When it comes to short hikes, fast hikes, and summer hillwalking, some lighter boots or shoes might serve your purposes better than your heavy hiking boots.
It's worth stressing from the outset that lightweight walking footwear have a different set of strengths to heavier ones and they both exist for a reason. Burly boots are generally better for longer treks because of their construction is more supportive and they are more durable. Meanwhile, lighter hiking footwear is much more breathable and don't sap stamina.
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Key features to look for in lightweight footwear
Ankle cuff: A mid boot has a lower ankle cuff than a standard boot, which saves weight and gives a more flexible feel while still offering some support and protection. Trail shoes are cut like trainers for maximum freedom of movement.
Heel counter: This is the stiffened cup that encloses the heel, providing protection and support. A firm heel counter helps to lock the foot in place and offers additional stability.
Insole: The insole supports the foot, enhancing comfort and stability. Unfortunately, it’s a feature that bootmakers frequently neglect, and even top-quality boots often come with flimsy insoles. Investing in specialist aftermarket insoles is often worthwhile, particularly for those with foot problems.
Liner: A waterproof-breathable membrane liner will help keep your feet dry. This may be Gore-Tex or a brand’s in-house technology.
Midsole: The midsole provides cushioning and stability. It is usually comprised of a stiff shank embedded in either EVA or PU, two different types of foam rubber. EVA offers lightweight cushioning but compresses over time. PU is heavier but more durable, resulting in a stiffer boot with a firmer feel underfoot.
Outsole: Provides traction via a tread pattern made up of rubber lugs. Different rubber compounds are employed – softer compounds offer better grip, but harder compounds tend to wear better. In general, deep and widely spaced lugs offer greater traction and are less likely to clog.
Rocker: This is the upward curve of the sole from heel to toe. A pronounced rocker angle encourages forward motion and a more natural gait, which is ideal for long-distance walking. However, they can affect balance and stability on more technical terrain.
Toe box: A broad toe box gives more space for the toes to splay when walking, while a narrow toe box allows for more precise footwork when moving fast on technical terrain. When fitting boots, bear in mind that your toes should not touch the end of the boot – this can cause bruising or blisters.
Toe bumper: A toe bumper provides additional durability and protection for the front of the foot, particularly on rocky ground.
Tongue: A padded tongue is essential for comfort, but also look for a gusseted or bellows tongue. This means it is fully attached to the uppers, rather than only sewn in at the bottom of the laces. This prevents water and debris from entering the boot or shoe.
Uppers: Lightweight boots and trail shoes typically employ a mix of suede or nubuck and fabric, mesh or other synthetic materials. Some also eliminate stitching in favour of a welded construction to further reduce weight.
Volume: Wide feet or high arches need more room. Check there’s adequate space around the forefoot. Too little causes pinching, too much allows the boot to roll around your foot on uneven ground.
The best lightweight walking boots and shoes
La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid GTX
Verdict: A lightweight boot that still provides enough structure and support to be reassuringly capable on technical terrain
Features 5/5 | Construction 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 4/5
Overall score: 88%
Pros: Structured and supportive, high ankle cuff, superb traction
Cons: Sole can wear quickly, narrower fit may not suit everyone
La Sportiva’s Ultra Raptor shoe is a legend in the mountain running world, much loved for its near-optimal balance of cushioning, support, protection and traction. When it first appeared, it was also impressively light, but as other brands have caught up it has moved towards the back of the pack in weight terms. It’s still no clodhopper though, and even this mid-height boot version, which has a waterproof Gore‑Tex liner, tips the scales at under a kilo per pair.
On test we found the fit to be slightly narrow, so it’s worth noting that the Ultra Raptors also come in a wide fit, which might be worth trying even if you normally take a regular size. It’s pretty much the only thing we didn’t get on with though. In all other respects, this is a superb boot.
It has a higher ankle cuff than most, with plenty of padding plus an elasticated rear panel that reduces pressure on the Achilles. The uppers are lightweight yet durable, with a chunky toecap and heel counter. The boot feels structured and supportive, inspiring confidence when moving fast on technical terrain, and the Frixion rubber outsole grips brilliantly. It’s the same stuff La Sportiva uses for its climbing shoes, although this is also its drawback, in that it is so soft and tacky that it tends to wear quickly.
Weight 500g | Sizes men's EU 36-47.5 (inc half sizes), women’s EU 36-43 (inc half sizes)
Danner Trail 2650 Campo
Verdict: Extremely light and breathable trail shoes with stylish looks and good traction. Some might want a little more protection and support though.
Features 3/5 | Construction 3/5 | Comfort 5/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 5/5
Overall score: 80%
Pros: Sock-like fit, light and breathable, grippy
Cons: Not the most protective, not waterproof (waterproof version is available)
With every mile you walk, the weight of your footwear matters all the more. This hiking shoe from US brand Danner is named after the 2650-mile Pacific Crest Trail, when, presumably, you’d be grateful for every gram saved by your shoes. The Trail 2650s are extremely light, thanks to fabric mesh uppers, with a central leather panel and thin overlays for added durability.
The midsole is EVA foam rubber, stiffened with a plastic ‘Trailguard’ shank for a little more stability and protection underfoot. The outsole is definitely built for the trail though, with a Vibram Megagrip compound and sharply angled lugs for enhanced traction. We liked it a lot, giving reliable grip across multiple surfaces. We were also impressed with the fit, which wraps the foot snugly thanks to a stretchy tongue.
One of the common drawbacks of low-cut trail shoes is that they often allow grit and other debris in, but this sock-like construction helps to ward off most bits and pieces. There’s also a D-ring at the base of the laces so you can fit a dust gaiter, though we can’t see much call for that here in our hills. As that feature suggests though, this is definitely a shoe intended for dry, dusty trails, since it has no waterproof liner. On the flipside, that ensures they are extremely cool and breathable.
Weight 365g | Men’s sizes US 7-14 (inc half sizes up to 11.5) | Women’s sizes US 5-11 (inc half sizes)
Verdict: A lightweight hiker with plenty of grip and a more trad boot-like feel in terms of overall support, protection and cushioning.
Aku Alterra Lite Mid GTX
Features 5/5 | Construction 5/5 | Comfort 3/5 | Performance 5/5 | Value 4/5
Overall score: 88%
Pros: Supportive, grippy and well cushioned underfoot
Cons: Comparatively stiff ankle cuff
We’re big fans of Aku’s standard Alterra boot, which has proved a dependable 3-season companion. We particularly like its elasticated ankle and tongue, which provides support and protection without feeling stiff or restrictive. So, we were a little disappointed to find that the Alterra Lite, despite having a lower mid cut, is comparatively stiff around the ankle, at least when you first put it on. This isn’t helped by the lack of a rear cutaway to relieve pressure on the Achilles.
On the other hand, they do feel very supportive when contouring on steep slopes or crossing scree. Otherwise, the design of the boot is exceptional. Like other Aku footwear, they employ the brand’s Elica natural stride system which, in our opinion, is one of the best boot lasts around, hugging the foot and reducing hotspots. We also get a closer fit than with many other boots, with no slippage or heel lift.
Underfoot they perform well too, with Aku’s own Tenuta compound offering reassuring traction even on challenging terrain. Ample cushioning also ensures they remain comfortable on long days. A Gore‑Tex liner keeps feet dry, effectively, aided by the gusseted tongue. Tongue and heel cords allow you to pull them on and off easily, which is a thoughtful design touch.
Weight 435g | Sizes men's 6-13 (inc half sizes), women’s 3-9 (inc half sizes)
Mammut Ducan Low GTX
Verdict: A low-cut hiker with a close, comfy fit, plus some clever features that make it pretty capable over varied terrain.
Features 5/5 | Construction 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 4/5
Overall score: 84%
Pros: Comfortable, more protective than most low-cut hikers
Cons: Asymmetric toe box won’t suit all feet
This low-cut hiker from Mammut has striking looks, with an unusual mono tongue and offset lacing. It gets more than just style points though, since this design makes for a close fit with little slippage and nowhere for debris to find its way in.
The broad forefoot is very comfortable and the toe box is slightly asymmetric, though that may not suit those with broad, blunt feet. The midsole has a spring-steel Flextron plate from heel to toe that gives improved flex, stability and underfoot protection compared to most rivals. It’s not the lightest shoe around though – in fact, it’s heavier than Inov-8’s Roclite G 345 GTX mid boot also tested here. Uppers are made from a double-layer knitted fabric that is more hard-wearing than some, though still not the most rugged construction. But there’s a wide wear edge between sole and upper, with a chunky rubber toecap. A Gore-Tex liner gives reliable waterproofing too.
Underfoot, the custom Vibram outsole has widely spaced lugs and a slight heel brake to help downhill control. It also has a little window in the sole, presumably to show off the Flextron technology, but this is an easy place for debris to get lodged. Overall, however, we were impressed, and this shoe really comes into its own for long day hikes or summit-bagging missions with a light pack.
Weight 485g | Sizes men's 6.5-13 (inc half sizes), women's 4-8.5 (inc half sizes)
Inov-8 Roclite G 345 GTX
Verdict: Light, grippy and comfy, this fast hiker feels like a fell-running shoe. The toe box is the only potential weak point.
Features 5/ 5 | Construction 4/5 | Comfort 5/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 3/5
Overall score: 84%
Pros: Superb traction, low weight, comfortable
Cons: Uppers not the toughest
Next time a fell-runner trots past you in the hills, glance down at their footwear. There’s a good chance they’ll be wearing Inov-8s. The brand has built an enviable reputation amongst the fleet of foot, and for good reason.
The Roclite G 345 GTX draws on that trail running expertise in a mid-cut boot designed for ‘fast hiking’. It’s what fellow Trail gear reviewer James Forrest wore for his record self-supported Wainwrights Round last year (bagging 214 fells, carrying all his kit, in 14 days and 11 hours – hiking doesn’t get much faster than that). We can see why he picked the 345s.
Extremely lightweight synthetic uppers with a waterproof-breathable Gore-Tex liner are fused to a sole unit built for toughness and traction. The aggressive outsole has chunky, multi-directional lugs that grip well in the hills and shed mud efficiently. The rubber is infused with graphene, so it is extremely hard-wearing too. The cushioned midsole works in conjunction with an embedded three-pronged shank. This allows the toe of the boot to bend while fending off debris underfoot.
Fit-wise, they’re more forgiving than most of Inov-8’s running shoes thanks to a roomier toe box, which makes them extremely comfortable for long hill days. Our only concern was with the mesh vamp at the front of the boot, which seems susceptible to wear.
Weight 430g | Sizes men’s sizes 6-12 (inc half sizes), women’s sizes 3-8.5 (inc half sizes)
Hanwag Banks Low GTX
Verdict: Not the most eye-catching, but this is a high-quality, dependable hiker that is built to go the distance in comfort.
Features 4/5 | Construction 5/5 | Comfort 5/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 3/5
Overall score: 84%
Pros: Comfortable, sturdy
Cons: Not the lightest, staid looks
If this was a one-word review, we know exactly how we’d describe the Hanwag Banks Low GTX: ‘solid’. We tested the women’s version and found it be a no-nonsense hiking shoe with the emphasis on walking comfort and high-quality construction. The result is a sturdy shoe that is built to last, employing hard-wearing nubuck leather uppers, a Gore-Tex lining and plenty of padding.
The tongue is a mono type for enhanced comfort and minimal slippage. We’d say these are fairly wide fitting, even in the regular size (there’s also a bunion fit). Grip is good, with a versatile tread pattern that works in a variety of settings. It’s actually a different sole unit to the Banks boot, featuring angled lugs of Hanwag’s own design rather than the boot’s Vibram Endurance Pro outsole. Still, it is ideal for low-level walks – a classic rambler shoe – while being stable enough for hill days too.
The blunt toe box deflects trail debris well enough, though there is no toe bumper. We did wonder about the unusual turn-over stitch along the outer edge of the uppers, which creates an awkward nook (or is it a cranny?) for dirt to get lodged in. It’s not the lightest hiker around – in fact, it is heavier than the Keen boots tested here and only fractionally lighter than the Akus. Having said that, they don’t feel noticeably heavy on the feet and ample cushioning helps avoid any foot fatigue.
Weight 415g | Sizes men's 6-14 (inc half sizes), women's 3.5-9 (inc half sizes)
Keen Tempo Flex
Verdict: A stylish and lightweight hiker-trainer with some convincing technology that makes for easy-wearing comfort. Happiest on easier terrain.
Features 4/5 | Construction 4/5 | Comfort 4/5 | Performance 4/5 | Value 4/5
Overall score: 80%
Pros: Exceptionally comfortable, stable, supportive and well-balanced
Cons: Lacks a protective rand, not quite as durable as nubuck or full-grain leather boots
Part of the range of KEEN footwear equipped with Bellows Flex technology, the Tempo Flex is a hybrid mid-cut hiker-trainer that features a ridged insert across the top of the foot. It’s designed to ensure the boot flexes more easily as you stride, while also allowing for a more contoured fit across the front and top of the boot. The brand also says it’ll help your boots last longer, since it is placed precisely where many leather or fabric boots crack or wear out over time – just at the base of the toes.
Like all the best technology, it’s easy to see it working, and we reckon this is a winner. The insert flexes at the natural point and definitely aids walking comfort compared to stiffer leather boots. We’d still say that the overall fit is fairly broad, though not baggy. The boots are comfortable, with nice padding around the ankle cuff. We did get a little pressure on the big toe on steeper descents, perhaps because such a lightweight construction just doesn’t have the stiffness to really hold the foot securely. On the other hand, grip was generally good despite the fact that the lug pattern isn’t the deepest or the most aggressive.
They kept our feet dry too, though that on-trend pastel colourway didn’t look so great after a muddy, boggy 14-mile day.
Weight 410g | Sizes men's 6-14 (inc half sizes), women's 2.5-9 (inc half sizes)
On Cloudrock Waterproof
Verdict: Fantastically comfortable boots with impact-absorbing technology and are best to harder terrain rather than mud.
Features 5/5 | Construction 4/5 | Comfort 5/5 | Performance 3/5 | Value 3/5
Overall score: 80%
Pros: Accommodating fit, plush cushioning, very comfortable
Cons: Sole unit can clog with mud and debris
Swiss footwear manufacturer On is another brand with running heritage. However, its Cloudrock Waterproof is a mid-cut boot aimed at ‘speed hikers’. It harnesses the same innovative ‘cloudtec’ pods that are the defining feature of the brand’s trail shoes. The pods are designed to compress when your feet strike the ground, providing impact absorption, then to spring back, propelling you forward. This elastic effect is more pronounced when running than walking, but the high level of cushioning is still very noticeable. As such, these boots would be a good option for hillwalkers tackling high‑mileage days, alleviating foot fatigue and soreness.
Compared to earlier generations of On shoes, the pods have also been beefed up, improving the overall durability of the sole unit. They do still have a slight drawback: they can occasionally clog, as can the deep channels underfoot. That makes the Cloudrock better suited to hard-packed mountain trails than muddy paths or scree.
This negative aside, there’s little to fault. They feel protective and supportive for a lightweight boot, with plenty of ankle padding, a decent toe bumper and a stiffened heel cup. The fabric panels aren’t quite as robust but ensure the uppers remain light and flexible. The accommodating fit also leaves plenty of space for the toes to splay, aiding all-day comfort.
Weight 550g | Sizes men's 6.5-13.5, women's 4-9
The relationship between hiker and gear is of a reciprocal nature. Or at least it should be if the hiker expects longevity and performance from their gear. Footwear needs to be cared for if it is to last and continue to perform as intended.
Read our in-depth footwear care guide for more.
Footwear care is easy, whether for synthetic fabric or leather. Use water-based and PFC-free footwear cleaners and proofers from Grangers or Nikwax: