Modern hiking shoes offer out-of-the-box comfort and are suitable for trips of a day or much longer when pack weight is light.
Most hiking shoes are made from a combination of leather and/or synthetic materials such as mesh or thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) which is a rubber-like material. They are light, easy to break-in and care for, highly breathable and quick-drying.
Most midsoles are EVA, a polymer designed to handle the stress and impact of walking over uneven ground. Varying densities of EVA provide either firm or soft support, with soft-flex shoes being more comfortable on level ground and when moving fast. Firmer shoes are better for when precise footholds are needed on rocky terrain and while climbing and scrambling. Some midsoles are PU (polyurethane) which is firmer and more durable than EVA.
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.
A nylon or plastic 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 a wearer’s foot from bruising from stones and trail debris.
The heel should be cupped comfortably and securely. A heel counter supports and stabilises the foot, preventing heel lift. A shock absorber will reduce heel strike.
Rubber overlays may be used at the toe box, heel and on the sides. They are designed to protect feet from knocks and the upper material from abrasion.
Eyelets and laces
Fabric lace loops are common, with some metal or hard plastic eyelets used on shoes intended for demanding use.
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.
Waterproof shoes have a membrane (Gore-Tex, FutureLight for example) that also provides breathability – i.e. it will move moisture from the foot, through the shoe and into the atmosphere. Non-waterproof shoes are naturally breathable. It might be worth considering, and paying less for, a non-waterproof model if you’re mostly hiking in summer.
LOWA Innox Pro GTX Lo $399
Use Hiking, travel Upper Microfibre, synthetic Construction Gore-Tex membrane, double-injected DynaPU comfort midsole, three-quarter length and full-width nylon shank, perforated climate control footbed, foot-cradling Monowrap frame for stability, self-cleaning energy-saving outsole, 100% vegan. Outsole LOWA Multi Trac Weight 830g (m); 650g (w). www.LOWA.co.nz
LOWA Sirkos Evo GTX Lo $359
Use Hiking Upper Suede leather Construction Gore-Tex membrane, injected DynaPU comfort midsole, flexible TPU shank, foot-cradling Monowrap frame for stability, self-cleaning energy-saving outsole. Outsole LOWA Cross III Weight 800g (m); 640g (w). www.LOWA.co.nz
Hoka One One Anacapa Low GTX $379.95
Use Hiking Upper Engineered lightweight leather Construction Gore-Tex membrane, quick lace hook, gusseted tongue, recycled polyester materials in collar, mesh and laces, moulded PU sockliner, compression moulded EVA midsole, extended heel for smooth impact. Outsole Vibram Megagrip Weight 794g (m),780g (w). www.hokaoneone.co.nz
Salewa Mountain Trainer 2 $349.90
Use Hiking Upper E1.6mm suede leather, wear-resistant fabric Construction Full rubber rand, 3F heel hold system, climbing lacing, Ortholite footbed, stretch gaiter under laces, Expanded PU midsole. Outsole Vibram MTN Trainer Evo Weight 876g (m), 792g (w). www.bobo.co.nz
Hoka One One Zinal $279.95
Use Lightweight hiking, trail running Upper Recycled yarn, mesh Construction Gusseted tongue keeps debris out, dual-density midsole with lightweight foam on top and rubberised EVA on bottom. Outsole Vibram Litebase Weight 484g (m), 398g (w). www.hokaoneone.co.nz
Merrell Moab Speed GTX $299
Use Hiking Upper Mesh with TPU overlays Construction Gore-Tex membrane, recycled laces, padded collar, protective toe cap, recycled mesh lining, removable EVA insole, rock plate for protection, foam midsole. Outsole Vibram EcoDura, 30% recycled rubber Weight 630g (m), 530g (w). www.merrell.co.nz
Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite $299.90
Use Hiking Upper Synthetic fabric Construction 3F heel hold system, TPU film protects uppers, climbing Lacing, heel stabiliser, rubber toe cup, EVA midsole, nylon shank, vegan-friendly Outsole Pomoca MTN trainer lite Weight 836g (m), 680g (w). www.bobo.co.nz
The North Face Vectiv Exploris FUTURELIGHT $300
Use Hiking, fastpacking Upper Abrasion-resistant Cordura ripstop, mesh Construction FutureLight membrane, ghillie lacing system, protective toe cap, rand and heel overlays, OrthoLite footbed, single-density 3D TPU plate, EVA midsole. Outsole Surface Control rubber Weight 746g (m), 640g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
The North Face Vectiv Escape $260
Use Hiking Upper Circular knit Construction Protective TPU overlays, ghillie lacing system, additional heel eyelet for secure fit, 3D-moulded heel counter, OrthoLite footbed, dual-density 3D TPU plate for stability, midsole rocker geometry, EVA foam midsole. Outsole Surface Control rubber Weight 668g (m), 538g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz