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Buyer's Guides

Lightweight Walking Boots | Buyer’s Guide

We help you decide what matters when you're picking out a pair of lightweight walking boots.

Wondering which are the best lightweight walking boots for you? Bewildered by the choice out there? Here’s some basic advice to help you choose between the different brands and models on offer.

What do we mean by lightweight boots? Well, generally walking boots are getting lighter, but we’re talking about boots and mids that weigh 1100g or so or less per pair. Usually they’re the boots you pick up and are surprised at just how light they are.

Why Go Light?

Simple, over the course of a day, you’re lifting less weight for each step and it all adds up. On top of that, lighter boots tend to be more nimble and make it easier to place your feet more precisely. If you’re used to traditional walking boots then it’s a bit like walking on air if you make the right choice and you’ll find it hard to go back to heavier boots for general walkins.

Boots Or Mids

We find lightweight boots fall into two categories. There are lightened-up walking boots like Brasher’s SupaLite series which tend to be more supportive underfoot and less minimal, then there are ‘mids’ which are trail shoes but with higher-cut ankles, they’re often lighter, but can have less structure underfoot.

Shoe Or Boot?

Before focusing on boots, if you’re looking at lightweights, you should also consider trail shoes. It’s a common misconception that shoes are less stable than boots because boots give ankle support. In reality, for boots to stop you turning your ankle, they’d have to hold you in a vice-like grip, like a ski-boot in fact.

More important to stability is a well-fitting heel and a well-engineered sole unit and chassis, the higher ankle may feel reassuring, but it won’t really protect you from sprains and twists. There are some advantages though, you’re less likely to scuff your ankle bones on rocks and you can wade through deeper puddles without getting wet.

Beyond that though it’s personal choice and while many walkers prefer the higher cuffs of a boot, shoes often work just as well.

The Chassis

There’s interesting stuff going on with footwear at the moment, the ‘barefoot’ revolution has made boots and shoes generally more minimal, but for most people it’s about finding a balance between comfort and support. Look for a forefoot that’s relatively flexible lengthways, but a mid-foot that resists twist.

The softer and more minimal your sole unit, the stronger your feet will have to be to be comfortable. Look also for a level of underfoot cushioning you’re happy with, particularly under the heel. It won’t matter so much on softer terrain like peat or mud, but when the going’s hard, a bit of cush goes a long way.

Fit

As with all footwear, the best lightweight boot in the world is useless to you if it doesn’t fit your foot and we’d always suggest you try a variety of brands before buying. Try to shop in the afternoon because your feet can swell up during the day by up to half a size and take your own socks along and footbeds if you use them.

You’re looking for a comfortable but not loose fit with no hot-spots or rubbing. Good shops will have a slope inside where you can check that your heels don’t lift going up and your toes don’t slide forwards coming down. Take time to play with the lacing and remember you can sometimes use volume adjusters to slim down the fit.

Last but not least, a really good boot-fitter will be able to look at your feet and get an idea of what’s likely to suit their shape. Try not to have preconceptions, each brand has a subtly different last and you’re looking for the one which best matches your foot shape.

Outsole

There’s lots of variation in outsole grip when it comes to lightweights and you need to think about how and where you’re going to use the boot. It may be that if you’re buying mostly for summer use and you walk mainly on rocky or hardpack surfaces that you don’t need a huge amount of tread – the Salomon Wing GTX in some of the photos for example, has quite a shallow tread which struggles with real mud.

By contrast, the big, widely-spaced cleates on the Brasher SupaLite sole are much better on soft ground as you might expect from a boot designed primarily for UK rather than alpine use.

Uppers

At the lightweight end of the market, leather is relatively rare. Brasher’s SupaLite and inov-8’s ultra-lightweight boot are exceptions, mostly light boots and mids use a mix of fabric and suede or synthetic reinforcement. For any sort of rough moorland or mountain use however, we’d be looking for a tough toe and heel bumper like the KEEN boot above and at the very least, reinforcement around the rest of the boot to resist scuffing.

The other big call is whether to opt for a waterproof liner or not – Gore-Tex is the most commonly seen but there are plenty of of others. The reality is that you may not have a choice and some users find waterproof boots can take a long time to dry out when they do get wet.

If you’re planning on a hot conditions trek, its well worth looking for a boot which doesn’t have a waterproof liner as they can get hot, sweaty and uncomfortable in those conditions.

Lacing

Finally, although it seems like a minor thing, we always prefer outdoors footwear that has a slick, easy to adjust lace system. That might seem like a minor thing, but it makes it far easier to adjust the lace tension to work for you.

Good quality lace hooks will resist corrosion and help the laces to slide easily through them. When you’re trying boots, take the time to get the lacing just right, it makes a real difference. Finally if you opt for a boot with a speed-lacing system, as used by adidas for example, make sure the sider is secure under load and there’s somewhere to tuck the surplus lace cord.

Coming soon our group test of the best ligthweight boots out there.

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