Merrell Moab Ventilator Review

(From $75.00 Best)

Designed primarily for light hiking in hot weather, the Merrell Moab Ventilator has been recognized for exceptional breathability and comfort with a low price tag. These lightweight hiking shoes come in men's and women's versions and are solidly built from top to bottom. They feature a leather and mesh upper, antimicrobial lining, a compression-molded midsole for support and balance, and thick lugs for traction.

Merrell Moab Ventilator reviews call these hiking shoes comfortable and very breathable, with good arch support and plenty of room in the toe box. Ratings on Amazon, where more than 2,400 customers have weighed in on the men's and women's versions combined, average nearly perfect for both. Editors at Outdoor Gear Lab designated the women's shoe a best buy, saying they came across no better value than this cushy, well-ventilated shoe. Reviews at Backcountry.com include one from a fan who is on her third pair. She found them comfortable enough to wear on Rocky Mountain hikes of 13 miles a day even after bunion surgery.

Many reviewers warn prospective buyers not to expect this shoe to be waterproof. It's easy to confuse the Moab Ventilator for the Moab Waterproof, which retails for $20 more, or the Moab Gore-Tex, a $40 upgrade. Reviews on the company's website suggest the Moab Waterproof fails to live up to its name, so consumers in search of a truly waterproof Moab boot may want to spring for the brand-name Gore-Tex lining.

The Merrell Moab Ventilator (starting at $75, Amazon) may not be waterproof, but the highly breathable mesh upper helps the shoes dry out quickly and keeps feet from getting hot and sweaty, which can make them prone to blisters. The low-cut shoe is designed for light hiking; a mid-cut version starts at $100. A compression-molded EVA insole provides cushioning and 5mm lugs, or treads, on the outsole help hikers keep their footing on tough terrain.

Hard-core hikers may want a waterproof boot for cold, wet conditions, but the Merrell Moab Ventilator is ideal for warm weather. Fans cite the superb breathability, light weight, and comfortable fit as major selling points.

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Salomon Synapse Review

(From $60.00 Good)

These are the best cheap option we found for fast hiking and light trail running for both men and women. These hiking shoes have a specially shaped foot bed that lets wearers roll through their natural stride for miles and miles without discomfort. Numerous users crow that the lightweight, straight-out-of-the-box comfort doesn't hold them back. Many also report exceptional support and traction on rough terrain.

Fast hikers and trail runners who have posted Salomon Synapse reviews on Amazon truly appreciate the brand's focus on speeding up their journeys. Reviewers say the roomy toe box keeps their feet from feeling squished, while the traction and cushiony foot beds help them comfortably and quickly traverse rough terrain. One review on Backcountry.com comes from a hiker who calls himself a larger guy. He raves about how supportive the shoes are, offering stiffness where he needs it and flexibility elsewhere. He also attests to their durability, noting that they show minimal wear after a year of frequent use.

The Salomon Synapse (starting at $60, Amazon) is a low-cut shoe that is not waterproof but is constructed with breathable materials that allow feet to dry quickly. The outsole has multi-directional lugs for superior traction and molded EVA foot beds to provide anatomically shaped support and cushioning. These shoes also have a relatively high heel drop, which means the midsole is angled toward the toe to create natural forward movement and prompt wearers to move faster on the trail. No less than the hiker who holds the record for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail chose these boots for her trek. She praises their flexibility, durability, and comfort in an interview with Backpacker magazine.

The Salomon Synapse is truly designed for trailblazers, with a specialized shape and breathable materials that won't weigh wearers down. Salomon Synapse reviews often quote the "Run your Hike" tagline the brand has attached to the product. If you're so inclined, this shoe is uniquely suited and eminently well-priced.

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Keen Alamosa WP Review

(From $72.00 Good)

Reviewers marvel at how lightweight and waterproof these hiking shoes are for the price. They're made for both men and women with a combination of water- and abrasion-resistant nubuck leather and a breathable waterproof lining. Wearers say they keep feet dry and comfortable no matter what the elements.

Keen Alamosa WP reviews at Backcountry.com laud the comfort and support of these budget hiking shoes, even on longer hikes through wet, rocky terrain. In a comparison of women's hiking shoes, testers at Outdoor Gear Lab noted that this was one of the lightest hiking shoes they evaluated, yet it still delivered excellent support and durable construction. According to reviews posted at REI, the shoe's waterproof membrane proves very effective. One customer reports that it has kept her feet dry on many a multi-day hike, including one through rain, mud, and even a few streams in a rainforest.

Keen Alamosa WP reviews on almost every site note that these shoes fit a bit narrow, so buyers may want to order a size up. Some have found that the boots loosen up after a short break-in period. The Keen Alamosa WP (starting at $72, Amazon) is available for both genders and designed for light hiking. It's a low-cut boot with an upper made from nubuck leather, which resembles suede, and textile in addition to the breathable waterproof membrane. On the inside the shoe has compression-molded EVA foot beds and on the outside it boasts 4mm multi-directional lugs, which afford superb traction.

Waterproof boots are relatively rare in the budget price range, and even then many are waterproof in name only. Reviewers affirm that these hiking shoes keep feet dry. That, combined with their lightweight yet supportive construction, convinces us that the Keen Alamosa WPs are well worth a try.

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L.L. Bean Trail Model Hikers Review

(From $90.00 Good)

Bean's Waterproof Trail Model Hikers for men and Trail Model Hikers II for women also come in cheaper low-cut versions, but it's the mid-cut boots that most impress us with their value. Comfort and durability are also big draws for the boots' enthusiastic fans. These hiking boots feature a breathable waterproof membrane and reflective trim for safety.

In hundreds of Trail Model Hikers reviews on the L.L. Bean website, customers assert that the men's boots are comfortable, lightweight, and durable. Buyers of the women's version add that the boots maintain a sure grip on all terrain types, including rock and snowdrifts. The ladies' L.L. Bean boots also earn a nod from testers at Good Housekeeping, who evaluated eight hiking boots and deemed these the most supportive. A review by Backpacker magazine names the boots an editors' choice and focuses on their value: Most other waterproof, mid-cut hiking boots sell for well over $100.

The uppers are made with a combination of suede and fabric and designed to be breathable as well as waterproof. The gussets that connect the tongue to the upper help keep water from getting inside. These hiking boots have a cushioned EVA midsole and a removable foot bed, so you can swap it out for a better insole if you prefer. They also feature a versatile lug pattern for traction and reflective trim for safety.

Bean's Trail Model Hikers (starting at $90) are a relatively rare breed in the budget price range: a waterproof, mid-cut hiking boot. And yet, they don't seem to compromise performance for affordability. They protect and support the ankles a bit more than the low-cut hiking boots on our list, which comes in handy if you're carrying a heavy pack or navigating uneven terrain.

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Nevados Hiking Boots Review

(From $40.00 Think Twice)

Many Nevados hiking shoes and boots are half the price of others we researched, but they garner mixed reviews at best. Users record complaints ranging from poor fit no matter what size they try to insoles and outsoles that wear out fast. Reviews also mention that these might be fine for everyday but too heavy for hiking.

A few common threads run through Nevados hiking boots reviews online. One of the most prominent is an apparent lack of cushioning and shock absorption in the soles. On Sears.com, a reviewer commenting on the men's Boomerang Lo (starting at $40, Amazon) gripes that wearing these hiking shoes is no better than walking barefoot. The same complaint is voiced in Nevados hiking boots reviews on Amazon, where customers complain they can feel every little pebble beneath their feet. The outsoles also don't appear very durable. Several reviewers report that the tread on the men's Boomerang Lo has worn down within weeks. Nevados hiking boots do seem to have served buyers well as everyday shoes, particularly in the winter.

Nevados makes low-cut hiking shoes and mid-cut boots for men and women that start at about half the price of our top picks, making them an appealing option for consumers shopping on price alone. Most of these inexpensive shoes have suede uppers and incorporate less breathable mesh fabric than our recommended boots, which are notably lightweight and breathable. Other than that, a lack of detail in the descriptions of most Nevados hiking boots raises skepticism about the brand. The company offers few specifics about the materials it uses.

Nevados hiking boot reviews suggest some inconsistency in the fit; a lot of the negative feedback online centers on sizing. In general it seems that consumers who spend a bit more money can count on a more comfortable, durable shoe and still stay within a $100 budget.

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Buying Guide

Perhaps the most essential piece of equipment for getting up close and personal with the great outdoors is the right footwear. Few things will do more to dampen the pleasure of a hike than bad boots. Fortunately for hikers on a budget, the best cheap hiking boots provide the support and protection to make a peaceful stroll or vigorous trek enjoyable and rewarding. There's no one dominant brand in cheap hiking boots, but some of the better-known names include Merrell, Keen, Columbia, L.L. Bean, and The North Face. We compared footwear from these and other brands, looking for several important features and favorable reviews from consumers and experts.

Cheap Hiking Boots Buying Guide

The best cheap hiking boot we found was the Merrell Moab Ventilator (starting at $75), which reviewers widely consider comfortable, supportive, and lightweight. It features a breathable mesh upper for ventilation, making it ideal for summer hikes and generally hot climates. Two other top hiking shoes for consumers on a budget are the Keen Alamosa WP (starting at $72) and the Salomon Synapse (starting at $60). The latter is designed for fast hiking and light trail running, with special heel cushioning, a protective toecap, and a unique shape that allows the foot to roll through each stride. The Keen Alamosa WP is waterproof yet breathable and features multi-directional lugs, or treads, for superior traction.

The terms hiking boots and hiking shoes are often used interchangeably, and for the purposes of this buying guide, we're bowing to common usage and employing "hiking boots" generically. Technically, though, most of our picks -- and most pairs under $100 -- are hiking shoes, a.k.a. light hiking boots. They are best suited for day hikes on easy to moderate terrain, when you're planning to carry only a light bag or backpack. Top hiking shoes generally have the advantage of being lightweight, making them an increasingly popular alternative to heavy hiking boots. Many are also highly breathable, but the tradeoff is they may not be waterproof.

Between $100 and $200 you'll find traditional hiking boots, which tend to be sturdier than hiking shoes and come up higher around the ankle to increase stability. They're designed for steeper inclines, rockier terrain, and muddier paths. They're also built to wear on consecutive days during hikes of up to a week. While the good ones typically fall outside our range, we did find one pair of mid-cut boots worth recommending: L.L. Bean's Waterproof Trail Model Hikers (starting at $90). It's also worth shopping around online, as prices can vary drastically. For example, the very well reviewed Keen Targhee II Mid carries a retail price of $130, but certain sizes and colors start as low as $50 on Amazon. Nevados makes quite a few cheap hiking boots, such as the Boomerang II (starting at $40), and some reviewers find them just fine for the price. However, many seem to have bought them for everyday wear, rather than hiking, and we saw a pattern of complaints about poor quality, paper-thin soles, and waterproofing that doesn't work, leading us to question value of the brand as a whole.

At the top end of the market, you'll find expensive off-trail or mountaineering boots. These are designed for more experienced hikers who plan to tackle extreme terrain for days at a time, perhaps in freezing weather, while carrying a heavy backpack. Such rugged boots lie far outside the Cheapism niche.

All the cheap hiking boots we recommend are available for both men and women. As you shop, be on the lookout for several essential features. Experts say a top hiking shoe should have a supportive midsole that cushions the foot and helps keep it from flattening out under the weight of a backpack. The best cheap hiking boots are lightweight and highly breathable or moisture resistant, if not waterproof, because moisture inside the shoe can cause blisters. Traction comes in the form of lugs on the bottom of the boot, a.k.a. the outsole, and provides stable and secure footing, particularly in slippery and rough conditions.

Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table

Hiking Boots Reviews

Consumers and outdoor gear experts are enthusiastic about the quality and overall performance of our choices for the best cheap hiking shoes and boots. Our picks more than hold their own when it comes to comfort, support, moisture resistance, and traction, according to hiking boots reviews.

Fit and Comfort.

Experts agree: Don't compromise comfort for a cheap price on hiking shoes. According to gear specialists at the outdoor store REI, fit is the single most important factor here. If a boot doesn't fit correctly, it won't be comfortable for even the shortest hikes. Because every foot is different, a boot that fits one hiker well may give another blisters. Ideally you should try on and walk around in as many pairs as it takes to land on the best cheap hiking shoes for you, although many boot brands and retailers offer sizing tips on their websites. Keen, for example, suggests that shoppers should order a half size bigger than they normally would in the Targhee II Mid (starting at $50 for a limited selection of colors and sizes) and REI notes that Keen boots typically suit people with wide feet. Many consumers who have posted hiking boots reviews on Altrec.com found the Targhee II Mid comfortable straight out of the box. Both men and women note the roomy toe.

In hiking boots reviews on Backcountry.com, consumers report that our pick for the best cheap hiking shoe, the Merrell Moab Ventilator (starting at $72), likewise requires zero breaking in. Several women with foot issues ranging from bunions to flat feet say they've tried numerous hiking shoes and found these the most comfortable. Reviewers on Amazon report the same level of comfort in the men's version, saying they sustain hours of wear with superior arch support and ventilation.

Hiking boot reviews posted on the L.L. Bean website say the men's mid-cut Waterproof Trail Model Hikers (starting at $90) provide superior support and a perfect fit right from the get-go. Many appreciate that they come in wide (EE) sizes, although some still find them too narrow. Reviews of the women's version are similarly positive overall, although some customers recommend buying a size up and allowing time to break the boots in before an actual hike. A few hiking boot reviews on Backcountry.com report that the men's Keen Alamosa WP (starting at $72) may also need some breaking in but loosens up after a hike or two and turns out to be very comfortable. The retailer recommends trying a half size larger than usual. According to reviews like this one on Amazon, the women's Salomon Synapse (starting at $60) is instantly comfortable and lacks the stiffness that often characterizes cheap hiking footwear. There's also plenty of room for the toes.

Insole/Midsole and Support.

Ankle and arch support is essential out on the trail -- the cost of twisting an ankle or stressing your muscles can be severe pain and significant inconvenience. The midsole, foot bed, or insole of the shoe, where the bottom of your foot rests, helps even out weight and keep you steady. Its shape should mirror the shape of your foot to ensure balance and stability. All the best cheap hiking shoes on our list feature compression-molded EVA midsoles. EVA, or ethylene vinyl acetate, is known for being light and cushy. On some hiking boots the insole comes out, and many consumer reviewers choose to replace it with one that better suits their feet or offers more support.

Reviewers on Altrec.com report that the women's Merrell Moab Ventilator provides excellent cushioning, arch support, and stability on rough hikes. As for the men's version, one consumer who posted a review on Backcountry.com appreciates that these hiking shoes offer good support and enough motion control to prevent his tendency to overpronate. Both Keen shoes we researched garner positive reviews for their excellent support. One consumer commenting on the Keen Targhee II Mid at Gander Mountain applauds the women's boots for providing superb arch support eight hours a day for three months straight over 1,400 miles. The Salomon Synapse receives high praise for support from several wearers commenting on Backcountry.com. One reviewer who says he stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 200 pounds has found that this shoe provides an ideal combination of support and flexibility for walking, hiking, and light trail running. The midsole is designed specifically for the latter, with a higher heel drop that slopes toward the toe. The mid-cut L.L. Bean Waterproof Trail Model Hikers II earn a nod of approval from Good Housekeeping, which tested eight women's boots and found these the most supportive.

Most reviewers commenting on the men's Nevados Boomerang Lo (starting at $40) on Amazon find the boot comfortable at first, but some report that the sole is flimsy and wears out fast. One buyer says you might as well be wearing rubber flip-flops, for all the support and shock absorption these boots provide. Other Nevados brand shoes receive similarly harsh criticism in hiking boots reviews.

Waterproof Hiking Boots

Moisture Resistance and Breathability.

Whether water leaks in from the outside or sweat builds up on the inside, moisture can spoil a hike. It degrades shoes, irritates feet, and causes painful blisters. Experts recommend looking for a combination of fabric mesh, to let the interior of your boots "breathe," and leather, for durability and protection from water and debris. Hiking boots that incorporate a waterproof lining may be the most effective at shielding feet from rain and puddles, but such membranes aren't as breathable as ventilating mesh, especially on low-end boots, so they may leave feet hot and sweaty. Even if you opt for waterproof hiking boots, experts suggest treating the leather with a waterproofing spray, cream, or oil. This is intended not to bolster the water resistance but to help preserve the leather, so the boots last longer. Check with the vendor to see if the boots you choose can take this treatment. Another piece of advice: Wear socks that wick away moisture. Prices for these accessories start at about $10 a pair, but some hikers allege they make all the difference.

The light hiking boots we researched deal with the moisture issue in a variety of ways. Our top choice, the Merrell Moab Ventilator, is not a waterproof hiking shoe, but many reviewers have found that it effectively deals with moisture. Outdoor Gear Lab, which named the women's version a best buy, explains that even waterproof hiking boots don't always keep water out, so many hikers prefer a shoe that's exceptionally breathable and will dry quickly if it gets wet, rather than trapping moisture inside. The leather and mesh upper on the Merrell Moab Ventilator is reportedly so breathable that it feels like open-window ventilation. In general this shoe works best for warm climates and summer hikes on sunny days. Hikers accustomed to cold, wet weather should consider other options. The Keen Alamosa WP, for instance, is a waterproof hiking shoe constructed from durable, water-resistant nubuck leather (a suede-like material) and fabric, combined with a breathable waterproof membrane. User reviews on Zappos laud the Alamosa WP for remaining waterproof all day in pouring rain, yet still managing to let feet breathe -- a feat not all cheap waterproof hiking shoes can pull off. The Keen Targhee II Mid waterproof hiking boots have a similar composition.

The L.L. Bean Waterproof Trail Model Hikers II have received an editors' choice award from Backpacker magazine, where testers express surprise that budget boots can so reliably keep feet dry. They chalk this up to the combination of a waterproof/breathable lining and well-designed tongue gussets. The Salomon Synapse is not a waterproof or even water-resistant hiking shoe, but it's constructed from breathable materials designed to whisk moisture away from the foot and allow for quick drying. A blogger at Utah Outside vouches for the breathability and points out that the design suits the state's dry climate. In wetter weather, he says, the solution is simple: an extra pair of socks.

Light Hiking Boots.

When shopping for a pair of hiking boots, pay attention to how heavy they are. The conventional wisdom is that one pound on your feet feels like five pounds on your back, so generally lighter hiking boots are better. L.L. Bean reminds customers that today's technology can provide a solid foundation with a much lighter weight. The heavy metal shanks in hiking boots of yore have been retired without sacrificing any support.

The exact weight of each shoe typically isn't listed and varies by size and gender, so we relied on reviews to point us toward lightweight hiking boots. Take the Keen Alamosa WP for example. Experts at Outdoor Gear Lab weighed a women's size 8 at 1.59 pounds, lighter than all but two shoes they've tested and just shy of our top pick, the Merrell Moab Ventilator, at 1.62 pounds. Several reviewers posting on REI report that the Merrells are light enough to wear all day without making feet feel weighed down. In reviews of the Salomon Synapse on Backcountry.com, consumers say they feel like they are walking on a cloud in these light hiking shoes.

Hiking shoes by nature tend to weigh less than higher-cut boots. A heavier boot may actually be a higher caliber boot able to accommodate more than just a day hike with a light backpack. That's not to say there aren't light hiking boots out there. Numerous reviews on Amazon note that Keen Targhee II Mid is plenty light enough for all-day wear.

Outsole and Traction.

Traction in hiking boots comes from the lugs, or treads, that are molded into the outsole of the shoe to help secure your footing. Lugs work on solid, slippery surfaces by concentrating downward pressure on fewer contact points and on softer ground by digging in and coming into contact with more surface area at different angles. The Keen Alamosa WP features 4mm lugs in a multi-directional pattern, while the Merrell Moab Ventilator boasts 5mm lugs. The description for the Salomon Synapse doesn't include a lug size, but reviews including this one on Amazon report that the outsole grips rocky terrain as well as soft, slippery areas. Many reviews of Bean's Waterproof Trail Model Hikers II on the L.L. Bean website laud the traction of the women's mid-cut boots even on steep inclines such as Grand Canyon trails. Any traction on Nevados boots such as the Boomerang II seems to have a tendency to wear down quickly, judging by reviews on Amazon. One buyer estimates the boots lasted him no more than 10 miles before the outsole was rendered useless.

Additional Products We Considered

Keen Targhee II Mid Review

(From $71.00 )

A too-high price for most sizes and colors kept the Keen Targhee II Mid from making our list of the best cheap boots, but if you find this one at a discount, it's worth jumping on. Light hikers and serious backpackers alike have posted favorable Keen Targhee II reviews on Amazon. They've found the mid-cut boots comfortable right out of the box, with ample arch and ankle support. Reviews on Altrec.com echo the comments about comfort and also report zero problems with moisture leaking in through these waterproof boots, even in extreme elements such as deep snow and pouring rain. The boots are also said to wick moisture away on the inside to keep feet comfortable and blister-free. Hiking boots reviews at Gander Mountain offer further confirmation of the boots' support and comfort, as well as their traction and light weight.

The Keen Targhee II Mid (starting at $71, Amazon) comes in both men's and women's versions and is also available in a slightly cheaper low-cut style. The upper is constructed mainly of nubuck leather, with a breathable waterproof membrane. A compression-molded midsole made with ethylene vinyl acetate, or EVA, cushions the foot, while 4 mm multi-directional lugs, or treads, help users keep their footing on all types of terrain.

Frugal hikers looking for a top-performing boot at a relatively low cost should keep an eye out for a deal on the Keen Targhee II Mid. The additional protection and stability of the mid-cut design and the waterproof yet breathable construction help this boot stand out from the low-cost crowd.

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