Summer is one of our favorite times at Game & Fish because it means we can once again take off into the wild for our next warm weather adventure. Whether we’re hiking the forgotten trails of the Idaho backcountry in search of black bear or casting a line for some burly largemouth bass in the Midwest, summer is the perfect opportunity to experience the outdoors all over again.
No matter which excursion you have planned, the right footwear can make all the difference. To help you find the best boot for your next adventure, we grabbed five of the best boots on the market and put them to the test: the Adidas Terrex Fast X Mid GTX, Danner Gila, Keen Verdi II Mid WP, Under Armour Speed Freek Chaos, Lowa Ranger II GTX and Irish Setter Havoc. To help bring consistency to the test, we all wore Icebreaker merino wool socks.
We assigned each pair of boots to a wear tester and asked them to rate the boots based on four different categories: overall comfort, stability, traction and mobility. Our testers put no less than 35 miles on each pair of boots, on every terrain from sidewalks and office floors to straight vertical terrain and rocky, aggressive trails.
For each category, our testers ranked the boot on a scale of 1 to 10 and explained their reasoning. We then consulted as a group to compile the final scores.
We began our gear test with a break-in period and gave feedback about how difficult or easy the boots were to make our own. We counted the miles and noted the point at which initial break-in issuesâ€”general stiffness, walking discomfort, and so onâ€”disappeared.
We also evaluated what we thought was the best use for each boot, giving you some idea of which activities the boots are best suited for based on the particular design elements employed. Every boot we tested would make an excellent addition to any sportsman’s collection, but some are better suited for certain tasks than others. Our goal was to help you find the right hiking boot for your needs.
Whether you’re preparing for a backcountry hunt, getting ready for deer season, planning a weekend hike or you just need a versatile, all-purpose boot, we’ve got the right footwear for you. Check out the best hunting and hiking boots of 2014 and get your summer plans off to a rocking good start.
Photos by Michael Anschuetz
As a light but sturdy and stable hiking boot, the Adidas Terrex is suited for a lot of different uses. It's comfortable in casual situations and has the looks to impress (our tester couldn't go anywhere without getting positive comments about the shoes). It's also a great fit for strenuous hiking with a moderate size pack, but probably not ideal for longer backpacking trips with heavy loads (unless of course you're a minimalist). We also found a lot of interest from tactical gun guys who need a tough and light but athletic boot for range wear. Price: $185
The Gila shines exactly where it's designed toâ€”in rocky, mountainous terrain. It's also perfect for just about any hiking and backpacking you can throw at it, even with a pack weight up to 50 pounds. The Gila can handle the 3-mile day hike or the 25-mile backcountry excursion. It may not be the best option for office or casual wear, but that certainly wouldn't be too much of a stretch. Price: $180
The Havoc is a great choice for multiple hunting conditions and excels when conditions were at their worst. A wide outsole gives you extra surface area for improved traction and aggressive lugs claw through many different kinds of terrain. It makes a good boot for turkey, predator and big game hunters and could easily be worn around the property while hard at work. Because of its heavy-duty build, the Havoc probably isn't the type of casual boot you'd wear to the office (unless your office is a corn field) or in the backyard when you're chasing the kids around. Price: $190
The Keen Verdi II Mid WP is a great option for the sportsman who needs a versatile, all-activity boot that offers premium comfort at a reasonable price. Like a general practitioner, the Verdi II covers most outdoor activities with ease but isn't a specialist in long-range backpacking or heavy duty land cruising. That actually makes the Verdi II moreâ€”not lessâ€”useful. As always, Keen delivers with an all-purpose, comfortable boot that will get you tons of use. Price: $135
Great for everyday hiking, but especially well suited for medium to heavy duty backpacking with loads of up to 50 pounds (and I'd say beyond that, too). The Rangers are a bit clunky, but not uncomfortable, for everyday office wear. They are an exceptional fit for the backcountry hunter or anyone who enjoys trekking in the wild for several days at a time. Price: $300
If you're looking for a boot that is as comfortable in the office as it is on the trailâ€”while still being versatile enough for a treestand or duck blindâ€”the Speed Freek should be high on your list. And with Scent Control technology built in, this boot has whitetail hunting written all over it. Price: $132.99