In the world of hiking and backpacking, there’s an important rule of thumb: one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back . If you think about it, that means that buying a pair of hiking boots that’s one pound heavier is equivalent to carrying an extra half gallon of water in your pack, or an extra tent and sleeping bag on a backpacking trip.
So, even a slight difference in the weight of your hiking boots can have a huge impact on your pace and endurance. By switching to a pair of lightweight hiking boots, you can hike farther and faster. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about choosing a pair of lightweight hiking boots to keep you moving during your adventures. We’ll also review eight of the best lightweight hiking boots for men and women currently on the market.
How Light is Lightweight?
There’s no hard cutoff for how much lightweight hiking boots weigh. Instead, lightweight is a relative term – you’ll need to compare the weight of a specific boot to similar boots that offer around the same level of durability and protection.
In general, two pounds seems to be the goal for manufacturers making lightweight boots. Some boots are slightly lighter than this, while some are slightly heavier. Keep in mind that the difference between the lightest lightweight boots and the heaviest lightweight boots can still be significant, especially if you’re planning on hiking long distances with a loaded pack.
How Do Lightweight Hiking Boots Cut Weight?
Making a lightweight boot doesn’t happen by accident. Typically, footwear manufacturers spend years honing their designs to make them as lightweight as possible without compromising overly much on durability, support, and protection. That said, there are a few common ways that lightweight hiking boots can cut weight.
The first and most important of these is to use lightweight materials. Many light hiking boots trade out heavy, thick leather for light and breathable materials like nylon mesh. Instead of an all suede leather upper, for example, many lightweight hiking boots have uppers that are partly or fully mesh. This is important, since mesh isn’t as durable as leather if you’ll be hiking in rocky terrain. Many lightweight hiking boots on the upper end of the weight spectrum include increasing amounts of leather as a way to add protection for your foot and to extend the life of the boot.
The support material is another place where manufacturers can cut weight. By building the insole with lightweight foam, manufacturers can save valuable ounces. While this is less of a weight savings than reducing leather in the upper, it’s very common to find air-filled foam under your feet in lightweight hiking boots.
The other important way that manufacturers cut boot weight is to reduce the height of the boot. Instead of having boots that extend up to the base of your calf, for example, the boot may extend just past your ankle. This can result in a significant weight savings of several ounces. In many cases, the line between hiking boots and hiking shoes can be blurry when you get to the lightest of lightweight hiking boots.
Our Reviews 2020: The 4 Best Lightweight Hiking Boots for Men
1. RAX Men’s Wild Wolf Mid Venture Hiking Boots – Overall Best Men’s Lightweight Hiking Boot
This lightweight hiking boot from RAX reduces weight without skimping on comfort and support. The boot is built with a suede leather and lycra upper, which is impressively durable while still keeping the overall weight to just over two pounds. Better yet, the lycra is exceptionally breathable, and the entire upper is covered in a waterproof membrane so you can use this boot in any conditions.
Under your feet, you’re supported by a 10-inch shank and a cushioned EVA midsole. Together, these work to make this shoe very supportive even when hiking over rough terrain. The sides of the boot are covered in protective rubber as well to help protect against abrasion.
The tongue design and adjustable vamp lacing makes this boot exceptionally comfortable. Overall, it feels more like wearing a sneaker than a heavy hiking boot, and it’s easy to tighten it down on your feet so you never have to worry about blisters on the trail. The only downside of note to these boots is that the rubber tread on the sole wears out relatively quickly.
- Weighs just over two pounds
- Breathable suede leather and lycra upper
- Excellent support
- Conforms to foot well
- Tread wears out quickly
2. Skechers Men’s Relment Pelmo Chukka Waterproof Hiking Boot – Best Leather Lightweight Hiking Boot
These lightweight hiking boots from Skechers are a little bit on the heavy side since they feature all-leather construction. But, that relatively heavy-duty material means that these boots offer exceptional protection, stability, and durability for a lightweight hiking boot. Plus, the leather upper is fully waterproof and a small amount of mesh in the tongue adds to the breathability of these boots for summer hikes.
These boots went all-out on comfort, offering a roomy interior that works well for wide feet. However, that wide design can be a bit too wide if you have normal or narrow feet. You’ll find a memory foam insole under your foot, which conforms to your foot after you step into the boot and then returns to its original shape after you’re done hiking for the day. An EVA foam midsole adds to the boot’s shock absorbing capabilities without adding much weight.
The rubber traction pad on the bottom of these boots doesn’t feature lugs, which limits the types of terrain you can take it on. The boot will grip well on dirt trail, but it doesn’t hold particularly well on rock or in mud.
- Supportive and durable leather construction
- Memory foam insole
- Roomy interior is perfect for wide feet
- On the heavy side
- Too wide for most narrow feet
- No lugs on traction pad
3. Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot – Best Lightweight Hiking Boot for Traction
These lightweight hiking boots from Merrell are a classic among hikers and they have a lot to offer. To start, the leather and mesh upper is extraordinarily breathable and lightweight. It’s the perfect construction for hot summer hikes when you need to vent sweat, while a waterproof membrane ensures that your feet stay dry when the weather turns unexpectedly. The mesh is interwoven along the sides of the boot, too, which helps with breathability but makes this boot prone to developing holes with extensive wear.
These boots are very supportive for long hikes over rough terrain, featuring a partial-length shank under the boot arch and a cushioned EVA foam midsole. A contoured footbed also allows the boot to distribute shock over the heel and arch to provide a more comfortable hiking experience.
What really stands out about these boots is the sole. Merrell built the traction pads with sticky Vibram rubber, the same type of rubber used in climbing shoes. That makes these boots one of the best lightweight hiking boots if you expect to take on any rock scrambling.
- Breathable leather and mesh upper
- Contoured footbed for support
- Vibram rubber sole
- Mesh along sides of boots can wear out quickly and form holes
4. Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 Wide Mid GTX Hiking Boots – Lightest Lightweight Hiking Boots
If you’re determined to cut weight on your feet, look no further than this lightweight hiking boot from Salomon. At just one pound, this is the lightest hiking boot on the market today – and it doesn’t compromise by reducing the height of the boot cut.
The secret is that this boot isn’t built with any leather at all. Instead, the upper is constructed from nylon and mesh, which is extremely lightweight and breathable. It’s also integrated with Gore-Tex technology, which allows it to be waterproof in the worst conditions. Just be careful using these boots in rocky or rough terrain, as this upper won’t stand up to extreme abuse. Thankfully, Salomon provides a two-year warranty on these boots to protect against premature blown stitching.
The boot is malleable, which is good for comfort in the fit. The lacing system is designed so that the upper truly hugs your foot, without feeling overly tight. On the other hand, the shoe can feel like it lacks support underfoot on uneven terrain. The Advanced Chassis helps to reduce shock in the heel cup, but you’ll feel rocks and branches under your arch since the shank in this boot is relatively short and flexible. Still, you can feel free to take on scrambling thanks to the sticky rubber and lugged sole of this boot.
- Exceptionally lightweight
- Gore-Tex for breathability and waterproofing
- Conforms to the shape of your foot
- Lugged sole
- Two-year warranty
- Not the most durable boot
- Rocks and branches underfoot can cause arch pain
Our Reviews 2020: The 4 Best Lightweight Hiking Boots for Women
1. Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Hiking Boot – Overall Best Women’s Lightweight Hiking Boot
These women’s hiking boots from Columbia are impressively lightweight – just one pound – given that they’re constructed mostly of leather. In fact, the entire upper with the exception of the tongue is leather, which allows this boot to hold up for years no matter what terrain you take it through. The mesh in the tongue adds back some much-needed breathability, although this is still a relatively hot boot for warm summer hikes. In addition, the mesh slightly compromises the otherwise good waterproofing of the upper.
The boot is stiff without being uncomfortable. It features a mid-length shaft and an EVA foam midsole, which work together to absorb shock and help keep your foot comfortable as you hike. Just watch out that the arch support on this boot isn’t ideal, so some hikers can feel tired out in them after a moderate distance.
Columbia also built this boot with an Omni-Grip sole, which is apparent from the lugged design of the traction pad. You can feel confident wearing this boot on uneven, rocky ground – it’ll grab just about anything.
- Weighs just one pound
- Leather upper with mesh tongue
- Omni-Grip sole for traction
- Not the most breathable boot
- Arch support isn’t enough for some hikers
2. Keen Women’s Terradora Mid WP Hiking Shoe – Most Breathable Lightweight Hiking Boot
This lightweight hiking boot from Keen prioritizes breathability, with an all-mesh upper that allows air to freely move out of the boot. That makes it the perfect choice for hot summer hikes, when extra breathability can save you from painful blisters over the course of a long day on the trail. However, it’s worth noting that the mesh extends down the side of the upper – and it’s easy to develop holes in the shoe in places where your foot rubs against the side or where you scrape against rocks.
The mesh upper also makes these boots relatively flexible, which allows you to perfectly dial in the fit using the laces. The upper can conform to your foot without feeling too tight, which provides security when you’re hiking on rough terrain or rock scrambling. The rubber sole encourages this kind of hiking, with a lugged traction pad that grips well on a wide variety of terrain.
Still, these boots aren’t for every hike. They’re not waterproof and the support underfoot is lackluster. You’ll feel every rock and bump under your feet, which can lead to painful arches by the end of a long day.
- Breathable all-mesh upper
- Upper conforms to your foot
- Lugged traction pad
- Poor support underfoot
- Can develop holes in the mesh upper
- Not waterproof
3. Clort’s Women’s Hiking Boots – Best Waterproof Lightweight Hiking Boots
These lightweight women’s hiking boots from Clort’s offer an impressive upper construction that blends suede leather and mesh. The leather is minimal, just enough to give the top of the boot some needed support as well as protection around the sides. Meanwhile, the mesh is highly breathable. Even better, the leather and mesh are coated in a very effective waterproof membrane that makes these hiking boots able to stand up to any weather conditions.
The inside of this boot is also quite well designed. The EVA midsole provides cushioning, while the insole is built with arch support so you never have to worry about foot pain in the middle of a long hike. A mid-length TPU shank keeps the boots’ weight down while also ensuring that you don’t feel every rock and bump under your feet.
Even the tread on this boot was crafted with attention. The sawtooth rubber design on the toe of the boot allows for better grip when scrambling, while the elongated lugs can handle everything from rocks to dirt to mud.
- Breathable mesh and leather upper combination
- Leather protects sides of boots
- Excellent waterproofing membrane
- Arch support in insole and mid-length shank
- Well-designed tread for hiking and scrambling
4. Merrell Women’s Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boot – Best Lightweight Hiking Boot for Rugged Terrain
The women’s version of Merrell’s classic lightweight hiking boot provides stability and comfort no matter what terrain you’re adventuring over. The upper is constructed from a mix of leather and mesh, which maximizes breathability while also giving the boot some structure and durability. A band of leather that runs sideways across the boot helps to protect against holes in the upper from wear or scraping against rocks.
Still, the upper is relatively flexible and conforms well to your feet when laced up. Merrell built these boots with the same zonal arch and heel support found in the men’s model, which dramatically reduces wear and tear on your feet and knees when heading downhill over rough terrain. A protective rubber toe cap also helps make sure you don’t hurt your toes when scrambling and adds to the overall durability of these boots.
The sole is made with sticky Vibram rubber, which allows these shoes to grip on almost any surface. Merrell clearly put some thought into the design of the lugs as well, which look a bit different from most boots we’ve seen but function well on slick rocks and dirt trails alike. The only thing we didn’t love about these boots is that the shank and sole can be a little bit too stiff for some hikers.
- Breathable and durable leather and mesh upper
- Very lightweight construction
- Zonal arch and heel support
- Protective rubber toe cap
- Vibram rubber sole with unique lug design
- Shank and sole can be very stiff
Advantages and Disadvantages of Wearing Lightweight Hiking Boots
There are advantages and disadvantages to wearing lightweight hiking boots as opposed to a burlier, heavier style of hiking boot. To help you determine whether lightweight hiking boots are right for you, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these boots.
Pros: Efficiency and Breathability
The primary advantage of lightweight hiking boots is that they are highly efficient. By reducing the amount of weight on your feet, you don’t have to lift as much weight with every step. Over the course of the tens of thousands of steps made during a long hike, that adds up to a lot of saved energy and avoided fatigue. For many hikers, reducing boot weight is one of the best ways to expand hiking range and recover faster for the next adventure.
The other advantage that lightweight hiking boots tend to have is breathability. This isn’t always the case, as it’s possible to make a lightweight boot that doesn’t breathe well at all – but the majority of manufacturers cut weight by using mesh in the upper, which allows hot air to escape from inside the boot. As a result, lightweight hiking boots tend to be well-suited for hot summer conditions, when extra breathability can make the difference between hiking comfortably and suffering through blisters.
Cons: Support and Durability
One of the biggest disadvantages to using lightweight hiking boots is that they don’t provide the same level of support as heavier boots. Mesh is much more flexible than full-grain leather, for example, so even if your boot extends past your ankle you can still be susceptible to rolling your ankle on a rock or other terrain feature. Moreover, most lightweight hiking boots don’t have added material in the top of the boot to provide more ankle support, since this would add to the boots’ weight.
Support can also be an issue under your foot. Lightweight boots tend to opt for airy EVA foam for shock absorption and short or mid-length shanks. These are plenty to keep you comfortable on flat, packed dirt trails, but they can fail to fully protect your foot from shock and rocks underneath you when on rougher trails. It’s a common feeling among hikers that lightweight hiking boots with short shanks and thin midsoles allow you to feel every bump you step on, which can quickly lead to foot fatigue and pain.
The other important disadvantage to lightweight hiking boots is that they are almost always less durable than heavier options. There’s simply less material, particularly in the upper, which allows you to wear through the boot more quickly either by rubbing from the inside or scratching against rocks from the outside. Many lightweight boots also don’t have rubber toe caps or rubber siding to help prevent wear along the sides of the boot, where banging against rocks is most likely to happen.
So, you should expect to replace your lightweight hiking boots more frequently than you would a heavier pair of boots. That’s not a problem for hiking necessarily, but it does mean that you’ll spend more money on boots over the years.
Frequently Asked Questions
Lightweight hiking boots can allow you to hike with more comfort and less fatigue, enabling you to hike further and longer. Better yet, you don’t have to give up on features like waterproofing and grippy rubber soles in order to get a lightweight pair of hiking boots. With our review of the eight best lightweight hiking boots, you can find a pair of boots that’s right for you and head out on your next adventure with a lightened load.