How to Choose the Best Walking Boots and Shoes

Images and Text by Angus Whitby.

If your new walking boots don’t fit properly, you risk trip-ruining discomfort (or worse serious injury) so it pays to get the best fitting walking boots you can. That is where Open Air’s footwear department is here to help with nearly 30 years of collective experience in assisting boot and shoe fitting for men, women and children. Use these tips for buying the best walking boots.

Footwear Styles

Comfortable walking boots are an essential part of your outdoor experience. No one wants sore feet so it’s important to take your time and choose the best fitting boots for your intended purpose. The main challenge when looking to buy good quality walking boots is that there are a huge number of makes and models available. And they all fit differently!

Approach Shoe
A hybrid between a walking shoe and a climbing shoe. Flat sole and sticky rubber makes them suitable for climbing and scrambling.
Pictured: Scarpa Crux

Trail Running Shoe
Designed to offer an off-road runner more grip, support and protection from rough terrain than a standard running shoe. A good middle ground between a running shoe and walking boot or shoe.
Pictured: Salomon XA Pro 3D

Walking Shoe (Low-Cut)
A lightweight alternative to a walking boot, a low-cut walking shoe is a good option for shorter trails or even for use casually. Walking shoes often incorporate a waterproof and breathable lining (GORE-TEX or similar) for added protection and comfort.
Pictured: Meindl Palermo GTX Comfort Fit

Walking Shoe (Mid-Cut)
Offering more ankle support and protection than a walking boot without the bulk of a full walking boot, ‘mids’ are a versatile choice for someone looking for a comfortable in between. Whilst note ideal for multi day treks, these are perfect for lower-level walks on defined paths and general outdoors use.
Pictured: Keen Targhee III Mid

Walking Boot
Sturdy and supportive, walking boots are suitable for a wide range of environments and terrains. Perfect for everything from dog walking, hill walking, scrambling and beyond.
Pictured: Meindl Minnesota Pro

Mountain Boot
Characterised by tall, supportive cuffs, big rubber toe bumpers and stiff soles to accommodate crampons, are the perfect companion for winter hill walking, mountaineering or extended walking carrying heavy loads.
Pictured: Zamberlan Mountain Trek GTX


A walking boot for dog walking requires a very different boot to that of tackling Ben Nevis. Consider where you’re likely to be using your walking boots and the sorts of terrain and conditions you’re likely to encounter. If you’re likely to be encountering wet and muddy conditions, consider leather walking boots with a higher cuff as they will offer superior weather resistance and ease of cleaning. For warmer and more humid climates, consider a lightweight non-waterproof boot or shoe for increased breathability and comfort.

Size and Shape

Men’s and women’s walking boots and shoes come in a variety of different sizes and shapes so it’s important to select footwear with a comfortable fit. We carry a range of different makes and models of walking boots and walking shoes to suit customers with narrow, regular and wide feet. For customers looking to buy wide fit walking boots, consider walking boots and shoes from Meind’s Comfort Fit range. These models are all built on a wider base offering more space for the toes and ball of the foot, whilst maintaining a snug fit in the heel.

If you have narrow feet, consider a walking boot or shoe that laces to the toe which will allow you to lace the boot or shoe in a way that removes excess space making for a snug yet comfortable fit. Walking boots for children are often made of much softer materials to suit growing feet. For petite adults with small feet, these are a suitable option but it’s important to be aware that they often don’t last as long as a walking boot or shoe designed for an adult.

Pro Tip: The best time to try on walking boots and shoes in the afternoon as your feet swell throughout the day.


Ideally, you should try on outdoor footwear with the walking socks you intend on using your new walking boots. If you prefer walking in a thin sock with a thick sock over the top, then try your new boots with that arrangement. You need to wear whatever is most comfortable for you. Remember it’s important to wear a suitably cushioned walking sock with your walking boots, particularly with those boots or shoes that feature a GORE-TEX (or similar) waterproof lining. This will ensure adequate breathability and comfort.


Lightweight boots made of softer materials and flexible materials are incredibly comfortable, particularly for shorter, flatter walks. However, whilst lightweight walking boots are always desirable, the lightest boots to not always offer the best support, comfort or longevity.

For more challenging walking conditions (steep slopes and rocky terrain), select a walking boot with a stiffer sole and a higher cuff. These are likely to be heavier but will provide more ankle support, protection and comfort for these sorts of adventures. For winter walkers, make sure you select a boot that is a suitable match for your crampons.

Testing For Fit

Your feet should feel snug and secure in your new walking boots. You should not be feeling any heel lift, or your toes hitting the front of the boot. You can check to see if you have a sufficient amount of space at the end of your toes by pressing a finger down behind your achilles with your toes pushed up into the front of the boot. If this is manageable, your boots are likely to be the right length. Ideally, you want to have about a finger’s width between the end of your toes and the front of the boot.

If you have any questions regarding walking boots or shoes for men, women and children, we’d be only too happy to provide assistance. You can visit us in person and have a professional boot fitting at our Footwear Department on Green Street, Cambridge, or contact us by calling, emailing or using LiveChat.

Thanks for reading!

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