By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
Did you know that more than half the U.S. national parks let visitors in for free? Even outside those designated confines, miles of trails crisscross the country and require no entrance fee. All you need is adequate protection: sunscreen, perhaps a good hat, and sturdy shoes. The latter can cost hundreds, but Cheapism.com has selected four pairs of hiking shoes and boots that are relatively cheap -- $90 or less -- and earn positive ratings from experts and casual hikers alike. They're supportive, lightweight, and equipped to keep feet dry and comfortable. (They're available for men as well as women.)Men's Merrell Moab Ventilator
The Merrell Moab Ventilator (starting at $79) fits perfectly if you need something that's light and comfortable but provides plenty of grip for your outdoor adventures. Experts at Outdoor Gear Lab have declared this hiking shoe the best value out there for women. As you might expect from the name, the Ventilator's upper mesh is highly breathable and designed to keep feet cool and dry. Although you'll need to shell out a bit more for a waterproof version, this pair should quickly dry out in warm weather.
Reviewers say the Keen Alamosa WP (starting at $72) lives up to its name (the WP stands for waterproof) and keeps water at bay. That's something that can't be said for all "waterproof" hiking boots at this price point. These nubuk-leather hiking shoes are also surprisingly lightweight, yet they create a solid foundation underfoot. One thing to note: A number of wearers have commented that this style is narrower than expected.
The mid-cut L.L. Bean Waterproof Trail Model Hikers (starting at $90) are the most traditional hiking boots on this list. They come up higher on the ankle to provide extra support for uneven terrain and backpacking with a moderate load. They're priced much lower than the competition in the mid-cut segment, especially given that they're waterproof -- and reliably so, according to reviews. These are ideal for anyone looking to do longer, tougher hikes on a limited budget.
The Salomon Synapse (starting at $75) is designed for women who enjoy trail running but also attracts people looking for a lightweight shoe for day hikes. It provides traction and comfort while toeing the line between support and flexibility. Although these shoes are not waterproof, their breathable lining allows feet to dry quickly. In reviews, trailblazers note the slight forward angle of the midsole, saying it helps propel them forward.
Related: Top inexpensive running shoes
Budget-friendly hiking boots, like the ones listed here, are most often low-cut and ideal for one- or two-day hikes. They come with some advantages over heavy-duty boots. For starters, they won't weigh down your legs during your travels. Plus, this type of shoe is known for being comfortable and flexible, with a cushioned midsole made of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). If you're out in the wilderness with a pack on your back for weeks, though, you'll likely want the extra support of a more expensive, higher-cut hiking boot.
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