5 Of The Best... Trail Shoes reviewed (2019)

A good alternative to boots when hillwalking and trekking on easier paths, trail shoes are also ideal for post-hike activities around the campsite and bar!

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What to look for

Upper

A leather upper made with minimal stitching will last for many years if cared for well, and will probably outlast the grip on the sole. Conversely, an upper that is made from lots of layers of synthetic fabric, mesh and thin strips of suede leather is unlikely to be as durable and can be slow-drying. But mesh and synthetic uppers are lighter and lower in price than leather and may be more comfortable straight from the box. Some newer synthetic uppers also allow bonding and welding techniques that improve durability and flexibility while reducing weight. Rubber rands may be used to increase durability at the toe or all around the upper.

Weight

Trail shoes are often chosen in preference to boots because they are lighter. However, the lighter the shoe the less support it may provide and the less durable it may be. Equally a lighter shoe may lack cushioning or support, making it more tiring to wear on more uneven ground.

Toe Box

To protect the foot from stray boulders a stiffened toe box is important. You can test this by pressing the top of the area where your toes will be in the boot with your thumb, and then judging if it is stiff enough to provide protection.

Heel counter

Pinch the heel of the shoe between thumb and fingers to test how supportive it will be for your foot. Support in this area is important for moving over uneven ground to help stabilise the foot.

Midsole Flex

Grab the shoe by the toe and heel, and bend them together to test longitudinal stiffness then twist the sole to test lateral stiffness. It is a matter of personal choice but generally a more flexible sole is better for comfort on level ground and for moving fast, while a stiffer sole is more comfortable on rockier ground and also allows a more precise use of small footholds when scrambling over rockier ground.

Outsole

Look for lugs that are well-spaced and deep so they can provide a good grip without easily clogging with mud and without wearing away too rapidly. A deep heel breast (the step between the heel and midfoot area of the sole unit) is vital for providing braking power in descents.


Oboz Firebrand II Low Waterproof £125

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  • Men’s 7-13

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1150g (size 11 pair)

It’s good

Oboz has rapidly clawed a foothold into the trail shoe market and the Firebrand, like many of its other shoes, has a very aggressive outsole lug pattern for grip in soft terrain. But importantly it also has great stiffness to resist pressure from jagged rocks underfoot. There is a heel breast for more grip, and good toe-to-heel and lateral stiffness to make scrambling over rocks secure. The upper is a durable design with a stiffened toe box and stiffened heel cup, plus an additional rubber rand for more durability. A BDry waterproof lining keeps feet dry, while the nubuck leather and synthetic textile upper keeps grit at bay. This shoe has a precise and neat fit.

However

There is no direct equivalent of this shoe for women but the Sawtooth (£100) and Bridger Low (£130) both offer ideal female-fit alternatives. The Bridger Low also has less synthetic material on the upper and even deeper sole lugs for better grip. The Firebrand is quite a robust and supportive shoe, so if you want something more flexible then others are better. Also for dedicated scrambling a shoe with a more precise toe design and stiffer sole at the toe would be better. You can get lighter shoes too, of course, and pay less if needed. But this is a great choice for general moorland, fell and hill path walking, and it’s hard to find drawbacks for that type of use.

Verdict

A robust, supportive shoe with a great sole for a wide variety of general path, hill and mountain terrain, but others are still better for specific needs.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 4/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%

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Inov-8 Roclite 275 £130

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  • Men’s 6-14

  • Women’s 3-10

  • Weight 672g (size 11)

It’s good

Yes, the weight is correct! These are around half the weight of some other shoes, which means less effort to lift them with every step. They also have a unique sole unit for grip, with not only a set of well-spaced, deep lugs but also the rubber is impregnated with graphene, a superbly hard and therefore durable material that should mean these maintain better grip than other rubbers for longer. The upper has mesh for more breathability, and as bonding techniques are used rather than stitched overlays of materials in many areas there is more durability here than some mesh shoes offer. The toe box and heel are also reinforced. The sole and upper are both very flexible, making them ideal for fast movement and very comfortable on grass or level terrain.

However

While there is lots of flexibility your foot has to work harder when crossing more uneven terrain. Some people will like this flexible design, while others will want a more supportive shoe to limit foot stress. Also this won’t be as durable as other shoes if you do take it onto really rough ground, as the mesh won’t withstand abrasion as well as a non-mesh synthetic or leather material. There is no waterproof lining either, although that does mean once water enters it can quickly be squeezed out and the shoe is faster to dry. The similar Roclite 315 GTX (£145) is a good waterproof version.

Verdict

Lightweight shoe with a studded sole that’s ideal for those wanting to travel super-light, but heavier shoes have benefits.

  • Features 4/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%


Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX £130

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  • Men’s 6.5-13.5

  • Women’s 3.5-10.5

  • Weight 882g (size 11)

It’s good

This is a well-proven, relatively lightweight all-rounder for general use on the hills. It has a sole unit with deep, well-spaced lugs for grip on mud and grass. There is some good toe-to-heel and lateral stiffness in the sole, so walking on paths of jagged rocks is not too uncomfortable but you also get a good toe flex to allow easier walking. The upper has a stiffened heel cup and stiffened toe box to protect the feet and a rubber toe cap for durability. The main part of the upper is a synthetic ‘Anti Debris’ tight mesh with synthetic textile overlays for durability. Gore-Tex keeps the water out. This shoe offers a good general fit, and feels great for paths and easier rough terrain.

However

As you would expect with any good all-rounder, a more dedicated shoe for some activities will be better in some areas. And yes, this is lightweight, but there are lighter shoes. Also, the sole unit does have great lugs and great stiffness but for lots of rocky ground use others are better still, as they have even stiffer soles and the feel of the rock under the foot is more precise to allow easier scrambling on smaller holds. Then there is the upper, as while it is great for general use on mountain terrain, something with a rubber rand would add even more durability. You can also, of course, spend less money.

Verdict

A great all-round trail shoe for hillgoers with a little bit of everything but without being overly dedicated to rock or fast action.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%


Salewa Mountain Trainer GTX £160

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  • Men’s  6-13

  • Women’s 5-11

  • Weight 1270g (size 11)

It’s good

This is an extremely robust shoe for the roughest of terrain for those who really crave performance on rockier ground. It is built around an exceptionally stiff Vibram Alpine Approach sole unit with a very deep set of lugs and a deep heel breast, so grip on soft or loose ground is great. But also the toe is well-profiled, so you get a very precise feel to make finding and using small footholds easy when scrambling over rock. Use this on rocky paths, scree or via ferrata-style scrambles and it feels great, while its sole lugs are also ideal for mud and grass. The upper is a durable 1.6mm suede leather with a rubber rand and minimal stitching for durability, lots of support and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining.

However

All that support comes at a cost. Firstly this is quite a heavy shoe and all that stiffness means it is just not as comfortable when walking over easy, level paths as a bendy, lighter shoe. Also if you want to move fast, it feels too ‘clumpy’. The fit is quite neat and precise, which is ideal for those with narrow feet and those who need such a fit for scrambling; but you may want a baggier, broader fit for more comfort when walking or backpacking over level paths. Then there is the price tag, as you could buy a pair of boots for this sort of cash and here you are getting a shoe without an ankle cuff – albeit a superb shoe for rockier ground.

Verdict

If you want footwear with the performance of a mountain boot but in a shoe style, then this is it. But for easier terrain, others are better.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%


AKU Tengu Low GTX £170

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  • Men’s 3-13

  • Women’s 3-9

  • Weight 1266g (size 11)

It’s good

This is a superb all-round walking shoe that manages to provide a range of benefits for a range of terrain. Firstly the outsole has deep, widely spaced lugs and a proper heel breast, so grip on mud or loose paths is assured. There is also lots of stiffness toe-to-heel and laterally in the sole, which makes this great for rockier ground. The upper is made from synthetic Air8000 and suede without too much stitching. The upper is stiff to provide foot support on uneven ground and also it’s well-protected with a rubber rand for more durability. On the foot the fit is close but not restrictive at the toe, as there is a little more space in this area to allow for a natural walking action. On most terrain this feels ideal.

However

It is slightly more ‘clumpy’ on the foot than lighter, more flexible shoes, so on a level, smooth forest path it may feel more than you need. And if you want to move fast, it is just not flexible or springy enough underfoot. The toe is not quite as precise as more dedicated climbing or via ferrata shoes, so using this for smaller footholds is not quite the best. The weight is relatively high and the price is more than many shoes. You really need to decide if you need all that performance from the sole on rocky ground, as that is what you are paying for here, and while it’s ideal for rough terrain that may be more than you need for paths.

Verdict

Ideal for muddy paths, rocky walks and easy scrambles, but for fast and light action, easier terrain or technical scrambles, others have benefits.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 5/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 98%

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Best for budget: Trail shoes review (2018)

Best Kit across the price bands

Trail shoes are lighter and more comfortable than boots, and most are a lower price too, which makes them ideal for walking and backpacking along good paths. But some can be taken on more challenging terrain while those described as ‘approach shoes’ are particularly good on rockier ground.

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What to Expect: Up to £100

At this price, you are getting the basics needed to walk comfortably along footpaths that are not too rough underfoot. The shoes are generally well-cushioned and quite flexible in the sole when flexed from toe to heel, as well as when twisted between the forefoot and heel. This makes them great for walking on level surfaces, but less suited to rougher terrain. The lugs on the sole will be relatively shallow, which again is fine for easier paths, but for more rugged ground deep lugs will offer more grip and longer-term wear. The upper may have more mesh for low weight and improved comfort, but it’s less likely to have any additional reinforcement – such as rubber rands, for example – to increase durability.

What to Expect: From £101 to £125

Shoes in this price band offer more durability on rougher terrain and may use less mesh or have additional rubber rands. These shoes may also benefit from stiffening in the heel cup and toe box to make them more suitable for uneven or rockier ground. The sole unit will have a deeper set of well-spaced lugs and, hopefully, a heel breast to ensure better grip on softer ground. There may also be more stiffness in the sole to ensure that jagged rocks do not place too much pressure on the foot when traversing rockier ground. These shoes are ideal for those who want a little more performance and durability than is offered in the lowest price band.

What to Expect: From £126

Optimum levels of performance and durability are available in this price band, making it a better bet for regular use. You’re likely to see more durable upper materials, along with rubber reinforcements, in this price bracket. The sole may be stiffened to improve performance on rockier ground and you may see even more pronounced lugs on the sole for better grip. More specialised products may include stiffer soles and sticky rubber for climbing over rocks. Some very lightweight products, using the latest tech, may also be available.


Hi-Tec Wildfire Low 1 WP £70

  • Men’s 6-13
  • Women’s 3-8
  • Weight 1066g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

The low price tag is instantly appealing, and you also get some good features. The shoe has a suede leather and mesh upper with a Dri-Tec waterproof lining. But you also get an i-shield treatment on the outside to repel water. The toe box and heel cup are reasonably stiffened, to support and protect the foot, which is good for uneven paths. Underfoot the sole lugs are reasonably deep and well-spaced for good grip, and there is some stiffness in the forefoot area of the sole to help resist pressure from jagged stones. There’s also a good wedge of cushioning under the heel to make walks on firm paths comfy. 

However

This shoe provides a slightly clumpy walking experience compared to higher-priced shoes that tend to contour to the foot and move more naturally as you walk. A deeper heel breast would be nice and, while the lugs are good, we’ve tried better. The sole is not as stiff as it could be and other shoes have less mesh on the upper and stiffer rubber reinforcement at the toe for more durability. 

Verdict

For those on tight budgets, this shoe is great for walks on valley and moorland paths.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Berghaus Expeditor ACT AQ Tech £95

  • Men’s 7-12
  • Women’s 4-8
  • Weight 944g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This is a low weight shoe at a relatively low price. The Pittards suede leather upper has perforations on the sides to increase breathability with some mesh around the tongue. An AQ waterproof breathable lining keeps your feet dry. There is some good stiffness in the heel cup and toe box to provide support and protection. The outsole uses well spaced lugs and there is a slight heel breast, so this all adds up to reasonable grip on muddy paths. Importantly, there is also enough stiffness in the sole to resist pressure from rocks. A good all-rounder.

However

While the features are generally good for easier paths, other shoes offer even more benefits. Some shoes have deeper lugs on the sole for even better grip in mud and a more pronounced heel breast for improved breaking when descending. A dedicated approach shoe style is also better for scrambling. Others are more durable if they have a rubber rand or if they have less stitching. Of course all those benefits would add weight and cost though.

Verdict

A very good shoe for walking on general paths, but if the going gets too muddy or too rocky then others are better and more durable.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%

Keen Targhee III WP £100

  • Men’s 6.5-16
  • Women’s 2.5-8.5
  • Weight 1088g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This shoe is available in an exceptionally broad range of sizes. Plus, on the foot, the forefoot area is slightly more spacious than others, with a good fit at the heel. You also get a more durable shoe than most – a very robust upper, made from full-grain leather, with far less stitching than other shoes at this price and no open mesh. The sole rubber extends around the toe box for even more durability. Underfoot the lugs are reasonably deep and well-spaced to provide grip in softer ground. Inside there is a Keen Dry waterproof lining. In use this provides a comfortable walk.

However

The sole is quite flexible, so on rockier ground it may not be as comfortable as a higher-priced shoe. Also while the lugs are quite good, you might want something more aggressive. A more pronounced heel breast to improve grip during descents would be ideal too. The sole is not the best at resisting pressure, so may not be ideal if you plan on walking over rockier ground. But on earth or grass paths it performs well.

Verdict

The spacious forefoot, durable design and decent sole lugs make this a good shoe for easier path walks.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 84%

Lowa Taurus GTX Lo £110

  • Men’s 7-13
  • Women’s 4-8
  • Weight 1028g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This well-priced shoe offers a good weight, as well as decent performance for walking on easier paths. It is built around a synthetic fabric upper, with suede overlays and a fairly spacious fit, to suit general walkers. Gore-Tex is used inside to keep the feet dry and the outsole is a Loren unit with a good heel breast and lugs that are fine for paths. You also get some stiffness in the forefoot to prevent pressure through to the foot on rocky paths. To provide more support and protection to the upper, the sole unit employs a Lowa Monowrap skeleton design that encloses the upper around the midfoot area. 

However

While this shoe is fine on level paths, that’s potentially its limit. The sole lugs are not as deep or as aggressive as they could be, so grip on grass slopes or mud is not top-notch. The upper is also quite soft at the toe box and heel, so performs better on more level paths, where its support is not challenged. There is also no rubber toe rand here – not great for rough terrain.  

Verdict

A lower-priced, lightweight shoe that is great on level paths, but step onto slightly challenging terrain and its limitations become clear.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Berghaus FT18 GTX £120

  • Men’s 7-12
  • Women’s none
  • Weight 804g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

The remarkable weight of this shoe sets it apart and, as it is designed for fast hiking, it has some other nice features too. Firstly, you get a Gore-Tex waterproof lining to keep your feet dry and this is protected by a ripstop synthetic fabric upper, with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) overlays and minimal stitching for durability. The heel cup and toe bumper are also slightly stiffened for use on uneven ground. And the sole is a Vibram Opti-stud design with well-spaced stud-like lugs. Finally, there is also some stiffness in the forefoot to prevent rocks pressing through the sole. 

However

The sole lugs are not as deep, nor as aggressive as in some other shoes, so it’s not the best for muddy ground. Also, while there is some stiffness in the sole, heel cup and toe box it could be even stiffer. There is also a little less cushioning underfoot than we’d like. But the absence of these little details is what helps reduce the weight of course. Annoyingly, there is no women’s version of this shoe, which is a real pity as it boasts some unique features.

Verdict

A great shoe if fast-hiking and lightness are your priorities.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Oboz Firebrand II Low Waterproof £125

  • Men’s 7-13
  • Women’s none
  • Weight 1168g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This tough shoe is great for rougher tracks where scrub and scree claw at your footwear, thanks to its suede leather and dense synthetic upper. But, importantly, you also get a very stiff rubber toe rand so you can kick through loose scree with comfort. You also get a B-Dry waterproof lining and the magic continues underfoot with great cushioning and a stiff sole that resists pressure. A very aggressive set of lugs, for biting into softer earth and mud, complete the package. The fit is precise and neat, to allow accurate foot placement on rockier ground, which means that, while it’s not the lightest shoe, it feels nimble. 

However

Sadly, there is no women’s option – the nearest equivalent is the £130 Bridger. Of course, you can get lighter shoes than the Firebrand and lower-priced options too, if you don’t need this level of performance. But it’s a great shoe for general walking and hard to find fault with, apart from personal preferences.

Verdict

A great shoe for backpacking over a range of paths and tracks, with reasonably heavy loads, where support and durability are key.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%
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Mammut Alnasca Low GTX £129

  • Men’s 6.5-13
  • Women’s 4.5-8
  • Weight 1002g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

This shoe is designed as an approach shoe, but has a few more general usage features in the mix too. You get a neat precise fit at the toe and a smooth climbing zone on the rubber sole. The sole itself is a Michelin Rock Tech unit with sticky OCX rubber for better grip on rock and a series of stud-like lugs for traction in softer earth. There is good cushioning at the heel and this extends under the toe, making it a good shoe for walking. The leather and synthetic upper has a Gore-Tex waterproof lining on the inside and a rubber rand for durability at the toe and heel.

However

This is a good shoe for use on rock approaches and via ferrata routes, but its broader appeal, to general walkers, means that those in need of a dedicated approach shoe may prefer the neater performance at the toe of other shoes. General walking users may feel the toe is too restrictive and may want more wiggle room. The sole is great for rockier ground and via feratta, but if you are predominantly walking on softer ground, shoes with deeper lugs might be better. 

Verdict

Great shoe for a mix of approach, via feratta use and walking.

  • Features 3/5
  • Fit 4/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 3/5
  • Value for money 5/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 76%

Oboz Bridger Low B-Dry £130

  • Men’s 7-13
  • Women’s 3.5-8.5
  • Weight 1176g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

When this shoe was released last year it was our instant favourite for trail walking and it remains hard to beat. It's built around a great sole unit, with deep, well-spaced lugs that claw their way across the ground like tractor tyres. But you also get plenty of cushioning and enough stiffness to resist pressure and not to strain the foot too much over uneven ground. The upper is made from suede leather, with minimal stitching, and a firm rubber rand at the toe box and heel cup, for support and durability. Inside you get a B-Dry waterproof lining. It's neat and precise on the foot and superb on the trail.

However

There is very little to fault here from the perspective of walking with a rucksack over valley, moor, hill and mountain terrain. It's not the lightest or the most flexible shoe, and not the best shoe you could find for scrambling up rocks or via ferrata, but then it's not supposed to be.

Verdict

An outstanding shoe for regular trekking over varied and uneven terrain with a rucksack

  • Features 5/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 5/5
  • In use 5/5
  • Value for money 4/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 96%
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Aku Montera Low GTX £135

  • Men’s 3-13
  • Women’s 3-8
  • Weight 1090g (size 11 pair) 

It's good

The Montera Low GTX is a versatile design that is good for general walking on valley paths and easier hill terrain. It has a Michelin Pulsar outsole, with a reasonably deep and aggressive set of lugs, and a good heel breast. The sole is reasonably stiff and fine for general walking on paths. The upper is a mix of suede, leather, synthetic fabric in the tongue and PU rand at the toe for durability. A Gore-Tex waterproof lining keeps the rain out and the fit is quite precise, so good enough for scrambling over rocks easily, if you need.

However

The sole could do with a little more stiffness in the forefoot, as you can feel rocks through it. The upper also does not enjoy the full rubber rand or durability features other shoes offer, as there is lots of stitching - not great for rocky terrain. It's not ideal for scrambling or via ferrata as the toe is not particularly neat, so this is best kept as a general-purpose walking shoe. It could also do with more cushioning for long distance walks on hard surfaces.

Verdict

A general-purpose shoe that benefits from a deep and aggressive lug pattern and good durability.

  • Features 4/5
  • Fit 5/5
  • Comfort 4/5
  • In use 4/5
  • Value for money 3/5
  • OVERALL SCORE 80%