Gear on test: Summer walking boots and socks

Want to enjoy your summer walking without getting sweaty, sticky feet? Our kit experts Jen and Sim Benson present their pick of the latest lightweight walking boots and socks

"null" 

Tread lightly

You know you’ve got your boots right when you forget that you’re wearing them. The perfect lightweight walking boot should feel like an extension of the body, offering just the right amount of support, protection, cushioning and grip without weighing you down.

When it came to researching lightweight boots, we were surprised by the sheer variety of different approaches available. While this might feel daunting when it comes to choosing a pair, it’s also a good thing – there is a boot that suits everyone. 

In this review, we’ve showcased the depth and breadth of the range. We’ve included boots made for mountains, those based on trail-running technology, some that are perfect for the hot, dry weather of Mediterranean walking and others that grip well in great British mud. We’ve even included some barefoot boots, for those keen to try something different.

Choosing a boot

When choosing a lightweight boot, here are some of the things that you should try to keep in mind: 

Waterproofing vs breathability

Many of the boots on test feature an integrated waterproof membrane, such as Gore-Tex. This adds versatility for all-weather use but will be hotter and sweatier on warmer walks, when a non-waterproof version will offer superior breathability. 

Sole

A chunky grip is great in mud, but less stable on more technical terrain. A flexible sole might feel more comfortable at first, but offers less protection on rocky trails.

Fit

As with every pair of shoes, getting the fit right is essential. Sore feet ruin a walk (and can lead to future problems). So check for a perfect fit throughout the boot, from comfort at the ankle to a secure – but not tight – fit through the midfoot, to sufficient width, depth and length in the toe box. 

Women's boot choices

AKU Alterra Lite Mid GTX 

£169.99 886g/pair UK 6.5 aku.it

These superb boots are light and comfortable straight from the box, with a clever lacing system that works with the soft suede upper to wrap around the foot, offering excellent support throughout foot and ankle. The outsole is protective without being stiff and grips well across a range of conditions. Gore-Tex waterproofing and a choice of two coloured laces. 

Verdict Superb boots for year-round comfort and grip. 

Danner Jag Dry Weather

£150 848g/pair UK 6 danner.com

Introduced in the 1980s as a lightweight alternative to heavy walking boots, these good-looking mid-height hikers are a great choice for travel or trail-to-town wear. We tested the more breathable dry weather model; a fully waterproof version is also available. The fit is roomy through the midfoot but tapers at the toe. Sizes come up large. 

Verdict A comfortable warm-weather boot.

Zamberlan 311 Ultra Lite GTX Hiking Boots

£190 1,080g/pair size 40 zamberlan.co.uk

This classic leather walking boot is surprisingly light and comfortable, requiring no breaking in. Beautifully hand-made in Italy, it has generous ankle padding, smart brass lace hooks and a Gore-Tex membrane for added waterproofing. The Vibram outsole offers outstanding grip in mud and grass, making it a versatile choice for year-round use. Sole is very protective but stiff for a lightweight boot, so may not suit everyone.

Verdict A hand-crafted classic leather walking boot with added comfort.

Berghaus Expeditor Trek 2.0

£100 848g/pair size UK 6.5 berghaus.com

Comfortable straight from the off, these balance a lightweight, cushioned feel with a sturdy construction, waterproof membrane and hardwearing outsole. The fit is snugly supportive through the ankle and rear foot, with plenty of space in the toe box. Clean, simple looks combine with mesh panels and an Achilles tendon cut-out for comfort – though the suede upper does require a little more care than a synthetic boot. 

Verdict A great allrounder: protective and durable. Best suited to drier ground and hard-packed trails.

On Cloudridge

£170 810g/pair size UK 7 on-running.com

The first thing you notice is the comfort, especially around the ankle, which can be a difficult area to get right in a walking boot. Despite the plush feel, they’re lightweight and breathable with a foot-hugging fit. On’s patented Cloud outsole offers a smooth ride, cushioning and support, and good grip on dry terrain. Sizes small so you may want to size up. 

Verdict A wonderfully comfortable, breathable boot, well-suited to warm, dry conditions.

Vivobarefoot Tracker II FG

£200 856g/pair size 39 vivobarefoot.com

We’ll admit to being a bit sceptical when we tested these minimalist boots. But we needn’t have worried. They’re flexible and low to the ground, promoting natural foot movement and ground ‘feel’. But they're also nicely protective, supportive, grippy even on soft ground and, thanks to a removable thermal insole, warm enough year-round. Just watch for the slightly fiddly lacing.

Verdict A new take on the stiff, heavy walking boot that’s very successful. Light, flexible, versatile, comfortable and grippy, with great looks, too.

Men's boot choices

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor II Mid Leather GTX

£160 1,006g/pair size UK 11.5 lasportiva.com

Based on a trail running shoe, these mid-height boots feel light, soft and comfortable, with a well-cushioned footbed. The tough nubuck leather upper is reinforced with a rubber toe bumper. The padded ankle cuff adds weather and grit protection without feeling restrictive or adding much weight. Available in standard and wide fit. They size a little small and bear in mind that the shallow tread can be slippery in mud.

Verdict Trail-running comfort and feel. Best with a light pack, away from the mud.

Scarpa Rush TRK GTX

£185 1,222g/pair size UK 11 scarpa.co.uk

This good-looking boot gives levels of stability and protection normally found in heavier boots but without the weight. Offering excellent underfoot protection, the sole is nicely cushioned and grippy on all terrain in wet and dry conditions. The suede upper is tough and protective. They’re generously padded at the ankle and offer a secure fit and stable feel for all-day comfort. Sized slightly large and joint most expensive in our test (for men).

Verdict Durable and technically excellent. The fit should work for most people. A great boot suitable for year-round use on a wide variety of terrains. 

Keen NXIS EVO Waterproof

£139.99 976g/pair size UK 11 keenfootwear.com

These mid-height boots have a relaxed feel, with plush underfoot cushioning and a wide forefoot. The ankle is padded, while the secure lacing wraps around the heel and holds the foot comfortably. The 4mm tread offers more grip in mud than other lightweight boots tested here, but still offers secure footing on surfaced trails. Keen’s waterproof membrane and PFC-free water-
repellent will keep you dry. 

Verdict Easy-going lightweight boots with great grip. 

Salewa Mountain Trainer Lite Mid GTX 

£185 1,282g/pair size UK 10.5 salewa.com

Designed for moving fast and confidently over tough terrain without the weight penalty of a stiff mountain boot, these mid-height boots feature a stiff sole and protective upper, full-length lacing and wraparound heel stabilisation to hold the foot comfortably and securely. Waterproof and warm enough for year-round use. The stiff sole is protective but less comfortable than a more flexible sole on more gentle trails and paths. 

Verdict Best for more technical and rocky terrain, including scrambling. Comfortable, secure and protective, but the stiffest and heaviest boot on test. 

Columbia Peakfreak X2 Mid OutDry

£115 932g/pair size UK 10.5 columbiasportswear.co.uk

The lightest men’s boots on test offer  trainer-like comfort and feel, with weather protection. The higher ankle provides stability and support, with wraparound lacing for a secure fit. The well-cushioned sole grips well on dry ground. Waterproofed with Columbia’s OutDry treatment, though the shallow tread doesn’t cope well with mud. 

Verdict Good value and lightweight – akin to a trainer but with extra stability. 

Lowa Innox Pro GTX Mid

£175 1,158g/pair size UK 11 lowa.co.uk

Designed for technical terrain, these are well-padded and feel light and flexible. Cut fairly high at the ankle, they’re supportive but not restrictive. The outsole offers decent grip on trails and rock. Wraparound lacing provides a secure fit with plenty of room in the toe box, while Gore-Tex keeps your feet dry. The shallow tread struggles with mud and doesn’t offer much underfoot protection.

Verdict A light, comfortable and well-fitting boot with good ankle protection. We’d prefer a slightly stiffer sole.  

Walking socks

Women's

Smartwool Performance Hike Light Cushion Pattern Crew 

£22 smartwool.co.uk

Tough, warm, comfy boot socks with merino wool for extra comfort. Guaranteed by the maker to last for life.

Bridgedale Hike Lightweight Merino Comfort Boot Sock 

£18.50 bridgedale.com

Designed to be worn under walking boots, these technical socks feature zoned padding and support, plus 19% merino wool for comfort.

Unisex

BAM Bamboo Walking Socks

£15 bambooclothing.co.uk

Super-comfy sustainable socks made from silky bamboo, naturally antimicrobial merino wool and recycled nylon.

Men's

Darn Tough VanGrizzle Boot Midweight Hiking Sock

£24.99 darntough.com

Tough, warm and comfortable boot socks with merino wool for extra comfort. Made in the USA and guaranteed for life.

1000 Mile Approach Double Layer Sock with Heel Power

£14 1000mile.co.uk

Warmer weather, anti-blister socks with a tough Tactel inner and a cool merino/ synthetic fibre mix outer. Guaranteed to last at least 1,000 miles.

 

Our experts 

 

Sim Benson is an outdoor author and photographer with an environmental science background. He is a kit expert with over 15 years working, testing and reviewing in the outdoor industry. 

Jen Benson is an outdoor adventure photographer and writer with an MSc in sport & exercise medicine. Jen is happiest when she is outdoors, and is passionate about exploring Britain’s wild places on foot.

Please note Prices shown are RRPs but shop around to get the best price or wait for the sales and shop out of season. Don’t forget Ramblers members get a 15% discount at Cotswold Outdoors. Goods purchased from retailers outside the UK may incur extra costs due to import duties. Be sure to check the specific delivery/import costs before ordering.