Walking shoes and boots come in handy if you're going fastpacking, peak bagging, hiking, or even just, y’know, walking. Clue’s in the name.
How to shop for walking shoes and boots
The perfect walking shoe or boot should be luxuriously comfortable, unstintingly waterproof, heroically breathable, tank-like in its ruggedness, with grip like Spider-Man's socks.
It also needs to as light as possible, so your calves aren't working overtime, yet without compromising stability and protection.
As with most outdoor clobber, the perfectionist's dream isn't yet a reality – compromises have to be made somewhere. But we're getting ever closer.
Shoes are an item worth buying from a shop (remember them?) as a bad fit could cause you grief on the hills. Ask an assistant for advice on fitting. Anything that feels even slightly tight is too small, as feet expand during a long walk. That's why it's better to go shopping in the afternoon of a warm day, when your feet have already expanded.
Treat your boots well – clean off muck and re-waterproof them sometimes – and they'll repay the favour.
Chuck them, still dirty, in the bottom of the cupboard and they'll wreak their revenge on you. Consider yourself warned.
What are the best walking shoes and boots
We are rather partial to Salomon's trekking footwear, and it scoops both titles. The best walking boot is Salomon Quest Prime GTX for its epic mix of comfort, reassuring protection and even a little bit of style too.
Best walking shoe? That'll be the Salomon Evasion GTX, for much the same reasons.
How we picked the best
Our man Damian is an outdoor journalist who's happiest when running or walking long distances in lumpy places. His next book, the self-explanatorily-titled Long Distance Walking in Britain is out now.
He chose the best of the best, based on his experience in the fields of walking, yomping and peak-bagging.
Walking shoes and boots vary considerably, as do the needs of their wearers, but after much consideration, we alighted on the Salomon X Ultra Trek Gtx as our favourite boot and AKU Bellamont FG GTX as our favourite shoe.
The other options here will not let you down, however. Picking a winner was as agonising as a blister – not that those should be a concern if you shop wisely. Now trot on.
The best walking boots and shoes
1. Salomon Quest Prime GTX
Best walking boot
French brand Salomon is the King of Outdoor Clobber.
It has a reputation for combining cutting edge tech with irresistible desirability and newsworthy new releases. It’s also known for impressively lightweight kit and the new Salomon Quest Prime GTX continues all those trends.
A weight of 570g for this athletic 'backpacking' (built-for-multi-day walking) boot makes it one of the lightest around.
Made from waterproof split-suede, Gore-tex and leather, their Sensifit system and bonus cushioning in all the right places helps make the Quest Prime GTX deliciously comfortable. Rubber toe caps add protection.
2. Salomon Evasion GTX
Best walking shoe
More of Salomon's desirable, elite-level, lightweight clobber, the well-established Evasion GTX is a shoe rather than a boot, but it's still as rugged as a barrel-load of angry rocks.
A suede leather and Gore-Tex mix make them durable and waterproof, while Contragrip is superbly effective underneath and rubber reinforcements at the toe mean that stubbing a pinkie isn't felt unduly… or even at all.
The shoe is perfectly comfortable, breathable and can handle much more than its relatively subtle appearance suggests.
2. Altberg Kisdon
Best all-leather walking boot
British boot-maker Altberg serves up the impressively uncompromising, three-season Kisdon, which uses Altberg’s new G-Fit to provide more volume and width.
Where most wider boots simply plonk a wider upper on a standard sole, the Kisdons have wider G-Fit midsoles and outer soles, for a properly proportioned forefoot area, for greater comfort and ground fidelity.
They’re super-comfy, but also super-rugged, with huge lugs powering over any terrain unperturbed, not to mention the huge slab of rubberised protection around the boot.
But before they get mucky blasting peat bogs, they also look very swish too.
4. AKU Alterra GTX
Best boot for extreme conditions
AKU's much-vaunted new Elica Natural Stride System comes in a new Alterra GTX boot and helps to disperse the pressure on your feet as you hike, so you don’t get achy points – such as heels and the balls of your feet – meaning you can walk in comfort for longer.
An insole board and tread faithfully follow the anatomical shape of the sole of the foot and adapt to it for a natural heel and forefoot inclination, reducing impact and strain.
The boot is designed for longer treks on more demanding terrain and a sock fit only adds to the comfort levels. These are also super rugged.
5. Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX
Best lightweight walking shoe
The newly updated Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX is sleek and athletic shoe, with superlative comfort and good protection with a reinforced heel and foot, and dependable grip for moderate to technical terrain.
The material is abrasion resistant with excellent breathability to help prevent pongy feet, and quick drying.
Put these classy shoes on and you'll simply want to go eat some hills for breakfast, and thanks to Salomon’s unique Quicklace system, they should literally never come undone – now THAT is a feature.
6. AKU Bellamont FG GTX
AKU's new Bellamont FG GTX are a lightweight option that'll have you happily gallivanting over mixed terrain but are equally comfortable when you're settling down in the beer garden afterwards.
Reliable grip comes courtesy of a Vibram ECO STEP rubber, while full grain leather means comfort and durability, and a Gore-Tex liner adds extra waterproofing.
The more conscientious will be pleased to know the double-density die-cut EVA midsole is made from recycled materials.
This avant-garde trainer-shoe-boot hybrid is perfect for pub walks or days split over rural and urban activities.
7. Merrell Capra Leather boots
With the Capra, Merrell may just have designed the most comfortable but rugged shoe yet.
Aimed at fastpacker types but actually a very versatile shoe, it boasts a UniFly air cushion in the heel that absorbs shock and keeps you stable.
Vibram MegaGrip keeps your feet on the ground, while a hoof-inspired (rather than inspired on the hoof) split-toe outsole helps you deal dextrously with steep and uneven terrain, and a leather Gore-Tex upper does everything you'd expect of it.
They just look damn fine, and are suitable for scrambling and even trail running, especially in the low-cut option that's also available.
8. Teva Kimtah Mid Event boots
There's very much a sense of the old-school being brought up to date with Teva's new Kimtah Mid Event Leather.
They're more rugged and aggressive than their appearance suggests. As well as being waterproof – using eVent plus leather – the boot has stubborn Spider365 Rubber grip and big hungry lugs.
Stabilising technology helps keep you in control on tricky terrain and if you do misjudge a step, shock absorption is thoughtfully provided by a soft Shoc Pad in the heel.
9. Anatom Q3 Braeriach
Designed specifically with Scotland's hefty granite Cairngorm mountains in mind, these are a Munro bagger's dream, and dripping with old-school charm.
The downside of Gore-Tex is if water gets in over the top of a boot, it's likely to slosh around your toes for a good while. Leather, by contrast, isn't as waterproof, but will let the wet stuff out quicker.
The Braeriachs are made with 2.6mm Anfibio Leather, with a Rubber Tow Bumper, so they should be fine for rock football.
Underneath Vibram grip is like tractor tyres, but also offers good shock absorption, and there's surprising levels of comfort and stability.
10. The North Face Verbera Backpacker Goretex
Billed as a snow boot, this doesn't struggle with mud underfoot. It's aimed primarily at backpackers or those who might carry heavy loads over challenging terrain (so not necessarily the Cotswolds).
The North Face Men's Verbera Backpacker GTX boots are Gore-Tex so they're waterproof while being breathable and your little pinkies shouldn't get too sweaty – which can lead to blisters.
They're fearlessly functional, but classy and techy too, with full-grain Italian leather uppers, Smartlite mudguards, Northotic foot beds and Ortholite cushioning for support. Vibram outsoles provide traction on slick terrain.
For the mountain man/woman.