We’ve rounded up the best walking shoes on the market to find the perfect balance between a walking boot and a trainer, that’ll take you from a dog walk to a level 3 scramble and guarantee you'll always stay one step ahead.
Shoes are, arguably, the most important item of clothing when it comes to preventing injury, offering support and optimising performance. With advances in footwear technology happening all the time, the market is constantly upgrading and changing. Walking shoes offer many of the same features as walking boots, but are much more light-weight, making them perfect for the summer months.
As we finally move into warmer months your trusty, well-insulated walking boots might start to feel a little too heavy and warm. So, leave your extra thick hiking socks at home, because we’ve found the best selection of walking shoes that offer the perfect middle ground between a walking boot and a trainer that will ensure you always put your best foot forward. Just remember to get a good pair of hiking trousers to make sure it’s not just your feet that are weatherproof.
And don’t forget trail running either. One of our testers admitted that he’s almost addicted: ‘When your house buying decisions are based on how close you are to the nearest trail, you know you have the trail running bug, ‘ he says. Opt for a trail running pair and you’ll be able to walk in (generally superb) comfort and go for a more active run when the mood strikes.
Hoka One One are best known for their trail running shoes, but their hiking shoes are superb and markedly less ‘trainery’, if you’d rather avoid some of the louder options on this page. They’re impressive pieces of footwear, though, with a real heft of walking boot solidity along with just enough sports shoe-style flexibility. An excellent choice that’s subtle and versatile.
At the other end of the design-subtlety spectrum (and brand new to the shelves) are Saucony’s Endorphin Trail, using the ‘Speedroll’ technology previously only seen in their road trainers. Stepping into the shoe is a pretty impressive experience, super comfortable and — more importantly if you’re looking for something to run in as well as walk in — a real lightweight feel.
The outsole with 4.5mm lugs provides decent grip for gravel tracks, and light trails, perfect for year-round training, and yet it’s not so rugged as to be unsuitable for running the first/or last few miles on tarmac at the start or end of your trail run. With many of the new thick stack trainers, whether on trail or road, the faster you go the faster and more responsive they feel and the Endorphin trails are no different in that regard. At a steady or slow pace they feel supportive and highly cushioned. At a faster pace they propel you forward.
You’ll never get one shoe that’s perfect for everything (Country Life’s Dean Usher, who tested these for us, admits to owning ‘four pairs — that my wife knows about!). So the question is where do these fit in? ‘They’d be a great addition to your trail running cupboard, great for long recovery or steady trail runs or shorter speed sessions,’ Dean concludes.
Is it a plane? Is it a car? Is it a watch? Frankly, who knows with a name like that. This pair from Inov-8 are made using a Graphene grip (‘G grip’) for optimum traction over terrains and are best suited to a fast hike or running over ‘diverse and unpredictable terrain’. The shoes are created using Gore-Tex technology which makes them waterproof and at just 315 grams, this is a great, lightweight option which will keep your feet dry. Suddenly the name is starting to make a bit more sense.
This pair from Merrell are lined with Gore-Tex to ensure your feet stay dry but breathable in both wet and hot weather, and feature a Vibrant TC5+ outsole which is said to offer maximum grip over various terrains. Comfort plays a huge part in these shoes, as they have a moulded nylon arch shank, a contoured footbed and an air cushion in the heel — guaranteed to keep your feet happy.
Scarpa appear twice on this list — if you’re looking for something ‘all-season’, their Vortex series below; but their Cyrus range will delight those looking for modern technology in a traditional-looking walking shoe, this will fit the bill beautifully. A nubuck leather upper plus Gore-Tex inner lining means they’ll look good and keep your feet dry; they’re eve guaranteed for three years, which is pretty good going considering the sort of punishment these sorts of shoes can take.
Falling into the more trainer aesthetic category is the X Raise Gore-Tex shoe from Salomon. But do not be fooled, this pair is made from a waterproof Gore-Tex membrane, features a protective toe-cap (very useful for rocky paths), a reinforced heel for support and a quicklace system ‘for easy adjustments.’ They come in a range of colours, but we like the vintage khaki/navy blazer/poseidon option as its something different.
A heavier-duty option comes in the form of this pair from Scarpa, offering a ‘shoe for all seasons’. With a Gore-Tex lining ensuring they remain waterproof and windproof, and a Dynatech 2 sole unit for extra support and grip, these shoes are walking boots in disguise.
Designed for hiking, these shoes from Northface would also work just as well around a city and are guaranteed to delight the most fashion-conscious trekkers — though traditionalists need not apply, for these really are almost tennis-shoe looking. They’re ultra breathable with a lightweight fabric, and ensure you remain stable on uneven surfaces with heel-positioning technology and rubber compounds for grip.
Designed for hiking, these shoes feature a protective toe-cap which offers extra support over rocky and ‘unpredictable’ terrain. The fabric is also waterproof yet breathable, and uses omni-tech construction, which makes them great in all conditions. With a slightly higher reach around the ankles and Ghillie lacing, the shoes offer optimum support whilst still being incredibly light. A great all-round option.