Choosing best mens summer hiking shoes is one of the most important decisions you will make. Finding a pair that has the right balance of comfort, traction, weight, and durability will make a huge difference every step of the way.
Best mens summer hiking shoes Buying Advice
Categories of hiking shoes
For the vast majority of day hikers, and even many backpackers and hikers, hiking boots that go just below the ankle are the perfect solution. Shoes like our top-rated Salomon X Ultra 3 are stiffer and more durable than trail running shoes because they carry a light load over mixed terrain, but are not as heavy as a full upper shoe. Moreover, trekking shoes often have a harder construction than trail running shoes, with more use of leather and durable nylons as opposed to mesh. Protection against obstacles such as rocks and roots is provided by rubber toecap and medium-stiff midsoles. Trekking shoes are also a great option for people who need solid footwear for everyday wear, just remember that the soles will wear out faster on the pavement.
Trail running shoes
If fast movements trump everything else, consider a trail runner. These shoes have grown in popularity in recent years as the ultimate lightweight option and are a common sight on hikes like the PCT and the AT. Remember, however, that these types of shoes are not traditional off-trail or backpacking shoes. Trail runners are flexible and super comfortable, but they don’t offer much support for the ankles when carrying a heavy load and generally have minimal toe and underfoot protection. For hikes on established trails or for experienced minimalists, however, a trail runner remains an excellent choice.
The third option has a relatively narrow purpose: climbers or hikers who need a grippy shoe to cope with steep, rocky terrain. Many mountaineers use an approach shoe when hiking (hence the name “approach”) and switch to a true climbing shoe when it goes upright. The approach shoes are easy to spot: they have a large rubber brim on the toes and a sticky, low-profile rubber compound under the foot for maximum grip on rocks. The shoes can be very comfortable for day hikes, especially for crossovers like the La Sportiva TX4, but they’re not what we usually recommend as a daily rider. Treads are not as safe on muddy hiking trails and are not as comfortable underfoot for long days on the trails. However, if your day hikes involve a lot of climbing or low climbing, an approach shoe is an excellent choice.
Arguably, the most important change in modern hiking shoe technology is the shift to lightweight designs. Durable but thin fabrics and the transition from over-the-ankle boots to flat shoes made it much easier to cover important miles. Unsurprisingly, most hikers are now choosing a hiking shoe over a traditional leather boot. Many of the shoes on our list weigh 2 pounds or less for a pair, in comparison, a backpack boot like the Asolo TPS 520 tips the scales at nearly 4 pounds. And on your feet, the weight is even more evident. True, the drop in ounces sometimes affects long-term durability, but there are still a number of interesting hiking shoes for traditionalists and those in need of the extra support. For the most part, a lightweight shoe is a much better partner for day hikes, toe spikes, and minimalist overnight stays. And as long as the rest of your gear is equally light, there are very few sacrifices.
Reflecting the push for lighter gear in all facets, hiking boots move away from the traditional stiff construction of a hiking boot in favor of flexibility and agility. All hiking shoes (with the exception of some minimalist trail runners) retain some degree of stiffness thanks to built-in uppers or internal supports. These characteristics are part of what separates a hiking shoe (and approach shoe) from a super flexible cross trainer or road running shoe.
For day hikes on flatter or less technical terrain, we can’t recommend a lightweight, semi-flexible hiking shoe enough. Shoes like the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator and Keen Targhee Low stand out for these uses. As your travels lengthen and your backpack gets heavier, a stronger shoe always wins out over us. Look for the Salomon X Ultra 3 and the Arc’teryx Aerios FL for great all-rounder options that are also adept at conquering the peaks and hiking over multiple days.
Once you narrow down your hiking footwear search, you might want to consider the GTX question: Do I need waterproofing or not? In theory, waterproofing is a nice safety blanket if you’re going to be hiking in the mountains. The extra protection provided with a waterproof and breathable membrane inserted into the shoe is great for crossing streams, sudden rain or if you hit the snow during an early season trek. But the extra layer adds weight, affects breathability quite significantly (discussed below), and designs aren’t always perfect. We have found that Gore-Tex patterns consistently perform well, and many interior designs perform similarly by keeping water out (breathability is a different story), including Oboz Sawtooth’s BDry technology.
The truth about waterproof liners, even expensive Gore-Tex boots, is that they don’t breathe well – just like a waterproof jacket won’t be as breathable as a comparable non-waterproof version. Simply put, waterproof and breathable membranes limit the shoe’s ability to wick moisture away from your sweaty feet as effectively as a non-waterproof upper. However, not all non-waterproof footwear should be treated equally. Shoes with thinner fabrics and more mesh will improve moisture wicking and airflow, which will reduce foot sweating in hot weather and dry wet socks much faster.
Easily overlooked, the laces, as well as the hook and eye lacing system, play an essential role in fit and comfort. If a shoe has a poor lacing system that tends to loosen, you will find yourself constantly having to readjust on the trail. If the system itself doesn’t secure the heel very well, the up and down motion of the walk will create hot spots and blisters. If the laces themselves are the culprit, that’s an easy fix – there are plenty of good quality replacement laces available. But if the design of the system doesn’t hold your foot well, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
Foam EVA midsoles are a common site on running and hiking footwear. The cushy soft material takes some of the sting out of your heel or midfoot impacts and is also extremely lightweight. While nearly all shoes on this list use some sort of EVA, the proprietary versions can vary from super soft to mildly stiff. For logging serious miles on tougher terrain, we prefer a firm and supportive midsole as opposed to too much cushioning. Those overly soft midsoles also have a tendency to break down overtime, much like a road-running shoe. In general, you pay more for an improved midsole design and a higher-quality EVA compound.
Just like running shoes, the off-the-shelf insoles that come with almost every hiking shoe are generally cheap. For some it may not make a difference, for others it is what separates comfort from misery. Fortunately, removing your insoles is very easy. Replacing them with an aftermarket model that is tailored to your foot size and shape can fix most shoe ailments. New insoles can provide more or less bulk to fill in the shoe, improve the fit under the arch of the foot, and increase or decrease the cushion and impact shock. We recommend checking out the Superfeet insoles for their wide range of options and their trustworthy reputation in everyday shoes, ski boots, and hiking boots.
Best mens summer hiking shoes FAQ
The current momentum in hiking boots has shifted from bulky ankle-high boots to nimble, lower-cut hiking boots. Walking shoes are heavier and the weight you carry on your feet can feel very uncomfortable at the end of a full day.
Replacing a 4 pound pair of boots for a 2 pound pair of walking shoes can make a huge difference in your performance.
In addition, many hiking boots have very stiff soles that prevent the foot from bending properly. Many boots are made of non-breathable materials, which means your feet are more likely to sweat and blister. Even so, hiking boots can be a great option for those who prefer a lot of ankle stability or stiffness underfoot.
Walking shoes are generally similar in shape to sneakers or tennis shoes. The difference is that hiking boots are made from durable materials and have an outsole that holds in dirt, stones and mud. Hiking boots feel light, nimble, and a little less supportive compared to boots
Bring a backpack to carry your gear. Make sure you pack the 10 essentials. These are 10 safety items that you should always have with you on every hike: head torch, food and water, warm clothing, map or other navigation aid, fire lighter, first aid kit, emergency shelter, sun protection, knife and communication device.