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Get kitted up to tackle any kind of trail – and any weather conditions – in a great pair of hiking boots. There’s a huge range of choice on the market when shopping for walking boots, and the biggest decision is whether to go for leather or fabric boots.
Leather, fabric, or both?
Leather is naturally waterproof but can be stiff and heavy, and takes a while to break in and mould comfortably to your feet.
Fabric boots tend to be lighter and can feel more like wearing comfortable trainers straight out of the box, but are less durable and less warm than leather.
Leather is best for winter and mountain walks, while fabric is ideal for travelling and more casual use in spring and summer. If you can afford to, it’s a good idea to own a pair of each.
What to look for in a boot
Your boots must be waterproof (for wet weather) and breathable (for warm temperatures). Look for boots with built-in waterproofing technology such as Gore-Tex and with thick, bouncy soles with deep lugs (the indentation that help give good grip) – we always rate Vibram soles on test. Good boots should include a breathable membrane to wick away sweat and keep your feet from overheating.
Check that your new boots feel comfortable when tightly laced, with plenty of wiggle room for toes and without too much room to move your heel. If the boots have a high ankle, your ankle should feel nicely supported without any rubbing.
Wider feet? Look for boots that specify a wide fit, especially if you have bunions. Expect to pay around the £150 mark for a great pair of boots, although we’ve also included a great option for tighter budgets. Look after your new boots well and you’ll get many seasons of wear out of them.
On Cloudrock Edge Raw Boot
Key specs – Material: Synthetic; Waterproof technology: Polyurethane waterproof membrane; Weight: 390g; Colour options: 1
These beautiful pale boots look a little different from your average hiking boots for good reason – they’re totally undyed and are made with recycled materials to minimise their environmental impact.
The Edge Raw is fully waterproofed, and we liked the high narrow ankle and tight lacing system, which give great support. Impressively deep lugs also offer great grip, even in wet weather.
Each boot weighs just 390g, and the Edge Raw offers trainer-like comfort even on longer walks.
The only downside to this smart and sustainably-designed boot is that it does look dirty very quickly.
Keen Karraig Boot
Key specs – Material: Leather; Waterproof technology: Keen.Dry; Weight: 600g; Colour options: 1
Love to go off the beaten track? Keen’s Karraig could be your new best friend. This high-performing leather hiking boot is warm, waterproof and instantly comfortable.
We loved the high, supportive and well-padded ankle, which doesn’t let rain in, the protected toe box and the thick soles, which offer great grip even on slippery surfaces.
Karraigs aren’t lightweight, and thus are best suited for cooler weather – take them outdoors from autumn to spring and they’ll do you proud.
Hoka One One Tennine Boot
Key specs – Material: Synthetic; Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex; Weight: 416g; Colour options: 1
Hoka describe these rather bonkers boots as ‘part hovercraft, part hiking boot’, and we’d have to agree.
Those massive soles really do make you feel a little like you’re walking on air - the Tennines definitely do feel deliciously light and comfy, even if you’re clocking up the miles. There’s lots of substance as well as style here – the Tennines have reliably Gore-Tex waterproofing and tough Vibram soles.
The look of these futuristic boots is a bit like Marmite, but if you love them then you’ll definitely stand out from the hiking crowd.
Chameau-Lite LCX 7” Boot
Key specs – Material: Leather; Waterproof technology: Le Chameau LCX® technology; Weight: 625g; Colour options: 1
Le Chameau specialise in tough hunting boots and smart wellingtons, but their rugged and weatherproof boot designs are also perfect for hikers.
The LCX boot isn’t the lightest we tested at 625g, but what it loses in the weight stakes it more than makes up for in performance.
It’s fully waterproofed and can deal with the foulest weather you throw at it, and great soles with deep lugs offer excellent grip on all surfaces.
The boots are also surprisingly breathable, and their dark leather finish looks very smart, too. Expensive, but brilliant quality that should last you for years.
Jack Wolfskin Wilderness Lite Texapore Boot
Key specs – Material: Synthetic; Waterproof technology: Texapore; Weight: 535g; Colour options: 1
If you’re heading into the wilderness you’re going to need a boot that can keep up.
Jack Wolfskin’s Wilderness Lite got top marks from us on test – it’s comfortable, waterproof, highly breathable and has a thick grippy Vibram sole that can deal with pretty much any surface you decide to hike over.
A tough toe cap protects your feet in challenging terrain and the lacing system keeps your foot well supported. If you’re more into mountain treks than country walks, this is a high-performing choice.
Regatta Highton Stretch Boot
Key specs – Material: Synthetic; Waterproof technology: Isotex; Weight: 379g; Colour options: 2
Our top pick on a budget is Regatta’s Highton Stretch boot, which definitely punches above its £60 price tag.
These fabric boots are lightweight at 379g each, and feel very comfortable to wear straight out of the box.
Regatta’s own-brand Isotex waterproofing can withstand any sudden rainfall, and the rubber outsoles offer decent grip. The Highton Stretch boots are also suitable for vegans (many mainstream hiking boots aren’t).
A great first hiking boot.
Sorel Kinetic Conquest Boot
Key specs – Material: leather, suede; Waterproof technology: Waterproofed leather; Weight: 460g; Colour options: 3
Meet Sorel’s Kinetic Conquest, which feels like you’re wearing your favourite trainers but has the looks of a retro hiking boot.
The Kinetic is made with very supple, comfortable suede leather and feels pleasingly light underfoot - those big wave-like soles are very bouncy and, combined with well-cushioned inner soles, make these boots feel great to wear all day long.
An insulated lining also means the Kinetic Conquests stay cosy even when the temperature drops.
We love the soft suede outer and the fleece-y tongue of these boots, but they aren’t really suitable for the toughest (or the muddiest) conditions – save them for more casual walks.
Salomon Vaya Boot
Key specs – Material: Synthetic; Waterproof technology: Gore-Tex; Weight: 330g; Colour options: 2
While Salomon’s light-as-a-feather Vaya boot works well for hiking year-round, it really stands out in warmer weather – it’s so highly breathable and lightweight, you’ll barely feel like you’re wearing boots at all, even on the dog days of summer. The flexible fabric feels comfortable even on all-day hikes, and is fully waterproofed with Gore-Tex. The Vayas do have rather wide-cut ankles, so you’ll need to lace them tightly for a snug fit. A great choice for walking holidays, travelling and backpacking.
Hanwag Banks Lady Boot
Key specs – Material: Nubuck leather; Waterproof technology; Gore-Tex; Weight: 525g; Colour options: 4
There’s a lot to like in Hanwag’s classic Banks boot. It combines our tried-and-tested combination of Vibram soles and Gore-Tex waterproofing, and can tackle tough, rocky terrain and very wet weather without any problems.
We also rate the high cut of the ankle, which offers great support and makes these boots ideal for wearing on more challenging trails.
The Banks are on the stiff and heavy side, but they do become more flexible with use. A narrow and a wider version of the boot are also available, to help you get the perfect fit.
Giesswein Wool Cross X Alpine boot
Key specs – Material: Merino wool; Waterproof technology: Water resistant; Weight: 430g; Colour options: 1
We’ve always been fans of Giesswein’s butter-soft Merino wool trainers, so we were excited to try their new foray into hiking boots, the Cross X Alpine. Merino wool has properties that make it perfect for hiking boots – it wicks away sweat, regulates temperature and doesn’t smell, plus it’s light weight.
The Alpine boots sport a tough sole with decent grip and a soft, fleecy inner lining, and they’re pleasingly light on the feet at 430g. These boots may be made with wool but they’re still water repellent enough to deal with a sudden shower. That said, we’d recommend picking a fully waterproofed boot if you’re heading out into stormy weather.