Gear review: Trail and walking shoes

All these trail shoes have been tested by over the last few months in a range of Scottish locations and conditions. Weight is per pair and for the size tested – note that we tested half in women’s and half in men’s. As usual on Walkhighlands, we don’t sell gear ourselves and so the prices stated are RRP – you will often find them on sale for less.

Salewa Mountain Trainer 2 GTX

RRP: £200
Weight: 938g (Women’s UK 6)
Upper: Leather/textile with Gore-Tex membrane
Sole: Vibram

A heavier, stiffer shoe than most on test, these will be suitable for three season use as well as rock scrambling and should be very hard wearing due to the thick leather upper and rubber rand that runs all the way round. The fit feels quite tight initially. However, once the lacing – which goes very low on the toe like a climbing shoe and is reinforced with a thin steel cable to add security for the ankle – is adjusted and after a few wears, they have proved very comfortable with more room in the toe box than I initially thought. The volume can also be adjusted as an extra insole pad is provided. An instep in the Vibram sole makes these a good choice for tackling via ferrata on an Alpine trip. Overall the sturdy sole and rugged construction will suit those wanting a stable, durable shoe which performs well on rock and will cope with a battering from scree. It has proved very waterproof – at least as far as such a low-profile shoe can, more effective for heavy downpours than prolonged Scottish bog trotting.

Available in men’s sizes UK 6 – 13, 4 colours, and women’s UK 4 – 8, 3 colours.

Keen Zionic Speed Low

RRP: £150
Weight: 742g (Men’s UK 11)
Upper: Mesh with recycled plastic overlays
Sole: Keen rubber sole

The Zionics are the lightest of the men’s shoes in this test, and are much lighter than other models from Keen that I’ve worn over the years. Most lightweight shoes tend to have quite a narrow last, whilst Keen is known for its wide fit – so it’s brilliant to have such a light shoe that fits those with wider feet like mine. The tongue is super thin, and the shoes are much closer to trail running shoes than the others on test – I found them to be supremely comfortable from the get-go. Although they may be targeted at trails, I’ve found they gripped and performed well even on the most rugged Munro terrain. Another difference from the other shoes is that the Zionics tested here have no waterproof membrane (there is also a waterproof lined option – costing £10 more). Obviously this means they let water in immediately in wet conditions – but they also dry much, much faster than lined shoes, and are much cooler to wear on hot days. For summer weather, these are a great choice.

Available in mens sizes 6 – 14 UK with half sizes, and women’s 2.5 – 9 UK; two colours.

Zamberlan Circe GTX Low

RRP: £190
Weight: 752g (Women’s UK 6)
Upper: Microfibre with Gore-Tex lining
Sole: Vibram

These robust, stiff-soled and well-made shoes designed for heavy use – most similar to the Salewa shoes in this test. The sewn in tongue and fairly narrow last (this is a female-only shoe designed with a narrower heel than the men’s version) give these a snug feel, but well-placed lacing and half-sizes mean you should be able to find a good fit. A protective rand at the front protects much of the shoe from abrasion and the wedge shaped heel and quality, grippy sole makes it stable in a range of conditions. They have worn well and kept water out well (they are Gore-Tex lined and a bit higher than the other female options on test) with good cushioning at the ankle. Too hot for me on really warm days, these are reliable, good looking shoes for rugged terrain when stability is required – they should be long lasting.

Available in women’s UK 4 – 9 with half sizes, 7 colours, no men’s version.

La Sportiva TX5 Low GTX

RRP: £180
Weight: 1.03kg (Men’s UK 10.5)
Upper: Nubuck leather with rubber rand and toecap
Sole: Vibram

With good quality leather nubuck uppers, these rather handsome shoes are the heaviest in this test – though they still much lighter than most boots. With a high rubber rand for protection against rocky terrain, and quality materials, I suspect they will outlast alot of the lighter alternatives. The tread on the soles is quite deep for trail shoes, again emphasising that these perform well on more knarly terrain. Despite the comparatively stiff mid section, they felt comfortable from day one. They feature an interesting lacing system that goes right around the uppers – passing behind the heel – intended so that the laces stay adjusted to give more space or a tighter fit in the areas where personally you need it. The Gore-Tex lining will help keep water out – though it can make the TX5’s a little warm on the hottest days. These are well made shoes that should serve you well both in the glens and up on the high peaks – and I’d expect they’ll prove more durable than most trail shoes.

Available in men’s sizes 4-12.5 UK with half sizes, and women’s 3.5 – 8 UK, two colours.

Aku Flyrock GTX

RRP: £205
Weight: 658g (women’s UK 6)
Upper: Textile with pu film and Gore-Tex lining
Sole: Vibram

Super comfortable from the get go, these relatively lightweight trail shoes have combine a reassuringly stiff sole with a great lacing system to provide a secure and stable wear. I found the heal toe drop gives a comfortable walking motion with a good level of traction from the lugs on the sole particularly good on steep, wet ground. Despite prolonged use the reinforcement on the uppers has stood up well to abrasion and there are no obvious areas of wear at flex points so I’m expecting the uppers to last well. Good mid-sole design and a fair amount of cushioning have made them my shoe of choice for longer days when a waterproof shoe is needed. The best feature is the secure lacing, very easy to do up, does not come undone and can easily be adjusted to make the front of the foot more secure for scrambling. The only downside has been slight overheating due to the Gore-tex membrane on hot days.

Available in mens sizes UK 6 – 13, and women’s UK 3-9, 2 colours for both.

Salomon Genesis

RRP: £140
Weight: 478g (Women’s UK 6)
Upper: Textile
Sole: Rubber (All-Terrain Contagrip)

Designed for trail running, this is an excellent lightweight option for summer hiking when comfort and weight take priority over waterproofing and durability. A wide toe box is complemented with a really useful instant lacing system that works well (and there’s a neat little area at the top of the tongue to tuck away any potential flapping lace). These are heavily cushioned shoes and the good amount of heel to toe drop seems to help you keep going for longer with a wedge-shaped wide heel which makes them more grippy on wet ground than many trail runners. Sewn in stretchy sides to the tongue keep some debris out and these are cooler for hot days and reasonably quick drying as there’s no waterproof lining. Some reinforcement at the toe helps wear and tear but rocky ground has already gouged a few gashes in the high foam mid-sole, although the upper is holding up well at the flex point.

Available in mens sizes UK 6.5 – 13.5, 3 colours and women’s UK 3.5 – 9.5, 3 colours, half sizes in both.

Alt-berg Skipton

RRP: £165
Weight: 890g (Men’s UK 11)
Upper: Oiled nubuck
Sole: Vibram

Alt-berg have built quite a reputation for their traditional, really well-made leather hiking boots – so it’s good to see them producing an approach shoe. Alt-berg say these are for ‘outdoor / urban’ leisure wear – and they certainly look pretty smart – but make no mistake – with an excellent Vibram sole unit and a waterproof sympatex lining, these perform great out on the trails too. I’ve found the fit to be good for my wide feet – note that the Skipton’s are not available in Alt-berg’s usual vast array of different width fittings. They are closest to the La Sportiva TX5 of the men’s shoes in this test, but they lack the all-round rubber rand, with additional protection only at the toe cap, so they are perhaps better suited for trails and less rocky hills – whilst also looking right at home in the pub afterwards. If the bright orange laces are a little too much for you, traditional brown alternatives are also supplied.

Available in men’s sizes 3.5 – 12 UK, no women’s version.

Grubs DISCOVER trainer

RRP: £139.95
Weight: 966g (Men’s UK 11)
Upper: Ripstop Nylon
Sole: Vibram

Though the family has apparently been making footwear since 1776, Grub’s was a new brand to me for hiking. They are better known for their wellies and agricultural footwear, so I was interested to see they have launched both a boot and these approach shoes. The uppers look like traditional trainers, but the shoes have a rolling gate design to help keep your feet easily on the move – resulting in the high-rise look at the heel end. Although the uppers are a very flexible nylon, there is quite a lot of padding to them – whilst this helps ensure comfort, it also adds to the warmth – especially when combined with the waterproof lining. This might be welcomed for much of the year, but I find they can get pretty sweaty in hotter summer conditions. Otherwise, they have performed well on test on a variety of terrain, gripped well, and kept me dry even through some pretty soggy Perthshire bogs.

Available in men’s sizes 4 – 12, women’s 4-9.

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