The best women's walking shoes are a superb investment if you regularly go walking off-road, along country trails, or just want maximum comfort and support when walking the dog around the park each day.
We wouldn't be without ours for weekends spent exploring the great outdoors, and have tested tons of walking shoes for women from Merrell, Salomon, The North Face, Arc'teryx, AKU and so many others.
This type of robust and supportive shoe 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 on a blissfully sunny holiday. During the slicker months of autumn and winter, they can be drafted in to keep you upright on your work to walk, before you change shoes at the office.
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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.
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.
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
1. Arc'teryx Aerios FL GTX Shoe W
This best women’s walking shoe overall is a T3 Awards winner
Reasons to buy
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.
2. AKU Selvatica GTX W
A super-breathable option for trekking in warmer climates
Reasons to buy
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.
3. Merrell Choprock Shoes
Adventure-ready walking shoes for women who love to hike
Reasons to buy
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.
4. Salomon OUTline GTX W
We love throwing these on for day hikes and camping trips
Reasons to buy
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.
5. Inov-8 Roclite 315
A popular trail running shoe that's also superb for walking
Reasons to buy
Designed for running over varied and unpredictable terrain, Inov-8's popular Roclite 315 shoes offer impressive 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.
6. Merrell MQM Flex Gore-Tex
The best women's walking shoes for keeping sweat to a minimum
Reasons to buy
If you're looking for walking shoes to wear in all conditions, slip into the Merrell MQM Flex GTX. The MQM's membrane is waterproof, keeping your feet dry when you're splashing through streams or walking in the rain.
It's also extremely breathable, ensuring you stay dry and comfortable in hotter climates. A bellows tongue, meanwhile, prevents debris from sneaking inside the shoes, so you won't have to stop to empty out stones.
The Merrell MQM Flex GTX also feature an M Select GRIP outsole with durable traction which, in conjunction with a shock-absorbing air cushion in the heel, aids quick movement across rugged terrain. This makes them a powerful all-rounder for multiple outdoor scenarios.
7. Teva Arrowood 2 Mid
A great choice when style and fuller ankle support are in order
Reasons to buy
Sometimes you crave the support of a fuller, mid-style walking shoe, and that’s where the Teva Arrowood 2 Mid comes in. It’s perhaps obvious to state how attractive these women’s walking shoes are, with that soft-touch finish (available in Midnight Navy and Desert Sand).
They’re lightweight on the feet and feel super-comfy from the first step—you can thank Teva’s FloatLite tech, plus an EVA foam footbed, for that magic. Designed to look like a sneaker-hybrid, the Arrowood 2 Mid offer enhanced support around the ankle, and work to reduce foot fatigue on longer strolls.
We wouldn’t wear them on a hardcore hike, but we have worn them on nature trails and countryside strolls and found them to be supportive and stylish; trust us, they’ll look far better with jeans thank chunkier outdoors boots if you’re heading to the pub after a big Sunday morning walk.
8. The North Face Litewave Fastpack GTX
The best women's walking shoes for moving fast and light
Reasons to buy
Lightness is key when it comes to walking shoes, but the downside is that brands will often skimp on necessary materials in order to reduce weight - a false economy. Not so with this shoe, which has plenty of water-blocking GORE-TEX along with a closed mesh design to keep shoes debris-free while allowing air to circulate.
The best bit? The shoes are still wonderfully 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.
9. Mammut Hueco Mid GTX
Stylish women's walking shoes with impressive grip
Reasons to buy
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 super-supportive strobel construction; the process of stitching the outer leather to the insole of the material to give a 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.
10. Asolo Blade Women's Hiking Shoes
The best women's walking shoe for a 'barely-there' feel
Reasons to buy
The Asolo Blade low rise women's walking shoe makes 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 extremely 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.
11. Nike Downshifter 7
For those want shoes that go undercover as regular sneakers
Reasons to buy
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 some substance, you'll be fine with these.
12. Sketchers GO Walk 4-Pursuit Slip-on Shoes
The best women's walking shoes for sheer ease of wear
Reasons to buy
If you find lace-up shoes too restrictive and you 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 super 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 AKU Selvatica GTX W, which are the ideal choice for lightweight summer hiking shoes. If you need something more robust that offers full ankle protection, take a look at our guide to the top 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.