Whether you’re a day-hiker, trail-blazer or summer stroller; you are sure to benefit from the best lightweight hiking shoes. By providing comfort, traction and cushioning; they are a great way to improve your time on the trail.
Despite the multitude of options on the market, finding the right shoes for your feet can be a challenge. Every pair has its own pros and cons, making them best suited to a different type of hiker.
Here at SnowSunSee, we’ve made it our mission to make sure you have a spring in your step. That’s why we’ve produced this complete guide, analysing and reviewing the most impressive hiking shoes that won’t weigh you down.
Ranking The Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes
Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes Compared
Impressively lightweight without sacrificing performance. An exceptional hiking shoe
Salomon's best lightweight hiking shoe. It offers supreme comfort and cushioning
A great looking pair of shoes that perform well on the trail and around the town
Lightweight and grippy hiking shoes that are perfect for scrambling up steep approaches
Super lightweight and energetic shoes that can support the fastest hikers
Lightweight, durable, comfortable, waterproof, breathable, good traction
Comfortable, cushioned, lightweight, waterproof, flexible, durable
Comfortable, lightweight, good traction, attractive design, durable
Excellent traction, lightweight, durable, versatile around town
Lightweight, great cushioning, good traction, comfortable, breathable
Soft sole lacks protection, not the most stable choice
Poor traction, soft sole and fabric impacts stability
Performance limited to basic trails
Expensive, basic level of support
Limited toe protection, not capable off-trail
1lb. 8.4oz (692g)
1lb. 8.6oz (697g)
1lbs 8oz (680g)
1lbs. 6.6oz (640g)
1lbs. 6.2oz (629g)
Why Do I Need The Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes?
Wearing a lightweight pair of shoes can greatly improve your hiking performance. It can have a positive impact on your energy levels, giving you the ability to trek further and faster.
The reduced weight on your feet can also stop you overheating during the summer. The decreased effort required to move your feet will keep you from feeling the heat, while lighter shoes also tend to have improved breathability.
Despite the wide variety of options available, finding the best lightweight hiking shoes can be tricky. Although many are great at saving weight, they are often built using thinner materials that lack durability.
Choosing shoes that are light, durable and able to perform is vital for your outdoor experience. In this guide, we have only included products that are made with quality in mind.
How To Choose The Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes
Since this is a review of the best lightweight hiking shoes; it should come as no surprise that weight is a key consideration.
The recent rise in hikers deciding to switch from traditional hiking boots to lighter shoes has prompted manufacturers to improve their designs. Tough but thin fabrics are becoming increasingly reliable and have made multiday hikes incredibly easy.
Many hiking shoes weigh less than 2 pounds, while ultralight options can be significantly less. Just keep in mind that reduced weight can lead to fewer features in some cases.
For the majority of day-hikers, minimalists and speed-hikers; hiking shoes have become the go-to choice. If you plan on sticking to well-defined trails and don’t carry too much gear, they are more than capable of supporting your ambitions.
It’s worth noting that hiking boots have also gotten significantly lighter in recent years. If you want to save weight without sacrificing support, we have also reviewed the best lightweight hiking boots.
Support & Stability
Despite their inherent lack of ankle support, hiking shoes can greatly improve your underfoot stability. The use of internal shanks, support systems and stiffer fabrics can all help you safely navigate uneven terrain.
Lightweight hiking shoes tend to be among the least supportive. The push to save weight often leads to a more soft and flexible design that can lack the stability for technical terrain.
If you’re serious about saving weight, you will probably be best looking towards a minimalist ‘trail-running’ shoe. Designed to keep you moving at speed, they are comfortable and capable on flattened trails.
Anyone heading on longer treks may have to increase the weight slightly with the use of a more traditional hiking or approach shoe. However, these have also gotten significantly lighter in recent years without sacrificing support.
Comfort is often a strong point for lightweight hiking shoes. The naturally soft and flexible design can give them a ‘sneaker-like’ feel that will keep most feet happy.
The material your shoes are designed from can also play a role in comfort. Synthetic nylon and mesh often gives the most conforming fit, while stiffer leathers can take a while to break-in.
It’s also worth noting that each shoe has a different fit that makes it best suited to a different foot shape. Check the key features and product reviews to find out whether each brand runs wide or narrow when making your choice.
Anyone looking to hike year-round will want to prioritize waterproofing. Despite the additional weight and compromised breathability that comes with a waterproof membrane; it might be worth it during a surprise downpour.
Hiking shoes often use a Gore-Tex ‘membrane’ to provide waterproofing. It’s designed to keep your feet completely dry, while also allowing hot air to escape.
Some manufacturers will use their own ‘in-house’ design to keep your feet dry. Most are effective at keeping out water, but the added weight and decreased breathability can vary greatly between brands.
If you’re a true minimalist that usually attacks summer trails, forgoing waterproof features will save you a couple of ounces. However, those looking for a more ‘robust’ and versatile shoe will usually want something that can keep their feet dry.
Breathability & Ventilation
Allowing your feet to breathe will keep them cool in hot weather. It will also dry out your socks faster after a downpour, making it vital for overall comfort.
Anyone looking to maximize breathability will need to forgo waterproofing. Despite claiming to be full breathable, every inner membrane will somewhat restrict airflow to your feet.
The material used to construct your shoes also plays a vital role in breathability. Synthetic nylon and mesh usually offer the best ventilation, while still remaining lightweight.
Staying away from heavier leathers is a key component of breathability. Despite their weather-resistant properties, they are much less adept at allowing hot air and moisture to escape.
Synthetic Nylon & Mesh
Most lightweight hiking shoes are made from synthetic materials. Nylon and mesh are the most common options.
Synthetic materials are naturally lightweight, flexible, breathable and cost-effective. Despite their perceived lack of durability, most modern fabrics use a tight weave that has greatly enhanced durability.
Nubuck & Suede Leather
Lightweight forms of leather are often found in heavier hiking shoes. Nubuck and suede are the most popular choices, although split-grain and full-grain are occasionally used.
The increased durability, stability and water-resistance of leather can make them desirable. However, they usually add weight to your hiking shoes and can make them less breathable.
Some shoes use a leather and synthetic blend to combine durability with ventilation. The Keen Targhee Vent and Merrell Moab 2 Vent are great examples of this; both of which have a leather upper that incorporates mesh panels.
The midsole of your hiking shoe sits just below your footbed. It’s the ‘meaty’ part of the sole that’s tasked with providing cushioning and stability.
Most hiking shoes use an EVA midsole. It’s naturally light, cushioned and adept at resisting compression set.
The cushioning and quality of EVA midsole can differ vastly between brands and products. Most lighter shoes tend to have a more ‘bouncy’ and energetic midsole, while heavier options will feel more stiff and stable underfoot.
It’s worth noting that EVA does tend to break down over time, so checking durability markers before purchasing is important. Throughout this guide we have factored sole strength into our ratings after assessing the performance of each product.
The outsole of your hiking shoe sits between the midsole and the dirt. It’s tasked with providing enough traction to stop you from slipping down tough terrain.
Outsoles are almost always made from rubber and come with a variety of traction patterns that will help you maintain grip. Vibram is a manufacturer often used amongst top-quality boots, although some brands use their own in-house methods with varying success.
It’s common to see traditional hiking shoes offering large traction lugs that can maintain grip on steep ascents. Some lighter shoes will instead use sticky rubber that can help you grip on loose stones.
Anyone looking to cut maximum weight will often see a slight reduction in traction. The lightest hiking shoes are often designed towards less challenging underfoot conditions than their heavier counterparts.
Best Overall Lightweight Hiking Shoes
It’s common knowledge that lightweight hiking shoe manufacturers often reduce the number of features or use lesser quality materials when trying to cut weight. However, the Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX proves that it’s possible to make a lightweight shoe that’s exceptionally durable and performance orientated.
The ultralight weight of just 1lb 8oz becomes even more impressive when you factor in the inclusion of a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane, which will typically make your hiking shoes heavier. The abrasion resistant mesh outer fabric provides standout durability, while also keeping weight to a minimum.
Another strong point for the Aerios FL GTX was comfort; which we found to be light, soft and smooth right out of the box. The underfoot traction also impressed, with low-profile Vibram outsole providing enough grip to cope with a variety of wet and dry terrain types.
If you’re looking for an ‘all-round’ lightweight hiking shoe that is versatile enough to cope with any terrain, we are delighted to recommend the Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX. The build-quality, water-resistance and comfort offered are second to none and it was an obvious choice for our top pick upon review.
- Waterproof (Gore-Tex)
- Versatile enough for casual wear
- Out of the box comfort
- Decent traction
- Perfect blend of comfort and performance
- Soft sole lacks some underfoot protection
- Soft upper doesn’t provide much stability
Best Comfortable Lightweight Hiking Shoes
Salomon are a known producer of top-quality hiking footwear, so it should come as no surprise to see them featuring as one of our top picks. The X Raise GTX is their best lightweight hiking shoe, exceeding the high level of comfort that is expected by ‘fast and light’ day-hikers.
Putting on the X Raise makes it clear that comfort has been prioritized. Padding around the collar and heel nicely cradles your foot, while the soft and flexible synthetic upper conforms perfectly to the shape of your foot right out of the box.
Despite its ultra-lightweight design; the X Raise still features a typically reliable Gore-Tex liner, with a non-GTX version also available for those looking to shed a couple more pounds. We were also thoroughly impressed by the cushioning, which felt energetic throughout and further added to its already exceptional comfort.
Overall, we we were impressed by Solomon’s first attempt at moving into the world of weight-saving hiking shoes. The supreme cushioning and comfort will be appreciated by modern day-hikers, while the reliable build-quality is exactly what we have come to expect from a Salomon product.
- Great cushioning
- Waterproof (Gore-Tex)
- Soft and flexible feel
- Intuitive quick-lacing system
- Lacking traction when wet
- Soft sole and upper reduces torsional stability
- Not very breathable
Best Casual Lightweight Hiking Shoes
Anyone looking for a casual looking hiking shoe that can also perform admirably on outdoor excursions will be impressed by the Trail 2650. It’s a lightweight and attractive shoe produced by Danner, who have been highly regarded their work footwear before entering the hiking market more recently.
Weighing in at just 1lb 8oz, these shoes are incredibly lightweight despite using a suede upper to enhance durability. The leather material also adds an element of weather-resistance, although you can opt for the fully waterproof GTX version if you’re willing to add some weight.
Despite their appearance as a casual shoe, the Trail 2650 has traction that is more than capable of carrying you across wet rocks and steeper surfaces. We were also impressed by the level of comfort offered, with a solid yet flexible feel giving you reliable comfort that can match the ambitions of multiday minimalists.
It’s a known fact that hiking shoes don’t always have the most attractive appearance, so finding a pair that can perform on the trail and look great around the town is a tough ask. However, Danner have achieved this with the Trail 2650, making it an easy choice for our top-rated casual hiking shoe.
- Attractive design
- Comfortable fit
- Great traction
- Excellent heel and toe protection
- Decent breathability
- Versatile enough for day-to-day wear
- Not super supportive
- Lateral stability lacking off-trail
Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes for Scrambling
If you’re looking for a lightweight shoe that’s capable of attacking challenging terrain, the Nucleon GV is a standout choice. It’s Asolo’s lightest hiking shoe but it comes with rugged quality that we found impressive in wet weather scrambles.
The Nucleon has the classic look and characteristics of an approach shoe, with its exceptional traction making it a standout performer. Its combination of a Vibram outsole and EVA midsole worked great on a range of wet and dry surfaces that posed a problem for most of its competitors.
Aside from traction, the shoe has a great look and feel that is versatile enough to be worn around the town. Its suede leather upper also provides an element of durability and weather-resistance, with a GTX version also available for wet weather trekkers.
Asolo are probably best known for their supportive backpacking boots, but the Nucleon GV proves they known how to produce a reliable low-cut shoe. Its impressive traction and tough yet attractive design make it a ‘shoe-in’ as one of our favourite products for fast ascents.
- Outstanding traction
- Durable suede upper
- Can cope with off-trail terrain
- Can be worn around town
- Decent lateral support
- Wear-resistant outsole and midsole
- Poor water-resistance
- Overall support could be improved
Best Lightweight Hiking Shoes for Speed
Trail running shoes are inherently lightweight, but they often lack the features required by serious day-hikers. However, we found the latest addition to Altra’s tried-and-tested ‘Lone Peak’ series, the Lone Peak 5, combines cushioning with comfort to give speedhikers and minimalists a great feeling underfoot.
The airmesh and synthetic upper really gives these shoes the ‘fast and light’ feeling you might expect from a pair of trail-runners. Despite their lack of waterproofing (no GTX version available unfortunately!), we found them to be one of the most breathable and quick-drying products upon review.
Underfoot, we found the traction provided by the Lone Peak 5 was capable in wet and challenging conditions. The use of deep lugs was evident of slippery mud surfaces, with an underfoot ‘stone guard’ and thick midsole shielding you from unexpected roots and rocks.
The Altra Lone Peak 5 is a great shoe for minimalist hikers looking to reap the benefits of a trail running shoe. It’s just as light and bouncy as you might expect, but also provides ample traction and underfoot protection that can manage a real outdoor adventure.
- Good traction
- Well cushioned
- Good underfoot protection
- Quick-drying upper
- Not waterproof (no GTX version)
- Lacking toe protection
- Feels soft when heading off-trail
Choosing the best lightweight hiking shoes isn’t always simple. The sheer amount of products available doesn’t make life easy; nor does the vast array of features you need to assess.
The aim of this guide is to break down the key facts into an easy-to-read guide that anyone can understand. By doing most of the ‘legwork’ for you, we aim to get you into a great pair of shoes that can enhance your outdoor experience.
Take the time to thoroughly assess every option and find the shoes that suit your hiking style. Once you’re feeling light on your feet, it will make attacking tough trails a whole lot easier.
James is the founder of SnowSunSee. He started skiing when he was five years old and has been a qualified ski instructor for 8 years. He has taught skiing in many countries, including UK, Europe, Japan, China and Malaysia. When he’s not on the slopes, James spends his time travelling the world one trail at a time.