Best for: Mountain hiking and hillwalking
Key attributes: Durable, comfortable, well-made
The Wendelstein might bring to mind old sepia photos of mountaineers doing their things in the Alps, wearing knickerbockers and the like, but the boot itself is technical and modern in all the ways it needs to be.
The upper material, made from good old-fashioned leather which is chromium-free, has the perfect toughness-flexibility balance, while the carefully designed seams reduce the risk of friction and serve to enhance the Wendelstein’s extremely durable nature.
Suitable for a variety of terrain, the outsole has fairly aggressive lugs of about 4mm and a slightly narrowed toe that allows precise edging, so as well as your standard rolling green hills it can also handle the rocky stuff.
Read our full Lowa Wendelstein review.
The North Face Vectiv Exploris FutureLight
Best for: Trail hiking
Key attributes: Long-distance comfort, innovative design, good breathability
Though these are trail shoes, not boots, they pack in plenty of tech and some impressive innovation. First up, there’s the Futurelight waterproof membrane, then there’s the Vectiv carbon plate. These are both big innovations that have really been turning heads within the outdoor world. We’ve tested them both in a number of different products from The North Face over the last couple of years and we can confirm that they’re very impressive.
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.
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 our testers found that it’ll do the job on all but the super slippery and muddy stuff. The compound offers a bit of grip on wet rock but, as you often find with most three-season hiking footwear, there are limitations there.
Selected for our Outdoor 100 2021/22. Read our full The North Face Vectiv Exploris FutureLight Trail Shoe review.
Merrell Moab Speed GTX
Best for: Trail hiking, three-season use
Key attributes: Good eco aspects, light but sturdy
For 2021, Merrell have developed a new iteration of their classic walking shoe, 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 walking shoe. At just 315g, it’s 130g lighter than the previous Moab, but during our tests, we’ve found it just as stable, comfortable and protective.
Most impressive, however, are Merrell’s new sustainability efforts, aiming to lower the overall impact of their products on the environment. They’ve swapped out a bunch of materials for recycled ones including the laces and the mesh lining, for instance, which use a material produced from recycled plastic bottles. The footbed additionally uses a 50% recycled top sheet material and the Vibram sole is made from a minimum of 30% recycled rubber.
There’s both a mid cut and a low cut model, as well as a version without the waterproof protection of the Gore-tex membrane. All models come with 4mm Vibram Traction Lugs, an EVA foam midsole, built-in rockplate for underfoot protection, removable PU foam insole, cushioning around the ankle and then a big rubber cap to protect the toes.
Recycled laces and mesh lining / 50% recycled footbed / 30% recycled Vibram rubber / low cut and mid cut version available / 4mm Vibram Traction Lugs / EVA foam midsole / built-in rockplate / removable PU foam insole / cushioned ankle / rubber toe caps / standard fit / Gore-tex liner.
Selected for our Green Gear Guide 2020/21 – Read our full Merrell Moab Speed GTX review.
Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Gore-Tex
Best for: Technical approaches, scrambling
Key attributes: Gore-Tex lining, good traction
The Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite was born from the now-classic approach shoe, the Salewa Mountain Trainer which is most notable for its lightweight, yet stiff platform that climbers can use on the typically rocky and technical approaches to the crag. Now this, the Mountain Trainer Lite offers an even lighter and more streamlined package.
A Pomoca rubber outsole offers reassuring and durable grip thanks to plenty of deep lugs, in a variety of shapes and sizes, peppering the sole unit. A sticky rubber toe box also stretches around the front of the shoe, which helps to provide protection when you’re jamming your feet into cracks, or knocking them off sharp rocks.
The whole shoe is wrapped up in a durable synthetic fabric upper which features a Gore-Tex Extended Comfort lining to bring a high level of water protection without too much of a breathability sacrifice.
Available in men’s and women’s / heel stabiliser / rubber toe cup / Pomoca outsole / climbing lacing / 3F System.
Read our full Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Gore-Tex review