10 best women's hiking boots and shoes for every trek, from mountain climbs to country walks
Off walking? Pack a pair of waterproof and breathable shoes
“Look after your feet and the rest will look after itself” is a mantra in the British army, and for good reason – if you feet are comfortable, warm and dry you’ll feel much happier going the distance on hikes and outdoor adventures. A good pair of waterproof hiking boots is an essential for crossing hill and dale in any weather. They’re worth investing in, and looking after.
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 is naturally waterproof but can be stiffer and heavier 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 tend to be less durable and less warm. Leather is better for winter and mountain walks, fabric is ideal for travelling and more casual use in spring and summer. If you can afford to, you’d do well to own a pair of each.
Always try hiking boots on in person, and take along the kind of socks you’d be likely to wear on walks. Check that they 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.
Your boots must be waterproof and breathable. Look for a shoe with waterproofing technology such as Gore-Tex and with thick, bouncy soles – Vibram soles are always a good choice. Good boots should also include a breathable membrane to wick away sweat and keep your feet from overheating. Higher-cut boots are best for hiking on challenging terrain, while walking shoes are best for warm weather and everyday use.
Mammut ducan high boots: £179, Mammut
Weight: 460g per boot
You often get what you pay for with hiking boots – case in point, the excellent Mammut ducan. They combine our two favourite tried-and-tested technologies, Gore-Tex waterproofing and Vibram soles and have supportive, high-cut ankles that are great on tough, challenging terrain, especially if you find your ankles need good support. The soles are also some of the grippiest we tested. If you’re off on country walks you could go for something more casual, but for mountain trails these are our top pick.
Scarpa peak Gore-Tex boots: £82.50, Go Outdoors
Weight: 610g per boot
Sole: Comfort Flex +
Material: Fabric and leather
One of our favourite hiking boots after years of use, we reach for the Peaks for tough hikes again and again. The Peak is an excellent, reliable all-rounder of a boot that has kept our feet dry in torrential rain, snow and mud. The tough fabric is warm and comfortable to wear straight out of the box, and stays comfy even when you’re stacking up the miles on long hikes. We like the high, supportive ankle and the sturdy protective toe box, too. A great choice for all seasons.
AKU trekker pro GTX boots: £194.90, AKU
A trekker by name and nature, these high-performing boots are brilliantly comfortable even over long distances, with tight-fitting, supportive ankles, tough Vibram soles and reliable waterproofing from Gore-Tex that we found stood up even in heavy storms. They weren’t the most breathable boots we tested, but they do provide excellent warmth – a great choice for long multi-day hikes in the UK and other cold climes.
Haglöfs skuta mid boots: £120, Haglöfs
Waterproofing: Proof Eco
Sole: AHAR+ rubber
Scoot everywhere from hills and dales to relaxed rambles in the skuta, an excellent all-rounder pair of hiking boots. They look sturdy but feel surprisingly lightweight to wear, and have lovely gel padding in the footbeds that help each step feel springy even over long distances. The tough reinforced toe and ankle boxes can take on difficult terrain and scrambles. We did find the ankles rather wide-cut – if you like good ankle protection go for a higher, narrower boot. Looks wise, we think the tan colourway is especially smart.
Merrell ontario mid boots: £140, Merrell
Weight: 764g per boot
Waterproofing: M-Select Dry
Material: Full grain leather
A nod to the retro trend taking over the world of outdoor kit, these handsome ontario boots have a simple leather upper and bright, contrasting laces that remind us of the hiking boots of the sixties. The rest of the shoe is bang-up-to-date, though, with sticky Vibram soles providing grip and Merrell’s own-brand Select Dry technology keeping your feet warm and dry. The ontarios are seriously comfortable, too – they may be leather boots but there’s no need to break them in.
Tog24 penyghent boots: £75, Tog24
Waterproofing: Waterproof membrane
Material: Suede and mesh
We’ve never encountered hiking boots that claimed to be unisex before, but we were impressed with this good-looking, hard-working pair from Tog 24. You get a great package for your money – smart, classic looks, a waterproof outer material and thick, springy soles. The mix of suede and mesh on the boot’s upper is a nice compromise between leather and fabric and keeps the shoes lightweight. We also found the penyghent reasonably breathable on test in hot weather. A great choice for under £100.
Adidas free hiker boots: £169.95, Adidas
Waterproofing: Water-repellent only
Material: Primeknit textile
The cheerful free hikers are fantastically comfortable and feel more like trainers than boots once on, with a close-fitting knit-style sock around the ankle that also stops rain and debris getting in. The soles are tough and grippy without weighing you down. The main part of the boot is delightfully soft and flexible when on – if you find most hiking boots restrictive, you’ll love these. The downside here is that the free hikers aren’t waterproof, and are best used only for summer hikes and for casual use – and they’re pretty pricey for boots that don’t offer rain protection.
Danner jag boots: £129.62, Danner
Waterproofing: Danner Dry
Sole: Retro Danner waffle
Material: Suede and nylon
Danner’s gorgeous, retro-looking leather boots are a bit of a cult favourite in the outdoor gear world, and their classic style has had a reboot (sorry) in the lighter, fabric jag. They’re one of the heavier boots we reviewed, but the midsole is so cushioning and bouncy that the whole thing is a joy to wear. The jag’s do take a week or two to break in but we found them to be waterproof even in heavy rain and breathable in hot weather, as well as gorgeous to look at. One for the style-conscious.
Hanwag lady tatra II boots: £235, Cotswold Outdoor
Weight: 640g per boot
Material: Nubuck leather
A boot to invest in for a lifetime of wear, the buttery-soft yet reliably durable tatra II may be pricey but it boasts both Gore-Tex waterproofing and Vibram soles as well as a luxurious nubuck leather outer. The carefully designed fit is great for wider feet and anyone suffering with bunions, and the boots offer excellent ankle support – a good choice if most boots tend to pinch your feet or if you have weak ankles. These were reliably waterproof when we tested them on prolonged rainy walks, but are on the heavy side.
Regatta clydebank mid boots: £39.95, Regatta
Weight: 447g per boot
Material: Suede and mesh
They may look on the clunky side but the clydebanks feel light and lovely to wear from the get-go, and at well under £50 they are excellent value for a waterproof hiking boot that performs well in heavy rain. These boots don’t have the grippiest soles we tested, and aren’t very warm in bitter winter – they’re best worn for country walks and easier trails in spring and summer.
The verdict: Women’s hiking boots
The Mammut ducan boots are excellent, wear-anywhere all-rounders. If you can afford to splurge, the luxe-yet-tough Hanwag lady tatra's are worth it, and the excellent Scarpa peak boots are great option for under £100.
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