Summer means long days, warm temperatures, and miles on the way. And while we prefer a good pair of hiking boots, a hiking shoe is best for many trail adventures. These are light, easy to move, and keep feet cool. In search of the best, we spent months testing hiking shoes. From the arid Arizona desert to the warm and humid Appalachian Trail to the Rocky Mountains, we’ve logged many miles.
We combine these shoes over hundreds of miles, from dry, high alpine hikes to wet and muddy paths. Day hikes and multi-day adventures have informed us about key performance areas such as traction, all-day comfort, support, and more to bring you relevant comparisons. We discuss the best lightweight hiking shoes.
1. Altra Lone Peak 5
The running-centric brand Ultra is an Uber-popular option for thru-hikers and minimalists, including heavy cushioned but lightweight shoes. Their flagship trail runner is Lone Peak and for the spring of 2021 Ultra has released “5”. In use, we’ve found that alone peak provides decently stiff, tough traction, and dense cushions detach you from harsh impact. There are a few important things to keep in mind when choosing trail running shoes like Ultra Lone Peak for hiking.
First, you’ll find less protection on the toes and ankles than more hiking-centric shoes on this list. Second, the shoe flexes more than a traditional hiker and won’t be as comfortable as steep climbs and rocky terrain. Third, the Lone Peak has a wide fit, especially in the toe box. If your legs are slender, we recommend that you look for a different trail runner like the one above, the Hoka One One Speedgoat.
2. Salomon X Raise GTX
Solomon has tried light and flexible hikers in the past with mixed results, but we think they have real winners with the X-Rise line. We tested low-top shoes on multiple backpacking trips to Patagonia and concluded that this is a true standout in terms of comfort. The foot cushion maintains a balance of smoothness and protection for high-mileage days, has plenty of padding around the collar, and the interior is smooth and soft.
And for those who have had trouble wearing Solomon shoes in the past – including the narrow X Ultra 3 above – the X Rise fits the average with plenty of space in the toe box. At 1 pound 7.6 ounces for the Gore-Tex version, the X Rise has the look, performance, and feel of a trail running shoe.
That said, Solomon has done an excellent job of strengthening the upper component and extending the ankle for a step in durability and support compared to the Ultra Lone Peak 5 above (and it is still slightly more flexible than the X Ultra 3). Our only real complaint with the shoe was related to its traction on the wet rock, where it was surprisingly slippery and hard to believe.
3. Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator
These may not be your long-distance or super-hiking shoes, but Merrell’s flagship Moab 2 has a lot to offer. Most notably, it is lightweight but fitted feel, comfortable fit, and attractive price point. Merrell updated Moab a few years ago with more durable upper and more cushions at the ankles, but the formula remains largely the same. For day travelers stuck on established trails, Moab 2 is a great value. From the bottom, on the rocky and muddy paths, we find that the traction and durability are lower than a performance shoe like the Solomon X Ultra 3 above.
4. Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX
The Salomon X Ultra 3 is our top mountaineering shoe for 2021, combining a feather feel with impressive on-trail performance. Like every iteration of this popular model, the third version puts it together: the shoe is competitively 1 pound 10 ounces (for men size 9) lightweight, the tread design gives impressive firmness in almost all conditions, and the stable chassis and cushioned interior are great for long haul days.
As everyone said, we recommend X High Ultra Day Hike, Quick Summits, and even lightweight backpacking. The design of Solomon X Ultra 3 draws heavily from their navigation skills. Single-pool laces are quick to use and provide a secure fit, and the shoes are much lower than traditional hikers such as the Merle Moab 2 or Keen Targhee below.
We’ve found the Fit Run narrow in the foot box, but the good news is that the lower-top GTX version is offered in a wider range. The non-waterproof “Aero” model tack and the X Ultra 3 stands out as the best line of hiking shoes around in the market.
5. La Sportiva Spire GTX
Many of the designs on our list are lightweight or almost trail runner-like in nature, but the La Sportiva Burley Spire is as close to getting backpacking-ready or hiking shoes. It looks strong and noticeable with good visibility and a thick midsole, which effectively separates you from rough and rocky paths (La Sportiva even calls it a low-cut hiking boot). Excellent protection and occupancy on a variety of terrain, as well as a quality construction that we expected from this Italian climbing brand and you have more capable hiking shoes on the market.
At about 2 pounds, it is heavy for a low-top hiking shoe and sits relatively high at the ankle. Second, the 1,190 price tag makes it the second most expensive model on the list (just behind the Asolo agent below), even at the top of the high-end Arc’teryx Aerios FL. Finally, we appreciate a fit that should work well for most foot types, but the shoe is a bit wide and we had to hold it tight to avoid slippage.
6. La Sportiva TX4
The La Sportiva TX4 is certainly not a traditional theatrical pick, but boy do we like these shoes. It is designed as an approach shoe, which means it is difficult to climb for long mountaineering or to travel on steep, rocky terrain. Vibram outsole, full rubber rand, and sticky rubber smooth area under the toes make it a great option for shaking, smelling, and edging on rocks.
But what fascinates us is its versatility: the TX4 moves at an equally fast pace with its light and medium flexible construction. We also like it for everyday use because of the high level of comfort and attractive design. Like most style shoes, the La Sportiva TX4 has its limitations.
Dotty Tread holds up remarkably well on wet and dry rocks and even fascinates us with snow, but it will be less than real hiking shoes in dirt and mud. In addition, some hikers mostly fast and light breeds may find that the rigid single feels tired and inflexible. But overall, don’t be confused by the approach shoe label: TX4 is a worthy companion on the trail for a long time.
7. Danner Trail 2650
Danner is best known for his work boots, but the long-running footwear brand has made a nice change to late hikers. A lot is going on for Trail 2650: it’s comfortable out of the box, delighted with a Vibram outsole, and impressively light at 1 pound 8 ounces per pair. And this handles shoes that most hiking shoes don’t: looks good in the process. After all, we’re fascinated by the direction Danner is heading, and Trail 2650 is one of the most versatile options on this list. This is one of the best lightweight hiking shoes.
8. Salomon X Ultra 4 GTX
New for Spring 2021, Solomon’s X Ultra is a replacement for the top-rated X Ultra 3. Outside of its smoother and more modern look, Solomon has modified the lacing system and chassis and the fit in the toe box is somewhat wider. Importantly, they hold the X Ultra’s great mix of tidy feeling like a running shoe with everything from real day trail chops to day hikes to extended backpacking trips.
This is one of the best lightweight hiking shoes. It balances very well with flexibility, has plenty of beef for rough conditions, and has enough cushions on the soles of the feet for the whole day, including load packs. And for our men’s size 9 1 pound 9 ounces, the X Ultra 4 matches its predecessor.
We didn’t have any comfort-related issues during our shoe testing, but the collar raised around the front of the ankle can cause wear and discomfort for some users. Comparing the X Ultra 3 and 4, the height difference is noticeable, and at the moment we have enough complaints to hesitate to remove any higher shoes on our list.
9. Keen Targhee Low Vent
Like Merrill’s Moab, Targi is Keen’s signature daily hiker. Updated a few years ago, the changes weren’t groundbreaking but did an excellent job of modernizing the classic design. Most importantly, the super-wide footbed of the previous model has been slightly trimmed to give the shoe a slightly less opaque feel to the rocky terrain. Among the hiking options of the day, Ken Targi Lo and Merel Moab 2 are the two most popular on the market.
This is one of the best lightweight hiking shoes. The top of Targi’s nubuck leather is a little more durable than the nets used in Moab, but the kin isn’t as good as the 130 price tag. The price difference and the wide fit that push us down the list a bit, but you can’t go wrong with any model.
10. Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX
Arc’teryx has been experimenting with footwear for years, from Bora 2 hiking boots to Norvan Trail runners. Enter the Aerios FL, which is super light just over 1.5 pounds for the pair, waterproof with a gore-tex membrane, and a big toe cap, and a large piece of TPU around the bottom of the shoe. As everyone has said, the Aerios is probably lighter than your day trip, more protective than your trail runner, and more comfortable than your approach shoes.
For these reasons, this is our favorite pair of Arc’teryx hiking shoes to this day. This is one of the best lightweight hiking shoes. In terms of performance, we took the Aerios FL on a multi-day escalator route through the Grand Canyon, which included off-trail scrambling with a loaded pack. The shoe seemed a bit stiff at first – especially below the ankle – but it broke nicely and was comfortable for a long time on the trail. It was also light in ankle support with a few spots, but still did a great job covering the ground on a variety of hard terrain.
11. Oboz Sawtooth II Low
The shoe-owned heel counter holds it well in shape and gives a stable feeling over uneven terrain. Additionally, you’ll find plenty of space in the ankle box and a comfortable surround with good arch and ankle support thanks to Oboz’s sculpted and fit insoles. Where the South comes short in the fast-paced hiking crowd. If you want to keep serious soil cover and want light and flexible shoes, we recommend an alternative like Solomon X Rise or Daner’s Trail 25050 (even shiny on the Moab Trail) above. Oboz Sawtooth II Low is one of the best light.
12. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4
Hoka One One was a special brand for runners, but over the last few years it has changed dramatically and a brand is now an option for hikers. This trajectory is understandable: more and more people are digging their old boots for hiking shoes and trail runners, and if you’re mostly on established trails and not walking or carrying heavy packs, this is our preferred way.
With thick cushions and a lightweight building, the Hoka Speedgot is the most comfortable trail shoe we’ve ever worn, the only one we’ve had some complaints about is surprisingly poor and on-trail performance. We were amazed at how quickly they fell down and especially the only one. While standing at our local running store recently, a gentleman in front of us was buying new hoaxes and said, “I love these shoes but I am shocked to see how quickly they are packed out,” which adds to our experience.
In addition, while the performance on the established trails is great, we jumped on their steep terrain and realized the limitations. As a running shoe, the speedboat is light in protection around the foot and can move stability if it sits the test. But again, if you travel or run on most established trails, you won’t find more comfortable shoes for work. Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 is one of the best lightweight hiking shoes.
For most pedestrians of the day, even for a good number of backpackers and hikers, a hiking shoe that falls just below the ankle is the perfect match. Shoes like our top-rated Solomon X Ultra 3 are tougher and more important than trail runners for carrying light loads on mixed terrain but don’t feel as heavy to pull as full-on boots.
In addition, hiking shoes often build harder than trail runners, increasing the use of leather and durable nylon in contrast to the mesh. Protection from obstacles such as rocks and roots comes courtesy of rubber toe caps and medium-hard midsoles. Hiking shoes are also a great option for those who need enough shoes for everyday wear, just be aware that the outdoors will wear out quickly on the sidewalk.