The most important piece of gear you have while hiking is your hiking shoes. No other piece of gear affects, quite literally, your every step as you cruise up or down the trail. Thus, it’s incredibly important that you find the right hiking shoes to keep your feet happy, wherever life’s adventures take you.
However, there are so many different hiking shoes out there that it can be difficult to figure out which pair is just right for your needs. To help you out, we’ve created this list of the best hiking shoes for women, so you can spend less time researching shoes and more time in the mountains.
We’ll start off with some quick reviews of the best women’s hiking shoes and then wrap things up with a guide to choosing the right pair. Let’s get to it!
Merrell Women’s Siren Edge Hiker
The Merrell Women’s Siren Edge is a stylish, highly breathable hiking shoe designed to support your feet on difficult terrain without the bulk and heft of a traditional hiking boot. Featuring a mesh and synthetic upper for maximum breathability, as well as a traditional lace closure for ease of use, the Siren Edge is a new take on a classic shoe design.
Made specifically for athletic outdoor pursuits, the Siren Edge’s molded nylon arch shank and a breathable mesh lining helps keep your feet comfortable and supported after miles on the trail. Plus, a Merrell air cushion in the heel is specially designed to absorb shock and add stability on those rocky downhill treks. A Vibram rubber outsole with 4mm lugs rounds out the Siren’s list of quality features, making it a great all-around hiking shoe for day hikes in tough terrain.
- Highly breathable
- Vibram rubber outsole with 4mm lug depth
- M-Select FIT.ECO contoured footbed with organic odor control
- Merrell air cushion for shock absorbency and stability
- Durability concerns with textile outer
- Non-waterproof (waterproof options exist)
- Athletically styled hiker featuring seamless upper overlays with color-pop webbing and ghillie laces
- Breathable mesh lining ; Molded nylon arch shank
- Bellows tongue to keep out debris
- M-Select FIT.ECO contoured footbed with organic odor control, Merrell air cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe
A time-honored classic, the Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe is a sturdy hiking shoe designed for maximum comfort in the backcountry. Built with a mixed suede leather and mesh upper and a breathable mesh lining, the Moab 2 Vents aren’t waterproof, but rather are highly breathable for hikes in hot climates.
Although the Moab 2 Vents aren’t waterproof, they have a closed-cell foam tongue to help keep out moisture and debris on the trail. Plus, a protective rubber toe cap and an EVA midsole help provide stability, comfort, and protection in rocky terrain. If that wasn’t good enough, a Vibram TC5+ outsole with a 5mm lug depth offers great traction in a variety of terrain.
- Highly breathable
- Protective rubber toe cap
- Molded nylon arch shank
- Merrel air cushion in the heel for shock absorption
- Vibram TC5+ outsole with 5mm lug depth for traction
- Relatively heavy
- Not waterproof
- Durability concerns with mesh uppers
KEEN Women’s Targhee II Hiking Shoe
A long-standing favorite among active women, the Keen Women’s Targhee II is a burly hiking shoe for any adventure. Featuring a durable waterproof nubuck leather upper, a KEEN. Dry waterproof breathable membrane and a hydrophobic mesh lining, the Targhee II help keep your feet dry in moist conditions. Plus, a torsion stability ESS shank and a metatomical footbed design help support your feet, every step of the way.
A non-marking rubber outsole with 4mm multi-directional lugs adds superior traction abilities on tricky terrain, while a dual-density compression-molded EVA midsole offers cushioning and support underfoot. Keen is well known for shoes with a wide toe box, however, so the Targhee II Hiking Shoes are best for people who want a little extra wiggle room at the front of the foot as they hike.
- Square toe box is great for wide feet
- Durable waterproof nubuck leather uppers
- Torsion stability ESS shank
- KEEN.Dry waterproof breathable membrane
- Cleansport NXT for odor control
- Not very breathable
- Relatively heavy
- Not ideal for narrow feet
Salomon Women’s X-Mission 3 W Trail Running Shoe
The Salomon Women’s X-Mission 3W is a high-quality trail running shoe that can moonlight as a hiking shoe on day hikes and short backpacking trips. Made with stylish textile uppers and Solomon’s proprietary quick lace system, the X-Mission 3 is made for light and fast trips in the mountains.
A molded EVA midsole provides ample cushioning, whether you’re walking down city streets or flying down the trail. The X-Mission’s 3D grip outsole provides traction on virtually any surface, while the shoes’ Sensifit technology helps it wrap securely around your foot for a comfortable hiking experience.
Since the X-Mission 3s are trail runners, not proper hiking shoes, they’re not going to provide as much support as a hiking boot would. Rather, they’re best for days in the hills with light packs and fast movement.
- Great color options
- 3D Grip rubber outsole for great traction
- Quicklace system for easy on-off
- Highly breathable
- Durability concerns
- Don’t provide a lot of support
- Not waterproof (waterproof options exist)
- ALL-TERRAIN RUNNING SHOES: You'll be ready to conquer any surface with the Salomon X-Mission 3. Built for long-term wear & featuring a lug pattern that works well on hard & smooth or soft & loose surfaces.
- ANY PATH YOUR WAY: With an ultra-durable, all-terrain grip the Salomon X-Mission running shoes are ready to accept the challenge of any surface. Great for trail-running, road running, & hiking.
- GO THE DISTANCE: Whether you love daily road running in your neighborhood, an escape to a local trail, or something more rugged, Salomon makes shoes that ensure you have a smooth ride on any & all terrain.
- TIME TO PLAY: Whether you are into trail running, hiking, backpacking, or mountaineering, Salomon has shoes & gear for kids, men & women to help you conquer a new distance, personal record, or event!
KEEN Women’s Voyageur Hiking Shoe
If you travel in hot climates and just want to keep your feet cool and comfortable as you hike, then look no further than the Keen Women’s Voyageur Hiking Shoe. A low-profile hiking shoe, the Keen Voyager is built with mesh inserts to provide for maximum airflow while a water-resistant leather upper helps keep your feet dry from small splashes in puddles.
The Voyagers are built with a stability shank and a rugged rubber outsole with 4mm multi-direction lugs for better traction and confidence on difficult slopes. If all that wasn’t good enough, the Voyagers also have Cleansport NXT technology to reduce odor, day in and day out. What’s not to love?
- Square toe box is great for wide feet
- Mesh inserts and leather upper allow for plentiful airflow and ventilation
- Torsion stability ESS shank for support
- Rubber outsole with 4mm multi-directional lugs for traction
- Durability concerns with mesh
- Not great for narrow feet
JOOMRA Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Barefoot Shoes
A new take on minimalist footwear, the JOOMRA Women’s Minimalist Trail Running Barefoot shoes is a unique hybrid between a classic trail runner and a pair of “toe shoes”. With a thin rubber outsole for traction and durability, the JOOMRA Women’s Minimalist protect your feet while allowing for heightened sensitivity on unpredictable terrain.
The JOOMRA Minimalists feature a removable insole to support the arch without affecting your natural stride, while a thicker upper wraps around the feet and provides a secure fit during high-octane activity. Ultimately, the JOOMRA are designed to complement and work with the natural structure of the foot, making it a great option for minimalist runners.
That being said, if you’re new to minimalist footwear, be sure to take it slow when trying out these, or similar shoes. Start by walking around the house, on grass, and on short walks outside before you commit to wearing these on a 5 day backpacking trip. Your feet will thank you.
- Compliments the natural structure of the foot
- Thick upper material creates a secure fit on the foot
- High-traction rubber outsole for difficult terrain
- Minimalist footwear is not for everyone
- Involves a long break-in process
- Offers minimal protection
- Not waterproof
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Ahnu Women’s Montara II Hiking Shoe
Sleek and stylish, the Ahnu Women’s Montara II redefines what a hiking shoe can look and feel like. Made from waterproof nubuck leather and an eVent waterproof breathable membrane, the Ahnu Montara II is designed to keep your feet dry, even in rain and puddles.
Plus, a dual density EVA midsole sockliner helps cushion the foot throughout descents on rough terrain. Finally, Ahnu’s custom Vibram Megagrip outsole provides impeccable traction and long-term durability so you can spend more time enjoying the mountains.
- Waterproof nubuck leather upper is very durable
- Vibram Megagrip outsole has lots of traction
- Cushioning midsole helps provide shock absorption on downhills
- Not as breathable as other options
How to find the best women’s hiking shoe
Finding the right women’s hiking shoe is all about understanding the different aspects of a shoe and how it feels on your foot. Since a hiking shoe is with you every step of the way, it’s important that you find the shoe that is comfortable on your foot, while also protecting you from the rough terrain you’ll be traveling over.
To help you find the best women’s hiking shoes, we’ve got this list of the top features to look for in your next pair of kicks. Here’s what you need to know:
These days, most hiking shoes and boots have some sort of built-in water resistance or waterproofing. For the most part, this “water resistance” comes from a waterproof and breathable membrane that is sewn into the shoe’s fabric. The most popular waterproof/breathable membranes are made by Gore-Tex, eVent, and BDry, though many companies also produce their own proprietary membranes to cut costs.
When it comes to a hiking shoe, which is usually a low-cut version of a hiking boot, these waterproof/breathable membranes can help keep your feet dry while walking through shallow puddles but don’t expect dry socks after a river crossing. Instead, once a waterproof shoe gets wet, it actually takes a long time to dry and you’ll need to dump some water out of your boot, unless you really like the feeling of walking around in your own personal puddle of water.
On the other hand, non-waterproof hiking shoes won’t keep your feet dry at all, but they do tend to dry much faster than their waterproof counterparts. Plus, waterproof hiking shoes tend to cost slightly more than the non-waterproof versions, so it really all depends on what lengths you’ll go to keep your feet dry.
Most hiking shoes use a standard shoelace lacing system, similar to one that you’d find on a tennis shoe. However, there are some hiking shoes that use a variety of different “quick lace” systems to make it easier to slip your shoes on and off. While some of these lacing systems are quick durable, others have been known to fall apart, so check the integrity of the lacing system before you buy your shoes.
Additionally, there’s even a lot of variety in shoes that have standard shoelace lacing systems. Something to look out for in your shoes is the kinds of grommets – the holes that your shoelace goes through to tighten your shoe to your foot. Some companies have changed these metal holes for fabric or plastic ones to save weight, which is great from a weight savings perspective but does cause some durability concerns.
Thus, if you’re the type of person that destroys shoes quickly, it might be best to look for shoes with full metal grommets. On the other hand, if you value lightweight over everything else, fabric and plastic grommets might suffice.
No one likes to stub their toes, especially when walking through rough terrain. That’s why most hiking shoes come with some degree of toe protection to keep your toes happy, day in and day out. For some hiking shoes, this toe protection is a piece of leather sewn over the toe, while for others, it’s a molded toe cap.
Molded toe caps tend to offer the most protection and durability, but that comes at an increased weight and decreased sensitivity. Ultimately, the amount of toe protection you need is a personal decision, but if you spend more of your time in really rocky terrain, it might be worth the extra weight.
Even though you might be “roughing it” on your next hiking trip, there’s no need to cause yourself undue pain. Generally, hikers find that their feet hurt more than anything else (which is no surprise, since they’re usually walking a lot), which is where a good pair of hiking shoes comes in.
Comfort in hiking shoes is an incredibly personal matter and what might be comfortable for one person could be painful for another. Often, comfort in hiking shoes comes from finding shoes that fit both the length and width of your feet as well as the volume. If you have wide, high volume feet, stuffing them into a pair of slender shoes probably won’t bode well. On the other hand, if you have petite feet, wearing a pair of wide boots means you’ll be slipping around and getting blisters.
The best advice you can get for buying hiking shoes is to try them on before you wear them outside. Walk around your house as much as possible before you take them outside and get them dirty as you can probably return them if they are clean, never worn outside, and don’t smell. We can assure you that if your shoes don’t feel comfortable walking around your home, they definitely won’t feel any better after 20 miles on the trail.
Support in a hiking shoe comes in two ways: support for the arch of the foot and support for the ankle. When a hiking shoe properly supports your arch, it prevents your foot from flattening out more than it naturally does.
When your foot flattens out too much, over time, it is possible to develop incredibly painful conditions such as plantar fasciitis, so it’s best to avoid this whenever possible. Hiking shoes that support the arch will provide a quality insole (though often you’ll want to get your own elsewhere – these are a great bet) and a good lacing system to keep your foot in place and snuggly tucked into your shoe.
Ankle support is an entirely separate issue, however. Since hiking shoes are decidedly low-cut, they don’t offer the same amount of ankle support as a high-top hiking boot, eschewing this support for more comfort and weight savings. Thus, if you’re someone who is prone to rolling their ankles or you’ll be carrying a heavy pack in rough terrain, you might be better off with high-top backpacking boots, instead.
Anyone who’s ever slipped around on a muddy trail knows how important good traction is to a hiking shoe. A shoe with good traction can be the difference between staying upright and a fall in a precarious situation.
Thus, when looking for hiking shoes, be sure to inspect outsoles of the shoes. The outsole is the part of the shoe that touches the ground and is almost always made out of some sort of rubber. Softer rubber usually has better traction on rocks but wears out more quickly than harder rubber compounds.
Additionally, the shape of the lugs – the rubber bits that stick out from the bottom of your shoes – can affect your traction on certain terrain. For the most part, larger lugs mean that your shoes will be heavier, but that you’ll have better traction on muddy, loose, or sandy terrain. So, if you’re not as confident on your feet, you might want to consider a pair of hiking shoes with larger lugs for your time on the trail.
No one likes to walk around with bricks on their feet, which is why many people opt to use low-cut hiking shoes over hefty hiking boots. However, even within the world of hiking shoes, there’s quite a range of different weights and sizes. Traditional hiking shoes generally weigh more than the more modern trail running shoe, which is designed more to be light and fast than to be durable and provide lots of traction.
Lightweight shoes do tend to be more comfortable on the trail, but that often comes at a decrease in durability and protection for your feet, especially underfoot, where the sole tends to be much thinner. Plus, lightweight trail runners tend to provide less support for your feet and ankles than the heavier options.
When you’re huffing and puffing uphill on a sunny day, you’ll probably end up with some sweaty feet. Sweaty feet can be uncomfortable and smelly and can also increase your risk for blisters, which is why many people look for hiking shoes that are highly breathable.
Breathability in hiking shoes comes down to the materials being used in the upper fabrics. Lightweight textiles and mesh tend to be more breathable than leather and synthetic leather alternatives, however, they are often less durable.
Additionally, even the best waterproof/breathable membrane won’t be as breathable as a non-waterproof shoe, so if you really hate sweaty feet, you’ll have to decide if that’s worse than getting your feet wet once in a while.
Insoles are the interior base of your shoe – the part that your foot rests on. Most shoes come with a pretty poor pair of insoles straight from the factory, so it’s not really worth buying your shoes just for the insoles that come with them. Usually, these factory insoles are a silly piece of foam that does little more than raise your foot a couple of millimeters off of the midsole of the shoe.
Thus, instead of buying a shoe just for the insoles, it’s best to find a pair of shoes that feel amazing and then use your own personal orthotics or buy a pair of quality insoles, like these from Superfeet. These insoles are specifically designed to support the arch of your foot, which helps increase your comfort throughout a day of hiking. What’s not to love?
The Final Verdict
Although all of the shoes we’ve reviewed so far are great on the trail, only one can be the winner of our head-to-head match-up. If we had to choose just one of the best hiking shoes for women to take home gold in this contest, we’d have to go with the Ahnu Montara II. Stylish and incredibly comfortable, the Ahnu Montara II is a durable, waterproof shoe for anyone who values stability and traction on the trail. While other shoes also claim to be lightweight, they do so at the expense of durability, opting for textile uppers instead of the more robust nubuck and synthetic leathers. Happy trails!