When it comes to hiking, nothing is more important than your shoes. Foot injuries such as blisters and sprains are common among the uninitiated and could force you to pull off the trail. To make sure your feet are up to the challenge, take a look at these recommended hiking shoes for beginners.
The 6 best hiking shoes for beginners are:
- Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX Hiking Shoes
- Jack Wolfskin Force Striker Texapore Shoes
- Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Hiking Shoes
- Vivobarefoot Magna Trail Shoes
- Danner Trailcomber Hiking Shoes
- Oboz Sawtooth II Low Hiking Shoes
This list of the best hiking shoes for beginners will give you an idea of what you need to look for when buying. However, to find the perfect shoes for your feet, you’ll need to look deeper. Below, we’ve analyzed all the specs and features to help you find your first quality pair of hiking shoes.
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Hiking Shoes vs Hiking Boots
Although you will often see the terms used interchangeably, there is a difference between hiking shoes and hiking boots. Many use the term hiking shoes to describe any shoes that you would wear to hike in. However, not all of these are technically classed as hiking shoes.
Hiking boots generally feature a high ankle collar and are made for rough terrains. They are manufactured using tough materials, meaning they can withstand the rigors of hiking over long distances and challenging terrains. They come with a stiff, durable sole that provides your foot with a lot of support.
Although these are the traditional choice for hikers, in recent years, many have begun to move away from hiking boots, in favor of less bulky, more lightweight options. This is where hiking shoes come in.
- Warmer for winter hikes
- Offer ankle protection
- Provide a good level of traction
- Heavy to pack
- Require breaking in
- Less breathable
- Take longer to dry
Hiking shoes are made from lighter materials than boots and don’t feature the same high ankle collar. This means there is less protection around this area. However, the advantages are that the soles are generally less built-up than on hiking boots, meaning you are closer to the ground and less likely to slip.
When it comes to comfort, hiking shoes are generally a stronger contender than hiking boots. They are usually more breathable, making them great for keeping your feet cool in warm climates. They are also much quicker to dry than boots. The lightweight material that hiking shoes are made from also affords walkers more flexibility in their feet.
- Quicker to dry
- Little breaking in required
- Less supportive
- Less suitable for winter climates
- Generally need replaced more often than boots
Hiking Shoes And Trail Runners
There are a couple of different types of hiking shoes on the market. The first of these are much like hiking boots, only they don’t have a high ankle collar. They are generally what people are referring to when they say catch-all terms like walking shoes or hiking shoes. Hiking shoes are made from similar materials to boots but, because of their reduction in size, are usually lighter.
The other main type of hiking shoes is trail runners. These offer more bounce than traditional hiking shoes and are more breathable. As well as being used by long-distance hikers, they are also a favorite of those who run on trails, hence their name. The main downside of trail runners is that they need replaced more often than walking shoes and boots because they have a thinner sole.
Top 6 Hiking Shoes For Beginners
1. Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX Hiking Shoes
This offering from market leader Salomon is a great option for hikers looking for both durability and build quality. This low-top shoe is lighter than its boot counterpart, while still offering the same on-trail performance.
The Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX comes up trumps on the scales. Although they can cope with rugged terrains, they are actually pretty light, especially when compared to hiking boots and other more traditional walking shoes.
Considering that these hiking shoes look more similar to boots than trail runners, they are surprisingly comfortable. Although not quite as flexible as trail runners would be, the shoes themselves are lightweight and still provide adequate cushioning.
The padding around the ankle and on the tongue is soft and this, combined with the OrthoLite insole, provides comfort and support to the wearer. The main downside of the GTX model is that it hampers the breathability of the shoe.
The Gore-Tex lining of the shoe can withstand some seriously wet and cold climates. However, it is an expensive feature that some hikers may not require. The addition of the Gore-Tex lining does make the shoes quite warm to wear which can make your feet sweat.
These hiking shoes are a great all-rounder, making them perfect for beginners. The padded area around the ankle is very supportive, especially when you consider that this is a lightweight hiking shoe and not a boot. The midsole is of medium stiffness which allows your foot to flex while at the same time protecting your feet from the toughness of rocky trails.
The aggressive tread pattern provides good grip across many different terrains. It performs equally well over compacted dirt, soft mud, gravel, rocky terrain, and even in snowy climates. This traction prevents slipping and also lowers your risk of rolling your ankle, a common injury encountered on the trail.
The quick-lace system provides an easy and convenient way to tighten the shoes. However, the laces can slip as you move, meaning you’ll need to readjust while you are on the trail. Although more convenient than a standard set of laces, the quick-lace system may need replaced before your shoes wear out.
The tread pattern has been designed with durability in mind and can handle pretty much any type of terrain you are likely to encounter while hiking. The reinforced upper material means that the mesh is protected from tears, protecting your feet from the elements.
- Durable and comfortable
- The outsole provides plenty of traction
- Wide sizes available for men and women
- Non-Gore-Tex version available
- Gore-Tex means that shoes hold heat
- Quick-lace system isn’t the most durable
2. Jack Wolfskin Force Striker Texapore Shoes
Delivering everything that you would expect from a German brand, the Jack Wolfskin Force Strikers make for excellent hiking shoes. They perform efficiently over a number of terrains and can more than handle rough ground.
Weighing in at 830g for a size 8 pair of Force Strikers, these shoes are surprisingly light. They have been designed to make hiking feel easier and help you to cover more ground with ease.
Knowing that these hiking shoes are so light, you may assume that Jack Wolfskin has skimped on padding to keep the weight down. Although this would be a fair assumption, this is not the case. The Force Strikers are very comfortable due totheReflex Foam component in the midsole.
There is also a Force Plate in the forefoot that helps to provide cushioning, protecting the bottom of your feet from sharp and otherwise painful jagged stones. For the ultimate comfort, Jack Wolfskin advises customers to order a full size up from your usual. This will guarantee a comfortable fit which allows your feet space to expand in the heat.
The unique design of the sole provides plenty of support for hikers across many different types of terrain. The ankle padding allows your joints to remain protected, making injury on the trail less likely.
There is also good arch support to protect your feet from impacts and minimize foot pain on challenging ground. The material around the heel and toes is made from toughened rubber which also works with the interior support to protect your feet as you walk.
The Vibram Megagrip outsoles are perfect for mountainous terrains that require a lot of traction. The outsoles perform well in both wet and dry climates while still providing flexibility on steep, rugged climbs.
The upper benefits from a waterproof membrane which is made from Texapore fabric. It helps keep out the wind and water, while at the same time still allowing your feet to breathe.
Essentially, this offering from Jack Wolfskin performs as a hiking boot but without the bulk. It is a high-quality hiking shoe made from tough materials that will withstand intense use. As a result, these shoes are likely to become a long-term trekking companion for many hikers.
- Quality arch support
- Durability of Vibram Megagrip outsoles
- Makes hiking feel easier
- Run small/narrow
- Limited color choices
3. Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Hiking Shoes
It is pretty much impossible to talk about the best hiking shoes for beginners and not mention the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators. On the hiking scene, they are regularly praised for their comfort, weight, and affordability.
A pair of these shoes weigh in at 888g. Whilst this isn’t bad for hiking shoes, they are not as lightweight as some of the other options listed. However, with the extra weight comes durability, meaning these shoes will last a long time.
Comfort is what Merrell does best, and the Moab 2 Ventilators are no exception to that rule. Even when tried on straight out of the box they feel nice to wear. They benefit from a padded tongue and ankle collar, as well as a supportive insole.
The insole provides good arch support, helping you maintain an efficient posture while hiking. The heel padding and outsole also help protect your feet from sharp rocks underfoot. As the name would suggest, these shoes are also well ventilated, keeping your feet cool.
One of the things that make the Moab 2s ideal for beginner hikers is that they have been designed largely for day treks. Two silicon bands have been built into the material of the upper which runs around the foot. They provide support and structure for your ankles, helping to prevent rolling and resulting strains.
The downside of the Merrell Moab 2 Ventilators is that they are not great for steep climbs, technical terrains, or hikers carrying heavy loads. While this will be a disappointment for more experienced hikers, beginners are unlikely to be affected by this. As such, these Merrell shoes are good all-rounders for those just getting started with hiking.
Like the Jack Wolfskin Force Strikers, the Moab 2s also use a Vibram outsole. They are grippy on most terrains that beginner hikers are likely to face, and it is this traction that gives them an edge over trail runners.
Merrell is a name you constantly hear in the hiking world – and for good reason. They have a reputation for producing durable yet affordable shoes and boots, and the Moab 2 Ventilators are a prime example of this in action.
The Moab model has stayed largely the same over the years, with the exception of the upper material being upgraded. This has been a success on the latest version and the material is less prone to ripping. This particular model is not waterproof but, if this was something you wanted, there is the option to purchase the heavier waterproof version.
- Good ankle support
- Great for beginners
- Not ideal for technical terrain
- Can feel a bit cumbersome
4. Vivobarefoot Magna Trail Shoes
Barefoot shoes are the new trend among hikers. They seek to strengthen the muscles of the feet by allowing them natural freedom of movement. These minimal shoes allow the wearer to really feel the ground beneath their feet, helping them to readjust their posture accordingly and build strength.
Many claim that they can help with long-lasting joint injuries, and for some they can completely revolutionize the hiking game. Barefoot shoes can take a while to get used to if you are a beginner,but if you are looking to start hiking and build your strength from the ground up, they can be a good option.
One huge benefit of going for minimal shoes is that they offer everything that they say on the tin. These shoes come with next to no padding, no additional support, and a flat sole.All of this combined makes them the lightest hiking shoes on our list. In fact, the male models of the Magna Trails clock in at under 340g with the women’s version being even lighter.
This is where barefoot shoes become divisive. Ask a convert and they will tell you that these shoes are the most comfortable ones that you will ever own. However, there is no denying that barefoot shoes don’t suit everybody.
As a result of thethin outsole, you will feel more of the terrain beneath your shoes than you are probably used to. This can take a while to get used to as your feet will need to harden up. Despite this, there is plenty about the Magna Trails that are very comfortable.
The wide toe box follows the natural shape of your feet, allowing space for your toes to splay as you move. This will also benefit your balance and grip on the trail.
As we’ve already touched on, it’s not really the purpose of barefoot shoes to provide support. They’re designed to do as little as possible, encouraging your feet and ankles to do the work instead. At first, this can make you feel a bit vulnerable as you are quite literally unprotected. However, with more wear, your calves and ankles will build strength.
The lugs on the bottom of the Magna Trails are relatively shallow which allows hikers to really feel the ground beneath their feet. Despite this, they offer more than adequate grip on most surfaces, from rocky ascents to dirt tracks. The only downside of the shallow lugs is that they can be a little slippery in the mud.
The nylon upper is made from recycled plastic waste, making these shoes appealingly eco-friendly. This material is durable and won’t succumb to tears easily.
Although the outsole is thin, it has been fortified with a puncture-resistant layer. Vivo claims that this is five times more puncture-resistant than a standard sole of the same thickness, making these one hardy pair of shoes!
- More natural for your feet
- Grippy outsole
- Allows the body to build strength
- Tight fit for those with wide ankles
- Won’t suit everyone
5. Danner Trailcomber Hiking Shoes
For those new to the hiking world, your main concern is likely to be finding some comfortable and reliable hiking shoes. The Danner Trailcomber hiking shoes tick both of these boxes and manage to look pretty stylish at the same time.
One huge selling point of the Danner Trailcombers is that they are super light, reducing the weight on your feet. This allows you to pull in big miles with ease. A combination of lightweight materials plus their casual design means that Danner has produced hiking shoes extremely well-suited to light trails.
When it comes to comfort, it will be hard to beat these hiking shoes. They are available in a wide version to suit a variety of different foot shapes, and the lacing system means that they fit snugly to your feet.
The upper fabric used is made from Cordura fabric. This is highly durable and also allows airflow to your feet, making it easy for them to breathe. This constant airflow means that they are great for hiking in warm and hot climates, keeping the dreaded foot sweat to a minimum.
Let’s be very clear here: the Danner Trailcombers are not technical hiking shoes and should not be used on rugged terrain.
They have been designed for use on gentle trails in warm climates. This makes them a good choice for those who live in more urban environments. Whether you’re off on a day hike or are looking for a comfortable choice in which to walk your dog, these shoes won’t let you down.
These hiking shoes feature a high-quality Vibram outsole with Megagrip technology. This allows wearers to retain their grip on both dry and wet surfaces. The difference, when compared with the other Vibram outsoles on this list, is that they also combine the use of Litebase technology, effectively reducing the weight of the outsole while still retaining grip.
It is pretty obvious by now that if you use the Danner Trailcombers on challenging terrain, they won’t last very long at all. However, this is to be expected because this is not where they were designed to be worn.
Those who wear the Trailcombers as they were intended to be worn, that is to say on gentle trails, will find that they tick the durability box. The abrasion-resistant Cordura fabric can withstand a lot of wear and the quick-drying midsole means that wet shoes won’t stay wet for long. As for the hardy Vibram outsole, you’ll get plenty of miles under your belt before that gives out.
- Very comfortable
- Ideal for hot climates
- Versatile hiking shoes
- Not for use on rugged trails
- Some hikers claim that the toe box is too narrow
6. Oboz Sawtooth II Low Hiking Shoes
Oboz Footwear was born in the Rocky Mountains of Montana, something that is pretty evident when you consider their stability and durability. These beefy shoes are ideal for those looking for the support of a hiking boot, without the extra height.
The Oboz Sawtooth II Low hiking shoes are undoubtedly heavier than a lot of other hiking shoes on the market. This isn’t entirely surprising though when you consider that the outsole is made from a high-friction rubber. It gives you extra grip, increasing your stability.
Even though heavier hiking shoes require your legs to do more work, they can be better than lightweight shoes in certain circumstances. For example, if you are on a long multi-day hike or carrying a heavy load on your back, the extra weight helps to ground you and keep your balance.
There is plenty of room in the toe boxes of the Sawtooth II shoes,which allows the toes to splay as you walk. In case the standard fit is too narrow for your feet, these shoes are also available in wide sizes for both men and women.
Considering that these hiking shoes are more similar to boots, they require virtually no breaking in,which is great if you are keen to hit the trail right away. The fit of the shoes is snug enough to prevent slipping, while the mesh vents still allow your feet to breathe.
When it comes to support, this offering from Oboz really hits the mark. Whether you’re scrambling up hills or pounding the miles away on asphalt or concrete, the outsoles take all of the impacts without upsetting your feet.
The EVA midsole provides padding for your feet while the nylon shanks help you negotiate tough terrain with confidence. The highlight of the support offered comes in the form of the branded O Fit insole which offers significantly more support than you can usually expect from hiking shoes and boots.
The tread pattern on Oboz’s Sawtooth II Low hiking shoes is aggressive with deep lugs. This helps to provide a high level of traction in rainy and muddy conditions but is also sturdy enough to handle scree and steep trails.
We know the Oboz Sawtooth II Low hiking shoes are heavier than some of the competitors. However, that is simply a trade-off for shoes with the durability that these possess. They are more than capable of dealing with challenging terrain and built to last.
It will be years before the stitching starts to loosen or before you see any sole compression. A small number of hikers have reported that the rubber toe bumpers don’t quite hold up to the durability of the other features. However, according to Oboz, delamination is quite rare.
The brand is so confident in their product that they offer a one-year defect warranty on all of their shoes so that you can buy them with peace of mind. For beginners, these shoes will grow with you, primed to take on tougher trails as and when you are ready.
- Offers great traction
- One-year defect warranty
- Highly durable
- Supportive insole
- Upper absorbs water
If you are a newbie to the great outdoors, choosing a reliable pair of hiking shoes can be daunting. There are so many different types on the market with fancy features that aren’t always easy to understand. However, once you demystify the specs, buying hiking shoes suddenly becomes a lot easier.
The key to success is to choose something that suits the terrain you will be hiking in. Comfort, durability, and support will all be important factors when choosing hiking shoes. However, if you are a beginner, it’s best to go for a good all-rounder rather than focusing on one specific attribute. The best shoes are the X Ultra 3 GTX hiking shoes from Salomon.