When you spending the day on your feet, whether you’re hard at work or hitting the shops, it’s not uncommon that all you can think of when you get home is a warm soak. Long walks or hikes? They’re a lot more tiring.
You can usually survive a day of work or shopping without wearing special footwear. That’s not the case when trekking, exploring the outdoor scenery, or even taking an extended walk. Without a properly-fitting pair of foot gear designed for the terrain you’ll be traversing, you’re asking for trouble. It’s not only transient pain that’s the problem; the wrong ones may lead to long-term damage to tendons or ligaments, not to mention dangerous slips or falls.
The temptation can be great to just slip on your regular running trainers before going out for a long walk, particularly since there are so many different types to choose from. How do you choose the best walking boots? Or should you be looking for the best hiking shoes? What about backpacking, mountain climbing, hunting or approach boots?
It’s a confusing marketplace. We’re pleased to be able to help you make some sense of it all, with a full rundown of the top walking footwear currently available for men and women, as well as a complete guide on how to decide between them. We’ll also be breaking our recommended boots into men’s and women’s categories because their construction can differ greatly.
Best Walking Shoes for Men Comparison Table
|Product Name||Outer Material||Midsole||Closure||Our Rating||Prices|
|Animal hide||EVA||Lace up||[usr 4.5]||
|Smooth Leather||EVA, Gore-Tex||Speed-Laces||[usr 4.5]||
|Full Grain Leather||Shock absorbing PU||Lace-Up||[usr 4.5]||
|Mesh and Suede||Gore-Tex||Lace-Up||[usr 4.5]||
|Animal hide||Gore-Tex||Lace-Up||[usr 4.5]||
Best Walking Shoes for Women Comparison Table
|Product Name||Outer Material||Midsole||Closure||Our Rating||Price|
|Animal hide||Gore-Tex||Lace up||[usr 4.5]||
|Animal hide||Breathable Membrane||Speed Laces||[usr 4.5]||
|Suede Leather||AQ||Lace up||[usr 4.5]||
|Animal hide||Dual density PU||Lace up||[usr 4.5]||
|Animal hide||Frameflex||Lace up||[usr 4.5]||
Walking and Hiking Boots Buyers’ Guide
The question people often find most baffling is “What’s the difference between hiking shoes and boots?” It sometimes just a matter of semantics, since many buyers (and manufacturers) use the terms interchangeably. Others, however, use the term “hiking shoes” to refer to trail footwear, which have reinforced fabrics and thicker soles and are more comfortable and lightweight, but provide less support. For the purposes of this guide we’ll focus on boots instead, but will utilize the terms interchangeably as well.
Naturally, you need to know your foot size before buying any type of footwear, and that’s certainly true when looking at walking boots. There’s one caution: wearing the right pair of socks are almost as important because they provide crucial padding while wicking away the perspiration that inevitably builds up. When determining your size, be sure to allow extra room for one or two pairs of socks.
Once you’ve cleared the size hurdle, the biggest factors to consider are terrain and season.
Your choice should be based largely on the surface(s) on which you’ll be trekking. Lowland trekking, whether you’re out with your dog or taking leisurely strolls along paths in national parks, calls for light and flexible footwear which will allow your feett to move and flex naturally. Tackling hills, steeper inclines or rocky ground requires less-flexible foot gear. They should have stiff soles and provide strong ankle support, letting you balance properly on unstable or steep surfaces while protecting your feet, ankles and lower leg.
When you’ll be wearing your boots is almost as important as where, so walking boots are often rated by the number of seasons in which they can be safety worn.
- One-season pairs are designed for easy summer outdoor walks. They’re usually lightweight and aren’t waterproof (a factor to keep in mind considering the rain we get regularly during the summer). A top-quality one-season pair will be comparable in feel and performance to the top-selling trainers for walking.
- Two-season models are often waterproof and meant for spring and summer months; they’re more durable, suitable for a mix of level and hilly ground, and are built to be more pleasant to wear.
- Three-season ones are the most popular type of walking boots in the UK. They’re always waterproof, sturdy and designed to be used tough weather conditions except heavy snows (most are not compatible with crampons). They are stiffer and usually require a break-in period, but they’re great on almost any terrain in almost any weather.
- Four-season models, also known as mountaineering boots, provide exceptional support and protection against snow and extreme cold conditions.
The materials will determine their durability, comfort and ability to absorb the shocks of the hike. Leather used to be the gold standard but the quality of today’s fabrics and synthetic materials makes them almost as suitable. Animal hide will normally be a little more durable against most weather conditions, heavier and water-resistant, but will be more prone to cracking over time. Fabrics and synthetics will be lighter, more breathable and generally less expensive. The outsoles on most models are made from rubber or a synthetic equivalent; the two perform equally well, but the thread on boots used on hilly terrain should be deep (although not too deep, which causes wobbling) for a good grip and wide for good traction. Other add-ons like reinforced toe and heel bumpers, and lightweight plates under the foot to prevent bruises, help with comfort and protection.
Ready to dive into our top recommendations? Here goes.
Best Hiking and Walking Boots Reviews
1. Berghaus Men’s Expeditor
Berghaus makes footwear at a reasonable price, and their AQ Treks are incredibly comfortable for a three-season boot. That might imply that another quality has to be sacrificed, and in this case, it’s ankle support; the flexibility of the boot makes them more suitable for flat ground than rocky terrain despite the good grip and traction provided by Berghaus’s patented OPTI-STUD tread. The uppers are made of split suede, there are synthetic mid- and outsoles, and the proprietary water-resistant lining does a good job of keeping rain out. It’s an excellent choice for flat terrain, camping and everyday wear – just bear in mind the AQ Treks are narrower than normal, so size your foot accordingly.
2. Saloman Men’s Quest 4D 2
These 3/4 season Salomans are one of the pricier options on our list, but the higher price of the Quest 4D 2 is justified by their exceptional performance, stability and comfort. The uppers are made from Nubuck animal hide and nylon mesh, and together with a breathable GoreTex inner membrane, the Quests do a very good job keeping the interior dry and extremely pleasant to wear. The gum rubber soles with proprietary tread are outstanding when it comes to traction, these are lighter than many competitors, there are solid rubber toe and heel caps, the fit is suitable for wide feet, and the speed laces are a welcome feature. These Quest 4Ds have been updated from previous versions that weren’t quite as good; now, they’re terrific and definitely worth for long outdoor travel.
3. Berghaus Hillmaster II
If we were going backpacking or climbing hills, the three-season Berghaus AQ Trek we reviewed earlier wouldn’t be our first choice – we’d opt for the company’s Hillmaster II models instead. (If the name sounds familiar, these used to be sold by Brasher until the company was absorbed by Berghaus.) They have full-grain animal hide uppers, GoreTex linings, a shock-absorbing EVA midsole and a Vibram anti-clogging outsole which we feel is the most suitable choice for tricky terrain. The one criticism we have is that the construction could be a bit better, since the seam at the instep can eventually be compromised with prolonged exposure to rain. These Hillmasters, though are durable and sturdy.
4. Berghaus Explorer Trek Plus
If your preference runs to fabric, the three-season Explorer Trek Plus from Berghaus do the job nicely. Fabric means that it will be lighter, of course. But at 560g per boot, putting on the Trek Plus is almost like wearing feathers – or more accurately, like wearing an approach shoe. This makes it an excellent choice if you plan to travel far for your trek expedition The uppers are primarily suede and mesh, the membrane is GoreTex, there’s a nicely-cushioned EVA midsole and the outsole provides a very strong grip in wet weather or on hilly terrain. Since this is a lightweight boot the protection against sharp rocks isn’t ideal, but on most types of ground these are strong and comfortable.
5. Timberland Chocura
Those in the market for a pair of three-season boots that will hold up well for long strolls on level ground will love the Timberland Chocura. Those who are planning to hike tricky terrain or go climbing, though, would be better off with one of our other choices because the Chocuras are too flexible to provide strong ankle or foot aid when bent. They’re durable, and rainproof, however, with supple full-grain animal hide uppers, gum rubber soles and a GoreTex lining – so as long as you don’t outstrip their intended use, they’re perfect.
1. Berghaus Explorer
These share a brand name with a men’s model we’ve already reviewed, but there is one big difference. Instead of suede, the Trek Plus model has full-grain animal hide uppers, making them twice as heavy as the feather-light men’s versions. Putting that aside, these are waterproof and breathable (thanks to the GoreTex linings), and well-cushioned. They have the same OPTI-STUD tread on the outsole for a good grip on most terrain, and will serve well for long walks on flat or hilly ground.
2. Northwest Territory Trek Boots
Going to be dog-walking or “trekking” around town? These are perfect for the assignment. They are low-top Nubuck models, with rubber soles and a breathable synthetic lining which make for a lightweight, impermeable boot that’s durable, firm and pleasant to wear. Despite their long and descriptive name, the thread on these isn’t ideal for serious trekkers or those taking on difficult trails, but they’re the top choice for light treks. They’re also (by far) the least-expensive entry on our list, quite attractive and available in nine colours.
3. Berghaus Expeditor
We’ve reviewed the men’s version of this boot, too. But unlike the Trek Plus, the Expeditor AQ Trek is just about identical for both men and women, from their split suede uppers to their AQ watertight linings and OPTI-STUD tread. Once again, these are somewhat narrow so you might have to go a size or two up when you buy one. They’re good for camping and everyday walks on flat ground, rather than scrambles up rocky hills.
4. Grisport Lady Hurricane
This is not a fashionable choice, because this Grisport model looks exactly like what it is: a 3/4 season dark brown boot, durable and well-constructed. But of course, that may actually define “good-looking” to dedicated hikers. The Lady Hurricanes have waxed animal hide uppers, a waterproof Spotex lining and Vibram non-slip rubber soles with deep cleats. At first glance they look heavy, but they’re not; there’s a good balance between sturdiness and comfort with terrific ankle and lower leg support. The Lady Hurricanes is our top pick for women’s walking boots on our list, and will perform admirably on almost any terrain and in almost any conditions.
5. Karrimore KSB Orkney III
The Orkney III is another brilliant choice for a three-season model that will serve you well on flat, hilly or rocky ground, in bogs or on when trekking a mountain. Like the Grisports, the Karrimores look more “serious” and have Vibram soles, with strong midsole and ankle support. Extremely comfortable over long hikes, fully weathertight and able to accommodate wider feet, we like these Karrimores a lot.
It’s Time To Lace ‘Em Up
This comprehensive look at the best walking boots should give you all the detail you would ever need to choose the perfect pair for your lifestyle.
Some people wear theirs primarily for enjoyable walks through the countryside. They aren’t concerned with Vibram soles or strong toe caps; they simply need to find which one suits them most and buy it. Others spend weekends or holidays testing the limits of their endurance – and the limits of their footwear. They need the best hiking boots available, to stand up to both the elements and the rocky outcroppings they encounter.
We have suggested a few three or 3/4 season models which will serve both purposes, as well as some great one-season pairs that are perfect for leisurely summer outings or walking about town. Just be sure to consider how you’ll be making use of your boots, and you’ll be able to make a wise choice.