Best Walking Shoes 2024 | Light and Sturdy Shoes For Trails and Mountain Trekking - Outdoors Magic

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Trail and Scramble Shoes

Best Walking Shoes 2024 | Light and Sturdy Shoes For Trails and Mountain Trekking

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

Walking shoes are ideal for hiking when you want to feel lighter, more agile and cooler in warm weather. There’s also the energy-saving side of things; the weight of a pair of walking shoes is usually around 750g whereas walking boots tend to be around 1200g. That difference in weight will make a real difference over long distances.

Before we get into the nitty gritty and show you our pick of the best shoes for hiking, we should highlight the fact that there are different kinds of walking shoes designed for different activities and in this article we’re not only going to break down those different types but we’ll show your our favourite options from each category – the walking shoes and trail shoes that have impressed us following our extensive tests.

Best Walking Shoes: Our Team’s Top Picks

In this selection, we’ve included a range of different style of trail shoes. You’ll see straight-up walking shoes – essentially walking boots without the ankle – and you’ll also see trail running shoes that will also be suitable for hiking. Then there’s another category which sits in between the two and that’s the ‘fast hiking’ category and these are best described as a walking shoe-trail running shoe hybrid. Finally, there are also approach shoes – the AKU Rock DFS being a good example there. If that’s the kind of shoe you’re here for, we’ve got a guide to the best approach shoes that will help you there.

  • Best Overall Hiking Shoe: The North Face Vectiv Fastpack
    This parachutes into our list as the best option overall following our tests. It’s a real all-rounder with an excellent waterproof membrane and grippy sole.

  • Our runner up: AKU Rock DFS GTX
    The AKU Rock DFS proved to be very sturdy, grippy and durable. It was their unique lacing system that sealed the deal, however. It makes these hugely versatile and suited to all kinds of terrain.

  • Most Comfortable Walking Shoe: Danner Trail 2650
    So, so comfortable. We found that the ergonomic, spongy and shock absorbing mid sole made these luxuriously comfortable to walk in on hard trails

  • Best Walking Shoe for Very Rocky Trails: Salewa Alp Trainer 2 GTX
    This walking shoe was selected due to its stiff sole unit. We found it made these excellent at blocking out sharp roots and rocks.

  • Best Barefoot-Style Walking Shoe: Vivobarefoot Primus Trailknit
    These are thin and very lightweight so they’re not great for rocky trails but we did think that the neutral platform and natural fit made these very comfortable and led their class in the ‘barefoot’ category.

The Expert

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’ve 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 all 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. 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. What makes a good pair of hiking? For me, durability up top and comfort and reliability underfoot. I also like a pair of shoes that block out roots and rocks underfoot, though without reducing the overall ‘feel’ for the trail.


The North Face Vectiv Fastpack

Best overall walking shoe: This gets our pick as the the best shoe in our tests

Our tester Emma using The North Face Vectiv Fastpack in the hills of Wales.

Price: £135
Weight: 323g
Best for: trail hiking, general wear
What we liked: rocker geometry at the sole creates forward propulsion
What we didn’t like: it’d be good to see more recycled content used

We found that these walking shoes from The North Face tick all the right boxes for us and they passed our tests with flying colours. 

The outsole had good grip on muddy surfaces and performance across slightly wet boulder fields too. The North Face’s proprietary membrane, called Futurelight, did what we wanted it to do in wet weather and the sole unit had a nice bit of flex while still being very good at blocking out sharp rocks and roots. 

It also features The North Face’s clever Vectiv technology which involves a lightweight and flexible 3D printed plate that’s embedded within the midsole. Combined with a rocker geometry at the sole, this creates a touch of forward propulsion and a natural rolling feel. From our experience with this, we found it does create a smooth and quite natural feel, saving you from jarring heel shocks while also potentially creating energy savings too. 

The fit is comfortable and supportive, all thanks to the spongy foam cushioning, moulded spandex collar and the stable heel positioning. We also liked the fact it has a double-punched lacing system which means the fit can be fine-tuned to ensure maximum stability when moving over varied ground.

Buy The North Face Vectiv Fastpack: £135 at




A close second: This was our previous top pick and it still ranks highly for us

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
What we liked: innovative design, good quality materials, comfortable sock-like fit
What we didn’t like: quite heavy

We selected this as our best overall walking shoe due to the versatility we found it presented. It’s the kind of thing made for anything from long-distance trail hikes, hut-to-hut treks and even some graded scrambling too. We felt that the craftsmanship here was excellent. It feels like a shoe that’s made to last.

And it’s unique too. 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? We’d say the latter. We found that the lacing system really is convenient and effective. On a hike up to Ben Nevis we found ourselves making subtle tweaks as we went to adapt to the different types of terrain we encountered and this aided both the performance and the comfort.

We also found it was nice and solid underfoot, so no sharp rocks or roots niggled, but it still had the level of flexibility you’d 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 Aku 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.

Selected for our Outdoor 100 guide. Read our full AKU Rock DFS review.

Buy the Aku Rock DFS: £182 at 



3. Danner Trail 2650

Most comfortable hiking shoe: This wins our award for being the most comfortable over hard terrain and over long distances.

Price: £200
Weight: 680g
Best for: long-distance hiking, lightweight backpacking
What we liked: very comfortable, lightweight
What we didn’t like: price

Lightweight, comfortable and pretty darn cool looking in our opinion, we’re big fans of these trail shoes by U.S-based brand Danner. So much so that one of our testers wore the pair they 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.

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. We found this to be very comfortable and the shoe felt very ergonomic overall.

Other things we liked include the quality suede leather and the Vibram outsole with multi-directional lugs for a bit of grip on dusty or muddy trails.

Read our full Danner Trail 2650 walking shoe review

Buy the Danner Trail 2650: £180 at 


4. Salewa Alp Trainer 2 Gore-tex

Best for rocky trails: The stiff plate and overall durability to this shoe gains it our pick as the best shoe for rocky trails.

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
What we liked: durable construction, quality materials, comfortable build
What we didn’t like: the toe is quite narrow

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 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.

Read our full Salewa Alp Trainer 2 Gore-Tex review

Buy the Salewa Alp Trainer: £157 at 


5. Vivobarefoot Primus Trailknit

Best barefoot style walking shoe: The Vivobarefoot Primus Trailknit is the best zero drop shoe from our tests.

Will wearing the Tracker Decon which is now replaced by the Primus Trailknit

Price: £104
Weight: 350g
Best for: light, dry trails
What we liked: very breathable, good grip
What we didn’t like: barefoot style isn’t got everyone

The Primus Trailknit from British brand Vivobarefoot is part of a wider genre of footwear known as ‘barefoot’ shoes. It’s a type of footwear designed to encourage a more natural and intuitive style of walking, in turn producing less impact on your muscles and joints. While not for everyone, if you’re the type of person that’s fed up with ultra cushioned footwear and want to find something with a bit more ‘feel’ for the trail, this is a pair worth considering

As is typical of barefoot shoes, we found these to be very roomy around the toes but they still felt secure around the heel and midfoot. They also provided a nice bit of bite on steep, typically slippery surfaces. The stretchy upper was comfortable and breathable and gave the shoe a slipper-like feel.

A good shoe for the category. If you want waterproof protection, cushioning, support and rigidity, it’s best to look elsewhere. 

Selected for our Greener Gear Guide. Read our full Vivobarefoot Primus Trailknit review.

Buy the Vivobarefoot Primus Trailknit: £140 at 



Best of the Rest


6. Aku Link GTX

OM editor Will using the Aku Link GTX on the Welsh coast.

Price: £215
Weight: 460g

Best for: trail hikes on rocky terrain
What we liked: quality craftsmanship, grippy sole
What we didn’t like: quite solid underfoot

This, as we’ve come to expect from Aku, is a very well crafted shoe that uses impressive materials, including suede leather, a Gore-tex membrane and a Vibram sole. It might look like an approach shoe, but we found it felt and performed more like a walking shoe, offering some flex at the sole and a bit more of a relaxed fit at the toes. At 460g per shoe it’s also a touch lighter than most approach shoes. 

Interestingly, the Gore-tex membrane wraps over the tongue within a stretchy mesh and the lacing links within this at the very top. This keeps out moisture but also small bits of dirt and debris too. Normally the membrane goes through the tongue instead of over it, so this design is a little unusual, but the feeling and performance doesn’t seem to be any different. 

If you like a highly cushioned sole then we’d advise looking elsewhere as, while there is shock absorption here, it’s on the light side.

Selected for our Outdoor 100 gear of the year guide. Read our full Aku Link GTX review.

Buy the Aku Link GTX: £182 at 



7. Adidas Terrex Free Hiker

Editor Will wearing the Adidas Terrex Free Hiker Low 2.0 on the trail.

Price: £170
Weight: 382g
Best for: fast hiking
What we liked: Lightweight, well-cushioned
What we didn’t like: not very durable

The Free Hiker has been an extremely popular shoe from Adidas over the last couple of years. This is the second iteration of it and we’d say it’s definitely been improved, certainly in terms of its durability anyway.

It features the brand’s trademark running technology which is called 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.

We tested the non waterproof version and found it great for hot weather hiking. There is a version with a Gore-tex membrane.

Selected for our Outdoor 100. Read our full Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2.0 review. 

Buy the Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2.0: £150 at 



8. Keen WK400

Price: £135
Weight: 400g (per shoe)
Best for: trail and low level walking
What we liked: comfortable, ergonomic
What we didn’t like: the fit and feel won’t be for everyone

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 we pulled these on we noticed that they felt very different to any other hiking shoe we’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 we did find that we’d got to appreciate the smooth stride the sole creates. We 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. We’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 we had during our tests (worn on average-shaped, size 10 feet).

We 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.

Buy the Keen WK400 £116 at 


9. Merrell MQM 3 Gore-tex

Price: £130
Weight: 640g
Best for: Fast Hiking
What we liked: locked-in fit, recycled materials, good grip
What we didn’t like: upper is light on protection for the foot

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.

We 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 we 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 us, though it does have its limitations on things like super slimy or icy rock.

Read our full Merrell MQM 3 GTX review. 

Buy the Merrell MXM 3: £110 at


10. Arc’teryx Sylan GTX

Price: £140
Weight: 235g
Best for: Approach, fell running
What we liked: lightweight, grippy
What we didn’t like: toe is quite narrow, light on protection

Like the Keen shoes in this review, the sole unit on these trail shoes from Arc’teryx has a rocker geometry to it and this creates a nice forward roll to these that we found supported a more natural stride. In the long term, many hold that this type of sole actually reduces the likelihood of injuries.

It might be designed primarily for running, but we found the Sylan to have everything we want from a hiking shoe. There’s a Gore-tex membrane for waterproof protection, a reasonably aggressive outsole for grip and a rockplate that blocks out sharp rocks and roots.

This could’ve been a contender for our Best Buy Walking Shoe, but we found the sole just wasn’t quite as grippy as we would’ve liked it to be.

Read our full Arc’teryx Sylan GTX review.

Buy the Arc’teryx Sylan GTX: £198 at 


How to Choose a Pair of Hiking Shoes

Looking to buy a new pair of shoes and don’t know where to start? We’ve got all you need to know, including the pros and cons of walking shoes over walking boots, the differences between the different categories of hiking shoes and an guide to cleaning your footwear to make it last longer.

Walking Boots Versus Walking Shoes

Look back at pictures of Appalachian Trail hikers from decades passed and you’ll see people with big leather boots that come right up the ankle. These days, however, your typical AT hiker will tend to be seen in a pair of lightweight trail shoes – more often than not, a pair of Altra or Hokas. Preferences change and long-distance hikers no longer see stability and durability as the be-all-and-end-all and instead are prioritising agility and fleet footedness.

Hiking boots still have their advantages over hiking shoes in certain situations – particularly when there’s a lot of rocky ascent – but they’re no longer seen as the only option for hiking in now.

Opting for hiking boots over rough and rocky terrain can be beneficial.


The Features of Walking Shoes

Walking shoes, which come in a few different forms which we’ll detail further down, will be cut low down at the ankle, below a mid cut. Sometimes they’ll have a waterproof membrane but in many cases they won’t. 

Walking shoes are lighter and therefore less energy sapping than hiking boots over long distances. They can also be cooler in warmer temperatures. Generally, walking shoes tend to cost less than walking boots too. 

Look for shoes that have big lugs on the outsole that will grip into muddy surfaces. It’s also worth assessing the rubber compound that’s featured. Vibram, Continental and Michelin are reliable compound manufacturers, but many brands make their own proprietary compounds that have good performance too.

When possible, it’s worth feeling the sole on a pair of shoes before you buy them. If it feels soft and sticky, that tends to mean it’ll grip well on hard surfaces. If it feels hard and smooth, that means it’ll perform well on hard surfaces.

If you’re hiking on rocky trails you might want to look for a shoe with a stiff rock plate in the midsole. This will prevent roots and rocks from causing discomfort underfoot and they’ll also create stability when you’re ascending.

Our team testing a pair of Helly Hansen shoes.



Do Hiking Shoes Need to be Waterproof?

Whether you should opt for waterproofing or not depends 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 them, 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.

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

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.

How to Clean and Reproof a Pair of Walking Shoes

Here’s a guide that we put together that explains how to clean a pair of walking shoes or boots. We cover from top to bottom here; from cleaning off debris through to fully reproofing footwear. If you want your footwear to perform for you, and to last, this is essential viewing.



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