Best walking boots 2020: the best hiking boots for outdoor adventures
Waterproof, rugged, and comfy to boot - we've tested the best walking boots.
Whether you want something to wear when walking the dog, hate getting wet feet in winter, or plan on tackling the north face of the Eiger, you need the best walking boots,. The choice of the best hiking boots on offer is beyond extensive, but we’ve whittled that choice down to avoid confusion and offer something for every level of activity.
The type of boot you need is dependent on the terrain. Before picking a pair, think carefully about the type of ground you are likely to encounter. If you’re sticking to marked paths, lightweight, flex and comfort are key, and all walking boots offer more support than a standard shoe.
If you will be walking over rocky ground, across scree slopes, or are considering some scrambling, you need something with a stiff sole and good ankle support. The stiff sole allows you to confidently balance on small edges, while ankle support keeps everything in place.
Of course, many walks include lots of different types of terrain, so a bit of both is often a good idea.
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX are excellent all-rounder boots, sturdy and exceptionally comfortable. A layer of Gore-Tex also keeps your feet dry even during long, wet hikes.
Occasional walkers and those new to the hobby should also consider the Quechua MH500 Mid. They may not have the same grade of water resistance as the Salomon, but are superb value at just £54.99.
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A superb option for the beginner/intermediate hiker who wants a boot that’s comfortable all day while still offering good grip and dry socks. They’re not as sturdy as some, but for the price it’s impossible to grumble.
Our top pick thanks to their secure fit, long-lasting build quality and instant comfort, this traditional style boot will give you confidence when traversing uneven terrain. The deep, aggressive outsole will power you up the hills while the Gore-Tex layer shrugs off water.
The expert's view
Before we head into the test proper, a couple of boot-buying tips. Take the time to get your feet correctly measured, as sizing differs between brands. It doesn’t matter how good your boots are, if they don’t fit properly you’ll hate them, the walk and everyone around you!
And please don’t scrimp on socks as they can make a big difference on a day’s walk. Spend more than you think you should on a pair that won’t bunch up or cause friction. Your feet will thank you for it.
Best walking boots: the shortlist
1. Danner Trail 2650 GTX MID
Danner’s latest ultralight (790g per pair) mid height hiking boot has a rugged leather and textile upper with Gore Tex liner to keep your feet dry in wet grass and muddy trails. Combine this with the lightweight EVA midsole, a fit that holds the heel securely while giving plenty of space for toes and super grippy Vibram sole and you’re set, even if you’re just mooching to the pub in the rain. Not for mountains, but great for trails.
2. Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
Support, comfort and stability in all conditions, this exceptional boot has a high ankle-protecting design, Gore-Tex and leather for waterproofing, deep, aggressive outsole that rarely ever slips, and all-metal lacing that holds tight all day. They’re not for the fashion conscious, but a sound investment for your feet.
3. Adidas Terrex Free Hiker GTX
These three-quarter height sock style walking boots are typically made from stretchy Primeknit - a material typically found on ADIDAS running shoes - but here the knit has been swapped out for a super thick layer of Gore-tex so water just runs off, while still being as comfortable as possible. Combine with the Continental rubber outsole and Torsion bar and you’ve got a sneaker with added smarts ideal for wet urban winters and casual hiking.
4. Hoka One One Sky Kaha
Pronounced ‘Ho-Kah Own-ay Own-ay’ and they’re the fastest growing running shoe brand on the planet. But the Sky Kaha is designed for walking, and the use of running tech and comfort means you get a flawless fit with sneaker-like softness and a surprising amount of support for something so light. If you like scrambling they’re brilliant and the gentle convex sole and three-layer foam midsole positively encourages forward movement, while the Vibram sole grips effortlessly in all conditions.
5. Columbia SH/FT
A rival to Adidas TERREX for street style and rugged design, these are more high performance sneaker than true walking boot, but we defy you not to love the supreme comfort and on-trend looks. The stretchy knit style couldn't be comfier and it’s reassuringly waterproof, while the midsole features a dual compound cushioning composite that positively bounces along, but don’t expect walking boot levels of support.
6. Merrell MQM Flex Mid GORE-TEX
A great value boot with waterproof Gore-Tex, comfortable mesh and TPU upper construction and reassuringly solid metal lacing hooks and eyelets. You’ll not be wowed by the design, but they will hold your heel securely, the sole will absorb the trail well meaning you’ll not have aching feet even after a long day’s walking.
7. Decathlon Quechua NH100 Mid
Sturdier and more comfortable that the price could ever predict, these boots aren’t going to see you to the top of any epic ascents, but if they’re all you can afford and you need something with reliable grip for walking the dog, or enjoying footpaths they’ll do well, although they’re not waterproof so long grass and deep puddles will mean wet socks.
8. Decathlong Quechua MH500 Mid
A superb option for the beginner hiker who wants a boot that’s comfortable all day, offers trustworthy grip and impressively the waterproof membrane has been tested to withstand a 12km walk in water up to mid-point of the upper. It’s a minor miracle they cost £55, but trust us, they happily held their own in this test against boost triple the price.
9. Mammut Kento High GTX
A quality mountaineering boot designed to help you on the most arduous ascents. Stiffer than the rest on test, but this gives you a huge amount of support on any surface especially if you’re also carrying a heavy pack. There’s Gore Tex and leather for staying dry plus grippy Michelin sole a superb lacing configuration and they’re crampon compatible for when things get really serious.
10. AKU Trekker Pro GTX
A totally waterproof Gore-Tex lined boot for moderate hills and mountains, the technical upper is made of nubuck leather and the big toe bumper protects your feet and increases the boot’s lifespan. The sole is flexible enough to make walking on flat terrain comfortable, but stiff enough to give you the stability you need for more technical terrain, ably assisted by the Vibram grip. The cleverly designed midsole has two layers to reduce impact and improve weight distribution.
Best walking boots: how we selected to test
Leading outdoor retailers such as Cotswold Outdoor, Blacks and Millets sells hundreds of walking boots, shoes, trail running shoes, mountaineering boots and wellies. It’s a daunting selection for the inexperienced but we’ve chosen our top 10 based on a number of criteria.
We’ve kept clear of the most advanced mountaineering boots. Our reasoning is that anyone looking to climb Everest will already be an experienced hiker. But we have chosen boots from professional climbing brands such as Salomon, AKU and Mammut that all have features that will - if you’re so inclined - help you progress from foot paths to scrambling and climbing.
We also looked for technically innovative boots from brands such as Hoka One One, which combine trail running tech and lightweight construction methods. These types of boots could well be the future, and while unquestionably expensive and a bit ‘different’ they are impossible to ignore.
Similarly, the new hybrid street style boots from brands like Adidas and Columbia are designed to appeal to the young urban dweller who wants to get out more. We may not be quite so young, but the combination of grip, comfort, style and waterproofing make these hugely practical.
And finally, we chose two boots from Decathlon as they represent the largest outdoor brand on the planet and as a result manage to keep costs remarkably low. Obviously, cheap rarely means good, but we were keen to find out if they could be the exception, and help everyone explore the great outdoors a bit more.
Best walking boots: how we tested
Testing walking boots when based in London is trickier than you’d imagine, but with Epping Forest on our doorstep and a very athletic dog to walk for hours a day, we had plenty of opportunity to get off road.
We also took our potential best buys to the Lake District to make sure they could handle rougher terrain across longer all-day walks both with and without backpacks.
We also wore boots around the office. No, we appreciate they're not designed for smart casual lunch meetings, but a few hours in each boot, whether walking around or sitting at the desk tells you a lot about the overall comfort, and quickly proves if a boot requires breaking in.
image credit: DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0 / visiteppingforest.org
Best Walking Roots Reviews: The test results
During our test trip to the Lake District we had to limit our time wearing the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX in order to get enough walking time with the rest of the boots. But we didn't want to. They just feel good, with a secure but comfortable fit and a sole that loved mud, rock, streams and paths.
We swapped boots mid-walk - to the Quechua MH500 Mid - and while there’s a lot to like about this bargain boot we instantly longed to be back in the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX. Side by side the gulf of difference between the two instantly justifies the higher price.
You might find the same level of hiking nirvana in any number of the boots on test because they all offered an unexpectedly high level of comfort. Even the stiffer Mammut Kento High GTX and AKU Trekker Pro GTX pairs didn’t once feel like they were rubbing.
Both these boots are ideal for a more experienced hiker looking to tackle steeper ascents while carrying a pack. But if you’re going to be walking on more tow paths than glaciers the Merrell MQM Flex Mid or Danner Trail 2650 GTX MIDoffer grip, support and waterproofing without the weight.
And speaking of weight, the Hoka One One Sky Kaha, while not the lightest on test, certainly feel it, with a huge sole and sci-fi worthy construction.
You feel like you’re wearing pillows on your feet, and while that’s not going to keep the traditionalists happy - or be as reliable on technical terrain - if you’re looking to add a spring to your step, they’re ideal. The curved rocker sole does feel a little bit odd to begin with, but once moving you’ll barely notice.
Walking boots are far from fashion items, but the new breed of hybrid trainers are finally bringing a bit of street style to the country stile. Of the two designs tested, the Adidas Terrex is the closest to being a traditional walking boot, with a nice high ankle and reassuringly grippy rubber sole.
The Columbia SH/FT have a similar cuffed design, albeit lower, but both are hugely enjoyable to wear. We found ourselves putting them on instead of a traditional pair of trainers, especially in wet weather, and nobody ever accused us of wearing walking boots in the pub. Great for active lifestyles and anyone who doesn’t want to be scared of hills or muddy puddles.
And finally the Quechua NH100 Mid from Decathlon, a laughably cheap pair of boots that give your ankles support, are reliable underfoot. And while extended sojourns through long grass will leave you with soggy feet, they remain an ultra-affordable option to kickstart your outdoor adventures.
The best walking boots reviewed:
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX - £180
Compared to the sneaker-like fit of the new breed of hiking hybrid boots, pulling on the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX can feel like you’re wearing ski boots, but don’t confuse squishy comfort with all-day support. It took less than a kilometer to know these boots were brilliant.
They’re a traditional style boot, and while attractive compared to many similar models, they’re not a hybrid, so hardly right for the pub. But forget about aesthetics, this boot is built for walking. Stomping along flooded pathways, scrambling over tree roots, climbing steep rocky sections, this boot filled us with confidence.
The high sided design won’t stop you twisting your ankle, but provides an added dimension to your footing, which combines brilliantly with the deep, aggressive outsole that refused to slip, even on wet tiles back at home.
The all-metal lacing system grips the laces securely, and once tightened only the top two eyelets can come loose - which is probably your fault for tying a terrible bow.
While nowhere near as bouncy as some, the thick EVA foam midsole design still offers plenty of shock absorption in the heel and the ball of the foot. This isn’t a ‘stiff’ boot in mountaineering terms, and will take a little getting used to if you’re upgrading from wellies, but the support and stability will soon become addictive. If you walk with a rucksack - or small child in a sling - you will appreciate the build quality and performance.
Finally, the suede nubuck leather and a rugged fabric upper looks and feels like it will last for years, and the rubberised toe cap means stubbed feet won’t instantly mean scuffed boots. The leather does a good job repelling water, but it’s backed up brilliantly by the Gore-Tex waterproof membrane that shrugs off streams. Unless you let water in the big hole where your foot goes your toes will stay warm and dry in even the worst conditions.
The best walking boots for value reviewed:
QUECHUA MH500 Mid, £54.99, decathlon.co.uk
A superb option for the beginner/intermediate hiker who wants a boot that’s comfortable all day, offers trustworthy grip and waterproofing. It’s a minor miracle they cost £55, but trust us, they happily held their own in this test against boots triple the price.
Let us start with the aesthetics. They look great, with stylish colour combinations and all the right accents and accoutrements you’d expect from a good pair of boots. The padded tongue is sealed with a generous amount of material to help keep water out and the sole is the right side of chunky. They’re eye catching in a good way, and we even received compliments from people who couldn’t believe the price.
The sole design really impressed and felt good on rocky paths and gripped well on wet rock and muddy paths. The toe is covered in an extra thick layer - typically known as a stone guard - that helps the boots survive the odd scrape and stumble.
Decathlon uses something called EVOFIT, which it claims adapts to the shape of your foot, helping personalise the fit. We’re not totally sure what they mean - all shoes do that to some extent - but they were very comfortable over a 9km hike.
It’s worth noting the laces never needed tightening, but the toe section of the boot was quite large, so - as always - it’s worth trying on, as slim footed folks may appreciate dropping by half a size.
They’re also waterproof. It was with some trepidation we stepped into a small stream to test this theory but the water ran off with ease. Don’t expect it to do this forever, and after a long walk our toes were a little compromised, but it performs superbly for the price.
Our only issue with these boots was that they did get quite soft quite quickly. The new boot rigidity that lasted so well with the Salomon or Mammut isn’t here. They’ll not turn to slippers overnight, but the material will stretch and soften.
Comparing the rest on test
While the Salomon and Decathlon take the two top spots, all of the boots we tested have plenty to offer.
Looking at the most ‘serious’ boots, there’s a lot to love about the Salomon, Mammut and AKU designs, especially if you’re looking to spend a lot of time in the hills.
These stiffer boots are ideal if you’re going to be walking for hours with a heavy backpack. They don’t have the bouncy soles of the Hoka One One or Adidas design but this is a good thing if you’re fully loaded and scrambling on uneven ground. The hard edge sole helps you feel more confident on edges, ledges and rocks in general.
These designs are worth trying before you buy, and remember they will take a bit of getting used to, but in all the hours of testing we didn’t get a single blister. In the past walking boots needed breaking in, but none here needed more than half an hour to feel comfortable. All feet are different however, so please check first, and wear proper walking socks.
The Merrell are an excellent value boot with loads going for them, and if you want maximum performance and reliable features like Gore-Tex you won’t be disappointed. One of the lightest and comfiest straight from the box with a forgiving fit and squishy insole, and the mesh toe section aids breathability, but you might feel the chill in winter.
The Adidas Terrex Free Hiker GTX are another Gore-Tex pair that will keep you bone dry but your feet may well get cold quicker than most. That said, the trainer-like fit - as with the Columbia SH/FT - and bouncy sole means breaking into a jog feels almost inevitable.
These trainer hybrids also look great so you’re likely to wear them more often instead of leaving in the boot of the car. You’ll need to be quite sure-footed to try any tricky trails in them, but for dog walking, urban adventures and getting out and about without wet toes they’re highly recommended.
Arguably, if you want a boot that’s good-looking and comes with good levels of support the Danner Trail 2650 GTX MID tick the right box.
Also available in a trail shoe, they are reliable, waterproof and supportive and just a bit more grown-up than the Adidas and Columbia.
The Hoka One One Sky Kaha are a bit of a left field entry here, combining trail and road running tech into a brilliantly light boot. The huge sole did make us feel a bit self conscious, but once we started overtaking all comers on the footpaths we started to love them.
They’re quick, comfortable and as fun as a walking boot gets.
And finally a word about the £15 Quechue NH100 Mid from Decathlon. Yes they’re laughably cheap, but if you want a pair of boots with a good grippy sole and ankle support and have almost zero budget these will do you proud.
We would recommend you push the budget up a bit - the Quechua MH500 Mid are only £50-odd - and look for something with better waterproofing and a more robust fit, but they’re still a better option than hiking in your Brogues.
Any walking boots to avoid?
We’ve not come across any truly awful walking boots during this test, but we have read plenty of negative reviews for almost every brand. But read between the lines and you soon realise that many people have simply bought the wrong boots for their needs.
It can be tempting to choose a super-rugged pair of mountain boots because they’re flashy and full of tech, but you’ll soon find they’re completely unsuitable for walking the dog.
Likewise, the latest ranges of comfortable rugged trainers are great for being on your feet all day and walking off-road, but you wouldn’t want to rely on them if you have a wall of scree to scramble up. If you do your research and head to a decent outdoor retailer to try on as many pairs as you can you feet will thank you for the effort.