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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Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX (2015)

The X Ultra is one of my favourite walking shoes (the ‘mid’ version is great too), and here is an updated version. Truth be told, the update is mostly cosmetic, smoothing out some of the chunkier edges and removing some of the excessive styling that made it look overly flashy. From the school of not-broke, no-fix, everything else is as it was: the softest, most cushioned insole I’ve ever used (thanks to Ortholite), a grippy tread that pulls you up anything from crumbly sandstone to a churned-up green lane, and enough clout in the toecap to suck up the bumps and scuffs of a mountain path. Plus it’s got Gore-Tex. The only polariser is likely to be the drawcord lacing (see the panel on the right for more on this). If the cord system works for you, great, but if you don’t like surrendering the control that comes with regular laces (and you’re sceptical of the flimsy nature of the cord), then perhaps not. I find the sizing rather tight, so if you want a bit more room to breathe, perhaps go a half-size up from your normal fitting. Overall, they're an exceptional walking shoe at a great price. 

Specifications

Sizes: 6.5-12.5

Membrane: Gore-Tex

Outsole: Salomon Contagrip

Weight per pair: 800g

Women’s version: Yes

Contact: 0207 078 3528

www.salomon.com

Verdict

Truly exceptional all-round walking shoe that balances swiftness with toughness.

Tested by Nick Hallissey

Country Walking June 2015

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Salomon Quest Origins (2015)

Features

A new release for 2015 and a sibling to the popular Salomon Quest 4D-2 GTX (£160), the Quest Origins features a full-grain leather upper with synthetic panels and a synthetic tongue. Gore-Tex provides the waterproof lining, while underfoot is Salomon’s popular 4D chassis with a deep lug pattern that is renowned for its running shoe feel and fit. 4/5

Fit

The Quest Origins is only available for men, with a relatively small size range of 8-12½, but men and women could also consider the Quest 4D 2 GTX (£160), which is similar in design and comes in sizes 3½-10½ for women and 6½-13½ for men. The fit is foot-hugging straight from the box with good tensioning possible from the lacing. 4/5

Comfort

At just 1484g (pair, size 11) the Salomon Quest Origins feels very light and has a running shoe feel, being quite springy underfoot and soft on the upper. There is also a softer heel-to-toe flex than with some boots here, which again adds to the comfort. The ankle cuff is slightly higher than average but still comfortable. 5/5

In use

For walking on moorland and hill paths the Salomon Quest Origins is great as the deep lug pattern provides a good grip and the flex is ideal for general walking. The boot is also very stable when the heel strikes, which is again great for paths. On rockier ground, however, the performance isn’t quite so good because there is more flex in the sole and upper than other boots. 3/5

Value

Considering this isn’t full leather it could be considered slightly pricier than it needs to be; the £160 Quest 4D 2 GTX is better value. 3/5

Verdict

The weight and comfort for general walking on paths sets the Salomon Quest Origins apart from others we looked at. 3.8/5

Review by Graham Thompson

Published in Trail magazine May 2015

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Salomon Comet 3D GTX (2014)

The Salomon Comet 3D GTX is a very lightweight boot at just 1356g (pair, size 11), and with the lower weight comes a change in performance when compared to heavier boots. The upper is made from synthetic materials with lots of stitching, so potentially this may not be as durable as a boot with one piece of leather on the upper and no stitching. The upper is quite soft too, with less stiffness in the toe box and heel cup areas, which means the Comet won’t support your foot as well as a stiffer model. This softness in the upper brings advantages too, as it feels comfy on the foot straight away. The outsole lacks a substantial heel breast but it does have well-spaced lugs that are nice and deep to grip well on soft grass and mud. The flex of the sole is softer than some others, but again this makes the boot nice and comfortable when walking on smooth paths and moorland. But take the Salomon Comet 3D GTX onto rockier ground and the flexible sole forces your foot to work harder than stiffer boots, which can be tiring if you aren’t used to it. I’d prefer to use this on moorland or good hill paths rather than anything too rocky on a regular basis. But if you want a lightweight option, that’s the price you might have to pay.

Specifications:

Upper materials nubuck leather, synthetic textile

Waterproof lining Gore-Tex

Sole unit Contagrip, 3D Advanced Chassis

Men’s sizes 6.5-12.5

Women’s sizes 3.5-8.5

Weight 1356g (pair, size 11)

Website www.salomon.com

Verdict

The Salomon Comet 3D GTX’s price and weight are light, but this does limit performance on rockier mountain ground, making this best suited to valley and easier hill paths.

Review by Graham Thompson

Published in Trail magazine May 2014

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Salomon X Ultra GTX (2014)

The Salomon X Ultra GTX is an exceptionally light shoe at just 956g (pair, size 11), making it instantly appealing to anyone wishing to save weight or move fast outdoors. The upper is synthetic with an open mesh and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining. The upper is protected by synthetic overlays and a large rubber toe bumper, but it’s still not going to be as durable as an all-leather upper if taken onto rough terrain. There is some reasonable stiffness in the heel cup for support on uneven ground but the upper and toe box are quite soft, so again it’s not the best option for loose, rocky ground. What is most interesting about the Salomon X Ultra GTX, apart from the weight, is that the outsole has some very aggressive and widely spaced studs that are great for gripping soft, grassy slopes and generally muddy terrain. The underfoot cushioning is also excellent for taking the strain out of pounding along firm paths. This all adds up to a shoe that’s great for fast and light movement in a variety of terrain, but it’s best suited to paths and moors. On rockier ground the Salomon X Ultra GTX doesn’t perform as well as stiffer shoes as there isn’t a great deal of stiffness in the sole. But it would work well for superlight backpacking as well as general outdoor activity away from rockier terrain.

Specifications:

Upper material synthetic textile

Waterproof lining Gore-Tex

Sole unit Advanced Chassis

Men’s sizes 6.5-12.5

Women’s sizes 3.5-8.5

Weight 956g (pair, size 11)

Website www.salomon.com/uk

Verdict

The Salomon X Ultra GTX is a very lightweight shoe that would be a great choice for biking, hiking, moving fast or superlight backpacking on easier terrain.

Review by Graham Thompson

Published in Trail magazine May 2014

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Salomon Comet 3D GTX (2012)

As Salomon’s known for its lightweight footwear, it’s not surprising the Comet 3D GTX is the second lightest boot in our test – only pipped to the post by Zamberlan (by 4g) – and this is something that you notice as soon as you put them on. With a lot of cushioning underfoot they are immediately comfortable. The fit is fairly wide though and I found my narrow foot moved around a lot, which make this a good option for those with broader feet. The uppers are a mix of leather and fabric, making this a more modern-looking boot, though with more stitching than others durability could be an issue long-term. A waterproof Gore-Tex lining helps keep feet dry. I found when walking uphill that the fabric at the forefoot dug uncomfortably into the top of my toes when the boot flexed, so it’s worth trying them on to check this. The toe box is fairly stiff, though not as much as others on test, but a rubber rand helps give protection. At the back the heel is reinforced but does not offer as much support as other models here. The sole unit is quite bendy so you do feel more underfoot but the lugs are widely spaced and aggressive, helping with grip on muddy ground while preventing a large build-up of debris. The Salomon Comet 3D GTX has a heel breast but this is not as pronounced as others.

Weight 1015g (pair, size 6)
Upper materials waterproof nubuck leather
Waterproof lining Gore-Tex Performance Comfort
Sole unit ContaGrip
Womens sizes 3.5-8.5
Mens sizes 7-12.5
Website www.salomonsports.com

 

Verdict

The Salomon Comet 3D GTX is a lightweight boot that would be a good choice for those looking for a bendy sole and wide fit.

 

Review by Phoebe Smith

First published in Trail magazine August 2012

 


Salomon Quest 4D GTX (2012)

The Quest 4D is a great-looking boot, with split-suede and mesh uppers and decent rubber bumpers at the toe and heel to keep them looking fresh. The narrow heel and comparatively wide forefoot gives them an incredibly secure feel, and this, coupled with an excellent lacing system and two offset locking eyelets, means your feet stay comfortably in place, even on steep descents. They’ve got a decent amount of padding, but not so much that feet get hot and sweaty. Out in the hills, they perform impeccably – Salomon’s chunky Contagrip sole grips well on all surfaces and provides fantastic shock absorption on hard ground. The Gore-Tex lining is totally waterproof, and plenty of mesh in the uppers enable them to breathe well too. They’ve got a high ankle cuff, which offers exceptional support and protection on rocky terrain. It helps keep out water too – helped by a high, gusseted tongue.

Sizes: 4-8

Upper: Split-suede and mesh

Lining: Gore-Tex

Sole: Non-marking Contagrip

Weight: 1,200g

Men’s version: Yes

Contact: 01276 404860; www.salomon.com

*Published in Country Walking magazine, April 2012


Salomon Exit 2 Aero

An excellent walking shoe for dry weather, the Exit 2 Aero ticks most of the walking shoe boxes: reasonably stiff sole, good tread pattern, great heel hold. It’s let down by a lack of a waterproof lining (although Gore-Tex versions are available) which reduces its usability in the rain. The absence of a membrane coupled with the mesh design does make them much cooler in warmer conditions, though. The heel section is well-supported and really helps keep your ankle wedged in position while the ankle is well-padded, too. The stiff sole works well on rocky paths and uneven ground, stopping every little stone from being felt on the inside, and the tread pattern is aggressive enough for coping with muddy conditions – it’s just a shame the upper isn’t.

VITAL STATS
Sizes:
6½-12½
Materials: Textile/mesh
Sole: Contragrip
Weight: 1,030g
Women’s version: Yes
Contact: 01276 404 860; www.salomon.com
• Review from Country Walking magazine, June ’11


Salomon Comet 3D GTX

Trail running shoe technology makes these boots incredibly comfortable straight from the box, with a trainer/multi-activity shoe feel to them. The soft upper and soft flexing sole underfoot gives them this added level of initial comfort. With this degree of flex, longevity may be an issue, although they maintained the same level of stiffness throughout the test. While not super-stiff, there is a small element of roll in the sole to propel your foot forwards, and the whole shoe feels performance- orientated, with excellent shock absorption in the midsole. They’re not really suited to high, rocky terrain due to the lack of foot protection, although the wider sole does help give a firm footing, and they could do with an extra lace loop on the ankle for added security.

VITAL STATS
Sizes:
6½-12½
Upper: Suede/mesh
Waterproof/breathable lining: Gore-Tex
Sole: Contagrip
Weight: 1,342g
Women’s version: Yes
Contact: 01276 404860; www.salomon.com


Salomon Comet 3D GTX 2011

The Salomon Comet 3D GTX weighs 1308g (pair, size 11); suede and fabric upper; Gore-Tex waterproof lining; instantly comfy due to soft upper; deep lug pattern for grip in mud; rubber toe reinforcement for durability. But soft upper and soft sole flex make it better for valleys, moors and easier hills paths than anything rocky; lack of heel breast means braking power in descent is not ideal.

The Salomon Comet 3D GTX is a good, sporty, lightweight boot that can be used on the hills, but others offer better performance.

First published in Trail magazine May 2011


Salomon Exit 2 Peak 2011

The Salomon Exit 2 Peak is a relatively low-priced shoe compared to some options, but you still get reasonable performance. So the upper offers good protection and it should be durable, thanks to the use of minimal mesh and extensive areas of suede leather coupled with not too much stitching. There is an extra synthetic overlay around the toe too. The heel cup offers plenty of support while the remainder of the upper gives enough support to make this useful for general activity. Underfoot there is a good layer of cushioning. The sole unit has widely spaced lugs that are deep enough to give a good grip. Sole stiffness is okay for general use. A waterproof lining completes a good general shoe for a variety of outdoor activities. But the sole, the toe box and the upper of the Salomon Exit 2 Peak are all a little less stiff than some higher-priced shoes; and while this is okay, some people may prefer the extra support offered by other shoes, particularly for rockier terrain. Equally an upper of more durable leather may benefit harder users. So if you want a shoe to take you over rockier hills, this is probably not the best option despite the excellent price.

Upper suede leather, synthetic overlays, mesh; Gore-Tex waterproof lining
Sole Contagrip rubber, 2D advanced chassis, EVA cushioning
Sizes 6½-12½ (men’s); 38-42 (women’s)
Weight 1004g (pair, size 11)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 28

The Salomon Exit 2 Peak is a well-priced good general outdoor shoe, as long as you are not going to hammer it too hard on rockier ground.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine May 2011


Salomon Tracks GTX

A fairly light shoe that’s at its best on easier surfaces and good paths. It’s well-padded and very comfortable from the box, but the lacing doesn’t extend far down the foot and this, combined with a quite flexible midsole, made it difficult to get a really stable fit on steeper ground. A Gore-Tex liner kept water out well, and the high mesh content meant that they never felt too hot – great for overseas walking. Quite expensive but they do look good and therefore will make a top casual shoe, too.

VITAL STATS:
Sizes:
UK 6-13 inc half-sizes
Upper: Suede/mesh
Waterproof lining: Yes
Weight (pair): 810g
Women’s version: Yes
Contact: 01276 404 860; www.salomon.com/uk


Salomon Elios Mid WP 2010

The Salomon Elios Mid WP is a good-looking boot with a good durable upper, a stiff toe box and a heel cup that offers plenty of support on rougher terrain. There is a waterproof lining too and this combined with the ankle cuff should help keep feet dry. The outsole has a good aggressive lug pattern too for grip in mud. But for really rocky terrain the sole and upper could be a little stiffer. Also the lugs could be even deeper for rougher terrain. But for general outdoor use this is a great boot and it would be great for many children.

Upper synthetic suede with waterproof lining
Sole Contagrip, EVA cushioning
Sizes 11.5 –5.5
Weight 518g (pair, size 11.5)
Made in China
Stores in the UK 23

The Salomon Elios Mid WP is a good outdoor boot that offers most of what many children will need when heading to the easier hills.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine May 2010


Salomon Cosmic 4D GTX 2010

The Salomon Cosmic 4D GTX weighs 1456g (pair, size 11); synthetic upper with Gore-Tex waterproof lining; supportive heel cup and ankle cuff; well-cushioned underfoot; very good sole stiffness for a variety of terrain. But soft toe box; upper may not be as durable as leather designs; high price for what you get.

The Salomon Cosmic 4D GTX is a very lightweight boot that also offers good performance for hill-walking, but others are better for rockier terrain.

First published in Trail magazine May 2010


Salomon Tiana GTX 2010

The Salomon Tiana GTX weighs 616g (pair, size 5); Gore-Tex waterproof lining; mesh and suede upper; reasonable toe protection. But outsole is not very stiff so you can feel rocky ground through the sole; outsole lug pattern is relatively shallow, so others offer better grip.

The Salomon Tiana GTX is a good shoe for general outdoor use when hiking, biking or travelling, but so are many others.

First published in Trail magazine May 2010