The most important tool in the box is probably the one on your feet. Judy Armstrong and David Lintern take a look at the best men’s and women’s three-season walking boots.
Three season boots are the walking footwear most of wear for most of the year. So they are worth careful consideration, especially in relation to fit and expected terrain. Get the fit wrong and you’ll feel uncomfy or insecure. In footwear that is under- or over- specified for the ground you’ll cover, the simple act of walking will not be straightforward as it should be.
This is the most important factor in any boot, regardless of weight or height. The critical points are to have an anchored heel (women’s boots have a slimmer heel box), secure forefoot that does not compress your toes, and support (not compression) along the sides. Socks make a difference, as do footbeds. It’s always best to try for size in a shop, preferably with a trained boot fitter to hand.
Lightweight three season boots are flexible front to back and laterally, so are less tiring on soles and tendons than stiff boots. Uppers with suede/leather lacing platforms can flex where the fabrics join or around a toe rand/bumper, which is not necessarily where you want it. Check the flex point by trying to bend the boot in half (toe towards cuff): see if it bends with a rounded flex or sharply to a specific point. If that specific point does not match where your foot flexes (just back from your toes) then go with a rounded flex.
The soft cuffs on lightweight three season boots usually skim the ankle and dip at the rear to avoid pressure on your Achilles tendon. Height is for comfort and security, not support. Underfoot support is more important and the flat footbeds supplied in virtually all boots should be replaced with shaped, supportive, removable insoles. Sidewall support / torsional stability is especially important on rock and steeper, technical terrain.
Laces should run smoothly for accurate adjustment, comfort and fit. Metal eyelets and hooks offer fluid lace movement. Wide suede loops can also work well. Fabric loops and holes punched into the upper are cheaper but make laces harder to adjust as they can stick rather than slide. Angled and/ or recessed ankle hooks or loops are an important aid to anchoring the heel (especially important for women).
A narrow tread pattern is more likely to get choked with mud and debris; a wider pattern will self-clean more readily. A sole with a squared-off heel front edge will offer better purchase on descents. Very hard rubber will grip less on wet rock but last longer on rugged terrain.
Whatever the materials used in their construction (fabric, leather nubuck and suede are the most common, often used in combination) all walking boots will last longer and perform better if they are looked after over the course of their lifespan – a win for both you and the environment. The Nikwax footwear care kit contains everything you need to keep your boots clean and give them a new lease of by restoring their water repellency.
1. Women’s boots
(Scroll down to read the men’s boot review)
BEST BUY: Hanwag Tatra Light Lady GTX (RRP £210)
Likes: comfort, security, grip, stability
Weight: 950g (size 4) | Uppers: suede, fabric | Lining: Gore-Tex | Mid/outsole: PU, TPU shank / Vibram Integral Light | Sizes: 3.5-9 (men 6-13)
These boots have been around since 2018 and I’m glad to see Hanwag hasn’t messed with a product that works. They tick literally every box, supplying comfort and support on all types of terrain.
Read more: Hanwag Tatra Light Lady GTX review
Salewa Women’s Alpenviolet Mid GTX (£180)
Likes: sole unit – grip, rocker, weight, materials
Dislikes: toe flex point, cuff height/ tongue combo
Weight: 824g (size 4) | Uppers: 1.6-1.8mm suede, 2mm PU-coated leather, high tenacity nylon fabric | Lining: Gore-Tex | Mid/outsole: dual-density EVA / Pomoca Alpen, butilic rubber compound | Sizes: 3-9
On paper, Alpenviolet looks the business – low weight, high specification – but I struggled with them, on two counts. The combination of a high cuff with minimal rear dip, a high, padded tongue with a sharp-edged, inward- folding bellow, plus a forward-set top ankle hook meant I couldn’t avoid pressure on my ankle bones.
Read more: Salewa Women’s Alpenviolet Mid GTX review
Meindl Respond Lady Mid GTX (£163)
Likes: weight, flex, heel security
Dislikes: minimal support and cushioning
Weight: 735g (size 4) | Uppers: synthetic velour, mesh | Lining: Gore-Tex | Mid/outsole: PU / Meindl Contragrip Trail dual density | Sizes: 3.5-8 (men 6-12) inc half sizes
The lightest boot here, Respond joined the extensive Meindl line-up two years ago. Cuff profile is classic
‘mid’, on my ankle bone, with a moderate heel dip. Featherweight in action, they have a very soft forefoot flex, almost like a trainer.
Read more: Meindl Respond Lady Mid GTX review
RECOMMENDED: Scarpa Mescalito Mid GTX Women (£200)
Likes: security, stability, construction, support, grip
Dislikes: no heel hook lessens heel security
Weight: 874g (size 37) | Uppers: suede 1.8mm water-resistant | Lining: Gore-Tex | Mid/outsole: dual-density EVA, TPU shank/ Vibram Dynamis LBT | Sizes: 37-42 (men 41-48)
I have a soft spot for the Mescalito: 20 years ago I wore the original version to climb a series of 4000m peaks in Switzerland. There had been a late dump of snow and I did the entire route with a plastic bag stuffed inside each boot in the absence of a waterproof liner. The new version is a little lower, and has a Gore-Tex lining and a softer flex.
Read more: Scarpa Mescalito Mid GTX Women review
Jack Wolfskin Force Striker Texapore Mid (£140)
Likes: sole/grip, heel security, torsional support
Dislikes: forefoot insecurity, short lace run
Weight: 853g (size 4) | Uppers: synthetic / textile | Lining: Texapore O2+ (polyester) | Mid/outsole: rubber / EVA / Vibram | Sizes: 3-9 (men 6-13) inc half sizes
This was a difficult boot to test, because it wore so differently with the footbed supplied, compared with my Orthosole. With Jack Wolfskin’s flat, thin footbed the boots felt high-volume and unsupportive, verging on floppy. With my footbeds, my foot was higher in the boot and had instep support, making them much more wearable.
2. Men’s boots
RECOMMENDED: Scarpa Maverick GTX (£160)
Likes: fit, profile
Dislikes: synthetic upper
Weight: 1160g | Upper: vegan-friendly fabric and microfibre | Lining: Gore-Tex | Last: SHT | Sole: Crossover with Supergum rubber | Sizes: 7-12 (women’s 4 – 8)
The Maverick is a comfortable and versatile all-rounder that offers a good amount of support without being overly bulky. There’s a comfortable amount of flex in the toe and no heel lift or wiggle, which translates into all-day comfort and a feeling of security underfoot.
Read more: Scarpa Maverick GTX review
RECOMMENDED: Meindl Journey Mid GTX (£190)
Likes: grip, breathability
Dislikes: extra-wide fit
Weight: 1000g | Upper: nubuck leather and mesh | Lining: Gore-Tex | Sole: Meindl Comfort | Sizes: 6-12 (women’s 3.5 – 9)
The Journey is a lightweight, grippy trekking boot designed for wider feet on tracks and trails. The boot is exceptionally spacious and comfortable in the ‘flex zone’ (what brands call the hinge between your foot and your toes!) but I found the boot very wide at the heel. As a result, I felt much less secure in the boot when off-trail.
Read more: Meindl Journey Mid GTX review
BEST BUY: Keen Tempo Flex Mid (£135)
Likes: fit, profile
Weight: 1020g | Upper: ripstop mesh | Lining: Keen.Dry | Sole: Keen.All-Terrain | Sizes: 6-14 (women’s 2.5 – 9)
Keen’s Tempo Flex boasts new technology from the brand in the form of something called Flex.Bellows. The upper has a series of four rubberised ridges or bellows where the toe meets the foot, which are designed to improve flexibility, and perhaps help ‘pop out’ or unflex the boot when straightening the foot.
Read more: Keen Tempo Flex Mid review
Berghaus Expeditor Trek 2.0 (£100)
Weight: 1160g | Upper: suede and mesh | Midsole: EVA | Lining: AQ | Sole: Opti-Stud | Sizes: 7-12
The Expeditor is an uncomplicated and wallet-friendly ‘entry-level’ 3-season boot that’s comfortable straight out of the box. There’s lots of flex in the toe box and plenty of room for the toes on descent. The heel is held firmly in place with a higher ankle cuff and sensible, unobtrusive lacing. Overall it’s built on a longer, narrower last and as such I found the toe overhung a little.
Read more: Berghaus Expeditor Trek 2.0
RECOMMENDED: Inov-8 Roclite G 286 GTX (£165)
Likes: grip, breathability
Dislikes: fiddly lacing system
Weight: 580g | Upper: Cordura | Lining: Gore-Tex | Sole: Graphene Grip | Midsole: EVA | Shank: Meta plate | Sizes: 6-13 (women’s 4 – 8.5)
Time was when Inov-8 had a reputation for well-designed but not always hugely durable running shoes; but times change and the brand has set about toughening up. The ‘fastpacking’ sister to the recent TGO award-winning, hiking-friendly 400, the G 286 also features a graphene laced outsole and a ruggedised Cordura upper.
Read more: Inov-8 Roclite G 286 GTX review