The most important part of your kit when you set off on the trail is a good pair of hiking boots.
Everything else you can beg, borrow or steal but wearing the wrong pair of boots will only end in blisters and a trip cut short.
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid (Men’s)
Full of features and yet relatively light…
Below we’ll help you figure out what kind of shoes you need, and what qualities you should be looking for in your purchase.
- , Textile, Textile, Cuir, Caoutchouc, 10.0, 178, Snow boots
- Dynagrip outsole
- Standard footbed
- Versatile lacing system provides a secure fit
Firstly you might be wondering why to choose hiking boots over hiking shoes or heavy-duty trainers – particularly if you’re looking for rambling footwear rather than heading off to Everest.
Essentially, they provide better sole and ankle support, which is crucial over long distances and when carrying a weight on your back. Anyone that has ever rolled their ankle will vouch for the pain and misery that ensues after such an incident. On top of this, they better protect you from muddy, wet and brushy terrain.
Best for Budget
Merrell Moab 2 Mid (Men’s)
A summary: A no-frills option for leisurely hikers
The Merrell Moab 2 Mid-Waterproof boots are an inexpensive option for people who don’t hike regularly or aren’t looking to take on extreme terrains. Although they come in at the bottom end of the price range, they scored relatively well across all metrics.
They were waterproof for short stints of time, whilst also being breathable, offered good ankle support on short hikes and have an easy to use lacing system.
A major plus of these boots is that they are ready to wear and comfortable straight out of the box thanks to a cushioned collar and tongue, refined insole with arch support and flexible footbed.
The boot comes up pretty low on the ankle, similar to a trail shoe, which means reduced support but it does remove the need to wear them in.
The modest stability and support is reflective of the fact that the Moab 2’s core customers are day hikers, rather than mountaineers or extreme adventurists. The trusty outsole has a respectably long lifespan with a toe that shows scuffs but generally withstands damage well.
The tread on the shoe is not particularly deep, meaning it’s suited to a limited range of terrains and does not support carrying a heavy load, but offers decent enough traction over rock and dirt.
The shoes come in a waterproof and non-waterproof version so the wearer can decide accordingly where their priorities lie. Anyone looking to wear the shoe in warmer climates should opt for the non-waterproof version as they have superior breathability.
Best Boots for Cold Conditions
La Sportiva Karakorum (Men’s)
A summary: A midweight champion for taking on mountainous terrains
These boots are the perfect solution for anyone who hikes or treks regularly and would like to do so during winter months too. Designed for taking on trekking, mountaineering or alpine adventures, the La Sportiva Makalus are burly, supportive, and extremely durable.
Although they’re not the most technical shoe, the design is a good all-year-round shoe that works well for basic mountaineering and heavy backpacking.
The shoe is built with a water repellant leather upper and insulation to keep your foot warm, whilst the Dry-Brst lining wicks moisture away from the skin to keep it dry and comfortable.
An aircushioned midsole features a honeycomb heel grid that flexes on impact to provide the ultimate comfort, even over longer distances.
It should be noted, however, that the Makalu is not built for serious cold weather mountaineering, and those looking to head to alpine regions overseas would need a second, snow-specific boot.
A Vibram toe cap helps to protect the front of the boot when scuffing through snow and rocks and a full shank offers support when carrying a heavy backpack or load. The boot works with automatic crampons for icy adventures, allowing the wearer to easily transition between climates and terrains.
The downside would be that the Dry-Best lining doesn’t quite match up to the breathability of Gore-Tex and so the boot is prone to moisture build up during longer walks.
La Sportiva Trango (Women’s)
A summary: Lightweight technical boot designed to hold up in the cold
La Sportiva’s Trango TRK GTX boots are one of the few real hiking boots that require little to no breaking in. Trail-ready right out of the box means that these are the perfect last minute purchase without the fear of blisters and sore feet.
Because the boots are crampon compatible, individuals can hike in them throughout every season. In just a few minutes, the Trangos can be converted from walking and hiking shoes to mountain-friendly boots. They also have a fully gusseted tongue which aids breathability and comfort.
Unlike the Sportiva Makalu, these boots fared almost as well in warmer weather as they did in the cold. The boots are breathable and waterproof, and sweat seemed to be wicked away from the feet just fine.
However, when accidentally submerged, the Gore-Tex inners were inundated and they took much longer to dry out than expected.
The Trangos’ 3D-flex system allows the ankle to flex forward whilst the upper provides enough stability to stop the ankle from rolling over. This means that the wearer can take on everything from steep slopes and rocky outcrops, to shingle paths and muddy hills.
The dual-density midsole provides plenty of support and rigidity so these boots held up well when tested with heavy backpacks. The outer sole boasts a technical edging platform and aggressive lugs, allowing them to keep the wearer stable, and a rubber rand wraps around the toe and heel of the boot to feet safe from jagged rocks, roots or objects hiding in the snow and mud.
The boots held up well when wading through shallow streams or creeks and dewy grass, and the air mesh insert and tongue are both fast-drying.
Best Light to Mid-weight Boots
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid (Men’s)
A summary: Full of features and yet relatively light
At over 1kg in weight the Lowa Renegate GTX wouldn’t qualify as a lightweight shoe but we think it sits at the perfect middle point between having all the benefits of a heavyweight shoe whilst maintaining the agility and ease-of-wear of a lightweight boots.
The increasing popularity of lighter footwear has not tarnished the demand for the Low Renegade range. Its superior comfort, support and protection make it a year-round favourite for trekkers and backpackers.
Although it comes in a little pricier than its lightweight counterparts, it makes up for with its performance when hiking over dicey or steep terrain. Experienced walkers will be able to notice the increased stability, traction, and build quality.
The boots are sufficiently firm with enough stiffness to support your feet on uphill climbs but offer a soft collar and midsole that provide isolation from the rocky trail beneath.
A benefit of stepping up slightly in weight from the lightweight options is the Vibram outsoles and thick tread pattern which allows grip over everything from rocks, roots and hardpack to soft dirt, dust and snow. Wearers can feel confident and stable whilst descending loose, dusty trails or climbing up wet and muddy hills.
Breathability is often an issue in leather hiking boots but the Renegade seems to have a thin enough outer that there is ventilation and moisture can escape, helping to prevent blisters and hot spots.
The waterproof build and modest insulation from the Gore-Tex liner keeps them fully resistant in snow, mud or shallow water.
A final bonus is that it’s available in a range of sizes and widths, meaning that it can be a go-to boot even for people with tricky feet.
The only real downside is one that comes with all heavier shoes, and that is the noticeable rigidity of the boot. Although not stiff by any means, it’s worth bearing in mind.
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX (Women’s)
A summary: The best of comfort, traction, and durability in a lightweight shoes
Put simply, this is a high-performing shoe, not just in the lightweight class, but in any. It is light and agile and yet grips perfectly on just about any surface. Thanks to Salomon’s expertise in outdoor-wear, it is certain to maintain its comfort and quality through extended and rough use.
The comfort of the boot feels more like a supportive trail-running shoe but with the benefits of a supportive collar and tongue and a sculpted insole. At just 765 grams you might expect it would have sacrificed key features or quality, but the comfort, traction, and durability have not been compromised and Gore-Tex is still used to ensure waterproofness.
The solid heel and toe provide plenty of protection on rough and rocky hikes, whilst the synthetic upper allow breathability and ventilation. Fans of the boot will be pleased to know that they’re now available in wide sizes too.
The shoe is perfect for day-hiking and lightweight backpacking.
The boot has had minor upgrades from the previous version, with Salomon redesigning the outsoles for improved downhill traction whilst maintaining its durability and flexibility.
The Gore-Tex lining holds up well in shallow water but the low-rising heel support means wearers should bear in mind that the boot is more prone to being flooded when wading across streams or creeks.
One key issue, as mentioned with some of the other boots, is that the Gore-Tex waterproof version often runs pretty warm. For anyone primarily walking in warmer weather, it would be worth buying the non-waterproof option.
Additionally, some users report their dislike for the Quicklace system and needed to tighten and adjust it on occasion.
Best Multi-purpose Boots
Salomon Quest 4D 2 GTX (Men’s)
A summary: A versatile, mid-weight pair of hiking boots that excel in comfort and breath-ability for hikers and backpackers alike.
This boot is heavier than some of its multi-terrain counterparts but not without good reason. The ankle support sits higher on the ankle than others, with a semi-stiff structure that firmly holds your foot in place without restricting movement or rubbing.
This helps to ensure steady footing when carrying a heavy load over loose or rocky terrain, even on downhill inclines. For this reason, alongside a very sturdy sole, the boots would be an overkill for day-to-day walks or short mileage but are pretty much perfect for everything else.
The pliable rubber soles hold up well on wet surfaces and these boots have received good reviews from adventurists taking on rocks, glaciers, grasslands and creeks. Most importantly, even after hundreds of miles the tread showed no signs of excessive wear.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the shoe is the Gore-Tex membrane. Whilst many boots keep your feet relatively dry, these shoes can be worn through wet mud or shallow rivers and, as long as they aren’t submerged to the point where water flows over the ankle, will keep your feet totally dry.
Other pluses are the excellent lacing system which stays tight throughout a day on the mountainside, quick-drying upper material which is also very breathable and eyelets that can take an absolute beating without showing damage.
Arc’teryx Bora2 Mid GTX (Women’s)
A summary: An innovative two-piece hiking boot with grip like no other
Arc’teryx only broke into the footwear market last year but has not struggled to create a well-designed and respected line of products.
The Bora2 Mid GTX hiking boots are comfortable and lightweight whilst still offering the protection and grip of an approach shoe. Unlike most other boots, these comprise of two separate parts – the exterior boot itself and a set of removable liners.
These unique liners are easily removed which not only aids faster drying and cleaning but can also be swapped out for insulated versions. Although we originally thought this might compromise the performance, movement or quality of the boots, it didn’t at all.
In fact, they function seamlessly and held up well on all trekking, hiking and backpacking terrains that they were tested on – which somewhat justifies the higher price tag that they carry.
Despite their tough appearance, they offer a decent amount of give in the ankle on inclines and enough flex underfoot for scrambling over rocks.
In terms of keeping your feet dry, these boots come with Gore-Tex liners which are fully waterproof and have minimised seams to decrease the chances of any liquid getting in. The liners themselves sit further up the ankle than the top of the boots, offering a mini gaiter effect and offering further protection, and are effect at wicking moisture away from the foot.
The lugs on the sole are large and grippy, providing the best traction of any boot tested in this class and offering peace of mind to the wearer.
The only gripe with these boots is the ankle support offered. Anyone prone to ankle issues should consider other options with a higher level of support.
New Additions – Requested by Readers…
Scarpa Terra Gore-Tex
A summary: Comfortable, warm, light and perfect for easy to moderate trails.
The Scarpa Terra GTX is a mid-level, tough boot that is suited to hill walkers, rather than serious hiking enthusiasts, that are looking for support and comfort on the trails.
Built from oiled full grain leather that is totally waterproof and a Vibram sole that provides reliable traction in all conditions, £140 seems very reasonable.
One of the major pros of this boot, reported by virtually all users, is the instant comfort. With little to no break-in period and comfort throughout extended periods of wear (even with non-hiking socks), this boot is a good option for those looking to go from box to hillside without suffering blisters and hot spots.
Surprisingly, the upper of stiff nubuck leather and a reinforced toe box and heel cup add little weight, allowing the shoe to be both highly wearable and durable.
The performance Gore-Tex guarantees your feet will remain dry come rain, wind or shine, although the boot’s breathability leaves a bit to be desired. However, a good pair of hiking socks will wick away some moisture, and this shouldn’t be a major issue on short walks or amateur expeditions.
Despite its lack of thermal insulation this over-the-ankle boots gives enough warmth in cold environments and the boot’s deep lugs provide a solid grip, allowing the wearer to remain upright through mud, slush, grit and gravel.
A couple of things to note would be that the upper is prone to marking, with scratches being etched into the leather quite quickly after taking to the trail and some signs of fraying stitching lower down the boot.
A number of people have reported that the shoe comes up small – so well worth trying a pair on for size ahead of purchasing online.
Meindl Men’s Bhutan MFS Hiking Boot
A summary: A well-built boot suited to cold and wet conditions.
Meindl is known for its build quality and attention to detail and the Bhutan Hiking Boot is no exception.
Small tweaks have been made to its popular predecessor to make the boot a more comfortable fit and longer-lasting, but the weight has not come down yet. Although it’s slightly heavy by modern standards, there are a number of features that make up for this increased weight.
The weight of the shoe comes down to both price and personal preference, in terms of preferring a traditional supportive boot or wanting to opt for a boot with a lighter sole.
Underfoot it’s relatively stiff with a rigid sole, but this is balance out by its memory foam system which enhances its comfort, fit and support. The solid chassis is perfect on rough ground and changing terrain, and the soft ankle cuff provides support from rolling (as well as keeping grit and dust out) without feeling claustrophobic or restrictive.
Although it’s not exactly a lightweight, fast or nimble boot, it is well suited to hill and mountain walking, backpacking and its quality leather means it lasts well.
The waterproof & breathable Gore-Tex performance lining keep feet dry and wick away moisture, although are certainly better suited to cooler temperatures as it can get warm pretty quickly inside the boot due to its limited mesh panels.
This is exacerbated by the memory foam, which moulds snugly to the shape of your feet.
The multi-grip Vibram sole are reliable enough, although the tread is not as deep as some other boots in this range, and the Digifix lace system ensures the boot doesn’t slide around on the foot.
Salomon’s Quest 4d 3 GTX High Rise Hiking Boots
A summary: Sturdy boots for a long life off the beaten path
The Quest 4D 3 GTX is a midweight backpacking boot designed for hiking on technical terrain – think trail hiking, scree skating or scrambling over slush and ice.
Salomon claims it was developed with running shoe-adapted technology, but we found the boots far too weighty to agree with this claim, although the statement could be a nod to the slightly flexible chassis.
Salomon is well known for its active, outdoor and adventure wear, from trail and hiking boots, to snowboarding boots and ski jackets. As a result, splashing out £155 actually feels like a great investment as you know they’re going to stand the test of time, be well-designed and built from quality materials.
The lacing system provides flexibility and range of motion whilst keeping the boot tight enough to prevent slipping, with the middle eyelet even offering little gripping teeth. This ankle lock lacing system pulls the heel in to the rear of the boot, preventing your toes from sliding forward into the front of the toe box during steep descents.
As you might expect from Salomon, the Quest 4d 3 offers a range of features for comfort, protection and durability. The suede nubuck leather and Cordura-type fabric upper combine to crate a thick and protective feel around the foot, with a rubber bumper for extra toe protection and Gore-Tex waterproof membrane lining the walls.
In the sole unit is a removable Ortholite insole, an EVA foam midsole and a Salomon Contragrip outsole with plenty of padding under the heel.
For the occasional hike without a heavy load, these boots would certainly be an overkill, but for serious backpackers and trail-trekkers, these shoes would make the perfect companion.
The boot offers a sturdy fit for better ankle protection and the pivot point is less flexible than previous models, a possible tweak resulting from feedback that the movement was causing the rubber to come away.
The Gore-Tex membrane upper offers reliable waterproofing as well as superb breathability. This allows sweat to move away from the foot and cool air to enter but repels water, ensuring a dry wear and letting the user cross shallow streams or move through slush without any repercussions.
Although they’re relatively quick to wear in, we wouldn’t recommend going from box to trail without a few short walks, and due to a snug fit around the middle of the foot it is also worth trying out the lacing tightness over different terrains and inclines.
Altberg Defender Mk. II Boots
A summary: An ultra-light and durable army-designed boot
These British-made boots were developed for issue to UK Military, and on this basis are well-made and built to take on the countryside for hundreds and thousands of steps without giving out.
Made from leather with an Anfibio 2.4mm leather upper, the boots are water resistant passing the SATRA dynamic water resistance test at 100,000 flexes. The lining is non-waterproof membrane cambrelle, which is breathable and allows the boot to dry out more quickly from being wet. It also means that the boot is cooler on hot days compared with a boot using a waterproof membrane lining.
The flex control and underfoot torsional resistance don’t offer the same level of comfort as some of the previous boots we’ve reviewed but then again, gear utilised by the army has other priorities. The boots comes up very high, offering ultimate ankle support.
However, depending on what you’re used to, this may be at a detriment to comfort and freedom of movement on steeper inclines. Designed for rough terrains and rural use the boot also has a full rubber rand for upper protection.
The micro/rubber shock-absorbing sole reduces impact on joints when running and the ultra lightweight construction reduces leg fatigue – ideal over long distances.
What to look for in the perfect pair of boots?
The following things are all important when making your selection but you should assess which are priorities for you.
If you’re a keen trekker and you’re setting off on a major expedition, such as the Three Peaks, or looking to keep the boots for years to come – then it’s worth splashing out on a pair of high quality, durable boots.
If you’re looking for something for the occasional ramble or walking the dog, then a cheaper lightweight pair will do the trick.
All the boots reviewed in the article below are made by well-respected brands, so you can rest assured that whatever decision you make, they’ll serve you well.
This goes without saying and should be a number one priority. All shoes reviewed here score well for comfort in their category.
This will include a well-designed sole, comfortable ankle support and a solid lacing system.
Most boots can withstand a moderate amount of water and/or snow, but if you know you’re going to be crossing creeks or taking on the worst of Britain’s weather then you’ll need a pair that can keep your feet dry whatever the climate.
Boots that you wear regularly will need to be treated with waterproof membranes twice a year to maintain their water resistance.
A well-designed pair of boots will keep water out without trapping moisture in. Sweaty and swollen feet are prone to blistering, so breathable and well-ventilated shoes are crucial to comfort and foot health.
Your boots should keep you upright regardless of whether you’re climbing muddy hills, snowy mountains or wet rocks.
Last but by no means least, you want to look for a shoe that will stand the test of time.
Decent hiking boots should last 300 to 500 miles, whether that’s over the course of a year or 5 years, without suffering broken eyelets, laces, seams or soles.
Getting the right fit
Although some boots are unisex, we would generally recommend going for a gender-specific boot as the stitching and ankle support will fall in slightly different places and women’s Achilles tend to be positioned differently to men’s. Men’s feet also tend to be wider and have a slightly different instep.
Allow yourself a thumb’s width between your toe and the end of the boot to allow for some swelling as you walk and a bit of movement as you walk on different inclines.
Generally speaking, the expertly designed lacing systems mean that the shoe can be tied to snugly fit either wide or narrow feet. You should be able to wiggle your toes but if your foot slides from side to side then you’ve got a problem. Your heel, on the other hand, should be able to rise up around a quarter of an inch – this protects your Achilles tendon and prevents blisters.
If you have a particularly high or flat arch, we would recommend trying the shoe on in a store before purchasing online – just to be sure.
Doing them up
You may think we’re being nit-picky by telling you to lace them up properly but getting it right prevents blisters, relieves hot spots and helps you wear them in properly.
The boots will generally be laced for you when they arrive in a way that helps the boot fit your foot properly, but there are numerous ways of tying them up – all designed to help different issues.
The laces should be taut, but not tight, and start at the toe end, moving towards the ankle.
Breaking them in
Even the comfiest, best-fitting boots need to be worn in. Never be fooled into thinking that they can go from box to mountain without repercussions. Always start by wearing them around the house so that if you need to return them or change size there won’t be any issues.
After that, just wear the boots a few times a week on short walks, making sure you cover different terrains or inclines, and always make sure you’re wearing proper socks.
This will also let you figure out possible hotspots and re-lace them accordingly. As well as breaking them in, you need to ensure you wear them at least once a month to keep them flexible and pliable.
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Last update on 2020-02-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API