Lightweight hiking shoes

The 11 Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes in 2018

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.

Overview of the best lightweight hiking shoes in 2018

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. But if you really want to understand what to look for in the best lightweight hiking shoes then read on.

ProductFeaturesWeight per pairUpperCost
The North Face Ultra 109 GTXGood support878gSynthetic + Gore-Tex$
Merrell Moab VentilatorGood value, breathable680gSynthetic/leather mix$
Salomon X Ultra 2 GTXExtremely light595gSynthetic + Gore-Tex$$$
Keen Targhee IIDurable, good support907gSynthetic/leather mix$
Scarpa Zen ProComfortable, good toe protection965gSuede$$
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTXGreat grip850gSynthetic/leather mix + Gore-Tex$
La Sportiva Primer Low GTXHighly waterproof824gSynthetic + Gore-Tex$$$
Salewa Men's Wildfire S GTXBreathable, custom fit890gSynthetic + Gore-Tex$$$
Vasque Men's Mantra 2.0 GTXHigh cut ankle for good stability1020gLeather + Gore-Tex$$$
Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R GTXComfortable737gSynthetic + Gore-Tex$$
Oboz Sawtooth Low Bdry Hiking ShoeAvailable in wide884gLeather/synthetic mix + Bdry$$$

What to look for in a great pair of lightweight hiking shoes

01Low weight

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.

02Great grip

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.

The best lightweight hiking shoes

04Waterproofness

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.

05Solid support

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.

If you’re just not willing to lose out on the ankle support provided by a higher cut, then you may be better off sticking with hiking boots.
hiking boots gear guide

06Comfortable fit

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.


Frequently asked questions when buying lightweight hiking shoes

Which are the most comfortable hiking shoes?
Finding the most comfortable hiking shoes very much comes down to your personal preference, and the shape if your feet. However, if you have regular shaped feet (i.e. not super wide or narrow), then take a look at the Scarpa Zen Pro, the Salewa Wildfire S, and the Adidas Terrex Swift hiking shoes.
Which hiking shoes are the best for transitioning from hiking boots?
If you’re a little tentative about leaping from the full support of high ankle hiking boots to the low cut of lightweight hiking shoes then the Keen Targhee II or the Vasque Mantra 2.0 hiking shoes are both great options. They are both cut slightly higher at the ankle than the rest of the shoes on our list providing a little extra support and confidence.
Which are the best lightweight hiking shoes for wide feet?
Keen hiking boots and shoes are well known for their wide fit. The Oboz Sawtooths also have a wide toe box and are available in Wide as well as regular. However, if you want a more lightweight hiking shoe then the Merrell Moab Ventilators are a great option.
Which of the best hiking shoes offers good arch support?
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX offer excellent support to those with high arches. However, if you need to add your own inner soles for extra support then take a look at the Keen Targhee II – they have removable inner soles. The Oboz Sawtooths also offer good arch support in their Wide fit.
Which are the lightest hiking shoes?
The Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX shoes are the lightest hiking shoes on our list. They weigh 595g (21oz) for a mens US size 9. The next lightest options are the Merrell Moab Ventilator and the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R GTX.
Which are the best waterproof hiking shoes?
All of the hiking shoes on our list provide some level of waterproofness. However, the La Sportiva Primer Low GTX not only have a Gore-Tex lining, but they also boast a gusseted tongue which further prevents water from entering the shoes through the laces.
Which are the most durable hiking shoes
It’s hard to beat the leather uppers and beefy bumpers of Keen hiking shoes when it comes to durability. However, another excellent option are the Vasque Men’s Mantra 2.0 GTX, if you don’t mind their extra weight.
Which are the best shoes for hiking in the snow?
The high cut ankles, leather uppers and robust design of the Keen Targhee II and Vasque Men’s Mantra 2.0 GTX make both of these hiking shoes best suited to hiking in snowy conditions. However, for anything deeper than ankle-height you’re best opting for a high cut hiking boot or fully insulated winter hiking boot.
Which of the best lightweight hiking shoes can also be used for trail running?
The Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX and Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R GTX are both excellent options for those wanting to use their hiking shoes as trail runners. They are lightweight, streamlined and have speed lacing systems prefered by many trail runners. Another good contender is the La Sportiva Primer Low GTX which are a little heavier.
What are the best hiking shoes brand
There’s no definitive answer to this one unfortunately! Our list covers some of the best shoe brands in the outdoor world, but there are more exceptionally high quality hiking shoe brands out there that didn’t make the list. Not yet anyway!

The best lightweight hiking shoes

With that in mind, here are our picks for the top 11 hiking shoes:
The North Face Ultra 109 GTX Hiking Shoes

The North Face Ultra 109 GTX

Weight: 878g
Uppers: Synthetic + Gore-Tex
For hikers looking for extra support through the midsole, The North Face Ultra 109 GTX should be considered. They are extremely lightweight and provide corrective support for mild pronation – when the foot rolls inward during a step. They are specially designed for hikers with high arches, and the mesh sides make for a breathable shoe that is also waterproof, thanks to a Gore-Tex layer. As with most shoes from The North Face, the toe box is narrower than in most other brands. One of the best waterproof hiking shoes that don’t cost a fortune!

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Good support in the arches
  • Gore-Tex

Cons

  • A little on the narrow side

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI


Merrell Moab Ventilator Hiking Shoe

Merrell Moab Ventilator

Weight: 680g
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.

Pros

  • Good value
  • Excellent traction
  • Highly breathable

Cons

  • Not great arch support

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


Salomon Men's X Ultra 2 GTX Hiking Shoe

Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX

Weight: 595g
Uppers: Synthetic + Gore-Tex
At only 595g per pair, the Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX are the lightest hiking shoes on our list.  The synthetic upper is coated with polyurethane for durability and water resistance. And whilst the coating process makes the shoes stiffer than others initially, they will soften them up nicely after a week or two of wear. Salomon hiking shoes and trail runners boast a Contragrip outsole for maximum traction that is comparable to Virbam soles. And the Gore-Tex lining offers further waterproofing as well as great breathability. 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.

Pros

  • Super lightweight
  • Gore-Tex lining
  • Quick lacing system

Cons

  • Take a bit of time to break in

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


KEEN Targhee II Hiking Shoe

Keen Targhee II

Weight: 907g
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.

Pros

  • Super robust
  • Very good stability
  • Wide toe box
  • A good option for cold weather hiking

Cons

  • Fairly bulky for a lightweight hiking shoe

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Scarpa Zen Pro Hiking Shoe

Scarpa Zen Pro

Weight: 965g
Uppers: Suede
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.

Pros

  • Great for scrambling and challenging terrain
  • Very comfortable
  • Protective rubber toecap

Cons

  • Suede not as durable as leather or synthetic shoes

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX

The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX

Weight: 850g
Uppers: Synthetic/leather mix + Gore-Tex
For extremely wet situations, The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack GTX comes with guaranteed rust-free rivets and hardware and a Gore-Tex lining for waterproofing. The shoe has a narrower fit than most on the list and minimal cushion. For hikers that need to feel the terrain for stability, this can be a great selling point. Vibram-brand soles offer superb gripping ability, and together with their robust design makes this latest version of the Hedgehog excellently suited to year-round hiking.

Pros

  • Gore-Tex lining
  • Great grip
  • Rust-free rivets!

Cons

  • A bit on the narrow side

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


La Sportiva Primer Low GTX Hiking Sneaker Shoe

La Sportiva Primer Low GTX

Weight: 824g
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.

Pros

  • Gore-Tex lining
  • Gusseted tongue for good water protection
  • Moisture-wicking interior layer

Cons

  • A little pricey

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry


Salewa Wildfire S GTX Technical Approach Shoe

Salewa Men’s Wildfire S GTX

Weight: 890g
Uppers: Synthetic + Gore-Tex
If the idea of a custom fit appeals to you, consider Salewa Men’s Wildfire S GTX which promises a perfect fit every time. The footpad adjusts to you over the first few outings, providing a secure fit on the bottom. A special lacing system throughout the upper portion of the shoe allows you to customise the fit, creating a perfect fit – essential for preventing blisters on long hikes. Because the lacing system is more complicated than regular laces, however, be prepared to spend some time getting used to getting the shoe on and off. The upper portion is made of mesh, making them some of the most breathable hiking shoes on our list, as long as you are not hiking through sand which can make its way through the mesh and onto your socks and feet! But on solid ground, these beauties are a really excellent and durable option that may just be worth spending a little extra on. Another contender for the most comfortable hiking shoe award!

Pros

  • Customisable fit
  • Highly breathable
  • Gore-Tex lining

Cons

  • A little on the pricey side

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


Vasque Mantra 2.0 Gore-Tex Hiking Boot

Vasque Men’s Mantra 2.0 GTX

Weight: 1020g
Uppers: Leather + Gore-Tex
The Vasque Men’s Mantra 2.0 GTX are an extremely comfortable option if you have low arches. As the heaviest hiking shoe on our list, and with a higher than average cut at the ankle, the Mantra’s are an excellent choice for long distance hikers wanting the extra support. And if you’re a little nervous about making the transition from boots to shoes, these are an ideal stepping stone. With a Gore-Tex lining, leather upper and rubber soles, these robust hiking shoes are also a great choice for hiking in wintery conditions.

Pros

  • Gore-Tex lining
  • High cut for excellent ankle support
  • Robust and durable

Cons

  • Heavy for a hiking shoe

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R GTX

Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R GTX

Weight: 737g
Uppers: Synthetic + Gore-Tex
If you want something with more cushion, the Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R GTX is a superb option. 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. They lack the robustness offered by the Salomons, but their price tag is much more appealing for such a lightweight Gore-Tex hiking shoe. They are amongst the lightest hiking shoes on our list (together with the Salomons and Merrells), and they offer superb value for fast and light hikers looking to stay quick on their feet in all but the trickiest terrain.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Gore-Tex lining
  • Great value

Cons

  • Not as robust as other options

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | REI | Backcountry


Oboz Sawtooth hiking shoes

Oboz Sawtooth Low Bdry Hiking Shoe

Weight: 884g
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!

Find the latest price on:
Amazon

Pros

  • Good arch support
  • Available in wide
  • Great grip
  • Bdry waterproof membrane

Cons

  • Pricey

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?!

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