It’s currently about 9:30 PM, and I’m sitting on the couch with my laptop and a beer, trying to rest my feet.
I racked up 20 miles today trying to finalize my decisions about these boots.
I tried five different pairs of hiking boots in total.
One pair was hot garbage, while two of ’em were pretty decent.
The remaining two were awesome — I just had to decide which pair I liked best.
So, I hit the trail this morning and spent about 10 miles in one pair and 10 miles in the other.
Read on to see which pair of the hiking boots I decided was the best, as well as my thoughts on the others.
Amazon’s Best-Rated Hiking Boots: A Quick Comparison
In a hurry and just want quick recommendations? Here ya go:
Best-Rated Hiking Boots on Amazon: The Five Boots I Examined
We’re going to jump right in with the boots, but we’ll talk about the testing methods and share some buying advice in a minute.
1. Columbia Newton Ridge II Hiking Boots
One of the biggest names in the entire sportswear industry, Columbia is a brand well known to all who’ve laced up and hit a trail.
That said, Columbia products are targeted at mainstream consumers and causal outdoor enthusiasts, rather than serious hikers.
Or at least, that’s what I thought before I bought a pair.
In actuality, these are pretty awesome hiking boots that absolutely get the job done. I consider them the best of the five brands I tried, and they’ve become my favorite boots to wear for 2- to 5-mile hikes.
Great-looking boots that provide sure footing and exude quality.
- They look and feel like high-end hiking boots
- Provide the best footing of the five reviewed here
- More durable than we expected
- Once broken in, they're extremely comfortable
- Not comfortable enough for extremely long hikes
- Breaking them in took weeks
To be clear, you don’t want to use these for hiking the A.T. or summiting Kilimanjaro. In fact, they usually start hurting my feet around the 5-mile mark, so I opt for higher-end alternatives when really racking up the miles.
2. Merrell Moab 2 Vent Hiking Boots
Merrell is another brand that is primarily geared at the low- and mid-tier markets, but they make some pretty fab boots for those price levels.
Although Merrell isn’t a household name in the way that Columbia is, they’re familiar to even the most casual hikers. You can find them at any big-box retailer, and they typically provide a great combo of quality and affordability.
Comfortable boots that will work well on the trail or around town.
- Comfortable enough for daily wear
- Available in an array of great colors
- Even the black ones are cool in warm weather
- Not waterproof (they're designed to breathe)
- Don't provide a ton of ankle support
I went into this having a generally positive attitude about Merrell boots and felt even better once I’d put these through their paces.
3. Nortiv 8 Hiking Boots
Nope – I’d never even heard of Nortiv. I’m guessing you haven’t either.
Still, they offer a pretty impressive-looking pair of hiking boots at a very reasonable price point, and they were among the best-rated options available on Amazon. So, I checked ‘em out.
As it turns out, they were pretty darn good. These were the stiffest and heaviest boots of the lot, and they took significantly longer to break in than the Columbias, Merrells, or KEENs. But this is partially due to the fact that they rise farther up the ankle than either of those three.
These weren’t my favorite boots, but I will use them whenever I’m looking for a “heavy duty” option or want more ankle support or protection.
4. KEEN Targhee Hiking Boots
I have been wearing KEENs for years. They’re a pretty familiar big-box hiking boot brand, and you’ve probably seen them on the shelves, whether you realized it or not.
They aren’t the most impressive brand in the world, but they’re certainly a solid choice for most casual to semi-serious hikers. KEENs typically offer a nice collection of features for the price, though you’re unlikely to see the same caliber of high-end features you’d find in premium hiking boots.
Honestly, I was pretty pleased to see KEENs pop up among the best-rated hiking boots on Amazon. But unfortunately, I wasn’t as happy with them as I’d been with other KEEN boots.
5. Free Soldier Waterproof Hiking Boots
Free Soldier is another one of those brands that neither you nor I have heard of. But they market a pretty well-rated pair of boots on Amazon, and they’re also darn affordable.
Unfortunately, that’s all they are – really cheap boots. They won’t provide much comfort on the trail, nor will they even suffice for dog walks and daily wear.
I honestly had trouble simply breaking these boots in. I eventually did, but they still sucked. There’s just no other way to say it.
I wouldn’t walk to the mailbox wearing these.
The Five Best-Rated Boots on Amazon: How Did I Pick Which Boots to Compare?
It is important to understand that I didn’t pick the five best-looking boots, nor the ones that I thought would work best for me. Nor did I pick the most expensive ones or the most affordable ones.
I wanted to check out the boots that everyone was buying and everyone liked.
So, I sorted by “average user review,” and then picked the first five with tons of reviews – meaning thousands.
For the most part, I didn’t encounter much ambiguity or grey area here. When I did, I just used my gut.
I mention this all to preempt the “why didn’t you try brand X?” comments. There are undoubtedly some other highly rated hiking boots available on Amazon, but I had to draw the line somewhere and make a few judgment calls.
How I Tested the Best-Rated Hiking Boots on Amazon
My procedure was very scientific. Except, not really. Well, kind of.
- First thing’s first: I tried the boots on to see if they fit. As it turns out, three of the five were straight-up perfect, one was entirely too small, and one was iffy (though it turned out to be fine after I broke the pair in).
- Once sure that they were the correct size, I started by just inspecting each of the five pairs of boots. I looked them over carefully, noted any obvious manufacturing defects, and felt the different materials and components.
- Next, I broke the hiking boots in. I didn’t count the number of steps it took to get them to a point where I considered them broken in, but I did wear them pretty equally for the first few weeks. I wore them while running errands, walking my dog, and going on brief (less than 2 miles) hikes.
- Once the hiking boots were broken in, I went for several moderately long hikes with each pair. I wore each pair for at least three hikes of 5 miles or more. I stuck to all of my regular trails and made sure to hit the same types of terrain, including wet, low-lying areas; exposed granite outcrops; and everything in between.
- By this point, I had decided that I strongly preferred two of the hiking boots to the others. I continued to rotate through four of the five pairs (I’d already decided that one pair was gross), but two pairs were my favorites.
- Having already formed my own opinions, I checked out the thoughts from a few other reputable gear-review sites. I wanted to be sure that my initial impressions weren’t tainted, so I waited until this point in the process to read the thoughts of other serious hikers. But I did want to get some other perspectives, so I could make sure I wasn’t missing anything.
- Having determined what I thought about the boots, and what others thought about them, I sat down at my computer and started sharing my experiences. Hopefully, this whole article will help you decide which of these highly rated hiking boots are the best for you.
How Do YOU Pick the Right Hiking Boots from Amazon?
The most important part of shopping for the best-rated hiking boots is to consider your specific needs. This means considering the following:
The Habitats and Terrains You Hike Most
While most well-made hiking boots will work perfectly well for a variety of different habitats and terrains, there are some things you’ll want to think about when picking the best boots for your specific situation.
For example, if you tend to hike in low-lying, swampy areas or you live in a perpetually rainy place, you’ll want to stick to boots that feature high-quality waterproofing technology and fabrics.
Conversely, those who spend their time hiking in blistering hot deserts will likely prefer the most breathable boots possible.
The height of the boots is also a consideration in this regard, as rugged terrains may require additional ankle support. So, if you plan on trekking up mountains or crossing boulder fields, you’ll want more ankle support and protection than you would hiking in forests.
The Climate in Which You Hike
Obviously, you’ll need different boots for hiking across a snow-covered tundra than you would sand dunes. But it’s far trickier to identify the perfect boots for those living in intermediate climates.
Essentially, your choice will occur along a spectrum.
At one end, you’ll have highly insulated, likely waterproof boots that’ll keep your feet dry and warm in snowy or icy locations; at the other end, you’ll have ventilated boots, which will allow air (as well as water and body heat) to flow across the fabric with ease.
However, I’d urge you to consider your own preferences.
Personally, I’d usually rather have boots that were completely waterproof than boots that breathe – I can deal with hot feet, but I like to hike in the rain a lot. And I am a downright wimp during cold temps, so I’ll take all the tootsie insulation I can get for the frigid Georgia winters I must endure.
So, consider the climate in which you hike, but don’t forget to take your preferences into account.
Look, we’d all love a pair of $400 Kenetreks, but that’s just not in the cards for many hikers (and they may even be overkill for some situations, as your money would be better spent elsewhere).
Instead, most hikers will probably find it necessary to spend $100 to $200 on a good pair of boots. You can definitely get a very high-quality pair of boots in that price range, and – as you’ve no doubt noticed by now – you can get a pretty darn good pair for less than $100.
After all, my favorite pair of boots of the five I tested cost less than $100.
Now, you can also find hiking boots for around the $50 price point, but I’d strongly recommend staying away from these. Most will fall apart in a matter of weeks or months, and they’ll never provide the kind of comfort, support or protection you deserve.
You’ll just end up replacing them in short order, which means you could have just gone with a better pair of boots at the outset, thereby avoiding a lot of blisters and just having a better time in the process.
The Frequency of Your Hikes
In many ways, it doesn’t matter if you hike once a month or every day. You’ll still want a comfortable pair that keep your feet feeling fine while picking ‘em up and putting ‘em down.
However, frequent hikers will be best served by considering durability when picking out a pair of boots. I hike nearly every day, so I have to consider durability in my boot-buying decisions. Otherwise, I’ll just end up throwing money away.
Also – and this is a rarely considered factor – non-durable boots will force you to spend a higher percentage of the boots’ lifespan breaking them in than enjoying them once they’re nice and comfy.
In other words, if it takes you two weeks to break in your boots, you’ll surely prefer a pair that will last two or three years rather than ones that’ll last two or three months.
The Length of Your Hikes
Hike length is one of the most important considerations when buying a pair of hiking boots. And it is tied closely to your budget.
Simply put, you need better boots for longer hikes than you do short ones.
Going on a 1-mile walk around a local pond? You could probably do so in flip-flops, so any old pair of boots should suffice.
But if you’re planning on hiking 5 miles or more at a time, you owe it to yourself to purchase a high-quality pair. If you’re in decent shape, foot comfort, as opposed to muscle fatigue, will likely be the limiting factor in the duration of your hikes.
Apropos of that, I should point out that none of the boots I tried here will continue to be very comfortable after about 5 miles or so.
I’ve worn my two favorites for 10 continuous miles on multiple occasions, and while they do work, my feet do begin to hurt at a point.
How Much Do Hiking Boots Cost?
Hiking boot prices vary by an order of magnitude.
You can surely find some super cheap hiking boots for $30 or so, but they’re going to suck. Badly. They will probably give you blisters if you try to walk in them for any length of time, and the ankle support will be roughly equivalent to that provided by stilettos.
And on the other hand, you can probably spend more than a grand on a pair of hiking boots, that are made solely from leather harvested from the finest whatever and have built-in credit monitoring.
All that said, most hiking boots are going to be between $50 and $500.
Plenty of those at the bottom end of the scale will work (for a brief while) and those at the high end are simply decadent. Realistically speaking, all but the most dedicated hikers will find a $300 hiking boot budget gets things done in very impressive fashion.
How Long Does It Take to Break in Hiking Boots?
Generally speaking, you’ll need about one to four weeks to break in a pair of hiking boots. Some of the factors that’ll determine the exact length of time it takes include:
- How often you wear them. Wear your boots every day and they’ll be comfy in no time, but if you only wear them for a single hike each Sunday morning, it’ll take at least a month.
- How far you hike in them. This kind of relates to the frequency with which you wear them, but basically, you need to put miles on new hiking boots to wear them in. Count on needing at least 10 miles or so, but that doesn’t mean you should embark on a single, 10-mile trek with a new pair of boots.
- The type of terrain you hike. Simply put, if you are hiking on rugged, uneven terrain, you’ll be stretching and stressing the boots in myriad ways, which will accelerate the breaking-in process. On the other hand, if you just wear your boots around a flat, paved track, you won’t be twisting and turning them in all directions, so it’ll take longer to break them in.
- The climate and weather. Hiking in hot weather will help relax the materials used in your hiking boots, which will help break them in more quickly (and make them more comfortable during the process). Exposure to water will also help speed up the process.
- The materials used in their construction. Some boots are simply made from stiffer materials than others, which means they’ll take longer to break in. This isn’t necessarily a drawback though – my favorite boots of the bunch also required the longest period to feel completely broken in.
- Your definition of “broken in.” You may consider boots broken in long before someone else would – there is no universal standard by which you can determine if a pair of boots are ready for regular use. So, all of the factors discussed above aside, different hikers will require different lengths of time to feel comfy in their boots.
What Are the Parts of Hiking Boots?
We’ve discussed the different parts of hiking boots before, so we won’t reinvent the wheel here. But the basic components of hiking boots include:
- Outsole: This is the bottom of the hiking boot – the part that contacts the ground. It features a number of individual protuberances (called lugs) to provide traction. Outsoles are generally made from some type of durable rubber.
- Midsole: The midsole provides cushion and support, and it is sandwiched between the insole and outsole. It is not removable, and it isn’t even visible in some cases.
- Insole: The soft surface your foot contacts inside the boot. It helps to cushion and support your foot, and it is typically (though not always) removable, giving you the chance to replace it with an aftermarket alternative.
- Upper: This is the fabric that forms the upper portion of the boot. Most hiking boot uppers are made of a flexible yet durable material, such as suede, leather, synthetic fibers, or a combination thereof. Some uppers are designed to be breathable, while others are designed to be watertight; others strive to accomplish both goals.
- Toe Cap / Toe Box: This is the metaphorical “box” or “compartment” in which your toes rest. Though hiking boots rarely feature steel, as many work boots do, they’re generally pretty stiff to help protect your toes.
- Heel Cap: The heel cap is essentially the counterpart to the toe cap, as it is the rigid (usually rubber) portion of the boot that wraps around your heel.
- Tongue: The tongue is the often-cushioned swatch of fabric that rests on the top of your foot and protects it from the laces. The tongue also keeps debris from entering your boots.
- Eyelets: Eyelets are the round holes through which your laces will pass. They’re generally constructed from metal or hard plastic.
- Collar: The collar of a hiking boot is the ring-like portion at the top of the boot, which provides ankle support and protection.
- Rand: Designed to provide protection for the junction between one or more of the soles and the upper, the rand is a thin strip of rubber (or some other material) that wraps around the boot.
Don’t forget some laces! We love the Miscly Non-Slip Round Laces. They’re high-quality and yet super affordable!
There you have it – five of the best-rated hiking boots on Amazon. As mentioned, I think four of the five were very serviceable, though I did clearly prefer the Columbia Newton Ridge IIs and the Merrell 2 Mid Ventilators over the others, with the Columbias earning my top rating.
But what about you? Have you tried any of these boots? Is it important to you to select some of the best-rated hiking boots or do you march to your own drummer? Is there anything else about them you’d like to know?
Sound off in the comments or hit us up on social media!