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Best Hiking Boots for 14ers

Best Hiking Boots for 14ers | My 6 Picks

Tackling Colorado’s 14ers requires more than just enthusiasm and endurance; it demands the right gear, starting with your hiking boots. While both shoes and boots have their merits, hiking boots are the superior choice for 14ers due to their robust ankle support. Here’s a comprehensive guide to choosing the best hiking boots for these demanding climbs, along with my top five recommendations.

Table of Contents

Why Hiking Boots?

Hiking boots offer essential ankle support, which is crucial when scrambling over rocky terrain—an unavoidable part of most 14er hikes. The rugged landscape increases the risk of tripping or twisting your ankle. Boots help minimize these risks while keeping debris, dirt, and snow out.

Although some hikers prefer lightweight hiking shoes or approach shoes for their grip and weight benefits, the enhanced protection provided by hiking boots makes them my preferred choice for 14ers.

Key Considerations for 14er Footwear

If you don’t buy hiking boots often, you might not know what to consider. These are five of the most important factors to keep in mind when selecting a new pair of hiking boots for climbing a Colorado 14er.


Dry feet are happy feet. Waterproof hiking boots are invaluable for creek crossings and snowfields, helping to keep your feet dry and comfortable. Look for boots with Gore-Tex technology for the best combination of waterproofing and breathability.

Grip and Traction

Solid grip and traction are essential for navigating wet rocks and scree-covered slopes. Boots with composite rubber materials and advanced traction technologies can help prevent slips and falls.


While lighter footwear reduces fatigue, it often sacrifices other critical features like insulation and durability. Balance weight with the need for support and protection, especially in challenging conditions.


Insulation is vital, particularly since snow can be present year-round on 14ers. Boots with bulkier materials and high ankles can trap warmth, making them suitable for cold weather conditions.

Proper Fit

A proper fit is paramount. Boots should be snug but not tight, preventing your feet from sliding inside. If ordering online, choose a retailer with a generous return policy to ensure you find the perfect fit.

Top 5 Hiking Boots for 14ers

Based on extensive research and a lot of experience, here are my top hiking boot recommendations for climbing the Colorado 14ers. Each of these options will help you reach the summit safely and successfully. 

1. Salomon Quest 4 GTX

Salomon X Ultra 4 Mid GTX

The Salomon Quest 4 GTX is highly recommended for its exceptional support, comfort, and stability, making it an ideal choice for long, technical hikes typical of 14er ascents. Its durability and robust design provide reliable performance under challenging conditions.

Key Features:

  • Upper Material: Leather and nylon
  • Waterproof Lining: Gore-Tex
  • Weight (per pair): 2.90 lbs
  • Width Options: Regular
  • Ideal for: Backpacking and technical trails

Buy a Men’s Pair | Buy a Women’s Pair

2. Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

Lowa Renegade GTX Mid

The Lowa Renegade GTX Mid stands out for its all-around performance, offering comfort, versatility, and excellent traction. Its durability and supportive design make it suitable for diverse hiking conditions, including moderate backpacking and day hikes.

Key Features:

  • Upper Material: Nubuck leather
  • Waterproof Lining: GORE-TEX
  • Weight (per pair): Approx. 2.40 lbs
  • Width Options: Available in regular and wide
  • Ideal for: Day hikes to moderate backpacking

Buy a Men’s Pair | Buy a Women’s Pair

3. La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX

For those tackling rough terrains and higher elevations, the La Sportiva Nucleo High II GTX excels with its superior traction and protective features. Its lightweight design and approach-shoe-like fit enhance mobility and precision on uneven ground.

Key Features:

  • Upper Material: Nubuck leather
  • Waterproof Lining: GORE-TEX SURROUND
  • Weight (per pair): Approx. 1 lb 6 oz for women’s, 2 lbs 1 oz for men’s
  • Width Options: Regular and wide
  • Ideal for: Alpine hikes and rough trails

Buy a Men’s Pair
| Buy a Women’s Pair

4. Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots

The Merrell Moab 3 Mid Waterproof is favored for its affordability, comfort, and reliable performance on most trails. This boot is particularly noted for its cushioning, which exceeds expectations for its price range, making it a great option for budget-conscious hikers looking for durability and comfort.

  • Key Features:
    • Upper Material: Suede leather and mesh
    • Waterproof Lining: M Select DRY
    • Weight (per pair): Approx. 2.2 lbs
    • Width Options: Available in regular and wide
    • Ideal for: Budget-friendly hiking and backpacking

Buy a Men’s Pair
| Buy a Women’s Pair

5. KEEN Targhee III Mid WP

The KEEN Targhee III Mid WP is a great choice for hikers needing extra toe room and breathability. It offers a roomy fit and solid performance across various terrains, making it a versatile and cost-effective option for regular hikers.

Key Features:

  • Upper Material: Leather and performance mesh
  • Waterproof Lining: KEEN.DRY
  • Weight (per pair): Approx. 2.2 lbs
  • Width Options: Regular and wide
  • Ideal for: Day hiking and extended trail use

Buy a Men’s Pair | Buy a Women’s Pair

Breaking In Your Boots

Breaking in your boots is essential to avoid discomfort and blisters on your hike. Start wearing them around your home and on short walks, gradually increasing the distance. Begin this process several weeks before your climb to ensure your boots are fully broken in.

Here are a few additional tips for breaking in a new pair of hiking boots:

  • Start Indoors: Wear your new boots around the house to get used to the fit and feel without stressing your feet.
  • Use Thick Socks: Wear the same socks you’ll use on hikes to ensure a proper fit and to start molding the boots to your feet.
  • Gradually Increase Walks: Begin with short walks and gradually increase the distance and intensity over several weeks.
  • Try Different Terrains: Walk on various surfaces like grass, gravel, and asphalt to simulate trail conditions.
  • Adjust Laces: Experiment with different lacing techniques to find the most comfortable fit and prevent hot spots.
  • Monitor for Hot Spots: Pay attention to areas that feel hot or uncomfortable and adjust your boots or socks accordingly.

Essential Accessories for Hiking Boots

Don’t forget quality hiking socks and liners to complement your new boots. Good socks provide cushioning and breathability, while liners help prevent blisters, especially when breaking in new boots.

These socks from REI have good padding for long hikes, and breathability. These silk liners, worn underneath, help prevent blisters – especially if you are wearing relatively new boots. They’re both on my standard 14er clothing list.

Conclusion: Hiking Boots for 14ers

Choosing the right hiking boots is a personal decision influenced by your specific needs and preferences. However, any of these six pairs will offer the support and durability necessary for safely summiting Colorado’s 14ers. Equip yourself well, break in your boots properly, and enjoy the breathtaking views from the summit. Safe travels on the trail!

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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