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Apparently walking is Britain’s most popular outdoor hobby – according to Ramblers UK, 9.1million adults in England walk recreationally for at least 30 minutes every four weeks.
It’s the main activity on 36% of countryside visits and it’s the most popular activity for visitors to Scotland and Wales. No wonder walking boots are in such demand – they’re a must-have to protect your feet (and ankles!) on a long hike. And they’re not just loved by the raring-to-go ramblers. Apparently walking boots are the must have fashion item too – spotted on everyone from Bella Hadid to the Duchess of Cambridge recently.
If you’re one of those 9M rambling adults you’ll need some good hiking boots. The good news is we’ve spend four months carefully selecting and testing the best hiking boots you can buy so you don’t have to waste hours online trying to decide which pair to buy.
How we selected and tested the best hiking boots
This guide contains seven of the best walking boots for women. Each hiking boot has slightly different USP, including wide fit, waterproof, lightweight and ease of removal. Plus, we picked ones to fit every budget. We explain the difference between each of the boots, highlighting the pros and cons, to help you decide which are the best hiking boots for you.
Each hiking boot was tested over several months and on a mixture of terrains, including grass, tarmac, and earthy, rocky trails. Features paid particular attention to included support, grip, comfort and fit.
Products considered for the best hiking boots guide were tested by our resident health journalist and walking nut, Natalia Lubomirski. She’s hiked over eight of the major mountain ranges, across four continents – including the Appalachians, the Smokies, the Sierra Nevadas (yes, she hiked to the top of Half Dome during her honeymoon) and the Atlas mountains – as well hitting the summits of Snowdon, Pen-y-Fan (Brecon Beacons) Table Mountain in South Africa and the Blue Mountains in Australia. Phew! It’s fair to say that she knows a thing of two about good hiking boots.
Overall best hiking boots in 2019: w&h’s verdict
Apart from protecting our feet from rocks and debris on the trail, hiking footwear should also have a good grip, keep your feet dry, be light enough to move easily in them and above all be comfortable. Of the dozens of hiking boots we tested, only seven made the edit. And two of those we’ve given special awards.
Best walking boots: w&h’s best buy
This award is for the overall best product and is awarded to the Salomon Women’s Outline Mid GTX Boot, £130
This stylish pair of boots have nailed it when it comes to fit, they’re light, waterproof and easy to get on. Read our full review below.
Best walking boots: w&h’s star buy
This award is for the product that offers the overall best value for money, it goes to Merrell’s Women’s Vego Mid Leather Waterproof Boot, £85.
A great pair traditional hiking boots that offers great ankle support and are incredibly hard-wearing. The price is great for leather hiking boots too. Read our full review below.
The best walking boots you can buy
Whether you’re looking for hiking boots or shoes for a leisurely stroll, or a new pair to get you several thousand feet up a mountain, we have tried and tested the best walking boots for women out there so you can find the right ones for you. Here are the 7 best walking boots and shoes you can buy.
1. Best cheap walking boots: Quechua MH100 Women’s Mid Waterproof Mountain Walking boots, £39.99
These women’s hiking boots feel like a little hug for your feet – exactly what you need if you’re headed out on a long day of hiking. They have truly focused on comfort and a snug fit, so your foot feels well protected. The ankle cuff of the boot is slightly rigid at first, which can feel a little uncomfortable, but this should soften up the more you wear them.
They are waterproof, but breathable – making them ideal for all weathers. And stones and tree roots won’t be a problem either, thanks to the protective rubber guard. What’s more, the rubber sole offers good traction on dry or muddy ground. And they’re a bargain too at under £40.
Size range: EU 37-42
Sole: Rubber sole
2. Best easy-to-remove walking boots: TOG 24 Ingelborough Women’s Vibram Waterproof Boots Grey/Light Grey, £150
There’s no missing these hiking boots – they’re big, heavy and have a very chunky heel, but don’t be put off by their size. They’re actually the easiest boot to get on and off, thanks to their hook and eye lacing system and flexible tongue. However, the laces are fairly stiff, so it’s difficult to get a snug fit around the ankle, unless you use some brute strength.
The ankle cuff offers generous padding, however it is a bit rigid, so it does dig in around the ankle, as well as at the front of the foot. This may soften up over time, however. They’re also rather on the heavy side and not very flexible to walk in, so it might mean your feet get tired on a long hike. Although a stiffer midsole can provide much-needed support when conditions are difficult.
The full-grain leather upper has been upgraded with a waterproof membrane to stop water penetrating through. Plus, it has a Vibram outsole for good traction on rocky paths.
Size range: UK 3-9
Sole: Durable Vibram outsole, EVA heel cup for underfoot cushioning.
3. Best lightweight walking shoes: Keen Women’s Terradora Waterproof Hiking Shoes, £99.99
The first thing that springs to mind is how easy these walking shoes are to slip on and go. Fitting more like a trainer than a hiking boot, they are lightweight, low profile and super comfortable from your first step. Being low profile does mean, however, that there’s no ankle cuff, so they do slip a bit at the heel when you’re walking.
It’s because they are shoes rather than boots that they are so lightweight. If you’re specifically after a lightweight boot then check out the two reviews below for the Columbia Wayfinder boots and the Salomon GTX boots, both of which weight 330g too.
The insoles are infused with a probiotic technology that naturally breaks down odour in sweat without heavy metals or hazardous chemicals – great if you’re using them for warm-weather hiking. And they also have a waterproof, breathable membrane that lets out vapour, without letting water in. The sturdy grip helps propel you up on uphill climbs, while the superb cushioning protects your feet on the way down. As if they couldn’t tick any more boxes they’re also eco-friendly too.
This is the ideal shoe to go from city trekking to off-grid trails. Perfect for the city slicker that likes to head off the beaten track.
Size range: EU 35-42. Please note this style has a narrower fit than a traditional KEEN shoe and most customers find this style is running about ½ size too big.
Sole: Non-marking rubber outsole, low-density EVA midsole
4. Best winter hiking boots: Merrell Women’s Vego Mid Leather Waterproof Boot, £85
These look and feel more like a traditional hiking boot – so they’re focused more on substance than style. But don’t let the plain look put you off.
Despite their high ankle cuff – which offers great support – they are super easy to get on and off, thanks to their hook and eye system at the top of the laces.
They are one sturdy pair of hiking boots, too, offering your feet plenty of protection from trail debris and the padded boot material will keep your feet comfortable while you’re on the move. What’s more, these are some of the grippiest soles put to the test – perfect for wet weather. However, they do lack some of the flexibility of some of the other designs out there – meaning they can feel a bit rigid when walking (common in leather hiking boots) – but will probably mould to your foot over time.
The leather upper will keep your feet dry and may mean they last you a little longer than fabric boots if you look after them properly (see below for tips). And the price is pretty good too.
Size range: UK 5-11
Sole: FIT.ECO blended EVA contoured footbed with organic odour control. Compression Moulded EVA footframe
5. Best waterproof hiking boots, Salomon Women’s Outline Mid GTX Boot, £130
If on the other hand you are looking to make a style statement on the trail, then these just might be the pair for you. They might be lacking a bit on the cushioning front found in some of the other hiking boots, but they certainly make up for it when it comes to fit. The laces really do their job, by drawing the boot in snugly to your foot and the long ankle cuff ensures ankles and feet are protected as you hike.
Despite their high ankle cuff they’re easy to get on, and they’re lightweight too. They do feel a little stiff on their first wear, but after a few outings, hopefully their ‘flexible’ design will come into its own.
They combine a sleek look with a technical shoe – Salomon certainly knows a thing or two about grippy soles. Plus, their Gore-Tex membrane (one of the best waterproof materials around) makes them ready for those wet-weather excursions. They might be one of the more expensive boots on the market – but they’re a sound investment.
Size range: UK 4-8
Sole: Midsole injected EVA, Outsole Contragrip
6. Best wide fit hiking boots: Columbia Wayfinder Mid OutDry Boots, £115
This snazzy-looking pair with their black, grey and fluorescent orange design fall half way between a hiking shoe and a hiking boot. They offer a comfortable, flexible fit, moving a bit more like a trainer than a traditional walking boot – helping you put a spring in your step to propel you forwards.
The only downside is that due to the low ankle cuff profile, the top of the boot tends to dig in a bit around the bony bits of your ankle. However, these could soften up with more wear.
There’s plenty of room for your toes to move around, which means your feet are more likely to stay comfortable on longer hikes – ideal for wider feet. And they go up to UK size 10. They’re also waterproof and breathable, with a toecap and heel to protect your feet from rugged terrain.
Size range: UK 3-10
Sole: Techlite EVA midsole, outsole omni-grip rubber.
7. Best black hiking boots: The North Face Women’s Ultra Fastpack III Mid Gore-Tex Boots, £150
One of the trickier hiking boots to get on and off, but that might be why they’re such a good fit, once they’re actually on your feet. The laces allow you to adjust to the fit you want, while the ankle cuff offers ultimate protection if you’re trekking on uneven ground. But all this protection doesn’t add any extra bulk, as they’re lightweight too.
They boast a Gore-Tex membrane, which means they’re waterproof but breathable. And the specially coated woven mesh provides protection against debris and the Vibram Megagrip outsole helps keep you steady on wet and rocky terrain. While the sole feels a little less flexible than some of the other pairs, this means they will provide more support on trickier terrain.
Only real downside is the price – these are the joint most expensive pair in the round up – so they might be better suited to a more serious trekker to truly get your money’s worth.
Size range: UK 3-9
Sole: FastFoam midsole and Vibram Megagrip outsole.
Still not clear which of the best hiking boots on the market most fit your needs? We’ve put together answers to some of the most frequently asked questions…
What should I consider before buying a pair of hiking boots?
We asked Chris Nichols, Buying Manager at Cotswold and Snow & Rock, to reveal his top tips to find the best hiking boots for you.
1. Buy the best boots you can afford. Poor footwear is the surest way to ruin your walk, expedition or trip of a lifetime.
2. Choose the right product for the trip/conditions. For example, you’ll need a waterproof boot for most UK conditions, but not for a trip to the Sahara.
3. Get the right socks for the boot/foot combination. Good socks should stabilise the foot and provide all-day comfort. We recommend Smartwool Women’s Hike Light Summer Nights Crew Socks, £21, cotswoldoutdoor.com.
4. Maintain your boots. Ensure you have the right products to look after your boots and maximise performance and life of the product. If you look after your boots they should last many years.
What key features should hiking boots have?
There are three features that often indict quality hiking boots:
1. A waterproof membrane
Gore-Tex is the best known of these but Event and Outdry are also very good. Proprietary (a brand’s own technology) membranes are generally cheaper, but can sometimes be less breathable.
2. A thick sole unit
A good lugged sole unit (a thick rubber sole that has deep indentations in a pattern designed to provide good footing) is needed for wet and muddy UK conditions.
3. A supportive midsole
A stiffer midsole will be less instantly comfortable but provide much needed support when the conditions are difficult. Leather boots will often have a stiffer midsole which makes them suitable for high hill or mountain climbing.
How do I clean my walking boots?
‘It’s important to care for your footwear to both maximise the performance of the boots and make them last as long as possible,’ says Chris.
- Always clean them after each use. You can clean them with a damp cloth or water if really muddy. After a major clean they will need to be reproofed (made waterproof again using a specialist product).
- Use a suitable fabric proofer. A fabric/leather boot can be re-sprayed with fabric or leather proofer.
- Apply wax to leather boots. A leather boot will benefit from a wax application, such as Nikwax or Grangers G Wax. Shoe polish will also help keep the leather from drying out.
- Air dry leather boots. Try to let leather boots dry naturally, rather than placing them in an airing cupboard or on a radiator, as this can crack the leather. Place newspaper inside the boot to dry out the inner more quickly, or try Trekmates Absorba balls, which are made from silica gel and can be used to dry any wet kit, so they’re really versatile.
Should I buy leather or fabric walking boots?
Chris lists the pros and cons of both types of walking boots.
Leather hiking boots
- They provide great weather resistance, especially with a Gore Tex lining.
- They will last longer if they’re looked after correctly
- They generally have less stitching so have fewer areas of weakness for wear and tear
- They are more supportive
- Better suited for mountain or winter climbing
- They need to be well looked after in terms of keeping clean and being reproofed
- Leather styles tend to be a bit heavier
- They take longer to wear in
Fabric hiking boots
- Generally best for ‘out the box’ comfort
- Most likely to have a ‘trainer’ style fit if that’s your preference
- Easy to look after
- Generally lighter than a full leather boot
- More options available on colour and style
- Generally cheaper than leather boots
- May not last as long as leather boots
- Not as protective
- Not as naturally supportive as leather
What is the difference between hiking and walking boots?
There’s no real difference between the two, but there is between a hiking boot and a walking shoe. The biggest disparity is that you’ll notice the traditional ankle support found on a boot is missing on a shoe – which can mean less support and potentially more bashed ankles. They’ll also have thinner soles than a boot, so it’s no surprise that a shoe is also much lighter. Shoes are usually more comfortable, but can be less durable and are therefore more suited over flat or shorter distances.