For 10 years, I tramped around in a pair of Brasher Supalite GTX boots. They were as comfortable as socks, gripped the ground and weighed less than a kilo. Finally, the soles wore down and the hunt was on for the best lightweight, waterproof boots. Here’s what I’d recommend (and suggestions for the guys too!)
Obvious answer…another pair of Supalites. And that’s what I initially went for. Trouble is, Brasher is now Berghaus and, although the boots looked identical, they weren’t. They felt stiffer (my old ones were soft right from the start), but the main problem was the sole. The lugs are fairly small and the sole material is pretty dangerous in the wet. I slipped on rocks, roads and tree roots at every step. Such a shame. Maybe I had an unlucky pair, but I’ve since read reviews from people who say the same. So, what to buy instead?
I’ve tested boots at every price, preferring textile over leather for instant wearability and lightness. The list below are the ones I’d buy.
First, though, a couple of tips – try them on with summer and winter hiking socks to make sure they really are the right size. You should be able to wiggle your toes, but your foot shouldn’t move forwards or side to side. Check that the height doesn’t catch right under your ankle bone because there’s not a lot you can do to make that feel better. Good padding around the collar helps.
Walking boots – £50 and under
Hi-Tec’s Altitude Lite II for women is a great, affordable lightweight boot (good, muted colours too). They’re a snug fit, but feel as if they’re holding your foot well. The women’s should be just under £50
The closest equivalent for men (the Altitude Lite Pro II) is likely to be around £90.
So, my men’s choice in this price bracket is the Regatta Samaris – a super boot for the price, with good grips and support. Waterproof and weighing less than 460g too. You might want to go up half a size to accommodate socks or an insole.
Walking boots – around £75
The Columbia Redmond Mid is almost a shoe and almost a boot, so it’s a bit more streamlined than many full boots. The upper is a mix of suede, mesh and webbing, but is fully waterproof. The sole is good and grippy and weight is just over 600g. The women’s do come up small, so you may need to get a size or even a size and a half bigger. I take a 6.5 in UK sizes and the 7.5 was snug. Great that there are half sizes, by the way.
Walking boots – around £100
Keen’s Clearwater sandals (and now the fabulous Keen Evo sandal range) have long been our favourite summer walking shoes for men and women, so it was good to find boots that did the job for bad weather too.
For men, the Oakridge high-rise boot is a good mix of attractive features – waterproof, breathable, odour-controlling and with a good footbed for support and stability. The women’s (at less than 400g) is a good option too.
Another choice for women is the Terradora or Terradora Pulse at only around 375g. Waterproof, of course, and good on grip, though the sole isn’t as deeply lugged as others we’ve tried. Some good colour choices to suit us grey-loving girls and the brighter type!
Keen are also making a virtue of the fact that some of their boots are now made in Europe. The Westward waterproofs are leather (textile for men, though) so not our ideal choice, but the men’s Feldberg boots fit our criteria nicely.
Walking boots – around £125
We weren’t sure about the look of the Adidas Terrex range, but they’re very lightweight and waterproof and, if you want something a bit different from the usual brown hiking look, these may win you over.
There are men’s and women’s styles with Goretex, soles designed for traction in the wet and plenty of cushioning. We really rated them on all the surfaces we tried.
The range is very confusing, though – there are a number of different styles (Nordic, Swift, Fast etc), so just check the details of your preferred models.
Walking boots – around £150 and upwards
I like Vivo Barefoot’s minimal footwear, designed to make you feel as if you’re not wearing shoes at all. The sensation of being more in contact with the ground can take a bit of getting used to, but they’re super-comfortable and quite different from boots that feel as if they’re weighing you down.
I tried the Hiker FG (in brown only), which weighs just 300g and is made of a tough water-resistant nylon and canvas. It’s not fully waterproof, but very close – no sign of dampness on a seven-mile hike near Ullswater in rotten weather!
I loved the fact that we felt more in touch with the surface and that the boots felt part of the foot rather than a block on the end of my leg! The insoles move around a bit, so I put a bit of double-sided tape inside.
If you don’t get on with the barefoot idea, try the Scarpa Peak. Waterproof, breathable, 600g and extremely rugged. The women’s fit is slim, so great for walkers like me whose feet tend to slide sideways in a lot of boots, especially unisex ones. There’s some flex in the midsole – again, an improvement on many that hit the ground as a solid block.
Our friend Rose loves her Oboz hiking boots, so a quick mention of those too. You’ll either love or hate the ‘sawtooth’ design, but she says they’re super-comfortable and she does a LOT of walking.
The Bridger and Sawtooth come as low, high and full height styles and have fantastically grippy soles. From around £120 to £250.
Got a favourite pair of walking boots? Do let us know and we’ll add them to our list.