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9 Best Hiking Boots for Beginners in 2023 (Buyer’s Guide)

While testing out boots in a store is fine, there’s no way to know how those boots will last on a long hike until you test them for real. That’s where we come in.

We have selected and tested the best beginner hiking boots available in 2023 and weighed them based on criteria most applicable to beginner hikers.

Depending on your needs as a hiker, however, your idea of the perfect beginner boot may be completely different from another hiker at the same level. Read closely, then, to see which boot best fits your image of a perfect hike.


Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

  • Contagrip Lugs
  • OrthoLite insole
  • Gore-Tex Waterproof


Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

  • Protective toe cap
  • Breathable mesh lining
  • M-Select Waterproof


KEEN Targhee III Mid WP

KEEN Targhee III Mid WP

  • KEEN.DRY Waterproof
  • Removable footbed
  • Next level stability

Our Top Recommended Hiking Boots for Beginners

1) Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

Best Overall Hiking Boot for Beginners

With a high-quality rubber outsole and the Descent Control Technology that provides both comfort and stability during descents and on more technical terrain, the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX boots are viable for just about any hiking.

  • Descent Control Technology
  • 100% Synthetic 
  • Gore-Tex Waterproof
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid Hiking Boots.jpg

This hiking shoe pair also comes with a very reliable waterproof lining, the Gore-Tex, offering excellent water resistance in wet conditions.

Since it is combined with thick cushioning, it will keep your feet from getting cold in the winter, but expect some sweating if you head out in hot weather.

Slipping the boots on and off was impressively easy, even with my wider feet. The X Ultra 3 Mid GTX wraps around the ankle and gives great support on uneven or rough terrain.

It’s very tough to roll an ankle in these boots. Plus, the lacing system is very easy to thread up and down, so they never got stuck in my testing.

Not too bulky for trail running and not too light for scaling, the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX boots are the ideal choice for trails as well as hard surfaces, making them some of the best hiking shoes for beginners.

For more information, check our Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX review.


  • Great multi-use boot that suits the vast majority of hikes perfectly
  • Lighter than most boots of similar style
  • Extra ankle support and superior traction on dirt trails
  • Usable for high-incline or uneven-surface hiking
  • Some of the best waterproofing available


  • Not at breathable as similar boots in class

2) Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

These boots were super easy to break in and perfect for day hiking too. The mesh and pig suede leather upper is resistant yet breathable and comfortable.

  • Protective Toe Cap
  • 100% Leather 
  • Eva Foam Midsole
Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

The “WP” in the Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP stands for waterproof, and that is one of the main reasons you should consider these boots. As Gore-Tex liners go, these boots have one of the best.

And despite the boot’s tougher materials, the frame is very light, with the Vibram rubber outsole already popular for its excellent traction, which made walking on rocky or slippery surfaces feel great.

This pair of waterproof hiking boots, however, can get a little stiff on long distances, so leave ample break-in time. In our testing, I could feel some discomfort on my heel after about four miles of low-impact hiking.

These boots, however, also have incredible out-of-the-box arch support; if you already wear supplementary supports, you may want to try wearing these plain first.

See full product performance by checking the Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP review.


  • Top-class waterproofing
  • Bouncy soles
  • Great grip and good traction for wet and snow conditions
  • Offers solid protection in a lightweight package


  • A little bit stiff on long hikes

3) KEEN Targhee III Mid WP

These boots have a super roomy toe box and an efficient lace system that makes them a good fit for either wide feet or narrow feet.

  • Dual-density EVA midsole
  • Torsional stability 
  • 100% Fabric
KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid

Keen makes some of the best women’s hiking boots on the market, and the KEEN Targhee III Mid WP doesn’t disappoint.

During our tests, we appreciated that these trail shoes have outstanding out-of-the-box comfort. Even with thicker socks, there was next to no uncomfortable rubbing, even after taking a medium-length hike on the first day wearing them.

But when walking on an uphill trail, I could feel my ankle moving around more than I would like.

Taking medium to long hikes with these mid-ankle boots is a breeze on account of the uniquely cushy soles. Moreover, while they are waterproof, they come with a breathable mesh lining to keep your feet cool even after hours of hiking.

To learn about this product, check the Keen Targhee III Mid WP review.


  • Deep lugs with excellent traction
  • One of the best heel stabilizers in class
  • Keen.Dry water resistance keeps your feet dry even during heavy use
  • Excellent support on the ankle
  • Great high-impact toe cap
  • Very reasonable price


  • Not good for unstable terrain

4) Vasque Breeze Lt GTX Mid

The synthetic mesh uppers are comfortable on long hikes, and the padded collar offers extra support for the ankles.

  • Blocks Moisture
  • Vibram Megagrip Outsole
  • Increased Breathability
Vasque Breeze LT Mid GTX

The Vasque Breeze Lt GTX Mid blurs the line between hiking shoes and high-end trail running shoes in a way that few companies have before.

After putting them to the test, these women’s hiking boots proved to be remarkably light, even lighter than an ordinary trail running shoe pair. But as I got closer to the end of the run, I noticed a bit of discomfort on my heel from thick stitching along the back of the boot.

The good news, though, is that once you get used to them, these can easily turn into the right hiking boots for longer hikes.


  • Very strong heel lock
  • Lightweight but firm build
  • Some of the best supportive midsoles in class
  • Breathable mesh lining keeps feet cool


  • May have a longer break in time on-in period because of tough stitching along the upper heel
  • This hiking shoe is accommodating narrow feet, even when you order the wide toe box version

5) Columbia Crestwood Mid Waterproof

These boots have a lower rise than any other on this list which could be to your benefit or not depending on how you hike.

  • Waterproof full-grain leather 
  • Durable midsole
  • Solid footing on ice and snow
Columbia Crestwood Mid Waterproof

Further, these are some of the best waterproof hiking boots with a mid-cut height.

The upper is made from leather, webbing, and mesh that shed water droplets quite fast, and with the Omni Tech breathable membrane, you will be well protected on wet paths.

For my case, the mid-rise on these boots was especially good for comfort on shorter and flatter hikes, which is primarily how we tested these boots, as well as how they ought to be used.

However, if you decide to take these walking boots on more steep inclines, especially when wearing heavy loads, they may offer less support for your ankles than you have anticipated.


  • Some of the best breathability on the market
  • Some of the hiking boot pair in terms of durability
  • Extremely comfortable after the break-in period
  • Uniquely high-quality midsole comfort


  • They tend to run small and narrow 
  • Not suitable for high-incline hikes

6) Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

With a big ankle guard and lots of cushioning, the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid is a great pick for the beginner hiker about to kick up the difficulty of their trails and scaling surfaces.

  • Breathable Climate Control footbed
  • Full-length nylon stabilizing shank
  • Padded tongue and collar
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot

These are heavy-duty boots by every definition. They’re some of the best-padded boots in this class and have great to excellent ankle support and heel support.

But due to their polyurethane midsole, these boots are actually quite light compared to similar-size hiking boots and shoes.

Lowa brags that both its men’s and women’s hiking shoes are designed with human anatomy in mind, so the boots fit like a sock. Based on our firsthand experience, the boots do exactly as they say, keeping your feet protected and offering excellent stability and all-day comfort.

The only downside we could find, though, is that the sole is too flexible to be protective on rocks and uneven terrain, so it’s better to stick to easier trails.

Check out the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid review to discover more information about this item.


  • Great comfort-to-support ratio
  • Extremely lightweight for its style
  • Gore-tex lining waterproof membrane has an extremely comfortable feel


  • The sole is not stiff enough for rocky terrain

7) Danner Mountain 600

This pair of high quality hiking boots also has one of the snuggest heel fit even among more expensive mountain boots.

  • 100% Full-Grain Leather
  •  Danner Dry Waterproof
  • Vibram Fuga Outsole
Danner Mountain 600 4.5”

The Danner Mountain 600s are serious mountain waterproof boots with the best-in-class ankle support.

Built with a fully waterproof suede upper and exceptional waterproof protection, this hiking shoe is probably overkill if you’re planning on only taking it on relatively flat or blazed trails.

Instead, the ideal hiker for these boots is someone with easy access to tougher mountain trails with rocky terrain.

We heard so much about the Megagrip technology this model offers, so we decided to test it on a series of slippery slopes. The Vibram Fuga outsole performed better than we expected, offering great traction.

What we noticed, though, is that these boots tend to run a bit too wide, but nothing you cannot solve with a thicker pair of socks.


  • Tough boots great for winter and mountain hikes
  • Impressive snug fit even for wider feet
  • No wet feet with the water-resistant leather upper


  • Not a good option for warm weather conditions

8) La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX

These high-traction nylon-mesh boots have a great rubber outsole, but the tread depth may come as disappointing for hikers on uneven or rocky terrain.

  • Gore-Tex Waterproof
  •  AirMesh upper 
  • Frixion XF 2.0 sole
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX

This hiking boot is a bit of a paradox. While a good grip on the soles is great for rocky surfaces, the rise of the boots offers less ankle support than other boots with similar tread.

In a review of La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX, we found in testing that it’s more than possible to step on a slant and get the traction to scale it but accidentally overextend your ankle where the best beginner hiking boots would support your ankle.

Further, because this boot’s weight is a bit lower than examples in the same class, it’s more than possible to turn these into trail runners on well-maintained trails if you are careful.


  • Traction on rocky surfaces is better than most
  • Built for long-term durability and performance
  • Great technical fit for trail runners with the smart lacing system


  • Tend to run a bit small (even the wide version, so NB)

9) Adidas Terrex Swift R3 Mid GTX

Impressively breathable and flexible, I found walking just as comfortable as hiking in such a lightweight hiking shoe.

  • Molded Sockliner
  •  Waterproof upper
  • EVA midsole
adidas Terrex Swift R3 Mid Gore-TEX

These boots are comfortable in a way you don’t often associate with good hiking shoes for beginners.

As you get into colder climates, challenging terrain, or steeper hikes, these trail shoes may come up short. But if you are a trail runner, these may be for you. These are good hiking boots that border on athletic shoes.

The lug pattern on the rubber outsoles isn’t very deep, but that is usually good for a trail runner.

Further, those with wide feet may have trouble finding their size, as these shoes run small. These boots are light on the foot, and in that low weight, there is very little ankle stability to protect you in a high-incline hike.

A big benefit of these boots is the versatility of their design as well as their virtually non-existent break-in period. But still, these boots are really only made for low-impact hiking, so if you are planning on taking on rocky trails, these boots likely won’t suit your needs.


  • Comfortable and built to last
  • Really good shock absorption
  • More than sufficient waterproofing that keeps feet dry
  • Highly durability in a light frame


  • Unsafe for high-incline hikes or rough terrain
  • No added ankle support makes slippery surfaces dangerous

How to Choose Beginner Hiking Boots

When choosing the best hiking shoes for beginners, we consider all of the following criteria and how they apply to most beginner hikers.

1. Comfort

salomon x ultra 3 mid gtx
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid Gtx

While it is important to feel comfortable in your hiking gear and footwear at all times, it’s worth knowing that most hiking boots get increasingly comfortable over time.

When picking out hiking shoes in the store, be certain that they have a snug fit but that your toes have enough room to fully extend. As you use the boots more, they will naturally grow to fit your foot.

And if you are planning on using your hiking shoes to trail run, you’ll certainly need top-quality lightweight boots for hiking that aren’t too stiff. That stiffness comes into play when you are hiking on surfaces where it’s easy to twist an ankle or lose your footing.

2. Cost

Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP
Merrell Moab 2 Mid WP

Never pay more for a good pair of boots than you’re comfortable with.

The best beginner hiking boots, however, are an investment in your future hiking adventures.

This means that saving a few bucks isn’t usually worth it in the world of hiking shoes for beginners.

A good idea is to pick hiking shoes without knowing the cost ahead of time and instead think about the features you need in your boots for beginners.

If you find a hiking boot with the best features that are out of your budget, there is no shame in waiting and saving.

3. Fit

The ideal fit for the best beginner hiking boots will fit snugly but not tight enough to cause blisters.

Hiking footwear is usually made to reinforce the heel so that you don’t roll your foot on sloped surfaces as you may in normal sneakers or sandals. Your best bet as a beginner hiker is to get a pair of mid-cut hiking boots with a tight fit on your heel.

This means that when you try to twist the back of your foot, you feel resistance from the boot. That resistance indicates that you won’t bend out your ankle in a real slip or fall.

4. Weight

Vasque Breeze Lt GTX Mid
Vasque Breeze Lt GTX Mid

Even the lightest hiking footwear is still heavier than your average pair of shoes.

So as a beginner, it’s not a terrible idea to wear your new boots around the house for a few days before taking them on a serious hike.

This way, you can get more comfortable with the weight of your feet before dealing with an unforgiving terrain.

But most beginners ought to pick up a boot right in the middle, not lightweight below 1 lb and not heavyweight above 4 lbs.

Within those two weights lies the sweet spot of finding your preference. Heavy boots have their place, as light boots simply don’t have the protection to make rock climbing or even uneven hikes safe.

It’s usually unwise to trade a feature in a hiking boot you may need, like a wide-toe box or a good over-the-ankle design, in exchange for a lighter boot.

You can likely get used to heavyweight boots, but it’s hard to go on without features you may need in good beginner hiking shoes, boots, or trail runners.

5. Tread

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

The best beginner hiking boots come with a tread built to suit as many types of ground as possible. This is called multi-purpose tread.

Get to know the terrain of your favorite trails and figure out if the texture of the soil is closer to dirt or pebbles.

The closer to dirt you go, the less important heavy tread will be in your hiking footwear and vice versa.

Next, think about how steep your average hike is. The steeper the hike, the more likely you’ll benefit from deeper tread hiking boots.

If you’re unsure what type of boots suit your needs, there is no problem with using a multi-purpose tread boot, as these are generally the most versatile boots available. 

6. Ventilation

KEEN Targhee III Mid WP
KEEN Targhee III Mid WP

Ventilation is often at direct odds with waterproofing. You can’t let air into the boot without also letting in water.

Some advanced nylon shank boots are decent waterproof boots with ventilation, but this certainly isn’t the standard.

Expect your boot to do one or the other better.

Beginner hikers are more likely to need hiking boots with high ventilation because their feet are more likely to sweat.

And they may sweat even more in newer boots. There are premium hiking socks made to help overall ventilation, but when it comes to boots, it’s usually smarter to pick waterproofing over ventilation.

If you’re planning on winter hiking or using your hiking boots for backpacking trips or any kind of long-term trek or an overnight trip, you’re usually better off choosing superior waterproof hiking boots rather than other hiking shoes that are breathable.

7. Material

Columbia Crestwood Mid Waterproof for women
Columbia Crestwood Mid Waterproof

The materials to be most aware of as a beginner hiker is whether or not a hiking boot is steel-reinforced.

Either the toe box or sometimes the heel support of a boot can be made with steel or other dense metals, which can protect your foot from serious injury.

Unless you plan on trail running, steel-reinforced boots are generally a good pick.

While the boots run heavier, hikers can get used to higher boot weight quicker than a broken toe or sprained ankle.

Another consideration for materials is whether or not you want full-grain leather in your hiking shoes.

Vegans and those against the use or purchase of animal products should be extra vigilant or seek out a vegan hiking community before settling on a leather hiking boot, as many hiking boots use nubuck leather over synthetic leather.

8. Performance

Performance is both a gauge of how long it takes for a hiking boot to become its best and how long it stays that way.

One of the best ways to determine how performant a hiking shoe is is to look at how it is built. High-performance hiking gear often comes with thick rubber soles that have an aggressive pattern and supportive midsoles that work well on more technical terrain.

For wet paths, Gore-Tex waterproofing is another clue that the boots are ready for a more difficult backpacking trip.

However, you may not need all these if you are only doing light hiking, so take a moment to think if a pair of trail runners won’t work better for you than a pair of mountaineering boots.

Comparison Table

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTXCheck on Amazon» Yes, Gore-Tex2 lbs. 1.5 oz.
Merrell Moab 2 Mid WPCheck on Amazon» Yes2 lbs. 2.6 oz.
Keen Targhee III Mid
$165 REI»
$131 Backcountry»
Check on Amazon»
Yes, Keen.Dry
2 lbs. 2.8 oz.
Vasque Breeze Lt GTX MidCheck on Amazon» Yes, Gore-Tex 1 lb. 10 oz.
Columbia Crestwood Mid WP$84 Backcountry»
Check on Amazon»
Yes1 lbs. 14 oz.
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid$255 REI»
$255 Backcountry»
Check on Amazon»
Yes, Gore-Tex
2 lbs. 7 oz.
Danner Mountain 600$190 Backcountry»
Check on Amazon»
Yes 2.10 lbs
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX $199 REI»
$199 Backcountry»
Check on Amazon»
Yes, Gore-Tex

1 lb. 7 oz.
Adidas Terrex Swift R3 Mid GTX$180 REI»
$180 Backcountry»
Check on Amazon»
Yes, Gore-Tex2 lbs.

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Tips to Help You Decide When Buying Your First Pair of Hiking Boots

we buy hiking gear from shop, test and review

Your first pair of boots may very well decide the style of hiking shoes you stick with for a long time.

Our best advice is to find a pair of boots that fits your feet snugly but offers plenty of room for your feet. 

Also, before heading out on a big adventure, wear them around the block to make sure you feel comfortable even when your feet swell.

Lastly, hiking shoes are there for your protection, so it’s rarely wise to choose a bargain over a better fit. Be prepared to pay for the right hiking shoes. Even a good beginner pair can last decades if treated right.

Our nr. #1 Pick

Based on our experience with all the products from the list, we believe the Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX are probably the best hiking boots for beginners because they suit so many types of hikers.

No matter what type of short trails or mountains you want to try out in any weather conditions, these good beginner hiking boots will help you get there in comfort. 

With almost no compromises (except weakness on expert mountain hikes), any beginner would do well with a new pair of these sturdy boots.

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX

From my personal experience with this model, it works great in wet conditions and uneven terrain, with an outer fabric that dries as you walk.

Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX


Why Are Mid-Cut Hiking Boots Best for Beginners?

Mid-cut hiking boots are best for beginners because they offer the most durable and versatile support. Mid-cut hiking boots give great ankle and heel support for most average hikes and cold weather conditions and are only weak on tough mountain hikes or uneven terrains.

Are Hiking Boots Necessary for Beginners?

Hiking boots are necessary for beginners. Hiking beginners need to have their own boots because hiking in sneakers or unfit shoes is dangerous. Wearing normal sneakers on a hike gives the wearer no ankle support. If you were to slip on the trail, you could get seriously injured.

What Should I Look For in Hiking Boots as a Beginner?

Beginners should look for hiking boots with high comfort ratings and good ankle support. These are the two most important factors to consider as beginner hikers, as wearing boots with long break-in periods or less ankle support can lead to more foot fatigue and early injuries.

For beginners, some recommended hiking boot brands and models include the Merrell Moab 2, Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX, Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II, Keen Targhee III, and Vasque Breeze. These boots are known for their comfort, durability, and suitability for various hiking conditions.

Are Lightweight Hiking Boots Necessary for Beginners?

Lightweight hiking boots are not necessarily necessary for beginners, but they can offer advantages such as reduced fatigue and increased agility. The best hiking shoes for beginners depending on their preferences, but considering the potential for backpacking trips, they may also explore trail runners as an alternative option.

What’s Better for Beginners? Hiking Shoes or Trail Runners

Trail runners are generally better for beginners due to their versatility and comfort, making them suitable for various terrains and activities. They provide a balanced option for those new to outdoor adventures, combining the benefits of hiking shoes and running shoes.

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom

Jennifer Strom has been a writer for over 20 years and an outdoor and hiking enthusiast for most of her life. After spending much of her career in the corporate world, she decided to freelance to spend more time with her family and explore new places. You will find her always looking forward to her next weekend adventure and writing guides that help others make the most of their own hikes and time outdoors.

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