The best shoes for urban trails and light hiking are a bit different than the best shoes for mall walking or for neighborhood strolls. Trail shoes are typically sturdier with more aggressive tread and thicker padding.
Typically, lightweight running shoes just aren’t a good fit for walking on trails. (see video below). However, Trail Running Shoes are built with more cushioning, more structure and more rigidity than most road running shoes. Therefore, Trail Running shoes can function pretty well as walking shoes for many people.
When I’m doing a light hike on the Deschutes River Trail, (left) I wear something a bit sturdier than I might if I’m just walking through the neighborhood.
For instance, Keen, Merrell or Oboz all have exceptional, light hiking shoes that will accommodate people like me who need a little extra width in the toe box.
Regardless of the terrain, you need a shoe that really fits. Here are some tips for finding the right fit.
If you have wide feet, and need high-volume walking shoes, check out this post.
Many people who walk mostly on trails also use trekking poles to increase the fitness level and burn more calories.
Here’s our partial list of the best walking shoes for trail walking.
Keep in mind, we are not paid by the shoe companies to include their brands in this list. It is entirely subjective, and up to the editor’s discretion.
Altra Trail Walking Shoes – Extra space in the forefoot, so your toes can spread out.
Most shoes feature pointy toe boxes that squeeze the toes out of their natural position—increasing the risk of bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis. Altra’s Footshape Toebox allows the toes to relax and spread out naturally. The big toe can stay in a straight, healthy position.
So if your feet are shaped like mine, with a lot of width across the toes, Altra shoes give your foot the working space it needs.
Every Altra running shoe features a fully cushioned Zero Drop™ platform that places the heel and forefoot at the same distance from the ground. This natural balance aligns the feet, back and body posture for less impact. It also strengthens the Achilles and lower calf muscles that have been weakened over a lifetime of running on elevated heels.
The other, obvious feature of the Altra line is the extra-thick sole that makes for a super cushy ride. So if you have heel pain that requires that extra soft feeling, this is your shoe.
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Brooks Women’s Cascadia 11 trail running shoe
As far as running shoes go, the Brooks Cascadia models are pretty well suited for walking. Long-lasting HPR Green outsole material offers reliable traction in wet and dry conditions. Ballistic Rock Shield protects the soles from underfoot trail hazards. Full-length BioMoGo DNA midsole delivers dynamic, adaptive cushioning.
Here’s what the reviewers on Amazon have to say about the Brooks Cascadia shoes:
“This is my 5th pair of Brooks Cascadia’s. I use them for aerobic walking along the roadside (no sidewalks here), across dirt, rocks, asphalt, tree branches and housing construction debris. They handle anything underfoot and I don’t feel a thing. The soles are sturdy and deeply treaded so they don’t accumulate mud after the rains and they prevent skidding.”
“I purchased these shoes for my Peru trip in November. They are great for daily trekking, going up and down hills, good grip on gravel, and best of all these were easy to break in.”
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La Sportiva is a popular European brand of running and walking shoes
This French company has a long history of success in Europe, and produces a broad array of shoes from light runners to full-on alpine climbing boots.
La Sportiva Women’s FC ECO 2.0 GTX Hiking Shoe
FEATURES of the La Sportiva Women’s FC ECO 2.0 GTX Flex control system creates an extremely comfortable highly adaptable fit by aligning materials with the key flex zones of the midsole and outsole Impact Brake System increases braking power and decreases impact force Nubuck leather upper has a lightweight, abrasion resistant Uretech coating that is flexible and highly moldable Dual density ECO trailon midsole provides a firm, lightweight cushion Gore-Tex? lining is waterproof and breathable Casual look lets you use the shoe in a variety of situations from technical hiking to technical bar hopping.
Here’s what women are saying about the La Sportiva GTX hiking shoe on Amazon:
“Overall, I think this is a great boot for summer hiking, which is why I bought them, and I really like the flex panel because it makes them feel less bulky than some other boots I’ve worn. I plan to add inserts (I always wear inserts in my running shoes, so why not hiking too, right?) and also better socks next time.”
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LaSportiva GENESIS GTX HIKING
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Buying shoes online is the best way to find the perfect fit.
I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. But buying shoes from Amazon beats the heck out of driving from one store to another, only to to get skunked on sizes and styles.
There are only a few shops in my town that carry shoes designed specifically for walking. There are a lot of hiking boots, and tons of running shoes, but very few walking shoes. So even if I drove to every single store I was often left with only a few lousy choices.
With Amazon, there are hundreds of choices. We recommend that you order at least two different shoes, in two different sizes each. Then put them on and wear them around the house for at least a half an hour. Take your time. Walk around in them. Go up and down the stairs and make sure they don’t slip, pinch or grab. That’s the best way to decide.
Then just send back the pairs that aren’t your top choice. Returns are easy, especially if you have Amazon Prime.
KEEN Women’s Terradora Mid WP Hiking Shoe
Generally speaking, Keens are an excellent choice for people who need high-volume shoes for wide feet.
This mid-height model from Keen is as close to a true hiking boot as we get on GoodPairofShoes.com. Designed specifically for women, this lightweight hiking boot doubles as an around-town trekker. With a glove-like fit and a cushioned ankle panel, it delivers flexible freedom and all-day comfort.
Here are some of the reviews from Amazon on the Keen Terradora hiking shoe:
“I bought these on impulse a week before a 4 day section hike on the AT. It was the lightness in weight that drew me to these boots. I have a pair of Lowa Renegade, which I love but are very heavy. I found them tight, so I went a half size bigger. These boots did great on the trail. I didn’t feel like I was lugging extra weight on my feet.”
“Love these Keens! Lightweight, stylish, and actually waterproof. Great for a day hike, but wouldn’t use for anything more aggressive. I have really narrow feet so they fit me perfectly but for wider feet, size up.”
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Merrell Men’s Verterra Waterproof Hiking Shoe
These men’s speed hiking sneakers feature M Select Dry to seal out water and M Select GRIP tune outsole with durable traction that grips when and where you need it. The upper is crafted with a combination of leather and Merrell Stratafuse that provides a glove like fit for lightweight durability and natural movement. Designed with an M Bound TPK midsole the provides immediate feedback for accelerated response over rugged terrain with increased agility and durability.
Amazon reviews of the Merrell Verterra:
“I purchased these shoes specifically for a trip to Italy, where I would encounter cobblestone, concrete, as well as dirt and rocky trails along the Riviera. I logged approximately 70 miles and they worked great. A huge benefit is that they shoes fit/feel like a solid hiker, but don’t look the part. They look more like a casual running shoe, which worked great with my wardrobe (jeans and shorts).”
“Time and weather will tell the story, but having worn these shoes for a few days, I can say I’m very happy with the quality, the fit and the look. I walk 9-10 miles every day to and from work, rain or shine (living in Seattle) and I need shoes that support my feet but also hold up to the wear and go the distance. These shoes seem well constructed, so I have high hopes for these shoes. I was able to remove the insoles and add my own orthotics – which fit comfortably.”
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Oboz Sawtooth light hiking shoes – Our #1 pick.
This is my top pick for the best light hiking shoe. It fits my foot perfectly… a little extra room in the forefoot allows for my wide toes, and they accommodate my my high instep while still feeling snug and secure.
One feature that I should mention is the number of eyelets for the laces… There are seven on each side, which allows you to dial-in the fit around all parts of the foot. I think that’s why they feel so good on my high instep.
For me, it was a close call between this and the Merrell, but I liked the feeling of the soles a bit better in the Oboz.
Oboz’s proprietary insole is what they’re known for. Molded to match the specific shape and construction of every pair we make, this purpose-designed technology delivers the kind of fit, feel and performance that’s unmatched in the industry.
The anatomically-designed insole maximizes stability and support with a supportive arch and a deep cushioning heel cup. Triple-density EVA throughout provides both cushioning and durability, and a shot of urethane under the metatarsals and heels adds extra protection to high-strike zones.
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Salomon is a big name in ski boots and biking shoes. They also make many good, sturdy walking shoes for light hiking.
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Amazon Reviews of the Solomon Women’s Ellipse walking shoe:
“Did not break them in, wore them hiking for the first time and they were fabulous, very light shoe with great arch support. I bought the size that I wear, did not opt to order a half size bigger and they were fine, plenty of room for my toes in the front. Definitely recommend the shoe.”
“I hiked all day the first day I wore these, definitely not a shoe that needs ‘breaking in’! Lightweight and very comfortable as soon as you put them on. Love the colors, too.”
Under Armour Mirage light hiking shoe
I was pretty impressed when I tried on this new Under Armour model. They cradled my heel quite well, and felt spacious in the toe box and in the instep, even though they’re a standard D width. This is definitely near the top of the class in what I’d call “hiking sneakers.”
Amazon reviews for the Under Armour Mirage walking shoe:
“Nice shoes. A little heavy though, in my opinion. I have been getting a lot of use out of them though. Good traction, great quality, and fit was good. I wear them quite a bit and they are comfortable and they look good.”
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