Fitness

The Best Women's Hiking Shoes and Boots for 2022

Whether you're tackling the mountains or just the city streets, these are our favorite hiking shoes and boots for women.

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Today's hiking boots are laboratory-researched, finely tuned tools, built with advanced materials that make them lighter, more comfortable and ready to tackle any terrain -- they aren't just bits of leather wrapped around your foot. There's an immense amount of choice, with numerous brands promising the best hiking shoes for your feet, whether you're heading out into the mountains or just hopping between museums on your next city break.

We've researched some of the most notable brands to determine our picks for the best hiking boots and shoes for women. Some of these boots are essentially unisex, with men's and women's sizes available. In those instances, I've tested the men's versions and can attest to their performance and quality. However there are others in this list that are built specifically for women's feet, which have also been tested by CNET, so rest assured that everything here has our stamp of approval. (See what I did there?)

Read more: The Best Men's Hiking Shoes and Boots

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Most walking shoes and boots tend not to differ much between mens and womens options beyond the sizes and maybe the colors. Yet women's feet typically have different proportions to mens and some women may struggle with boots that have been designed primarily for men's feet. 

Salomon's Vaya Mid boots are specifically designed for women's feet, with a wider toe box and re-engineered arch support. They proved comfortable and supportive in our testing time, while the aggressive sole design and Gore-Tex waterproof lining means they're just as at home in the hills as they are on sedate lake-side footpaths. 

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Salomon Vaya Mid here.

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Hanwag's Tatra boots are made with a wider fitting in the front of the foot, which makes them a great option for women who may have found other boots too tight. They're comfortable enough for longer hikes while offering more than enough support for tackling rough terrain. The aggressive Vibram sole grips well, giving more confidence on loose or wet surfaces, while the Gore-Tex lining keeps your feet dry in any conditions. 

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Hanwag Tatra Light Wide boots here.

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Built with lighter-weight materials that are stitched, rather than glued together, the Xerocole boots are built with breathability and comfort in mind when hiking in hot, desert conditions. And while our Scotland-based testing might not be comparable to the Arizona trail, we can confirm these boots are sturdy, supportive and comfortable enough to put the miles in on day one, yet still feeling ready to go on day two. 

Better yet, the boots are crafted with an eco focus, including full repair options and making use of naturally biodegradable materials.

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The deep, rugged lugs of the Continental sole and the sturdy footbed make the Terrex AX4 shoes a solid option for everyday hikes, especially if you don't need the ankle support -- and additional weight -- of a regular boot. They're comfortable on multi-hour walks and the Gore-Tex lining means that a sudden rain shower won't result in you returning home with wet feet. 

Note: Men's version tested.

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Adidas Terrex AX4 shoes here.

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The deep padding of the footbed and the flexible outer material makes the Dropline GTX probably the most comfortable hiking shoes I've ever worn. They've tackled mile upon mile of woodland, dirt trails and loose gravel -- along with city-center asphalt and paving -- and they never fail to feel supportive and encouraging to get those extra steps in. They're very light-weight too, extremely grippy and waterproof, thanks to their Gore-Tex lining.

They're an exceptional shoe for everything from Sunday afternoon wanders through the park to weekends away in the hills. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's Salewa Dropline GTX shoes here.

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Timberland's Garrison Trail Hikers have a low-to-mid ankle height that offer just the right amount of support for longer walks without feeling too restrictive for quick jaunts to the shops and back. They're comfortable, with a grippy sole, waterproof lining and a playful, almost '90s retro style that would look as much at home sitting outside a pub as it would halfway up a hillside. 

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Timberland Garrison Trail Hikers here.

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The Facet 60 OutDry combines lightweight materials with mid-ankle support that makes them feel more like sneakers than traditional hiking boots. They're very comfortable to wear all day, have a waterproof lining to keep the rain out, and have an aesthetic that's just as at home queuing at a street food market as it is heading into the hills. 

They're a great do-it-all traveling shoe that will work equally well on city explorations and countryside trails. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's Columbia Facet 60 OutDry shoes here.

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I love Inov-8's existing boots that infuse the wonder-material graphene into the sole (seen below), but its most recent RocFly G 390 boots take that further and put graphene into the footbed as well. Why? Well Inov-8 reckons it makes the foam stay soft and supportive for longer, meaning these boots will feel just as good after 50 miles as they did after five. 

For me, I found them incredibly comfortable, with great ankle support and robust grip that gave me confidence for fast-paced walking on hillside trails in any conditions. The Roclite Pro (seen below) are the more burly ones in the range, so it's those you should look towards for more mountainous conditions. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's Inov-8 RocFly G 390 boots here.

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The lightweight and soft materials give the Cloud Hi Edge shoes more of a sneakerlike feel, but the rocker-like design and deep lugs of the sole mean these shoes are perfectly suited for covering a lot of ground at a fast pace. We loved them for urban adventures, tackling city streets and parkland footpaths with ease, while their stylish design meant wearing them into the pub at the end of the day was no problem at all. 

With no waterproof lining, these aren't hiking boots designed for all conditions, so if that's what you're after from your On Shoes, look instead towards the Cloud Hi Waterproof, seen below.

Shopping in the UK? Buy the On Shoes Cloud Hi Edge shoes here.

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Like the Roclite 345s above, these boots are infused with graphene for added durability, are lined with Gore-Tex for waterproofing and are comfortable right out of the box. However the Pro G 400s have a thicker, stiffer sole, more support around the ankle and a ceramic coating on the upper material that makes them much more suited to tougher terrain. 

They're still surprisingly lightweight though, and I had no problem in wearing them on all-day hikes on forest trails and muddy hill tracks. The deep lugs on the sole help them dig into loose terrain to keep you stable and I certainly felt confident that my feet weren't going to slip out from under me. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's Inov-8 Roclite G Pro 400 boots here.

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Athletic Propulsion Labs (or APL to the rest of us) is better known for its sports and athletics footwear, the TechLoom Defenders do look remarkably like a pair of basketball sneakers. But they're built for a life off the court, featuring sturdier, grippier soles, a waterproof design and a higher, more supportive ankle that'll keep you upright on difficult terrain. 

While I wouldn't wear them on an alpine expedition, they're comfortable on all-day treks across the city and the beach and won't struggle with riverside weekend walks either. It's worth noting though that they're sized quite small -- I'm usually a UK 10 but I found the 11s were a better fit -- so go for the size above when ordering. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's APL TechLoom Defenders here.

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True to the company name, these boots innovate through their use of graphene -- the atom-thick "miracle material" that's stronger than steel and lighter than carbon fibre. Here, it's been infused in the sole which Inov-8 reckons makes it more durable and grippier. In my testing I certainly found the boots to be extremely capable on mixed walks, handling muddy trails, loose rock or wet asphalt with ease. 

They're exceptionally lightweight too, making them as comfortable to wear as sneakers, right out of the box with no break-in period required. You can walk all day without feeling weighed down, so this is a boot to consider if you plan on tackling long trails. While they have a waterproof Gore-Tex lining, they don't have the same ruggedness required for more mountainous terrain so if that's on the agenda then consider their more burly siblings below. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Inov-8 Roclite G 345 GTX boots here.

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The Active #2147 boots have the same classic elastic-sided Chelsea profile Blundstone has been making since 1870. However the new Active series feature an updated midsole and footbed designed to give improved comfort and support on more active walks. The slip-on design and water-resistant materials makes them great to quickly throw on for local jaunts with the dog or lengthier trips to the pub. 

Riverside footpaths, forest trails and gentle hillside tracks are all within reach of these boots, but their slip-on nature means they don't quite offer the support and stability for more strenuous hikes, especially on rocky or otherwise challenging terrain. 

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Blundstone Active #2147 boots here.

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With a tough outer fabric and more sturdy, grippy soles, the Trail shoes are better equipped for a life in the hills than the slipper-soft Allbirds Mizzle (seen below). But their Merino wool lining and comfortable footbed makes them incredibly comfortable to wear, even on longer trail runs (or fast hikes, in my case). They're great on woodland trails and lakeside pathways but are just as at home on city streets, too. 

They're made with eco-conscious materials including Merino wool, eucalyptus fibre, natural rubber, sugarcane and castor bean oil, while the shoelaces are made from recycled plastic bottles. 

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's Allbirds Trail shoes here.

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Aimed more at trail running than regular walking, these sneaker-like shoes are excellent for those of you that like to hike the forest trails at a faster pace. The shock-absorbing midsole is extremely comfortable on mixed terrain, while the deeper lugs of the Vibram sole provide plenty of traction, even in wet conditions. 

They're light, too, meaning you can wear them for full-day trail walks without having to spend days nursing your aching feet afterwards. 

Note: Men's version tested.

Shopping in the UK? Buy the New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro V6 shoes here.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Allbirds Mizzle shoes are among the softest things I've had the pleasure of putting on my feet. It's thanks to their merino wool construction which has the added benefit of making them an eco-friendly choice. The soft, spongy sole means these aren't shoes for tackling mountains, or even woodland trails, but they're delightful for urban exploration, hopping between cafes and museums. 

They're water-resistant, so an impromptu rain shower won't slow you down, while the incredible light weight of the shoes mean you'll be forgiven for thinking you've accidentally gone out in your slippers. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's Allbirds Runner-up Mizzle shoes here.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

These boots get their name "duality" from the two sets of insoles that come in the box. One is softer and designed more for comfortable city or gentle trail hikes. The other set is stiffer and more supportive, allowing you to tackle more demanding terrain. The idea is that you don't need to carry two sets of boots on a long, mixed hike, but instead can simply swap the insoles as needed. 

It's a neat idea that I can see working well. I tested them mostly with the softer footbed, which I found to be comfortable, but still stiff enough to offer support on uneven terrain. They're fully waterproof too, thanks to the Gore-Tex lining, and are made from recycled materials and algae-based foam in the midsoles that reduces water use in production. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's Haglofs Duality AT1 GT shoes here.

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I love the look of these adventure shoes, with their deep lugs protruding from the footbed and the white-brown-blue color combination on my test pair. They look great with jeans and are ideal for those rainy urban exploration days when you know you'll end up at the bar with your friends. The sole -- as I found with others in the On range -- is exceptionally supportive and provides a rocking motion as you walk which seems to actively propel you forward making them great for faster hikes.

What I don't like is the elastic lacing that comes with them, which seemed too loose for me and resulted in my foot slipping out, particularly when I walked at a faster pace. I replaced it with a set of regular laces for just a few dollars which I found made these boots feel much more secure and comfortable all round. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the On Shoes Cloud Hi Waterproof shoes here.

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On shoes are a relative newcomer to the footwear scene and the company is more known for its running shoes. The Cloudrock boots are its first foray into hiking boots, but it's a stellar first effort. The unique design of the soles, with their slight front-to-back curve and deep lugs make them extremely grippy on loose ground and gives the feeling that they're propelling you forward as you walk, making them great for fast-paced hikes.

Their mid-height gives plenty of ankle support too and their light weight and out-of-the-box comfort means they're superb for all-day wearing. They're also waterproof enough for me to stand still, ankle-deep in a flowing stream for half a minute while taking a photo without any water penetrating to my feet. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's On Shoes Cloudrock Waterproof boots here.

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Like the Cloudrock boots, the Cloudventure shoes feature the unique curving sole with deep lugs making the shoes as supportive, stable and comfortable as their boot siblings. They have a more modern, style-led design than many other walking shoes on the market which makes them ideal for those of you who want an all-day trail shoe that you won't feel the need to change out of when you get to the pub at the end of your hike -- as long as they're not too caked in mud.

They're fully waterproof and their low weight means they're just as well-suited for trail running as they are to fast-paced hikes. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's On Shoes Cloudventure Waterproof shoes here.

Winter walking boots

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With a traditional all-leather design and burly rubber sole, Danner's Mountain Pass boots are built for serious hiking -- and built to last. These boots will require some "walking in" before you can take them on long hikes, but once they've settled to your feet you'll find them comfortable, secure and stable on difficult terrain. 

The Arctic Night versions also feature a thermal lining for added warmth in cold conditions, as well as a Vibram Arctic Grip sole for added traction on icy ground. They're Gore-Tex lined for waterproofing, too and are hand-built in Portland, Oregon. (Note: Men's version tested.)

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's Danner Mountain Pass Arctic Night boots here.

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Danner's Jag Quilt boots are lined with a Primaloft insulation, making them incredibly snug for cold-weather hikes. As a landscape photographer I loved having the support to hike to my destination, but with the warmth to keep my toes warm while I stand still for ages waiting for my shot. The sole offers good grip on mixed terrain while the outer material is supportive enough for covering longer distances, while remaining light and comfortable enough to throw on for quick trips to the shops.

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Women's Danner Jag Quilt boots here

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Dr. Martens is not a brand you'd typically associate with adventure footwear, but the Alyson boots come with a faux-fur lining and a sole that's been engineered for better traction on icy surfaces. That makes them great for cold-weather city exploration where regular shoes might leave you slipping around, fearing for the safety of your ankles. 

The Alyson's sturdy leather upper provides plenty of ankle support, providing confidence on slippery streets, while the classic leather Chelsea boot design means they won't look out of place in the office, in a restaurant or when trekking around town trying to find the best street food. 

Shopping in the UK? Buy the Dr. Martens Alyson boots here.

How we test our hiking boots

Every pair of boots or shoes on this list has been tested by us in real-world conditions. Nothing is based on specs alone, nor do we take any promises made by the marketing departments at face value. Each pair is assessed on its own merits and if it doesn't tick all our boxes it doesn't make the final cut.

Our footwear is tested in Scotland and, depending on the type of shoe, will experience a variety of terrains. Not all footwear is designed to tackle the mountains, so some items on this list are used more around the steep cobbled streets of Edinburgh, on parkland walks or gentle riverside trails, often finishing at the pub. The more burly additions to the list are tested more in their natural environment; hillside tracks and rugged, rocky passes.

Every pair gets a minimum of 15 miles usage (but usually much more), and Scotland's famously wet weather means that any claims for waterproofing are easy to put to the test. 

We check that the boots are comfortable enough to wear all day without causing blisters, pains, or bruising, that they offer the support or grip they're supposed to and we check out for any signs of poor manufacturing -- such as loose stitching or glue that begins to come loose that could reduce the lifespan of the boots. 

What to look for in a hiking boot or walking shoe

There's a vast amount of choice in the hiking footwear world, from burly, leather hiking boots designed to tackle steep mountain passes, through to lightweight shoes that are more at home on the Italian riviera. Finding the right pair for you then will involve thinking hard about what you need from your boots and where you're going to be taking them. 

If you'll mostly be walking on gentle countryside tracks or carefully-groomed forest trails then a walking shoe (such as the Salewa Dropline GTX) might be a good fit; their lighter design makes them great for all-day wearing. If you're hitting more rocky terrain -- or if you simply prefer the additional ankle support -- then a mid-height boot (or higher) like the On Shoes Cloudrock or Inov Rocfly G 345 GTX will provide more stability and sure-footedness.

Keep the time of year and weather in mind too; some boots (like the Danner Mountain Pass Arctic Night) come with thermal linings and soles designed for snow and ice, while others (like the Erem XeroCole) are designed for breathability and comfort in hot conditions, like hiking the Arizona Trail.

While historically most hiking boots were made from leather, it's more common to find boots made from synthetic fabrics today. These can be lighter and more comfortable to wear (along with being easier to care for), but can still offer superb support for even strenuous, multi-day hikes. Leather boots are still widely available however and companies like Danner produce excellent classic-looking leather boots that are comfortable and supportive on long-distance journeys.

If you're likely to be hiking in wet conditions then look out for either Gore-Tex linings, or other 'own-brand' waterproof linings that the manufacturer might use. Keep in mind that "waterproof" in boots rarely means 'submersible' so don't expect to stand in a river all day doing some fishing, expecting to keep the water out. 

Finally, make sure you have the right fit. Some boots (like the Hanwag Tatra Wide) are designed specifically for those of you with a wider foot shape who might have struggled to find comfortable boots elsewhere. Most manufacturers tend to offer sizing guidance ("Fits true to size" or "Fits small") on their websites, so keep that in mind when considering the fit. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.