A good hiking shoe provides a balance between weight and stability – allowing you to move faster and be more agile, while also ensuring firm grip and support.
Most midsoles are EVA, a polymer designed to handle the stress and impact of walking over uneven ground. Varying densities of EVA provide either firmer or softer support. Soft-flex shoes are more comfortable on level ground and when moving fast. Stiffer shoes are better for rockier terrain and allow more precise footholds when climbing and scrambling.
Eyelets and laces
Fabric lace loops are common, with some metal or hard plastic eyelets used on those shoes intended for demanding uses.
Most hiking shoes are made from a combination of leather and synthetic material, which makes them light, easy to break-in and highly breathable.
A rubber bumper protects toes from knocks and the shoe upper from abrasion.
A heel counter supports and stabilises the foot, preventing heel lift. A shock absorber will reduce heel strike.
A shank sandwiched between the midsole and outsole provides load-bearing stiffness and prevents the shoe from twisting and being overly flexible. Shanks can also protect the foot from being bruised by stones and trail debris.
A shoe with a membrane such as Gore-Tex or eVent will be waterproof and breathable – though not as breathable as a shoe without the membrane. It’s something to consider if you’re mostly hiking in hot and dry climates.
Fit and width
The toe box should have a thumb-width of space in front of the longest toe. The overall fit should be snug – not tight – across the arch and forefoot.
Wide-spaced and deep lugs are designed to shed mud and offer grip in all conditions. A pronounced instep will provide braking power on descent.
Lowa Locarno GTX Lo $379
Use Formed trails, travel Upper Nubuck leather, fabric Construction Gore-Tex lining, injected PU midsole, perforated lining for breathability and moisture-wicking, soft flex three-quarter length and full-width nylon shank, ATC climate control footbed, Lowa Monowrap Frame for foot support. Outsole LOWA Hybrid Trac Weight 820g (m); 700g (w). www.lowa.co.nz
Vasque Breeze LT Low GTX $299.99
Use Day hikes, mountain biking, travel Upper Synthetic microfibre with abrasion-resistant mesh Construction Gore-Tex membrane, dual-density EndraLast EVA midsole, anatomic high-rebound footbed, moulded rubber toe bumper. Outsole Vibram Ground Control LiteBase with Megagrip compound Weight 626g (m); 520g (w). www.ampro.co.nz
Hoka One One Tor Summit Waterproof $349.95
Use Hiking Upper Nubuck and suede leather Construction eVent membrane with full bootie construction, polyester mesh lining, Meta-Rocker and Active foot frame for stability, rubber toe bumper, full-length EVA midsole, rubberised foam midsole. Outsole Vibram Megagrip Weight 804g (m); 700g (w). www.hokaoneone.co.nz
La Sportiva TX4 $299.95
Use Hiking and approach Upper Abrasion-resistant suede leather Construction Mesh lining, PU rand, rubber toe, injected EVA midsole, Ortholite 4mm footbed, Impact Brake system, Trail Bite heel, climbing zone at toe. Outsole Vibram Megagrip Weight 760g. www.mountainadventure.co.nz
Hoka One One Speedgoat 3 $299.95
Use Light hiking, trail running, upper Open-engineered mesh, construction Textile lining, reinforced TPU midfoot overlays, oversize EVA midsoles for cushioning, rubber toe bumper. Outsole Vibram Megagrip Weight 584g (m); 516g (w). www.hokaoneone.co.nz
The North Face Ultra Fastpack III GTX $290
Use Fast and lightweight hikes Upper TPU-coated woven mesh Construction Gore-Tex membrane, welded eye stay and quarter underlay for midfoot support, TPU toe cap and heel overlay, OrthoLite footbed, dual-density FastFoam midsole, ESS midfoot shank Outsole Vibram Megagrip Weight 764g (m), 628g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX $280
Use Hiking Upper PU-coated leather Construction Gore-Tex membrane, abrasion-resistant and breathable textile mesh, rustproof hardware, TPU Cradle heel for stability, dual-density compression-moulded EVA midsole, TPU shank. Outsole Vibram rubber Weight 850g (m), 544g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz