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Updated June 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best women’s hiking shoes

Hiking is a wonderful way to explore your surroundings while getting some exercise. For women who are new (or not so new) to this hobby, sturdy women’s hiking shoes are essential. The right hiking shoes are comfortable without being flimsy, and they should be able to withstand the terrain you plan to hike on.

Before you decide on a pair of hiking shoes, there are some key factors to consider. Will you be hiking up steep mountains or staying on flat terrain? Do you anticipate hiking in the rain or snow? You want to consider how frequently you hike and the weather you’ll encounter because both will affect how quickly you’ll wear through your hiking shoes.

hiking shoes for women
While it’s less likely that you’ll need to break in hiking shoes, a heavy-duty pair might require some softening. Take a few short walks before using them on a long hiking trip. Wear them around the house and to do chores or run errands.

How to buy the best women’s hiking shoes

Women’s hiking boots vs. hiking shoes

You might be wondering if women’s hiking boots are a better choice than hiking shoes. Both have their pros and cons.

Hiking boots are sturdier and heavier than hiking shoes. They offer more ankle support and better traction. Hiking boots are a great choice if you plan to hike up steep and/or very rocky terrain. Since boots are heavier than shoes, they’re better suited to experienced hikers than novices.

Hiking shoes are more flexible and lightweight than boots. These are a good choice for traveling hikers too. Unlike hiking boots, hiking shoes don’t need to be broken in. They tend to be more breathable than boots and better suited for warmer climates. If you’re a casual hiker who plans to hike in warm weather or over mostly flat terrain, women’s hiking shoes are the right choice.

Hiking shoe components

The anatomy of a hiking shoe is the same as that of a regular shoe.

Sole: This consists of three parts: the outsole, midsole, and insole.

  • The outsole is the very bottom of the shoe, the part that makes contact with the ground. You’ll want to make sure that the outsole has good traction and is flexible but firm. The outsole is typically made from rubber, polyurethane, and/or nylon.
  • The midsole sits between the insole and outsole.
  • The insole is the part of the sole that makes contact with the foot. The foam or nylon insole should be flexible, sturdy, and moisture-wicking.

It isn’t uncommon for women’s hiking shoe manufacturers to use a blend of materials in the sole.

Upper: Everything over the sole is the shoe upper. This is the part that covers the rest of your foot from heel to toe.

Leather is a common material for uppers due to its breathability, stretchiness, and toughness. Quite a few lightweight hiking shoes include a blend of fabric and leather. In these cases, the upper is made of mesh fabric with natural or synthetic leather (like suede or cowhide). A women’s hiking shoe made with a blend of materials is a better choice than one that’s made of just nylon. If you choose hiking shoes with leather, go for natural over synthetic leather because it’s more breathable.

Hiking sandals are another lightweight option and a solid choice for summer. If you’re worried about your exposed toes getting hurt, look for hiking sandals that cover the toes.

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Features to look for in women’s hiking shoes

Waterproofing

Do you plan on hiking over wet terrain? Waterproof hiking shoes may be worth the investment.

The most common waterproof shoe material is Gore-Tex, which is the gold standard for waterproof clothing, including shoes and jackets. Waterproof women’s hiking shoes consist of multiple layers. The Gore-Tex layer is made from polytetrafluoroethylene (ePTFE) and is situated between two other linings and inside the shoe upper.

Another option is to waterproof the hiking shoes yourself. Spray-on treatments are a viable option, as are creams and waxes. These are best used on leather shoes since leather does have some built-in water resistance. Waterproof hiking shoes keep water out, but keep in mind that they are also less breathable. This is probably fine in colder temperatures, but it isn’t so great for summertime hikes.

Design

Hiking shoes aren’t exactly known for being fashion forward, but one of their advantages over hiking boots is their lighter weight. You don’t have to choose a shoe with a heavy sole or clunky silhouette. Many women’s hiking shoes have a sleek, streamlined look. This even applies to high-top shoes.

Color

Traditional hiking shoes are available in muted, earth-tone colors. Shades of brown, gray, and beige are common. And if you prefer a fun color scheme, you’re in luck. Women’s hiking shoes come in more color options than men’s hiking shoes. Shades of pink, green, and multicolored shoes are available. We recommend avoiding white hiking shoes because they’re bound to get dirty very quickly.

Shoelaces are an additional option for switching up the look of your hiking shoes. We don’t recommend white or light-colored shoelaces either, but the choices are nearly endless.

Purpose

Your reason for buying women’s hiking shoes will help dictate the kind you buy. Are you planning on doing a lot of hiking on rough and rocky terrain? Or will you hike occasionally on flat surfaces only? A casual hiker can stick with a lightweight, low-top shoe. Novice hikers should avoid heavy shoes and boots, as should those who want to pack their hiking shoes for a trip. More experienced hikers can handle heavy-soled high-top shoes.

hiking shoes for women
DID YOU KNOW?
Women’s hiking shoes should hug the heel while leaving enough room for the toes to swell. When ordering shoes online, be sure to closely check the size guide and user reviews.
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How much do women’s hiking shoes cost?

Inexpensive

Women’s hiking shoes won’t break the bank, but it’s worth investing in quality. That said, you can certainly pick up affordable shoes in the $30 to $45 range. These hiking shoes are likely made of nylon and/or polyester, with minimal leather, and they probably aren’t waterproof.

Mid-range

For those with a bit more to spend, $50 to $80 is the sweet spot. Not only will you find more leather hiking shoes in this range, but you’ll also find more waterproof options, sturdier soles, and high-top choices. In this range, you won’t have to worry about sacrificing aesthetics for functionality (or vice versa).

Expensive

If you want your hiking shoes to last, consider splurging on some that cost $80 or more. Many shoes in this range are made by trusted manufacturers. In addition to having a number of waterproof and/or leather shoes to choose from, a few of these even come with a lifetime guarantee.

If some part of the shoes, such as the tread, seams, or ankle padding, is worn too thin, it’s probably time to replace the shoes. Frequent hikers might consider buying more expensive hiking boots that can endure the wear and tear.

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Tips

  • Keep your hiking shoes clean. If you want them to last a long time, routine maintenance is essential. Rinse off the outside of the shoes, ideally before any mud dries. Remove the laces and insoles and wash them separately. Remove any remaining dirt with water and a brush. Stuff the shoes with newspaper and leave them out to fully dry.
  • Measure your feet. If you haven’t done it already, get your feet professionally measured. Or you can do it yourself by placing your bare foot on a blank piece of paper and carefully tracing its outline. Then measure the width and length of the outline with a ruler or tape measure.
hiking shoes for women
How you tie your shoes matters. If you don’t know them already, look into knot styles like window-lacing and surgeon’s knots. Knowing how to tie these knots can help adapt a shoe that’s too tight or too loose.

FAQ

Q. Do women’s hiking shoes stretch?

A. Hiking shoes aren’t necessarily designed to stretch. In fact, it’s recommended that you buy hiking shoes half a size or size bigger. You want to leave room for (possibly thick) socks and swelling feet if you hike for very long periods.

Q. Can I run in hiking shoes?

A. Hiking shoes might be suitable for an occasional run, but we don’t recommend running in them on a regular basis. They aren’t designed to offer the type of foot support that runners need, and you risk getting injured.

Q. What’s the difference between women’s hiking shoes and walking shoes?

A. While you could certainly wear your hiking shoes for walking, shoes that have been specifically designed for walking are more appropriate if this is your regular practice. For example, a great pair of women’s walking shoes will have the right amount of cushioning for walking on pavement and a thoughtfully designed sole to provide traction in street conditions. Women’s hiking shoes are designed for more varied terrain.

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