The 7 Best Shoes for Rucking

Last update:

As much as I love my GORUCK MACV-1s, sometimes wearing boots just…isn’t fun.

Last summer, I was on some random, unnamed, slightly hilly trail in coastal Montenegro in my MACV-1s laced up, feeling like I was ready for anything.

Unfortunately, the combination of the heat and humidity made the lower half of my legs feel like they were boiling in some molten pit. The second I could get boots off and shoes on (at that point, I didn’t care how nasty I’d make the clean pair of socks!), I developed a whole new outlook on life.

Following up on our list of the best boots for rucking, we have seven more rucking footwear options for those who prefer more of a low-top experience. We’re confident that on Mile 42 of a Star Course-50 Miler (especially if you’re in some hot-weather location!), you’ll be thankful you click on this post!

🏆 Best Overall

GORUCK Mackall

86

Triple compound outsole ideal for gripping
Wide toe box and protective toe cap
13mm heel drop ideal for rucking
Buy on GORUCK

Best Speed Rucking

GORUCK Rough Runners

86

Engineered to accommodate load at speed
Multiple-compounded rubber outsole for all terrain
Adequate for dynamic rucking and/or CrossFit
Buy on GORUCK

Best Minimalist

XERO Mesa Trail II

83

Lugged rubber soul and dual-chevron tread for movement on terrain
Extremely lightweight and flexible allowing freedom of movement
5,000 mile sole warranty
Buy on Amazon

Best Dynamic

GORUCK Ballistic Trainers

86

Constructed of resilient 1680D CORDURA ballistic nylon
8mm heel drop “sweet spot” for dynamic and “pure” rucking
Official shoe of the CrossFit Games
Buy on GORUCK

Best Affordable

Columbia Crestwood

85

Reinforced toe and heel for stability and durability
Mesh/synthetic combo creates lightweight product
Extremely affordable
Buy on Amazon

GORUCK Mackall

⭐️ Verdict: Best Overall

For “pure” rucking enthusiasts, it doesn’t get much better than the GORUCK Mackalls. Sturdy construction and materials, terrain piercing/traction-promoting tread, and stability=promoting EVA midsole are all highlghts.

Great for hill sprints and stationary (ex. ruck squats) dynamic rucking, but there are better and more affordable options for these niche tasks.

Pros

Triple compound outsole ideal for gripping

Wide toe box and protective toe cap

13mm heel drop ideal for rucking

Con

Not ideal for dynamic rucking

Overall

86

Rucking

95

Dynamic Rucking

80

Price

75

Customer Reviews

92

Buy on GORUCK

How we test & score products

As you might expect, GORUCK dominates the entries comprising the best shoes for rucking list, with their Mackall offering being the best overall. Unlike GORUCK’s much more popular Ballistic Trainers featured later, the Mackall shoes design is more in line with the true “old school” rucking enthusiast in mind.

I personally prefer a different type of shoe when I’m performing a bunch of ruck shoulder-to-overheads and “dynamic movements” than when putting in the miles (especially off-road miles) with 40-plus pounds strapped on my back!

As such, I prefer the feel and functionality of the Mackalls. After all, they are, in the words of their GORUCK designers, “an off-road rucking machine”.

The EVA midsole provides the stability base to handle these loads while the triple compound rubber outsole is one of the most, if not the most heavily engineered outsoles of any rucking shoe.

With a large, 13mm heel drop, I almost feel like I’m gliding when rucking in the Mackalls (to be fair, I’m used to low or no-heel drop shoes!). Even with this larger-than-average heel drop, the tight grip of the Mackall has been likened to “glue” on the feet. The reinforced toe cap adds an extra layer of protection to one of the most vulnerable portions of the shoe.

GORUCK Rough Runner

⭐️ Verdict: Best for Speed Rucking

A good all-around rucking shoe that particularly thrives in moving fast under load in light and/or paved terrain. Multi-compound outsole makes them superior to any traditional sneaker for tougher terrain/conditions.

A newer offering that is already beloved by customers may not hold up over extremely extensive use in extremely averse terrain.

Pros

Engineered to accommodate load at speed

Multiple-compounded rubber outsole for all terrain

Adequate for dynamic rucking and/or CrossFit

Cons

Long-term durability concerns

Overall

86

Rucking

85

Dynamic Rucking

85

Price

80

Customer Reviews

92

Buy on GORUCK Check out our FULL review

How we test & score products

You probably knew that it was a pretty safe bet that GORUCK would find itself on the list of best shoes for rucking! We had to include the Rough Runners in order to cover the special type of rucking enthusiast who likes to do things…fast.

The heart of the Rough Runners is the Gradient Density EVA midsole. This component perfectly balances the rebound and “bounce” necessary for an effective running shoe with superior durability that any substantial rucking venture requires.

The multiple rubber compounds of the outsole combine together to create a reasonably tough exterior that provides exceptional grip…which is particularly necessary when moving under load at high speeds.

The Rough Runners work perfectly on pavement and in light terrain, but are not ideal for rougher terrain. With that being said, they are above average for dynamic rucking, especially if you prefer a larger heel drop on your training shoes.

XERO Mesa Trail II

⭐️ Verdict: Best for Minimalist Rucking

A minimalist rucker’s dream? The Xero Mess Trail II shoes combine a low heel-drop with surprisingly robust and capable materials to support trail/rough terrain movement under load.

Not the shoe for brand-new ruckers or minimalist-curious enthusiasts; could be the shoe for those who know what they’re getting themselves into.

Pros

Lugged rubber soul and dual-chevron tread for movement on terrain

Extremely lightweight and flexible allowing freedom of movement

5,000-mile sole warranty

Cons

Small heel drop may be difficult to adjust to

Overall

83

Rucking

85

Dynamic Rucking

80*

Price

85

Customer Reviews

82

Buy on Amazon

How we test & score products

Probably the most polarizing shoe on this, the Xero Mesa Trail II shoes are nevertheless the best shoes for the niche audience who prefers a minimalist shoe when rucking.

Although a minimalist shoe is always going to have some shortcomings both under load and when rucking on rougher terrain, the more robust lugged soul and dual-chevroned tread enables Xero’s offering to compete with much heavier shoes’ rucking abilities.

For low heel-drop shoe enthusiasts (who are obviously the target audience for these shoes) these make for better-than-adequate dynamic rucking shoes, although those accustomed to a bit larger of a heel will probably struggle with ruck metcon in these…especially on the first wear or 10.

GORUCK Ballistic Trainers

⭐️ Verdict: Best for Dynamic Rucking

The flagship shoe from the new(ish) Official Apparel and Footwear Partner of the CrossFit Games, the Ballistic Trainers are perfect for all types of dynamic rucking.

Extremely high-quality materials work to offset the smooth-bottom problems that make hills and uneven terrain descent more difficult than they need to be.

Pros

Constructed of resilient 1680D CORDURA ballistic nylon

8mm heel drop “sweet spot” for dynamic and “pure” rucking

Official shoe of the CrossFit Games

Cons

Smooth bottom makes descending hills and cobblestones difficult

Overall

86

Rucking

75

Dynamic Rucking

95

Price

80

Customer Reviews

96

Buy on GORUCK Check out our FULL review

As you might expect, GORUCK is a running (no pun intended!) theme on this list…and with good reason! The company has perfected the craft of engineering the ideal shoes and boots (amongst a multitude of associated items) for rucking.

As much as the GORUCK Rough Runners excel when speed matters most and the GORUCK Mackalls are ideal for heavy duty conditions and environments, GORUCK’s Ballistic Trainers are the standard for “dynamic rucking” shoes.

In many cases, a large degree of flexibility has to be sacrificed in the name of stability. However, the Ballistic Trainers’ Gradient Density EVA Midsoles promote high rebound and high flexibility as well as a degree of cushioning to actually complement the shoes’ stability.

The Ballistic Trainers really are good at their specific purpose. I’d rather wear my Rough Runners for fast road rucking or my Mackalls for dedicated, all-terrain rucking. However, for that sweet spot of “dynamic rucking”, the Ballistic Trainers are the go-to shoes.

Columbia Crestwood

⭐️ Verdict: Best Affordable Rucking Shoes

The ideal shoe for people brand new to rucking? The Columbia Crestwoods boast surprisingly robust materials at a price point that just about anyone can stomach.

Despite its above average durability and stability, a relatively lightweight shoe; not ideally suited for dynamic rucking outtings.

Pros

Reinforced toe and heel for stability and durability

Mesh/synthetic combo creates lightweight product

Extremely affordable

Cons

Some question the “waterproof-ness”

Overall

85

Rucking

85

Dynamic Rucking

70

Price

95

Customer Reviews

90

Buy on Amazon

How we test & score products

Affordable and capable, there isn’t much more to ask for in an “entry-level” rucking shoe. The Columbia Crestwood shoes are beloved by thousands of satisfied wearers while boasting surprisingly robust sole and upper materials.

The superior grip from its outsole and Techlite-cushioned midsole ensure that the Crestwoods work for both road rucks as well as rucking ventures out in heavier terrain.

Like many “pure” hiking and rucking shoes (particularly those originally developed more than 5 or so years ago), these aren’t going to be the shoes for dynamic rucking. However, with the price savings one would enjoy with these, it wouldn’t be too hard to lock down a complementary, quality budget training shoe.

Danner Trail 2650 Gore-Tex

⭐️ Verdict: Contender!

One of the premier outdoor and equipment apparel brands, the Danner Trail 2650 Gore-Tex boasts some of the most advanced materials in the rucking game.

Superior grip from the Vibram outsole although comes at a higher price point than the majority of other rucking shoes.

Pros

Vibram 460 outsole provides exceptional grip on all surfaces

Gore-Tex liner enhances foot breathability

Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) (“Trailguard”) for additional stability

Cons

Not inexpensive

Overall

84

Rucking

90

Dynamic Rucking

80

Price

70

Customer Reviews

90

Buy on Amazon

How we test & score products

Danner is a name that is synonymous with outdoor activity, producing shoes beloved by both casual and serious enthusiasts, alike. I’m always a sucker for a Vibram outsole, but they truly provide additional grip on terrain that is oftentimes wet, rugged, or variable. I certainly appreciate these in Danner’s entry on this list.

Additionally, Danner’s proprietary thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) (the “Trailguard”) provides an extra degree of stability and support on rough and uneven terrain.

Danner’s PlyoGo Midsoles provide an unparalleled degree of cushioning and comfort and with a 365-day warranty, the Trail 2650 shoes are a good bet to last. Although these are the most expensive entries on this list, the overall durability and functionality of Danner’s entry on this list likely justifies the cost.

Merrell Moab Speed

⭐️ Verdict: Contender!

The combination of supportive, comfortable materials, superior “pure” rucking ability, and affordability make the original Merrell Moab Speed a legit rucking shoe contender.

As the name suggests, ideal for speed in various terrain, although not ideal for rucking-inspired metcons.

Pros

Designed to maximize comfort and durability

Heavier midsole provides additional cushioning under load

EcoStep rubber compound improves traction

Cons

Sizing concerns

Overall

84

Rucking

90

Dynamic Rucking

70

Price

90

Customer Reviews

84

Buy on Amazon

How we test & score products

They key word with the Moab Speed shoes is comfort. Between the FloatPro foam midsole and specially padded tongue, the shoes provide a degree of comfort that is not particularly common in trail sneakers.

Unlike some of the other shoes on this list that prioritize speed rucking, the Moab Speed shoes are better suited for withstanding rougher terrain and moving with speed in slightly rougher environments.

As welcome as the elevated heel and treaded bottom are for just about all “pure” rucking ventures, these aspects don’t help too much in dyanmic rucking environments and situations (other than, maybe, outdoor rucking hill sprints).


What to Look For in Rucking Shoes

Back in the “old days” before dynamic rucking (so…like…3 or 4 years ago), it would have been a lot easier to put this list together. As it is, coming up with a definitive list of the best shoes for rucking is a bit more difficult. Different priorities and intended uses ensure that for every Mackall fanboy, there are is a Moab Speed enthusiast.

We tried our hardest to take these competing interests into consideration with our factor selection. Price and customer reviews are always going to be major variables, but don’t be afraid to put more weight (no pun intended) on our “pure” rucking (“rucking”) rating or our dynamic rucking assessments.

Rucking

You put a heavy backpack on, get outside, and start putting one foot in front of the other.

Of course, rucking is a bit more involved than that, but to put things simply, it requires shoes that can accommodate the added weight, long distances, and variable terrain. What isn’t so simple is finding a shoe that is very effective at handling all three of these criteria.

Thankfully, if you have more niche rucking priorities, you don’t have to buy a shoe that meets all three; you just need the shoe that works for you.

Dynamic Rucking

Like it (I know I do!) or not, rucking has gotten a lot more…involved in recent years. What started as an activity akin to a (fast) glorified hike can take on the form of a seriously intense workout

The rucking game completely changes the second your ruck turns into makeshift kettlebell, barbell, or added resistance for your next ring muscle-up complex.

Price

The good news: your rucking shoes will probably not set you back as much as your ruck itself will. They’re also hard to find for over $175.

The bad news: ruck shoes generally aren’t cheap and you’ll rarely super budget rucking shoes for less than $60.

Customer Reviews

As much as we love all things rucking (to include rucking shoes), we know that there are a lot of other people who love rucking, as well. It makes sense to include what these other people have to say on their experience with rucking shoes as well because…

Shopping tips for Rucking Shoes

Purchasing your first pair of dedicated rucking shoes constitutes a small investment. You should have a good idea of what you should be on the lookout for to ensure that your investment reaps yuge returns in the “miles rucked” department!

Besides each shoes’ ability to facilitate rucking and dynamic rucking, their prices and perceptions from thousands of users, consider the following when making your choice.

Outsole and Insole

Perhaps the most important characteristics when selecting rucking shoes, the integrity of your shoes’ outsoles greatly influence how functional they will be while their insoles largely contribute to their overall comfort.

When looking at the best rucking shoes, our choices all have some type of multi-compound hard rubber outsole. This construction contributes to their ability to grip all types of terrain while providing adequate traction in different environments. These outsoles are also extremely durable and are longer lasting.

The Evo/Eva mid-sole is one of the most common insoles of dedicated rucking shoes (and boots!) of all persuasions. These blend comfort with rebound and “bounce”, necessary components to promoting an effective rucking gait.

Water Resistance

Your environment may be more arid than wet, but on the occasions where the sky does open up, you’ll be ecstatic at your shoes’ ability to resist and to repel rainwater and moisture.

Truth be told, not all of the entries on our list of the best shoes for rucking are certified “waterproof”. However, most of the entries do possess technology to minimize the effect of accumulated wetness and moisture within the shoes (if they allow it to penetrate at all). Additionally, if you live in a drier environment and/or you plan to exclusively ruck in dry weather, this many not be the most important criteria to you.

Material

As you might expect, the entries on our list of the best rucking shoes are almost exclusively constructed of tough leather. The reason why there is such little variation in this regard? It has shown time and time again how durable it is, able to withstand harsh conditions and ultimately proving to be a lasting material.

@saammiiieee

Some of the entries, such as the GORUCK Ballistic Trainers, take things a step further, employing the uniquely tough Cordura material to better accommodate the rigors of more dynamic movements. If you’re interesting in more…traditional rucking ventures, don’t worry if you don’t see Cordura in the materials list!

Weight

Most of the best shoes for rucking are roughly 3/4 of a pound each. Outliers, like Xeros minimalist offering are a bit lighter, but you won’t really find extremes on either side with these.

Ultimately, weight is more of a personal preference, although there is an ever-present trade-off (heavier shoes are more cumbersome over time…but generally have additional protective and related features)

Ventilation

This one is somewhat related to the waterproof nature (or lack thereof) of your rucking shoes. Look for shoes that are engineered to allow your feet to properly “breathe” and that promote “drainage” of excess water and moisture.

You know what happens to feet in shoes that are wet, and overheated? Blisters…

Nobody wants blisters!

How we Chose the “Best” Products

Having collectively rucked hundreds of miles in a variety of different shoes, we have a pretty good idea of what a good rucking shoe feels like.

…we also know how much you really don’t want to get caught rucking in the “wrong” pair of shoes or boots!

Besides our personal experiences, we have also scoured countless reviews of rucking shoes and have taken a lot of input into consideration. We are confident that our list is an aggregator of the best shoes for rucking to choose from! Click here to find out a lot more about how we test and review products.

Just…Get…Rucking

Between the seven entries on our best shoes for rucking list and our list of the best boots for rucking, you now have quite a few options regarding rucking footwear.

Whether you ultimately go with one of the options we discussed here, or one of the boots from our other list is a personal preference (I’m more of a “shoe guy” myself…but that’s just me!), one thing is for certain: you won’t go wrong with a pair of these bad boys.

(Especially if you go with the GORUCK Mackall shoes…the best shoes for rucking!)

So find you a ruck club, prep yourself for a ruck march, and tackle one of the top ruck WODs. Now that you have a pair of the best shoes for rucking, you have no excuse not to!

🏆 Best Overall

GORUCK Mackall

86

Triple compound outsole ideal for gripping
Wide toe box and protective toe cap
13mm heel drop ideal for rucking
Buy on GORUCK

Best Speed Rucking

GORUCK Rough Runners

86

Engineered to accommodate load at speed
Multiple-compounded rubber outsole for all terrain
Adequate for dynamic rucking and/or CrossFit
Buy on GORUCK

Best Minimalist

XERO Mesa Trail II

83

Lugged rubber soul and dual-chevron tread for movement on terrain
Extremely lightweight and flexible allowing freedom of movement
5,000 mile sole warranty
Buy on Amazon

Best Dynamic

GORUCK Ballistic Trainers

86

Constructed of resilient 1680D CORDURA ballistic nylon
8mm heel drop “sweet spot” for dynamic and “pure” rucking
Official shoe of the CrossFit Games
Buy on GORUCK

Best Affordable

Columbia Crestwood

85

Reinforced toe and heel for stability and durability
Mesh/synthetic combo creates lightweight product
Extremely affordable
Buy on Amazon
Photo of author

AUTHOR

Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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