All hiking boots are not created equal. Women’s hiking boots are designed around the differences in the way that women walk, providing extra support to your feet and ankles. Hiking boot manufacturers have tapped in to running shoe technology to create a slew of new super-light, breathable options for day hikers. Serious trekkers can still opt for sturdy, durable, ankle-saving hiking boots, but with added comfort-enhancers like breathable waterproof membranes. Pronto’s Women’s Hiking Boots Buying Guide will help you choose the right hiking boots for your back-to-nature needs.
Decide what kind of hiking you want to do and choose a style of women’s hiking boot that’s up to the task. Low-cut hiking shoes are great for day trips with backpacks under 25 pounds. Lightweight women’s hiking boots deliver ample cushioning and structure for weekend trips with 30- to 40-pound packs. If you plan to hike for days and lug a 50-pound pack, you’ll need the maximum support of midweight leather hiking boots.
Choose the lightest hiking boots or shoes that can handle the terrain you’re facing. One extra pound of weight in your boots feels like five in your backpack, so lighter boots will conserve your energy. Don’t skimp on support and rigidity if conditions demand them, but compare women’s hiking boots to balance stability and weight.
Low-cut women’s hiking shoes are light, comfortable and great on groomed trails. If protecting your ankles is a top priority, choose a more rigid, high-cut hiking boot. Look for tough, lugged soles for traction and protection from sharp rocks. High-cut leather hiking boots protect better against twigs and pebbles, which can penetrate mesh.
Hiking boots with waterproof membranes can keep feet dry in rainy or snowy conditions and during shallow-stream crossings. Membranes add weight and decrease ventilation, so hot-weather hikers may feel more comfortable in non-waterproof light mesh hiking shoes that breathe well and dry quickly if they do get wet.
Proper fit is crucial to comfort. Choose hiking boots that fit snugly so your foot won’t slide but still allow wiggle room for your toes. When buying online, make sure the vendor has a no-hassle return policy in case you need to exchange your hiking boots for a different size. Consider men’s hiking boots if you have particularly wide feet.
The side-to-side support that prevents your ankles from twisting on tricky terrain. Higher-cut women’s hiking boots provide more lateral rigidity than low-cut hiking shoes.
Front-to-back support that guards against your foot over-bending on uneven terrain, if most of your weight falls either on your toes or your heels. Longitudinal rigidity needs to be balanced with flexibility, so your feet can move naturally.
The tough rubber bumps on the soles of hiking boots that provide traction on slippery surfaces and absorb shock.
A synthetic material that provides waterproofing in women’s hiking boots. Most membranes are made of fabrics like Gore-Tex, which has tiny openings that keep water out while allowing moisture inside the hiking boot to escape.
The entire top part of a hiking boot, including everything from the sole up. Uppers can be made of leather, synthetics like nylon mesh, or a combination of the two.
There are three main types of women’s hiking boots: low cut hiking shoes, lightweight hiking boots and midweight leather hiking boots. Choose the hiking boots that match up best with your outdoor adventure style.
If you’re a day hiker and carry less than 25 pounds in your backpack, check out women’s low-cut hiking shoes. These popular hiking boots look a lot like running shoes but offer the added support and traction required for recreational hiking. They’re lighter, more flexible and less expensive than high-cut hiking boots, and they don’t need any break-in time.
Heading out for a weekend on the trails? Lightweight women’s hiking boots are cut higher for more ankle support than low-cut hiking shoes. Extra cushioning and tougher soles let you shoulder a 30- to 40-pound pack. “Light hikers” often sport a combination leather/mesh upper; mesh keeps feet cool on sweltering days and reduces weight. Some lightweight hiking boots have waterproof membranes.
Hardcore trekkers who brave rocky, off-trail terrain and multiday trips need tougher midweight women’s leather hiking boots. They’re heavier, stiffer and pricier than light hikers, and you’ll need some time to break them in. These hiking boots deliver maximum support for pack weights of 40 to 50 pounds and the stability and rigidity to protect ankles and feet on tricky, uneven ground. Midweight hiking boots have durable all-leather uppers and are almost always waterproof.
The weight of your hiking boots has a big impact on your comfort on the trail. Low-cut women’s hiking shoes can weigh as little as one and a half pounds per pair, while midweight leather hiking boots top out at around four pounds. Studies show that you burn as much energy carrying one extra pound of boot weight as you would lugging five extra pounds on your back.
Choose the lightest hiking boots that are suitable for your intended terrain. High ankle support, rigid construction, full-grain leather and waterproof linings all add weight, but don’t skip them if you’ll be facing tough off-trail scrambles. Check out several hiking boots that have the features you need, and compare their weights. A few ounces less could leave you in much better shape to enjoy the view from the summit.
A hiking boot’s job is to protect your foot and ankle from rocks, roots and uneven ground. Low-cut hiking shoes are great on groomed trails, especially if you hike with a very light pack or none at all. Inexperienced hikers and people with weak ankles should seriously consider a higher-cut hiking boot for better stability and protection. Even tame trails can have unpredictable dips.
If ankle protection is a key consideration, check the lateral rigidity of women’s hiking boots. If you can bend the top of the boot to the side, it’s not stiff enough to guard against injury. Also look at longitudinal rigidity, or how easily the boot bends front to back. You want enough flexibility to walk naturally, but enough stiffness so your foot won’t over-bend if most of your weight lands on your toes or heels.
The soles of your hiking boots should have deep, tough rubber lugs for serious traction and shock-absorption, and a sole that is thick enough to protect you from sharp rocks. If you can press your finger into the sole, it’s too soft. High-cut women’s leather hiking boots offer better protection than mesh against trail debris like twigs and pebbles.
Water is a fact of life for hikers, and wet feet are prone to blisters and frostbite. Enter waterproof hiking boots, which use high-tech membranes to keep water out while allowing moisture inside the boots to evaporate. Many owners have found that waterproof hiking boots keep feet dry even while wading, as long as the water isn’t higher than your boots. In addition to membranes, look for hiking boot uppers with very few seams, which lowers the chance of leaks.
Waterproof membranes add weight to hiking boots, and although they’re breathable, they don’t vent as well as mesh or plain leather. This can make your hiking boots feel stifling in hot weather. If you’re mainly a summer hiker, consider quick-dry lightweight mesh hiking shoes instead. You’ll get your feet wet if you hop in a stream, but the mesh dries fast, and you’ll be cooler and lighter. Those who hike in extreme cold need hiking boots with full waterproofing.
No matter how many great features your hiking boots have, if they don’t fit right, you’ll suffer on the trail. There’s no best brand. The women’s hiking boot that’s best for you is the one that fits your foot. When you’re buying hiking boots online, look for a no-hassle return policy.
Women’s hiking boots should have ample wiggle room for your toes and fit snugly enough so your foot won’t slide around, which is a major risk for blisters. Don’t get stuck on numbers, as sizes vary considerably from brand to brand. To test the fit, unlace the hiking boots, slide your foot in as far forward as possible, then try to slip your index finger behind your heel. If it just fits, the hiking boot’s length is good.
Try on your hiking boots with the socks that you’ll be wearing. Remember that your feet get larger when you walk, so what feels good initially could seem tight by day’s end.
If you have particularly wide feet, you may want to consider men’s hiking boots instead of women’s models. You’ll lose some of the design benefits that women’s boots offer, but you may find that a better fit is worth the tradeoff.