12 best women’s walking shoes 2020: from waterproof shoes to comfy slip-ons

Nike, Salomon and Merrell et al's top women's walking shoes will boost your comfort no matter how long or short your walk

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

The best women's walking shoes are a superb investment if you regularly go walking, and by walking we mean everything from mountain trails to strolling along the beach or enjoying a gentle walk around your local park. 

This type of shoe is comfy and supportive, and some waterproof shoes for women are designed to keep your feet dry in a downpour. The exact type of walking you do will dictate what features your walking shoe needs to have.

We wouldn't be without ours for weekends spent exploring the great outdoors, and have tested tons of shoes from the likes of Nike, Merrell, Salomon, The North Face, Arc'teryx, AKU and so other brands for our best women's walking shoes guide. 

This type of robust and supportive footwear can be worn year-round, apart from shandals (walking shoes meets sandals), which are better kept for warmer weather or for where you're in and out of streams and rock pools. During the slicker months of autumn/winter, a robust walking shoe with deep lugs will keep you upright on icy walks to work.

Walking is a fantastic way to enhance your wellbeing, boost your mood and to destress, all while exploring the natural world and filling your lungs with clean air. Keeping your feet as comfortable as possible on your various adventures, no matter how short or long, will boost your experience no end. 

Comfy and reliable shoes will also make you feel like walking more regularly, which will do wonders for your general fitness and health.

As such, this best women's walking shoes buyer’s guide rounds up our absolute favourites. They include our top picks for tackling different types of terrain; fast-drying shandals for walking through water, and shoes purposefully designed to keep the rain out on wet weather strolls.

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 shoes or something more robust?

The best women’s walking shoes are lighter and more flexible than boots, making them the ideal choice for those of you who want a low-fuss and lightweight yet durable outdoors shoe. 

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re automatically far less hardy than technical boots, but, depending on the shoe’s design, they might not offer as much full ankle support. Depending on the material, the shoes might not offer as much impact protection, either.

So the type of footwear you buy depends largely on where you’ll be using them and what kind of terrain you’ll regularly be walking on. If you're unsure, check out our walking boots vs walking shoes guide, which runs you through the key differences between these types of footwear.

Best women's walking shoes 2019: a woman sits on a rock overlooking a canyon

Choosing the best women’s walking shoes for you

Years ago, decent walking shoes were few and far between; a sturdy and often weighty pair of boots was the go-to choice of footwear. In recent years, advances in technology have enabled manufacturers to incorporate the most important, supportive qualities of a boot into a lightweight shoe for walking.

Modern versions are most commonly made of synthetic materials, with strategically-placed patches of reinforcement providing rigidity in those places most likely to experience impact or high wear and tear.

If you're on the hunt for a new pair of women's walking shoes, look for high-performance features such as GORE-TEX Extended Comfort line, designed to keep feet dry and warm, and tech to reduce foot fatigue. The latter will benefit you no end on longer walks and multi-day walking trips.

Also, if you're sticking mainly to rural trails littered with mud, stones and scree, opt for a shoe with seamless uppers and a bellows-style tongue. This type of tongue, attached to the side of the shoe’s upper, will prevent debris from getting in and annoying your feet.

Lastly, consider what type of tread depth you’ll need. Here’s two examples:

  • Fine tread – this is perfectly acceptable if you’ll be doing most of your walking on flat surfaces, such as paved pathways, roads and gentler trails.
  • Deep tread – ideally with angled, self-cleaning lugs, will boost your stability and grip on trickier trails and in adverse weather (make sure they’re waterproof).

Ready to discover the best women’s walking shoes for you? Then read on for our top picks...

The best women's walking shoes to buy now

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

1. Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX Shoe W

This best women’s walking shoe overall is a T3 Awards winner

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

A T3 Awards 2019 winner, these women’s walking shoes are ideal for keeping you moving fast and light on day hikes. Suffice to say, they’ll easily handle your morning dog walk on those days away from the trail.

The Gore-Tex-infused Aerios FL GTX Shoe is waterproof to keep the rain out, and uses 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.

Check out more of this year's award winners on our main T3 Awards 2019 page.

Best women's walking shoes: On Cloud Hi

(Image credit: On Running)

2. On Running Cloud Hi

These comfy women’s walking shoes reduce impact and boost comfort

Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Comfortable+Vegan materials

The Cloud Hi are well designed walking shoes for anyone who wants just as much style as substance. They feel light on (at 292g), and look ace with leggings, walking trousers and jeans, and sport pull-on tabs at the back as well as a funky toggle-style Looplock speed-lacing system, which is far easier than traditional laces.

There’s good news for vegans, too, as the Cloud Hi use vegan leather and suede, plus a durable canvas. On’s walking shoes are designed to help you power through a walking commute, then keep you steady on your feet when you venture off-road… Although we wouldn’t recommend wearing the Pearl / Camel colour shoe near any dirt tracks—there are darker colour options to choose from there.

The big selling points are cushioning and support. The Cloud Hi are infused with Speedboard and CloudTec cushioning technology, which work together to soften your landings and boost energy return.

Because of their unique sole, it may take you a few moments to get used to the sensation of your foot rolling a little more than it might in other walking shoes, but you soon get used to it. Overall, if you want comfortable walking shoes that look good and reduce impact on longer walks and general exploration by foot (such as sightseeing, for example), try these.

The On Running Cloud Hi are available to buy now from On Running, in both men's and women's sizes and colours.

Best women's walking shoes: AKU Selvatica GTX

3. 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.

Best women's walking shoes: Merrell Choprock Shoes

(Image credit: Merrell)

4. 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: Salomon Outline GTX W in green and blue

5. Salomon OUTline GTX W

We love throwing these on for day hikes and camping trips

Reasons to buy
+Fantastic grip+Incredibly light

Can't bare to part with your favourite sneakers? You don't have to. Sort of. Salomon are one of our favourite tried-and-tested outdoor shoes brands, and they've come up trumps with the super-funky OUTline GTX women's walking shoes.

They have a distinct sneaker look and are relatively lightweight, whilst offering plenty of support and comfort. Forget striding along the trail – you'll be bouncing along in these beauties. 

Ok so they feel a teeny bit plasticky when you first pick them up, but on the inside your feet will be treated to a pillow-like foam heel cushioning and an insole made from stamped Ortholite foam.

That foam is there to reduce aches and pains, which is good news if you're a bit of a stomper like us. A lightweight synthetic toe cap provides extra protection without adding weight.

The OUTline GTX provided us with great grip on wet grass and when squelching over muddy paths. We also love the perfect balance of flexibility and strength. This is largely due to Salomon's decision to print reinforcement directly onto the mesh upper, rather than stitching on chunky support panels. 

Don't be put off by the absence of Salomon's Quicklace, toggle-based speed lacing system either, as the conventional laces on these shoes are easy-peasy to maintain.

Best women's walking shoes: Inov-8 Roclite 315 in black and blue

6. Inov-8 Roclite 315

A popular trail running shoe that's also superb for walking

Reasons to buy
+Adapts to your foot's movement +Excellent grip on slippery surfaces

Designed for running over varied and unpredictable terrain, Inov-8's popular Roclite 315 shoes offer comfort and protection during walking thanks to a Power Flow midsole...

Inov-8 has designed these midsoles to deliver 10 per cent better shock absorption than standard midsole units, so you should have a smoother walking experience overall. They also boast superior traction, making them perfect for anyone who feels nervous walking over trickier terrain. 

Adapterb tech is another reason why the Roclite 315 has made our best women's walking shoes guide, as this technology enables the shoe to adapt to the natural movement of your feet and take into account any swelling when you're on the move.

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

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: Danner Women's Trail 2650 GTX Mid

(Image credit: Danner)

8. Danner Women’s Trail 2650 GTX Mid

Waterproof mid-cut walking shoes for autumn/winter and beyond

Reasons to buy
+Breathable yet warm+Boosted grip on wet surfaces

If you find a pair of these Danner mid’s on sale, don’t hesitate to buy them. We’ve been wearing our review sample for a couple of months now and love them. Out of the box they are comfortable, with no break-in period required, and are especially warm and snug when worn with walking socks. 

Danner has created these mids with a fully waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex liner, coupled with a removable Ortholite footbed made of open-cell PU. All together, they stop water from getting in, while helping moisture to escape, and ensure better heat dispersion and air circulation. 

We’ve adventured in the rain on many occasions with these walking shoes and our feet remained dry inside, though we haven’t tested them in full immersion (so no standing in puddles or streams while wearing them).

As they’re inspired by trail running shoes, we’d recommend the Trail 2650 GTX Mid for light and fast hikes and for recreational walking. They’re versatile and built to deliver comfort and support during longer walks; a lightweight Plygo midsole takes care of the cushioning while keeping the overall weight down. 

Elsewhere, a Vibram 460 Outsole with self-adapting lugs provides better stability on uneven terrain, whether you’re walking over wet leaves in the park or trampling over scree on a mountain path. 

On a practical note, we found them relatively easy to keep clean too, with mud scraping off fairly well from the suede uppers. The toebox is roomier than on most of the other models in our best women’s walking shoes buyer’s guide, but the actual body of the foot can feel a little narrow if you have wider feet so you’ll need to re-lace accordingly.

Best women's walking shoes: Asolo Blade grey women's walking shoes

9. Asolo Blade Women's Hiking Shoes

The best women's walking shoe for a 'barely-there' feel

Reasons to buy
+Waterproof+Noticeably lightweight

The Asolo Blade low rise women's walkings shoe make for comfortable walking year round. Whether it’s clear blue skies or tipping down with rain, these waterproof walking shoes will keep your feet comfortable with every stride. 

They are lightweight, so they don’t feel like you're wearing a typical walking shoe, which is great for those who walk daily as well as those attempting trickier trails.

The Blade's lighter colour scheme might get dirty quickly if you go off the beaten track, but they're a great choice for throwing in your backpack.

Mammut Hueco Mid GTX walking shoes

10. Mammut Hueco Mid GTX

Stylish women's walking shoes with impressive grip

Reasons to buy
+Impressive rubber grip+Winter-weather friendly

Highlights here include the wet weather-friendly, mega grip Michelin rubber sole – who wouldn't want the grip of a racing car when they're out walking on wet country pathways? 

Also, there’s a TPU heel stabiliser for furthering a steady grip on uneven surfaces, and a supportive strobel construction; the process of stitching the outer leather to the insole of the material to deliver more rigid support. 

Which brings us onto our other favourite feature: the perfect balance between flexibility and support. The shoes have enough flex to make them ideal for a wide range  of terrain, but at the same time they've got the necessary stiffness to prevent slips, stumbles and ankle rolls.

Best women's walking shoes: Nike Downshifter 7 W black and white women's walking shoes

11. Nike Downshifter 7

For those want shoes that go undercover as regular sneakers

Reasons to buy
+Stylish trainer design+Easy to wear

For those who often find themselves collared into a last-minute 'short scenic stroll' to a country pub, or racking up the miles running around town on errands, these are best women's walking shoes for you. 

The beauty of the Nike Downshifter 7 is that while they offer a comfortable and performance, they'll also fit right in with your athleisure wardrobe.

These Nike trainers aren't as supportive as the more dedicated walking shoes on this list, and aren't waterproof, but if you can't bring yourself to wear proper walking shoes and want style as well as a bit of substance, you'll like these.

Best women's walking shoes: Black Sketchers Go Walk black women's walking shoes

12. Sketchers GO Walk 4-Pursuit Slip-on Shoes

The best women's walking shoes for sheer ease of wear

Reasons to buy
+No laces to contend with+Simple to pull on and take off

If you find lace-up shoes too restrictive and aren't planning on walking across muddy fields any time soon, these slip-on Sketchers could be the answer. 

Although not designed for extreme trails, if you love walking along the beach or in the park, want something you can quickly slip on and off, the GOWalk 4 Pursuit will see you right.

Those with injuries or weak ankles may need more support than these can offer, but in general the spongy soles in this women's walking shoes are pure joy for the feet. Think of them as slippers for outside and you'll get the picture.

The final word

Walking shoes are essential for enhancing your joy of exploring outdoors, even if for you that’s a quick walk around the park rather than a full-blown day hike in any weather. Regardless, our top pick of the best women’s walking shoes featured above, the Arc’teryx Aerios FL GTX, can handle gentle and intense walks and hikes with ease. 

We’re also raving about the On Running On Cloud Hi, which are ideal choice if you want something stylish, lightweight and comfortable. If you need more robust footwear that offers full ankle protection, take a look at our guide to the best women’s hiking boots.

About the authors...

Claire Davies is Senior Content Editor at T3 and routinely tests camping gear, and walking and hiking tech for the Outdoors channel.