Hiking boots are usually not the cheapest part of your gear and there are some pairs that could cost up to 300$, with professional hikers boots costing north of $700. That’s some serious price to pay for a pair of boots, but this price could be justified by the ankle support, ruggedness and the features these boots will provide. A good hiking shoe or boot, could actually mean the difference between life and death in some situations and although the people reading this article will probably never get into a situation where their life will depend on the quality of their hiking boots, lots of people would experience a situation in which their footwear would prevent them from a serious injury.
Although we have a comparison between the best hiking shoes and boots for both men and women on our website, we don’t have a comparison between the cheaper options and the more expensive ones. As far as most of the people are concerned the higher the price, the better the gear, but that’s not the case with everything. In some instances the cheaper alternatives are actually better and receive better customer ratings.
That’s why we’ve decided to gather information from the major retailers online and create an informative post to let you know what we find out. To make things even easier to to comprehend we’ve create an infographic with the details from our research and hope that you’d find it informative and interesting.
In order to get you this information we have spent a couple of weeks gathering information about the 15 brands that combined sell around 90% of the boots sold in the US and the UK and have compared all of the models that they offer currently on sites such as Amazon, REI, Backcountry, Zappos, Moosejaw and other online retailers. The data we collected was for 242 models from these 15 brands and the number of customer ratings that we have for all of the models combined is over 80,000.
So first off, here’s a short summary of what we found about the average prices from the biggest manufacturers. Here’s how the system we used works
- We got to the biggest retailers online and some of their brick and mortar competitors and we wrote down the prices for each model we were able to get our hands on.
- Then we made an average price per brand using a simple equation that looked like this – Price of Model 1 + Price of Model 2 + Price of Model 3 = X / Number of models = Average price
For example if a you have three models, with one that costs 100, another model that costs 200 and a third model which costs 300, the average price would come to 600/3 = $200
Once we did that, we them did an average price based on the different retailers, so if we found that the average price of a brand on site A is 100 and the average price on site B is 200, then their collected average price would come to 150 dollars, which we believe to be a decent way of calculating an overall average.
- Then we did pretty much the same thing with the ratings, collecting the average ratings of each model, that the brands sell on every site there are sold on, which looks like this,
Brand A has 15 models and their average rating is 4,5 stars on Amazon. The average rating on REI is 4,7 stars though with Backcountry having an average for this brand 4,6. In this case, the average rating of the brand would look like this – 4,5 + 4,7 +4,6 = 13,8 / 3 ( number or retailers ) equals 4,6 average brand rating. Hopefully that’s a good enough explanation of how the research went and if you don’t really understand the math behind it, I’m sure that the visual representation would work well and explain things better. It always does it for me!
The final chart that you see at the bottom is actually a correlation table with the average ratings on the X axis and the prices on the Y axis. There’s no real pattern that we can see here, except the one showing that the ratings of the lower priced hiking shoes and boots is much lower than the ratings of the brands with prices over $150. There dot in the middle of the chart where you see a sudden drop is actually the user ratings of the brand Five-Ten, which is better known for making climbing shoes and it’s also fairly new to the hiking boots game, if you could call it that way. They also don’t have that many models yet and to be quite honest with you we couldn’t really get that many ratings for their products, with their share of the 87,236 reviews being really low, or more specifically 1,8% or 1570 reviews in total.
Anyway, we did notice a trend that the rating scores didn start to fall down a bit where the prices go up and that’s not much of a surprise if I’m honest. As the prices rise, the expectations of the buyers rise as well. Obviously if you’re paying over 200$ for a pair of boots, that you are going to use moderately (obviously you won’t use them on a day to day basis), you would expect them to be pretty amazing at what they do. That is true with most models as they are really good at what they do, but the devil is in the details as they say. The problem with most brands and their models is that they simply try to cater to a really wide audience, which is not really possible. There’s a reason why running shoe manufacturers and makers of everyday walking shoes create hundreds if not thousands of models with every model designed to be good for a specific type of feet.While we were doing this research, we did analyze a lot of the reviews of the brands involved, such as Keen, Merrell, Salomon, Columbia, Anhu and others, which are quite frankly the big dogs in the hiking industry.
As it turns out, there was one common problem or complaint that was seen again and again. Neither of these brands makes boots or shoes that are good for wide feet or narrow feet. Apparently all shoes and boots are designed with “normal” or “average” feet in mind and that’s obviously the best way to go for the brands, but not all of your customers will be happy with the purchase with this type of approach of such a significant problem.
From our initial research it turns out that more and more people are having problems with their wide feet, which should be apparent to the makers of boots, as the stats are right there for the taking.
Anyway this is one of the reasons why the ratings much not be so impressive, although an average of 4,388385 stars out of 5 is not a bad record at all.
Another reason why people complain about their purchase is the so called waterproofing of the boots and shoes sold these days. Although waterproofing has significantly improved in recent years, some models still won’t provide their buyers with what they expect. That’s not a problem of the buyers, but the manufacturers though. The “Waterproof” or “WP” abbreviation you see on different models, suggests that if you fully submerge the model you have, no water will get in, which in many cases isn’t the case. Although most models are significantly water resistant, even the ones that don’t include WP in their name, only a handful of them pass the Full submerge test, but we’ll go over that in another post.
With all this data involved in this research it would be simply stupid of us not to write a few conclusions on which brand has the highest rating, which one has the most buyers and which one offers the best value overall.
So here are these conclusions listed here, with some visual representations as well.
Most expensive brand of hiking boots and shoes
The data in this particular chart involves 15 brands and here’s what we learned from it. The most expensive brand of hiking shoes and boots is Arc’Teryx, with an average price of about $291. Arc’teryx doesn’t have that many models and apparently they’ve decided to concentrate on the high-end of the industry. With an average price of 291 USD, they should be offering some pretty amazing shoes for trekking, but when we go to the ratings chart, we see that they only got 4,367.
Cheapest Hiking Shoes by brand
The cheapest option we found was Hi-Tec. Their average price before discounts was $97, which is combined between hiking shoes and boots for both men and women. They do have a wide variety of models too, which means that the prices of a lot of models is lower than the average. It is good to know that you can get a pair for the trails for under $100, especially if you’re a first time hiker. This might be the strategy that Hi-Tec have chosen to go with and although it’s a completely different approach compared to the one by Arc’Teryx, it does work out well for them as Hi-Tec has a significant market share.
Best rated brand of hiking Boots
The winner in this section is Salomon. Salomon have been making outdoor shoes and boots for past 2 decades and they’ve obviously either listened to the feedback of their customers, or they simply know really well what said customers want in a hiking boot. Salomon have a decent amount of models, but most of them are priced over the $150 mark, which takes them to the high-end of the price chart, ranking at number five. Their overall rating is 4,4789 which is really impressive and we actually have a review of their best hiking boots in the works, which should be out really soon.
Why are some boots more expensive than others
There’s a lot that goes into creating a product. There are also many things that could affect the price of the product before it hits the market. In some instances brands invest tons of money on research and testing their shoes or boots before releasing them, in other cases they need a new product fast and rush things, but invest a ton of money into marketing it. Such things could obviously affect the final price and although some people might think that the only expenses that go into creating a good product is the leather, the laces and the rubber on the sole that’s as far from reality as it could possibly get.
Marketing is a big part of making a pair of shoes sell and on the Hiking Gear Guru we have a love-hate relationshop with brands, because we try to minimize the effect of an aggressive marketing campaign if the product isn’t good. In this day of age, people tend to search the interwebz for information about products, even ones they’ve seen on TV, or endorsed by outdoor figures such as Bear Grylls, or Andrew Skurka. If a pair of hiking boots or shoes aren’t good, we’ll tell you about it, even if that brings us the wrath of the company that spent tons of money to promote them.
Another reason why a pair of boots might be more expensive than a different one is that sometimes, the makers will position them in the high-end of the price range so it makes them more desirable. As we mentioned before, the years of ads we’ve seen and a lot of the experience in life has taught us that expensive = better. We’ll brands take advantage of this and in some instances put a high price-tag on their products to make them more desirable to the people. Apple for example takes advantage of the exact same strategy (along with a few others) to make it’s product sell a lot and it works really well.
Market share of hiking boot manufacturers
Full disclaimer here, these “market shares” are strictly based off of Amazon.com and the number of reviews each brand has collected. Amazon is the only retailer big enough to have significant data which we could use. The reality might be really different, but for obvious reasons no company would share statistical data on how many shoes or boots for trekking they have sold on a yearly basis or in any other type of basis for that matter.
Not that we tried, but they probably wouldn’t share such information.
Well the company with the biggest market share turned out to be Merrell. As it turned out they actually surpass most of the other brands with a significant margin. They seem to really have hit the sweet-spot of marketing and quality combined. Merrell is actually positioned in the middle of both of our charts. Their average prices are smack-down the middle of the chart and their customer ratings are pretty good too, but far from the best. We actually have a post about the best rated Merrell hiking shoes which has some more insights on the different types of products, from lighweight to waterproof and all the way down to the best shoes for trail running.
Important notes about the research
There are a few things that should be noted about our research. Although we’re 100% honest and these stats could be double-checked by everyone who has the time and resources to do it, we also want to point out that reviews on online sites could be manipulated. Although retailers claim to not do it, such statements should always be taken with a grain of salt. We have tried to make this research as thorough as possible, but unfortunately in this instance, we simply can’t say whether or not the data is 100% accurate, because it’s not based on data we have accumulated ourselves.
The other thing to note is that most manufacturers have only about 5-10 models and when you multiple 15 brands by 10 models, you don’t get 242 models. Well that’s because we have calculated the prices and ratings of each model for both men and women alike. The opinions of men and women have varied in some instances and completely align in others, so the best way to go about doing this research was to simply use all the data together. We do have a separate article about the models of hiking boots and shoes that men like most and another one, which covers the female perspective, but that’s something else entirely.
Hopefully you find the data in this article good enough to help you decide whether to spend a few extra dollars on your next pair of boots or shoes. We certainly found some interesting data along the way which will be used for a few other articles which will be published on the Hiking Gear Guru in the very near future.
Final conclusions and a few words
The final conclusion that we have after all of this data aggregation is that you don’t really need to pay $200 for a good pair of hiking boots. This decision is obviously all up to you, but the data suggests that you in most cases you’ll be just as happy with a pair that costs significantly less. For the 50 dollars you could save there’s plenty of other gear that could be bought and if you are just starting with the sport of hiking, you shouldn’t overspend before you find out whether you like it or not. Probably 9/10 people love this outdoor activity because it offers a chance to explore places you’ve never seen and there are actual researches that claim that it even improves your health.
We loved doing this research and hopefully many of you will find it worthy of being shared with your friends and family. Show it to your friend that claims that their shoes are much better because they cost 100$ more, or share it with your father that tells you that you don’t need to spend more than $30 to go outdoors. Hiking shoes and boots have different benefits for their owners, but in some instances people make the mistake of buying boots instead of shoes, when they needed shoes all along.That’s the reason why we created a page about the main differences between the two types of footwear that you can read here.
Thanks for reading, we’ll see you next time!