When it comes to deciding between the best lightweight hiking shoes and top of the range high cut hiking boots, there really is no right on wrong answer. Whilst boots have traditionally been the go-to footwear for hikers since as long as boots have been in existence, recent years have seen the rise of what some would argue as a more versatile type of hiking footwear: lightweight hiking shoes.
The hiking shoes vs hiking boots argument has been raging for years with highly valid points being made on both sides. But more and more people are leaning towards opting for the grippy, light-footedness offered by hiking shoes. So if you’re teetering on the brink of ditching your hiking boots and getting a bit more dynamic on your wilderness wanderings, then a look at the best lightweight hiking shoes might help you take that leap.
- Frequently asked questions when buying lightweight hiking shoes
- Summaries of the best lightweight hiking shoes in 2021
- What to look for in a great pair of lightweight hiking shoes
Overview of the best lightweight hiking shoes in 2021
This quick overview gives you a basic idea of which shoes are leading the way in the trekking and hiking world, with more detailed info on each of the best lightweight hiking shoes later in the article. And for advise on what to look for in the best lightweight hiking shoes then skip down to our buying guide.
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|Product||Features||Weight per pair||Upper||Cost|
|Naglev Unico Hiker||Supportive, eco-friendly||840g||Kevlar||$$$$|
|Timberland Garrison Trail Sneaker||Comfortable, eco-friendly, lightweight versatile||700g||Suede + synthetic||$$$|
|Asolo Nucleon GV Hiking Shoes||Very comfortable, great grip||815g||Suede||$$$$|
|Keen Explore Waterproof Hiking Shoes||Very comfortable, natural anti-odour insoles||856g||Synthetic + Keen.Dry||$|
|The North Face Ultra Fastpack IV FutureLight||Waterproof, breathable, sneaker-style looks||793g||Synthetic + Furturelight||$$$|
|La Sportiva Spire GTX Hiking Shoes||Waterproof, breathable, sneaker-style looks||680g||Synthetic + Gore-Tex||$$$$|
|Vasque Satoru Trail LT Low Hiking Shoes||Natural movement, everyday wear, vegan||567g||Synthetic||$$$|
|Oboz Hyalite Low||Good support, casual style||844g||Split suede leather+ rubber||$|
|Merrell Moab Ventilator||Good value, breathable||880g||Synthetic/leather mix||$|
|Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX||Extremely light||760g||Synthetic + Gore-Tex||$$$|
|Keen Targhee II||Durable, good support||907g||Synthetic/leather mix||$|
|Scarpa Zen Pro||Comfortable, good toe protection||965g||Suede||$$|
|La Sportiva Primer Low GTX||Highly waterproof||824g||Synthetic + Gore-Tex||$$$|
|Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R 2 GTX||Comfortable and extremely lightweight||700g||Synthetic + Gore-Tex||$|
|Oboz Sawtooth Low Bdry Hiking Shoe||Available in wide||884g||Leather/synthetic mix + Bdry||$$$|
Frequently asked questions when buying lightweight hiking shoes
The best lightweight hiking shoes
With that in mind, here are our picks for the top 16 hiking shoes:
Handmade from natural materials, theNaglev Unico Hikeris our eco-friendly choice. It’s made from a combination of durable natural materials, including coconut, vegetable-dyed leather, natural gum, Kevlar, TPU, and wool. The result is a very sturdy hiking shoe. Its low profile design and a moisture-wicking sock liner also makes the Unico Hiker a comfortable choice for trail runners.
The natural rubber outer sole features moferately deep and well spaced lugs. This delivers the grip you need for tricky terrain while a supportive EVA midsole and soft footbed provide extra comfort. The Unico Hiker is also fitted with a Kevlar upper and TPU toe cap for armour-like protection that is water resistant.
- Highly durable materials
- Versatile usage
- Comfortable for long hikes and warm conditions
- Stylish design
Weight: 700g / 1.5 lbs
Uppers: Suede and synthetic
Another lightweight hiking shoe that is on the more eco-conscious side of things is the Timberland Garrison Trail Sneaker. Combining recycled plastic with sustainably and responsibly constructed suede, these stylish and contemporary sneaker-style hiking shoes are an appealing option for the modern hiker.
Though not designed for long multi-day hiking trips, they certainly hold their own on big day hikes boasting superb comfort levels, grip and cushioning. They’re an excellent choice for travel and everyday use as well as running and day hikes, making them one of the most versatile options on our list. They’re also one of the most lightweight hiking shoes on the list, comparable only to the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R 2 GTX below.
For more information read our full review of the Timberland Garrison Trail Sneaker.
- Very comfortable
- Great grip
- A little on the chunky side
- Bright design isn’t for everyone
Boasting characteristics similar to that of approach shoes, the Asolo Nucleon GV offers a nimble and supportive alternative that will go the distance on long day hikes. They provide more support and robustness than approach shoes, keeping your feet well protected when scrambling up rocks and boulders, as well as negotiating loose downhill terrain. Offering style and practicality in equal measure, the classic aesthetics of the Asolo Nucleon GV Hiking Shoes make them suited to traveling and everyday wear, too. They are also superbly comfortable and lightweight, and are excellent all-round hiking shoes with the added bonus of being waterproof with a Gore-Tex membrane.
For more information read our full review of the Asolo Nucleon GV Hiking Shoes.
- Very comfortable
- Very lightweight
- Slightly narrow toe box
Eco-conscious: PFC-free water repellency and eco anti-odour
Uppers: Synthetic + Keen.Dry
New to the lightweight hiking shoes scene in 2020, the Keen Explore Waterproof Hiking Shoes have a very different look about them compared with Keen’s usual beefy bumpered boots. Bridging the gap seamlessly between trainer and hiking shoe, the sporty style is ideal for everyday wear as well as time on the trail, however fast your feet are flying. They have super plush cushioning around the ankle and tongue for instant comfort without sacrificing protective support and reliable traction. Plus, Keen use a PFC-free water-repellent treatment to compliment the Keen.Dry waterproof and breathable membrane – their own version of Gore-Tex. These stylish hiking shoes also feature innersoles that are infused with probiotic technology. This Eco Anti-Odour naturally breaks down odour in sweat without using hazardous chemicals and heavy metals.
For more information read our full review of the Keen Explore Waterproof Hiking Shoes.
- Very comfortable
- Natural anti-odour treatment
- Laces come undone easily
Weight: 1.75 lbs / 793g
Uppers: Synthetic + FutureLight membrane
The third lightest shoes in our review, you might be forgiven for thinking these lightweight men’s hiking shoes are in fact sneakers, with their slimline under-ankle design and snazzy zinc-grey and orange colourway. The stretchy mesh uppers of The North Face Ultra Fastpack IV FutureLight shoes are not just soft and waterproof, they are breathable and optimise various new techs to maintain their lightweight yet rugged appeal.
Ideal for day-long trail hikes, the foam midsole and midfoot shanks add comfort and support while the Vibram soled, stair-step lugs give excellent grip. Toe caps and heel overlays give protection from stubs while still looking less chunky than the Timberland Garrison Trail Sneaker.
We love that the colour helps them to look dirt-free for longer, and the reflective heel webbing is a great addition for night visibility or when using them on the highway.
- Sneaker-style good looks
- Clever colourway hides dirt
- Waterproof and exceptionally breathable
- Reflective webbing for low light visibility
- Less ankle support than some brands
Weight: 1.5 lbs / 680g
Uppers: Synthetic + Gore-Tex
These women’s lace-up hiking shoes are our choice as a female equivalent shoe to the North Face Ultra Fastpack IV Multisport shoes for men; definitely a sneaker-style look with a chunkier sole and a more obvious, boot-looking upper.
Classed as a low-cut hiking boot, La Sportiva Spire GTX Hiking Shoes are perfect for day-long trail hikes as well as for out and about daywear. Again, the clever grey colourway helps them look cleaner for longer, making them some of the best lightweight waterproof hiking shoes as well as the best Gore-Tex hiking shoes for women.
Welded uppers, innovative footbed and midsole aeration channels plus Gore-Tex membrane protection make these a really comfortable choice. Add half a size to your usual day-shoe size when buying.
- Sneaker-look soles
- Boot-look uppers
- Dirt-camouflaging grey colourway
- Waterproof and Gore-Tex breathable
- On the expensive side
Weight: 1.25 lbs / 567g
Perfectly suited for dry weather trail hiking as well as exploring the neighborhood and running, these vegan-friendly Vasque Satoru Trail LT Low Hiking Shoes are a comfortable all-rounder for everyday wear. Designed to encourage a more natural foot movement they are a great interim between normal hiking shoes and barefoot-style boots.
In three unusual colourways, these men’s lightweight lace-ups make a fashion statement or two whilst still being some of the most comfortable hiking shoes in the category. For sartorial elegance, the Dried Tobacco colourway looks great around town while maintaining an outdoorsy air. Ebony has the feel of a sneaker with its green heel. And the intriguingly named Tap Shoe’s black upper, white sole colourway looks a little like a soccer boot!
Whilst not waterproof, the Vasque Satoru Trail LT Low Hiking Shoes keep feet protected and comfortable with a moisture-wicking textile lining. Vibram soles and various mid-shoe technologies provide high rebound, cushion and durability as well as great grip and multidirectional traction. All while looking great at the pub too!
- Fashionable good-looks
- Encourages natural-movement
- Vegan friendly
- Choice of 3 colours
- Not waterproof
Find the latest price at:
Uppers: Split suede leather + rubber
For those who like a multi-functional hiking shoe that is as suited to everyday wear as to life on the trail, the Oboz Hyalite Low Hiking Shoes are an ideal option. New in 2019, these stylish suede leather hiking shoes offer exceptional support through the arches and sole thanks to the Oboz Ofit Insole that molds to your feet wonderfully. This support and stability makes the shoes feel more like hiking boots in terms of protective stability, but without the associated weight and bulk.
Although not as high performing as other options on our list when it comes to long-distance hiking, these lightweight hiking shoes most certainly meet the needs of the casual hiker tackling moderate terrain in mixed conditions.
For more information read our full review of the Oboz Hyalite Low Hiking Shoes.
- Good support and protection the arches
- Casual syle
- Very low cut makes ankles feel a little vulnerable
Uppers: Synthetic/leather mix
The Merrell Moab Ventilator are perfect for keeping your feet cool all day, with the mesh upper and water-resistant leather working together to keep your toes breathable but dry. All hiking shoes are designed for uneven surfaces, but these soles provide excellent traction even on slippery surfaces like dewy grass and mossy river rocks. Although they are good for wide feet, they do not provide much arch support. So if arch support is a must for you, it will have to come from special insoles. That said, these are some of the least expensive shoes on our list, making them a great starting point for your first pair of lightweight hiking shoes.
- Good value
- Excellent traction
- Highly breathable
- Not great arch support
Uppers: Synthetic + Gore-Tex
This latest evolution of the best selling X Ultra 2, may be a little heavier than its predecessor, but at 760g per pair the Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX are still the second lightest hiking shoes on our list. The synthetic upper is coated with polyurethane for durability and water resistance, and the Gore-Tex lining offers further waterproofing as well as great breathability. Salomon hiking shoes and trail runners boast a Contragrip outsole for maximum traction that is comparable to Virbam soles. Plus, this new version also feature Descent Control technolgy for superior support and protection on those big downhills. Another nice feature of these Salomon hiking shoes is the speed lacing system: the laces are tightened with a slide instead of knotted, which is perfect for getting the shoes on and off while wearing gloves. An excellent option for winter trail running and year round hiking on steep and technical terrain.
- Super lightweight
- Gore-Tex lining
- Quick lacing system
- Can be a little on the narrow side for some wearers
Uppers: Synthetic/leather mix + Keen.Dry
Like all Keen shoes, the Targhee II are great for wide feet. The footbed is removable, making them an excellent choice if you need to use orthopedic insoles. The cut of these shoes is higher than many other hiking shoes making them an excellent choice for those needing a little extra ankle support. If you have ever loved a pair of Keen hiking boots, these are very similar but with a lower profile. They are fully waterproof thanks to their Keen.Dry waterproof technology, and the wider toe box is also nice for accommodating thick socks. Other features that make the shoes great for winter weather hiking is the thick leather uppers and a thick heel loop for getting the shoes on and off when wearing gloves.
- Super robust
- Very good stability
- Wide toe box
- A good option for cold weather hiking
- Fairly bulky for a lightweight hiking shoe
The Scarpa Zen Pro hiking shoe is one of the more expensive options on our list, but the brand makes lifelong fans because of the overall comfort and excellent quality of their footwear. The inside liner is extremely soft but still wicks away moisture effectively, whilst the naturally odor-resistant materials keep the shoes from getting too stinky after a long hike. Rubber toecaps and soles with deep lugs do a great job of protecting your feet on rocky uneven terrain. And although the suede upper lets them down slightly in the when it comes to durability (compared with leather), the Zen’s are a robust and highly sturdy hiking shoe for big days on challenging terrain. They are one of the most comfortable hiking shoes on our list and also an exceptionally good approach shoe for those branching into the scrambling realms of hiking.
- Great for scrambling and challenging terrain
- Very comfortable
- Protective rubber toecap
- Suede not as durable as leather or synthetic shoes
Uppers: Synthetic + Gore-Tex
As one of the more expensive shoes on our list, La Sportiva Primer Low GTX offers some really nice extra features. In addition to a waterproof Gore-Tex layer and top-of-the-line Vibram soles, the tongue is also gusseted in the shoe. This means that there is no gap between the tongue and the shoe for water to soak into your socks, providing waterproofing all the way to the top of the shoe. A moisture-wicking interior layer keeps your feet cool and dry – an essential feature for fast moving hikers. Be aware that these sporty-looking lightweight hiking shoes come in European sizing only.
- Gore-Tex lining
- Gusseted tongue for good water protection
- Moisture-wicking interior layer
- A little pricey
Uppers: Synthetic + Gore-Tex
At only 700g per pair, the recently updated Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R 2 GTX is the most lightweight hiking shoe on our list, along with the Timberland Garrison Trail Sneaker above, also at 700g. Extra cushion under the heel makes for a very comfortable hiking shoe that is still one of the least expensive on the list! The speed lacing system is similar to that of the Salomon’s, as is their lightweight sporty look and exceptionally grippy soles. They lack the robustness offered by the Salomons, but their price tag is much more appealing for such a lightweight Gore-Tex and waterproof hiking shoe. They offer superb value for fast and light hikers looking to stay quick on their feet on all but the trickiest terrain.
- Gore-Tex lining
- Great value
- Not as robust as other options
Uppers: Leather/synthetic mix + Bdry
Available in both standard and wide, the ever-popular Oboz Sawtooth Low Bdry Hiking Shoe is a superbly supportive option for those looking for a specific fit with good arch support. With a nice wide toe box and excellent cushioning from the insole that also wicks moisture away from the foot, the Sawtooths are up there with the most comfortable hiking shoe options on our list. Their leather and abrasive resistant synthetic uppers provide excellent protection and durability, and together with their Bdry membrane, are reliably waterproof. A great pair of backpacking shoes with a super grippy outsole as well as side-wall lugs that offer extra grip on demanding steep trails. And all of that weighs in at only 884g – not bad for leather hiking shoes!
- Good arch support
- Available in wide
- Great grip
- Bdry waterproof membrane
What to look for in a great pair of lightweight hiking shoes
One of the most desirable features of hiking shoes above boots is their low weight. The average pair of 2-3 season hiking boots weigh in at around 1200g (2.6lbs) per pair, and much more if you’re looking at winter hiking boots. Whereas there are a couple of options in this review that are almost half that weight. The Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX are around 600g and the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R GTX are only a little heavier. This is a big difference when you consider the number of steps you are likely to take during a full day of hiking, and the low weight is especially beneficial for those wanting to keep their pace high.
The weight of hiking shoes also makes them much more suited to a bigger range of activities. Some of the light hiking shoes are ideal for trail running too, and shoes are generally an easier and more comfortable options for just wearing out and about. If your footwear is able to provide you with comfort and protection on the trail, as well as being your go-to shoe of choice in less adventurous scenarios, then leave the boots behind and save some space when packing.
Hiking shoes are designed to keep you nimble on your feet, and the sole of the shoes make a big difference to how confident you feel when springing from rock to rock or negotiating loose terrain. By opting for hiking footwear that doesn’t give the same level of ankle support as a high ankle hiking boot, it’s essential that you can put your trust in the grip of your shoes. Ideally, the outsoles should have deep lugs with a tread pattern that is well spaced to prevent mud from building up. For maximum traction many brands use Vibram soles which are the Gore-Tex equivalent of the outsole world! Generally speaking Vibram soles provide superior grip and durability to other non-branded soles, but there some own-brand equivalents that compete fiercely with the high quality and performance offered by Vibram. So don’t be too quick to discount anything that doesn’t have the Vibram label attached to it. Especially if the rest of the shoe is a good fit for your feet and their needs.
03Breathable and tough material
As with hiking boots, the upper material of lightweight hiking shoes varies from tough leather like the Vasque Mantra, to fully synthetic uppers like the La Sportiva Primer. Hiking shoes aim to be breathable, however, some do a better job at this than others. So it is important to consider whether you will be hiking in predominantly warm temperatures where extra breathability is a must. Look for something with a mesh or partially-mesh upper and a moisture-wicking inner like the Merrell Moab Ventilator to keep your toes as cool as possible. The best waterproof hiking shoes usually feature a Gore-Tex lining, which does an exceptionally good job at maintaining breathability too.
Many hiking shoes offer partial or total waterproofing, often through a Gore-Tex liner. Waterproof hiking shoes can be more expensive, however, so consider whether or not this is an important feature for you, or whether you will most likely be hiking in dry summer conditions. The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX go one step further and guarantee rust-free rivets and hardware as well, a great option for winter hiking.
There is a big question surrounding the support that hiking shoes offer over hiking boots. The low cut of hiking shoes is the obvious downfall when it comes to ankle stability, especially when hiking with a loaded backpack. So if good ankle support is a must but you are really keen on the lightweight properties of hiking shoes, then you may want to consider a lightweight boot like the Asolo Jumla GV.
That said, most of the best lightweight hiking shoes provide a decent level of stiffness and stability through internal supports or built-in shanks. Shoes like the Keen Targhee II are an excellent choice if you are nervous about stepping out of your hiking boots and into a more lightweight hiking shoe, and they also provide unrivalled protection with their trademark bumpers.
Although some aspects of fit come down to simply trying on the shoe, there are a few basic styles to consider. If you have wide feet, look for something with a wider toe box and heel. If you need extra arch support, you may want a shoe with a removable insole to make room for orthopedic insoles. As a general rule, Keen shoes are wider than most brands, while North Face shoes are more narrow. When it comes to trying on the shoes themselves, try them on at the end of the day when your feet are already slightly swollen. Equally, if you like to wear a specific pair of hiking socks when out on the trail, be sure to wear them when you try on the shoes. The same is true for any special insoles you plan to use when you hike. Because light hiking shoes are more flexible than hiking boots, they take less time to break in, but slight stiffness is still normal.
Whether you plan to hike in the snow or the sand, on rocks or through mud, there is a perfect option for you on this list of the best lightweight hiking shoes. So if you’ve lugged your overly heavy boots up one peak too many then maybe now is the time to leap on over to the light side and give hiking shoes a go?!