Best women's walking shoes 2021: Sturdy, versatile all-rounders

Your guide to the best women's walking shoes from Merrell, Scarpa, Salomon and more

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

If you're hunting for the best women's walking shoes, look no further. We've tried and tested a wide range of options to bring you this definitive guide. Any of our picks will guarantee a comfortable trip, whether you're heading out on a casual wintery stroll or a longer hike through the countryside.

While the lack of ankle support in a walking shoe means that for hardier hikes you'll be better off lacing on a pair of the best women's hiking boots, for casual walks and flat terrain, walking shoes are a versatile alternative. You'll find great options from the big brands represented here, including Merrell, Scarpa, Salomon and more, but also less well-known brands it's worth knowing about. Importantly, each shoe has been evaluated to see how they hold up in terms of grip, support, comfort and value for money. Team any of these with a pair of the best hiking leggings and a decent waterproof jacket and you can be sure you'll be comfy and protected.

The best women's walking shoes right now are the Merrell MQM Flex 2 GORE-TEX walking shoes (women's). They offer the perfect blend of support and flexibility, plenty of grip, and are stylish enough for urban rambles. They won't work for everyone though, so do check out the many alternatives in our ranking. We've done the legwork, literally, to make your decision easier!

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

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

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

The best budget women's walking shoe

Reasons to buy
+Great for watersports +Reliable grip+Breathable+Adjustable fit

Taking performance cues from trail running shoes, the Merrell Choprock dish out impressive grip, high levels of support and welcome 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

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

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: Lowa Women's Sirkos GTX shoes

(Image credit: Lowa)

7. Lowa Women's Sirkos GTX shoes

A stylish pair of shoes suited to a wide range of walks

Material: Suede, Cordura
Sole: Lowa Cross II rubber
Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex
Reasons to buy
+Great waterproofing keeps feet dry in wet conditions+Very comfortable+Understated styling
Reasons to avoid
-One of the heavier pairs on test

A versatile walking shoe with smart looks that makes it a great choice for urban walks as well as hilltop rambles. The GORE-TEX lining keeps feet dry, and the blend of suede and cordura in the upper offers plenty of support as well as great temperature regulation - warm in cold conditions and not too hot in warm weather. Lowa's ‘Monowrap' construction in the upper is designed to cradle the foot and add protection where it's needed which, in combination with the PU foam sole insert makes for a very comfy shoe. The ‘cross II' rubber sole with a decent depth of lug makes this shoe suitable for a wide range of rambling activities. 

Best women's walking shoes: Keen Women's Targhee II Waterproof Shoe

(Image credit: Keen)

7. Keen Women's Targhee II Waterproof Shoe

The best women's walking shoes for those who use insoles or orthotics

Material: Waterproof leather and performance mesh
Sole: All-terrain rubber
Waterproof technology: Natural leather and waterproof membrane
Reasons to buy
+Great for broader feet+Effective waterproofing keeps feet dry
Reasons to avoid
-Not super stylish in terms of looks-Deep fit might not suit walkers with low ankles

The Targhee III is a popular walking shoe and with good reason. It's a shoe version of a boot that's an iconic part of the Keen lineup and combines durability with great performance in a wide range of conditions. The fit is quite wide and deep, which is excellent news for anyone with broad feet or who use insoles or orthotics though if your ankles sit quite low you might fit the shoes rub. Speed hook lacing allows you to secure the upper nicely around the midsection of the foot while a wide toe box gives toes a nice amount of wiggle room. The rubber outsole has a decent tread which offers good grip in wet conditions, and a dual-density EVA foam footbed takes the force out of foot strikes keeping feet feeling fresh and warding off fatigue.

best women's walking shoes: Peter Storm Women's Grizedale Waterproof Shoes

(Image credit: Peter Storm)

8. Peter Storm Women's Grizedale Waterproof Shoes

Good looks, great performance, brilliant value

Material: Leather with mesh liner
Sole: Vibram rubber
Waterproof technology: Waterproof membrane, natural leather
Reasons to buy
+Great value for money
Reasons to avoid
-Will need regular care

A walking shoe that doesn't look like a walking shoe, the naturally waterproof leather outer wouldn't look out of place about town, but is perfectly suited to dog walks in the park or rain-soaked winter rambles. Natural leather is already an excellent water barrier, particularly when it's given a little TLC, and the Grizedale shoes are belt and braces in their approach to waterproofing as they also have a breathable waterproof membrane. A rubber outsole with Vibram combined with a shock-absorbing PU midsole and comfy insole make these both comfortable for long walks and short in a range of conditions, with excellent traction. 

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: 

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. 

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

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. 

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

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.