Best Walking Shoes 2023 - Outdoors Magic

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Walking Boots

Best Walking Shoes 2023

We'll often think about the weight on our back but not on our feet, and some lightweight kicks can really make a difference in the right circumstances

The best shoes for walking do not necessarily have to be in boot form. There are a number of benefits that walking boots can bring but in some cases a walking shoe, or trail shoe – when the cut is below the ankle – can be the better option for the hike you are planning.

The main benefit of hiking in boots over shoes is that they bring superior stability, so if you’re walking over extremely uneven terrain, or if you have weak ankles, boots might be your best option. Boots are also often the better choice if you are hiking in deep snow or brush, or in bog, mud, sand or scree, and want to keep your feet clean, dry or free from any niggling debris.

The advantage that walking shoes or trail shoes have over boots tends to be their lighter weight. The average weight of a pair of walking shoes is around 750g whereas the average weight of a pair of boots is around 1200g, and carrying less on your feet can really make a difference over long distances, in the end meaning less exertion and more energy saved.

Our selection of the best walking shoes on test here all range in weight and style. Some of them have waterproof linings and others don’t, and while some of them are made specifically for walking in, there are also some that will have been primarily designed with runners in mind but that will still suit a ‘fast & light’ hiker.

The Judge

As editor of this site for the past six years, I’ve not only had my finger right on the pulse of the latest outdoor gear news on a daily basis, but I’ve also spent a lot of time out testing products, whether that’s specifically for work or as part of my hobby. I do a lot of long distance hiking and am proud to say I’m a trustee for the Cambrian Way hiking trail and a former president of the Ramblers in Wales. I’m also been on the awards juries for the likes of ISPO, the Outdoor Industries Association and the Scandinavian Outdoor Award.

The Selection Process

I’ve tested the majority of the products in this round up myself. This has mainly been during our Outdoor 100 and Green Gear Guide test trips to places like Snowdonia, the Scottish Highlands and even further afield (we went to Albania last year!) At the very least, I’ve spent a day in the shoes and at the most, I’ve hiked hundreds of miles on a long-distance trail. The boots I haven’t tested myself (usually the women’s models) will have been trialled by one of the members of our Outdoors Magic Test Team who will then have given me their feedback – and I still will have had the products in my hands to ensure the quality is there.

Best Walking Shoes: Our Team’s Top Picks

  • Best Overall Hiking Shoe: AKU Rock DFS GTX

  • Walking Shoe Made for Long-Distances: Altra Lone Peak 5.0

  • Most Comfortable Walking Shoe: Danner Trail 2650

  • Best Walking Shoe for Rocky Trails: Salewa Alp Trainer 2 GTX

  • Best Multi-Activity Trail Shoe: Inov-8 Trailroc G280


Best Overall Walking Shoe


OM editor Will using the Aku Rock DFS on a scramble in north Wales

Price: £190
Weight: 760g
Best for: Trail hiking, approach hiking, scrambling
Key attributes: Innovative design, good quality materials, comfortable sock-like fit

The AKU Rock DFS GTX is rather unique. It features a double lacing system that, according to the Italian brand, “allows you to adjust the comfort and precision of the fit in the different phases of use: a traditional lace for maximum comfort while walking and a fast lacing to increase sensitivity in the climbing phase”. This essentially means that you’ve got a walking shoe and an approach shoe all-in-one.

Gimmick or game-changer? I’d say the latter. The lacing system really is convenient and effective. And, aside from that lacing system, the Rock DFS is simply just a decent shoe, with a nice protective but slightly flexible midsole, a climbing zone at the toe to help with scrambles, good waterproof Gore-tex protection and a very grippy Vibram sole. I found it was nice and solid underfoot, so no sharp rocks or roots niggled, but it still had the level of flexibility I want for a shoe to cover high mileage in.

One other feature worthy of mention is the tongue. This has the same supportive ‘sock-like’ fit as many of AKU’s boots, like the Tengu range for example. It creates a close-fitting and comfortable upper without any of the creases or folds that can sometimes cause rubbing and hotspots. Overall then, I’d say this is an extremely versatile shoe – it’s the kind of thing made for anything from long-distance trail hikes, hut-to-hut treks and even some graded scrambling too. I felt that the craftsmanship here was excellent. It feels like a shoe that’s made to last.

Full Specifications

Available in men’s and women’s fits / available as a mid cut / upper: suede 1,6 mm + microfibre + air8000 / Vibram® approcciosa megagrip outsole / double density EVA + PU midsole / ortholite hybrid partially recycled insole / 4mm lugs.

Selected for our Outdoor 100 2022/23. Read our full AKU Rock DFS review.



Most Comfortable Walking Shoe

Danner Trail 2650

Price: £140
Weight: 680g
Best for: Long-distance hiking, lightweight backpacking
Key attributes: Comfortable, lightweight

Lightweight, comfortable and pretty darn cool looking in our opinion, I’m a big fan of these trail shoes by U.S-based brand Danner. So much so that I wore the pair I had daily for four years until the sole eventually wore out.

Named in reference to the 2650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail, these are designed with long distance walkers specifically in mind with loads of padding underfoot thanks to the three layers of varying density in the sole, including EVA foam and a removable ortholite insole.

Like many other shoes in this Outdoor 100, the Danner Trail 2650 come equipped with a Vibram Megagrip sole. Photo: Chris Johnson

There’s also good support at the back of the heel thanks to what Danner call their EXO Heel System. This serves to pocket your heel and prevents it sliding about. I found this to be very comfortable and the shoe felt very ergonomic overall.

Other things I liked include the quality suede leather and the Vibram outsole with multi-directional lugs for a bit of grip on dusty or muddy trails. Its a shame these wore out on me but I think four years of constant use is a very good run.

Full Specifications

Also available in a women’s version / EVA footbed / TPU shank / waterproof option available / mesh-lined / Vibram 460 outsole / removable ortholite footbed / 8mm heel-toe drop.

Read our full Danner Trail 2650 walking shoe review



Best Walking Shoe for Rocky Trails

Salewa Alp Trainer 2 Gore-tex

The Alp Trainers during our team’s recent trip to the Highlands. Photo: Michael Drummond

Price: £160
Weight: 370g (women’s)
Best for: Hiking and trekking
Key attributes: durable construction, quality materials, comfortable build

Light but protective and supportive, grippy over a variety of terrain and comfortable over long distances too, whether it’s a morning of scrambling or a whole day on a trail, our female tester reported to me that the Alp Trainer 2 is right at home in whatever situation.

The Alp Trainer 2 comes armed with all the features you’d expect from a walking shoe, such as a grippy and robust Vibram outsole and waterproofing courtesy of a Gore-tex liner. At 964g per pair, they’re lighter than much of the competition, making them a solid choice for adventurous peak baggers, scramblers, hut-to-hut hikers and long-distance trekkers.

The women’s version of this is made with a women’s specific last designed to properly cater for female feet. A men’s fit is also available and there’s a mid cut variation for those who prefer a higher ankle.

Full Specifications

Available in men’s and women’s versions / reinforced rand / Flex Collar / Gore-tex membrane / Vibram sole / Eva foam midsole / heel stack height 30 mm / toe stack height 20 mm.

Read our full Salewa Alp Trainer 2 Gore-Tex review



Walking Shoe Made for Long Distances

Altra Lone Peak

Price: £130
Weight: 301g
Best for: Thru-hiking and trail running
Key attributes: Wide toe box, ‘barefoot’ design

First of all, I should point out that the model pictured here is now an older model. There’s a much newer one that’s out now. The core essentials are all the same, there are just some slight tweaks here and there.

The thing about the Altra Lone Peak series that perhaps makes it so endearing to trail hikers is its shape. It features a close-fitting heel and midfoot but then it also has what you could say is an unusually large toe box. It looks almost laughably big but it really comes into its own on days with big mileage, where your feet will start to swell a touch and splay out.   

The Lone Peak is a neutral shoe in that there’s no ‘drop’ – meaning there’s no slope or offset from the heel to the toe. Walking in this, you’ll therefore find that it promotes a mid to forefoot landing, thus reducing the amount of pressure and shock going into your heels.

The stack height is still pretty high though, measuring a hefty 28mm. Handy details include TPU reinforcements at the toes and around the heel for protection, a little finger tab to help pull the shoes on and off, and then, as on previous versions, there are hoops and Velcro for attaching mini gaiters. 

Personally, the wide toe box isn’t really for me. I don’t think I really need it but I know a lot of long-distance hikers who absolutely swear by Altra’s shoes.

Full Specifications

Close-fitting heal and midfoot / large toe box no drop / mid to forefoot landing / 28mm stack height / Altra EGO foam midsole hidden mesh sole unit for foot protection / 4mm chevron lug patterns / laser perforated holes in the upper / TPU reinforcements at the toes and heel / finger tab / hoops and Velcro attachments.

Chosen for our Outdoor 100 2021/22. Read our full Altra Lone Peak 5.0 review.



Best Multi-Activity Trail Shoe

Inov-8 Trailroc G280

Price: £140
Weight: 280g (per shoe)
Best for: Trail running
Key attributes: Durable, lightweight

This is a shoe for trail, mountain and fell running in hard and rocky terrain. It features a super-durable graphene-based outsole with 4mm chevron shaped lugs for traction. The midsole features a full length lightweight shank to provide a little bit of rock for energy return and to block out any sharp and hard stuff underfoot. The upper has a tough, durable and structured feel to it but without making the Trailroc feel heavy or too stiff and constricting. It’s mostly mesh with plenty of PU lamination and a protective toe bumper.

Full Specifications

Available for men and women and in half sizes / 8mm drop / 6mm footbed / 4mm lug depth / Power Flow midsole / 20mm heel / 12mm forefoot / Meta Plate shank / Tri-C Sticky sole compound.

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2020/21 – read our full Inov-8 Trailroc G280 trail shoe review



Best of the Rest


Adidas Terrex Free Hiker

Price: £170
Weight: 382g
Best for: Fast hiking
Key attributes: Lightweight, well-cushioned

The Free Hiker is arguably one of the biggest releases from Adidas Terrex this season; a hiking boot that features their trademark running technology – Boost. Boost is essentially a foam-based midsole that offers large amounts of cushioning with quite a springy feeling whilst you’re walking. It makes for an impressive amount of comfort on the trails that you’ll be thankful of after a few miles in your legs.

Also underfoot, you’ve got a Continental rubber outsole with 5mm lugs that wouldn’t look out of place on a trail running shoe. It’s these lugs that give some great traction over the trails. Another similarity to a trail shoe is the weight of the Free Hiker – 382g – something that you’re again going to appreciate as you start logging those miles.

I found this shoe to be great for light and dry trails and I really liked its spongy sole and breathability. I’d say it’s not particularly suited to wet and boggy conditions or highly technical trails. I did manage a bit of scrambling in them but I wouldn’t recommend it for that.

Full Specifications

Sizes 5 – 14 (UK) / available in men’s and women’s / Primeknit upper with abrasion-resistant weldings / Continental rubber outsole / Boost midsole / midsole drop: 10 mm (heel 33 mm / forefoot 23 mm) / moulded TPU toe cap / heel cap for stability on the heel.

Selected for the Outdoor 100 2020/21 – take a closer look at the Adidas Terrex Free Hiker here



The North Face Vectiv Exploris

OM editor Will using the Vectiv Exploris on rocky trails in North Wales

Price: £140
Weight: 750g
Best for: Trail walking
Key attributes: Very breathable, excellent ride

The North Face’s Exploris boasts some impressive innovation here. First up, there’s the high tech Futurelight waterproof membrane, then there’s the energy saving/speed boosting Vectiv carbon plate in the mid sole – both big innovations that have really been turning heads within the outdoor world.  

What’s particularly impressed me about the Futurelight membrane is its breathability. It’s made through a process of nano-spinning, which results in a fabric that has a super high moisture vapour transmission rate and much better eco-creds than more standard membrane fabrics (at least the ePFTE ones anyway). 

The Vectiv carbon plate, which was originally unveiled in The North Face’s Vectiv trail shoe collection, brings a number of benefits, the most notable one being increased energy return with each stride. Basically, it propels your feet forward, ultimately helping you to go for longer. On top of that it also provides a decent amount of protection from sharp roots and rocks. 

This particular version of the Exploris comes with a smart suede upper with PU overlays for protection around the base of the upper and on the toe. The outsole has 4mm lugs with a large central cutout to increase traction and save weight. It’s not the most aggressive of soles but I found that it’ll do the job on all but the super slippery and muddy stuff.  

Full Specifications

Futurelight waterproof membrane / Vectiv carbon plate / high moisture vapour transmission rate / eco-friendly membrane fabric / suede upper with PU overlays 4mm outsole lugs with large central cutout / synthetic version available using cordura ripstop nylon.

Chosen for our Outdoor 100 2021/22. Read our full The North Face Vectiv Exploris review.



Keen WK400

Price: £135
Weight: 400g (per shoe)
Best for: trail and low level walking
Key attributes: comfortable, ergonomic

These shoes from American brand Keen are specifically designed to make walking easier and more comfortable. Have they achieved this? I’d say they have. From the moment I pulled these on I noticed that they felt very different to any other hiking shoe I’d tried. Stepping forward in them feels almost quite bizarre – but in a good way. That’s because they have a sole that curves upwards at the front and back to aid forward propulsion and to support a natural walking gait. There’s even a full length Nylon plate that maintains the full length of the sole – the kind of thing you’d find in a high-spec new running shoe. 

Standing still in them you can actually rock backwards and forward as if on a see-saw and walking in them, you do really notice them propelling you forward. Off-track this feeling isn’t particularly noticeable but you really feel the rock to them on hard trails, pavements or roads and over the course of a day I did find that we’d got to appreciate the smooth stride the sole creates. I also found that the sole had a spongy, very cushioned feel to it and the grip was decent with the lugs able to grip well on light muddy trails and gravelly tracks. 

Expect the usual wide toe box that you tend to get with Keen shoes. This lets your toes sit naturally, giving a relaxed feel. The rest of the shoe has what Keen describe as an athletic fit – essentially a closer fit, in other words. I’ve found other reviewers online saying that the shoe was too narrow for them at the middle of the foot. This wasn’t a problem I had during our tests (worn on average-shaped, size 10 feet).

I tested the non-waterproof version and found it ideal for hot weather hiking. There’s also a version with a Keen.Dry membrane for hiking in cool and wet conditions.

And it’s not just available in bumble bee yellow. It comes in more muted colourways too.

Full Specifications

Available in men’s and women’s sizes, including half sizes / Keen.Curve sole with Nylon plate / PFAS-free water repellent coating / made from recycled PET plastic / pesticide free anti-odour treatment / removable PU insole.



Merrell MQM 3 Gore-tex

Price: £130
Weight: 640g
Best for: Fast Hiking
Key attributes: Locked-in fit, recycled materials, GTX membrane, Vibram sole

This is a walking shoe that’s designed for those who prefer to feel light-footed and agile on the trail. It’s a hybrid-type trainer, one with the comfort of a running shoe or sneaker but the protection of a hiking boot.

I found this felt solid underfoot – tough enough to block out roots and rocks – but it also had the kind of cushioning, flex and shock absorption that I look for in a shoe for high mileage.

It felt light weight too. The upper is thin but made from durable materials and there’s padding where you need it, including on the tongue and around the heel. TPU overlays give a bit of added protection to the walls of the shoe, particularly around the toe. The Gore-tex membrane extends throughout the upper and links with the tongue via gussets, so there’s all-round waterproof protection.

The rubber sole, on the other hand, uses a compound is called Vibram TC5+ and it’s designed to give you traction on all levels of surface and in all conditions. This was up to scratch for me, though it does have its limitations on things like super slimy or icy rock.

Full Specifications

Padding on tongue and heel / TPU overlays on upper / Gore-Tex membrane / nylon shank and rock plate in sole / cushioning and shock absorption from Merrell foam / Vibram TC5+ rubber sole / lug depth: 5mm / forward facing chevrons on ball of foot (upward traction) / backward facing chevrons on heel (backward traction) / 100% recycled mesh lining, lacing and sections of webbing / 50% recycled removable EVA footbed.

Read our full Merrell MQM 3 GTX review. 



Arc’teryx Norvan SL GTX

Price: £130
Weight: 235g
Best for: Approach, fell running
Key attributes: Lightweight

As the SL in their name points out, these are some super, super light shoes. They’re actually primarily designed as shoes for climbers who want to run between their climbs, or run rather than walk on their approach to a wall. In fact, there’s a little loop on the back of them so you can clip them onto your harness.

As is the case with many of the other shoes on this page, while these might be designed primarily for running, they’ll still suit hikers, particularly those who are conscious of keeping their gram-count down wherever possible. I’ve worn them for both hiking and running and I think they’re a really great all-rounder.

One of the most interesting things about the Norvan SL is that it uses Vibram’s new Litebase technology. This sees a 40-50% reduction in rubber thickness when compared to standard Vibram soles, which in turn results in a 25-30% decrease in the overall weight of the shoe, and all without  any difference in the lug depth or thickness.

I would say these feel quite narrow at the toe, so if you have wide feet it’s worth factoring that in before buying.

Full Specifications

Available for men and women and in half sizes / TPU plate at the forefoot / Vibram MegaGrip outsole with Litebase / 3.5mm lugs / 7mm drop / mesh upper.

Read our full Arc’teryx Norvan SL GTX review


What Are The Different Types of Walking Shoe?

When it comes to the different types of walking shoes, at one end of the scale there are waterproof membrane-lined, strong and durable shoes that are essentially hiking boots without the ankle, then at the other end of the scale you have what might actually be specifically classed as a trail running shoe. There are also approach shoes, a category of footwear designed for short to medium distance hikes over rocky and uneven terrain.

Here’s a breakdown of those three different types of hiking shoes.

Hiking shoes

Hiking shoes, as already mentioned, tend to look essentially like hiking boots that don’t have ankle support. Generally speaking, unlike trail running shoes and approach shoes, walking shoes will be designed for long-distance comfort, so they’ll have cushioning, padding and will often have a relaxed fit around the toes too. They also tend to have a lot of reinforcement, with a mix of leather and synthetics and a solid toe bumper too. More often than not, hiking shoes will have a waterproof liner, though you can still find plenty that are unlined.

Our tester using the Salewa Alp Trainer on rocky trails in Glen Nevis, Scotland.

From our experience, the best walking shoe will offer dependable grip, the right balance between breathability and protection, shock absorption, comfort over long distances (with enough room to accommodate foot splaying) and durability at the midsole to block out rocks and roots.

Trail Running Shoes

It is not uncommon for hikers to opt for a non-waterproof trail running shoe when the landscape isn’t too technical and/or when it’s dry and hot.

Some hikers will even opt for a trail running-type shoe when the conditions are extremely wet, since it is more of less inevitable that moisture will enter the shoe at some point in the day. This is because once water gets into a membrane-lined shoe, it tends to linger there for a long time, whereas non-waterproof shoes will be able to drain easily and ultimately dry faster when the conditions improve.

Trail running shoes also tend to be a lot lighter than walking shoes and that’s why you see them on the feet of ultralight hikers, particularly those on long thru-hikes – or generally anyone who cares about their overall gram count.

Bear in mind that many trail shoes are designed with narrow, precise toes, so you don’t always get the same level of comfort as you would from walking shoes. There are exceptions to this though, with Altra being a good example. They make trail running shoes with a wide toe box to cater for that foot splay that often occurs over long distances. Check out our guide to the best trail running shoes for more on the benefits you can get from this type of footwear.

Approach Shoes

The third type of walking shoe we’re looking at here, approach shoes, are designed for climbers to wear during their walk-in to a climb – hence the ‘approach’ in the name. These are often easy to pick out: they’ll have a large rubber rand at the base of the upper, a low-profile rubber compound underfoot to grip to rocks and then lacing that goes right down to the toes to allow for a precise fit.

These can be comfortable on short to medium distance hikes – and are particularly handy for any hikes that involve rocky scrambles – but they’re not typically recommended as footwear for long-distance hikes as the treads aren’t often deep enough for muddy trails and they don’t tend to have too much in the way of cushioning.


Whether you should opt for waterproofing or not depends, we’d say, on the conditions. If you’re hiking out in warm and dry conditions then non-waterproof shoes will ensure maximum breathability. Conversely, if you’re mainly going to be out in wet or snowy conditions then waterproofing will help.

That’s putting things simply. To get more complex, there are some hikers who’ll opt for non-waterproof shoes even in wet weather. If there’s a chance you could end up being out in wet conditions where water is likely to get over the top of your shoes and inside, some would argue that it’s better to have shoes that will at least let the water out. Many long distance hikers – particularly Pacific Crest Trail or Appalachian Trail hikers – who can expect all kinds of conditions over the course of their journey will opt for non-waterproof shoes as, on balance, they’ll be the most versatile across the varied climatic conditions.

Ultimately, the best approach here depends on the types of hikes and conditions you’ll mainly be experiencing. If you’ll more than likely be mostly on defined trails and hiking in mild to cold conditions, then waterproof shoes will be ideal, but if you’ll be out in a lot of hot stuff, unlined shoes are for you. Or, if you’re doing a lot of varied hiking in all kinds of conditions – and you definitely want a shoe over a boot – perhaps an unlined trail shoe is for you.


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