HITTING THE TRAIL
The right hiking boots can make the difference between a walk in the park and a torturous slog. For consumers on a budget, there are low-cut hiking shoes and light hiking boots designed for easy to moderate terrain. Cheapism.com's research into the best hiking boots under $100 unearthed top picks for men and women that are highly rated by expert and consumer reviewers. They provide plenty of comfort, stability, and traction on the trail, and most are waterproof to protect from rain, puddles, and snow. This list also includes options that are a bit more expensive but specially designed for trail running, for backpacking, or with Gore-Tex lining.
HI-TEC ALTITUDE LITE I
- A lighter alternative to all-leather boots.
- Comfortable out of the box.
- Waterproofing works well and sweat evaporates quickly.
- Widely spaced, multi-directional lugs provide stable footing even in mud.
- Durability may be lacking; reviews mention problems with lace hooks and loose soles.
- Outsole provides limited protection against sharp rocks on the trail.
- Flat footbed; seasoned hikers recommend replacing the insole from the get-go.
Takeaway: The Hi-Tec Altitude Lite I boots work very well for day hikes with a light pack that are not too onerous, although slippery, rocky terrain might be beyond the limits of their ability. There is also a kids' version (starting at $30).
KEEN TARGHEE II
- Waterproof for poor weather, yet breathable enough to dry quickly.
- Nubuck leather upper.
- Very comfortable with very little break-in time, according to reviews.
- Good arch support.
- 4-millimeter, multi-directional lugs on the bottom.
- Wide toe box and outsoles that wrap up the front of the shoes prevent stubbed toes.
- Run a bit small -- reviewers suggest ordering the next size up.
- Slippery on ice.
- Some complaints about durability.
- Tongue digs in on descents when laced tightly.
Takeaway: The much-admired Keen Targhee II hiking shoes are hefty, with large, well-designed lugs and outsoles tough enough for very uneven or rocky terrain. Reviewers say they strike a perfect balance between light weight and ruggedness. They're particularly favored by wearers with wide feet.
COLUMBIA NEWTON RIDGE PLUS II
Best Hiking Boots Under $100
Price: Starting at $60 | Buy them from Columbia
- Relatively lightweight for leather boots, at about 1 pound each.
- Waterproofing works well in rain and snow.
- Comfortable after a short breaking-in period.
- Good arch support.
- No women's version.
- Too narrow for many buyers' feet.
Takeaway: Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II boots are comfortable yet sturdy on most kinds of terrain, even in rugged or wet conditions. Hikers are particularly pleased with the quality of the waterproofing from the polyurethane-coated leather and Omni-Tech membrane, although some complain that it makes their feet sweat.
MERRELL MOAB 2 VENTILATOR
- Comfortable out of the box.
- Highly breathable, with antimicrobial lining.
- Available in a wide version.
- 5-millimeter lugs provide good traction on uneven terrain.
- Versatile; many consumers wear them on the job, while doing yard work, or as everyday shoes.
- Only five eyelets; the previous version had six.
- May not be sturdy enough for backpacking.
- Lugs wear down quickly on pavement.
Takeaway: The Merrell Moab 2 succeeds the phenomenally popular Moab line of shoes and boots. Like its predecessor, the new Ventilator shoe delivers exceptional breathability and comfort at a low price. A Mid version with ankle support generally costs $10 more. Both are designed primarily for light hiking in hot, dry weather. Waterproof Moab 2 models are more expensive but also highly regarded.
UNDER ARMOUR VERGE MID GTX
Best Cheap Gore-Tex Hiking Boots
Price: Starting at $128 | Buy them from Under Armour
- Brand-name Gore-Tex waterproof membrane.
- Michelin rubber sole with aggressive lugs for great traction and stability.
- Lightweight, at about 13 ounces per shoe.
- Molded collar provides a lot of ankle support.
- 2016 "Outdoor Gear of the Year" award from Outside magazine.
- Waterproof membrane makes a crunching sound.
- Boots run a bit narrow.
- Some reviewers question the durability.
Takeaway: Under Armour Verge Mid GTX boots have a distinctive look. They feature a very pliable mesh upper and weigh very little for mid-cut hiking boots, yet the sole provides enough stability on just about anything but jagged rocks.
SALOMON X ULTRA 2 GTX
- Very short breaking-in period.
- Gore-Tex keeps feet dry.
- Nicely cushioned midsoles minimize fatigue after long day hikes.
- Aggressive lugs on the bottom ensure good traction.
- Waterproof membrane can make feet hot.
Takeaway: Rated very highly by the likes of Outdoor Gear Lab, Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX shoes are so comfortable that many adherents wear them for more than just hiking. The unconventional Quicklace system, with one continuous cord that pulls tightly, is a bone of contention -- some people love it and some hate it; there doesn't seem to be much in between.
SAUCONY PEREGRINE 7
- Extremely lightweight, at only 9.4 ounces per shoe.
- Padded collar (around the ankle) adds a lot of protection to resist rolling.
- Aggressive lugs on the bottom make these trail runners adequate for rocky and root-bound trails.
- Roomy toe box.
- Quite stiff out of the box, although they break in quickly.
- So well-cushioned, it's hard for minimalists to feel the trail.
- Heel can slip a bit on ascents.
- Not designed for rugged or off-trail hikes.
Takeaway: Serious trail runners have deemed the Saucony Peregrine 7 excellent in the areas that matter most: comfort, traction, protection, and weight. Reviewers say these trail running shoes make great hiking shoes, as well; firm cushioning makes them comfortable for wearing all day.
OBOZ BRIDGER MID
- All-nubuck-leather uppers.
- BFit Deluxe insole and dual-density EVA cushioning are supportive enough that wearers don't feel the need to buy aftermarket insoles.
- Waterproofing really works, according to reviews.
- Boots stand up to tough conditions and hold up for hundreds of miles.
- Small company is responsive to customer complaints and plants a tree for every pair sold.
- Boots take time to break in.
- Some reports of lugs wearing through or breaking off.
- Relatively heavy, at 1 pound, 3 ounces per men's shoe
Takeaway: Extolled by Backpacker magazine and other expert testers, the Oboz Bridger Mid is designed for multi-day trips with a pack up to 50 pounds. It's constructed like an old-fashioned hiking boot, with hefty ankle support; it's not meant for wearing at work or out for a walk. The aggressive lugs suit rough terrain.