A reliable pair of waterproof leather hiking boots is a great buy for any keen walker – and we've compared two of the top-performing (not to mention best-looking) women's hiking boots on the market to bring you our overall favourite. We're putting Ariat's Skyline Summit and Hanwag's Banks Lady up against each other – these female-specific leather boots don't compromise on comfort, and are fully waterproofed with Gore-Tex, making them great all-rounder hiking boots that can tackle mountain terrain as well as more casual country walks.
The Skyline is riding boot brand Ariat's foray into hiking boots, and the Banks Lady is a popular design from Hanwag that has been going strong for 15 years. Both of these leather boots are at the pricier end of the market, but they've been designed to last you for years of adventures to come – and you'll find more great options in our round-up of the best women's hiking boots (or the best men's hiking boots) to suit all budgets.
Hanwag Banks vs Ariat Skyline Summit: design and features
A boot's grip is one of its most important design features. Ariat's Skyline uses the brand's own Duratread technology – while it does offer fair grip on varied terrain, the sole's lugs (the indentations that grip the ground) aren't deep enough to work that well on slippery ground, such as wet rock. Hanwag's Banks Lady uses Vibram technology, and these soles are definitely superior, with deep lugs offering a sticky grip on nigh-on any surface.
While looks might not be the most compelling factor in a good pair of hiking boots, it doesn't hurt to pick a pair you like the look of. Both the Ariat Skyline and the Hanwag Banks are smart, handsome leather boots that we think work well worn casually with jeans as well as when halfway up a hill. The Banks is available in five colourways, the Ariat in one. They're both beautifully made using full-grain leather (Ariat) and nubuck leather (Hanwag) and both look and feel like excellent quality – these are designs that will look good and perform well for years, which make their higher price tags more palatable.
Winner: Both these boots are good-looking and well-made, but the Banks Lady offers superior grip.
Hanwag Banks vs Ariat Skyline Summit: comfort and performance
We don't have any comfort niggles with either of these two contenders. Ariat's Skyline, however, does really stand out for brilliant comfort from the moment you lace them up. Most leather boots we've tested out require some breaking in and wear before they soften to your feet, but the Skyline is easy to wear from day one. If you're looking for a high-performing boot that you can hike in in comfort during long days on the trail, the Skyline is a no-brainer.
The Ariat is also pleasingly lightweight for a leather boot, at 538g per boot. The Banks Lady is just as lightweight at 530g per boot and is comfortable too, but is definitely less flexible underfoot when compared with the Skyline. Its nubuck leather does soften up with use, and its mesh-lined high-lacing ankle is a good choice if you have weak ankles or tend to roll them, as it's on the stiff but supportive side and laces up very snugly. Another plus to the Banks Lady is that it's also available in various fit incarnations, including narrow, wide and an insulated version designed for winter use.
Not all hiking boots labelled 'waterproof' were created equal, but we always find that boots that use Gore-Tex (sometimes abbreviated to GTX) membranes tend to be reliably waterproof even in heavy rain. Leather is also naturally water-resistant (as well as being naturally warm). Both these leather boots use Gore-Tex, and both excel in bad weather, keeping feet warm and dry all day long. The downside to leather is that neither boot is highly breathable, and both are best suited to cooler weather from autumn through to spring – in summer your feet might overheat.
Winner: Ariat's Skyline delivers best on comfort, and both boots perform similarly when it comes to waterproofing.
Hanwag Banks vs Ariat Skyline Summit: price and verdict
Ariat's Skyline Summit Gore-Tex really delivers on both comfort and performance, so we're crowning it the winner. That said, we think the Banks Lady GTX offers superior grip on wet surfaces. There's not much in it either way – these are two comfortable, waterproof and beautifully made leather boots, and either design is worth investing in.