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What better time than now to purchase a new pair of walking shoes for the wide variety of amazing terrain this country has to offer?
Best walking shoes at a glance
Why walking shoes, not boots?
Walking shoes differ in a number of key ways from boots – they’re more lightweight, less clumpy, often more comfortable and easy to transport.
They also work better in terms of dual usage – we would be very comfortable putting on a pair of walking shoes to go into town or to the shops, for instance. They can be breathable, very comfortable and easy to walk in.
Walking boots however, not so much – everyday usage of more clumpy, higher boot options can be tiring, hot and blister-inducing. Summer’s a great time to invest in more breathable shoes like the ones we’ve listed here.
Why walking shoes, and not exercise trainers?
They may look like trainers but make no mistake, these shoes mean business. If you’re frustrated by the poor performance of everyday trainers or sports shoes (and in some circumstances, taking these kinds of shoes out and about on certain terrain can be downright dangerous), then these options will make traipsing around in the muddy woods or trails a piece of cake.
What to look for in a walking shoe
Look for good ankle support, as these shoes are lower than standard hiking boots, so you’ll need some extra padding there to make sure you don’t injure yourself.
An easily cleanable upper material will work to your advantage too – leather or a wipe clean or easily machine washable material works the best here (if you use them right, you’ll definitely get them muddy!)
Look for good laces that do up well and nice and securely, and be sure to pay close attention to width – too narrow a shoe and your walking experience is likely to be rather less than optimum, indeed highly uncomfortable.
Get kitted out for your hiking and backpacking adventures.
Here are eight of our favourite hiking shoes for women on the market at the moment.
Keen Ridge Flex Waterproof
Best for: best hiking all-rounder
Key specs – Weight: N/A; Waterproof? Yes; Colour options: 3; Sizes: 2.5-9.
If you want a walking shoe that can still tackle tough mountain adventures like your favourite hiking boots can, Keen’s low shoe version of their popular new Ridge Flex hiking boot might be your new best mate.
This shoe uses Keen’s latest innovation to help you hike further – ‘Bellows Flex’ is a concertina-like insert in the top of the shoe that’s designed to move with your foot and offer better comfort over long distances.
These are definitely a comfortable pair of shoes to wear when you’re covering the miles or taking on a multi-day walk, and are also waterproof enough to keep your feet dry in a sudden downpour.
A great choice for summer hikes.
Haglofs Trail Fuse GTX
Key specs – Weight: 260g; Waterproof? Yes; Colour options: 4; Sizes: 36-42.
Do you hate the clunky, heavy feeling of traditional hiking boots? Swap them for Haglofs’ light-as-anything Trail Fuses, which weigh just 130g per shoe.
It may feel barely-there, but this trail shoe means business, with a sticky grip, a tough outer sole and great waterproofing thanks to Gore-Tex technology.
Haglofs have borrowed running shoe brand Asics’ know-how to design the gel insoles in these walking shoes – the result is a super comfortable shoe that moulds to your feet.
These are the holy grail of walking shoe – waterproof in the wet, but breathable in the heat. Top marks.
Merrell Moab Speed GTX
Best for: all-weather walks
Key specs –Weight: 600g; Waterproof? Yes; Colour options: 4; Sizes: 2.5-8.5.
If comfort is top of your walking shoe shopping list, plump for a pair of Merrell’s new Moab Speeds – they’re impressive comfortable to wear straight out of the box.
This rugged design is perhaps not as breathable or as lightweight as some of the lightest shoes we tested out, but it stands out in tough weather, when the Moab Speed offers great grip even on wet or slippery terrain thanks to ever-reliable Vibram soles, great waterproofing, so you can stride through puddles without a problem, and enough warmth to work on ‘shoulder season’ hikes in autumn and spring.
We like Merrell’s commitment to using recycled materials, too.
Best for: fast-paced hikes
Key specs – Weight: 240g; Waterproof? No; Colour options: 5; Sizes: 3-9.
These trainers may have been designed with trail runners in mind, but we like the Cloudventure just as much for hiking – this is a great investment if you want one trusty shoe that can tackle both disciplines.
At just 240g, On’s design is are the lightest shoe in our round-up, and feels so freeing and comfortable you’ll barely know you’re wearing it – until you hit tough terrain, when the Cloudventure offers impressive grip even on slick wet rocks.
For moving fast over long distances on dry terrain, you can’t go wrong with the Cloudventure, and a waterproof version is also available for £150 if you’re heading outdoors in more challenging weather.
Best for: country walking
Key specs – Weight: 940g; Waterproof? Yes; Colour options: 1; Sizes: 4-8.
There’s nothing better for the mercurial – and often downright chilly – British summertime than a sensible pair of leather walking shoes. Scarpa’s Cyrus hiking shoe may look so classic it’s almost retro
But when it comes to technology this design is bang-up-to-date, with a fully waterproof Gore-Tex membrane and grippy Vibram soles – this combo is ideal for taking on sudden changes in the weather when you’re off the beaten track.
That smart and warm nubuck leather outer material makes these boots heavy at 940g, so they’re better suited to shorter distances rather than to challenging multi-day hikes.
Best Deals Available
Vivo Barefoot Ultra III Bloom
Best for: aquatic adventures
Key specs – Weight: 340g; Waterproof? No; Colour options: 2; Sizes: 3-9. Vivo Barefoot’s shoes are designed to be ‘foot shaped, not shoe shaped’, and their flexible soles allow your feet to feel more of the terrain underfoot, barefoot-style, as you walk, while still offering some protection.
Their futuristic Ultra III Bloom is the perfect summer walking shoe if you’re exploring by the sea or stopping for a wild swim, as it can be worn both in water and on land.
These perforated shoes aren’t waterproof, obviously, but they provide good protection from rocks underwater and dry quickly and keep feet cool when you’re back on the trail.
Key specs – Weight: N/A; Waterproof? No; Colour options: 3; Sizes: 5-11. If you want the looks of an urban trainer but the performance of a trail shoe, Ryka’s affordable Switchback could be your new wear-anywhere summer shoe.
It’s a pity this smart sneaker isn’t waterproof, but for dry days when you want to hit the trail and the city streets in just one pair of comfortable shoes, they’re a great choice, and the breathability of the Switchback makes them a good quiver-of-one pair of shoes for taking with you on holiday for walking, city sightseeing and wearing to the gym.
They’re well-priced at around the £50 mark, too.
Aku Bellamont III Lux GTX
Best for: best leather shoe
Key specs – Weight: 430g; Waterproof? Yes; Colour options: 2; Sizes: 3-13.Who knew sensible trainers could look this smart? Aku’s Italian-designed hiking boots are the last word in style-meets-substance, and the same goes for their walking shoes.
These Gore-Tex-treated nubuck leather trainers will go anywhere you do, and can deal with sudden mountain storms as well as just popping down the pub.
Thick Vibram soles make these one of the heavier walking shoes we tested, but that rugged grip is worth the extra few grams.
We’d recommend cleaning the Bellamonts’ suede leather outer material regularly, to keep it looking smart.