HOKA ONE ONE Tor Ultra Hi WP walking boots

The Tor is trail running technology expanded for walkers. Hoka emerged in 2010 with a range of shoes designed to help runners attack nasty descents, so their shoes are based around a hugely oversized midsole that delivers firm foot placement plus lashings of cushioning. The Tor is their first boot, and it definitely works for walkers. Yes it looks odd, and yes you’ll feel slightly too elevated when you first put it on, but get going and you’ll soon see what it gives you. Your feet sit way above the turf, and you may not like the loss of ‘ground-feel’ that this entails. But if you just want to barrel onwards with minimal worry about hard impacts on your feet, the Tor is terrific. It’s also surprisingly well ventilated for such a thickly padded product. Hi-Tec’s Rolling Gait System does something similar, but the Tor weighs a lot less and comes with funky trail running styling. Plus, this is the only style of sole they make, so you know that all their attention was ploughed into it. They won’t suit everyone, but if you hate bumpy rides, look no further.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £160

Sizes: Euro 40-49

Weight: 1012g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: eVent

Outsole: Vibram

Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 0808 234 0518,

VERDICT

Best for agile walkers who prioritise speed and confidence on rough, tough mountain walks.

MERRELL Capra Mid Sport GTX walking boots

As we say every month, these tests aren’t about picking a winner. Except in this case, where the Capra has been such a delight to wear that it would be a crime not to tell you I love it. It’s a solid combination of featherweight swiftness, decent support and adaptability; it just flies over rock, mud and sand. I initially worried it might be too flimsy; the upper is thin (despite containing a Gore-Tex membrane) and it tapers upwards to an ankle cuff with hardly any padding at all. Yet it has a magical degree of sturdiness that has kept my weak right ankle from turning even on chunky boulders. You can find more supportive and protective boots, but probably not with this level of fun. Merrell say it’s ideal for scrambling and that is true; it’s great on Striding Edge. But equally it flounced over Lincolnshire Wolds farmland as well. Taut, grippy, waterproof and fun: that’s a winning mix, whatever your criteria.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £140

Sizes: 6.5-13

Weight: 976g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: Gore-Tex

Outsole: Vibram Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 0203 376 2738, www.merrell.com

VERDICT

If you don’t need masses of support and sturdiness, this agile, good-looking boot is near flawless.

 

AKU Erera GTX walking boots

It feels like faint praise to say “there’s nothing wrong with this one”. The Erera carried me for miles along muddy South Downs paths and icky clay shorelines, and did a couple of mountain walks too. It’s a mid-cut, so it prioritises speed and lightness over support, and its generous fit will please those with wider feet (narrower feet may slide around a little). Grip is good, lacing is firm and the ankle cuff offers good protection, plus it has Gore-Tex to keep you dry. It’s the perfect mid-range boot in many ways – except perhaps excitement. It lacks the precision of a Meindl, the comfort of a Hi-Tec and the fun of a Merrell, and for me it somehow misses that instant click that comes when you find a boot that really loves you back. But for an all-rounder that will take you anywhere with few or no complaints, give this a try. It will score highly in all departments; I just wish I could love it more. 

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £135

Sizes: 7-13

Weight: 1218g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: Gore-Tex

Outsole: Vibram Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 01250 873863, www.aku.it

VERDICT

A perfect all-rounder boot at a very fair price; somehow it lacks a bit of zing, though.

Best Group - Group Spray Walking Boots

Best Group are new to the market; the name might be awful, but they are aiming to mix it with Hi-Tec and Karrimor in the value market, and on this evidence they make a good case. The RRP may be £130 but most outlets are selling it for £70, and for the amount of features involved that’s a great price. The Spray is the lightest boot here; sleek and well put together, with a flat Vibram sole that does well on country paths. Don’t take it to high ground unless you’re very sure-footed though; the lightness makes it flimsy and there isn’t a lot of ankle support. The own-brand Tepor/Dry membrane is good with water (surviving a full-on dunking) but poor on breathability; your feet will heat up as the day goes on. Overall, you may not feel the reassurance that comes with a name brand at a higher price, but on easier walks it’s a great option, and terrific for just getting you out there.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £130

Sizes: Euro 38-46 Weight: 962g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: Tepor/Dry Outsole: Vibram

Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 0191 261 4161, www.wildtrak.com

VERDICT

Light, fun and cheap: great for low-level walks and particularly for newcomers to walking.

MEINDL Air Revolution GTX walking boots

If you’ve ever wondered what a benchmark feels like, you’ll find out when you slip these on. Meindl’s Air Revolutions are the boots to beat, and thoroughly justify their price tag. Like the Mammuts, they offer a high-tech ventilation system, but these lose nothing in performance either. The Air-Revo system uses the natural pumping motion of walking to suck air in and out of the boot, ensuring a circulation of freshness around the foot. But by far the most impressive thing about these boots is the way they balance strength with comfort. The outsole is sturdy enough to deal with gnarly terrain, and the suede leather upper combines with the mesh tongue to pull snugly over the foot, holding it in place. But against the rugged exterior comes the soft centre: every part of these boots is luxuriously cushioned. The insole is wonderfully supportive, the ankle cuff is spongy, and even the tongue has removable padding. Compared to their rivals, these are weighty, but who cares when they’re this good?

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £200

Sizes: 3.5-10 (including half sizes)

Weight: 1200g

Waterproof/breathable lining: Gore-Tex

Outsole: Vibram

Men’s version: Yes

Contact: 01539 560214, www.meindl.co.uk

VERDICT

The perfect fabric boot: well-ventilated, comfy and mountain-ready. You’ll wear them everywhere.

MAMMUT Comfort High GTX Walking Boots

These are lightweight but exceedingly comfortable. With the Gore-Tex Surround technology, Mammut have their sights set on ventilation and comfort as opposed to speed. The idea of Gore-Tex Surround is to let the whole foot breathe through a 360-degree ventilation system. It works well – my feet stayed cool even on the big climbs – but there is a trade-off. In order to get the all-round ventilation and comfort, Mammut have sacrificed strength in the midsole and outsole. Although the flex is great, I could feel everything underfoot during rocky sections, and didn’t feel I had the support to venture an easy scramble. Despite that, the sole offers good grip and the ankle is surprisingly sturdy. If you want a comfy boot to romp over grasslands and moors, these are a good bet.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £170

Sizes: 4-8.5 (including half sizes)

Weight: 900g (pair) Waterproof/breathable lining: Gore-Tex

Outsole: Gripex Men’s version: Yes

Contact: 01625 508218, www.mammut.ch

VERDICT

Airy, light and comfy with a whizzy ventilation system, but unsuited to the mountains.

ANATOM V2 Vorlich Walking Boots

The Vorlich is terrific value for money: a fully-featured and very reliable boot engineered by a proper Scottish bootmaker, for the same price as you might pay for one of the nameless basic boots from a high street discount store. It looks terrific, feels comfy and comes with Anatom’s Tri.Aria membrane, which works just fine in heavy wet conditions. The sticky, shallow-cleated Vibram sole is great too, although it’s much happier on rock than in mulchy mud, where it tends to slide around a little. The worry is the lacing: I found it hard to get to get a good, tight fit as the locking eyelets are awkwardly placed and had to be prised open a little to get the lace to sit properly inside. And for a Scottish brand, it’s baffling that they insist on selling them in Euro sizes. These troubles aside, this is a fine boot for UK hills – get the lacing right, and they will last you a good long while.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £100

Sizes: Euro 41-47

Weight: 1298g (pair) Waterproof/breathable lining: Tri.Aria Outsole: Vibram

Women’s version: Yes (Lomond)

Contact: 0800 032 3505, 

VERDICT

A superbly-priced boot that is best for hillwalking, if you can get the lacing secure enough.

 

ZAMBERLAN Crosser Plus GTX walking boots

With the Crossers, Zamberlan have made speed their priority without forgetting to include the essential ingredients which make a good hillwalking boot: namely support and grip. Of all the mountain-worthy boots here, these are the lightest. That makes them excellent for long, tough romps when every heavy step adds up. The heel maintains a good cushion to cope with the high step count while the Vibram outsole is still pleasantly sturdy despite the boots’ featherweight status, offering reassuring grip over rock and coping well over uneven terrain. There have inevitably been some sacrifices, however. Much of the weight has been lost in the upper, with anything resembling padding consigned to the non-essential pile. That means the ankle cuff can dig in when properly laced up, and the lack of cushioning is felt around the top and sides of the foot, where everything seems very roomy and bare. The roominess could also be down to the fact these are unisex boots though, which is good news for the wide-footed lady. 

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £145

Sizes: 3.5-8.5 (sold in EU sizes)

Weight: 840g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: Gore-Tex n

Outsole: Vibram

Men’s version: Unisex

Contact: 01665 510660, www.zamberlan.com

VERDICT

Fast and light boots which cover the bare essentials. Excellent for epic days where speed is all.

HELLY HANSEN W Rapide Mid Mesh walking boots

At first glance there’s nothing amazing about the Rapides apart from their looks, but that might be their secret weapon: they do nothing exceptional but everything well, making them terrific all-rounders. The leather/mesh upper makes them light but firm while the ankle support and outsole are sturdy enough to take on big hills. The central lacing hooks are well-positioned to allow tension to be maintained on the lower boot while relaxing the hold around the ankle if desired. They can’t rival the other sub-£150 boots in the comfort stakes: the insole is nothing special and the ankle cuff can dig in a bit, though this does improve with wear. My feet also weren’t held as securely as in the Oboz boots, with some lateral movement noticeable over rough ground. Overall though, these are steady, well-built and reliable boots – all the qualities needed for a long-term boot relationship.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £120

Sizes: 3.5-7.5 (including half sizes)

Weight: 898g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: HellyTech

Outsole: HellyGrip

Men’s version: Yes

Contact: 0800 142 2210, www.hellyhansen.com

VERDICT

High quality all-rounders which are hard to fault in performance, but slightly lacking in comfort.