Test of the best: 4-season walking boots

ANKLE CUFF
The ankle cuff helps prevent mud, snow and grit from entering the boot. It also protects the ankle against being scraped by rocks. The stiffness in the ankle cuff reduces the strain on the ankle when traversing slopes, by adding extra support, which makes it less tiring and easier to get a stable foothold, particularly on lower slopes.

MIDSOLE STIFFNESS
Grab the boot by the toe and heel and bend the toe towards the heel, then twist the toe while holding the heel stationary. The harder it is to bend the boot in these two directions, the better the boot will perform on snow and ice and be compatible with crampons. A 4-season boot will be almost totally rigid, a 3-season boot will be very bendy and a 3- 4-season boot will be somewhere between these extremes.

OUTSOLE LUGS
Deep, widely spaced lugs will bite into snow without clogging, while also providing many years of wear before they are too shallow to give a good grip.

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DURABILITY
As these boots are destined for the particularly challenging conditions of winter, they need to be durable, so look for uppers with minimal stitching and a rubber rand at the toe box. For maximum durability, look for a rubber rand that encloses the whole boot.

FIT
No boot is worth having if it does not fit. The inside of the boot should be 13-15mm longer than your foot, which you can gauge by putting on the boot without the laces tightened up and then placing your forefinger down the inside of the boot at the heel. Better outdoor stores will measure your feet. The upper should be snug and comfortable across the foot.

CRAMPON COMPATIBILITY
The 4-season boot is rated as B2, which means it is compatible with a C2 rated crampon (stiffer than a C1 crampon used with 3-4-season boots). To make it easier to fit crampons, 4-season boots may have a ledge at the heel that allows crampons with heel clips to be fitted. These are easier and quicker to fit than strap-on crampons, which is important in very cold conditions.


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Mammut Magic High GTX £230

  • Mens 6.5-13
  • Womens 4-9
  • Weight 1878g (size 11)

IT'S GOOD Compared to other 4-season boots, the price and weight are instantly more appealing. The upper is made with a mix of velour leather and synthetic textiles, with lots of stitching, but there is a full rubber rand for more durability and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining. The outsole is Vibram, with a good set of deep, well-spaced lugs. There is slightly more flex in the sole and ankle cuff than some boots, making this better for easier ground than pure mountaineering designs. The toe area feels reasonably precise for scrambling, but you also get a wider forefoot area, which makes this better for more general use. Better than most at this price.

HOWEVER The complex upper may be less durable than simpler designs with less stitching, although this will only be an issue for the hardest of mountain users. While this has a good weight, it does not feel quite as precise underfoot when scrambling as some heavier boots, which is due to it having more padding and a less precise fit to the upper, compared to others. As there is slightly more flex in the upper and sole than some designs, your foot has to work a little harder when traversing slopes or negotiating scrambles, so again this points this boot more toward general use than high grade mountaineering. 

VERDICT A very good all-round boot with a good weight and price that should be ideal for many, unless you really cannot live without specific benefits.

  • Features: 4/5
  • Fit: 5/5
  • Comfort: 4/5
  • In use: 4/5
  • Value for money: 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 84%

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Asolo Elbrus GV £230

  • Mens 6-13
  • Womens 4.5-9
  • Weight 1802g (size 11)

IT'S GOOD The weight and price set this apart from other 4-season boots, but also you get some important performance benefits. Firstly, the upper does not have too many layers of material, with large panels of suede leather and synthetic Schoeller materials in use, while a full rubber rand adds further durability benefits. There is a Gore-Tex waterproof lining too. The outsole is a very aggressive Vibram unit with deep, widely spaced lugs and a good heel breast. This has a good general fit. The toe is slightly narrowed, to improve performance when scrambling over rock. The ankle cuff gently flexes to allow easier walking but it remains supportive. The outsole has a good rolling action. 

HOWEVER The foot does sit slightly higher from the ground than some higher priced designs, which means this does not feel quite as stable and precise on rockier ground, although this is probably only an issue for those needing the ultimate in performance. The synthetic materials around the ankle cuff may be less durable than other boots. If you want an out-and-out mountaineering design, then others are slightly better, and you can get a lighter mountaineering design if you have more cash. Hard to fault for general mountain walking in winter conditions, though. 

VERDICT Unless you need the absolute best performance, then this is a superbly priced boot for general winter mountain use, which is very difficult to improve upon.

  • Features: 5/5
  • Fit: 5/5
  • Comfort: 5/5
  • In use: 4/5
  • Value for money: 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 92%

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Zamberlan 1000 Baltoro GTX £230

  • Mens 40-48
  • Womens none
  • Weight 1828g (size 11)

IT'S GOOD The weight and the price tag are both great and, for this, you get an upper that is primarily made from Hydrobloc Perwanger leather, with Cordura nylon in the tongue and ankle cuff areas. There is a Gore-Tex waterproof lining inside and a rubber rand at the toe and heel. The Vibram outsole has well-spaced lugs and a good heel breast. On the foot, the upper is noticeably stiffer than some, particularly around the ankle cuff, which is great for more uneven ground when more support is of benefit. The toe box is spacious and good for general mountain use. Overall, a good all-round performance. 

HOWEVER There is no women’s version of this boot. Also, the fit does feel less precise and neat on the foot, compared to higher-priced designs. While the stiffness on the ankle cuff, in particular, is a benefit on really rough ground due to its increased support, there is a less comfortable forward flex in the ankle cuff, which means this is not the best for comfort when walking on level ground. In terms of the sole, the lugs are not as deep as others, so this does not quite have the best grip on soft ground or snow when not wearing crampons. Others with a more narrow toe are also better for more precise climbing or mountaineering. Others get a full rubber rand for harder use. 

VERDICT A good price and weight for a general use mountain boot, but others are better for more natural walking on level ground and for climbing on more technical ground.

  • Features: 4/5
  • Fit: 3/5
  • Comfort: 5/5
  • In use: 4/5
  • Value for money: 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 80%

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Hanwag Ferrata Combi GTX £235

  • Mens 6-13
  • Womens 3.5-9
  • Weight 1852g (size 11)

IT'S GOOD An appealing price tag and weight compared to other 4-season boots. The upper is made from Cordura synthetic textiles with leather overlays and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining as well as a full rubber rand for durability. The outsole is a Vibram Climbing II unit with well-spaced lugs that are slightly more shallow than some designs and there is a smooth climbing zone under the toe. The ankle cuff is slightly softer than some others for more comfort. On the foot this feels slightly more spacious than some designs, so good for general users and also the upper is slightly softer so again great for general use. Walking is reasonably natural in this boot although others have a slightly smooth rolling action from the sole. 

HOWEVER The outsole lugs are not the deepest, making this good for rocky ground, as you get a more precise feel from more shallow lugs, but less good on softer ground or snow, as the grip is not so great without crampons. The upper is softer throughout than others, which is great for use on easier ground, but this means it lacks a little support for more technical ground or traversing slopes. I do find that the tongue area is less well padded, so I had to be a little more careful with the lacing to prevent creating a firm spot on the top of my foot, something I did not have to be so careful about with other boots. 

VERDICT A relatively low priced and relatively low weight boot that is good for general use.

  • Features: 5/5
  • Fit: 5/5
  • Comfort: 4/5
  • In use: 4/5
  • Value for money: 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 88%

Aku Tengu GTX £260

  • Mens 5-12
  • Womens none
  • Weight 1812g (size 11)

IT'S GOOD The upper is stiff and supportive and made from a nylon fabric with some small areas of suede leather and a full rubber rand for extra durability. There is a Gore-Tex waterproof lining on the inside. The outsole is a Vibram Curcuma unit, with deep and widely spaced lugs. This provides a good general fit, being neither too narrow nor too wide. The upper and ankle cuff are stiff and supportive, so again, great for general use. Toe flex is smooth and the ankle cuff flexed forward nicely to allow a reasonably natural walking for this category of boot. It is also pretty lightweight compared to other 4-season boots. The price is slightly less than some too. 

HOWEVER The good overall performance and features of this boot are let down by there not being a women’s specific option, but at least the unisex size range does extend down to size 5, so some women may find this boot does fit them. The upper is made from nylon, rather than a thicker and more durable leather, so really hard users may want to consider other models. While great for general mountain use, others are better for more the precise footwork needed for more technical climbing or scrambling on harder grades of rock. Some boots have a little more padding and softer flex at the ankle cuff for more comfort, if that is your priority. 

VERDICT A great all-round mountain boot with a good weight and price to suit general users, but specific benefits are available in other boots.

  • Features: 4/5
  • Fit: 3/5
  • Comfort: 4/5
  • In use: 5/5
  • Value for money: 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 84%

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Salewa Vulture Gore-Tex £270

  • Mens 6-13
  • Womens none
  • Weight 2012g (size 11)

IT'S GOOD This eye-catching design uses suede leather on the upper, with synthetic materials around the ankle cuff, as well as a Gore-Tex waterproof lining and a full rubber rand. The ankle cuff is lower than others and also more flexible. Underfoot, you get a Vibram sole unit with very deep lugs for biting into soft snow and there is a smooth climbing zone under the big toe for scrambling. To ensure a good fit, this boot comes with a choice of footbeds to manage the volume. On the foot, the toe feels slightly narrow and lower in volume than some, but it widens at the forefoot and the ankle cuff is very flexible in the forward flex when walking, as well as laterally. 

HOWEVER This is not available in a women’s specific size range. The ankle cuff is so flexible that this means your foot has to work harder on more uneven ground, as you are not getting the support from the boot, so this makes this more of a walking than a mountaineering design for me. But then, the narrow toe means it is not quite as comfortable as other more walking-orientated designs, but also it is not the most precise for scrambling either. So, overall this is great for walking over level snow and glaciers, but on ground when you need more support from the ankle cuff, or precision at the toe, it is not quite the best. 

VERDICT An unusual mix of features with the benefit of a more flexible ankle cuff and deep sole lugs that are great for walking over snow-covered mountains.

  • Features: 5/5
  • Fit: 3/5
  • Comfort: 4/5
  • In use: 3/5
  • Value for money: 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 76%

La Sportiva Cube GTX £290

  • Mens 41-48
  • Womens none
  • Weight 1962g (size 11)

IT'S GOOD This is exceptionally lightweight for a 4-season boot, at just 1692g (size 46). It also features a unique seamless upper construction of abrasion-resistant nylon and a thermoplastic covering. Inside, you get Gore-Tex for waterproofness and there is a full rubber rand on the outside. The tongue is a softer and more flexible synthetic material, but overall this upper is very durable in design. The outsole is a unique Vibram Cube unit, with deep, widely spaced lugs, with a smooth climbing zone under the big toe. The fit is narrow and neat and, when combined with the low weight, this boot is ideal for scrambling and more technical ground, as well as walking in general. 

HOWEVER There are no women’s specific fit options here and the size range is relatively small. The fit is narrower than some, too, which may hinder those with wider feet. Also, the ankle cuff is lower and has less forward flex, which means walking is not quite so comfortable. There is also a little less cushioning around the foot in general compared to some, so this does not feel quite as comfortable as others in general. It’s not uncomfortable, it is just that others are more comfy. The price is still quite high compared to some options, but if you want that low weight, then these are the drawbacks you have to consider. 

VERDICT A very lightweight and durable boot, that is ideal for technical ground, but walkers may prefer the extra comfort on offer elsewhere.

  • Features: 5/5
  • Fit: 3/5
  • Comfort: 4/5
  • In use: 4/5
  • Value for money: 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 76%

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Meindl Jorasse GTX £295

  • Mens 6-12
  • Womens 3.5-8
  • Weight 1858g (size 11)

IT'S GOOD The upper is a mix of leather and synthetic materials, with a Gore-Tex waterproof lining on the inside and a high rubber rand on the outside for extra durability. This boot has a double tongue design, for more comfort around the top of the foot and at the top of the ankle cuff a small additional elasticated cuff to lock out debris. The outsole is a Vibram unit with good well-spaced deep lugs and a substantial heelbreast. There is a little more volume around the foot than some others, to suit chunkier feet, and there is also more cushioning around the foot too, particularly under that double tongue. So, in terms of comfort this has a slight edge over some other designs. 

HOWEVER While this has a good weight, it feels slightly less precise on the foot, and slightly clumpy, which is not an issue for general walking, but is noticeable when more precise footwork is needed, such as when walking or scrambling over more uneven rocky ground with crampons. While this has a good weight, you can get even lighter designs and some boots have a lower price tag, but of course those boots may not have the extra comfort and space around the foot offered here. It is possible that boots with less layers of material and less stitching will be more durable on the feet of really hard users. 

VERDICT A great boot for mountain walks if you prefer a more spacious fit and more cushioning but it does feel slightly less precise on rocky steps.

  • Features: 5/5
  • Fit: 5/5
  • Comfort: 4/5
  • In use: 4/5
  • Value for money: 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 88%

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Scarpa Manta Pro GTX £300

  • Mens 40-50
  • Womens 36-42
  • Weight 2074g (size 11)

IT'S GOOD Setting the standard of 4-season boots for British mountain use, the Manta Pro has a Gore-Tex waterproof lining that is protected by a stiff leather upper, with additional synthetic materials and a rubber rand. The ankle cuff is particularly comfortable and allows forward flex to allow easier walking, yet it still maintains lateral support. The Vibram sole has deep well-spaced lugs and a heel breast and, while it is fully stiffened, it also provides a reasonable forward roll for this class of boot, to make walking below the snow possible. The forefoot and toe area is slightly wider than some, more climbing-orientated, designs and this makes it great for general walking over snow and glaciers. 

HOWEVER If you are looking for a boot for mountaineering, where lots of precise toe placement is needed, then others are slightly better, owing to them having a more narrow toe, that allows more accurate placement of this area onto smaller footholds while climbing. In an ideal world, a little fewer layers of material and less stitching may be more durable for really hard users. Other boots are also slightly lighter but of course they may have additional drawbacks. Then there is the price tag, which is more than most but, on the bright side, the price has remained the same over the past couple of years. 

VERDICT For regular mountain walks in snow and ice the Manta Pro GTX remains the first choice but others do have benefits in more climbing focused situations.

  • Features: 5/5
  • Fit: 5/5
  • Comfort: 5/5
  • In use: 5/5
  • Value for money: 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE: 92%

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.