Boots that can handle slick and muddy trails are key for any seasoned or beginner hiker. Weather and conditions can drastically change during even just a day hike, so versatility a must.
When dealing with muddy, wet environments, or simply the occasional stream to cross on your hike, the need to keep your feet dry is of utmost importance. But with so many choices, making the best decision on which pair to purchase can be tricky, there are lots of great hiking boots to choose from, each with slightly different strengths.
In this article, we have researched features, prices, and gotten real field feedback in order to find 5 of the best waterproof hiking boots that will surely get the job done. All of these boot options are sold as waterproof and were selected as the best pick for each category: Best Overall, The Most Affordable, Lightweight Performance, Outstanding Value, and Stylish Function. These great options will help guide you to the perfect purchase for your next hiking expedition.
Best Overall Pick
Zamberlan Vioz Lux GTX RR Hiking Boots
What a boot! These beautiful lace-up waterproof leather boots are handcrafted in Italy. They secured our Best Overall Pick by offering high quality, beautiful style, plenty of features, and most importantly excellent waterproofing. Their over-the-ankle waxed full-grain leather uppers cover calf leather collars and are treated with Hydrobloc to maintain strength. Inside is a Gore-Tex membrane which offers complete waterproofing yet breathable protection from the elements.
Our testing proved that the boots are truly waterproof, unlike some of those that just say they are water-repellent. When you use a single piece of leather for the upper, a hardy piece of rubber for the outsold, and build the boot with quality, you can get to a level of waterproofing that can only be beaten by a full rubber (and unbreathable) boot.
The Zamberlan Vioz Lux Hiking boots provide a roomy toe box and comfortable wrap. They feature Vibram outsoles with wide lugs and a rocker designed for both mobility and braking. The midsole is constructed of dual-density polyurethane encasing a nylon shank for support on steep terrain.
This Zamberlan weighs in at just under 4 pounds and include 2 sets of laces — the weight is probably the only downside of these boots, if you are someone who doesn’t like heavy shoes. They are beautiful shoes that include everything needed to take on the most challenging of adventures, and if you are like us, you will probably find yourself wearing them in many settings, not just out on the trail. The only problem is that they look so good that you might be bashful to break them in, but once you do they will have a classic, timeless look, and should last for a very long time.
Lightweight Performance Pick
Merrell Men’s Phoenix Bluff Mid Waterproof Hiking Shoe
We have been loving Merrell products for a long time, and our trail test of the Phoenix Bluff boots gave us one more Merrell product to be a fan of. Weighing in at just over 1 pound, these mid-height hiking boots from Merrell secure our Lightweight Performance pick. For hikers looking for an airy shoe with rugged durability, these are a great choice. They are constructed of waterproof leather, fabric, synthetic uppers and offer a traditional lace-up design with a bellows tongue to keep out dirt and moisture as well as removable insoles. They also feature a high-grip rubber sole with air cushioning in the heel to provide extra support.
Field tests suggest that Merrell’s Phoenix Bluff hiking shoes offer a comfortable, wide fit, and the light nature of the boots makes them great for those strenuous hikes where you might also been wanting to move at a good clip. An affordable option, they have fewer high-end features, but have an excellent overall construction. We have long enjoyed the Merrell brand, and, for three decades, have found Merrell to be a go-to all-season brand for us. We have absolutely no problem recommending the Phoenix boots.
Outstanding Value Pick
The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack Mid GTX Hiking Boots
Choosing our Outstanding Value pick involved checking out products that offered many quality features for the best possible price, the winner came from North Face. It is not surprising, the North Face hiking shoes and boots have been catching our attention more and more over the past couple years.
I gave these boots the ultimate test — hiking in Switzerland. They had a bit of everything thrown at them and performed well.
When it came to a good value pick, the North Face Hedgehog Fastpack hiking boots fit the bill for a very good option at a price that we felt was a great buy. They are a mid-height, over-the-ankle boot but a little higher on the ankle than many other mid-height boots. You will like the quick lace-up design and the lightweight profile, something North Face is very good at. The uppers are constructed with polyurethane-coated leather and a breathable textile mesh for ventilation. They are equipped with rustproof hardware and waterproof Gore-Tex membranes. Vibram rubber outsoles provide strong grip while dual-density midsoles with Cradle Guide supports and stabilizes your feet. Inside the shoe are Ortholite footbeds for maximum comfort that is constructed to last. These boots offer a whole lot of bang for your buck and are a great asset for long hikes.
Stylish Function Pick
AKU Alterra GTX Hiking Boots
Our last category is for Stylish Function. While we know style preference varies from person to person, we found this pair of hiking boots stood out for not only their great look but what they offered as well.
The AKU Alterra GTX Hiking Boots weigh 3 pounds, so they are definitely on the heavier side and are a lace-up, over-the-ankle style pair. The uppers are made from a suede leather / synthetic combination with a Gore-Tex inner membrane to ensure breathable waterproofing. The gusseted tongue blocks trail debris and the eyelets feature rotating pulleys to allow quick adjustment. Rubber toe caps offer forward motion protection and these boots also feature AKU’s Elica Fit technology, which can reduce foot strain and fatigue. Their Vibram rubber outsoles offer good grip and polyurethane midsoles for support. This is an excellent design for the stability and control any hiker needs for rough terrain. This pair of boots are handmade in Europe and come with two sets of laces.
Should I Still Use a Waterproofer on my Boots?
The boots listed above will be waterproof and high-performing right out of the box. However, it is a good idea to use waterproof over time, to help extend the waterproof life of the boots. Everything wears out, including a material’s ability to repel water.
Use a good waterproofing spray a couple times a year, and you will probably get another 2-3 years out of these boots. The best way to treat them is to choose a sunny day, clean the boots, spray them fully, and then just leave them in the sun to dry.
Are Waterproof Hiking Boots Always My Best Option?
No. Sometimes, especially if hiking in dry conditions with little chance of getting wet feet, waterproof hiking boots can actually be overkill. They tend to keep your feet warmer than other types of boots. If I was doing a hike around the Salton Sea in July, for example, I might want something much lighter.
We like wearing lighter hiking shoes like our favorites from North Face, and for some easier hikes in hot weather, hiking sandals can work great. But if you feel like you will encounter some moisture, there is no substitute for waterproof hiking boots.
Waterproof Boots Conclusion
If you are looking at getting outside on a potentially wet trail, whether you are carrying your rod and tackle box to your favorite fishing spot or simply exploring one of the great state park trails in your area, don’t skimp on the footwear. Good hiking boots and shoes are key, and being prepared for wet conditions will help you make the most of your time outside. Note that if you’re looking for shoes for canoeing or kayaking, you probably don’t want hiking boots, no matter how waterproof. We did an entire piece on shoes for canoeing here. Check that out instead.
A good pair of waterproof hiking boots, with the right backpack, headwear, and outerwear, will help you enjoy a day on the trails no matter the conditions.