Best Walking Shoes Reviewed 2020 - Outdoors Magic

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Walking Boots

Best Walking Shoes Reviewed 2020

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 in 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’re planning.

Consider the nature of your trek and the type of terrain you’ll be crossing.

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 bet. Boots are also often the better option 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.

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.

“Our selection of the best walking shoes on test here all range in weight and style. Some of them have waterproof linings and other don’t…”

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.

Somer hikers will even opt for a trail running-type shoe when the conditions are extremely wet and inevitable that moisture will enter the shoe at some point in a 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.

What different types of walking shoe should all have in common, albeit to varying degrees, is their grip off-road. Shoes for hiking, like walking boots, need to offer good traction and should be able to give the wearer confidence that they will not slip.

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.

Best Walking Shoes: The Top 10

Each of the products we’ve included in this guide will have been included in one of our Outdoor 100 series. For the latest one check out our Outdoor 100 2019/20.

  • Danner Trail 2650 – Best Walking Shoe 
  • Salomon XA Elevate – Best Value Walking Shoe
  • Inov-8 Trailroc 285
  • Arc’teryx Norvan SL GTX
  • Altra Timp 1.5
  • Inov-8 Roclite 305
  • Merrell Zion GTX
  • Oboz Sawtooth Low
  • Scarpa Mescalito Trail Shoe
  • Merrell Moab FST


BEST BUY: Danner Trail 2650

Price: £123
Weight: 680g

Lightweight, comfortable and pretty darn cool looking in our opinion, we’re big fans of these new trail shoes by U.S-based brand Danner. 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 also serves to pocket your heel and prevents it sliding about.

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

Full review

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.

Inov-8 Trailroc 285

Price: £140
Weight: 285g

With its mega grippy outsole and cushioning midsole, the Inov-8 Trailroc 285 is a shoe designed for taking on technical trails at speed. It’s made by a Cumbrian-based brand that actually specialises in that north-western art of fell running. It’s not a completely new item but instead is an update to their popular Trailroc design.

Full review

Full Specifications

Available for men and women / 8mm drop | 6mm footbed / 4mm lug depth / Tri-C sticky rubber compound grip / external toe bumper / external heel counter / Power FLow+ midsole / Meta Plate shank / 285g per shoe.


Salomon XA Elevate

Price: £69
Weight: 300g

Featuring a specially-designed rubber compound on the outsole called Wet Traction Contagrip, this offering from the brand, the men’s and women’s XA Elevate, is made for tackling steep trails that involve not just mud but also wet and slippery rocks. The 5mm trapezoidal lugs help dig and grip into damp ground and are able to shed sticky dirt easily, while there’s a 26mm-thick heel (and a 8mm drop from the heel to toe altogether) meaning there’s a good bit of protection underfoot.

Full Review

Full Specifications

Available for men and women and in half sizes / mesh upper with 3D Mesh support / reinforced toe cap and heel / molded EVA midsole / 26mm heel and 18mm forefoot / 5mm lug depth / 300g per shoe.


Arc’teryx Norvan SL

Price: £160
Weight: 235g

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.

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.

Full Review

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.


Altra Timp 1.5

Price: £145
Weight: 312g

In keeping with the typical Altra style, the Timp has a zero drop sole unit meaning that both the heel and toes are the same distance from the ground. This makes their shoes suited to those who prefer a more natural feel when walking or running. Some benefits to a zero drop when compared against ramped shoes, are reduced impact on the knees and less strain on the lower back. It’s a case of each to their own with this kind of thing, but still, if you struggle with injury in those areas and haven’t tried zero drop shoes yet, particularly those by Altra, these are worth considering.

The traction of the new DuraTread sticky outsole is excellent, providing aggressive grip while also being good at shedding mud. The midsole is pleasantly soft, responsive and slightly flexible as well, but not so much that you feel too much underfoot, like sharp rocks etc.

On top of all that, the lacing is comfortable and there’s enough padding in the tongue – thicker than what you’d find on an Inov-8 shoe but thinner than a Saucony.

Full Review

Full Specifications

Also available in a women’s version (£130) / 29mm stack / zero drop / EVA midsole / DuraTread rubber outsole / mesh upper / compatible with mini gaiters.

Inov-8 Roclite 305

Price: £115
Weight: 305g

The 6mm lug depth on the Roclite 305 makes it one of the grippiest shoes tested here. Don’t expect puddle protection but instead, expect decent drainage so you’ll dry up as soon as the conditions do. A feature we liked is the X Lock system which cradles the foot well and holds it comfortably in place even while you’re contouring across sharp-angled slopes. A popular running shoe from Inov-8 that’s worth considering as a walking shoe also.

Full review

Full Specifications

Available for men and women and in half sizes / 8mm drop / 6mm footbed / 6mm lug depth / Power Flow midsole / 22.5mm heel / 14.5mm forefoot / Meta Plate shank / Tri-C Sticky sole compound.


Merrell Zion GTX

Price: £140
Weight: 750g

The Merrell Zion are ‘city to summit’ type shoes, the kind that can perform on light trails and then look neutral enough to wear to the pub or just about town.

They feature an upper made from a full-grain leather combined with a Gore-Tex membrane and ballistic, breathable mesh lining, while the tongue has a bellow design to keep debris (and water) out. A protective rubber toe cap keeps your toes safe on rocky terrain and enables some very basic jamming of your shoe into cracks and crevices while scrambling. As for the outsole, what we have here is a Vibram Megagrip with 5mm lugs that will give enough grip for steep-ish muddy-ish descents. 

Merrell have used the same build platform found in their trail running shoes, thus providing the sneaker-like feel. The midsole is made of EVA foam for ‘stability and comfort’, while EVA foam pods are also located in the rearfoot and forefoot for extra cushioning. There’s also a ‘FlexPlate’ which adds a degree of rigidity to the sole plus a good bit of protection from any sharp rocks or roots underfoot.

Full Review

Full Specifications

Vibram Megagrip outsole with 5mm lugs / Gore-Tex membrane / Grain leather and mesh upper / Metal eyelets and webbing loops for lacing / Rubber toe cap / Kinetic Fit BASE removable insole / EVA foam midsole / EVA foam pods in rearfoot and forefoot.

Oboz Sawtooth Low

Price: £110
Weight: 442g

American brand, Oboz, describe this as being a “cult favourite” among thru hikers. We can’t vouch for that, but what we can vouch for is the fact that it’s an extremely strong shoe that can really power over any muddy trails. There’s just the right amount of flex to the sole without it being flimsy or too wooden, plus the outsole gives plenty of traction. There’s nubuck leather used in the upper as well as mesh, plus there’s a protective rubber around the heel. Throw in a waterproof membrane (optional) and you’ve got a good, all-rounder walking shoe here.

Full Review

Full Specifications

Available for men and women and in half sizes / nubuck leather and mesh upper / B-Dry membrane (optional) / available as a boot cut / OFit removable EVA insole / 3D moulded heel counter.


Scarpa Mescalito Trail Shoe

Price: £160
Weight: 780g

These shoes are designed to withstand heavy-duty days on the rocks. Scarpa is one of the shoe brands that lead in this category and the team here has been using them for years on all manner of trips. It should also be said, that the styling of an approach shoe tends to be pretty funky too. The Mescalito is a new shoe from Scarpa designed to attack technical routes, or for people who will be spending a fair amount of time on a mixture of walking and scrambling routes. These would be perfect on the bare rock mountains of Snowdonia.

Full Review

Full Specifications

Available for men and women and in half sizes / Vibram LightBase sole / climbing zone on sole / SWB last / Sintec nubuck upper / rubber toe cap / 780g per pair.


Merrell Moab FST

Price: £90
Weight: 762g

This variation of Merrell’s popular Moab shoe is designed for those who want the stability of a boot but without the heavy weight of one, and this has been achieved well. The base of the sole feels wide and has just the right amount of rigidity, while there’s also plenty of grip to the Vibram Megagrip outsole which is designed for both wet and dry surfaces. Merrell have made a seemingly endless list of variations to this shoe, with leather versions, mid cut versions, Gore-Tex and non Gore-Tex, and different colourways as well.

Full Review

Full Specifications

Available for men and women and in half sizes / Gore-Tex and non Gore-Tex available / mesh and TPU upper ” mesh lining / EVA contoured footbed with antimicrobial treatment / nylon arch shank / air cushion in the heel.


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