Each year we look back at our favourite outdoor gear that we have tried, tested and favour to wear ourselves to try and create a helpful guide for our readers so they can find the most suitable products for their outdoors lifestyle needs. In this guide we have highlighted our Top 5 Walking Shoes for 2016 based on factors such as performance, comfort, weather protection and even style that make for great outdoor footwear.
As with any type of boot, trainer or sandal, Walking Shoes are available in a wide selection of designs and types that can suit a number of different conditions of terrain and climate which can make it tricky to find the best pair for any individual needs, especially if you are buying your first pair. Many hiking shoes have durable outsoles with high levels of grip through deep lug patterns, arch shanks for under-foot protection and torsional stability along with midsoles and in-soles with cushioning and supporting features for an all-round comfortable walking experience.
Upper constructions tend to vary as some favour waterproof protection while others are lighter and much more breathable depending which better suits certain weather conditions. All of these factors can be a little daunting at first so this guide will explain what each shoe has and when these Best 5 Walking Shoes are ideally worn.
Read our Top 5 Walking Shoes for 2016
Salomon Speedcross 3 GTX Shoes
While the Salomon Speedcross 3 GTX Shoes are primarily designed as a trail running shoe their expert design and technical features make them excellent at fast paced hikes and walks as well, especially if you prefer footwear that looks a little more sporty than standard shoes. They are great at keeping water out as the breathable mesh upper includes water resistant textile, plus a GORE-TEX Extended Comfort Footwear lining adds a high level of waterproofing to them so if the conditions are a little damp or light rain showers occur they work well at keeping dry. The tongue is gusseted to prevents dirt and debris entering the shoe while Salomon’s Sensifit system cradles the foot continually so it stays securely in place as you move, plus a Quicklace system lets the laces be adjusted and tightened with a single pull. Inside the Salomon Speedcross 3 GTX Shoes an EVA shaped footbed, an Ortholite Sockliner and Heel Cups nicely cushion against impacts while supporting and stabilising at the same time by conforming to the anatomical contours of each foot. The Salomon Speedcross 3 GTX Shoes feature Mud&Snow Non-Marking Contagrip which stops dirt clumping in the lugs so continue to grip throughout wear.
Merrell Moab GoreTex Walking Shoes
The Merrell Moab collection sells very well overall as it offers a lot of varied choice in types of outdoor footwear but all feature the same high level of comfort and performance. These lower profile GoreTex Walking Shoe versions are a great all-round option for almost any kind of hike or trail. The upper construction is made from synthetic materials that include breathable mesh so is great at helping the interior cool and dry and also has a lining of GORE-TEX XCR Technology so prevents water entering quite well and they also have a bellows tongue to keep out any debris that gets flicked up along the trail. Both a compression moulded EVA footframe and a Merrell Air Cushion in the heel ensure plenty of cushioning while also stabilising the foot by helping to keep it in place. So that they smell and feel fresher for longer these Merrell Moab GTX Shoes are treated with M-Select FRESH which breaks down odour causing microbes before they take hold making them ideal for long hikes and treks. As with a number of Merrell footwear this GoreTex version of the Moab has a Vibram constructed outsole that grips extremely well on most types of terrain, even in wet conditions for a reassuring and reliable step every time.
North Face Hedgehog Hike GTX Walking Shoes
Similar to the previous pair in our Top 5 Walking Shoes for 2016, these North Face Hedgehog Hike GTX footwear are part of a wider range with this specific model designed for tough hikes. An upper construction of synthetic overlays, mesh that is resistant to scuffs and scrapes, plus breathable with full grain leather sections and a scratched rubber tip helps to protect the feet while being flexible. A GORE-TEX membrane adds waterproof protection and aides the overall breathability of this North Face Hedgehog Shoes as well. Underfoot is a deep-lugged Vibram outsole for durable traction and grip with outriggers as well that add to the overall stability. A TPU Shank runs the length of each shoe for torsional support to help the feet stay in place inside the shoe and gives added protection while a two-piece EVA midsole that has been compression moulded gives these North Face Hedgehog Hike GTX Walking Shoes plenty of comfort by cradling to the natural contours of the foot.
Keen Targhee II Walking Shoes
The Keen Targhee II Walking Shoes are the second version of their low profile hiking footwear built for long days on difficult terrain. As with the previous walking shoes in our Top 5 for 2016 these have mesh sections in the upper along with durable Nubuck leather so are breathable and protective as well. Similar to GTX, a KEEN.Dry membrane ensures a waterproof seal so if you encounter wet terrain or there is a sudden rain shower they work well at keeping moisture out. Furthermore as the Keen Targhee 2 Shoes are breathable any moisture from perspiration is quickly wicked to the surface of the upper keeping you dry in two ways. The footbed is fully removable, so can be replaced easily but has an anatomically correct shape so cradles the natural contours of the feet for comfort and arch support whilst the midsole has Keen S3 technology (Shock, Suspension & Stability) so further maintains the support during every footstrike, plus dissipates shock across the shoe to prevent ankle twisting. The Keen Targhee II Walking Shoes also have EVA midsole constructions and an ESS shank for torsional stability that helps keep the feet in alignment, plus deep 4mm lugs so grip well across a range of terrain.
Meindl Caracas GTX Walking Shoes
If you enjoy more relaxed, evenly paced light hikes, the Meindl Caracas GTX Walking Shoes are ideal. The upper construction is a supple waxed Nubuck leather with a Gore-Tex liner so like the others this shoe is both waterproof and breathable, but as it is full leather this makes it more durable overall. Inside an Air-Active footbed provides a lot of cushioning that lasts throughout wear with a Poron shock-absorber in the heel for heavier footstrikes which helps to stop ankle strain and combined help prevent foot fatigue. The outsole is a Vibram Urban Trekker so isn’t as deep lugged as our other Top Walking Shoes for 2016 hence why it is better suited to light hiking and walking, but still delivers on excellent traction in urban settings.
Our favourite 5 Walking Shoes for this year are ideal for everyday use and walking throughout the more favourable weather conditions, with some being able to handle more difficult trails in wet conditions, so hopefully these will have inspired you to find the right pair for you and head into the outdoors. As we know that technical details are just one aspect of what can make a final choice in any pair of shoes, we have also awarded best in other factors such as pricing, design and overall performance.
While not the cheapest, we thought that the North Face Hedgehog Hike GTX Walking Shoes had the best overall value as they offer a lot of performance and have similar technologies to the rest of the Top 5 but include some extra features like protective toe caps and a deep-lugged outsole which are two things that can easily make all the difference on tough terrain.
The Salomon Speedcross 3 GTX Shoes we found performed reliably and exceptionally well. The design might not be to everyone’s tastes as they are brighter and more ‘sporty’, but give a lot of response, flex really well, can be adjusted with little effort and the Mud&Snow Non-marking contagrip keeps the lugs clear from mud easily so traction is maintained throughout use.
This year’s Top 5 has a range of designs and styles to suit plenty of individual tastes but the standout for us was the Meindl Caracas GTX Shoes as they nicely merge a classic oiled leather upper design that is practically synonymous with hiking footwear yet has a structure and outsole that shows the modern technical elements underneath which nicely blends together so you get the best of both worlds.