Whether you are a recreational hiker or hardcore mountaineer, you need great-performing footwear. If you are mainly into “easy” trails (in terms of terrain, not necessarily distance) you will probably be better off with a pair of good trekking shoes (also known as “hiking shoes”) rather than regular hiking boots. Not only are they lighter, more breathable and comfortable to wear, but the flexible sole will also allow you to hike fast and securely on technically undemanding trails. Hiking shoes are, however, not appropriate for hiking on rocky terrain and for multiday trips where you might carry a heavy backpack – exactly because of their flexible soles and lack of support in the ankle area. To learn more about the different types of hiking footwear, check out our Hiking Footwear Guide.
In this review we selected the best trekking shoes in order to make your buying decision a little easier. We only listed products that offer great stability and durability while being very light. If you are looking for mid-cut boots that offer better ankle support please check our review of the Best Lightweight Hiking Boots. If you are planning to do longer trips with a heavy backpack or to hike on rocky terrain check our review of the Best Boots for Mountaineering and Backpacking which includes boots with relatively rigid soles for maximum stability.This selection was updated on the 25th of January 2017.
1. Buying Trekking Shoes – What is important?
Trekking shoes are in general lighter than hiking and mountaineering boots, but heavier than running shoes. The weight of footwear of course depends on the materials which it is made of. When it comes to hiking footwear, the midsole and upper have the biggest impact on the weight. Therefore, trekking shoes often (but not always) use synthetic uppers and relatively flexible EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) midsoles which are super light while more robust hiking boots use heavier PU (polyurethane) midsoles and leather uppers to provide good abrasion-resistance and stability (rigidity).
In this review we only listed trekking shoes that weigh less than 1000 grams (weight per pair).
Trekking shoes mainly feature uppers made of synthetic materials or leather (even though leather is less commonly used). High-quality synthetic uppers are lighter and more breathable than leather uppers. However, leather uppers provide better abrasion-resistance and support due to their rigidity. Leather comes in different forms such as full-grain leather, split-grain leather and nubuck leather. Full-grain leather is the heaviest and the most durable. Split-grain leather and nubuck leather offer lower abrasion resistance but on the other hand they are also more breathable and lighter.
In this review we listed four pairs of trekking shoes that feature synthetic uppers and one pair of trekking shoes that has uppers made of nubuck leather.
The fabric on the inside of a boot is called the lining and is usually made of nylon. It has to be breathable so that it can transport the moisture (perspiration) from the foot to the outside. This is very important as moist feet can cause blisters and get cold faster. However, for the vapor of your feet to be efficiently transported to the outside of the shoe, it is necessary to also wear breathable and moisture-wicking socks. At Best Hiking we recommend Merino wool socks as they are not only moisture-wicking and breathable but also naturally antimicrobial. For more information about Merino wool check out our article Why you should wear Merino wool clothing.
Waterproof trekking shoes use a waterproof lining (like Gore-Tex and eVent) which to some extent reduces the breathability of shoes; there is no such thing as an abundantly breathable waterproof fabric. However, with advanced technologies such as the Gore-Tex Surround, high-quality trekking shoes can nowadays be fairly breathable while offering good water-resistance.
Besides water-resistance and breathability, the lining should also offer good abrasion- and pilling- resistance.
The insole, which is also known as the footbed, has to perform similarly to the lining as it is also in direct contact with the sock-clad foot. It thus has to be moisture-wicking, breathable and durable. Many insoles are treated with antimicrobial agents in order to reduce the growth of microorganisms and bacteria.
The midsole is one of the most quality-determining features of a trekking shoe as it gives cushioning, support and stability. There are two types of midsoles available; EVA midsoles (ethylene vinyl acetate) and PU (polyurethane) midsoles.
EVA midsoles are in general lighter and more flexible than PU midsoles. Therefore, they are often used in running shoes as well as in trekking shoes and lightweight hiking boots. However, EVA midsoles are less durable than the PU midsoles – they get flat faster and thus lose cushioning.
PU midsoles on the other hand are very durable and fairly rigid. Therefore, they are often used in heavier boots that are designed for mountaineering on a rocky terrain and carrying heavy loads (backpacking). For such activities stiff soles are required so that the terrain is not felt too much (rocks, stones, roots etc.).
In this review we listed four pairs of trekking shoes that use EVA midsoles (some use PU inserts as well) and one pair that features PU midsoles.
The outsole provides traction and is thus very important. Outsoles are equipped with lugs of different patterns; the deeper and thicker the lugs, the better traction they provide. Some manufacturers develop their own outsoles like for example Salomon (Contagrip) while others use outsoles from well-known manufacturers such as Vibram.
2. The Best Trekking Shoes Review
- La Sportiva Synthesis Surround GTX
- Zamberlan 132 Airound GTX RR
- Salomon X Ultra Low II GTX
- Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo
- Merrell Moab Waterproof
|Feature/Product||La Sportiva Synthesis Surround GTX||Zamberlan 132 Airound GTX RR||Salomon X Ultra Low II GTX||Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo||Merrell Moab Waterproof|
|Weight (pair)||1 lb. 12 oz.||1 lb. 12 oz.||1 lb. 13 oz.||1 lb. 15 oz.||1 lb. 8 oz.|
|790 g||780 g||810 g||870 g||680 g|
|Upper Material||Air-Mesh, PU Leather||Air-Mesh||Nylon||Nubuck Leather||Nubuck Leather, Nylon|
|Lining||Gore-Tex Surround||Gore-Tex Surround||Gore-Tex||Gore-Tex||M-Select Dry|
|Outsole||Vibram||Vibram Speed Hiking||Contagrip||Vibram Renovo||Vibram|
1. La Sportiva Synthesis Surround GTX
- Everyday use
The La Sportiva Synthesis Surround GTX is a sophisticated trekking shoe that offers superb performance. It features upper made of breathable synthetic material (Nano-Cells technology) which works together with the latest innovation from Gore-Tex; the Gore-Tex Surround technology. The synergy of these two technologies makes this hiking shoe exceptionally breathable, moisture-wicking and quick-drying. The Nano-Cells construction ensures the durability of the shoe while the Gore-Tex lining provides breathability and protection against water and wind. The Gore-Tex Surround technology was especially developed for footwear and distinguishes itself from other waterproof technologies by offering an “all-around breathability”; the special Gore-Tex insert is placed in the shoe and allows moisture to escape in all directions (even towards the sole). In order to achieve this, a spacer fabric (made of polyester/polyamide) that allows air/moisture to pass underneath the foot is used. In addition to the sophisticated materials, the La Sportiva Synthesis Surround GTX features a Vibram sole, STB Control System and climbing lacing. The STB Control System provides torsion resistance, comfort and a snug fit while the climbing lacing (meaning that it extends further down towards the toe area) enables a tighter fit and more precise feel. However, keep in mind that this shoe is not designed for climbing as it uses a relatively flexible midsole. All in all, the La Sportiva Synthesis Surround GTX trekking shoes offer an incredible performance and we would recommend them to all kinds of trekker and hikers who need breathable and reliable footwear for their outdoor adventures.
2. Zamberlan 132 Airound GTX RR
- Everyday use
The Zamberlan 132 Airound GTX RR is another very sophisticated trekking shoe which also features the Gore-Tex Surround waterproof technology. In comparison to the La Sportiva Synthesis Surround GTX, this hiking shoe is a little lighter and has a better reinforced upper (achieved by using rubber-like reinforcements) and thus offers slightly more durability and stability. On the other hand, the reinforcements reduce the overall breathability and moisture-wicking performance of the shoe. Nevertheless, the Zamberlan 132 Airound GTX RR still offers an incredible performance – especially in comparison to trekking shoes that are equipped with older, less expensive technologies from Gore-Tex. The performance of the shoe is additionally increased with a durable Vibram Speed Hiking sole and an EVA midsole which uses TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) stabilizers. The Vibram Speed Hiking sole provides great traction on various terrains. All things considered, the Zamberlan 132 Airound GTX RR is an amazing trekking shoe that will meet and exceed the demands of every trekker and hiker.
3. Salomon X Ultra II GTX
- Everyday use
The Salomon X Ultra II GTX is an excellent trekking shoe that offers great performance and comes for a little lower price than the above reviewed La Sportiva and Zamberlan shoes. The Salomon X Ultra II GTX features an upper made of abrasion-resistant nylon with Gore-Tex lining. Therefore, it provides good breathability and water-resistance. The tongue is connected to the upper so that it prevents dirt from entering the shoe. The shoe’s toe area is protected with a rigid rubber-like material which efficiently keeps your toes safe while hiking on rougher terrain. The shoe offers good stability, cushioning and comfort with the 3D Advanced Chassis – which consists of multiple carefully designed elements that come between your foot and the outsole. The Contagrip outsole is made of high-density and low-density elements, so that areas that are more prone to wear out (like the heel and toe area) are composed of durable high-density materials, while the less exposed areas are made of low-density materials in order to reduce the weight. In addition to that the shoe also features the QuickLace technology – a minimalistic lace system which can be tightened by a single pull. The Salomon X Ultra II GTX is best for those who want a great-performing trekking shoe for a reasonable price.
4. Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo
- Everyday use
The Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo is an extremely robust and durable trekking shoe. It has an upper made of nubuck leather with Gore-Tex lining and thus it offers great protection – not only against weather, but also against abrasion and tearing. As the upper is more rigid, this trekking shoe offers better stability and durability than those equipped with synthetic uppers. In addition to the high-quality upper, the shoe features a Climate Control footbed, Vibram Renovo outsole and DuraPU midsole with Monowrap frame. The climate control footbed wicks moisture away from the foot and provides decent breathability. However, keep in mind that the other shoes in this review are more breathable as they are equipped with synthetic uppers (mesh fabric). The Vibram Renovo sole provides great traction on various terrains while the DuraPU midsole gives efficient cushioning and stability. All in all, the Lowa Renegade II GTX Lo is an amazing trekking shoe as it is very light in spite of its heavier polyurethane midsole and durable upper made of nubuck leather.
5. Merrell Moab
- Everyday use
The Merrell Moab is a superlight trekking shoe (it weighs merely 680 g) and thus best for easy and relatively flat trails. The shoe is equipped with an upper made of a synthetic material that is reinforced with leather overlays for increased durability. The lining underneath the upper is equipped with a M-Select Dry PU coating which prevents water from entering the boot while still offering some breathability. This combination doesn’t provide as good breathability and moisture-management as for example Gore-Tex, but on the other hand the Merrell Moab Waterproof is also the least expensive hiking shoe in this review. The shoe is equipped with a Vibram sole that performs well on flat trails but lacks traction on steeper slopes as it is equipped with relatively shallow lugs. In addition to that it is also very flexible and thus not suitable for rocky terrain. The Merrell Moab Waterproof is a great trekking shoe for the price and we would recommend it to those who want to stick to easy and flat trails.
3. The most attractive product in the review