testimonials (check their hiking sandals too). The Targhee is their sturdy, no-nonsense standard-bearer. “I have put over 200 trail miles on the[m] and they still look nearly brand new,” said one recent reviewer, who continues, “Planning an Appalachian Trail thru hike in 2020 and have tested several different shoes/boots…These Keen's are the shoes I will start with.” Weighing in at a sprightly 2lbs, 2.8ozs, available in six colors and wide sizes (though I’ve heard tell the Targhee II is an even roomier option for us Bigfoots), this is a solid choice.
A bit on the pricey side, but in this case you’ll be paying for performance and heft, as the Quest 4D, Outdoor Gear Lab’s top-rated boot this year, is an option for the more serious trekker. They weigh in at around 3lbs per pair and sit a bit high and tight on the ankle, but that relatively heavy superstructure buys you a whole lotta comfort and stability. “I seriously feel I've hit the jackpot finding these boots,” said one happy customer. “At this point I've put about 60 miles on them including lots of elevation change and rocks, and 28 miles carrying a 40-pound pack. The toe box has plenty of room and I've been in complete comfort at all times with zero issues.” Available in three colors.
This U.S.-based, European-inspired manufacturer is in its sixth decade of shoeing intrepid trekkers, and that venerable legacy (now subsumed under the aegis of Red Wing Shoes) is embodied in the august St. Elias. Though available in Jet Black, it’s the warm, horsey brown full-grain leather uppers of the Cognac variety that sent me off on reveries of Alpine vistas, fir-lined trailways, and dutiful St. Bernards. Where I saw old-school classicism, though, one reviewer a “super sleek, sexy design…I can drive, hike, run, backpack, shoot & walk through town in them no problem. Thin sox in summer thick in the summer this boot can be used year round.” Available in wide sizes; the “Backpacking” version also offers narrow sizes.
Though designed in Germany and manufactured in Slovakia, Lowa is the official boot sponsor of the American Hiking Guides Association (AHGA). Still not impressed? Well, last year Backpacker magazine inducted this model into its Editors' Choice 25th Anniversary Hall of Fame. As they put it: “Yes, the Renegade is a big, burly leather boot, built for eating miles and slaying rough terrain, but, dang, is it comfortable.” Available in wide and narrow sizes, and six colors. “I never expected to say that any shoe over $200 was a bargain,” says one reviewer, “but at $240 this shoe qualifies.”
I’ve long had big love for Skechers, the epitome of the economical-but-not-cheap option. Will a pair last you ten years? Maybe not. Will they make you the envy of the hardcore trekkers? Hell, no. But if you’re on a budget and/or just want to get your feet wet with the whole hiking thing (figuratively—relax, they’re waterproof!), you can’t go wrong with the Relaxed Fit Metco Atmore Boot. Featuring leather/suede uppers and available in three colors as well as in a very capacious “relaxed fit,” well, as this guy put it: “If you are looking for a good functional boot these are great. I live in a very rainy state and the inside of the boots never get wet….I am considering buying a pair for my dad for Christmas.” That’s what I’m talking about!
Another tres affordable option, this one with a bit more reputational gravitas. In a game of word association many people would simply blurt out “Timberland!” upon hearing the words hiking boots. Yep, they’re that established. And who am I to argue? “This is my second pair of these boots,” said one recent—and repeat—customer. “These are by far the most comfortable boots I've ever worn.” Handsome design, all-business profile, nicely padded ankle collar, available in six colors (including, of course, Timberland’s signature “Wheat” yellow) and wide sizes. PS: At that price point, can you blame me for not listing these first? You might not have read any further….and I simply couldn’t have that.
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