The New Year is a great time to be getting into walking, with many people discovering the benefits both to body and soul that a good hike in the country brings. It’s often said walking is free, but to be safe, comfortable and protected against the elements, it is best to spend some money on kit – especially if you are going to be going walking often.
But a quick look at an outdoor retailer’s website shows there’s kit aplenty… so what’s the best item to get?
Walking boots. If you buy only one item specifically for walking, buy a good pair of walking boots.
The reason? If your feet are dry, comfortable and supported, then there is a much better chance of you enjoying your eight mile walk than if you are wearing wholly unsuitable wet, soggy trainers.
When you’ve got boots at £35 and some at £175, there’s obviously a difference between what goes into them, and ultimately how good they will fare in different conditions. The higher priced boots will feature Gore-Tex – the last name in waterproofing – and have a Vibram outsole - which is like having Michelin tyres for your feet.
The lower priced boots won’t have these, and will talk about being waterproof and providing good grip. The art here though is to work out what kind of walking you’ll be doing, and then get the right boots for that. Gore-Tex and Vibram aren’t really needed if you’re going to be walking mainly on the flat in good weather.
So here’s our pick of ten of the best men’s walking boots on the market today.
1. Regatta Borderline Mid: £100, Cotswold Outdoor
Regatta is well known for quality products at sensible prices, and this pair’s a case in point. They’re good-looking with lots of features found on expensive boots, such as seam seals and heel and toe bumpers. Ideal for regular, medium-length walks (eight to 12 miles) on a mix of terrains.
2. Berghaus Explorer Trek Plus GTX: £98, amazon
These are lightweight, immensely waterproof and very comfortable – all thanks to Gore-Tex materials. They look striking too and the suede adds some style as well as being practical. They’ll handle everything up to hard-core rock scrambling.
3. Mammut T Advanced GTX: £137, amazon
These boots, from Swiss company Mammut, are based on the successful T Aenergy GTX model, so have great parentage. In my view, they’re the most comfortable, possibly down to the cushioning memory foam. Gore-Tex provides excellent waterproofing and the grip is outstanding.
4. Asolo Power Matic 200 GV: £195, amazon
These serious hiking boots, from Italian outfit Asolo, are most suited to challenging terrains and long-distance hikes. A one-piece leather upper together with Gore-Tex lining ensures excellent waterproofing, and shock absorbing systems make for a comfortable walk.
5. Hi-Tec V-Lite Helvellyn WP: £80, amazon
I’m a big fan of Hi-Tec, especially these Helvellyns. Clean lines and an attractive dark colour on the leather upper go together with the Vibram rubber outsole, providing good grip. They’re some of the lightest you’ll find for this price.
6. Mountain Warehouse Rapid: £35, amazon
Mountain Warehouse is unique in the UK in only stocking its own products – not a problem, as it produces some decent stuff. These are suited to medium-distance walking, have a welcome degree of padding around the tongue and ankle support. Surprisingly comfy.
7. Scarpa Primitive: £160, amazon
Primitive by name, but not by nature. Handmade in Italy, these take their cue from Scarpa’s legendary 80830 mountaineering boot – and the pedigree shows. Hardwearing, rugged, stylish and with a serious amount of lacing, these are the best for fell walking but are the most expensive in the list.
8. Peter Storm Brecon: £49, Millets
These are pretty sturdy boots which will suit most people’s walking uses. They’re fairly waterproof thanks to an all-leather upper and the rubber outsole provides good traction. The design of the toe section suggests keeping it to low-level hikes.
9. Karrimor Munro: £38, amazon
Despite the name, these are more suited to a relaxed weekend walk than a hike up a Scottish mountain, but leather uppers and a sole with fairly decent grip, makes them a good budget choice.
10. Freedom Trail Lowland II WP Mid: £30, GO Outdoors
These are no-frills, value-for-money boots, with a clue for their intended use in the name. They’re entry-level boots that offer good support around the ankle, are fairly waterproof and if it’s a concern for you, these are a ‘vegan construction’ – no animal products have been used in the boot.
It’s always tricky to suggest a best buy in a range from £35 to £175. It’s horses for courses and depends a lot on where, how far and how often you are going to go walking. I wouldn’t go up Ben Nevis in the Freedom Trail Lowlands, but then walking on most National Trust walks in the Scarpa Primitives is overkill.
So, that said, my Best Buy, taking everything into account, is the Regatta Borderline Mid. Keenly priced, good-looking and with a great level of support, grip and waterproofing for the price, I’d feel happy doing both Ben Nevis and National Trust walks in them.
Andrew White is a writer, filmmaker and broadcaster. He edits the website Walks Around Britain and a television series of the same name starts on the Community Channel on January 22 at 9pm.
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