With warmer weather on the way, the stay-at-home order lifted and summer holidays back on the cards, now is the perfect time to turn your lockdown walking habit into a hiking hobby.
A great way to do that is to invest in a pair of walking boots, which will keep you comfortable and injury free however far you ramble. Boots aren’t just about keeping your feet happy, either: your footwear affects everything from your spine to your speed.
Lockdown has turned our reviewers into obsessive hikers, so these boots were tested across all kinds of terrain and weather, on our favourite local trails and further afield among the boulders and ridges of the Lake District.
We looked for a variety of supportive styles, including high and mid-cut boots (the higher the cut, the more the support), fabric and leather uppers, lightweight and sturdy.
Traditionally, high-end walking boots are made of leather – but excellent innovations around man-made materials mean that we found some excellent vegan-friendly boots to include.
With so much variety out there, picking the perfect boot can be a bit of a minefield, so we asked Steve Roberts, managing director at Scarpa UK, who specialise in the kind of boots you can summit in, for some advice.
For tips on leather vs fabric and how to break in your boots, see the FAQ below. Steve recommends matching the style of boot you buy to the terrain you plan to walk in.
A mid cut boot would do for flat trails or coastal paths, but a supportive boot is best for steep hills (particularly with a pack).
The further off the beaten track you are, the more likely you are to encounter wet, muddy, boggy terrain – so look for a boot with protection and waterproofing/repellency.
Soles tend to match the style of the upper: so a higher cut, more supportive boot will also have a more aggressive sole with multidirectional cleats for propulsion and grip.
With shops reopening this month, it’s best to visit an outdoor gear specialist to try on your boots – some even have artificial slopes and terrain samples in some stores so you can get a sense of how your boot feels going up or downhill.
If you buy online, however, consider buying a size larger than your usual shoe. You will want to wear thick hiking socks in your boots as your feet will expand as the day goes on, and the added weight of a pack increases your toe spread (how much room you need in the toe of the boot).
It’s really important to get the fit right because blisters can ruin even the most glorious walk.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Scarpa maverick GTX women
The perfect boot for spring and summer walking, these technical but versatile shoes felt to us like a hybrid between Scarpa’s approach shoes (grippy shoes to get you over rocks to the crag) and mountain boots. Lightweight, waterproof and yet still breathable, the mid-cut feels dynamic like a trainer, but supportive enough for hills and rocks, and for wearing with a pack.
For our reviewer, these shoes epitomised out-of-the-box comfort, and didn’t take any breaking in (she wore hiking socks during testing). They’re great boots if you like city walking as well as a long weekend ramble, the ultra-supportive, firm insole is brilliant if you ever suffer from back ache after really long walks. They’re vegan-friendly, too.
Craghoppers salado mid boot
Feature-rich boots from one of our favourite outdoor brands. Comfortable and technical, they have all the structure and support you need in a tough pair of boots – classic vibram soles, a tough but flexible upper, and a ghillie lacing system that means you can keep them snug to your foot without risking any abrasion.
But the smart extras are what make these boots stand out. The Craghopper’s nosilife insect repellent fabric on the outer, plus an absolutely ingenious in-built insect cover that you can pull over the boots at night if you’re camping to stop creepy crawlies from greeting you in the morning.
Scarpa SL activ women
These could be your boots for life, and we don’t say that lightly. Look after these sturdy leather boots – treating them with weatherproofing cream around once a season – and they will look after you. An all-season boot for the mountains, they are at home on rugged, rocky terrain, with a high cut and a rubber rand all the way around to protect you from any abrasion. They’re not strictly waterproof, because they’re leather, but we have strolled through fords and puddles in them all day without any issues.
Our reviewer found them comfortable from the off, but other walkers have found they need a lot of breaking in – around 30 miles (not in one go!). We loved the aggressive (crampon compatible) sole, which sheds clumpy mud as you walk. The boots to buy if your hike will find you ankle deep in mud, clambering over rock fields or packing any serious weight.
Columbia trailstorm mid waterproof show
A technical shoe that’s still perfect for city walks, these comfy boots are waterproof but breathable, with fantastic support around the mid foot thanks to the flexible, looped lacing. The thick but responsive sole means they feel reassuringly rigid when you’re traversing and protective over sharp rocks, but they still have enough flex to wear for longer ambles, flat trails and paths.
Best of all, though, are the colours: highlights on women’s hiking boots are almost always some shade of pink. With their soft or bright blue flashes and cool neon sole, these boots are a welcome change.
Merrell moab speed mid GTX
Merrell makes some of our favourite walking shoes, and these cool boots take one of their most popular trail shoes – Moab – and adds in the ultra-supportiveness of a boot cut for longer, hiller walks. Vegan-friendly, they also have impeccable eco credentials, including recycled lining, laces and top sheet. Even the sole – top-of-the line, ultra grippy Vibram – is an eco blend. Lightweight and comfortable right out of the box, we loved them for shorter, faster walks, urban journeys and towpath trails.
Vango grivola W
Brilliant boots with all the features of more expensive pairs, at almost half the price. Comfortable and supportive, these boots feel steadying and fitted all the way up the ankle, making them brilliant for hilly walks and rocky terrain.
The sole has excellent grip, even in wet conditions, and the comfortable but moulded insole helps on longer walks. The boots are waterproof and we had no problems at all walking in puddles and heavy rain, and we found them to be perfectly breathable in the cooler weather we tested them in.
Keen tempo flex waterproof hiking boots
Fast, fabulous and flexible, these were some of the best looking boots we tested, and so lightweight we hit the hills at a run. A cross between trainers, approach shoes and walking boots, they are ideal for walking in warmer weather, or when you’re trying to cut weight for a trip where you also have to carry camping gear.
The flex “bellows” in the toe is an amazing innovation that makes walking over variable terrain significantly easier – it takes a little bit of breaking in, but these shoes are so stylish you’ll find plenty of opportunities to do that.
Jack Wolfskin force striker texapore mid
With vibram soles and Jack Wolfskin’s fantastic texapore waterproof outer, these versatile boots are a blend of some of the best hiking tech available. Outrageously comfortable, the combination of a wide forefoot and an innovative, supportive and grippy mid-sole – the kind you get on running shoes designed to stop you from heel striking – makes it easy to find your stride, despite being in structured boots. The strong, rubber toe plate is good at protecting from stubbed toes without being uncomfortable on the descents.
The North Face women's vectiv exploris futurelight
Really gorgeous boots that are as hi-tech as they look. Weighing in at just 714g for the pair, they were by far the lightest shoes we tried – and they felt like it, with a sneaker-style fit and fast stride. But even though they’re featherweight and flexible, the robust lugs on the sole and the durable mesh outer – which is waterproof and rip proof – made us feel perfectly secure over tricky terrain and in the hills. The bright white boots are an awesome statement, but a darker colour might be better if you’re expecting mud.
FAQ with Steve Roberts, managing director, Scarpa UK
Leather vs fabric boots
“A well made leather boot has spent a long time (upwards of 24 hours) being moulded on a unique foot shape known as a “last”. A well “lasted boot” will provide a long term sculpted fit that provides support and function. Leather is a fantastically durable material and easy to care for.
“‘Fabric boots’ are usually derived from a hybrid of modern fabrics that are lightweight, instantly comfortable and quick drying. Fabric boots usually require an added waterproof membrane such as Gore Tex to provide water resistance. They can be more challenging to maintain performance than an all leather boot.”
How long will boots take to break in?
“A modern well made boot will provide ‘out of the box comfort’. The more supportive the internal midsole and the more supportive the upper will dictate the amount of time the materials will take to optimally mould around your foot. A modern lightweight fabric boot will feel optimum on day one, in contrast leather will feel comfortable out the box, but will get better and better with more miles”.
How should I look after my new boots?
“All boots will benefit from regular cleaning and application of care products, these vary from waxes and creams for leather and paint on applications for fabric boots. On wet days endeavour to dry your boots as naturally as possible. Removing the footbed will aid drying and these can be periodically replaced to reinstate shock absorption”.
What should I consider when buying hiking boots?
“Once you have narrowed your choice on an appropriate style, the most crucial selection comes down to the best fit for your foot shape. The best way to do this is to try multiple pairs on at an outdoor specialist store, where you will usually find both a broad selection of styles and expert advice. If you have to buy on-line, we would recommend trying a number of pairs and wearing them around the home to ensure you feel entirely happy with your selection before venturing out on that first walk”.
The verdict: Women’s hiking boots
Scarpa’s maverick boots are technically brilliant, comfortable on the first wear and good for speedy city walking as well as technical hikes which is why they’re our best buy. But Craghoppers’ cool boots are equally creative and versatile which we think will be ideal for camping trips.
Add a pair of the best women’s walking trousers to your rambling wardrobe
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