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Cheap Hiking Boots Buying Guide

The best cheap hiking boot we found was the Merrell Moab Ventilator (starting at $75), which reviewers widely consider comfortable, supportive, and lightweight. It features a breathable mesh upper for ventilation, making it ideal for summer hikes and generally hot climates.

Two other top hiking shoes for consumers on a budget are the Keen Alamosa WP (starting at $72) and the Salomon Synapse (starting at $60). The latter is designed for fast hiking and light trail running, with special heel cushioning, a protective toecap, and a unique shape that allows the foot to roll through each stride. The Keen Alamosa WP is waterproof yet breathable and features multi-directional lugs, or treads, for superior traction.

The terms hiking boots and hiking shoes are often used interchangeably, and for the purposes of this buying guide, we're bowing to common usage and employing "hiking boots" generically. Technically, though, most of our picks -- and most pairs under $100 -- are hiking shoes, a.k.a. light hiking boots. They are best suited for day hikes on easy to moderate terrain, when you're planning to carry only a light bag or backpack. Top hiking shoes generally have the advantage of being lightweight, making them an increasingly popular alternative to heavy hiking boots. Many are also highly breathable, but the tradeoff is they may not be waterproof.

Between $100 and $200 you'll find traditional hiking boots, which tend to be sturdier than hiking shoes and come up higher around the ankle to increase stability. They're designed for steeper inclines, rockier terrain, and muddier paths. They're also built to wear on consecutive days during hikes of up to a week. While the good ones typically fall outside our range, we did find one pair of mid-cut boots worth recommending: L.L. Bean's Waterproof Trail Model Hikers (starting at $90). It's also worth shopping around online, as prices can vary drastically. For example, the very well reviewed Keen Targhee II Mid carries a retail price of $130, but certain sizes and colors start as low as $50 on Amazon. Nevados makes quite a few cheap hiking boots, such as the Boomerang II (starting at $40), and some reviewers find them just fine for the price. However, many seem to have bought them for everyday wear, rather than hiking, and we saw a pattern of complaints about poor quality, paper-thin soles, and waterproofing that doesn't work, leading us to question value of the brand as a whole.

At the top end of the market, you'll find expensive off-trail or mountaineering boots. These are designed for more experienced hikers who plan to tackle extreme terrain for days at a time, perhaps in freezing weather, while carrying a heavy backpack. Such rugged boots lie far outside the Cheapism niche.

All the cheap hiking boots we recommend are available for both men and women. As you shop, be on the lookout for several essential features. Experts say a top hiking shoe should have a supportive midsole that cushions the foot and helps keep it from flattening out under the weight of a backpack. The best cheap hiking boots are lightweight and highly breathable or moisture resistant, if not waterproof, because moisture inside the shoe can cause blisters. Traction comes in the form of lugs on the bottom of the boot, a.k.a. the outsole, and provides stable and secure footing, particularly in slippery and rough conditions.

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