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With Spring on it’s way, it’s the ideal time to invest in a pair of walking shoes, to get out into the great British countryside and enjoy the varied, beautiful terrain
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.
Here are ten of our favourite hiking shoes for women on the market at the moment.
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.
Key specs – Weight: 387g; Waterproof? Water-resistant; Colour options: 4; Sizes: 5-12
If you want a walking shoe that can still tackle tough mountain adventures just like your favourite hiking boots can, Keen’s brand new WK400 low shoe be your new best mate.
This eye-catching shoe uses Keen’s latest innovation to help you hike further – ‘Keen Curve’ are wide, bouncy soles designed to make each stride easier and more comfortable, and on test we definitely found them light and freeing to wear over longer distances. These are definitely a comfortable pair of shoes to wear on all-day strolls, and are also water-resistant enough to tackle puddles and light rain.
A great choice for summer hikes.
Key specs – Weight: 250g; Waterproof? No; Colour options: 4; 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 impressively comfortable Tracker Deacon Low is the perfect summer walking shoe if you don’t like heavy, clunky footwear – it’s very lightweight at just 250g per shoe, moulds nicely to the foot and feels very freeing to wear thanks to a breathable wool upper and flexible leather sides. While the soles are designed to be thin and flexible, they provide good protection from rocks and uneven trails.
Key specs – Weight: 470g; Waterproof? Yes; Colour options: 1; Sizes: 4-8
The adventure-ready Rocket may be one of the most expensive shoes in our roundup, but it also offers some of the best quality, and should last you for years with a bit of care. 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, fully waterproof trainers will go anywhere you do, and can deal with sudden mountain storms and challenging hiking as well as just popping down the pub.
Thick Vibram soles make these one of the heavier walking shoes we tested, but that reliable rugged grip is worth the extra few grams.
Key specs – Weight: 345g; Waterproof? yes; Colour options: 3; Sizes: 3.5-9
No more slipping and sliding in foul weather – Salomon’s new X Ward trainer offers the kind of heavy duty, grippy rubber soles we’d expect to find on hiking boots or work footwear. Deep lugs keep you firmly on the ground, while a tough protective toe box makes your tootsies safe on uneven, rocky ground.
A Gore-Tex membrane is reliably waterproof, and the soft suede leather upper is light and flexible around the foot. A hardy, well-made choice, and the X Ward’s neutral colourways make it ideal for working as well as walking out-of-doors.
Key specs – Weight: 410g; Waterproof? yes; Colour options: four; Sizes: 3.5-9
If you love long-distance walking trails and hiking holidays, you’ll need a walking shoe that can keep up, day after day. Hanwag’s new Blueridge Low Lady was made for walking, with a deep tread for confident striding and Hanwag’s own-brand Ecoshell waterproof membrane to repel rain.
This shoe is the perfect balance of cosy on chilly mountain trails and breathable on hot summer hikes, so you’ll be comfy day after day. Great for wearing from spring until autumn, and with good sustainability creds, too.
Key specs – Weight: n/a; Waterproof? no; Colour options: 3; Sizes: 3.5-9
All things bright and beautiful – stand out in Timberland’s new Greenstride Motion 6, which has the technical chops of a hiking shoe wrapped up in urban styling that looks the part in the city.
The Greenstride deserves its eco name, too – it’s made with 50% recycled materials and 75% biobased materials, including sugar cane. This attractive shoe also stands out for comfort – it’s as comfy and cushioning as it looks, making it ideal for all-day walking adventures.
Just stick to groomed trails, as the grip is limited.
Key specs – Weight: 350g; Waterproof? yes; Colour options: 2; Sizes: 3-8.5
If you’re looking for the solid quality and performance of your winter hiking boots in a more flexible and breathable summer model, pick Ariat’s Skyline Low. This premium-feeling leather trainer looks great – and it’s brilliant to hike in, too, as the leather is naturally waterproof and warm but lined with breathable mesh.
Despite its solid looks, this shoe is pleasingly lightweight and bouncy underfoot. And unlike some leather shoes, the Skyline Lows are comfortable straight out of the box, and don’t need any painful breaking in. The supple leather will mould to your feet with wear for a custom fit, too.
Key specs – Weight: 280g; Waterproof? Water-resistant; Colour options: 4; Sizes: 4-12
Fully vegan and made from natural and recycled materials, Bahe’s flagship Recharge trainer is an easy choice if you’re shopping for a planet-friendly walking shoe.
It’s also a great all-rounder if you want footwear you can walk in but also wear casually, and we love the Recharges smart looks and four neutral colourways, which are a far cry from some bulky walking shoe models.
Even better, you can run as well as walk on trails in these comfy shoes. A great quiver-of-one trainer.
Key specs – Weight: 508g; Waterproof? Yes; Colour options: 2; Sizes: 6-10.5
Not all waterproof walking shoes are created equal – Vasque’s Talus is in the top handful of models that really will keep rain, puddles, even snow firmly away from your socks thanks to a waterproof membrane coupled with the natural waterproofing and durability of leather.
There’s good grip provided by Vibram soles and a comfy midsole that moulds quickly to your feet. The downside is that this is a heavy hiking shoe – don’t pick the Talus if you like a barely-there feel.