Your hiking boots can make a massive difference to your day outdoors. If you’re thinking of investing in a new pair, fit, it goes without saying, is crucial. Your experience of a pair of boots may differ from a reviewer’s, simply because your feet are shaped differently.
A good outdoor shop will be able to advise on fit and size. But the rule of thumb is to buy boots that allow you feet some space, especially around the toes. You feet will warm up and swell when walking. And you should allow room to wear well-cushioned socks – especially if you plan to walk long distances. These will help keep your feet comfortable and blister-free. So always wear your thickest hiking socks when trying on new boots.
Finally, what kind of walks do you like? Your choice of boots should reflect your answer. If you like to travel light, or over short distances, a pair of hiking shoes or trail running shoes might suit you better. But if your will be walking for miles, over rocky ground and with a heavy pack, you’ll want a more substantial boot with a higher ankle, and good waterproofing.
So on to our reviews: here are five of the boots the Countryfile Magazine team has been testing over the last few months. I hope you find a pair that suits you.
These superb boots tick an awful lot of boxes. They are rugged enough for tough hill walks, with leather and textile uppers, and while there is no rand (or rubber bumper) to encase your feet, the protection at the toe is very good and the overall feel is very robust. A Gore-Tex waterproof membrane keeps you dry.
The excellent Sensifit lacing system locks below the ankle and helps you achieve a close fit.
And they feel instantly comfortable and supportive; any stiffness wears off after a few miles.
Walking in them feels fluid and the boots feel light and quite responsive. They are extremely stable and give loads of grip on various surfaces, thanks to Salomon’s own Contagrip outsole. The high ankle gives extra support, making them a good option for backpacking.
I found the fit fairly generous in the toe area but over-snug in the mid-foot – that may be a foible of my feet, but take note if you prefer a wide fitting. And they felt uncomfortably warm on the 22C day I last wore them, in spring – as may sometimes be the case in boots with a waterproof membrane.
Some online reviews question long-term durability but only time will tell. Mine will certainly get plenty of use.
SUITABLE FOR: Robust boots for moderate to demanding routes – including hillwalking and backpacking.
UPPERS: Nubuck leather and textile
OUTSOLE: Contagrip (Salomon’s own)
VERDICT: 4.5 / 5
Review: Joe Pontin
These boots (for men) are supportive, durable and comfortable, making them ideal footwear for rugged terrain. Their soft, memo-foam interior, soft Nappa-leather heel collar and ankle-high eyelets prevent your foot from sliding inside the boot and offer extra protection against ankle twists. Designed with mountain hiking in mind, the boots have hard-wearing soles with a deep-cut tread – allowing for extra traction on rough, wet ground – and the Gore-Tex waterproof lining keeps feet dry in wet weather. The sole is compatible with strap-on crampons too, for snowy walks.
Be sure to try on these hardy Mammuts before you buy them; you may find your usual size a bit snug. Bear in mind that the the generous cushioning may make the boots too warm in particularly hot weather.
Finally, Mammut promise that the boots are easy to resole. So with all the normal care necessary with leather boots, these boots could last you for years.
SUITABLE FOR: Rugged terrain
UPPERS: Brushed Nubuck
OUTSOLE: Vibram MT-Traction II, replaceable
WEIGHT: 760g (size 8.5)
WOMEN’S STYLE: The Kento High GTX is probably the nearest equivalent.
RATING: 4 / 5
Review: Daniel Graham (issue 147)
The boot’s last has been designed for walkers with ‘low foot volume and slimmer heel’ – a good match for stringy feet like mine. They win high marks for looks, with a classic no-frills style. The tough uppers are cut from a single piece of substantial, oiled Nubuck so there are fewer seams to leak, and a Gore-Tex lining keeps water out. Your feet feel very well cushioned and protected – there is firm support at the ankle, and a robust rubber bumper (or ‘rand’) around the boot further shields your foot from knocks and scrapes. Inside the boot there could be more support for the arch, so you may wish to slip in a more supportive insole.
The outsole was stable and reliable, and grippy even on wet limestone.
Their weight and bulk made them feel a little harder work than the other boots we tried, but the extra security when moving over rugged ground compensates.
These boots can also be resoled – which will attract serious walkers with an eye both on the purse strings and the environment. They are unlikely to need it for years unless you use them heavily, but with care those splendid leather uppers should be in good enough nick to justify the resoling.
SUITABLE FOR: Mountain treks, backpacking
UPPERS: 1.8mm oiled Nubuck, single piece
OUTSOLE: Vibram Biometric, replaceable
MIDSOLE: Comfort Flex Plus
WEIGHT: 850g (men’s size 12)
WOMEN’S STYLE: Trek GTX WMN
RATING: 3.5 / 5
Review: Joe Pontin (issue 147)
Another fine-looking pair of boots, with a neat and stripped-back appearance. They have a slightly lower profile than the other boots on test, so they feel nimbler despite their fairly substantial weight. Shedding a little bulk means a bit less protection than some boots – just a rubber cap at the toe; but there’s still enough for all but the most challenging hill walks. There’s also a little less cushioning; but they were a good fit for my slightly narrow feet, and comfortable straight from the box. Ankle support is good too.
The uppers are made of a single piece of water-resistant, 2.4mm leather; good news, as minimal stitching means less chance of springing a leak. The Gore-Tex lining should keep you dry if any moisture make its through the uppers.
The outsoles are soft and sticky and gripped extremely well on wet stone, shedding mud thanks to self-cleaning lugs.
SUITABLE FOR: Easy to moderately tough hill walking; good versatility
UPPERS: Water-resistant Perwanger leather, 2.2mm-2.4mm
OUTSOLE: Duo Radiant (an Asolo/Vibram collaboration) with Megagrip compound
MIDSOLE: Duo Radiant Eva
WEIGHT: 820g (men’s size 12)
WOMEN’S STYLE: Greenwood GV Woman
RATING: Four stars
Review: Joe Pontin (issue 147)
*Price tracks the Euro.
HOKA ONE ONE, £180
These boots come from a French company that began life making off-road running shoes and branched out into hiking boots a few years ago.
Early boots from HOKA were strikingly different-looking, with vibrant (or garish, depending on your taste) colour schemes that looked more suited to Alpine summers than Pennine winters.
This new style continues the innovative approach with a toned-down colour scheme (check out the even more muted ‘black olive/green’).
They are instantly comfortable and pleasantly well-cushioned. On the move, they feel smooth and fluent– the outsole is slightly curved with no heel (so wearing gaiters may be tricky as the stirrup will take a lot of wear).
They are also noticeably lightweight at 508g. They look chunky – perhaps some would say bulky – but that depends on taste. They important point though is that they don’t feel bulky – in fact they seem fairly nimble and, despite the cushioning, responsive. The Vibram MegaGrip outsoles keep them grippy.
While the uppers are made of full grain leather, this is barely water-repellent out of the box, so anyone walking in UK conditions will want to coat with a Nubuck-friendly waterproofing spray to repel water and preserve the leather’s matt finish, or instead apply a wax.
Inside, a waterproof ‘bootie’ lining stitched to the midsole keeps your feet dry. Previous tests of this membrane on other Hoka boots have shown gradual dampening effect once your boots are soaked.
Protection is moderate – there is no rand (or bumper) around the boot, just a rubber toe cap, which is quite soft; that keeps the boots light and is perfectly adequate for most country walks, but if you are planning really rugged hill walks, you might want something more robust.
SUITABLE FOR: Versatile boots for anything from easy strolls to moderate hill walking.
UPPERS: Full grain leather
OUTSOLE: Vibram MegaGrip
LINING: Event membrane
RATING: 4 / 5
Review: Joe Pontin (issue 151)