6 Best Women’s Desert Hiking Boots and Shoes

Heading out for a desert hike? Check out our top picks for the best women’s desert hiking shoes perfect for any desert trail.

A close up of a woman wearing Oboz Sawtooth X Mid Hiking Boots and Darn Tough hiking socks. There is red rock surrounding her

Over the past decade-plus, I’ve spent a lot of time hiking in the desert. I’ve backpacked throughout Southern Utah and explored many beautiful desert destinations in Arizona, including the Grand Canyon. 

I’ve learned that what you wear on your feet sets the tone for your entire hike or overnight trip. It’s hard to enjoy any adventure anywhere when your feet aren’t comfortable.

This is especially true when hiking in the desert. It’s crucial to make sure your shoes are comfortable and durable enough to withstand temperature extremes and uneven terrain as well as lightweight and breathable so your feet stay dry.

Luckily, there are many options for great desert hiking boots that offer ample traction, comfort, and breathability for hiking in dry and hot environments, without making your feet hurt or feel extra sweaty along the way. 

In this blog post, I share my top suggestions for the best women’s desert hiking boots and shoes. These shoes will set the foundation for a comfortable and breathable trek!

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    Best Women’s Desert Hiking Shoes at a Glance

    Desert Hiking Shoe Key Features

    There are a lot of hiking boots and shoes to choose from these days, so how do you know which ones will be great for desert terrain?

    Here are five features to look for in a shoe specifically for hiking in the desert. 

    Grippy sole with good traction

    Hiking in the desert often involves scrambling over rocks, trekking through steep sections, and walking on uneven terrain. Your shoe should have enough grip so that you’re not at risk of slipping and sliding. 

    The underside of the Oboz Katabatic hiking shoe with multidirectional lugs
    The underside of the Oboz Katabatic hiking shoe with multidirectional lugs

    You want to look for a shoe with a patterned outsole and one that’s made with a durable material, usually rubber. 


    Minimal shade and arid temperatures are two common components of desert hiking. To keep your feet feeling dry and comfy, look for a shoe that’s breathable and designed with moisture-wicking materials like synthetic mesh uppers.

    While a majority of hiking boots and shoes contain some amount of leather, be aware that leather isn’t as breathable as mesh and doesn’t do a great job of wicking away sweat. This can potentially leave your feet feeling clammy, which can lead to discomfort and painful blisters.


    Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of desert hikes that involve stream crossings, wading through shallow water, and even following a flowing river as part of the ‘trail’.

    If you plan on getting your feet wet in the desert, you want to look for a shoe that is quick-drying so your feet don’t get blisters or shrivel up like a prune.

    Quick-drying materials include mesh and synthetic fabrics.

    Woman standing in shallow river during a hike near Moab with dog
    One of several stream crossings on a hike to Mary Jane Falls in Moab


    Clunky and heavy hiking boots are not ideal for hiking in the desert because they’ll make your feet hot and weigh you down. Therefore, an all-leather boot or one with an intense waterproof membrane isn’t as suitable compared to a boot made with lightweight fabric and mesh materials.  

    Woman hiking in the foothills on a trail above Salt Lake City. Photo focuses on her shoes
    A shoe with mesh will breathe better in hotter environments

    Light colors

    Ideally, the best desert hiking shoes will be available in light colors so they don’t absorb the sun’s rays and trap any extra heat. You’ll also want to wear light-colored socks, clothes, and hats for the same reason. 

    Close up of women's feet wearing desert hiking shoes
    Choosing light-colored shoes can help keep your feet cooler in desert environments


    It’s best to choose non-waterproof shoes when hiking in desert environments because they tend to dry faster and feel more breathable.

    Waterproofing reduces breathability and makes feet more blister-prone, so if you plan on hiking in mainly warm and arid climates, consider staying away from anything with “waterproof membranes” and “gore-tex” materials.  

    However, we included one waterproof yet still lightweight and breathable boot, in case you want a shoe that can take you through the desert, Pacific Northwest, and beyond. 

    1. Oboz Katabatic Mid Hiking Boots

    Bearfoot Theory Team Favorite

    Key Features

    • Height: Over-the-Ankle
    • Weight: 1 lb. 10.8 oz (pair)
    • Uppers: Mesh

    Where to shop

    • What we like: Grippy soles with great traction, moisture wicking, comfortable right out the box
    • What we don’t like: Nothing!

    The Oboz Katabatic is my go-to shoe for outdoor adventures and one of the best shoes for hiking in the desert. They’re comfortable right out of the box and flexible yet still very supportive. 

    Unlike some hiking boots that tend to be clunky, the Oboz Katabatic is breathable and relatively lightweight while still providing the ankle support I want in a hiking boot. If you’re a fan of the Oboz Sawtooth or Oboz Bridger, you will love the Katabatic. The Katabatic offers similar traction and support as these other models in a super light and breathable package. 

    The ankle support makes these an excellent shoe for desert backpacking trips or day hikes with uneven terrain. I especially love that the Oboz Katabatic boot is made with moisture-wicking cushioning, so it keeps out extra sweat when hiking in hot and dry weather. And these shoes have trail tread rubber, so I feel stable when hiking on rocky routes and slick sections. 

    When it comes to durability, I am happy to report all of my Oboz shoes have held up very well even after lots of wear on day hikes and backpacking trips in all kinds of weather. Read my full review of Oboz Katabatic Hiking Shoes.

    These also come in a low-ankle version (which weighs 1 lb 7.2 oz) if you want an even lighter package and don’t need the ankle support.

    Closeup of the Oboz Katabatic light and fast hiking shoes on a dirt trail with a dog and mountains in the background
    Wearing the Oboz Katabatic hiking shoe (low ankle version) in Utah

    2. Salomon Speedcross 6 Trail-Running Shoes

    Lightest Desert Hiking Shoe

    Key Features

    • Height: Ankle
    • Weight: 1 lb. 2.2 oz (pair)
    • Uppers: Synthetic

    Where to shop

    • What we like: Lightweight, comfortable, Quicklace system is easy to adjust
    • What we don’t like: They wear out fast

    For reliable footwear, the Salomon Speedcross Trail Running Shoes are known for being comfortable, very grippy, and minimalistic with a sporty look. 

    In addition to being one of the lightest shoes on this list, they are made with rubber outsoles that offer good grip on slippery, rocky, and uneven surfaces. And they provide extra cushion to feel stable and connected to the ground. 

    Another feature people love is the Quicklace system. Simply pull the lace to where it feels comfortable and secure on your foot. This allows you to dial in the fit and avoid retightening your shoe throughout the day. 

    To top it all off, the Salomon features materials made from recycled products, like plastic bottles and material waste.

    The biggest downside of these shoes is the soles tend to wear out fast, especially if you use them on pavement. My partner Ryan loves how comfy these shoes are, but with the several pairs he’s owned, the tread always breaks down much quicker than I’d expect.

    He called Salomon to ask about this, and they told him that these shoes are designed for the trail and shouldn’t be worn regularly on pavement. In my opinion, this makes these shoes a lot less versatile than some of the others on this list, but if being lightweight is your priority, these are one of the best hiking shoes for desert terrain.

    3. KEEN Women’s Voyageur Hiking Shoe

    Best for Rough Terrain

    Key Features

    • Height: Ankle
    • Weight: 1 lb. 10.6 oz (pair)
    • Uppers: Leather and mesh

    Where to shop

    • What we like: Mesh features, odor control, sturdy toe cap
    • What we don’t like: Grippy outsoles are large and bulky, heavy

    The KEEN Voyageur features a big toe-cap to help keep feet protected from rocks, which makes these a great shoe for hiking in the desert where you’re likely to encounter sharp terrain. These also have rubber outsoles with deep lugs for ample traction.

    Another big perk of these shoes is that they feature natural odor control, which is great when hiking anywhere but especially in hot climates. 

    Made with a mix of water-resistant leather and mesh uppers, the KEEN Women’s Voyageur Hiking Shoe isn’t going to be as breathable as the other desert hiking shoes on this list. However, the materials make them a tough choice for rougher trails. 

    Two of the biggest complaints I’ve heard with the KEEN Voyageur are the innersole is pretty firm (which some people may like) and some people report the glue separating on the outsoles prematurely.  

    4. Merrell Moab 3 Hiking Shoes

    Budget-Friendly Desert Hiking Shoe

    Key Features

    • Height: Ankle
    • Weight: 1 lb. 10 oz (pair)
    • Uppers: Leather and mesh

    Where to shop

    • What we like: Side ventilation, good price, light color selection
    • What we don’t like: Heavy

    A bit cheaper than the other shoes on this list, the Merrell Moab 3 Hiking Shoes offer a lot of the features you want in desert hiking footwear at a good price point. They have a sturdy sole and solid arch support and the outsole is grippy for navigating versatile terrain. Merrells are also known for better accommodating wide feet than other brands of hiking boots.

    The Moab 3s are great for desert hiking because they have both strategically placed mesh panels and mesh lining for wicking moisture. This helps your feet to “breathe” and stay dry while allowing maximum airflow in hot weather. 

    At 1 1b 10 oz, they are a heavier option on this list, so if you want to go for a shoe that’s as light as possible — the low ankle Katabatic or Salomons may be a better fit. But if you want a desert hiking shoe that’s a bit more budget-friendly, this one checks the boxes. Plus, they’re made with recycled materials!

    5. Lowa Innox Pro GTX Mid Hiking Boots

    Best Waterproof Desert Hiking Boot

    Key Features

    • Height: Over-the Ankle
    • Weight: 1 lb. 10.1 oz (pair)
    • Uppers: Synthetic

    Where to shop

    • What we like: Light for a high ankle hiking boot, breathable, great ankle support, vegan, good for winter desert hiking
    • What we don’t like: Higher priced than the other shoes on this list, dark color

    If you plan to hike in the desert in the winter, you may want a lightweight waterproof boot. It won’t be as breathable as the other desert hiking shoes on this list, but it will protect your feet from the elements in case you encounter variable conditions.  

    In this case, the Lowa Innox Pro GTX Mid Hiking Boots are a good choice. These shoes are made with a breathable and waterproof membrane that will keep your feet dry but not hot. As a pair, they weigh 1 lb. 10.1 oz, which isn’t super heavy given their size. 

    The standout for this shoe is the support. It really delivers on ankle support and stability, which is helpful for hiking up slick rock.

    However, the color range is pretty limited and mostly available in dark colors. Despite being waterproof, some reviewers have also complained about water seeping in, so I wouldn’t recommend this shoe in a downpour.

    The Lowe Innox Pro isn’t my top recommendation if you’re only going to be hiking in the desert, but if you want a shoe that can manage a lot of different terrains comfortably and you like a lot of ankle support, it’s a solid choice.

    6. Astral TR1 Mesh Shoes 

    Best Water Shoe for Desert Streams

    Key Features

    • Height: Ankle
    • Weight: 8.4 oz (pair)
    • Uppers: Mesh

    Where to shop

    • What we like: Lightweight, closed-toe, designed to be worn in the water
    • What we don’t like: Not very supportive

    One of the best parts of visiting the desert is getting to explore the unique waterfalls, rivers, hot springs, and canyons. Rather than wearing your hiking shoes or flip flops, I recommend packing a water shoe. 

    The Astral TR1 Mesh Shoes are lightweight, quick-drying, and “water ready” – meaning you can easily go from water to trail and back. They’re great for hiking through streams or the wet desert canyons that you can find in Moab, Escalante, or Zion. 

    With a closed toe and grippy rubber outsole, the Astarl’s protect your feet much more than the average sandal while still being easy to slip on and off. The holes in the front and the back of the midsoles drain water, while the mesh uppers vent hot air. 

    If you’re hiking through very cold water, you can pair these with a light neoprene sock which will keep your feet a little warmer. Socks also protect your feet from any rocks that might make their way in if you are hiking in a stream. 

    Astral T1 water shoes on Mary Jane Falls hike. Hiker is walking through a wet canyon and there is a dog in the background
    Wearing the Astral TR1 Mesh Shoes on a hike in Utah

    Caring For Your Feet in the Desert  

    Once you’ve landed on your ideal pair of desert hiking boots or shoes, here are more tips to keep your feet happy and comfortable even when it’s hot and dry out.

    • Wear lightweight wool socks. I love Darn Tough socks.  They’re super comfortable and thick enough to give extra cushion without making you feel constrained. Plus, they’re buy-it-for-life, so if they get damaged at any point you can send them back and get a new pair.
    • Wear gaiters.  Lightweight hiking gaiters can help keep dirt and debris from entering your shoes. 
    • Stock up your first aid kit. Bring moleskin, a safety pin, and alcohol wipes just in case you get a blister. Read these tips for designing your own hiking first aid kit.
    • Dry your feet when you get home. Even if you didn’t hike in wet conditions, they’re still probably sweaty. Towel them off so they don’t say wet and clammy.

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    What are your favorite desert hiking boots or shoes and what do you love about them? What tips do you have for hiking in the desert? Leave a comment below!

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