Footwear is perhaps the most important piece of outdoor kit you will be buying so it’s important to get it right and purchase the best hiking boots you can. It doesn’t matter if you’re hill walking in England or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, you need something you can rely on. That’s why we’ve reviewed and rounded up six of the best hiking boots on the market.
A three-season boot should cover you for everything under the snowline and can take the form of flexible boots that seem to be more like a high trainer, or stiff, supportive leather boots designed for rougher terrain. No matter what you go for it’s important to remember the most important factor of all, fit. So make sure you try before you buy.
To find out what specifically you should be looking for, see our guide to everything you need to know about hiking boots. Once you’ve finished with that, below you’ll find six of the best hiking boots on the market.
Mammut T-Aenergy GTX
www.mammut.com | £165
The Mammut T-Aenergy boot is a brilliant offering from the Swiss manufacturer. It’s lightweight, comfortable and it offers the foot a lot of support and stability. A myriad of footwear technologies come together to create a boot that will excel in just about any condition below the snow line and at £165 it’s not ridiculously expensive when compared to other boots of a similar quality.
As the name suggests, you get a Gore-Tex lining to keep the wet stuff out and as it’s coupled with a mesh textile fabric the boot never really feels too warm, even when hiking in summer conditions. The sole was developed by Vibram, specifically for Mammut and it’s a brilliant addition. Grip is never really going to be a problem no matter what surface you’re hiking on.
Memory foam padding provides an element of comfort around the ankle (though I would have preferred a little more) and the boot features a very pronounced toe lift so that the boot rolls onto the toes minimising forefoot flex. This feels unusual at first but after a few miles of wear it becomes natural and it actually makes walking easier and less taxing on the feet.
Despite the boot’s light weight, they feel exceptionally bomb proof. A very sturdy rubber rand protects the toe box and both the toe box and the heel box are stiff enough to protect from bumps on rocky trails. The lacing system is probably one of the best I’ve tried making the boot hug the foot and ankle in all the right places.
In a line: A brilliant, light, protective boot from Mammut that is up there with some of the best hiking boots around.
Value for money: 8
www.altberg.co.uk | £164.99
The Alt-Berg Malham boot is a new offering from the Yorkshire based footwear manufacturer which uses the company’s ‘revolutionary’ A-forme last. Today only four boots from the Alt-Berg range are made using it and it has been designed to cater for a foot shape that wasn’t previously covered by their ‘5 width fitting’ lasts. The basic characteristics of the foot shape (which Alt-Berg has called the asymmetric foot) are: a straight large toe to inside heel, narrower heel and waist, wider, shallower forefoot and an instep that is further back.
Essentially, the last has taken design inspiration from many different styles of footwear, the toe is shaped like an old running shoe, the waist has been developed from the last used to make aircrew boots during WWII, the heel has been taken from a 1940’s unisex last and the toe roll has been taken from the classic Shepherds Hill Boot last from the late 1800s. All of these different components come together to make a boot that’s incredibly comfortable, even if you don’t have an asymmetric foot.
Despite the ‘revolutionary’ new last, the looks of the Alt-Berg Malham are very traditional; dark brown leather with a tough, protective rubber rand around the whole boot. They’re not spectacular to look at, but they have a classy air about them. They feature a quality Vibram New Tsavo sole with a shock absorbing midsole and this performs well in all conditions with the deep cut lugs excelling on muddy trails. Waterproofing is provided by a Sympatex membrane and a nice amount of cushioning around the tongue and ankle cuff make the Malham a very comfortable boot to wear.
In a line: If you find it hard to find boots for your foot shape, give these a go.
Value for money: 8
www.scarpa.co.uk | £174.99
When boots get to this sort of price they have to offer something particularly special in order to justify the extra spend on them. £174.99 is a lot of money for most people these days but if you do end up paying this amount, you usually find yourself with a quality product which is especially true with a brand of Scarpa’s heritage.
The big feature of the Scarpa R-Evo (the R-Evo hinting at Scarpa’s claim of a footwear revolution) is the inclusion of Scarpa Sock Fit technology. This isn’t some intriguing way of hooking your socks into the boot, but a new way of fitting the boots to your feet with the tongue, ankle flex and collar all featuring elastic so that they hug your foot like a sock.
It’s an interesting new design and after trying it out I can say that it’s definitely more hit than miss. Combined with the excellent lacing system, the Sock Fit technology makes these boots very comfortable to wear. I wouldn’t, however, say that it provides more comfort than the memory foam cushioning found in the Brasher Hillmaster II for example, but it certainly makes the fit of the boot excellent and supportive.
While a lot of attention has been put on the Sock Fit technology, Scarpa hasn’t skimped on the rest of the product. The Scarpa R-Evo has everything you’d look for in a three-season hiking boot. It’s protective, offers a great amount of support for the foot and has a Gore-Tex lining and a Vibram sole. That’s a lot of technology packed into a pair of boots, and it’s reflected in the price – £174.99 isn’t cheap, but you certainly get what you pay for.
In a line: Fits like a glove (or a sock)!
Value for money: 9
Lowa Khumbu II GTX
www.lowa.co.uk | £174.99
The Lowa Kumbu II GTX takes over from its predecessor of the same name (minus the II) and it features a few updates to make it stand out as one of the best hiking boots of this current footwear generation. As well as modernising the looks and making it a tad lighter than the original Khumbu, it has been beefed up with some great toe and heel cap protection in the form of a sturdy feeling rubber rand.
The upper of the boots features a split of leather and tough wearing TPU coated Cordura while the lower is an excellent Vibram Apptrail sole with a grippy, self-cleaning tread. The lacing system is superb, it pulls the boot in to the shape of your foot well and the clever ‘X-Lacing’ system helps keep the tongue in the right place.
They’re a pretty flexible pair of boots but the ankle cuff extends well above the ankle to provide a good amount of support. Some very well placed TPU inserts in the midsole control over pronation and supination of the foot helping reduce fatigue and injury over long distances. The fit takes a little while to get used to as the inserts in the midsole are very noticeable, but after a few miles they feel great.
If you’re looking for a top quality boot but you don’t want to go full leather then the Lowa Khumbu II boots should definitely be considered. They truly are a great pair of three-season boots, from comfort to protection and stability they offer everything a three-season boot of this price should.
In a line: Highly recommended three-season boots.
Value for money: 9
Meindl Bhutan MFS – Highly recommended
www.meindl.co.uk | £189.99
If there’s one thing to be said about Meindl boots it’s that they never fail to impress and that’s certainly the case with the Bhutan. Admittedly, it is the most expensive boot in this review (and probably one of the most expensive hiking boots you can actually buy right now), but in the same way that if you were a millionaire you wouldn’t mind paying extra for a Ferrari, if you have the money it’s worth paying the a few more quid for a pair of Meindls.
The Bhutan is essentially an updated version of Meindl’s popular Burma Pro boots. The changes include a slight update in looks (and the new design makes the classic leather boot look very sexy indeed), an updated lacing system, memory foam padding, enhanced heel compression and softer leather for a better fit. In reference to the updated looks, when looking at the boots it’s genuinely like staring at a work of art and you almost don’t want to get them muddy.
If you compare a boot of this standard to others at the lower end of the price range you begin to understand and appreciate why you pay such a premium price. The quality of components used, the feel of the leather in your hands, the luxurious lining against your feet and the presence of elegant yet subtle design features, it all comes together to create a boot you’ll fall in love with.
The sole is wonderful. Like many others it’s top quality Vibram (it actually uses the same sole as its predecessor, the Burma Pro) but this one just seems to be a step above the rest. It grips on everything, provides ample support, flexes at the right points and there’s a great amount of shock absorption and support provided by the midsole.
As is expected of boots of this price a Gore-Tex membrane is used to keep the feet dry. The memory foam cushioning in the ankle, collar and tongue works excellently to provide comfort and Meindl’s ‘Digafix’ lacing system wraps the upper of the boot around your foot without creating any pressure points.
For all its brilliant features the Meindl Bhutan isn’t faultless though and one thing stands out in particular; the laces. Of course these are replaceable so it’s not really a deal breaker, but for £190 this is something that I wouldn’t have expected to have problems with. The ends of the laces haven’t been coated in plastic and so the seared ends are prone to fraying and breaking.
When it comes to boots you can’t really go wrong by buying Meindl. They’re still manufactured in Germany and the Bhutan is a testament to the skills of the shoemakers. It’s wonderful to look at, a dream to wear and it’s just an excellent three-season boot. Were it not for the disappointing laces the Meindl Bhutan we would have chosen as the best hiking boots in the test. The Brasher Hillmaster II, however, pips it to the post.
In a line: A three-season work of art.
Value for money: 9
Brasher Hillmaster II GTX – Best in test
www.brasher.co.uk | £150
Since 1993 the Brasher Hillmaster GTX has been considered amongst hikers to be the benchmark for leather walking boots, they were comfortable to wear, provided as much protection as you could need and they’d last almost a lifetime. But the boot wasn’t without its flaws and so Brasher decided to release the Hillmaster II GTX, a slightly upgraded version of the original classic but with some design changes to improve the boot even further.
Most noticeably, the boot features a stiffer heel cup for added support and the inclusion of memory foam padding in the ankle cuff adds further comfort. The result? A boot that was considered to be one of the best around got even better.
While the looks of the boots might not appeal to everyone, it’s hard to deny that they’re a classy looking piece of kit and the beautiful leather will definitely attract positive remarks from most observers. Just by looking at the Hillmaster II GTXs, you get the feeling that they’re a quality pair of boots and if you look after them well then you won’t need to make a trip to the boot shop in a long, long while.
On initial testing I was actually slightly disappointed with the Hillmaster IIs. Comfort wise they weren’t all that and my first short hike was bordering on unpleasant. But I persisted and, man, am I glad I did. After about 10 miles of breaking these boots in they come into their own in comfort.
Everything just hugs the foot nicely and your feet feel amazing in them. It’s worth me mentioning, however, that they are very warm boots – great for most uses but you may find your feet overheating in summer months, in which case I’d recommend a lighter, more airy boot.
One reason for this warmth is the inclusion of memory foam padding on the tongue and ankle cuff of the boots. It’s luxury when it comes to comfort and it makes the boots delightful to wear (after they’ve been worn in).
As the name suggests, waterproofing is provided by a Gore-Tex membrane and there are no issues with this at all. The boots feature Brasher’s own Hillmaster Sole and this has a PU midsole which will be harder wearing than the EVA midsole found in the original boots. The sole is at home in all conditions and the lugs are self-cleaning to prevent build-ups of mud.
In all the Brasher Hillmaster IIs are brilliant boots. Durable, comfortable, protective and supportive, they’re pretty much everything you could ask for in a walking boot. They’re a bit too warm for summer hiking in warmer climates and, depending on your taste, leather might not appeal to everyone but it’s hard to argue with quality. If you look after these boots they’ll last a long, long time and I’d say they’re one of, if not the best hiking boots in the current market.
In a line: Best in test, need we say more?
Value for money: 9