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10 of the best walking and hiking shoes to buy in 2021

With so many walking shoes to choose from, finding the right pair for you can be a bit of a challenge. What are the best waterproof walking shoes? Are they supportive and comfortable? To help you out, we've reviewed some of the best hiking shoes on the market, from the traditional leather look to the lightweight and affordable.

Best walking and hiking shoes

Walking shoes are a good alternative to hiking boots, especially in the summer months when traditional boots can feel hot and unnecessarily heavy. But with so many options to choose from, discovering the best walking and hiking shoe for you can seem a little overwhelming.

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You will almost certainly want your shoes to be comfortable and supportive, but there are other things to consider, too. Do you want lightweight walking shoes, or perhaps something a little sturdier? Are you looking for the best waterproof walking shoes for UK hiking? Or perhaps you’re searching specifically for summer walking shoes – or winter hiking shoes?

Whether you’re searching for a walking shoes for short weekend strolls, easy footpaths and dog walks, or the best hiking shoes for more challenging multi-day adventures, we’re on hand to help – Our team of walking experts have put a selection of the best walking shoes available to the test.

If you’re looking to upgrade your hiking kit, why not check out our other review pages, including the best walking trousers, the best walking gloves, the best lightweight waterproof jackets or the best wellington boots.

Nordic walking hiking sport shoes in mountains
Choose the right shoe for your next adventure/Credit: Getty

Walking shoes or walking boots?

For some it’s an iron law of hiking that on country walks you should wear boots with high sides.

That’s mainly because boots provide ankle support – protecting you from turning or twisting your ankle on rough ground. If you plan to carry a heavy pack, the extra protection might be particularly valuable.

But fans of walking shoes point out that the elaborate architecture of hiking boots is not  essential for most walkers. Boots are bulky and weighty. Shoes, obviously, are lighter. If you are not planning to schlep up rocky tracks, or down steep slopes, or to hoik a heavy load around, heavy hiking boots might be unnecessary.

Even on long and technically tricky trails, a good pair of shoes may provide the grip and stability you need. They are inevitably more responsive-feeling than boots, which tend to lock your ankles into position, restricting movement. Shoes are undeniably cooler, too: the low sides allow more air in to hot soothe hot feet. Of course that’s great on warm, dry days.

Boot fans retort that boots are far better at coping with wet conditions. The ankle cuffs built into boots help keep water out, and can be worn with gaiters too.

In contrast, a rainy walk in shoes – through deep puddles or wet grass, for example – will soak your feet, even if your shoes are meant to be waterproof – as the water will come in over the side.

A really persistent champion of shoes will retort that you can solve this by problem simply by wearing waterproof socks.


What to look for in hiking and walking shoes

How to choose the best walking shoes for you, that’s the question.

When you’re trying to find the best walking shoe for you, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions: Do you want traditional leather shoes, or something more lightweight, technical and modern? Do you want your shoes to be waterproof, or is breathability more important? When are you likely to wear your shoes – for light walks in the summer months, or all year round, regardless of the weather?

Once you’ve addressed all these questions, research shoes online using articles such as this one, or visit a walking shoe retailer. Ultimately, the very best tip for choosing the right shoe for you is to try them on. If they aren’t comfortable straight away  – too small, too narrow, too heavy, or you don’t like the look of them – the chances are they aren’t for you. Shoes can be expensive, so it’s worth trying on another pair until you find The One.


What are the best walking shoes?

We reviewed 10 of the best walking and hiking shoes on the market, testing them for support, comfort, affordability, waterproofing, durability and style. Here are our top 10:

  • Force Striker Texapore shoes by Jack Wolfskin
  • Fellmaster Active GTX by Berghaus
  • Ridge Flex WP low cut by Keen
  • TX5 Low GTX by La Sportiva
  • Jorvik Trail by Altberg
  • Bellamont III Plus shoes by Aku
  • Como by Vango
  • Belorado II Low Lady GTX by Hanway
  • Women’s Terradora II Low waterproof hiking trainers by Keen
  • Sky Toa Gore-Tex by Hoka

The best walking shoes reviewed

Jack Wolfskin Force Striker Texapore shoes

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Force Striker shoe
The Force Striker is a handsome shoe – grippy and waterproof, too
  • £130

This sturdy-looking shoe is great for most terrains. The Vibram Megagrip outsole provides grip and good stability on most surfaces, including rocky pathways.

A waterproof membrane (made of eco-friendly Texapore O2 fabric) keeps your foot dry, while breathable textile uppers allow in cool air. Toughened rubber around the toe and heel protects your feet well on rugged ground, and keeps water out as you splash through shallow puddles. This substantial protection adds a little weight to the Force Striker at 690g (the men’s version weighs about 800g), but this is still one of the lighter shoes on test. The wide fitting gives your toes wiggle room, and a comfortable EVA midsole keeps feet well-cushioned.

Verdict: Grippy, breathable and waterproof, this shoe gives you confidence even on rough terrain. HC.

Force Striker shoe: Facts at a glance

Uppers: Textile and rubber

Outsole: Vibram Megagrip rubber

Fitting: Wide

Waterproofing: Texapore O2 membrane

Weight: 690g (size 4; men’s 830g – size 8)


Berghaus Fellmaster Active GTX

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Berghaus Fellmaster shoe

Sunderland’s finest: Berghaus Fellmaster Active shoe

  • £125

A lightweight, cushioned walking shoe that quickly moulds to the feet and feels comfortable from the off. Toe and heel caps offer robust protection on rough paths and rocky terrain and the grippy Vibram sole is reassuring in wet weather. Despite these enhancements, the overall weight barely registers, which meant I still had a spring in my step after a full day’s walking. The OrthoLite inner sole offers proven, long-lasting cushioning and – combined with well-made Nubuck uppers – should last years without a serious drop in performance. The sole also claims to wick away foot moisture and thus combat unpleasant foot odours. Coupled with fully breathable uppers, this should be a particular bonus. With all the hot weather, this has been about 90% effective but I wouldn’t want to get the shoe wet inside.

Thanks to the Gore-Tex membrane, the waterproofing is sound but these are shoes for spring and summer walks and would be overwhelmed in a downpour and puddles deeper than 4cm. Even long, dewy grass wet my feet when moisture came over the side of the shoe.

Some may not be thrilled with the subdued grey I tested (the more vibrant brown is shown above) but I liked this serious, classy look, particularly when wildlife watching. Post adventure, they’d be perfectly at home resting under a table in a pub or café.

VERDICT: A stylish walking shoe with a carefully judged balance of comfort, protection and weight. FC.

Fellmaster Active GTX: facts at a glance

The Fellmaster is the men’s version – the women’s equivalent is the Kanaga

Uppers: Nubuck and Gore-Tex

Outsole: Opti-stud Vibram sole

Waterproofing:  Fully waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex

Fit: Standard. If you have narrow feet, thick walking socks may be all you need for a snug fit.

Weight: 874g, size 9; women’s (Kanga) 752g, size 6

Eco: OthoLite inner sole made from partially recycled material


Keen Ridge Flex WP low cut

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Walking shoe

Keen’s Ridge Flex WP is available in both women’s and men’s models

  • £144.99

Following suit from pretty much all Keen footwear, the Ridge Flex is impressively comfortable from the off and requires almost no breaking-in, meaning you can take your shoes out on a five-mile walk straight from the box. This is thanks in part to the Keen.Bellow.Flex technology (the neon yellow band across the top of the forefoot), which allows your foot to bend freely with reduced friction – this means you can move with less effort. Arch support and padding around the ankle offer additional comfort – and support.

The shoe feels light on the foot but at the same time stable – a sensation enhanced by the firm outsole with its 5mm tread – allowing you to move quickly, nimbly and with good traction along varying terrains. They grip securely to rock and cope well with wet, muddy trails, but at the same time are not too heavy duty for quick progress on the flat. The Keen.Dry membrane provides an added layer of protection for when those summer rains strike.

The Ridge Flex is modern-looking, with splashes of neon colour spread across the shoe. But what you may not see at first glance is the lettering on the insole: “Every step makes and impact; consciously created to make a better planet”. The leather used to make the shoe is sourced from Leather Working Group-certified tanneries that adopt a closed-loop system to reduce water and energy use. The upper has been treated with a PFC-free durable water repellent, while the Eco Anti-Odor treatment inside the shoe is pesticide-free – all good news for the planet.

The Ridge Flex is a medium to wide shoe, so like most Keen footwear is a good option for anyone with broad feet. And for those wanting a bit more support and protection, there is a mid-cut option (£150). Available in a range of colours for women and men.

VERDICT: Lightweight with good support and traction. Ideal for beginners, spring and summer hikers and comfort-seekers. DG.

Ridge Flex WP: Facts at a glance

Uppers: leather

Outsole: Keen All.Terrain outsole, equipped with rugged 5mm lugs

Fitting: regular to wide

Waterproofing: Keen.Dry membrane. The upper has been further treated with a PFC-free durable water repellent

 

Buy for men and women from Keen Footwear

Buy for men (black / brown) and women (grey / brown) at SportsShoes


La Sportiva TX5 Low GTX

3.0 out of 5 star rating
La Sportiva TX5 Low GTX
The bomb-proof but bulky La Sportiva TX5 Low GTX
  • €196.90

This heavy-duty shoe instantly brings to mind a cut-down hiking boot; and in fact there is a full-height version, which should appeal to backpackers who love mountain treks.

Both formats seem alike from the ankle down: they are extremely well protected, with a chunky heel, a substantial rubber toecap and a beefy rand – the bumper around the bottom of the shoe. This and the lacing system – basically, laces that go most of the way down to the toe – are inspired by climbing shoes. The result is a pair of shoes that can take some serious punishment in rugged, rocky environments – and look as if they should last for years.

The necessary consequence though is that they feel a little hefty … oddly heavier than other shoes of similar weight, which probably has something to do with the distribution of the weight on the foot. On a low-cut shoe, that chunky heel in particular seems a bit out of proportion. This, combined with a the stiff outsole, would no doubt not be an issue on a full-height boot, but on a shoe, the effect is a bit cumbersome. I had to lace them very tightly to keep my heel from slipping.

Despite the shortcomings I have a soft spot for them. They seem likely appear to be very durable. And I do like the way they look. I’m just think that some hikers will find them a little hard work.

VERDICT: Handsome, durable, supremely solid; slightly cumbersome. JP.

TX5 Low GTX: Facts at a glance

Uppers: Leather

Outsole: Vibram Megagrip

Waterproofing: Gore-Tex Extended Comfort lining

Fit: Regular

Weight: 1100g (men’s, size 11.5; women’s 760g)


Altberg Jorvik Trail

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Altberg Jorvik Trail shoe
  • £174.99

The Jorvik Trail is made of a single piece of leather – with fewer seams, the uppers are stronger and less likely to spring a leakWhen I imagine the classic summer walking shoe, I think simple, low-cut and leather. Fitting this vision is the Jorvik Trail, a no-fuss shoe designed and made by Altberg for walking on lower-level footpaths.

Like most of the Yorkshire bootmaker’s footwear, the Jorvik Trail is made from one piece of leather with minimal seams and stitch lines, resulting in a clean, traditional look, and more importantly a shoe that will last.

They are low cut, making them lighter than your average Altberg, and they keep your feet a bit cooler than a full-height boot.

They are of course more susceptible to water leaking in from the top – so not ideal for harsh weather or boggy ground. On tough mountain trails, or when you are carrying a heavy pack, you might prefer a higher boot to support your ankle and protect it from going over.

Even so, the chunky soles can cope with some pretty rugged surfaces, making these shoes a tough and reliable option for dry-weather walks along coast paths and hill paths, provided all you have on your back is a light daypack. The Vibram sole, made from shock-absorbing rubber, has well-defined lugs, which I found to hold well on most terrains, including mud, rock and grass.

The SFit last (‘last’ refers to the shape inside the shoe) has a little less volume with a lower instep than Alberg’s AForme last, with good toe depth and a curved heel. Given the relatively close-fitting nature of the shoe, it’s best to wear them with thin socks.

The supple water-repellent upper, with its waterproof membrane interlayer, is far more forgiving than first impressions suggest, soon loosening to complement the shape of your foot.

VERDICT: traditional, durable and comfortable, a good choice for low-level walking in spring and summer. DG.

Buy for men and women at Altberg

Buy for men and women at Open Air

Jorvik Trail shoe: Facts at a glance

Uppers: 1.8mm Nida Hydro full grain soft supple leather.

Outsole: Vibram Masai, rubber

Waterproofing: Soft, supple water-repellent leather. The four-layer lining includes a waterproof membrane.

Fit: The SFit last (footshape) is asymmetrical with good toe depth and slightly curved heel, made specifically for shoes. Sizes range from 4 to 14 UK.

Weight: 1.198kg (pair).

Eco: Resoleable; and Altberg offer repairs. Made to last.


Aku Bellamont III Plus shoes

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Brown walking shoes

The Bellamont III’s soft leather uppers mellow with age and repeated waxing

  • £209.90

If you are looking for a shoe you can wear on hills and dog walks as well as the high street, pub and work, the Bellemont II Plus is an excellent option.

Aku is based in Montebelluna, just south of the Dolomites National Park in Italy, and sure enough you can imagine these shoes being perfectly suited to the hot, hard trails of Alpine valleys and ridges in summer.

The overall impression is somewhere between a trainer and a climbing shoe, with a lower profile and narrower stance than for example the La Sportiva shoes also on test (below). They are more stylish than they look – photos don’t flatter them somehow.

They are super-comfortable – a good fit on low-volume feet like mine – with fairly well-cushioned EVA midsoles, and the Vibram Predator II outsoles are grippy.

While the leather uppers are soft, my feet felt well protected. The uppers are very water resistant if kept waxed and ready for rain, but this shoe has no waterproof membrane, so if you get into a long stomp wet weather, expect to get damp feet eventually. That said, the lack of a waterproof membrane makes them less sweaty on hot days.

If I was hiking more than around five miles, or over rough ground, I would probably opt for something a bit more stable, but if you are in the habit impromptu walks and wanders, and want something that can step up to something moderately demanding when needed, they are ideal.

They are probably one of the most sustainable shoe choices in this selection, boasting uppers made with a chrome-free tanning process, and are lined with Zero Impact leather, tanned without the use of heavy metals, and for which a tree-planting programme is designed to offset the carbon released in production.

Incidentally Aku supplies the shoe with alternative laces in a burnt-orange colour which I think is much better-looking than the oatmeal colour of the ones in the picture above.

VERDICT: Excellent, hard-wearing, handsome, low-profile versatile shoes for short to medium length walks on easy to moderate terrain. JP.

Bellamont Plus III: Facts at a glance

Price: shop around – as ever; you’ll find the price varies widely

Uppers: Chrome-free Nubuck

Outsole: Vibram Predator II

Fitting: Regular to narrow; suits low-volume feet

Weight: 940g


Vango Como

4.0 out of 5 star rating
Vango Como

The Vango Como is a good entry-level shoe for beginners

  • £75

These reasonably priced men’s walking shoes are light and airy with a flexible toe-bend, making them a good option for newcomers to the trail or intermediate-level walkers. The rugged Protex fabric and suede upper are designed to keep your feet dry in showers, while the rubber toe bumper offers a reassuring level off protection from toe-stubs on rocky and rooted trails.

The soft open cell lining and cushioned midsole deliver a generous level of comfort, which marries well with the Como’s light weight (425g per shoe) – this meant I could move quickly and nimbly along both flat and undulating paths. I was also impressed by the traction offered by the Rock Rubber outsole, which provided welcome support when the track steepened.

Vango’s Cord-Flow lacing system means the shoes can be pulled tightly around the upper foot. I did, however, feel a small amount of slippage around the heel, which could prove an issue on long walks across rough ground.

All in all, the Como trail shoe is a decent alternative to a boot, best suited to day walks and low-level hikes. It has the feel of a summer walking shoe, perfect for riverside rambles, country lanes, low foothills and urban adventures.

VERDICT: well-cushioned and light with good traction, perfect for beginners and day walkers. DG.

  • Buy for men at Vango

Como shoe: Facts at a glance

For men. Vango’s nearest equivalent for women is the Selva (£75).

Uppers: Polyester, suede, rubber toe bumper and Achilles heel lock.

Outsole: Rock Rubber outsole with a cushioned PU (Poly-Urethane) midsole.

Waterproofing: The rugged Protex membrane and suede upper is designed to keep feet dry.

Fit: Regular width.

Weight: 850g (size 8.5, pair).


Keen Women’s Terradora II Low waterproof hiking trainers

4.0 out of 5 star rating
KEEN Terradora

If you like moving fast on the trail, Keen’s Terradora shoe will suit you

  • £114.99

These super-lightweight shoes for women feel more like sports footwear than hiking shoes. They have good flexibility and I found them extremely comfortable. Arch support is good, and my heel felt secure, without any movement.

The mesh uppers combine with the Keen Dry membrane to keep your feet breathing on warm days. In wet weather, the membrane is shower proof – but won’t keep moisture out for long – so keep clear of puddles.

The outsole is sturdy and the 4mm lugs provide decent grip on undemanding terrain. I wouldn’t recommend them for scrambling over loose rocks, though, where the grip doesn’t feel strong enough.

Protection is pretty minimal to keep the shoe light but there is some rubber to protect you from stubbing your toes. The fabric colours are attractive and have an interesting design which stands out from the standard hiking shoe choices.

VERDICT: A good shoe for dry-weather walks on gentle terrain. HC.

Terradora II Low waterproof hiking trainers for women: facts at a glance

Uppers: Synthetic mesh

Outsole: Keen All-terrain rubber with 4mm lugs

Fitting: Regular

Waterproofing: Keen Dry waterproof membrane

Weight: 629g


Hoka One Sky Toa Gore-Tex

5.0 out of 5 star rating
Sky To a GTX shoe

The Sky Toa adds a low-profile ankle cuff for support, but remains lightweight

  • £160

I’ve broken a rule to allow in a shoe with some ankle protection…. but I thought it was worth including this supremely comfortable and well-balanced shoe… OK, a boot, albeit a low-profile one.

That ankle collar is relatively low but feels supportive, protecting your ankle from twists and sprains on lumpy ground – a bonus if you like to walk with a heavy pack.

Despite the extra storey, the Sky Toa remains very light at well under a kilo for the pair. The fabric uppers are breathable and the shoes feel pleasant in warm weather. All good news if you like to move fast.

A rubberized foam midsole cushions your feet well, feeling comfortable even after miles of pounding the trail, but doesn’t overdo it: the shoe still feels responsive. And thanks to the Vibram Mega-Grip outsoles, I felt remarkably sure-footed over wet and uneven ground.

In spring or summer walks on rugged hills or coast paths, these would be superb. And they are more than capable of dealing with most winter conditions – the waterproofing is a big improvement on previous generations of Hoka shoes, thanks no doubt to the Gore-Tex membranes introduced in 2019.

VERDICT: Outstanding comfortable and lightweight boots for strollers, speed-walkers serious hikers alike. JP.

Sky Toa Gore-Tex: Facts at a glance

Uppers: Breathable, synthetic

Outsole: Vibram® Megagrip outsole lugs,

Waterproofing: Gore-Tex membrane

Fit: Regular to wide

Weight: 856g (men’s pair), 718g (women’s)


Hanwag Belorado II Low Lady GTX

3.0 out of 5 star rating
Hanwag BELORADO Lady

Hanwag’s Belorado Lady shoes were comfortable and waterproof, but not always grippy

  • £179.95

I tested these during the lockdown during local walks along canals, country tracks, grassland and gravel roads, and found the lightweight feel was perfect for gentle terrain.

The shoe has a fairly shallow tread which is good for level surfaces, but not so effective on areas of loose stone, where they were prone to slip.

They offer decent support, and a durable rubber cap protects the toe. The suede and fabric mix over the rest over the shoe gives it a smart appearance. The waterproof Gore-Tex lining provides good, breathable comfort when wearing. Although, of course, all low-cut shoes are prone to shipping water over the sides, for example when walking through wet grass.

If you have wide feet, you may find the fit a little narrow (though note that a special version is available for people with bunions).

VERDICT: Good for gentle terrain. HC.

  • Buy for women at Alpine Trek
  • Buy for women at Absolute-Snow

Belorado II Low Lady GTX: facts at a glance

Also available in a special version designed to fit feet with bunions. 

Uppers: Textile and suede

Outsole: Hanwag Multifilm Light

Fitting: Standard

Waterproofing: Gore-Tex membrane

Weight: 710g (men’s 870g)

Reviews by…

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Hilary Clothier (HC), Fergus Collins (FC), Daniel Graham (DG), Joe Pontin (JP)