The Best Cheap Hiking Boots and Shoes
Hiking boots have three jobs: to support your feet, to provide traction on a variety of surfaces, and to guard against foot-level hazards like sharp rocks, tree roots, and cactus spines. (Ouch!) In this report, we've focused on hiking boots that sell for $150 or less — sometimes under $100 on sale — plus hiking and trail-running shoes for people who prefer light footwear or want to run or jog those mountain trails instead of hiking them.
Our exploration of cheap hiking boots and shoes took us from professional reviews on retail sites to posts in online forums to reliable sources such as Outdoor Gear Lab, Switchback Travel, and Wirecutter, which put hiking footwear to the test. We also relied heavily on user reviews, especially for cheaper boots and shoes that pros typically omit from their tests.
If you do a lot of hiking in wet environments, waterproof boots or shoes can be a blessing. But once they get wet inside, the waterproofing keeps water in — and moisture inside shoes is a major contributing factor for blisters. If your feet get sweaty or blister easily, or if you go hiking in hot climates, consider non-waterproof boots designed to dry quickly. These have the added advantage of costing $10 to $50 less than waterproof versions.
It's essential to try footwear like this before you buy to get the best fit, ideally while wearing the same kind of socks you would during a hike. Sizing is less obvious than you'd think. Women's feet tend to be wider at the toe and calf and narrower at the heel than men's. An increasing number of boot manufacturers are creating women's models specifically with that in mind. Our picks come in separate versions for men and women, but it's common for men to find the best fit in women's boots, or vice versa. Don't be shy about trying on boots labeled for either gender.
Note: Prices and availability can vary drastically; it's worth shopping around online. Also, hiking boots tend to differ from year to year only in color scheme, so keep an eye out for discounts on last year's models.
Our Top Pick
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid Aero Review
- Deep lugs for great traction on dirt, mud, and snow.
- Running-shoe-style agility with boot-like support and stability.
- Rubber toe caps provide good protection, reviewers say.
- Waterproof and non-waterproof versions available.
- One-pull Quicklace system requires occasional readjustment, some wearers complain.
- Not available in wide sizes.
Takeaway: The Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid Aero is a mid-height hiking boot that is light and flexible like a trail-running shoe but has a higher collar to help support and protect your ankles on long hikes over rugged ground. Owners say these Salomon hiking boots are plenty comfortable on the first wearing and don't require any break-in time. The nubby soles are grippy on nearly any surface, whether you're heading uphill or down, and less prone to wear than others, according to testers at Switchback Travel. The Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid is also available in a pricier waterproof version, the GTX, that comes in normal and wide sizes. That model receives some serious kudos from consumers and pros alike, including an Editors' Choice award from Outdoor Gear Lab.
Keen Targhee III Waterproof Mid Review
- Multi-directional lugs on the sole provide good traction on mud, grass, and rocks.
- Waterproof membrane keeps feet dry in puddles or shallow streams.
- Available in wide sizes.
- Some quality-control complaints.
- Nubuck upper may be too flexible for people who prefer a stiffer boot.
- Outer waterproofing may need to be reapplied over time.
Takeaway: Keen's Targhee line of mid-cut boots has long been beloved of price-conscious hikers, and popular with both women and men. Reviewers say the sole on the latest version, the Targhee III, feels more sensitive than its predecessors. The improved ground feel disappoints some longtime users, who say they can feel every rock and twig underfoot, but most love the out-of-the-box comfort and responsive feel. These Keen hiking boots are also popular with buyers who have trouble finding shoes that fit well, particularly those with wide feet, high arches, bunions, and the like. On the downside, a small percentage of reviewers say the soles started separating or the stitching unraveled within just a few months of purchase. Other users say that, while comfortable, the Targhee III might not be supportive enough for long trips with a heavy pack. An Outdoor Gear Lab review points out that you may need to re-oil the nubuck outer to keep it truly watertight, but the waterproofing is effective at keeping feet dry.
Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator Mid Review
- Grippy Vibram soles feel responsive on most surfaces.
- Mesh upper keeps feet cool in hot weather.
- Wide sizes available.
- Waterproof and non-waterproof models available.
- May not be supportive enough for all-day hikes.
- Wear out quickly, some owners say.
Takeaway: Many users say Merrell Moab 2 Ventilator boots feel as comfortable as tennis shoes, but with better ankle support (they're also available as an even cheaper low-rise shoe). Although they're not waterproof, these Merrell hiking boots drain and dry quickly if they get wet, and they're wonderfully breathable in warm weather. If you hike regularly in very wet or muddy areas, however, reviewers recommend the slightly pricier waterproof version instead; that model is named a best budget pick by Wirecutter and Switchback Travel. Although the traction is generally good, we saw a couple of complaints that these boots slipped on smooth, slick surfaces like cement or metal grates. We also found occasional gripes about durability — some reviewers say their boots lasted less than a year. Still, multiple reviewers say they've purchased this model for years and particularly recommend it for people who have wide feet.
Adidas Terrex Swift R2 GTX Review
- Gore-Tex liner breathes, yet keeps feet dry under most conditions.
- Sufficiently stiff and supportive for multi-day hikes, according to reviews.
- Continental rubber sole provides great traction on slippery surfaces.
- Versatile enough to wear to the gym or to work, reviewers say.
- Short break-in period required, some owners say.
- Speed laces are polarizing; people either love or hate them.
- Wide sizes not available.
Takeaway: The Adidas Outdoor Terrex Swift R2 GTX is, at its heart, a hiking boot in shoe form. Although you don't get any ankle support from the low-rise collar, the sturdy board (the base material beneath the insole) provides enough support underfoot that some reviewers feel comfortable taking this shoe out for multi-day backpacking trips. That stiffness means the shoes often need a bit of a break-in period before they're ready for that epic hike. But it also means that, once they're broken in, you won't feel every rock, root, and crevice on the trail, resulting in less leg fatigue as the miles add up. Reviewers say these Adidas hiking shoes also offer superb traction on slippery surfaces. They have a speed-lacing system, which draws mixed reviews, and a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex liner, a feature typically confined to more expensive shoes.
Hi-Tec V-Lite Wild-Fire Mid I Waterproof Review
- OrthoLite insole provides exceptional comfort, reviewers say.
- Waterproof yet breathable construction.
- Very low price.
- Laces can wear through fabric eyelets, some users report.
- Stiff around the ankle, according to some reviews; may require breaking in.
Takeaway: If you all you want is a boot for an occasional hike, or for walking to work no matter the weather, the Hi-Tec V-Lite Wild-Fire Mid I Waterproof offers an awful lot of bang for your buck. These boots come with waterproof technology and an OrthoLite insole that molds to your feet for a "custom" fit. Most reviewers say they're comfortable to wear — after some breaking in. Out of the box, they're a bit stiff around the ankle, although some wearers appreciate that support. As with other cheap hiking boots, the materials aren't especially durable, and we read a few complaints from owners who say the laces eventually wore through the eyelets. Also note: Reviewers warn that these Hi-Tec hiking boots run small.
Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX Review
- Nicely cushioned midsoles minimize fatigue after long day hikes.
- Aggressive lugs on the bottom ensure good traction on a variety of surfaces.
- Exceptionally effective waterproofing, according to reviewers.
- Not everybody likes the Quicklace system.
- Some wearers say their feet get hot on longer hikes.
- Wide sizes not available.
Takeaway: The Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX is essentially a trail runner with a little extra support underfoot and a somewhat stiff upper, providing a little more structure without compromising the shoe's nimble, agile feel. Outdoor Gear Lab names the Salomon X Ultra 3 Low GTX a top hiking shoe for women and men and gives particular praise to its fabulous traction on every surface. The Gore-Tex waterproofing stands up to wet grass, puddles, and streams. We saw a few complaints about durability, with some users reporting tears in the upper where the forefoot flexes. Some reviewers say sizing tends to run a bit on the snug side, which could be a problem for people with wider feet. These shoes have Salomon's trademark Quicklace system, which can take a little getting used to; some reviewers pan it while others prefer it to traditional laces.
Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat Review
- Michelin rubber sole with aggressive lugs for great traction on ice and snow.
- Insulated and rated to -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Feet stay warm and dry in most any conditions.
- High collar provides excellent ankle support.
- Relatively heavy (3 pounds) for a boot of this style.
- Chunky design isn't to everyone's taste.
- Wide sizes not available.
Takeaway: Columbia has an impressive line of warm winter boots to choose from at reasonable prices, but our favorite is the Columbia Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat. This proven performer can stand up to anything you throw at it, reviewers say, from slogging through city snowdrifts and slush puddles to hardcore winter hikes. With an Omni-Heat liner (which reflects body heat back to you) and relatively thick insulation, this boot is rated for use in temperatures down to -25 degrees Fahrenheit. Outdoor Gear Lab praises its stellar traction on icy surfaces. The relatively high cut also provides good ankle support, although reviewers note that the footbed isn't particularly well padded or supportive (inserts can fix that). At 3 pounds for a typical men's pair, these Columbia hiking boots are relatively heavy, and they could be overkill for mild weather. We saw some feedback indicating that they might run about a half-size small, something to consider especially if you need extra room for thick socks. You can find these hiking boots for under $100 in some sizes and colors.
Merrell Chameleon 7 Mid A/C Waterproof Review
Est. Price: $55 | Buy them on Amazon
- Bungee lacing and hook-and-loop strap closure stay securely fastened.
- High collar is supportive yet comfortable, according to parents.
- Waterproofing keeps feet dry under most conditions.
- Too stiff for some kids.
- A few reviewers had difficulty finding a good fit.
Takeaway: Hiking boots for kids must provide solid footing and protect the child's feet. Parents say the Merrell Chameleon 7 Mid A/C Waterproof does the job well, thanks to good traction and sturdy, supportive construction. A few say the boots are too stiff, but most appreciate that sturdiness underfoot. The "A/C" designator marks the boots as having an "alternative closure," in the form of a hook-and-loop strap, which is a lot easier for small kids to do up by themselves. Reviewers who comment on this feature say it works effectively, no small feat for kids' shoes. Finding shoes that fit today and tomorrow is a common challenge for parents, and feedback indicates these may not. We also spotted a few sour comments from buyers who say these Merrell hiking boots weren't sufficiently waterproof to keep their kids' feet dry. Just don't expect them to behave like rubber boots.
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