Top 3 Hiking Shoes of 2021

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Stay comfortable and agile on the trail with the best hiking shoes for men and women. From day trips to thru-hikes, we’ve got you covered.

Summer means long days, warm temps, and miles on the trail. And while we love a good pair of hiking boots, a hiking shoe is best for many trail adventures. They’re light, easy to move in, and keep feet cool. You’ll give up a bit of ankle support with a shoe, but many find the increased comfort and performance are worth the trade-off.

In search of the best, we spent months on the trail testing out hiking shoes. From the dry Arizona desert to the hot and humid Appalachian Trail to the Rocky Mountains, we’ve logged a lot of miles.

And while we know many people use trail running shoes for hiking, we’ve focused this article on hiking shoes. If trail running shoes are what you’re after, check out our Best Trail Running Shoes of 2021. Or for more support, take a look at the Best Hiking Boots of 2021.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:

The Best Hiking Shoes of 2021

Best Overall: Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero

The Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero ($120) checks all the important boxes: breathable, grippy, and comfortable. If you’re looking for a warm-weather, summer hiking shoe, this is it. The polyester mesh panels help keep feet cool. And at about 1.5 pounds for the pair, these won’t weigh you down.

With the mudguards and extended toecap, we never had any problems with rocks or sticks jabbing our feet. And the lugs proved plenty burly even for technical trails.

The sole is surprisingly flexible, which our testers enjoyed. But if you’re looking for something stiff, you may want to choose a different shoe.

Another feature that you’ll either love or hate is the Quicklace system. Pull the lace, and it locks into the desired tightness. We’ve found it works well and doesn’t need retightening throughout the day. However, it can limit how specific you get on tightening your shoe.

All in all, these shoes offer traction and comfort while keeping feet cool. With this Salomon offering, you get a lot of do-all shoe for $120. The women’s version seems to run a bit large, so we recommend going down a half size.

If you’re looking for a waterproof hiking shoe, check out the Salomon X Ultra Low 3 GTX. This GORE-TEX-lined hiker offers a lot of the same comfort and performance of the Aero in a waterproof package.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 6.4 oz.
  • Material: Nylon mesh 
  • Best Use: Summer hiking and technical trails
  • Top Attribute: Breathable and light, with plenty of grip
Salomon X Ultra 3 Low Aero

Runner-Up: Oboz Sawtooth II Low

Are you looking for a hiking shoe that offers more of a traditional hiking boot design? This below-the-ankle pick could be just what you need. The under-2-pound Sawtooth ($115) slices through harsh terrain better than most midheight hiking boots.

The leather-and-textile hybrid upper defies abrasion. And the outsole design has enough rocker to make walking easier on rollers and steeps.

It comes out of the box ready to hike. It promotes more foot freedom with a wider toebox and a heel cup that combats shifting even on daunting descents.

The lug pattern gives plenty of grip. And the toe overlays prevent abrasion. Our testers are happy to report that even after multiple seasons of use, these show little signs of wear. Plus, you can feel good knowing that Oboz plants a tree for every pair of shoes sold.

We found this model runs about a half size large. For a waterproof version, take a look at the Oboz Sawtooth II Low BDry. It’s the same shoe, but with Oboz’s waterproof membrane.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
  • Material: Nubuck leather
  • Best Use: Mid- to high-mileage backpacking journeys with loads up to 50 lbs.
  • Top Attribute: Versatility
Oboz Sawtooth II Low

Best Budget Hiking Shoe: Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Low

It’s no surprise that the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator ($100) is one of the top-selling hiking shoes. The side ventilation keeps feet cool during warm-weather hikes. And the leather and mesh hold up well through rocky scrambles, long day hikes, and multiday adventures.

We like that they provide some of the stability and traction generally found in a hiking boot with the low-top freedom of a shoe.

The toebox was wide enough that our testers didn’t experience any uncomfortable rubbing. But they are a bit stiffer, and we would recommend slowly amping up your mileage. Give them time to break in and you could have a great hiking shoe for seasons to come.

These aren’t the lightest hiking shoes available. And on technical or wet terrain, they didn’t perform as well as shoes like the Salomon X Ultra or the SCARPA Rapid, but these are winners for day hikes on regular trails.

They retail for $100 but can often be found for less (we’ve seen them as low as $74 depending on the size and color). They’re also available in a waterproof version.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 15 oz.
  • Material: Suede leather and mesh
  • Best Use: Day hikes
  • Top Attribute: Durable, solid value
merrell moab 2 ventilator low

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