Product Reviews

Top 5 Best Men’s Ultralight and Lightweight Hiking Shoes and Boots

With an enormous selection of ultralight and lightweight hiking shoes emerging on the market today it can be overwhelming to choose a pair. There are loads of different materials, and shoe cuts, and it’s important to know which shoes are best for any situation you may encounter.

As a general rule of thumb, low or medium-cut vented, mesh, or fabric shoes are better for almost any three season backpacking trip since they’re more lightweight and dry faster once they’re completely soaked.

In contrast, medium or high-cut hiking boots, especially those with a semi-permeable membrane (Gore-Tex), are better for winter hiking when they’re combined with gaiters.

Gaiters are covers which wrap around your ankle to keep snow and water out of your shoe, and the combination of a high-quality shoe with a membrane, along with gaiters, will make your feet almost immune to the cold unless they become soaked in water.

With those details in mind, ParagonTrails presents our curated list of the best ultralight and lightweight hiking shoes on the market today with loads of great information about each shoe or boot to help you along the way.

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions, please leave a comment down below. Thank you, and Happy Paragon Trails!

What are the Best Men’s Ultralight and Lightweight Hiking Shoes and Boots on the Market Today?

Table of Contents

Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe

  • Cost: ~$85 – $100 USD
  • Weight: ~1.96 lbs or ~0.89 kg per shoe (Medium Weight)
  • Materials: Suede Leather and Synthetic Mesh Upper with a Vibram Rubber Outsole.
  • Lug Depth: 5mm
  • Color Options: Charcoal Grey, Walnut, Beluga, Earth, Black Night, Castle Rock, Navy, Pecan, Brindle
  • Summary: Excellent entry level shoe that’s versatile enough for traditional backpacking with heavier loads off-trail, and yet light enough for lightweight hiking adventures on well-maintained trails. The MOAB 2’s the perfect all around hiking shoe and best worn one size larger than your normal shoe size.

North Face Men’s Ultra 109 Gore-Tex Hiking Shoe

  • Cost: ~$120 USD
  • Weight: ~1.06 lbs or ~0.48 kg per shoe (Lightweight)
  • Materials: Leather and synthetic mesh upper with a high grip rubber outsole, and gore-tex semi-permeable membrane.
  • Color Options: Black/Dark Shadow Grey, Zinc Grey & Pompeian Red
  • Summary: Durable and capable of withstanding winter conditions with gore-tex membrane. These shoes are a great choice for light winter hiking or more extensive hiking in the snow using gaiters.

Vasque Men’s Mantra 2.0 Hiking Shoe

  • Cost: ~$130 USD
  • Weight: ~1.189 lbs or ~0.539 kg per shoe (Lightweight)
  • Materials: Nubuck leather upper with synthetic mesh for breathability and Vibram Nusai rubber outsole with heel brake.
  • Color Options: Dark Earth/Chili Pepper, Beluga/Rooibos Tea
  • Summary: Very lightweight low-cut leather hiking shoe that’s more durable and stronger than a mid-cut shoe made of synthetic materials. The heel brake’s also a fantastic tool to have on a shoe should you find yourself descending down a hill as it increases overall traction. If you’re looking for a leather shoe, this is one of the best options available on the market.

Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 4 Runner

  • Cost: ~$100 USD
  • Weight: ~0.50 lbs or ~0.227 kg per shoe (Ultralight)
  • Materials: Textile fabric and synthetic upper with a vibram rubber outsole.
  • Color Options: Blue Sport, Nautical, Emerald, Tropical Punch, Vertical, Black, Molten Lava, Space Black, Vapor
  • Summary: Amongst the lightest fabric trail running shoes on the market, made with synthetic mesh, and an excellent choice for hiking in the rain. In addition, their vibram rubber outsoles are great for gripping rocks on well-maintained trails.

Altra Men’s Superior 4 Trail Running Shoe

  • Cost: ~$110 USD
  • Weight: ~0.494 lbs or ~0.224 kg per shoe (Ultralight)
  • Materials: Textile fabric and synthetic upper with a low-impact landing rubber outsole. Altra Quantic midsole for stability, and an exceptionally low total weight per shoe.
  • Color Options: (5) Black, Blue/Grey, Grey/Lime, Grey/Red, Neon/Blue
  • Summary: One of the absolute lightest trail runners on the market. Excellent for ultralight three season backpacking on well-maintained trails, and also with large enough lugs for off-road ultralight hiking.

Introduction

If you haven’t found your way over to our informational article about the different aspects of hiking shoes including: the anatomy of a hiking shoe, how to choose a pair of hiking boots or shoes, how to break in a pair of shoes, or much more, then you’ll find loads of helpful information to help you select the best hiking shoes for your feet by clicking the link below.

In addition, we’ve also written an article detailing the possible injuries you can inflict on your feet while out on the trail including: blisters, blackened or lost toenails, sprained arches, tendonitis, trench foot, bone spurs, plantar fasciitis, and more, and how to help prevent all of these injuries.

We’ll try to summarize the tips in that article as best as possible by saying the major factor when it comes to foot care is a ten minute break every hour of hiking to rest your feet, reduce swelling, and dry them out. To reduce swelling you elevate your feet above your heart, and for trench foot and major blister prevention, a rotation of two or three pairs of socks being kept dry and swapped out a couple times per day is key.

When it comes to minor blisters, a pair of high quality hiking shoes and a few pairs of wrightsocks will prevent blisters almost entirely, but only if you’re following all the other foot care rules listed above.

Should you find the time, we hope that you enjoy the article listed just below and if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions about the article please reach out to us. We would love to hear your feedback. Thank you!

Finally, if you’ve not had the chance to experience dual-layered merino wool wrightsocks you’re missing out. When these socks are combined with high quality hiking boots, shoes, or trail runners, foot injuries such as blisters are a thing of the past.

Wrightsocks are a highly engineered dual-layered sock which means that the two layers of the sock will rub on each other, instead of on your skin. The outer layer of a pair of Wrightsocks is constructed with merino wool which can absorb up to 40% of its weight in water and still feel dry. These wrightsocks are perfect for a long term blister prevention strategy. Plus, they’re very soft and feel great in a pair of hiking shoes!

Another great option is to wear a pair of toe socks, especially if you’re prone to blisters between your toes. You’ll find a lot of comfort wearing a pair of toe socks since the material of the socks will rub on itself, instead of on your skin, preventing painful hot spots. In addition, these socks are great for hiking shoes designed in the barefoot style since your toes can splay comfortably inside.

We hope that you enjoy your wrightsocks as much as we do, but without further ado, here’s our selection of the best men’s ultralight and lightweight hiking boots, shoes, and trail runners on the market today!

Best Men’s Ultralight and Lightweight Hiking Shoes and Boots

Merrell Men’s Moab 2 Vent Hiking Shoe

  • Cost: ~$85 – $100 USD
  • Weight: ~1.96 lbs or ~0.89 kg per shoe (Medium Weight)
  • Materials: Suede Leather and Synthetic Mesh Upper with a Vibram Rubber Outsole.
  • Lug Depth: 5mm
  • Color Options: Charcoal Grey, Walnut, Beluga, Earth, Black Night, Castle Rock, Navy, Pecan, Brindle
  • Summary: Excellent entry level shoe that’s versatile enough for traditional backpacking with a heavier loads off-trail, and light enough for lightweight hiking adventures on well-maintained trails. The MOAB 2’s the perfect all around hiking shoe and best worn one size larger than normal shoe size.

Starting off the list, and a tough challenger to beat for versatility, are these fantastic suede leather and mesh vented hiking shoes crafted by Merrell. Their construction’s top of the line and they sport an official Vibram rubber outsole with medium to large-sized lugs which make these best for traditional backpacking.

While these shoes are on the heavier end of hiking shoes, weighing in at around 2 lbs per shoe (~888g), the level of engineering and care put into them is exceptional and they’re fantastic for lightweight backpacking across rugged terrain, despite their moderate weight.

The immediate and noticeable difference when wearing these hiking shoes, as compared to normal shoes, is how it’s almost impossible to have blisters form when you’re wearing wrightsocks.

In addition, the insoles provided with these shoes are very comfortable, and once the shoes have been broken in, your feet will feel fantastic no matter how far you walk, or how long you have to stand.

Finally, the MOAB 2’s water resistant and holds up against rain really well, but its primary feature as a vented and semi-mesh hiking shoe is its ability to dry out quickly after a strong burst of rain.

If you’ve never had the chance to wear a pair of hiking shoes, these are a fantastic all around entry level shoe with almost every feature you could ever need, sans gaiter clamps. However, these shoes do support crampons, plus they’re very durable and light enough for any three season hiking adventure you may find yourself on, especially if you’re off-trail.

North Face Men’s Ultra 109 Gore-Tex Hiking Shoe

  • Cost: ~$120 USD
  • Weight: ~1.06 lbs or ~0.48 kg per shoe (Lightweight)
  • Materials: Leather and synthetic mesh upper with a high grip rubber outsole, and gore-tex semi-permeable membrane.
  • Color Options: Black/Dark Shadow Grey, Zinc Grey & Pompeian Red
  • Summary: Durable and capable of withstanding winter conditions with their gore-tex membrane. These shoes are a great choice for light winter hiking or more extensive hiking in the snow using gaiters.

The North Face produces some of the highest quality products on the market today, and their hiking shoes are no exception. With a Gore-tex membrane, and a fantastic leather and synthetic mesh construction, the Ultra 109s are a top of the line hiking shoe designed for any season of hiking.

The best feature of this shoe is its lightweight construction while still containing a Gore-Tex internal semi-permeable membrane. Typically shoes like this with a membrane are twice the weight and only useful for deep snow hiking, but these shoes are versatile enough to travel almost anywhere with their low-cut style and low weight.

While we’ve mentioned before that shoes with semi-permeable membranes are best for winter hiking, that’s actually a matter of controversy. In fact, many hikers prefer shoes with membranes over vented, mesh, or fabric shoes in all situations due to their water resistant nature, however once water enters a shoe like this, it can take quite a while to dry out.

What this all means though is that if you’re looking for a really versatile shoe that can be used for all four seasons of hiking, and is quite lightweight, then these Ultra 109s by the North Face are a fantastic choice to bring with you out on the trail.

Vasque Men’s Mantra 2.0 Hiking Shoe

  • Cost: ~$130 USD
  • Weight: ~1.189 lbs or ~0.539 kg per shoe (Lightweight)
  • Materials: Nubuck leather upper with synthetic mesh for breathability and a Vibram Nusai rubber outsole with a heel brake.
  • Color Options: Dark Earth/Chili Pepper, Beluga/Rooibos Tea
  • Summary: Very lightweight low-cut leather hiking shoe that’s more durable and stronger than a mid-cut shoe made of synthetic materials. The heel brake’s also a fantastic tool to have on a shoe should you find yourself descending down a hill as it increases overall traction. If you’re looking for a leather shoe, this is one of the very best options available on the market.

Among the best shoes on the market are these leather shoes made by Vasque called the Mantra 2.0. While they may seem like they’re very heavy they actually only weight around half a kilo per shoe which places them somewhere between ultralight and lightweight.

One of the best features of these shoes is the heel brake located on the outsole, or the bottom of the shoe. If you think you’ll find yourself climbing up and down a lot of steep hills during your travels, it’s a great idea to have a pair of shoes with a heel brake.

With a pair of hiking shoes with a heel brake, as you descend down a hill, if you lean back a bit and dig your heels in you’ll have much more traction than if you were wearing a pair of shoes without a heel brake, and if you’re doing a lot of off-trail travelling, a heel brake is almost mandatory for most terrain to prevent slipping.

One drawback of a full leather shoe though is their breathability, but the Mantra has solved that issue by implementing synthetic mesh vent holes to allow moisture to escape the shoes. Without these, the shoes would become quite damp after extended use. Regardless, that doesn’t mean if you’re wearing these shoes you’re exempt from foot maintenance. It’s still best to dry out your feet at least twice per day during a hiking adventure.

Overall, there is nothing to complain about with these hiking shoes, and they’re even quite stylish and could be used as a daily wear. If you’re looking for a pair of leather hiking shoes that are lightweight and versatile enough for all terrain, and you think you’ll need a heel brake for hilly adventures, you’ll really enjoy these Mantra 2.0s by Vasque.

Let us known in the comments down below your experience with these shoes. They’re one of our favorite hiking shoes that are available on the market today, and we would love to read your feedback.

Merrell Men’s Trail Glove 4 Runner

  • Cost: ~$70 – $80 USD
  • Weight: ~0.50 lbs or ~0.227 kg per shoe (Ultralight)
  • Materials: Textile fabric and synthetic upper with a vibram rubber outsole.
  • Color Options: Blue Sport, Nautical, Emerald, Tropical Punch, Vertical, Black, Molten Lava, Space Black, Vapor
  • Summary: Amongst the lightest fabric trail running shoes on the market, made with synthetic mesh, and an excellent choice for hiking in the rain. In addition, their vibram rubber outsoles are great for gripping to well-maintained trails.

Now that we’ve covered some of the more versatile or entry level hiking shoes that can be used for winter hiking, or for more rugged terrain, we’ve come to the true ultralight hiking shoes. The next two pairs of shoes are among the lightest on the market and are revered by ultralight hiking enthusiasts.

The Trail Glove 4 hiking shoes are made by Merrell, and Merrell is among one of the top manufacturers for hiking gear and their products continue to improve every year. We are not a sponsor either. We just believe in their products, and they’re quite affordable, and they provide perfect entry level gear for all around adventuring. The Trail Gloves are no exception.

Coming in at about a quarter kilogram per shoe, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a lighter shoe available on the market. These trail runners sport a Vibram rubber outsole with medium to small sized lugs which make these shoes best for well-maintained trails.

In addition, since these shoes are made of only fabric they are best for three season backpacking and great for hiking in rainy conditions due to how quickly they dry. While some people may think that it’s best to always wear a pair of shoes with a Gore-Tex liner, ultralight hikers and trail runners have learned over time that the faster your shoes dry, the happier you’ll be while out travelling in the long run.

These shoes come in a variety of different colors and we’ve tried to display as many of the color options that are available as possible, but there are a few more, so it’s worth checking them all out over at Amazon. Personally, we prefer the ones just above which are the Space Black variant.

If you’re looking for a pair of top of the line trail runners that weigh next to nothing, and you think you’ll find yourself doing some three season backpacking on well-maintained trails in quite rainy conditions, these are one of the very best options available on the market.

Altra Men’s Superior 4 Trail Running Shoe

  • Cost: ~$110 USD
  • Weight: ~0.494 lbs or ~0.224 kg per shoe (Ultralight)
  • Materials: Textile fabric and synthetic upper with a low-impact landing rubber outsole. Altra Quantic midsole for stability, and an exceptionally low total weight per shoe.
  • Color Options: (5) Black, Blue/Grey, Grey/Lime, Grey/Red, Neon/Blue
  • Summary: One of the absolute lightest trail runners on the market. Excellent for ultralight three season backpacking on well-maintained trails with large enough lugs for off-road ultralight traveling.

Topping the list for the best ultralight hiking shoes on the market are the Altra Superior 4 trail running shoes. If you’re planning to do some three season backpacking there’s almost no rival. In fact, what makes these shoes special are their super light weight materials while still having good sized lugs which make them versatile enough for off-trail hiking.

As with the previous shoes on this list, the Superior 4s are made of fabric and dry very rapidly. If you tuck these shoes into the vestibule of your tent at night before you go to bed, they’ll be dry by the morning, or at the most lightly damp.

These shoes also come with a rock guard which will prevent rocks from flying into your shoe while you’re running along a trail or on pavement. If you do decide to use these shoes on pavement the lugs will degrade more quickly, but either way, on trail or on road, you’ll find these shoes to be very comfortable and they’ll last a long time.

One of the other features of these shoes is that they have a particular wide toe box, so if your toes prefer to be splayed apart while you’re running you’ll find these to be more comfortable and they’ll reduce the chances of excess friction along the sides that other shoes can cause. These shoes are also fantastic when worn with toe socks and are great for long distance runs.

The primary feature of Altra running shoes is the Zero Drop profile. Essentially, the designer of these shoes Golden Harper, realized that by reducing excess heel thickness there was a much lower chance of hard heel strikes onto the running medium, whether it be soil or pavement, and this would reduce injury to the runner.

This design of having a smaller heel also allows for a more fluid running motion and decreases the damage to your heels and ankles and will reduce your chances of bone spurs or other injuries.

The Altra Superior 4s are among the very best trail running shoes on the market and if you haven’t had the opportunity to try out a pair yet, you’re in for a special treat if you do decide to pick up a pair.

Not to mention, these are some of the most iconic shoes in the hiking and trail running community at the moment and they’re sure to spark a conversation with other fellow trail running or backpacking enthusiasts that you may meet out on your adventures.

Conclusion

While some of the shoes on this list may be a bit heavier, and they may not be considered technically “ultralight,” there are different shoes for different types of adventures.

Typically, any vented shoe or a shoe made from fabric is best for three season backpacking. The size of the lugs will also determine its usefulness on different types of terrain. The larger the lugs on a pair of shoes, the more traction you’ll have for more rugged off-trail hikes, the smaller the lugs, the more traction you’ll have while walking or running on well-maintained trails.

Heel brakes are also a very valuable tool to have built into your hiking shoe or boot, and if you believe you’ll find yourself ascending and descending a lot of hills, it’s best to wear a shoe with a heel break, and bring along trekking poles.

For the best all around hiking shoe on this list we suggest the Merrell Moab 2, or the Vasque Mantra 2.0s because they’re vented shoes with medium sized lugs and will work great for three season backpacking on or off-trail.

When it comes to a winter shoe, the North Face Ultra 109s would be the best option due to their Gore-Tex liner which works very well at repelling snow from entering the shoe.

If you’re planning to do some long distance ultralight hiking and you’ll be walking on well-maintained trails, or occasionally on concrete, your absolute best options are either the Merrell Trail Glove shoes, or the Altra Superior trail running shoes due to their super lightweight fabric construction and fast drying times.

No matter which shoe you decide to choose for your hiking adventures we hope that you enjoy your time in the great outdoors and if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions we would love to hear them in the comment section down below.

As always, thank you so much for being here, we hope that you have an absolutely wonderful day, and Happy Paragon Trails!

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