From easy strolls to long-distance hikes, here we test seven of the best walking boots.
Reviews: Daniel Graham (DG), Carys Matthews (CM), Joe Pontin (JP)
Altberg’s best-selling walking boot has remained virtually unchanged since the bootmaker’s conception in 1989.
As with most traditional boots, the Fremington is extremely durable and its high-quality leather uppers and breathable membrane make it completely watertight.
The hard-wearing Vibram sole has good tread and rigidity, making it ideal for walking in Britain’s hills.
Boots with a rigid construction and full leather uppers like this have a reputation for taking time to wear in, but after slight stiffness in the first couple of walks, I was surprised by the overriding feeling of comfort. I’ve taken them on many walks, long and short, and the fit feels feel cosier and more pleasant with each outing.
The padded ankle cuff reduces rubbing and Altberg’s five width fittings offer extra wiggle room, should you need it. The Fremington is sold as a “lightweight 2-3 season leather walking boot”, but I would recommend it for British winters, too.
Another big bonus: the boot available in a range of widths to suit narrow or wide feet.
VERDICT: Hardy, watertight and surprisingly comfortable. Will cope well with even tough hill walks all year round. (DG). ★★★★★
Fremingham Boot: facts at a glance
UPPERS: Full-grain Anfibio leather
OUTSOLE: Vibram – hard-wearing and replaceable (Alberg will re-sole)
WATERPROOFING: Sympatex lining
FITTING: Five options available, from extra wide to extra narrow.
WEIGHT (pair): 1.3kg
ECO: Resoleable; and Altberg offer repairs.
British shoemaker Vivobarefoot believes that footwear should “let your feet do their thing”. With this thought in mind, its shoes are made to harness all the benefits of walking barefoot – flexibility, stability and, ultimately, an improved posture – with all the usual protection that a boot brings. Its lightweight hiking boot, the Tracker FG, is a prime example of this, blending attractive style with extreme comfort and an overwhelming feeling of freedom.
Unlike most boots, the Tracker has a thin and completely flat, puncture-resistant sole. If you haven’t worn Vivobarefoot shoes before, the lack of drop from heel to toe will take a few minutes to get used to – but this slight unease soon turns to an overall sense of liberation. It’s as though your feet are feeling their way across the ground, rather than treading on it.
Fan-shaped with lots of room in the toe box, your toes are able to spread out, which in turn improves stability and helps strengthen muscles in the foot. They are extremely light (476.2g per boot) and breathable, which allows you to move quickly through hills, forests and mountains, and their flexibility means you can even run in them. (note: the sensory perception provided by the thin sole aids this quick movement but may prove an issue if carrying a heavy pack over long distances).
The outsole is firm, and the quality leather upper (with a fully waterproof membrane), mid-cut ankle and high lacing deliver a good level of support on uneven trails. The multi-directional lugs are designed for firm ground, making them ideal for dry-weather walks; I found them to lack a bit of grip on particularly wet and muddy paths.
Available in dark brown for women and men.
VERDICT: Innovative, flexible, light and comfortable. DG. ★★★★☆
Tracker FG boot: facts at a glance
OUTSOLE: Firm Ground sticky rubber with 3mm lugs
WATERPROOFING: Hydroguard waterproof and breathable membrane
FIT: Regular to wide
WEIGHT: 952.4g (pair)
ECO: Vivobarefoot say they are aiming to use 90% sustainable material across the brand this year. The Trackers themselves are made with a recycled PET lining and a recycled membrane.
Targhee iii Mid WP
I wore these straight from the box on a two-week summer walk in the Swiss Alps. They were extremely comfortable and, in spite of the challenging landscape, the KEEN All-Terrain rubber outsole offered a good level of grip on wet paths, scree slopes and grassy hills.
Keen footwear has a reputation for comfort and the Targhee iii is no exception. Fortunately for walkers with broad feet, the Targhee iii is available in two widths: standard and wide. The Metatomical Footbed is designed to provide strong arch support and the dual-density EVA insoles soften the impact of the trail. The Targhee iii is a pleasantly lightweight, too, at 1kg the pair (size 11).
The Keen. Dry breathable membrane means vapour can leave the boot and air can move freely between the material – very welcome in hot weather.
The boot’s waterproofing and durability were less impressive. During periods of wet weather, small amounts of water seeping in through the lacing area on the top of the foot, and after two weeks of hard walking, the boots had begun to show signs of wear and tear, most notably around the toe-bend.
The Targhee iii is a great boot for fair-weather walking in the UK, excelling in comfort. It comes at a relatively affordable price and can be worn on long walks straight from the box. But for winter walking and rough or wet terrain, a tougher boot might be preferable, particularly if you want your boots to last.
VERDICT: Highly comfortable and affordable, but doubts over durability and waterproofing. DG. ★★★☆☆
Targhee II boot: facts at a glance
UPPERS: Leather and mesh
OUTSOLE: Keen All-Terrain rubber, with 4mm lugs.
WATERPROOFING: Keen.Dry breathable membrane; leather is treated with PFC-free water repellent
FITTING: Regular or wide options available
WEIGHT (pair): 1kg (size 11)
ECO CREDENTIALS: Better Leather from a Leather Working Group tannery (eliminating wastewater pollution).
Fellmaster Ridge GTX
A great all-rounder; this is a good quality boot sold at a relatively moderate price, that will keep your feet dry and comfortable in most UK environments. Initially feeling a little boxy, the boots soon settle in and after one or two strolls it feels as if you have owned them for years – the super-soft footbed helps.
Nubuck leather is used on the upper to provide durability and support. Their natural water-repellency can be topped up with a spray-on treatment available from outdoor shops. If moisture makes it through the uppers, the boots are lined with Gore-Tex, making them 100% waterproof and breathable. Considering the size and high-performing ankle support, the Fellmaster Ridge feels pretty light, a real advantage when moving quickly up and down uneven slopes.
The boot is quite high; if you feel rubbing around the ankle, drop the laces down one eyelet or lace them backwards (without crossing over on the final eyelet) before tying.
VERDICT: Waterproof, lightweight and supportive, for walking on hills and other terrain all year round. DG. ★★★★☆
Ducan Mid GTX
These sporty boots are comfortable and well-protected. The substantial outsole and chunky toecap help deliver a moderate weight of 1.2kg, but on the trail they feel much lighter – pleasantly responsive and low-profile.
Uppers are made of engineered mesh – or ‘knitted’ synthetic yarn – with a well-judged few millimetres of padding for comfort and protection.
They are rather novel in not having a separate tongue, just a single piece of upper that overlaps beneath and to one side of the laces, where the elasticated Gore-Tex membrane prevents moisture creeping in. It appears to make construction simpler and lighter. It might be asymmetrical, but it doesn’t feel lopsided. Far from it. Overall, balance and stability are excellent.
The lugs may be less chunky than some, but grip is great. And waterproofing is very effective.
VERDICT: Highly versatile – suitable for all manner of walks, including fast hiking and backpacking – if you are happy to forego full-height ankle support. JP. ★★★★☆
BEST FOR: Grip
Roclite G 345 GTX
Cumbria-based Inov-8 claimed fame as a maker of trail-running shoes, and this heritage is evident in these lightweight, highly breathable and grippy boots. If you are wearing in summer – or plan to move fast – these boots are really outstanding. They are so light and responsive that you may even choose to run in them.
They are pleasingly low-profile, with light protection, including a little rubber to protect your toes, and a minimal amount of padding in the uppers located mainly around the ankle cuff. Despite this, Ankle support is well-judged – low-profile enough to allow you freedom of movement, but effective enough to keep give you peace of mind on a pacy downhill.
The mesh uppers are highly breathable – you can actually feel air filtering through the fabric that covers the toe box, keeping your feet pleasantly cool as you warm up on a tough uphill. The flipside is that on winter walks, cold air penetrates parts of the upper a little too freely.
Waterproofing relies heavily on a Gore-Tex waterproof membrane, which works pretty well, though don’t expect perfectly dry feet once the boots have been thoroughly soaked.
Inov-8 are famous for the excellent grip their outsoles offer. The chunky, 6mm lugs also shed mud readily, keeping them unclogged and ready for your next step. Press the outsoles with your thumb nail and they seem to have a little more give to the touch than others, making them more likely to find traction on wet or smooth surfaces. If you’re worried this makes them less durable, be reassured that the compound soles contain graphene – which is tougher than steel; I’m curious to see what this adds to their lifespan.
Verdict: Extremely grippy, breathable and lightweight – ideal for fast summer hikes on rugged trails. JP. ★★★★☆
Relment-Pelmo Mid (for men)
At well under £100, these boots from US shoe-maker Skechers are among the most affordable on the market, which alone wins a star in our rating below.
Skechers describe the Relmont-Pelmo as a ‘comfort hiking style boot’ with a ‘relaxed’ fit that’s designed to be roomy. The Memory Foam insole delivers a soft ride, even a little bouncy.
The mid-height ankle is ideal for occasional walkers: providing just enough support on rugged ground, but cooler in warm than full-height boots, and lighter, too. The ankle collar is well-padded and the fit is firm but could be more supportive.
With suede uppers, plenty of padding and a chunky toe bumper, they clock it an a fairly substantial 1.3kg or so (my size 12’s are 1.4kg), so don’t expect them to feel dynamic and responsive – I found them just a little bit sluggish on the move. But your feet do feel well protected, and the rubber outsole provides plenty of grip.
Mesh beneath the laces allows some air in… when summer comes, we’ll see if this is enough to keep feet cool. We’ll also keep testing for durability. I would expect the suede to soften and settle; we’ll see whether it retains its water-resistance.
VERDICT: Good value boots for occasional ramblers, over short to medium distances. JP. ★★★☆☆JP.
Relment-Pelmo: Facts at a glance
UPPERS: Suede with synthetic and mesh fabric
WATERPROOFING: Water-repellent uppers; no internal waterproof membrane
FITTING: ‘Relaxed’ – generous, regular to wide
WEIGHT (pair): 1.35kg
BEST FOR: Lightweight and waterproof
Peakfreak X2 Mid OutDry
These super-lightweight boots feature a solid tread which provides excellent grip on rough terrain. The material provides a nice level of padding and the ankles feel well-supported without having the bulk of a heavier, more traditional hiking boot.
However, it’s in the wet that these boots outperform many other textile boots – I found the boots impressively waterproof on boggy grass and in heavy rain, with my feet staying dry. The uppers are made using synthetic textile with welded overlays which provides a decent level of waterproofing while also being breathable.
Our only bugbears with the boot were the sizing, which seems a little smaller than usual. Might be worth going up a size. The fit is also on the wide side.
Verdict: Excellent for hill hiking in spring and summer when you want a less chunky boot. CM. ★★★★☆
Peakfreak X2 Mid OutDry: Facts at a glance
ALSO AVAILABLE as a low-cut shoe or full-height hiking boot
UPPERS: Textile with welded synthetic overlays
OUTSOLE: Omni-GRIP non-marking traction rubber
WATERPROOFING: OutDry waterproof
FITTING: Regular, one width, on the small side
WEIGHT (pair): 636g