My trusty hiking shoes have finally had it.
After more than 3 years of constant use, I’ve glued the soles back on more times than I can count, the waterproofing is caput, and the laces are torn to shreds.
They’ve seen me through rain, shine, mud, snow, and everything in between. But it’s time to face facts:
I need some new ones…
I’ve been on the hunt for sturdy, lightweight, and stylish footwear for a while. And, from what I can see, minimalist hiking shoes or boots seem ideal.
However, there’s also a fair selection to choose between online. It’s hard to know the good hiking shoes from the bad. With feet and money on the line, nobody wants to make a poor decision.
I figured I’d do some research into the best minimalist hiking shoes/boots out there, and then write it all up. And here we are!
Fingers crossed the coming buying guide will help you out in your pursuit of new minimalist hiking footwear.
Read on to discover all about the best minimalist hiking boots I could find.
Best Minimalist Hiking Shoes & Boots - Summary Table
What’s a Minimalist Hiking Shoe/Boot?
First thing’s first, though: what actually is a minimalist hiking shoe/boot?
Frankly, nobody seems to know.
I was pretty surprised to find so little information on the internet about them. There doesn’t seem to be any explicit guidelines to what constitutes a minimalist boot.
It’s up for debate.
That said, certain shared characteristics do always come up.
Overall, minimalist boots seem to have the following qualities as standard:
Level of ‘feel’ with the ground
Protective without going overboard
Commonly zero-drop (meaning flat soles)
Oh, and, like all minimalist gear, they look bloody cool too.
I’m sorry I can’t get more specific! Like, how lightweight do they have to be? What level of padding constitutes minimalistic boots? Do they have to be zero-drop to be considered minimalistic shoes?
Honestly, I don’t know.
Generally speaking, though, minimalist gear always seems to be a great blend of aesthetics and functionality.
It’s no thrills gear that gets the job done, while looking great in the process. That’s what I’m looking for in a minimalist hiking shoe. As such, the shoes and boots I’ve included in this post all fit that description.
Related content you might find useful:
Why Buy Minimalist Hiking Shoes and Boots? Benefits of Minimalist Walking Boots
Okay, with that (very vague) definition out of the way, let’s trundle onwards!
Next up, what benefits do minimalist hiking boots and shoes have over others? The definition above may have offered some clues. But I think it’s worth delving a bit deeper anyway.
Here’s why buying them makes sense:
This seems one of the primary perks provided by minimalist footwear:
They’re far lighter than other options.
And they’re awesome for it.
I hate walking with enormous, heavy shoes on my feet. They always feel ungainly and sap your energy over longer hikes.
Likewise, for any travellers reading this, hitting the road with heavy boots is horrible! That extra weight makes all the difference when you’re lugging a 15-20kg backpack around (here are some further tips for travelling you might find useful).
Of course, the weight reduction comes at a slight cost. They sacrifice a bit of the protection you get with bulkier boots.
All told, though, I’d say it’d be worth it for the added convenience and ease.
They’re Simple Yet Functional
Minimalist boots aren’t pretentious in any way.
There’s something humble about them, which I like a lot. It’s no frills, bells or whistles stuff.
Their simplicity is endearing! Even better, they get the job done. They’re entirely functional.
Bad analogies aside, these boots seem like the perfect balance between functionality and simplicity.
They Look Great
Oh, and they look awesome too.
That’s another thing I love about minimalist gear:
It’s inevitably got a fair dose of aesthetic appeal to its name as well. The same goes with the hiking footwear. Simply, they look really bloody cool.
Looking for more minimalist gear? Here are the best minimalist backpacks I could find too :)
Here’s another plus point:
Minimalist shoes and boots are versatile things too. Thanks to their lightweight and stylish nature, I’d say you can get away wearing them away from the trail as well.
That’s good news for anyone (like me) who is travelling around with limited space. Dual-functionality is key to space-saving. Almost everything I own on the road serves multiple purposes.
Hiking boots that look smart enough to wear out to a restaurant or bar? That’s a big win in my eyes.
They’re (Relatively) Inexpensive
I’m guessing price will be a factor in most boot-buying decisions.
Nicely, minimalist boots are often relatively inexpensive. That isn’t always the case. However, generally speaking, compared to high-end alternatives, your money goes a bit further.
They Feel Different
Another reason minimalist footwear is becoming so popular is the way they feel.
Obviously, they weigh less and have less padding. That amounts to greater sensitivity to the ground underfoot. So long as you get enough support, that’s no bad thing.
Anyone who wants to connect with the ground under their feet is sure to find this appealing.
They’re Better For your Feet
As it happens, minimalist footwear in general is said to be good for your hooves.
I’m not entirely sure why. However, I have read that it’s something to do with the relative lack of cushioning and support (versus alternatives).
Essentially, the muscles in your feet and lower legs have to work harder.
Over time, that extra usage can strengthens them up and prevents foot injuries. There are caveats though. It isn’t all great news. Apparently, using super lightweight footwear (especially for heavier-set individuals) can actually raise the risk of injury.
Here’s a little more info on this if you want to read up on it.
Top Considerations for Choosing the Best Minimalist Hiking Boots & Shoes
Okay, moving on. With the basic covered, let’s turn to how to choose the best minimalist hiking footwear.
Here are the top considerations for choosing your new boots:
The fit is always a priority, whenever you buy new footwear.
At the most basic level, new shoes and boots must fit your feet.
You’re obviously not going to buy them if you can’t get your feet inside, or if you can shake them loose! However, it gets a bit more technical than that with hiking boots.
Fit is the most important part of the decision-making process.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to tell the difference sometimes (the tips coming up should help).
As a rough guide, your new boots should hug your foot; you should be able to wiggle your toes, but there shouldn’t be excessive room above them inside the boot. Your feet shouldn’t slip around, or scrunch up (even when facing ‘downhill’).
Again, you’re unlikely to purposefully buy a boot that feels awful on your feet!
Equally, this usually doesn’t become properly clear until you try them out properly on the trail.
Get a pair that feels as comfy as possible from the outset though. This gives you a better chance of enjoying them when you eventually put them to work.
Most quality hiking shoes and boots do a good job of supporting your feet and ankles.
There are different options available though.
Different ‘cuts’ provide varying degrees of support. Essentially, the ankle support extends to varying levels up your ankle and leg! The higher it goes, the more support you have.
However, they’ll also be heavier, and probably more expensive too. This is where it pays to reflect on where you’ll be using your boots and what for.
For gentler hikes over reasonable terrain, then a lower cut will be fine. For rougher terrain and longer hiking, more support is always preferable.
Likewise, think about the weight you’ll be carrying.
Long hikes usually require heavier backpacks full of gear and food. Having sturdier minimalist shoes or boots with high-cut ankle support might be the best bet.
Materials obviously come into play as well.
Go to the outdoor shop and you’ll see a range of boot materials displayed.
The look and feel of the materials is one thing to think about. But, in reality, the most important factor is arguably the level of waterproofing.
It’s vital to pick boots and shoes with top levels of waterproofing. Gore-Tex boots are a gold standard to look for. See the Gore-Tex label and you know you’ll be okay.
Another material consideration might be the maintenance requirements.
Pay attention to the soles of the minimalist boots and shoes as well.
After all, this is what’s providing the protection between you and the ground. It’s worth investing in some boots with reasonable outsoles to keep your tootsies happy.
On hiking footwear, you’ll often find rubber soles as standard. However, two points of interest are what’s known as the ‘lug pattern’ and the ‘heel brake’.
The lugs are the bumps and grooves that provide grip on the trail. Ideally, you want soles with deeper and thicker lugs to provide traction over rough ground. No-one wants to fall over in the mud! Good lugs help stop that happening.
The heel brake is, as you probably guessed, the part of the sole under your heel! It should be designed in a way to stop your sliding when going downhill.
Minimalist hiking shoes and boots are a little different. As you’ll see, barefoot designs try and replicate the experience of walking directly on the ground.
That means the soles are thinner, and ‘zero-drop’; there’s no height difference between front and back.
It’s meant to feel great, put you ‘in touch with the land’, and make your feet stronger too.
A stiff boot might sound like a bad thing.
However, it depends entirely on your needs.
Walking long distances over tough terrain can make a stiff boot a better option.
In reality, minimalist boots are likely to have lower stiffness than other options. Many people love the fact they can feel the ground underfoot.
Stiffness is worth thinking about if you’re planning on serious hiking in extreme landscapes though.
A quick note on aesthetics.
Nobody wants an ugly pair of boots. Be sure to settle on a pair that you’ll enjoy wearing from an aesthetic stand point too.
Like I mentioned earlier, minimalist boots tend to have you covered here anyway.
Everyone’s got different tastes though, obviously. The ‘right’ pair of boots will vary entirely by person. The practical side of a boot is arguably more important. Make sure you like the look of ‘em too though!
Alas, quality hiking boots are rarely cheap.
There’s no point splurging on a pair that’s out of budget though. Stick within your price-range.
That said, I do recommend seeing your hiking footwear as an investment. Sure, you could buy some for under 50 bucks. But the standard is never going to be as good as a $300 pair.
Paying more upfront can save you money long term. Shoes will usually last longer thanks to having durable materials and higher quality manufacture.
As it happens, most options in the coming list are incredibly inexpensive. It seems like another benefit of buying minimalist shoes and boots online. Everything seems crazily cheap compared to what I’ve paid in-store in the past.
Top Tips for Finding the Right Minimalist Hiking Footwear
The actual minimalist hiking boot reviews are coming up, I promise.
First, though, I thought it might help to highlight some tips for the buying process. The following set of advice should help guarantee you walk away (in your new boots) happy as Larry.
(FYI, most of these tips only apply when you’re buying them in store, and not online.)
1. Consult with the Shop Assistant
Okay, tip number 1:
Speak with the retail assistant on the shop floor.
It’s not exactly rocket science.
That said, I rarely do it. In reality, the most I’ll ever ask someone in a shop is for directions to the stuff I’m there to buy.
The only exception to that is when I’m in outdoorsy shops. I always find genuine value in asking the retail assistants for help- especially when I’m buying footwear.
They can listen to your needs and make recommendations accordingly. They’ll then help you find the perfect style and fit. Of course, they can provide answers to any questions you have in the process too.
Equally, I tend to find these guys have a genuine passion for the outdoors.
They aren’t just there to look pretty and sell stuff! They love the outdoors, value great gear, and can make knowledgeable recommendations based on real-world experience.
Be sure to leverage that insight when you’re in store and on the hunt for boots.
2. Try With the Right Socks
This is hiking shoes/boot buying 101.
Make sure you wear a pair of actual hiking socks to the shop- or take some with you. These days, shops will probably have some there for you to use.
However, I recommend taking the actual socks you’ll be using on the hike.
It’s about getting an accurate idea of what a boot will feel like in use. It’s stupidly easy to wear a standard pair of socks to the shop. You try on the boots and they fit perfectly.
Later, you try them on with your actual hiking socks and realise they’re too small!
Remember, walking socks are thicker than ordinary ones. Some even have multiple layers that literally double their thickness. There needs to be enough room in the boot to accommodate them.
Buying online? Be sure to take this into account. It might be worth buying a boot half a size larger than usual. Make sure you can send the boots back if they don’t fit properly.
3. Try At the End of the Day
Doesn’t it feel incredible to take off your shoes at the end of a long day?
It’s because your feet tend to swell throughout it. Come the evening, your feet are literally bigger than they were that morning. Removing your shoes literally takes the pressure off.
Keep this in mind when shoe and boot buying.
Going at the end of the day better reflects the state of your feet on the trail. Walking long distances will also lead your feet to get warmer and swell up.
You want to buy boots that you know won’t be too uncomfortable when that happens.
4. Remember Your Orthotics
Quick one for you:
Do you wear orthotics (the specially made shoe inserts that help you walk better)?
If so, be sure to take them to the store when you’re buying your minimalist hiking boots. Same goes for insoles. If you’re used to wearing insoles in your shoes, then take some along.
5. Walk Around the Store
Classic mum advice here, but be sure to walk around the store when you’re trying footwear on.
As you already know, it’s genuinely helpful when buying any footwear. You want to see if they fit, if they rub, and how they feel. Walking around the store gives you a general idea of these things.
Don’t just do the classic ‘few steps forwards and backwards’ though.
Test them out! Walk on tips toes to simulate downhill sections on trails. Step up onto seats to simulate rocky, stepped sections, and so on. Jump, squat, wiggle and jiggle your way around the store too!
The more you move, the easier it’ll be to see if they’re right for you.
6. Opt for Familiar brands (Especially When Shopping Online)
Have you, like me, had the same pair of hiking shoes for ages?
If so, then use it to your advantage in your shopping. Let me explain…
At the end of the day, buying shoes and clothes online is a little risky. Everybody does it, and, nicely, you can almost always return the items.
However, buying boots without first trying them on will obviously leave some room for error.
You can mitigate the risk by finding a similar pair as before, from the same brand.
Alternatively, just stick with the brand. You already have first-hand experience of their quality; you know they make good boots that you enjoy wearing.
That’s all useful data! Capitalize on it by sticking with what you know in your online shopping.
The Best Minimalist Hiking Boot Buying Guide: Top 8 Minimalist Hiking Shoes and Boots
Okay, finally, on to the minimalist hiking boot reviews themselves. I hope you find a pair you like!
Material: Suede leather
Sole: Vasque OTG (Off the Grid)
Rubber outsole for additional comfort
Weight: <2lbs (0.9kgs)
I really like the look of these Vasque hiking shoes.
They tick a lot of boxes: solid rubber soles, pretty lightweight and (relatively) budget-friendly. They’re also smart aesthetically.
I’d say you could easily get away with wearing these out and about more generally.
Functionality is obviously important, though. The Vasques seem to have you covered here too.
There’s some serious lug on the sole. That means good grip over slippery surfaces, which is always essential.
The ankle cut is fairly low. However, compared to other minimalist shoes on this list, it doesn’t seem too bad. It looks to offer a good level of ankle support.
Slight downsides include the potential waterproofing issues. They’re said to be best for dry terrain.
Overall, this seems like a well-made, good-value, smart-looking hiking shoe.
Value for money
Great for dryer climates
Easy to break-in
No waterproof barrier
Potential durability issues
Toe shoe (‘five fingers’)
‘Megagrip’ rubber outsole
Weight: <1lb (0.45kgs)
I’ve always been interested in ‘five fingers’ shoes.
They look a little strange, but super comfortable too. These Vibram V-Trek shoes are no exception!
Indeed, comfort was a common positive quality described in online reviews. Even better, these Vibrams seem functional too.
Vibram soles have a stellar reputation. These ones will protect your feet, while maintaining a sense of ‘feel’ between you and the ground. You’ll enjoy the high level of grip they offer too.
This is barefoot, minimalist hiking at its best.
Your feet’ll get wet. But the shoes are rapid drying, which is good news. There’s nothing worse than having constantly soggy feet on long hikes. Expect high flexibility too, and good versatility for all terrain.
In terms of cons, I read a couple of reviews about potential bad smells and rubbing.
Both issues seem a natural outcome of barefoot walking to me, though.
All things considered, if you like the alternative aesthetic style, then I think you’ll love these minimalist shoes for hiking.
Versatile for all terrains
Possible durability issues with intense use
Potential bad smells
Material: suede leather and mesh
Protective rubber toe cap
Cushioned mesh tongue
5mm lug depth
Weight: <2lb (0.9kgs)
I wanted to include a pair of more traditional hiking shoes.
It’s up for debate if these still count as ‘minimalist’! If I’m honest, I don’t think they do! However, they do provide a nice point of comparison to other items on this list.
These are far from zero-drop, barefoot walking. You’re looking at bulky shoes with heavy tread, significant lugs, and thick soles! There’s much more ankle support and better waterproofing.
Nicely, these Merrell’s are still lightweight in nature though.
Even better, Merrell is a well-respected brand in the hiking industry. That usually amounts to quality.
I’d say they’re an absolute bargain at the price they’re being sold at too.
One point I came across was its high flexibility. It’s suggested that they’re less suited to long distance and heavyweight hikes.
However, expect them to perform better in this regard than other, more typical, minimalist shoes on this list.
Good underfoot protection
Value for money
Relatively high flexibility (though no worse than others on this list)
Zero drop shoe (flat sole)
Wide toe space
Weight: 0.77lbs (0.35kgs)
These Whitins may be more like what you had in mind for a minimalist shoe.
They’re super-lightweight, zero-drop, and designed as barefoot footwear.
Ergonomic considerations have gone into the design.
They include a widened toe space to enable your feet to spread out on the move. That’s meant to be better for the foot, versus constrictive alternatives.
For me, this is a no-nonsense bit of minimalist hiking footwear. It’s no-frills stuff, which is arguably how it should be.
There’s some decent tread on the sole (though don’t expect the same level of grip as other shoes), they’re easy to clean, and comfortable to wear. They’re better-suited to shorter hikes with lighter loads.
Animal-welfare inclined? You’ll like the Whitins. They’re made with vegan-friendly materials. No animals were harmed here.
Top tip: According to recommendations, if you need a half size, then opt for the next size down when ordering the shoe.
Vegan friendly materials
Wide selection of colours/styles
Easy to clean
Less support versus other options
Long distance/heavy hiking not recommended
Wide toe space
Protective toe cap
Cooling vents on sole
I like the look of these Xidiso trail shoes.
They’re stylish, sleek and would definitely be suitable outside of a hike.
Like most of these minimalist hiking shoes, I’d be less inclined to wear them over long distances. They just don’t have the tread or ankle support I’d want.
However, if I wanted to move quickly over relatively easy terrain, then they’d be ideal. It make sense- they’re trail shoes, after all!
Again, you’ll enjoy the zero drop style and closeness to the earth. The wide toe space lets your feet spread out on the move too, just as the Whitins did.
Rubber soles provide reasonable foot protection; the cooling vents on the underside facilitate breathability.
The Xidisos are some of my personal favorites on this list.
Less support versus other options
Long distance/heavy hiking not recommended
Drainage holes in soles for water loss
No laces (elastic straps)
Weight: 0.75lbs (0.34kgs)
Switching gears a bit here.
These Mishanshas are actually water shoes. They’re meant for walking through watery terrain; spending time at the beach or doing water sports.
In simple terms, they’re designed to get wet and protect your feet at the same time.
Expect quick drying (thanks to a built in drainage system in the soles) and rubber soles. They’re easy to slip on and off too. The Mashanshas are well made, meaning great durability.
They’re exceptionally popular shoes online, with hundreds of 5* reviews.
Now, they aren’t made for hiking. That’s not their primary purpose. However, they don’t seem too dissimilar to other trail-type barefoot shoes. They’re lightweight, zero-drop, quick-drying and stylish.
Again, I’d skip out on serious hiking. There just isn’t enough grip on the soles, or support around the foot or ankle.
Overall, though, I think they’d make a decent pair of minimalistic hiking shoes for shorter distances and easy terrain.
Perfect for wet walking
Get on and off quickly
Less support versus other options
Long distance/heavy hiking not recommended
Not designed with hiking in mind
Material: textile and synthetic combo
Weight: 0.68lbs (0.3kgs)
Aggressive grip pattern
10mm drop between heel and toe sole height
Salomons have a great reputation in the outdoor/trail/hiking world.
The company makes high-quality footwear; these Speedcross shoes live up to that standard. Indeed, many people swear by them online.
The style is different this time. They’re just as lightweight, but we’re waving goodbye to barefoot, zero-drop soles.
Instead, you’ve got a 10mm drop and huge lugs on the sole!
Expect tonnes of grip on muddy paths, and good shock absorption on downhill sections. You’d enjoy much better support around the foot and ankle as well (versus previous shoes on the list).
They’re designed for trail running. However, there’s no reason they wouldn’t function as hiking shoes. I see the Speedcross as a happy medium between full-blown hiking shoes, and bare-minimum minimalist shoes.
There’s the occasion issue noted with durability of the sole: they’re said to wear out quite quickly over hard ground.
In all other ways, though, Salomon seems to have made a set of high-quality hiking shoes.
High drop (aka thick heels for shock absorption downhill)
Great grip from big lugs
Super lightweight for design
Perfect from muddy terrain
High drop (less suited for flat terrain)
Designed with trail running in mind
Soft soles wear out quicker on hard ground
Weight: 0.62lb (0.28kg)
These Astral’s are another personal favourite.
It’s another example of a functional shoe that could serve a dual-purpose. You could definitely wear these shoes out and about as normal!
They seem as suited to the track as they do the high-street. At first glance, you wouldn’t assume they were designed for the outdoors.
Look closer and see the high-quality materials, durable design, grippy soles, and decent support. This is a quick-drying, lightweight and minimalist hiking shoe that’s unlike any other on this list.
I’d almost be worried about getting them dirty! It’s a good sign that that’s the only downside I can see.
Having said that, I’d still be less inclined to wear these on long distance, serious hiking. The support doesn’t seem bad. Yet, for challenging terrain, I’d still be worried about my ankles.
High levels of grip
Zero drop (level footbed)
Less suited to long distance/heavy hiking
Weight: 1lb (0.45kgs)
Barefoot design (zero drop)
Onto what’s surely the quintessential minimalist hiking boot.
These have style and fashion at their heart.
Vivobarefoot has championed the barefoot, minimalist movement. It seems only natural that they’ve designed and manufactured a legitimate challenger to traditional boots.
What’s more, they seem well-suited to the task.
Arguably more flexible than normal boots, you’ll still get the support you need. They’re also said to be exceptionally warm- that’s good news if you’re somewhere cold! The lug-design is interesting too: the grip seems to come from the material, rather than the depth of tread.
There are a few waterproofing issues noted in reviews.
However, from what I can see, the price has come down a lot. All told, you buy a high-quality, functional pair of minimalist boots for a bargain.
Very little break-in time
Good ankle support
Some waterproofing issues
Too warm (in certain climates)!
Weight: 0.75lb (0.34kg)
Padded tongue and collar
Last but not least is this pair of Keen Targhee hiking boots.
They’re another quality boot that combines elements of both traditional and minimalist footwear.
Expect a lightweight, aesthetically-pleasing and simple boot with no bells or whistles. At the same time, enjoy the seriously thick soles, significant drop, and hefty lugs.
It seems to offer the best of both worlds, with arguably the best ankle support system too.
These boots will be less flexible, providing greater protection, but less ‘feel’ when on the trail. Waterproofing should be top-quality too.
I did notice a few mentions of durability issues, though. It’s surprising: Keen is a well-respected outdoor brand. The quality should be assured.
Many reviews comment on the high-standards.
However, more recently, some people wondered if the company has started outsourcing their manufacture. If so, that might explain a few of the flaws people have come across in recent times.
Whatever the case, I still think these minimalist hiking boots deserve your attention!
Top tip: Order half a size larger than you usually buy.
Arguably the best option for long distance hikes
Durability issues reported more recently
Best Minimalist Hiking Shoe Buying Guide: Final Thoughts
It’s time to wrap up!
Finding hiking boots is rarely easy. There are tonnes to choose from out there and a load of boot-buying considerations to think about too.
I really hope this guide to the best minimalist hiking boots has helped out in your hunt. It’s definitely given me some food for thought in my own search for new hiking footwear.
For their lightweight, practical and stylish nature, minimalist hiking boots seem an ideal choice.
Did you find a pair you like the look of? Drop me a comment below to let me know. Likewise, let me know if you have any comments and I’ll try my best to help out.
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