The best women's walking shoes 2020: hit the trails with a spring in your step | T3

The best women's walking shoes 2020: hit the trails with a spring in your step

We've tested the best women’s walking shoes from Merrell, Scarpa, Salomon and more to help you find a pair with the right fit and plenty of comfort

best women’s walking shoes 2020
(Image credit: Merrell)

Walking is good for the mind, body and soul, and if you want to get out there and do it in comfort, a decent pair of walking shoes will be your best adventure investment. We've put the leading options through their paces, to bring you this definitive ranking of the best women's walking shoes right now. Whether you're off on an urban ramble or a countryside jaunt, these women’s walking shoes will keep your feet feeling fresh and comfy. 

Walking shoes are versatile enough to be used in a variety of environments, so as well as being great for hiking trips, many of these will also make everyday jaunts, travelling and even shopping trips that bit more comfortable. We also have separate guides to the best men's walking shoes. Or, if you need something more rugged, try a pair of the best women's hiking boots or the best hiking boots for men.

To put together this guide, we tried and tested a range of products from the biggest outdoor footwear brands in the market, including Merrell, Scarpa, Salomon and Inov-8. We've also sought out some great products from less well-known brands that you should know about. 

These shoes were walked miles up hill and down dale, and through downpours and the odd stream, to ensure their performance warranted inclusion in our list of the best women's walking shoes on the market. We do the legwork, literally, to make your decision easier! 

Our dedicated tool will pull the best prices for each pair of shoes, so you can be sure you're not overpaying (and for more hot outdoor offers, be sure to bookmark our guide to the best Amazon Prime Day deals). One final tip before we start: invest in a pair of the best hiking socks to wear while you're breaking your new walking shoes in, and keep blisters at bay over long distances.

Best women's walking shoes: our expert pick

  • Features to look out for when new walking shoes include lightness, flex, support and rigidity. Too much of one can sacrifice another. Also, each of us has different priorities, whether that’s extra support to minimise the risk of an ankle roll, or a deep tread to cope with slick, muddy trails.
  • Our top pick for the best women’s walking shoes is the Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX. This super stylish technical shoe will see you through day hikes and trekking, as well as for gentler strolls around the park. It has bags of tech and is so comfortable to wear, and has a great grip for tackling more uneven terrains.

Best women's walking shoes: a woman jumps off a rock while wearing Merrell Choprock sandals

(Image credit: Merrell)

Do I need walking shoes or something more robust?

Technology, materials and innovation have developed so much that walking shoes are a viable option for everything from urban rambles to mountain missions. While the design means they don’t have the same level of ankle support as a boot, they are no less feature-packed, with premium waterproof membranes, quality construction, soles that are suited to rough mountain terrain or moving fast and confidently over wet ground and any other type of use you can think of. 

If you’re not sure whether to go for walking shoes or hiking boots, check out our walking boots vs walking shoes guide, which runs you through the key differences between these types of footwear, to help you decide. 

Best women's walking shoes 2020: a woman sits on a rock overlooking a canyon

The best women's walking shoes to buy now

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(Image credit: Merrell)
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best women's walking shoes: Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX Women

(Image credit: Merrell)
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best women's walking shoes: Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX Women

(Image credit: Merrell)
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best women's walking shoes: Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX Women

(Image credit: Merrell)

1. Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX Women

The best women's walking shoes right now – and a T3 Award winner

Specifications
Material: Vegan-friendly synthetic upper; TPU toe guard
Sole: Quantum Grip rubber outsole with Air Cushion and Kinetic Fit BASE insole
Waterproof technology: GORE-TEX; waterproof mesh upper
Reasons to buy
+The right blend of stiffness, support and flexibility+Chunky lugs grip well in slick, muddy conditions+Vegan-friendly+Stylish enough for urban rambles

Comfortable, practical, supportive and stylish, the Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX is the best women's walking shoe right now. If you're looking for one versatile shoe that provides just the right blend of stiffness and support for long hikes combined with flexibility where you need it and plenty of off-road grip, these can't be beat. They're also a T3 Awards 2020 winner, in the Best Walking Shoe category.  

Don't let the bright colours and trainer-like weight and looks deceive you: this is a shoe that will just as easily take you up rough mountains and down muddy trails as it will gentler countryside rambles. The GORE-TEX waterproof membrane combined with a waterproof mesh upper and a bellows tongue keeps the foot as dry as possible and stops grit, stones and other debris getting inside. 

Built for adventure, the shoes feature a protective toe cap that buffers against hard knocks protecting the shoe and your toes, and has a noticeably grippy sole that combines Merrell’s own ‘Quantum Grip’ rubber with chunky 5mm lugs. This means you can scramble over boulders or stay confident that you’re not going to slip over in wet conditions. 

They're impressively comfortable over distance. The stiffness towards the rear of the foot helps provide support with more flexibility towards the toe area. The laces allow you to tighten the shoe nice and snug around the midfoot but leave a little wiggle room for the toes. The Kinetic Fit BASE contoured insole is very comfortable and gives good instep support, and it’s handy that it’s easily removable for washing or should you want to substitute it for bespoke orthotics. However, it comes out almost too easily when you take the shoes off, and we found ourselves having to poke it back into place almost every time we put the shoes on. 

That small niggle aside, these shoes are the ones we found ourselves reaching for most out of all of those tested. Comfortable, versatile, and (if you manage to keep them mud-free) nice looking enough for urban bimbles as well as off-road adventures. You'll want to take these shoes off-road though!

best women's walking shoes: Inov-8 Roclite 315 GTX

(Image credit: Inov-8 )

2. Inov-8 Roclite 315 GTX

These supremely grippy shoes are perfect for fast and light hikes

Specifications
Material: X-PROTEC synthetic upper
Sole: Rubber, with shock absorbing midsole
Waterproof technology: GORE-TEX
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight and flexible +Big lugs give excellent grip
Reasons to avoid
-Laces are a bit fiddly

Inov-8's popular Roclite 315 shoes have had a GORE-TEX upgrade, making them an even better choice. While these are marketed at trail runners, they're also a great choice for walkers after something lightweight, flexible and with plenty of grip.

The GORE-TEX membrane is a welcome addition. This will stop water from getting in the sides of the shoe, although you'll still want to avoid submerging them completely. The inner incorporates a Powerflow midsole, designed to deliver 10 per cent better shock absorption than standard midsole units to give a smoother walking experience overall. There's also padding to cushions and hold the heel in place and help the shoe move with the foot to reduce the chance of rubbing.

A seriously chunky tread give these superior traction, making these perfect for anyone who feels nervous walking over trickier terrain. The large toothed lugs are spaced out enough that they won't get choked up with mud.

One niggle is that the laces are finer than on other walking shoes we tested, but overall we were seriously impressed with these women's walking shoes. They offer a great balance of comfort, support and flexibility, and will help you tackle varied and unpredictable terrain with ease.

Best women's walking shoes: Merrell Choprock Shoes

(Image credit: Merrell)

3. Merrell Choprock Shoes

Adventure-ready walking shoes for women who love to hike

Reasons to buy
+Reliable grip+Breathable+Adjustable fit

Taking performance cues from trail running shoes, the Merrell Choprock dish out impressive grip, high levels of support and welcomed breathability. They're the perfect walking shoes for those days on the trail where you need to move fast and light. We've worn them on rocky trails slick with rain water and moss and the Choprock held their ground, keeping us upright without any issue – all thanks to a Vibram Megagrip sole. So yes, they're fine to wear when the heavens open and thankfully they don’t take an age to dry out afterwards. 

Sling them on and you’ll be able to customise the fit a little via Merrell's integrated webbing loops. Toes are protected too, courtesy of a rubber toe bumper. These women's walking shoes are regularly on sale, so definitely ones to pick up for year-round walking and hiking comfort.

Best women's walking shoes: Arcteryx Aerios FL GTX in Forest Green

4. Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX Shoe W

This T3 Awards winner will keep you moving fast and light on day hikes

Reasons to buy
+Great stability+Super-comfortable+Waterproof

The Gore-Tex-infused Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX Shoe will help you tackle a mountain trail as well as handling your morning dog walk in style and comfort. Although they've now been succeeded by the Merrell MQM Flex 2, these picked up the 2019 T3 Award for Best Walking shoes. They're waterproof to keep the rain out, and use a mix of breathable materials to encourage good airflow and minimise yucky moisture build-up. They’ll keep wind chill off your feet too.

Arc'teryx took some cues from long-distance trail running shoes when designing these beauties and you can feel it as soon as you slip them on. They’re built to reduce foot fatigue and boost energy return, so you’ll feel like you can go harder for longer on the trail.

There's a Vibram Megagrip outsole to help you dig into uneven terrain, and we felt secure and sure-footed through a range of outdoors walking scenarios. We had zero break-in time, and found the shoes to be super-comfy during longer day hikes. They also look great with jeans and chinos, so could easily slip into your day-to-day wardrobe when off-duty. 

best women's walking shoes: Scarpa Moraine GTX WMN shoes

(Image credit: Scarpa )

5. Scarpa Moraine GTX WMN shoes

A nubuck leather trail shoe that's sturdy and comfortable

Specifications
Material: Water-resistant nubuck, synthetic padding
Sole: Vibram Dynatech 3 rubber
Waterproof technology: GORE-TEX
Reasons to buy
+Sturdy and comfortable+Vibram sole adds comfort  +Sturdy construction for long-lasting performance

The Moraine GTX is a traditionally-styled trail walking shoe, combining a rugged nubuck leather upper with a relatively stiff vibration-absorbing sole. Ideal for long walks or hikes, tackling long-distance walking routes or for general travel, these shoes offer much in the way of comfort and support. 

The sole has a stiffness more akin to walking boots which has multiple benefits for hikes that take you either long distances, over very rough ground, or both. The stiffness provides support for the foot, and when combined with the VIBRAM Dynatech 3 compound in the sole and the EVA midsole, you get a shoe that will keep your feet protected from repeated hard ground strikes, both by dissipating and absorbing the forces and by cushioning the foot itself. 

A GORE-TEX membrane provides a breathable, waterproof layer that helps keep feet dry both in terms of water getting in from puddles and rain, and from the inside out: in warm weather, sweat wicks away well. This is good, because the support and padding means that these shoes do feel hot in warm weather. 

Having a nubuck outer means it's worth taking the time to give these shoes a protective treatment before taking them out in the mud, as this means it'll be easier to get the crud off them afterwards. It's a bit of extra work at the start but it'll keep these shoes going for a good long time. 

While the Moraine GTX might not have the modern looks and materials of other trail walking shoes on the market, the quality of construction and materials used means these will last and last and last, with the right level of TLC. 

best women's walking shoes: ON Cloudventure Waterproof

(Image credit: ON Running)

6. On Cloudventure Waterproof shoe

These sturdy off-road shoes are ideal for hiking in colder conditions

Specifications
Material: Synthetic mesh
Sole: Missiongrip outsole
Waterproof technology: ON waterproof membrane
Reasons to buy
+Sleek styling +Good grip on the soles in a range of conditions+Waterproof layer is effective
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best for hot weather

The On Cloudventure Waterproof shoes are pitched at trail runners, but there are plenty of features that make make these a great choice for hiking, too. First up, the lugs are well cushioned, to provide comfort and absorb impact on rough terrain. There's also a reinforced core to support the foot, which makes these stiffer than many running shoes, and should help stop your feet from fatiguing quickly on longer hikes.

A combination of chunky and finer tread ensures excellent grip, even on slick surfaces, and the ON waterproof membrane will keep your feet nice and dry when it's damp underfoot. ON Running says they're good in the snow, and although we couldn't test that, we'd say these are particularly well suited to colder conditions, because they do keep your feet warmer than other walking shoes on this list. One final thing to note is that we found these sized up a little small – we had to go up a half size for the perfect fit.

Best women's walking shoes: The North Face Women's Litewave Fastpack GTX waking shoes

7. The North Face Litewave Fastpack GTX

The best women's walking shoes for moving fast and light

Reasons to buy
+Reliable waterproofing+Great breathability+Very lightweight

Lightness is key when it comes to walking shoes, but the downside is that some brands will often skimp on necessary materials in order to reduce weight, which is a false economy. Not so with this shoe, which uses Gore-Tex for waterproofing, along with a closed mesh design to keep shoes debris-free while enabling air to circulate. The best bit? The shoes are still light, with a weight of just 594g (per pair). The soles are also easy to clean, thanks to self-cleaning lugs (something achieved thanks to their angled shape), although it's worth noting that the upper is synthetic, which is harder to clean than leather.

Best women's walking shoes: AKU Selvatica GTX

8. AKU Selvatica GTX W

A super-breathable option for trekking in warmer climates

Reasons to buy
+Multi-terrain support+Breathable

The waterproof Selvatica Low GTX not only look rugged, they’re packing some serious smarts to protect your feet in a variety of outdoor situations, and are especially well-suited to multi-terrain trekking in warmer climates. In other words, they'll also eat your local country park walk for lunch. 

The big news here is AKU’s welding technology, which we’ve seen change the design possibilities in lightweight road running shoes in the past. Welding tech keeps stitching to a minimum. Why? To eliminate friction hotspots, so less chance of chafing, rubbing and raw skin for you during longer days on the trail. 

The simpler construction also saves weight in areas such as the support ribs, which are pre-treated in PU for stiffness. Don't worry, though, these are stupidly comfy on and required practically zero break-in time from us. The sole tread is another exciting feature and boasts AKU’s Elica Natural Stride System... 

This cleverly shapes the sole to suit your foot to (among other things) reduce strain and impact when you’re racking up the miles. A Vibram Megagrip sole provides stiction on pretty much any terrain. Chuck 'em on, hit the trail and explore confidently.

How to choose the best women's walking shoes

When it comes to walking footwear, you can find everything from trail-ready trainers to shandals – perfect for hot weather hikes – to waterproof shoes that will get you across rain-soaked moors in comfort and safety. The deciding factors should be what type of terrain are you going to be using these shoes for predominantly, and what type of hiking or walking you want to do. 

For longer distances, rough ground, mountainous terrain and if you need good support for your feet, then choose a more traditional approach or hiking shoe. These will typically have a stiffer sole, a supportive upper made from leather or synthetic material, and insulation and cushioning to keep the foot comfortable and warm. 

If you prefer something more akin to an off-road trainer, want something that can grip well in slick conditions, is light and breathable and/or allows a more flexible foot movement, a trail shoe with flexible sole, lightweight synthetic and quick drying upper and technical features should be your port of call. These are best suited to shorter and/or faster walks, scrambles and even trail runs, and don’t offer a lot of impact protection on rough ground. 

There is usually a compromise to be made depending on your priorities, but we’ve tested shoes that cover the spectrum of products on offer and bring you the best choices with the best all-round performance. 

What features should I look for in walking shoes?

There is so much choice when it comes to walking shoes, and the avid rambler will be able to find something perfectly suited to their needs, whether you prefer lightweight, trainer-style shoes for scrambling, walking and running or wants something more traditional with a sturdy upper and stiff, supportive sole. 

The key features to look for when you’re deciding what shoe to go for are: 

Sole
Look for a sole that suits the type of walking and terrain you prefer. At one end of the spectrum you have shoes with flexible soles that allow you to move quickly across trails, though these can cause fatigue to the feet as there’s not a lot of support. For longer walks or hikes on rougher terrain, choose a shoe that has a stiffer, more supportive sole but a degree of flex at the forefoot. 

Upper
Walking shoes have uppers designed to suit all conditions, from water-resistant and supportive leather through to quick-drying and super-light technical synthetic material. Look for waterproof membranes such as GORE-TEX which help keep your feet dry no matter the season

Tread
If you’ll be doing a lot of walking on grassy, muddy or boggy terrain and are concerned about traction and grip, then choose a pair of walking shoes that have deep, chunky lugs. These will dig into the ground and provide plenty of grip so you can be confident you won’t slip over. If you’re planning routes that are more based around rocky or paved paths, opt for something with a shallower tread. 

Tongue and collar construction
There are few things worse than getting your shoes nice and comfy only to have to take them off to remove assorted pebbles and grit that has worked its way inside. If you’ll be walking where there will be loose material, opt for a shoe that has a ‘bellows’ tongue, which means it’s joined to the rest of the upper shoe with additional fabric as this stops debris ingress while you’re walking.