BACKPACKING BASICS

Best Hiking Shoe Brands: Which Are The Top Outdoor Footwear Companies?

Russell McCarty
Written by Russell McCarty

To discuss the best hiking shoe brands, we must first talk about the history of shoes. Human beings started wearing shoes more than 40,000 years ago. In the ancient Spanish hieroglyphs, we can see the humans wearing animal skin or fur to cover and protect their feet. Shoes have been around in different forms for quite a while, like Sandals, the most primitive form of footwear.

However, some earlier civilizations preferred wearing the shoes that were soft and some of them were manufactured and used for hiking on the frontiers of Persia. Conversely, some ancient civilizations like the Egyptians didn’t wear shoes due to their climatic and landscape situations. The Romans saw the footwear as the insignia of prestige and power while their slaves remained barefoot.

Roman statue shoes

Similarly in the Medieval Period, the high-heels were found, with the same purpose of associating the strong with power and status. In some of the other cultures, people removed their shoes to show respect to the elders or the patriarchs.

As the time went by, we could see most of the religious communities required people to remove their shoes outside before entering the holy temples and worshipping places. Then, with the advancement and improvement with time, shoes with hard sole were introduced.

This footwear was basically designed for trekking through the rough terrain like that of the mountains or even climbing them. They became famous by the name of the hiking shoes. They have evolved just like technology and today, many of the best hiking shoe brands are available to provide their services.

Why do we need hiking shoes?

Every one of us has their own requirement for what kind of the shoes they would want to have. Which shoe is right for us depends upon the strength of our ankles, the weight we carry, the size or the shape of the foot, and the landscape we plan to keep on walking.

Best-Hiking-Boots-For-Men

The best pair of hiking shoes for you is the one that fits your foot perfectly, here we will discuss the brands that are considered leaders when it comes to comfort, quality and functionality.

So if we need to carry a heavy backpack and we need to traverse on the mountains, then wearing hiking shoes is the perfect option to provide ankle support and the proper suspension needed for our joints. Here are some of the reasons that why do we need hiking shoes:

Support and Stiffness

Hiking boots offer full support and are stiff. They provide more ankle coverage and are made from a stiff sole. Stiff sole protects our feet from the rocks or any other type of hitches that may harm our feet while rambling above the hiking path.

 Protection from water and mud

Running into mud or water during a hike is really such a drag. Fortunately, hiking footwears are the best solution to this problem since they have a waterproof lining that protects the shoes and your feet from mud and water. These shoes are also designed to dry quickly.

Muddy hiking shoes

 Proper Ventilation

Proper ventilation is also required for healthy feet. Hiking shoes are designed with proper ventilation techniques so that our feet may absorb oxygen properly and remain active during hiking.

How are hiking shoes different from normal shoes?

If you plan to hike or train on any mountainous path, you must first ensure that you are wearing the proper shoes that are able to protect your feet from too much stress and any kind of injury.

Hiking shoes are different from normal shoes on the basis of their functionality. They are used for terrains that are uneven and feature many hitches whereas normal shoes are used for smooth or plain surfaces without any obstacles. These shoes provide proper cushioning as opposed to the traditional footwear.

Women's hiking boots

Hiking shoes have the advantage over normal shoes because of their rigidity and durability. On average, normal shoes last for roughly 300 to 400 miles and on the other hand, hiking footwear last for longer distances. So if you are planning to trek through mountainous or hilly areas then you should obviously go for hiking shoes.

How to choose a pair of hiking footwear?

When it comes to choosing the right hiking shoes, then you should forget about looks, flashy deals or recommendations of your friend. Since the right shoes will keep keep you stable and comfortable while hiking on tough terrains otherwise you will end up grinding your teeth with blisters on your feet.

You should make a choice between different types of hiking shoes on the basis of the load that you are carrying and the terrain you plan to hike on. Here is a list of some popular hiking shoes and some tips on how to choose the most suitable for you:

Hiking Boots (Low-Cut Model)

 These boots are suitable for short hikes with a backpack having weight less than 10 kg. This type is usually suitable for trails that are even and smooth.

Low-cut hiking shoes

These shoes have support in their soles making them more supportive and rigid. They also have minimum ankle support and are made light weight for faster hiking but water is most likely to seep inside during heavy rainfall.

 Hiking Boots (Mid-Cut Model)

These boots are raised midway up the ankle thus providing more support to the foot but less flexibility. They are ideal for day trips on a rough terrain with backpacks having a load of up to 14 kg.

Mid hiking boots

They also contain a toe cap for protection and are waterproof. But their durability is a little less than the upcoming model which is the high-cut.

 Hiking Boots (High-Cut Model)

These boots have the highest cut with more ankle support. Height of these can reach as high as 20 cm. They are ideal for trips lasting for several days with backpacks having weight more than 14 kg.

High cut hiking boots

You can choose these boots for varied terrains with changing roughness. These boots are super durable and last for many days but their weight will definitely slow your pace.

Some brands of hiking shoes

Here are some of the most famous brands of hiking shoes that are quite well-known in the market.

Timberland

In the year 1928, a young man named Nathan Swarts started to pursue his career as an apprentice stitcher in a shoemaker workshop in Boston, Massachusetts. After the time period of 24 years, in 1952 after associating himself into this line of work, this man purchases half an interest in The Abington Shoe Company in South Boston and three years after that he buys the remaining interest, owns the company and then brings his own sons into the business.

Here the success story of the Swarts family continues, the Swarts family innovated a new machine in 1965, which implemented the injection-molding technology that made them able to manufacture the waterproof boots which did not require any stitching but were made simply by attaching the soles to the leather uppers.

Timberland hiking boots for women

These shoes were then tested in a most bizarre way one could ever imagine, these waterproof leather boots were left overnight in their factory toilet only to check their waterproofing ability.

The company moved its manufacturing plants from South Boston to Newmarket, New Hampshire in 1969.

In 1973, The Abington Shoe Company introduced a new brand the ‘Timberland’, the first 6 inch waterproof premium boot. The fast growth of this product took the market all over, resulting in renaming The Abington Shoe Company to ‘The Timberland Company’. By the year 1985, a million pairs of this brand ‘Timberland’ were sold, showing how critical this brand was to the company’s success.

Some of Timberland’s most popular products are:

  • Timberland Chukka Boot
  • Timberland PRO Titan Alloy
  • Timberland Arida
  • Timberland PRO Steel Toe

 Salomon

The Salomon Group was originally a sports equipment manufacturing company established in 1947 by François Salomon, his wife, and son Georges in Annecy, France.

The business started with the Salomon family opening up a shop in 1947 to produce saw blades, after that they soon started to make steel edges for skis and they progressed to manufacture cable bindings and that became their main concentration for business until 1979 when they introduced the alpine boots which, on coming to the market become an instant success.

Salomon hiking boots

In 1990, Salomon has now sold more than 10 million pairs of alpine boots and more than 5 million pairs of XC boots which hit the market 10 years earlier. In the same year Salomon also introduces its first ski, the S9000. In 1997, The Salomon Group was acquired by Adidas for a deal of $1 Billion. 8 years later, Adidas-Salomon sold The Salomon Group to Amer Sports, Finland for a deal of $485 Million.

Some of the most popular hiking shoes from The Salomon Group are:

  • Salomon Quest 4D 2
  • Salomon Cosmic 4D GTX
  • Salomon Mega Trek 6 Leather GTX
  • Salomon Elios Mid GTX

Merrell

Randy Merrell, a famous maker of custom boots which retailed to almost $500 a pair, teamed up with two former executives for the Rossignol ski company, Clark Matis and John Schweizer, in 1981. With the industry experience of Clark Matis and John Schweizer joining forces with the Artistry of Randy Merrell, ‘Merrell’ was established.

These skilled men, with a vision to create high-performance boots with affordable prices, set to work and developed such a concept in 1982. In the very next year, the Merrell Company implemented this concept and their first product sets out for sale after being manufactured in the Italian factories.

Merrell hiking boots

These original Merrell hiking boots were then shipped to American retailers. After the sale of 25,000 pairs of boots, Randy Merrell sold his share of the business and left to his previous job leaving the company name behind.

In the very next year 1987, Karhu purchased the brand and after a short period of rapid growth the company turned into a global enterprise that included divisions which are established in Canada, America, united Kingdom and Scandinavia. By 1995, the number of divisions increased and the company expanded its horizon from 3 countries to more than 22 countries worldwide.

In 1997 Merrell was sold to Wolverine World Wide, the same corporation that also manufactures the shoes under the brand name Hush Puppies and now the Merrell has its business in over 151 countries.

Merell have a number of popular hiking footwear which includes:

  • Merrell Moab Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
  • Merrell All Out Blaze Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
  • Merrell Pulsate Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot
  • Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid Hiking Boot

Lowa

Year 1923, LOWA is founded by Lorenz Wagner, the son of shoemaker Johann Wagner. Lorenz Wagner’s handworks of Norwegian welt-stitched shoes were quite the masterpiece, the manufacturing method originated from the mountains that already required the expansion of the manufacturing facility.

The first facility was built 8 years later introducing Alpine boots and Lace-up ski boots. After the death of Lorenz Wagner, his daughter Berti and his former apprentice and his daughter’s husband Sepp Lederer took over and kept on expanding the company the same way as Lorenz Wagner did.

Lowa hiking boots

In 1970s, LOWA introduced air cushioning systems and before that one of the very first polyurethane injection molding systems were introduced in the LOWA facility and were brought into action, these systems gave a fine production of vulcanized rubber soles. This new innovation guaranteed 100 percent protection from water, insulation of temperature, and flexibility in structure.

Lowa introduces Hiking shoes in 1982 for the first time, and called it the dawn of trekking boots, 13 years later, they also introduce ‘Light’ hiking boots. Today Lowa has conquered the market in all the German speaking countries and has become prominent in all the important markets of export in America, Asia and Europe.

Some of the most popular hiking shoes Merrell manufactured are:

  • Lowa Innox Goretex Mid
  • Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
  • Lowa Ronan GTX Mid
  • Lowa Men’s Tibet GTX Trekking Boot

KEEN

March 2003, a startup footwear company burst forth worldwide with its unprecedented idea of a sandal with a webbing pattern body and an oversized bumper at the toe. This product was named, “KEEN Newport Sandal” and was sort of a multifunction shoe and could also be used as an alternative to hiking boots for demanding trails.

Martin Keen, a sailor and a lover of sandals, wanted a shoe design comfortable to use on a boat. For a sailor like him, the customary sandals with an open toe were not applicable on such expeditions like on a racing boat, where that open toe always ends up getting bumped.

Keen hiking boots

Following the legacy of his father, Martin Keen, had a many year shoemaker and designer experience for names like Saucony and Timberland. The Keen Newport Sandal was his own unique idea of a one of its kind Hybrid shoe. According to Martin Keen, Putting more work into the comfortability of a shoe, rather than its shape was Keen’s secret to become one of the big brands of footwear.

Keen moved to Oregon in the year 2006, today Keen has hundreds of different models of shoes including hiking shoes for men and women. As a major brand, Keen footwear can in almost every store outside that sells hiking shoes.

Take a look at some of the footwear offered by Keen:

  • Keen Women’s Targhee II Waterproof Hiking Boot
  • Keen Revel III
  • Keen Durand Mid Waterproof
  • Keen Verdi II Mid Waterproof

 Hi-Tec

In Shoeburyness, Essex, England, Hi-Tec Sports was founded by Frank Wen Wezel. Frank was graduate with honors from Nyenrode Business University being the youngest in his year. After graduation he joined Dutch Air Force as a Lieutenant and fulfilled his National Service obligations.

Upon leaving the Air Force, Frank continued his studies and started working in London and Paris and then started living in East Africa where he stayed for 10 years.

Hi Tec Hiking Shoes

With the continuous success from his early life, he was also had a passion for sports especially squash and tennis. This love for sports led him to the business in the industry of sports shoes. As he showed his natural skills and artistry in introducing the first specialist squash shoe, it gave a really fine response which concluded him to create Hi-Tec Sports in 1974.

Hi-Tec Sports USA was instituted in Modesto, CA in 1978 by Duke and Kathy Jones. They launched the first ever lightweight hiking boot. This feat turned out to be the main reason of accomplishment of Hi-Tec Sports USA. After that, the Hi-Tec Sports USA also manufactured and named the “Magnum” boot.

Here are Hi-Tec’s more popular boots:

  • Hi-Tec Bandera Mid WP Hiking Boot
  • Hi-Tec Altitude IV WP Hiking Boot
  • Hi-Tec Altitude V I WP Hiking Boot
  • Hi-Tec Moreno Hiking Boot

 Columbia

Paul and Marie Lam from being German Jews, fled Nazi Germany in the year 1937 and immediately purchased a Portland hat distributorship and became the Columbia Hat Company, named after the nearby Columbia River.

Paul and Marie’s daughter, Gert Boyle married Neal Boyle and Neal then became the head of the company. The family then started to make their own products and cut off their ties from the suppliers.

Columbia hiking shoes

The Columbia Hat Company changed its name to the present Columbia Sportswear Company in the year 1960. After the death of Neal Boyle in 1970, Gert Boyle and her son Tim Boyle took over the company.

Columbia Hiking shoes are built using rugged outsoles that help you walk on slippery surfaces, these shoes also feature waterproof sealed construction to help you cross the streams without taking any damage or getting your feet in contact with water. These lightweight shoes will help you traverse any difficult path will comfort you while even walking on the most steep and rocky paths.

Columbia has been a household name due to these footwears:

  • Newton Ridge Columbia Hiking Boot
  • Columbia Mudhawk Waterproof Hiking Boot
  • Columbia Newton Ridge Plus II hiking boots
  • Columbia Men’s North Plains Water Proof Trail Shoe

Final Thoughts

Every person has different fit and requirements, some of the brands will most probably fit you better than other brands. This naturally requires a good deal of fitting and research before you can find the pair that’s right for you.

Hiking boots

There’s also the matter of whether you plan to hike occasionally or whenever you get the chance. In most if not all situations, a good pair of hiking boots will always serve you well. By starting with the brands featured here, it’s safe to say that you can’t go wrong.

So what are your favorite hiking shoe brands? Or, perhaps a favorite hiking pair? Let us know in the comments!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Russell McCarty
Russell McCarty

Russell considers backpacking one of his great passions in life. He actually managed to transform his passion into a living becoming a professional adventurer. Russell loves long-distance backpacking and he enriched his portfolio with famous trails like the Alaska-Yukon Expedition or the Appalachian Trail. With thousands of miles under his feet, Russell is the expert to consult when it comes to how to prepare for a successful outdoor adventure.

  • Holly Edwards

    I don’t really think you can go wrong with Timberland. I have the Timberland Women’s MT Hope Mid Waterproof Boot and it does great up here in the Northeast. The material inside is warm even with normal socks and they do a fabulous job keeping the water out in snowy and other wet conditions!

    • Russell McCarty

      Hi there Holly! I grew up with the Timberland brand since my parents love that brand. Through the years, it’s remarkable that they were able to maintain the quality but with lots of innovation to fit the times. Good choice of brand!

  • Paul Magda

    I like the Merrell brand. I bought the Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe earlier this year in the spring and have been impressed with it. I have hiked as far as 19 miles with it and found it to be a really comfortable shoe. No blisters at all so far. Anyone else have any experience with other brands??

  • Russell McCarty

    Two of my favorites are the Merrell and the Salomon, which originated in France. These are very study shoes indeed and while there are many entry brands today that are also of good quality, I suggest always go for the trusted brands. That being said, LOWA is also outstanding, among the top brands here.

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