The 6 Best Hiking Boots for the Appalachian Trail (Essential Review)

The 6 Best Hiking Boots for the Appalachian Trail (Essential Review)

If you're thinking about hitting the Appalachian Trail, you are wise to be researching your gear and supplies first. It's an incredibly demanding hike, both mentally and physically, and this preparation and research that you're doing now can truly mean the difference between life and death. Your boots will be carrying you the whole way, so make sure you're wearing the best hiking boots for the Appalachian trail and nothing less.

Quick Comparison Winners: Best Hiking Boots for the Appalachian Trail

**Below, you'll find our detailed reviews, but you can also click the links above to quickly check the prices of our top hiking boot picks for the Appalachian Trail.

Why your hiking boots are of the utmost importance

There are certain pieces of gear, even a few of the essentials, where it is not the end of the world if you don't go all out. In some cases, you can get away with "good enough", but when it comes to your boots - good enough truly isn't good enough. Anything less than great just won't cut it.

When you're going to be traversing a variety of landscapes, sometimes you'll be walking on slippery rocks in the rain, other times you'll be walking on top of logs and brush, and you need something on your feet that's going to be able to adapt to your terrain.

Not all hiking boots are created equal, and not all of them are going to be suitable for tackling the Appalachian Trail. You'll want to lean more towards backpacking boots, which are heavier, sturdier, and more rugged than a typical pair of regular hiking shoes.

Why not just wear comfortable shoes, instead?

It's not just about comfort, it's also about support. When you're carrying your pack, that's an extra 20, 30, or more pounds on your back, which changes the dynamic of the way your body carries the weight. It puts extra strain on your feet and legs, but having boots that are designed to help carry that extra weight is going to make things a lot more manageable.

Shoes may feel more comfortable for the first twenty minutes, but ultimately it's not just about comfort - it's about support - and those "comfy" shoes are going to leave your feet cold, sore, and wet before you know it.

There are hikers, as well, that prefer to go with trail shoes over hiking boots. Ultimately, it comes down to a personal preference, but for our intents and purposes today we won't be covering any shoes, just boots.

Things to know about the Appalachian Trail

We're focusing on hiking boots today, but there are some key things to keep in mind about hiking this particular trail, besides footwear. We don't have nearly enough time to get into all of it, but we would be doing you a disservice if we didn't take a minute to cover, at the very least, some of the basics.

  • It's a good idea to test your gear out first. Especially your rain gear. Don't let the first time you're putting up your tent, or the first time you're walking any distance in your boots, be when you embark on this trail. You don't want to be in the middle of a storm when you realize your water-proof tent isn't exactly as advertised.
  • It's a long trail, but you'll get to the end eventually. Don't try to cover too much distance, too soon. People get burnt out, injured, and jeopardize the rest of their journey by doing this, all the time.
  • You're going to change a lot during these few months. If you're going at a solid clip, it will still take months to complete the hike. You're going to change a lot as a person. Mentally, physically, spiritually. You'll learn things about yourself, about nature, about other people.
  • It's not going to be easy. If it was, would it even be worth doing? At the end of the day, it all comes down to you and what you've got inside, but don't underestimate how important it is to have quality gear.

Spending an extra $50 or $100 to get great boots, instead of just 'good' ones... are you really going to miss that money, when you're in the middle of your hike and your lower-quality boots start to give out on you? No, of course not.

What makes a boot higher quality than another?

We've gone on and on about the importance of wearing a quality hiking boot when you're tackling the Appalachian Trail, but what makes one boot better than another? Initial comfort is important, but stability is more important. Comfort isn't just how good it feels when you first put it on and walk around, it's how good the boot is going to be supporting you after 100 miles, 1000 miles...

A boot can be comfortable at first, but that doesn't mean it'll hold up long-term, and it also doesn't mean that it's giving you the necessary support for a long hike. Your body will start to give out before you reach the end, and you'll have to dig deep - just make sure your gear doesn't start to give out too soon.

The quality of materials it's made from, coming from a reputable brand that has had decades to perfect their craft, and making sure it's suitable for long distances are all key things to look out for.

We've done a lot of the legwork (no pun intended) to put you on the right path (pun intended) towards choosing a pair of boots that's going to be able to keep up with you.

Tip: It's usually recommended to go a size-up when you're shopping for hiking boots. Each brand fits slightly differently, but two things are universal. First, you'll be wearing thicker socks than usual and second, your feet will be swollen and larger than usual.

Full Review: Best Hiking Boots for the Appalachian Trail

Zamberlan Men's 1025 Tofane NW GT RR

zamberlan-mens-1025-tofane-nw-gt-rr-hiking-boots

Our Rating

This particular set of boots is far from being a budget choice, and that's good. On a serious hike like the AT, quality is the top priority. Quality is defined in different ways, of course, and this pair checks off all definitions.

These boots will only take one or two shorter hikes to break in, and it's highly recommended that you do so before venturing out on the Appalachian Trail. They're very study, well-made, and comfortable, making them a solid choice.

They tend to fit true-to-size, but you may want to leave a bit of extra room for your thicker hiking socks. These boots are waterproof, and have padding on the inside, but they aren't overly insulated so they won't be ideal for freezing-cold winter hikes.

Pros

  • Winner of the Outdoor Industry Award for innovative design that combines new technology with old-world construction
  • Full-grain waxed leather and Gore-Tex, combined with rubber toe rand and Zamberlan's Vibram NorWalk outsole combine for a very durable boot
  • Style wise, on top of everything else, they're actually a great looking leather hiking boot

Cons

  • The only real con with these boots is the price. While you're getting great value for the money, it's still on the pricier end of boots we'll be featuring today. But, if these are in your budget, they're definitely worth considering

Salomon Men's Quest 4D 2 GTX

salomon-mens-quest-4d-2-gtx-hiking-boots

Our Rating

Taking a break from the full-leather boots we've looked at thus far, here's one made from a combination of leather, and synthetic materials. This allows the boot to breathe a little better, while retaining the durability and support that you would expect from a quality pair of hiking boots. From big picture things, to smaller details like laces that are designed to stay tied better, these boots have had a lot of thought put into them.

The synthetic materials also mean these boots are made to be lighter, without sacrificing support. These boots generally fit as expected.

Pros

  • High-grade leather along with synthetic materials make these boots stronger, lighter, and durable
  • Protective rubber toe cap
  • Uses Solomon 4D Chassis technology for increased stability over longer periods of time
  • These Salomon hiking boots are really easy and quick to break-in

Cons

Scarpa Men's Zanskar GTX

Scarpa Men's Zanskar GTX Hiking Boots

Our Rating

This high-end hiking boot for men is a great choice for a number of reasons. The price is on the higher-end, but the quality and value are through the roof. This leather boot is made with a synthetic Vibram sole and allows bi-directional ankle flex.

There's a protective rubber rand over the toe, Gore-Tex help ensures your feet stay dry, and a micro-pulley makes it easier to lace up, which is always a plus when you're on the trail.

In our experience, a break-in period wasn't required, however it's still a good idea to get a few hours in them before venturing out on a huge expedition.

Pros

  • Plenty of room in the toe, with added protection, so keep you comfortable and safe from certain hazards
  • This set of boots is well-made with high-quality materials that will last you a long time
  • Free returns, just in case they don't fit quite right - but in our experience they fit exactly as expected

Cons

  • The price is a bit tough to swallow, as with any higher-end boots, especially when you see them on the shelf next to a $60 or $70 pair. Remember that there is a huge difference between low-end boots and very high quality boots like these. It's not just how they feel the moment after you put them on, it's how they offer superior support and last for years.

Danner Women's Mountain Light Cascade

Danner Women's Mountain Light Cascade Hiking Boots

Our Rating

These boots are based on the iconic 1970's style from Danner, considered one of the best hiking boots for women ever released. Danner is known for "quality over quantity", they are craftsmen in every sense of the word and it shows in their boots. These boots were made in Portland, but they'll take you wherever you want to go.

We recommend grabbing a half-size smaller than you might normally wear in hiking boots, as they run a bit small. Unless you wear very thick socks, in which case you should be all set to go with whatever your regular size is. The sole on these boots can handle just about any surface you can throw at them.

Pros

  • These Danner hiking boots for women have excellent arch support
  • They're slightly narrower than boots by the brand Keen, as a comparison. They come equipped with inserts that you can use to help with over-pronation
  • From a purely aesthetic point of view, they're quite possibly the nicest looking boots on this entire list. There's just something classically American about them
  • They come packaged beautifully in their 1995-style box. It's that extra touch that lets you know they really care about the product they're putting out there

Cons

  • You're definitely paying for the fact that they're made in America by skilled craftsmen, using beautiful quality materials. If those traits matter to you, these boots are an easy choice
  • The fit is a bit off for some people, you'll need to order your size accordingly
  • It comes in one style, so if you like the boot but not the red on leather look, you're out of luck

Zamberlan Women's 996 Vioz GT

Zamberlan Women's 996 Vioz GT

Our Rating

Next up is another pair of Zamberlan boots, this time it's a pair for women. This boot has the same quality leather construction and workmanship that made the men's such a great choice. This pair of hiking boots for women features an exclusive Vibram sole, and is imported from Italy.

They fit our reviewer exactly as expected. The natural dark leather look highlights the rugged craftsmanship, these are the type of boots that you can rely on when the going gets tough.

Pros

  • Hydrobloc coating on the leather keeps water out
  • These boots are hand-made for that extra touch of craftsmanship
  • These boots are designed for long backpacking trips in all four seasons
  • They're able to maintain high levels of comfort without sacrificing lateral support

Cons

  • They're not ideal for mountain climbing or extreme cold weather
  • If you're looking for something lighter and a bit less 'beefy', these won't be the ideal choice

Asolo Drifter Gv Boots for Women

Asolo Drifter Gv Boots for Women

Our Rating

The final women's boot is made by Asolo. This boot is made from water-resistant suede with a nylon lining, and Gore-Tex. These boots are made in Europe, and are rated for all-season use. The water-proofing works very well and will keep you dry from things like smaller streams, or a heavy downpour of rain.

They start off quite stiff, but the sole loosens up once you break them in. You'll definitely want to break them in before you take on the Appalachian Trail.

Pros

  • These are very reasonably priced boots. Definitely higher end, but without a huge price-tag
  • They're equipped with a Vibram Radiant sole, which offers added protection to the forefoot
  • A radial grip pattern to help avoid pronation

Cons

  • The soles start off feeling very stiff, but once you break them in they're great - they'll provide excellent grip
  • They run a bit wide, so if you have very narrow feet these might not be the way to go

Best Appalachian Trail Hiking Boots WINNERS


Choosing the Winners

With so many excellent boots out there for both men and women, choosing the winner was a difficult task, but when it's all said and done - there were two pairs that rose above their peers:

Top Choice for Men: ​Zamberlan 1025 Tofane NW GT RR

Our Rating

This is a serious pair of boots for a serious hiker, and you'd better be exactly that if you're planning to tackle the Appalachian Trail. There are people who have been wearing the same pair of Zamberlan boots for 20 years. When you're racking up serious mileage along the AT, you can't expect your boots to last forever, but with this pair - you're definitely getting the quality that you're paying for.

Compared to the other men's boots featured here, this pair by Zamberlan just goes that extra mile, which will help you to do the same.


Top Choice for Women: ​Danner Mountain Light Cascade

Danner Women's Mountain Light Cascade Hiking Boots

Our Rating

Because you can never go wrong with a classic. These boots offer the quality, craftsmanship, and durability to take you down just about any trail, including the Appalachian. Compared to the other women's hiking boots we featured, these ones edge them out in terms of value, style, and durability. On top of it all, you're getting great value for the price, which makes these a top choice for the best hiking boots for the Appalachian trail.