The Best Minimalist Hiking Boots of 2021

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One of the most underappreciated and least considered parts of our everyday life is our footwear.

Although for most, everyday footwear does not occupy much of our attention, most of us have some experience with specialty footwear. This footwear takes the form of running shoes, dancing shoes, and many more.

In this article we take a look at a new phenomenon, the minimalist movement and how it applies to outdoor activities, and more specifically hiking boots. We take a look at the best minimalist hiking boots on the market and recommend our favorites.

If you’d like to skip reading the article, you can pick up our top pick for minimalist hiking boots here.

Our Top Pick
Vivobarefoot Men's Tracker FG M Leather Walking Shoe, Dark Brown, 42 EU/(9-9.5) M US
Our #2 Pick
Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker - Men's Barefoot-Inspired Minimalist Lightweight Hiking Boot - Zero Drop Trail Shoe Black
Hiking Boots
Vivobarefoot Tracker FG
Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker EV
Prime Eligible?
-
-
Our Top Pick
Vivobarefoot Men's Tracker FG M Leather Walking Shoe, Dark Brown, 42 EU/(9-9.5) M US
Hiking Boots
Vivobarefoot Tracker FG
Prime Eligible?
-
Our #2 Pick
Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker - Men's Barefoot-Inspired Minimalist Lightweight Hiking Boot - Zero Drop Trail Shoe Black
Hiking Boots
Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker EV
Prime Eligible?
-

Last update: 2021-09-17 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

What is Minimalist Footwear and Why it MattersWhat is Minimalist Footwear and Why it Matters

Consider how often you take the time to appreciate the shoes that you wear every day. Perhaps the only time is when you are purchasing them. After that initial moment, it is a mechanical and unconscious action of putting them on in the morning and removing them at night. The only time we pay attention is when our feet let us know that the shoes are inadequate for our needs.

This negligence is a strange phenomenon, considering that our foot health has a tremendous impact on our overall health, both physical and mental.

On the other hand, footwear, and specifically the ergonomics of footwear have come to the forefront of the collective attention. This awareness has resulted in an explosion of innovative technology and designs, intended to give you the best experience available.

Riding the crest of this pioneering wave, the minimalist movement has taken the conventional idea of footwear and produced a novel and unconventional take on your old kicks. Forget what you thought you knew about foot health, minimalism takes those ideas and turns them over.

While there is much to say on the subject of footwear, in this article, we focus on one of the crucial aspects of the outdoor enthusiast; hiking boots. With the minimalist movement touching all aspects of outdoor gear, we answer the question, “what are the best minimalist hiking boots?”

Our Favorites for the Best Minimalist Hiking Boots

Our Favorites for the Best Minimalist Hiking Boots

One of life’s greatest pleasures is walking on the beach and feeling the sand between your toes. Or a muddy trail or grassy field. With our favorite minimalist hiking boots, you will be able to experience many of these nostalgic sensations while still protecting your feet from potential hazards.

Curated from minimalist hiking enthusiast forums, as well as a healthy dose of consideration of expert opinions, our favorite minimalist hiking boots are sure to make your feet dance for joy!

Vivobarefoot Tracker FG 

At the forefront of the barefoot movement, Vivobarefoot has an impressive lineup of barefoot footwear. While they have primarily focused on producing shoes and the like, they have turned their attention to the hiking community and specifically those that prefer the added security of hiking boots.

Presenting the Vivobarefoot Tracker FG, the company has shown what can be done with innovation and determination. A favorite of many in the barefoot community, this shoe has won the admiration of not only hikers in the wild, but also of many seasoned experts.

Constructed with a waterproof premium leather upper, the boot is ruggedly durable and will protect your feet from potential trail hazards. An additional inner layer of a breathable membrane supported by a hydrophobic leather lends further protection against moisture. An RPET (recycled plastic) webbing adds durability to the shoe without adding noticeable weight.

The sole of the boot is constructed of Vivobarefoots high abrasion, firm-ground rubber giving ideal protection. However, the zero-drop sole is still flexible enough to feel the ground beneath your feet and folding the shoe in half. With a pattern of 3mm multidirectional lugs, the sole grips rock, and dirt making them ideal for moderately wet terrain as well as dry, rocky surfaces.

For wet, cold climates, a removable 3.5mm insole provides additional thermal protection. Made with Outlast thermal regulation technology combined with reflective foil and insulating foam, these soles offer three times the insulating properties of standard insoles.

A complex lacing system ensures that the boots stay on your feet and do not move around until you want them to come off.

This boot is available in both men’s and women’s models, as well as an array of colors, allowing you to look your best while being confident in their performance. Although these boots are not the cheapest pair available, they provide the security you need to tackle the toughest trails.

What makes Vivobarefoot Tracker FG Unique:

  • Made with waterproof leather uppers with an additional water-repellant inner layer and reinforced with extra waterproofing leather, these shoes are built to last and perform in all weather conditions.
  • The minimal zero-drop sole made from firm-ground rubber allows you to feel the surface beneath your feet while protecting from the worst of it.
  • A 3mm multidirectional lug pattern provides traction in both muddy conditions and on dry surfaces.
  • A removable insole provides ideal thermal protection in cold climates without overheating your feet.

Why You Should Choose this Boot:

  • Made by a company that specializes in the barefoot movement, its track record ensures quality and performance in one minimal package.
  • Available in a variety of colors, these stylish leather boots come on both men and women’s models, allowing you to be confident in their performance and looks.
  • The high ankle support ensures protection from potential hazards on the trail without feeling obtrusive.
  • Not the cheapest boots, they easily make up in quality and performance.
  • Lightweight at only 468 grams (11 lbs), they won’t slow you down no matter how tired you are.

Last update: 2021-09-17 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Lems Boulder Boot 

What makes an ideal minimalist hiking boot? Lightweight; check. Allows for natural foot shape; check. Zero-drop sole; check. Provides protection; check. Works in many conditions; check. Although you may have additional requirements for the ideal minimalist hiking boot, Lems Boulder Boots meets these basic requirements and more.

One of the features of which the company is most proud is the Natural Shape with which the boot is designed. This shape deviates from traditional shoe designs by allowing your feet to move and spread as they would without constraint, thus promoting foot health and overall wellbeing. In conjunction with a wide toebox, Lems Boulder Boots attempt to give the wearer a feeling of foot freedom and succeed.

With a combination upper of leather and nylon, the Boulder Boot provides all the protection you need on the hiking trail. With an inner lining made of 100% cotton, you can rest assured that your feet can breathe easily. However, a downside to be noted is the tendency for the lining to absorb sweat and taking time to dry.

The 9mm injection-blown rubber outsole gives the boot impressive protection from potential hazards yet is incredibly lightweight and flexible. Although the sole thickness seems large for a minimalist boot, the zero-drop ratio ensures all the efficacy expected from this style of boot. For cold weather conditions, the boots come with a removable 3.5mm moisture-wicking PU sole. All this while still shaving off a considerable amount of weight. All told, the boots weigh a mere 280g (9.9oz).

For those of the vegan persuasion, the Boulder Boot Black is a viable option with all of the positive qualities and none of the animal material.

While the boots have many impressive features, there are a few drawbacks, such as the difficulty in drying and an arduous process when putting them on and taking them off. Despite these minor drawbacks, the shoes come in at a price point that’s hard to beat, making them all the more value for the cost.

What makes Lems Boulder Boot Unique:

  • One of the lightest minimalist hiking boots available, this footwear comes in at a mere 280g (9.9 oz)!
  • Combination leather and nylon upper ensure your feet stay protected while staying warm in cold weather and cool in hot.
  • The 9mm injection blown rubber sole gives the shoe incredible protection without adding undue additional weight.
  • The natural foot shape, extremely large toe box, and zero-drop sole allows your foot to maintain its natural shape, retaining all of the associated health benefits.

Why You Should Choose this Boot:

  • For those who find that their footwear slows them down, these boots will be barely noticeable. Fold them in half and pack them away in your bag!
  • This boot comes in a stylish vegan option. If this is something for you, look for the Boulder Boot Black.
  • One of the more reasonably priced minimalist hiking shoes. A great deal and often on sale from various retailers.

Our Runner Ups for the Best Minimalist Hiking Boots 

Our Runner Ups for the Best Minimalist Hiking Boots 

Although the minimalist movement has only taken to the mainstream for a short time now, there are many options to choose from on the market. Nevertheless, as with all things, through crowdsourcing, individual options make it to the forefront. While our runner ups didn’t make the top two, they are still favored by many hiking enthusiasts and make for an excellent choice.

Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker EV

An upgraded version of a popular shoe from a reputable company, the Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker EV (hence the EV, EVolution) takes what worked in the original and improved on it. Increased durability on the upper and sole mean that these shoes will take you where you need to go without falling apart. For those who need shoes for long multiple-day hikes, you may want to look elsewhere. However, for those who enjoy day hikes, these shoes are just what you need.

With materials made entirely free from animal products, the DayLite Hiker EV is perfect for vegans. The newly revamped upper is made with a more durable abrasion-resistant upper mesh proving excellent protection while ensuring airflow. A reworked sole made of a 4.5mm FeelTrue sole base studded with 3.5mm lugged chevron tread, provide excellent traction while remaining flexible and pliant. This combination results in a balance between feeling the texture of the ground while protecting your feet from sharp, potentially hazardous debris.

In line with the minimalist design, this boot sports a wide toebox allowing your toes to spread to their natural state. Furthermore, it features the all-important zero-drop sole. Along with the Tough Tech toe bumper and a heel strap, your feet will be safe, secure, and most importantly, comfortable. One should note that these boots have minimal ankle support that cradles under the ankle, rather than covering them up.

For those who value options, the shoe comes with a removable sock-liner/insole that allows you to add padding or remove it for a more “barefoot” feel. A simple lacing system combing hooked lacing with standard lacing allows for a precise fit without endless tightening. The addition of an adjustable instep strap further enhances your ability to get the perfect fit.

Weighing in at 315 grams (11.2 oz), this is not the lightest shoe available, but it is far from the heaviest! Your feet will feel light without lightening your wallet as these boots are relatively reasonably priced, with a 5000-mile sole warranty to back them up. When purchasing this boot, make sure to buy a size larger as they tend to be sized rather small.

What makes Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker EV unique:

  • Weighing in at 315g (11.2 oz), these shoes are remarkably lightweight while remaining durable.
  • Combing a wide toebox and flexible zero-drop sole, these boots provide the wearer with a barefoot experience that enhances foot health.
  • The 4.5mm FeelTrue sole base studded with 3.5m lugged chevrons protect your feet while allowing sensation and providing excellent traction on multiple surfaces.
  • A removable sock liner allows you to add or remove padding at your discretion.

Why You Should Choose this Boot:

  • An evolution of the already lauded DayLite Hiker, these boots take what worked with the previous version and improved on it.
  • An excellent choice for those who like to go on day hikes; this shoe provides comfort and protection as needed.
  • Among the cheaper options, these boots come with a 5000-mile sole warranty making them an excellent buy.

Last update: 2021-09-17 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Lems Boulder Boot Leather 

No, this boot is not the same as the Lems Boulder Boot mentioned above. Although, you would be forgiven for thinking so. Although these two boots are very similar, the Boulder Boot Leather has an upper made of, you guessed it, leather. This extremely beautiful full-grain upper provides excellent protection while presenting a stylish exterior achieved by well-crafted leather.

Apart from this alteration, these two boots are identical, with the same fit, comfort, and dynamic sole. The leather is fully waterproof-able (like most leather) and requires maintenance to help it retain its durability and luster.

Available in either black or russet, your feet will thank you when they are decked out in these beautiful yet comfortable kicks.

Weighing in at 280g (9.9oz), these boots are as light as their sibling and just as versatile. However, when it comes to cost, these boots are considerably more expensive. For those who love leather, these boots are well worth the cost.

What makes Lems Boulder Boot Leather Unique:

  • Built on the same design as the Lems Boulder Boots, this variation is made with a full-grain leather upper.
  • One of the lightest minimalist hiking boots available, this footwear comes in at a mere 280g (9.9 oz)!
  • The 9mm injection blown rubber sole gives the shoe incredible protection without adding undue additional weight.
  • The natural foot shape, extremely large toe box, and zero-drop sole allows your foot to maintain its natural shape, retaining all of the associated health benefits.

Why You Should Choose this Boot:

  • For those who find that their footwear slows them down, these boots will be barely noticeable. Fold them in half and pack them away in your bag!
  • This boot comes in two stylish options. If full leather appeals to you, choose between black and russet.
  • More expensive than its sibling, this boots is an excellent quality buy.

Our Value Picks for the Best Minimalist Hiking Boots 

Our Value Picks for the Best Minimalist Hiking Boots 

Given all of the cheap options on this list, we find that all of our recommended boots meet the requirement of value picks while providing excellent quality. We have included some options that save your cash, but in our opinion, when it comes to foot health, and potentially hazardous situations, our selection adequately combines elements of both value and quality.

How to Choose the Best Minimalist Hiking Boots for You

Choosing the right hiking boots for you is the difference between an enjoyable trek and a painful lesson in foot care. From ingrown toenails to blisters to rolled ankles, a good pair of hiking boots are worth their weight in gold.

Fit: the essential characteristic to consider when selecting the right hiking boots for you. A properly fitted boot will keep your foot snug and feel almost like a second skin. A correct fit will prevent blistering caused by friction while also providing support and stability to your foot and ankle on those long treks.

Overall Comfort: in the same line as fit, the overall comfort of the shoe will not only enable you to physically cover terrain with ease, but it will also provide mental support. This detail is the difference between waking up dreading the day’s trek and happily guiding your feet to the boots inviting embrace.

Overall Support: the main reason to choose a pair of hiking boots over a pair of hiking shoes is the additional support the boots supply. Furthermore, among hiking boots, there is a further spectrum of support provided by each design.

Different styles offer varying degrees of support, which is determined mainly by the height of the ankle support with more material resulting in more support.

Boot Stiffness: the stiffness of the boot, be it the material composition of the upper or the sole, has a tremendous impact on the performance of the boot. For longer distances, a stiffer boot can provide much-needed support. Also, a rigid sole provided much more protection against sharp rocks and other potential pitfalls.

Material: choosing the right composition of the boot for you can be a matter of preference or practicality. While many people prefer boots with a high percentage of natural material such as leather, others prefer synthetics. While each has its pros and cons, the primary consideration should be waterproofing. In this regard, synthetics come out ahead as leather needs additional treatment to be considered waterproof. In addition, leather boots require a lot more maintenance to remain n good shape.

Aesthetic Considerations: while one might think that aesthetics play a minor role in choosing a pair of boots, it is rare to find someone confidently strutting in a new pair of ugly yet functional boot. In most cases, the look of the boot may be the first, if not the ultimate deciding factor for many people. After all, we all want to look our best when on the trail. Fortunately for us, there are a plethora of choices available to suit every style.

Price: perhaps a significant deciding factor when purchasing a pair of boots, it is prudent to remember that a good pair of boots can save your life. Having a sole separate from your shoe, or water leaking inside in freezing temperatures can lead to life-threatening situations. Therefore buying a quality pair of boots that last should be the first consideration. Luckily, there are many reasonably priced boots of high quality available from which to choose.

Key Differentiators of Minimalist Hiking Boots

Although there is no real definition of what makes a minimalist hiking shoe “minimalist,” we have a general idea. Instead of listing what differentiates a regular shoe from a minimalist hiking shoe, we will address the components that make up a hiking boot and still constitute a “boot.” These components would include a sole, some form of protective material encasing your foot, lacing or other fastening devices, and perhaps even a few luxuries such as toe caps.

Material: as with regular hiking shoes, minimalist hiking shoes are made with a variety of materials. These materials may serve different functions depending on the intended use of the shoe. While the primary purpose of the material is to protect the feet against abrasion and puncture, some material may provide additional properties such as insulation and weatherproofing.

Materials used may include natural elements such as leather as well as a large variety of synthetic materials. In general, synthetic materials will need less upkeep and tend to weigh less.

Weight: as a minimalist boot, weight is a significant issue. While there is no hard line as to what separates a regular hiking boot from a minimalist boot, we can agree that the lighter, the better. That is the point, after all. If it feels like you’re carrying around a brick on your feet, then it’s safe to say you’ve gone past minimal and entered conventional territory.

Waterproofing: while not an essential feature for all minimalist hiking boots, it is undoubtedly an important consideration for those who plan to hike in snow or wet environments. That being said, a sufficiently minimal shoe will dry out quickly in no time in hot, dry weather, negating the need for waterproofing.

Treads: an important distinction, the tread can vary widely between different types of hiking boots. This variation is due to the varied performance of each kind of tread on different types of terrain. The “lug pattern” (the tread), for terrain such as mud, should be widely spaced and pronounced, while that for dry terrain should have a smaller profile with greater density. A “heel brake” or the gap where the midfoot and heel meet, helps prevent slippage downhill in slippery conditions. However, as most minimalist hiking boots soles tend to have “zero drop” or flat soles, this is not always available.

Toecaps and other protection: largely considered a luxury or even anathema to some, a toe cap or a stiff place in the sole may be necessary for some forms of hiking. While it may take the shoe out of the realm of the “minimalist” hiking boot, avoiding a broken to or puncture foot is worth the distinction. And after all, the definition is up to you.

Other Important Things to Consider When Buying Minimalist Hiking Boots

Although we covered many of the basics concerning minimalist hiking boots in the previous sections, there are still a few additional considerations worth addressing.

Breathability: a vital issue to consider, the breathability of the boot will determine how much your feet will sweat. In hotter climates, a highly breathable boot is a must! There is just something odd about a sweaty foot in a boot that feels so…wrong. And not only that, but a highly breathable material gives the shoe an airy, almost cloud-like feel.

Of course, in cold and wet weather, breathability is important but must be balanced carefully with insular and waterproofing properties. Wet feet in cold climates can lead to severe health concerns.

Durability: always an essential concern with any item, the durability of a hiking boot is essential. Losing a sole, or sustaining damage that can result in a fall or inability for the boot to function as intended can have serious consequences when out on the trail. Selecting the right material, natural or synthetic, is important in this regard. Remember that natural materials, such as leather, need upkeep to ensure they endure as long as possible.

Ankle Support: while some may consider a boot without ankle support, a shoe, there are minimalist boots without ankle support on the market. This element bears consideration in that proper ankle support provides stability to the ankle and can prevent injury. Furthermore, ankle support provides additional protection form sticks and other objects on the trail that may cause injury.

When choosing ankle support, one may encounter soft and stiff options. While soft support provided protection, it offers little additional support. A reason to choose a boot without ankle support may be increased comfort or reduced weight.

Soles: as with all footwear, the soles of the boot are of paramount concern. While many minimalist hiking boots tout incredibly thin soles, others offer a greater range of thickness. This consideration may be more of a preference, albeit with potentially important repercussions. While a thinner sole may give the wearer the best “feel” and sensation of the ground, it will offer little protection. On the other hand, a thicker sole will offer the converse. This consideration lies at the discretion of the user; however, a thicker sole on unfamiliar trails may be a wise choice, saving form potential injury.

Heel-To-Toe Drop: one of the more significant considerations in minimalist footwear, the heel-to-toe drop is almost always zero. This means that the sole is flat, with no difference in the thickness in the heel to the toe. Not all minimalist hiking shoes follow this rule, however, with some providing additional height and a heel brake.

Toe Box Width: while this may seem an odd consideration, this feature is quite important when defining a minimalist shoe. Remember that the point of a minimalist shoe is to give the foot the sensation of not wearing any footwear. Under normal barefoot circumstances, this would result in toe-spread. Therefore a shoe with a larger toe box would allow for greater toe-spread and a more natural feel for the feet. The width of the toe box varies from foot to foot and is a personal consideration for each wearer.

Summary of the Best Minimalist Hiking Boots

Putting everything together, in this guide we reviewed the following:

Our Top Pick
Vivobarefoot Men's Tracker FG M Leather Walking Shoe, Dark Brown, 42 EU/(9-9.5) M US
Our #2 Pick
Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker - Men's Barefoot-Inspired Minimalist Lightweight Hiking Boot - Zero Drop Trail Shoe Black
Hiking Boots
Vivobarefoot Tracker FG
Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker EV
Prime Eligible?
-
-
Our Top Pick
Vivobarefoot Men's Tracker FG M Leather Walking Shoe, Dark Brown, 42 EU/(9-9.5) M US
Hiking Boots
Vivobarefoot Tracker FG
Prime Eligible?
-
Our #2 Pick
Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker - Men's Barefoot-Inspired Minimalist Lightweight Hiking Boot - Zero Drop Trail Shoe Black
Hiking Boots
Xero Shoes DayLite Hiker EV
Prime Eligible?
-

Last update: 2021-09-17 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

As minimalism touches more and more aspects of our lives, we find that nothing is too small to benefit from this trend. When it comes to hiking boots, which provide an essential and possibly life-saving function, we don’t want to compromise. Fortunately, with the number of companies that have been embracing minimalistic ideals and new companies that are forming, we have a plethora of choices.

And while there may not be a definitive consensus on what makes minimal hiking boot truly “minimal,” there are several considerations that are agreed upon by most.

Whether you choose to embrace boots with a proven track record and substantial following such as the Vivobaefoot FG Trackers or go with a more traditional styled boot such as Lems Boulder Boot Leather, you are sure to find exactly what you need.

By considering the options presented in this article and following our advice in selecting the best minimalist hiking boots for you, you will soon be flying down the trail on feet.

Your boots may even feel so light and unobtrusive you may check to see if you’re wearing any at all.

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