As the weather warms, walking boots become all about comfort and getting good protection at a lighter weight. Here are six of the best available for £120 or less
From barely-there multi-activity shoes to clumpy winter boots, it can be difficult to know what constitutes a good trekking shoe when the weather is snow-free and (hopefully) light on rain. It is down to personal choice. Some may prefer long lasting leather (though it’s heavier); others may opt for a super-lightweight synthetic affair with limited cushioning.
Ultimately, you get what you pay for, with features that add comfort and longevity likely lacking. Weigh up what you will use them for and what you are prepared to sacrifice to save cash.
The test: At the lower end of the scale, the Rocksand is made from a mix of suede leather and synthetic fabric, with a fair bit of stitching holding it all together, though a breathable waterproof lining is also thrown in.
The midsole is predictably very bendy and, when putting them on, the amount of cushioning is noticeably less when compared with those boots of a higher price tag.
They also have a slightly wider fit than other brands here, which could be good or bad depending on your foot shape. Coupled together, it could mean a less comfortable meander on rocky ground or over multi-day use.
The toe pushes in fairly easily, though a raised rubber rand helps offer some protection. Underfoot, there’s a decent set of lugs, though certainly not the most aggressive, even if they are well-spaced and offer a heel break to help on descents. Weight-wise, they’re not bad; at 935g (pair, UK size 5.5) they are third-lightest on test.
The verdict: A fair price for a suede mix with a reasonable weight and decent features, though you may want to pay a little more to get some extra cushioning.
The test: Boasting one of the lowest prices of those on test, it was surprising to discover that these were in fact the lightest boots: 772g for the pair (UK size 5.5). This is partly explained by their design, being made up of multiple panels of synthetic materials that have been stitched together. The downside of this is that it has knock-on implications for the boots’ long-term durability.
They do have a waterproof and breathable lining, though, to help keep your feet dry. The midsole is also very bendy when compared with the Jack Wolfskin model; these felt like they offered a little more cushioning for more comfort though. They also provide a narrower (and, for me, closer) fit and, while the toe box offers reasonable protection, its generous rubber rand certainly helps.
Underfoot, the lugs are less spread out and more shallow than some here, and the heel break, though present, is not nearly as pronounced as other models tested.
The verdict: A fantastic weight and slightly more cushioning at a low price, though the grip underfoot is marginally compromised.
The test: Pay an extra tenner and you get a full-grain leather boot, with some added mesh panels (coated in a waterproof finish) to help with ventilation and breathability, though it has to be said, there’s a little more stitching here than you’d expect from a leather boot. Those panels do help with the weight, though at 890g (pair, UK size 5.5) these are the second-lightest here.
Given the weight, they offer a surprisingly good level of stiffness in the midsole, certainly more than others here on test. There is also a noticeable increase in cushioning when you put them on; they feel comfortable straight out of the box and offer a good fit, being neither too wide or narrow.
The toe box only has a small rubber rand, but the leather alone is more solid than others here, offering a good level of protection. Turn the boot over and there’s a good set of lugs that are well-spaced to stop debris building up, and then there’s the heel break, too.
The verdict: A well-featured, lightweight leather option that’s competitively priced, though, for a little more cash, you could stump up for some extra cushioning.
Design: ★★★★ ✩
Comfort: ★★★★ ✩
The test: Boot manufacturer Scarpa is known for its quality, so it was unexpected to find this offering has a very bendy midsole. But while cushioning is actually good in this boot, it didn’t feel quite as generous as some of the other, pricier models that we tested or, indeed, the Berghaus offering.
Made from a suede-and-mesh panel mix, there is less stitching here than others on test; they are also Gore-Tex-lined for a good level of waterproofing and breathability. Naturally, this does mean extra weight is added; at 936g (pair, size UK 5.5) these are the fourth-heaviest on test (though only by 1g).
The toe box is softer than some, even if it is reinforced with an extra panel of suede that adds more protection to the boot. The outsole also extends higher, to help cover this area. Elsewhere, the lugs are decent and well-spaced, though the heel break is not as pronounced as others we tested.
The verdict: A decent offering that comes with good cushioning, but when it comes down to straight comparisons, others offered more and at a lighter weight.
The test: Made from waterproofed Nubuck leather, though the boot itself still retains a fair amount of stitching, the difference between this Oboz offering and the cheaper shoes we tested is the cushioning. As soon as you put them on, not only do you feel the benefit of the wedge of rubber on the sole, but you can tell that the insole is more moulded, instantly offering greater support.
The midsole has a good amount of stiffness, too, while keeping its flexibility, and, when coupled with the cushioning, this makes for a comfortable walk. The fit is slightly narrower than the Keen offering, and a large rubber rand helps offer protection at the toe box.
Underneath, the lugs are some of the best here – deep, aggressive and well-spaced – and the heel break is pronounced, helping you on muddy descents. All this comfort does come at a price, however; at 1,040g (pair, size UK 5.5) these are the heaviest on test.
The verdict: Well-featured, comfortable and versatile, the only drawback is weight, though maybe it’s a small price to pay.
The test: Coming in at the upper end of the price scale, you’d expect a decent boot for the cost, and the Wanderer doesn’t disappoint. Using a combination of suede leather and mesh panels, the makers have refrained from going overboard with the stitching, which should help with durability.
The midsole offers the same level of stiffness as the Berghaus, though it does have a good amount of cushioning, and, like the Oboz boot, it feels moulded, to better support your foot. It’s a wider fit – good for some – but the main difference is felt around the ankle, where the cut is much softer (again, some may prefer this but it does also mean less support).
A generous rubber rand helps protect your toes, and the lugs underfoot are also deep and well-spaced. There is a heel break but this is not as pronounced as on the Oboz.
As with most Keen footwear, they do feel a bit more clunky and full-on, hitting the scales at 1,025g (pair, size UK 5.5), though they do feel a little lighter on your feet.
The verdict: A comfortable and wider-fitting option, with good cushioning. But softer ankle cuffs mean Oboz pips it to the post.
We asked gear manufacturers to submit the lightweight summer walking boots most suitable for travellers, offering a balance between support, comfort and versatility, all for under £120. From the ten pairs we were sent, the magazine editor, Phoebe Smith, took them out on the road. The six here are all ‘Wanderlust Approved’, with a ‘Value Buy’ and a ‘Best in Test’ both indicated. All of the below are available in both mens’ and womens’ fits.
This can be leather, synthetic or a combination of the two. Remember that fewer panels and stitches means fewer places for wear and tear and a better chance of remaining waterproof. Leather, if treated, is naturally waterproof and breathable, whereas synthetic models need a liner added to make them so, which can add weight and make the boot hotter (and sweatier) to wear.
To make boots lighter (and cheaper), you sometimes get less cushioning underfoot. Check how much there is by trying them on and jumping up and down or walking on uneven terrain – you’ll feel the difference. Some people don’t need much, others prefer a bit more, especially on long hikes.
For travel, this is key. Going light is always good due to increasingly tight luggage limits, but do check the other features of the boot to make sure you’re not getting a lower weight at the price of comfort, such as less cushioning for your foot, a good sole for grip or support for your ankles.
Look at the depth and pattern of the lugs – deep ones will take longer to wear and grip better on mud. A well-spaced design is key for stopping the build-up of debris underfoot. Some boots will also have a heel breast to help you grip better when going downhill.
Essentially, this is the middle of the boot, which will be either bendy or stiff – summer boots (particularly cheaper models) err more towards the former. If using boots to walk around town or lowland, or even on trails, a very bendy boot won’t really be an issue, but you will be able to feel more through it. However, if you want to tackle more rocky and uneven ground, you may opt for a stiffer sole for more support and to stop your feet getting tired.
A stiff toe box offers protection from loose rocks and knocks (push down on it to check how firm it is). Also look for a rubber rand (the bit that wraps the toe of the shoe); the larger it is, the better the boots’ protection and overall durability.
Main image: Woman hiking on a cliff (Dreamstime)