A great fit for every foot
Our gear testers, Jen and Sim Benson, test walking footwear for every shape, size and type of foot, helping you find the perfect footwear for your winter rambles
Wide feet? Long feet? Painful feet? Feet that overheat? We've reviewed walking footwear for every shape, size and type of foot. Read on to find the boot or shoe that's the perfect fit.
In general, women's feet taper more, with a wider forefoot and narrower heel, whereas men's feet tend to be straighter in shape. Foot width is also affected by conditions such as arthritis and bunions, pregnancy, hot weather and extended time on your feet. When walking, a secure fit at the heel is essential for avoiding excessive movement within the shoe, which can cause blisters. Plenty of room in the toe box allows your metatarsals and toes to spread out naturally and prevents squeezing or pinching of the toes or forefoot, which can otherwise result in longer-term problems, including pain, blisters and corns, or Morton's neuroma (a painful condition of the nerves between the toe bones).
Oboz Bridger Mid Waterproof Wide
Size range: women's UK 4-8.5, men's UK 7-13
This mid-cut boot is built to ensure all-day comfort. It's solid and supportive, the fit is secure and there's great protection from rocky or rough ground. Well cushioned and grippy, with a pronounced heel that aids traction on muddy ground, it has a supple yet durable nubuck upper, with hard-wearing heel and toe bumpers and Oboz's 8-DRY waterproof membrane. Available in a standard as well as a wide fit.
Hanwag Banks SF Extra GTX
Size range: women's UK 3.5-10, men's UK 6-14
These sturdy boots combine a suede and nubuck upper with a Gore-Tex membrane and grippy Vibram sole. They're hardwearing, with a roomy toe box, secure heel and great cushioning. Made in Europe from EU-sourced materials and leather certified by the Leather Working Group (LWG), they should last many years.
Altberg boots (see below) are another good option for wide feet, available in an extra-wide fitting or made to measure.
Boots and shoes are made around a 'last', which determines their shape. Different brands use different lasts, some of which will suit your foot shape better than others. Female-specific lasts offer more space in the toe box compared to the heel, while European lasts tend to be narrower than those used in the US. Some companies, such as UK-based Altberg, offer a range of widths and shapes, along with a customised fitting service, to ensure each pair of boots is perfect for its owner.
Altberg Fremington Boot
Size range: women's UK 3-8.5, men's UK 7.5-14 in five width fittings
Handmade in Yorkshire, Altberg's boots are available in a range of widths, with a specialist boot-fitting service available. The Fremington is one of the brand's most popular walking boots, with a soft, padded leather ankle cuff and smart one-piece leather upper. A good choice for lower-level walking, it has a protective and grippy Vibram Masai rubber outsole and a lightweight, shock-absorbing mid-layer.
La Sportiva TX4 Mid GTX
Size range: women's UK 3.5-8, men's UK 4-12.5
Built around a narrower last than many brands, this protective yet lightweight and superbly comfortable mid-cut boot features a suede leather upper, soft cuff and waterproof Gore-Tex membrane. Designed for technical trails, scrambling and via ferrata (climbing aided by metal rungs or ladders), as well as for all-day hiking with a heavy pack, the boot's lacing and supple upper give a precise and foot-hugging fit throughout.
Big and small size
Many brands only stock the most popular sizes, to maximise sales. While this may reduce stock wastage, it's not helpful for people whose feet are larger or smaller than average. Fortunately, some well-known brands make excellent walking boots and shoes in an extensive size range, available in both women's and men's fits.
Columbia Redmond Ill Mid
Size range: women's UK 3-10, men's UK6-16
A good value hiking boot suitable for all but the most mountainous or rocky trails. The Redmond utilises Columbia's Omni-Tech waterproof membrane under a padded mesh and suede upper. The result is a lightweight boot that's comfortable out of the box for all-day walking. The sole grips well and has a pronounced heel, aiding traction in muddy conditions.
Size range: women's UK 2.5-8.5, men's UK 6-16
Combining classic design with modern looks and waterproof technology, these LWG-certified leather boots are designed to keep your feet dry and comfortable on long trail days. They offer great comfort and stability through the foot and ankle, and both the anti-odour and water-repellent treatments are environmentally friendly. They come with two sets of contrasting laces too.
Cushioning and support
Many painful foot conditions, including heel pain, plantar fasciitis, sprained ankles and metatarsalgia, benefit from a supportive and cushioning boot or shoe. When carefully fitted and laced, these offer comfortable support throughout the foot (and ankle, in the case of boots), reducing excessive movement in the joints, plantar pressure and ground impact forces.
La Sportiva Mutant
Size range: women's UK 3.5-9, men's UK 5-12.5
Designed for superb grip and protection on long runs over varying terrain, these also work well as a lightweight walking shoe. The footbed is very supportive, particularly through the arch, with wraparound lacing for a precise fit that doesn't feel restrictive. The ride is smooth, an integrated gaiter keeps debris out, and the outsole has an aggressive tread for surefooted hiking.
Salomon Elixir Mid GTX
Size range: women's UK 3.5-9.5, men's UK 6.5-13.5
These mid-height boots are designed for long-distance comfort, with a plush, cushioned sole teamed with a padded, foot-hugging upper. The 5mm lugs are grippy in all but the muddiest terrain and the Gore-Tex membrane keeps your feet dry. Despite the bulky sole and cushioned upper, they're lightweight and great for all but the most technical trails. They look stylish as well.
Hot and sweaty feet
Feet can quickly get hot in boots on summer walks, and hyperhidrosis - excessive sweating - is a common complaint. Wearing good socks with a high merino content can help, as merino naturally manages moisture, airflow and microbial activity. If you're walking in warm, dry weather, footwear that allows plenty of airflow can be a simple, effective way to manage the heat.
Jack Wolfskin Woodland 2 Vent Low
Size range: women's UK 3-9, men's UK 6-13
This breathable, multifunctional trekking shoe is designed to create an airy environment for your feet. It's also quick to drain and dry. The upper is well ventilated with mesh panels that keep debris out but allow cooling airflow. The sole is cushioned and grippy on wet ground or gravelly trails but isn't designed for mud. These are great on less technical trails and in and out of water.
Hoka Sky Hopara
Size range: women's UK 4.5-7.5, men's UK 6.5-13.5
A protective and nicely cushioned walking sandal, perfect for long trails in hot weather. Despite the cut-outs for breathability, the upper is as supportive as most lighter walking shoes. There's a durable toe bumper to protect your feet, and the sole is grippy on most trails. Hoka's distinctive deep midsole is cushioned and feels smooth and comfortable even after many miles of walking.
Lowa Renegade GTX Mid
Size range: women's UK 2.5-10, men's UK 6.5-15
This bestselling boot is light and extremely comfortable, well suited to everything from tough walks to leisurely travel. The padded inner and nubuck leather outer with a Gore-Tex lining offer protection, support and comfort, while the Vibram sole is cushioned, grippy and has a pronounced heel for extra traction in mud. Made in Europe and available in narrow, standard or wider fit.
On Cloudalpine Waterproof
Size range Women's UK 3-9 or men's UK 6.5-13.5
These lightweight and very capable boots combine running-shoe technology with walking-boot protection and support. They're grippy, stiff and tough enough to cope with rocky mountain terrain, with a ripstop upper and waterproof membrane. The cushioned sole features a nylon-carbon plate to return energy on every step - a real benefit on long, level trails.
Many feet feel the cold, particularly during the winter or with health conditions that affect circulation, such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, anaemia or Raynaud's disease. If you have poor circulation, or spend a lot of time on your feet or gardening, boots with extra insulation can be a real help, trapping heat around your foot and lower leg to keep your feet cosy.
North Face ChilKat V
Size range: juniors' UK 13-6, adults' UK 6-13
Designed for winter lifestyle and hiking use, these versatile boots are light and comfortable enough to wear year-round. Heatseeker Eco synthetic insulation offers superb comfort and warmth, while a waterproof suede upper and moulded thermoplastic polyurethane shell offer outstanding protection, and a bio-based rubber outsole provides superior traction.
Keen Greta Tall
Size range: women's UK 2.5-8.5
These comfy winter boots from Keen offer a higher cut than standard walking boots, adding extra warmth and protection to your feet and lower legs. The main body of the boot is a high-quality, waterproof leather free from PFCs (per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals), with a comfortable, padded insulated cuff. The Revel IV High Polar (£165) is the men's equivalent.
Superior socks for a comfier fit
Smartwool hike classic edition extra cushion crew
These high-quality walking socks will improve the comfort, moisture management and breathability of any walking shoe or boot. Plush and cushioned, with flat-knit toe seams and a supportive arch, they really look after your feet. Made in Italy, from a mixture of naturally anti-odour, responsibly sourced merino wool and durable, partially recycled nylon.
Woolpower skilled liner classic
Beautifully made and fitted perfectly to the foot, these socks are thicker than a normal liner sock but work brilliantly as a base layer. Different knitting technologies in different areas of the foot create a breathable, supportive and cushioning sock. Made in Sweden from a blend of merino wool, nylon and elastane for stretch.