Whether you are planning a long country walk or a gentle stroll on a well-beaten path, make the most of the good season with our round-up of the best footwear.
Never has the great outdoors felt more important than the past year, when walking and taking in glorious scenery was the only antidote to the challenges of the pandemic.
However, both received wisdom and personal experience (in this particular case, an ankle that still spells trouble every now and again after getting twisted on a Highland path more than ten years ago) both indicate that the foundation of a good day out walking starts with solid boots. It’s all well and good to have a pair of your best wellington boots out for splashing in puddles and muddy fields, or a Barbour jacket to protect you from whatever the elements throw at you, but proper walking footwear is a different matter again.
Finding the right pair is not easy, and often requires negotiating trade-offs: would you rather pick durable leather or vegetarian-friendly, quicker-to-wear-in synthetics (although today’s boots are all remarkably easier to break in than they used to be)?
Would you have the full protection of a mid-height, thick-soled boot or the lighter wear of a lower-cut shoe with a slightly slimmer sole?
Much depends on personal preference and the type of walking you do.
As a rule, longer walks off the beaten path call for sturdier boots with excellent grip and ankle support. If most of your walking is along manicured estates, on the other hand, you may get away with something lighter and easier on your foot and leg.
How waterproof to go is another matter of personal choice. A tame stroll along Holkham Beach that nonetheless saw feet in waterproofed boots staying dry and toasty while everyone else endured the torment of sticky wet socks taught this writer a life lesson that waterproof is always best, but you might prefer to have greater breathability.
Water-resistant boots are a good choice in this case, but they need proper care to ensure they continue to shelter you from rain and splashes over time.
Once you have weighed all the options and chosen the kind of boot that suits your walking life, though, it’s a question of picking the best in each class — and here’s where this handy list can help.
Ariat Skyline Summit Gore-Tex
This boot, which combines full-grain leather with nylon panels and Gore-Tex membrane construction, is breathable yet waterproof and comes with a handy shock-absorbing mid-sole that will help protect your joints. There’s extra protection around the toe and heel and a clever outsole that provides great grip. Oh and they look great, too.
£170 via Amazon.co.uk
Le Chameau Lite LCX
Le Chameau’s boots get a ringing endorsement from Country Life’s luxury editor Hetty Chidwick, who put the company’s stalking footwear to the test in Scotland and found it as soft as butter from the first wear (thanks to a special ankle-flex technology). This particular model is lower, ultra-lightweight, waterproof, breathable and made with environmentally friendly leather — plus it has Michelin soles.
£249 via Joules
Merrell Alverstone Waterproof
These great shows are perfect for those who are looking for a lighter model — lower on the ankle, they are made of suede and Gore-Tex and are hugely comfortable, thanks to their air cushions. A personal favourite is that they have a bellows tongue to keep debris out. No more stopping to fish out that pesky pebble.
£149.13 via Amazon
For those who can’t live without the classic Chelsea boots, these Blundstones are the perfect choice. Comfortable and easy to put in (no fiddly laces here), they are also water-resistant and very sturdy — plus they have a shock protection system and a sole with a good drip in every weather condition.
From £128.90 via Amazon
Meindl Womens Bhutan MFS
Made to tackle mountain hikes, these boots offer comfort, fit, support and durability. Waxed nubuck leather combines with Gore-tex to make a waterproof but breathable shoe.
Memory foam around the ankle collar ensures you get full support and perfect fit with no break-in time. And for those that tend to be hard on their shoes, there’s an all-round rubber rand to protect from scuffs.
£232.50 via Blacks
The Dryboot Company’s Harris
The Dryboot Company has long been a favourite with serious outdoor people and their Harris boot continues to fly the flag for tough but comfortable footwear. Completely waterproof, it’s a natural rubber boot lined in cotton for wicking and padded around the ankle for extra comfort. The self-cleaning, anti-clog sole is a major plus.
£86.99 via Amazon
Zamberlan 311 Ultra Lite GTX
These lightweight boots have full-grain, hydroblock leather uppers and Gore-Tex lining for full waterproofing. Excellent soles combine great grip with excellent support, and the rubber rand protects from scuffs, helping ensure durability.
£190 via Cotswolds Outdoor
Scarpa Womens Ranger GTX Activ Lite Walking / Hiking Boots
Scarpa boots were originally made for mountaineering and these shoes are the lighter version of their classic model. Extremely comfortable — they have been specifically developed for women’s feet — they have calf leather uppers, Gore-Tex lining, a supportive midsole and foam inserts in the heel area.
£180 via Cotswolds Outdoor
Some call Brandecosse the best country boots money can buy. This supremely stylish model is made of full-grain leather with a breathable, waterproof lining, they have been conceived to withstand the worst the British weather and terrain can throw at them.
They have a shock-absorbing footbed and brilliant grip. Their outsole is also fully replaceable, for added durability. Like all the company’s boots, it’s designed in the UK and hand-made in Italy.
£259 via Brandecosse
Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX
Comfort is the byword in this model, in which technology borrowed from running shoes helps cushion the foot. These boots are designed to reduce fatigue even in rough terrains, while the improved outsole ensures excellent grip. Full-grain nubuck leather and Gore-tex keep your feet dry in style.
£180 via Blacks
There's nothing quite so vital to life in the countryside as a decent pair of wellies. Country Life's luxury editor