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. 

OBOZ SawtootH walking boots

US manufacturers Oboz are just starting out in the UK market, but based on this offering they are serious contenders. Firstly, they feel fantastic underfoot: I’d say the Oboz BFit insole is the comfiest of any in this test. The arch support is supremely stabilising and makes the very act of putting one foot in front of another a joy. And they are armed to the hilt with an array of protective measures, including a bulbous toe-box to protect against knocks, strong nubuck leather on the upper to ensure they hold their shape and a meaty outsole which stands firm on tough terrain. My feet felt secure at all times in the Sawtooths, although I would have liked a little more ankle support to tackle the truly gnarly stuff.  As a mid-cut, these fall a little short of mountain-grade boots but if you’re not planning on venturing into ankle-snapping terrain, these will see you right in every other way.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £115

Sizes: 4-8.5 (including half sizes)

Weight: 1022g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: BDry membrane

Outsole: Sawtooth

Men’s version: Yes

Contact: 0161 366 5020, www.obozfootwear.com

VERDICT

Rugged on a budget: these boots mean business and are hard to beat at this price.

HI-TEC V-Lite Altitude Pro-Lite RGS walking boots

They might be budget-end, but these really come with enough grunt to venture into the hills. They have a high ankle, a substantial toe-cap, protection around the heel and a thick, meaty outsole. The extra rigidity in the sole was reassuring underfoot on steep stony paths. However, they don’t hold the foot quite as securely as the more expensive models here, meaning that my feet wallowed around in a slightly unnerving fashion on uneven ground. And while the deep cleats of the Vibram outsole cope well with churned-up paths, they don’t offer the traction needed for slippery rock. But Hi-Tec do a great job of balancing performance with comfort on a budget. For all the hardware in these boots, the suede and mesh upper remains remarkably flexible and my feet emerged from the boots much as they went in: still as ugly but unblemished by blisters or sores at least.   

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £100

Sizes: 4-9 (including half sizes)

Weight: 1120g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: Dri-Tec

Outsole: Vibram

Men’s version: Yes

Contact: 01702 561321, www.hi-tec.com 

VERDICT

Strong, comfy and no-nonsense: an excellent all-round option, but will struggle on rocky ground.

COLUMBIA Conspiracy III Mid OutDry walking boots

Columbia like to tread their own path when it comes to technology, and the Conspiracy makes use of their sterling partnership with OutDry – a waterproof and breathable membrane that, unlike Gore-Tex, is bonded directly to the upper surface in a single layer. I’ve no complaints about how it held out the wet stuff, and it also keeps the weight down: these are by the far the lightest boots on test at only 325g per boot. Another reason for their fleet-footedness is the lack of rigidity in the mid and outer soles. In place of the heavy rubber rand and toe-boxes found on other products here, Columbia have left the mesh upper unencumbered in order to produce a soft and flexible boot. While that does make them undeniably comfortable, the lack of support and protection leaves the foot exposed when moving over rocky terrain. Best keep to easy-going paths in these.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £90

Sizes: 3-10

Weight: 650g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: OutDry

Outsole: OmniGrip

Men’s version: Yes

Contact: 0808 234 0229, www.columbiasportswear.co.uk

VERDICT

These offer excellent comfort for lowland walking, but lack the strength to handle anything more challenging.

HANWAG Najera GTX Surround walking boots

If you’re a proper Jack-be-Nimble, these may well be your boots: lightweight, pointy-toed and so supple you can twist them like a wrung sponge. That’s largely down to Gore-Tex Surround, a GTX variant that uses a thin spacer in the midsole to vent heat all around your foot. The system can’t be enclosed within a solid rand, so there is almost no midsole and very little protective casing around the sides of the boot. So you’re close to the ground and you will feel bumps and scuffs, but you carry less weight and your feetwill be far cooler than they would in regular Gore-Tex, but without losing waterproofing. The insole is hard, so if you hate excessive cushioning, you’ll like this. My only problem is that the outsole is much narrower than the upper, so I found that my feet often wobbled slightly to one side when placed; mostly just by a fraction but sometimes just enough to make me worry on a rocky descent.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £200

Sizes: 6-13

Weight: 1098g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: Gore-Tex Surround

Outsole: Vibram

Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 02392 528711, www.hanwag.com

VERDICT

Light, fast and cool boots for fast hillwalkers who don’t need loads of cushioning.

ALT-BERG Yan Tan walking boots

If you can’t be bothered with all the flimsy, flexy light/fast stuff, you can get a fabric boot that’s as chunky and tough as a leather one, just a bit more fun and with a smidge more suppleness. The Yorkshire-made Yan Tan is the perfect example: a marriage of lightweight nubuck leather with mesh fabric, creating a boot that is tough, stiff and sturdy, with loads of support. Altberg say it has ‘medium’ waterproofing, which essentially means it’ll be okay in a squall or drizzle, but won’t stand up to full submergence or persistent heavy rain. And from my experience, that’s fair enough. It feels clunky to start with, but after even just a mile it starts to adapt to your foot, and by three miles it’s like you’re in slippers. The toe-box is narrow and there’s not a lot of volume in it, so it can feel a little constricting – but at least it keeps your foot steady and stable, whatever the ground is doing.

SPECIFICATION

RRP: £175

Sizes: 3-14

Weight: 1436g (pair)

Waterproof/breathable lining: Sympatex

Outsole:Vibram

Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 01748 826922, www.altberg.co.uk

VERDICT

Superb all-terrain bomber with all the comfort and resilience of a leather boot.

KEEN BRYCE WP (2013)

PRICE: £110

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Used by Tom Bailey, Trail and Country Walking Magazine photographer
Used for 11 months

Full disclosure: I’ve never worn these on the hill. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t abused them. They’ve been my everyday wear for almost a year, so they’ve seen plenty of mud and grass during photo shoots, for which they’re well-equipped with a decent KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane. In a nutshell they’re extremely comfy, but not particularly durable. Where my heel meets the fabric it’s worn pretty badly and the outsole grip is going – which I’m a little disappointed by. The lining has also developed an unpleasant smell… but that’s to do with me, not the shoe. Despite all this, I still think they’re a good choice of footwear and I’d happily recommend them. This is in a big way thanks to the level of comfort they provide – which is among the best I’ve ever felt. There’s a reason I’ve worn them out in less than a year...

Verdict They’re all right. Which is high praise from me.       
www.keenfootwear.com

Regatta Frontier Mid (2015)

Features

The Regatta Frontier Mid is very lightweight at 1218g (pair, size 11) but you still get some good features. The upper is a mix of synthetic and suede leather, with an Isotex waterproof and breathable lining. The ankle cuff is slightly higher than most low-priced boots, which is great. There is also good stiffness in the toe, heel and sole unit. The lugs on the outside are well-spaced and deep. 4/5

Fit

This boot comes in men’s sizes 6-12 and women’s sizes o3-8 and it fits quite closely, although it is not quite as glove-like and as precise as higher-priced options. But there is good space in the toes, and the tongue and ankle cuff fasten neatly around the foot. Very good at this price. 4/5

Comfort

The Regatta Frontier Mid is a lightweight boot that is also quite soft between the laces and toe box, but in other areas it has good stiffness. The ankle cuff felt a little too firm compared to higher-priced boots that had softer padding, but generally this is pretty good. The sole is not as a stiff as higher-priced boots so on really rocky ground your feet do tire a little more in these. 3/5

In use

The outsole lugs are deep and well-spaced so grip on softer ground is good. The sole is also quite stiff, so this is not bad on rockier ground either, although higher-priced boots with even stiffer soles are better. The fit is not quite as close as the best boots, so the Regatta Frontier Mid is less precise on rockier ground and durability may not be ideal compared to one-piece leather designs. 3/5

Value

The Regatta Frontier Mid is remarkable value for £85, as while some pricier boots are better, this is far better than many boots at this price or higher. 5/5

Verdict

If you can’t pay more than £85 the Regatta Frontier Mid is a superb option that can be used successfully on a variety of terrain. 3.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Anatom Q2 Hiking (2015)

Features

The Anatom Q2 Hiking’s upper is thicker and more durable than most boots, thanks to the use of 2.4mm full-grain leather. There is also good stiffness in the upper, and a waterproof breathable Tri-aria lining. The ankle cuff height is very slightly lower than the best boots. Underfoot is a Vibram sole unit with good lugs, but it is quite bendy from toe to heel. 4/5

Fit

For men the sizes are 41-47 but there is no women’s version of this boot. Anatom’s £120 Q2 Ultra Hiking in sizes 36-42 is the nearest equivalent but it has many different features. The Q2 Hiking’s fit is not as neat and precise and foot-hugging as higher-priced boots, but it does have good toe wiggle room. 4/5

Comfort

The ankle cuff is lower in the Anatom Q2 Hiking than higher-priced models; it is also stiffer and less comfortable in this area, I found. There is quite a soft forward flex in the sole, which is not quite as comfortable as the more graduated flex in higher-priced boots. So overall it lacks some of the finesse of higher-priced models. 3/5

In use

On the hill the Anatom Q2 Hiking provides a good grip thanks to the deep lugs of the Vibram sole, which includes a heel breast for downhill braking. The toe-to-heel flex is a slight drawback on rockier ground but there is good lateral stiffness and the upper is great for rockier ground. The fit is not so precise, however, so when scrambling it feels a bit cumbersome. 4/5

Value

Very good value. Not as good as higher-priced boots but better than many at this price. 5/5

Verdict

The Anatom Q2 Hiking is a great choice for general hillwalking on a budget, but it has small drawbacks compared to the better higher-priced boots. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Keen Targhee Mid (2015)

Features

The Keen Targhee Mid’s low weight of 1134g (pair, size 11) is exceptional. For that you get an upper made of mostly leather with synthetic material around the tongue plus a Keen.Dry waterproof and breathable lining. The ankle cuff is very low and there is more stitching on the upper, so this may be less supportive and less durable than some. There is virtually no heel breast on the sole. 3/5

Fit

The men’s sizes are 6-13 and the women’s 2½-8½. The fit is typical of Keen, being quite broad and spacious at the forefoot and toe area. The ankle cuff is lower than most boots. This will probably fit those with wider feet better than some of the narrower models we looked at. 5/5

Comfort

The low cuff and low weight make the Keen Targhee Mid very comfy straight away. The toe box is spacious too, so again great for comfort. As there is decent stiffness in the toe box and sole that comfort is retained quite well on rocky ground, though the lower cuff does mean that on angled slopes of rock or earth your feet have to work pretty hard and so comfort reduces. 4/5

In use

The Keen Targhee Mid is quite good on level, dry ground but on soft ground the lugs are quite wide, so they don't bite in that well; plus there is virtually no heel breast so braking power during descents is not great. Sole stiffness is reasonable for rocky ground, but the lower ankle cuff offers minimal protection and support. The upper may not be as durable as a one-piece leather design. 3/5

Value

The price is good, but this lacks the higher cuff and features of other boots at this price. 4/5

Verdict

If you want a lightweight boot for level ground the Keen Targhee Mid is a good option but it has drawbacks for rockier ground and more uneven terrain. 3.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP (2015)

Features

The Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP is a very lightweight boot at just 1246g (pair, size 11). But you still do get a leather upper with minimal stitching for durability, while a waterproof Dri-Tec membrane keeps your feet dry. The outsole is a Vibram unit with very deep and well-placed lugs. But the ankle cuff is lower than some, the sole is very bendy and the toe box isn’t as protective as higher-priced models. 4/5

Fit

This comes in men’s sizes 7-13 and women’s 4-9, and it fits like the proverbial glove, being close and precise. The softer upper and softer sole materials enable this fit to some extent too, but either way it feels nice and nimble on the foot. However wider-footed people may feel the fit is a bit too close. 5/5

Comfort

The Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP is a lightweight boot that is also quite soft in terms of its upper and flex, so naturally it feels very comfortable. But as the upper and sole are soft that comfort drops away on rocky and rugged ground, and your feet really have to work pretty hard. It’s great on level paths and grassy moors, however. 3/5

In use

Due to the softness of the upper and the flex, performance depends greatly on the terrain. Use the Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP on soft grass and level, muddy paths and its Vibram sole with its deep, well-spaced lugs work really well. But get this on rocky ground and scree or off the path, and the lack of stiffness of the boot forces your feet to work really hard. 3/5

Value

The price is superb for what you are getting and on easier ground this is superb value. 5/5

Verdict

The Hi-Tec V Lite Helvellyn WP very lightweight boot that is also comfortable and performs well on softer level ground, but it is not the best for rugged terrain. It wins Trail’s ‘approved’ accolade. 4.0/5

Review by Graham Thompson

First published in Trail magazine December 2015

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