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Best Beginner Hiking Boots
For 2023:
What To Put On Your Feet
To Hit The Trail

By Diane Spicer

Beginner hikers need a great pair of hiking boots or trail shoes. But how do you find them? Use Hiking For Her recommendations! #hiking #backpacking #hikingboots #hikinggear #hikingtips #beginnerhikes

Choosing the best beginner hiking boots or trail shoes for your feet is one of the most important decisions you can make as you start your hiking career.

The best boots for hiking give you:

  • Dry feet to keep your spirits high and the trail miles easy to conquer
  • Good traction for trail confidence
  • Excellent ankle support to help you tackle any terrain

But how do you spot the best hiking boot brands?

How do you choose lightweight hiking boots that will go the distance?

And what kind of footwear is best for your chosen style of hiking?

Let's answer your questions quickly, so you can get started on the right foot (hiking pun advisory now in effect) as a beginner hiker.

Best hiking boot brands

You already know this, but let's state the plain fact anyway:

  • Every hiker has a unique set of feet.

I've been on the trail for five decades, and have some current hiking boot preferences to share with you.

What works for me might not work for you, but:

  • I'll be careful to tell you why I'm recommending these brands as the sources for best beginner hiking boots.

And because I'm a regular user of these outdoor brands, I have no hesitation in recommending their products.

  • When you purchase through the links I provide here, you pay nothing extra while Hiking For Her receives a modest single digit commission.

Now let's name some of the best beginner hiking boots names.

  • Also known as walking boots for beginners!

Wide feet? Read this first.

Narrow feet? Go here.

Best KEEN hiking boots
for beginner hikers

KEEN trail footwear stands solidly at the top of my list for many reasons.

But the one which matters most to you is that I've put them through their paces (literally) on many different types of long distance hiking trails over the past eight years, and they have never given me a problem.

I can't really say that about a lot of other hiking boot brands!

KEEN Targhee III Waterproof Mid Hiking Boots


This is the KEEN hiking boot selection I've been wearing for many, many trail miles.

  • Read my Targhee II mid-cut height KEEN review for all of the details.

Things to notice about these KEEN hiking boots:

  • immediate comfort (no break in required)
  • ankle support, yet no heavy tug on your legs
  • waterproof hiking boots, but don't push this too far as any boot will succumb to soaking wet trail conditions after a time
  • the same inner waterproof membrane which gives you the ability to stand up to water also allows for breathability - your feet won't stew in your own juices
  • the footbed is removable, so if you wear custom orthotics or need a different level of arch support, you can insert it into the boot easily
  • leather uppers with a rubber outsole for durability
  • moderate amounts of traction from 4mm multi directional lugs

Heads up!

  • Order up at least one half size, as this boot runs small. This is especially true if you wear two pairs of hiking socks: thin liners + thicker outer socks.
  • The wide toe box on these boots make them extremely comfortable for wider feet.

But wait, there's more:

  • leather mud shield to extend the life of the boot in rough conditions and to enhance water resistance
  • heel-capture system for stability
  • enhanced rubber outsole for gripping traction
  • 1 lb. 12.4 oz. per pair

Consider these for a backpacking trip when you're going fast and light.

Hiking For Her just got a pair of these little beauties.

  • Full review right here!

Don't need ankle support and beefy traction?

If you're not ready to spend money for a pair of the best beginner lightweight waterproof hiking boots with all of the bells and whistles noted above, then you should check out KEEN trail shoes.

You'll have less support but a lower price point (depending on sales and discounts) as you get started as a hiker.

The women's Targhee II Low WP (waterproof) trail shoe can get the job done on well maintained trails.

Here's why:

  • a lightweight hiking shoe, to avoid leg fatigue
  • waterproof, breathable membrane stands up to moderate amounts of trail mud or stream crossings
  • leather mud shield
  • heel capture system to hold your heel in place (no slippage for narrow heels)
  • breathable mesh lining to vent perspiration
  • removable EVA footbed for easy replacement or swaps
  • lightweight shank for moderate support
  • decent arch support and tread, too

Salomon best beginner
hiking boots: choices

Another boot brand which has performed well for me over the years and miles is Salomon.

  • Read why this company is on the list of hiking boots manufacturers here.

This is the Salomon style I prefer for rocky, uneven terrain. I've worn it in Alaska and Canada, and been happy with the perforance.

Salomon Quest 4 GORE-TEX Hiking Boots

Why am I a fan?

Super lightweight backpacking boots, with over-the-ankle support - but also breathable and flexible.

Great traction on rocky footing and slick wet vegetation.

Reasonable waterproofing protection for moderate conditions.

But what are your choices if you don't want a large hiking boot with lots of ankle protection?

Salomon trail shoe recommendations

Their trail shoes are also on the list of best women's hiking shoes for beginners, especially this one:

Salomon X Ultra 4 GORE-TEX Hiking Shoes

Things to note:

  • mesh uppers for breathability
  • EVA midsole gives good cushioning
  • mud guards
  • mud caps
  • good grip on rocky terrain

If you face variable and uneven terrain as a hiker or trail runner, these are the trail shoes for you.

Their outsole pattern is designed for stability, and uses two different types of rubber to enhance your grip.

Their single pull lacing system makes it easy to adjust the shoes to your sock thickness and preferred snugness.

And the amount of cushioning in the midsoles is quite remarkable for a low cut shoe like this one.

Now here's a reasonable question you might be thinking as you look at these trail shoes:

Are special hiking shoes really necessary?

For your first few hikes on well maintained hiking trails, go ahead and wear the athletic shoes you already have for working out, running, or running errands.

A few caveats, though:

  • Don't carry a lot of weight in your backpack, to avoid pounding the arches of your feet.
  • Go easy on the mileage so you can get an idea of how much ankle and arch support you'll need in the future.
  • Pick a flat, clear route and take notes (use your trail journal!) on how your feet feel during and after your hike.
  • No flip flops, no sandals, no cute little Toms - you want to avoid a foot injury that will end your hiking career before it gets started.

If you don't want to invest in a technical hiking shoe just yet, here's an inexpensive choice that will give you some support and comfort on the trail:

Salomon X Ultra Pioneer Aero Hiking Shoes

Heads up:

Sometimes these trail shoes, along with hiking boots, go on sale. So they may be sold out.

  • But there will be lots of other bargains in your quest for inexpensive trail shoes, so be sure to cruise through the REI Outlet frequently.

Your feet are worth it!

Please realize that as a hiker, you need a different level of ankle support and cushioning than a trail runner or a gym rat.

Throw in the need for breathability, waterproofing and arch support when carrying a backpack, and you'll see why a "special" pair of shoes, designed for hiking, makes a sensible investment.

Need even more arch support? Use a pair of insoles to replace the ones that came with your boots.

Read how to pick the best pair of insoles for your unique feet here.

Best beginner hiking boots
and shoes: choices galore!

You now have a solid set of recommendations for what to put on your feet as a beginner hiker.

You are well equipped to locate and purchase the best beginner hiking boots on the planet!

Of course, if a pair of these hiking boots don't float your boat lift your pack, you can choose a great pair of less expensive trail shoes to get yourself out there and hiking.

How will you know when a hiking boot fits your feet properly?

One more small piece of advice before you go:

  • Socks specific to the rigors of life inside a hiking boot or trail shoe are also part of the comfort equation, so read these tips.

The next big decision you face?

Which day pack is the best choice for you!

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Best Beginner Hiking Boots and Shoes