Best men's walking shoes 2021: Versatile footwear for lighter hikes

Looking for protection and support without the bulk of boots? You need a pair of the best men's walking shoes

best men's walking shoes: Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX
(Image credit: Merrell)

A pair of the best walking shoes can be one of the most versatile tools in the outdoors-lover's armory. It's a great footwear choice for everything from light-but-fast days out on the hills and trails to the myriad of casual low-level rambles, walking the dog to commuting across town. In this guide, we've rounded up the best men's walking shoes around, to help you put your best foot forward.

Don't think you'll be able to get away with a pair of standard street shoes; dedicated walking shoes pack plenty of extras that make a huge difference to their performance. In fact, the best walking shoes should have many of the elements you'd find in the best hiking boots, such as a relatively stiff sole – often augmented with a stiffening shank and a rockplate for extra protection – as well as excellent lacing to lock your foot into place. 

Most walking shoes also include a waterproof membrane to keep casual dampness (like wet grass) from wetting out the upper and getting into the shoe, and many also include a higher rand or protective panels around the sides of the upper to fend off sharp stones and general abrasion. 

Although boots are the tools you'll need for really rugged stuff, walking shoes fit the bill for a host of less-serious walks, as well as urban rambles of all kinds. Do bear in mind that walking shoes don't support the ankle much – if at all – so for hillwalking or more remote walks it's best to opt for a safer, boot-shaped option if in doubt. But on a more gentle walk, pair any of these with some of the best walking trousers and a good waterproof jacket for a comfy and versatile outdoors outfit. 

The best men's walking shoes to buy now

best walking shoes: Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX

(Image credit: Merrell)

1. Merrell MQM Flex 2 GTX

The best men's walking shoes overall – and a T3 Award winner

Best for: All rounder
Material: Mesh upper
Waterproof: Gore-Tex insert
Reasons to buy
+Super-breathable+Lots of traction+Robust

The winner of the T3 Award 2020 for Best Walking Shoe, Merrell has gone all-out with the MQM Flex 2, throwing a kitchen sink of tech and innovation into creating a technical and competent shoe. In spite of the name, the MQM is simply a great fast and light hiking shoe, especially at the business end, the outsole. 

That outsole is made from Merrell's 'mountain-grade' Quantum Grip rubber, and packs deep 5mm lugs arranged in a trail running-style format that really do grip well in most conditions. There’s an essential rock plate built in as well as a highly flexible midsole, which results in stiffness where you need it, but enough flex to get on with enjoying the trail. 

The bellows tongue does its job at keeping bits of the trail out of your boots, but it sits low enough to not impact adjustability, as well as allowing a wide opening for your size 11s. The beefy lacing system looks the part, incorporating an extra band across the arch of the foot, which helps capture the foot and hold it snugly on longer rambles. There are useful smaller touches too, such as the generous finger pull on the heel, and the TPU toe cap extends to protect much of the front of the shoe from abrasion. Finally, there’s a Gore-Tex membrane underneath the mesh to prevent rain stopping play without hindering breathability – a compelling package. 

best men's walking shoes: Columbia Facet 30 Outdry shoe

(Image credit: Columbia)

2. Columbia Facet 30 Outdry shoe

The best premium men's walking shoes

Best for: Autumn hiking
Material: Ballistic textile upper
Waterproof: OutDry
Reasons to buy
+Waterproof+Responsive cushioning+High-traction+

The Columbia Facet 30 might have marmite styling, but there's plenty of tech lurking beneath the surface. Those angular overlay panels provide reinforcement for the ballistic mesh upper at key points, while a speed lacing system keeps your foot stable in the shoe. As you'd expect, there's a waterproof membrane here, courtesy of Columbia's OutDry own-brand system, and a combination of heel stabilisation and responsive cushioning thanks to a high-energy return midsole constructed from Techlite – another Columbia in-house innovation.

Meanwhile, that outsole is high-traction but non-marking rubber that'll see off grip-based challenges on trail and off equally well, and a final little touch is the positive finger-pull on both tongue and heel for easier donning and doffing. Overall, these deliver all the tools for the outdoor walking shoe job, as well as a different design take that's well worth a second look...  

best men's walking shoes: Merrell Zion Peak

(Image credit: Merrell)

3. Merrell Zion Peak

The best budget men's walking shoes

Best for: Value
Material: Full grain leather upper
Waterproof: M Select Dry Barrier
Reasons to buy
+All-round style +Hardwearing construction+Aggressive outsole

The Merrell Zion Peak strikes a strong midpoint in the walking shoe canon – traditional materials, traditional lacing and looks, but with hidden technical abilities and highly aggressive outsole. The result is a shoe that's at home around town but perfectly capable on-trail and off. There's a hidden dry barrier lurking beneath the full-grain leather upper, an important factor in making these breathable yet usable in damper conditions. Merrell has deployed experience from creating trail shoes here, which is clear from the spec list – bellows tongue, contoured insole and a flexplate for torsional rigidity are all present, correct and contribute to making a solid walking platform.

That platform is solidly anchored to the rough stuff with a combination of Vibram Megagrip rubber and robust 5mm lugs that'll grip mod and greasy rock equally well. For a traditional-style shoe that ticks all the boxes the Merrell Zion Peak is a good candidate for anyone's shortlist. 

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best walking shoes: Inov8 Roclite 280 Men's

(Image credit: Inov8 Roclite 280)
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best walking shoes: Inov8 Roclite 280 Men's

(Image credit: Inov8)

4. Inov-8 Roclite 280

The best men's walking shoes for speed in difficult terrain

Best for: Speed
Material: Mesh upper
Waterproof: No
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Breathable+All-day comfort
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof

The Roclite 280 means business, being based on Inov-8's well-regarded trail running shoe platform, and looks it too. A robust rand protects your toes and the sides of the shoe from sharp rocks and the like, while an internal rockplate will fend off similar obstacles from below. The big noise, though, is the sole unit, boasting massive 6mm deep lugs, which will grip on just about anything. Inov-8 has tweaked the drop to a more hiking-friendly 8mm, as well as adding an External Heel Counter (EHC) for extra stability and support.

Weighing in at a featherweight 280g, there's no weight here at all to blame your tired legs on, in part due to the mesh upper. There's no waterproof membrane either, which gives the ultimate in breathability, although does mean that water runs both ways. Overall, if you're in the market for an incredibly lightweight, faff-free trail blaster that'll munch through whatever terrain you throw at it, this is a strong contender. 

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best men's walking shoes: KEEN Venture Vent

(Image credit: Keen)
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best men's walking shoes: KEEN Venture Vent

(Image credit: Keen)

5. Keen Venture Vent Walking Shoe

The best men’s walking shoes for summer adventure

Best for: All round
Material: Mesh upper with TPU overlay
Waterproof: No
Reasons to buy
+Super-breathable+Lots of traction+Fast and light

In many ways the Keen Venture Vent walking shoes are based on a simple idea: take a very breathable mesh upper, add in some midsole cushion, finish with massive 4mm lugs for traction. The result is more than the sum of these parts though, delivering enormous breathability for those warm summer days, but with a rugged underfoot platform that inspires confidence.

There's a neat interlocking heel-capture system that does what it says on the tin – minimising heel lift – while still allowing a relatively stiff stability shank for support. Meanwhile a dual-density footbed treated with KEEN’s Eco Anti-Odor system emphasises comfort – both your own and your co-adventurers' – and finally a non-marking sole leaves no trace. A simple, yet well-executed summer trail specialist. 

best walking shoes: Arc'teryx Konseal LT

(Image credit: Arc'teryx)

6. Arc'teryx Konseal LT

The best men's walking shoes for mountain approaches

Best for: Approach duties
Material: Mesh upper with TPU overlay
Waterproof: No
Reasons to buy
+Lightweight+Plenty of friction+Ingenious 2-in-1 design
Reasons to avoid
-Not waterproof

If you're tackling mountain approaches, take a look at the Arc'teryx Konseal LT. As well as delivering the streamlined silhouette we've come to expect from Arc'teryx, this latest iteration of the Konseal approach shoe has gone for the essentials first – it's very light, very durable and grippy. The latter is down to a super-sticky Vibram Megagrip outsole, while the lugs are specifically designed to add forefoot friction for better grip on smooth surfaces. 

The toe cap and extensive sidewalls will fend off plenty of rough stuff, while a subtle squared heel adds improved braking ability in descents. A hidden but particularly ingenious feature is that the heel section is designed to fold flat, making them into camp clogs, also a very handy feature in belay shoes for the dedicated climber. Arc'teryx has finished the inner with barefoot comfort in mind too, making these ideal for summer camping trips, alpine adventures, and fast and light scrambles.

Best men's walking shoes: Adidas Five Ten Five Tennie Men's Approach Shoe

(Image credit: Adidas)

7. Adidas Five Ten Five Tennie Men's Approach Shoe

The best men’s walking shoes for hiking and climbing

Best for: Longer walks, climbing
Material: Leather upper
Waterproof: None
Reasons to buy
+Sticky Stealth rubber+Retro appeal+Fast and light

The Five Ten Tennie is a controversial beast. Once the undisputed king of approach shoes, thanks to robust construction and incredibly sticky Stealth soles (used for technical climbing shoes), then fallen on harder times and failed redesigns. Now resuscitated by Adidas, will the most recent Five Tennie cut it? In a word, yes! We're fans of the retro stylings, but if you prefer something more traditional there are more muted black/grey/green versions too, and the Stealth rubber is as sticky as ever. There’s enough flex in the shoe to use the huge toe welt for smearing, and enough stiffness in the midfoot to walk as many miles as you need to. This best men’s walking shoe contender has the addition of a sock-like knit inner provides support, and gives confidence in the fit when the laces are tightened. For scrambling and on up, these are excellent foot-soldiers. 

Best men's walking shoes: Jack Wolfskin Scrambler XT Texapore Low

(Image credit: Jack Wolfskin)

8. Jack Wolfskin Scrambler XT Texapore Low

The best men’s walking shoes for when trekking is on the cards

Best for: Lightweight trekking
Material: : leather upper
Waterproof: : Texapore O2 membrane
Reasons to buy
+Allround capabilities+Waterproof+Durable

The Jack Wolfskin Scrambler XT men’s walking shoe offers something for every man. There’s a ‘rock zone’ of stickier rubber in the toe for climbing and scrambling, a cushioned midsole for day-long treks, waterproof membrane for those damper moments, and a leather upper for extra trad points. A simple but effective lacing system is highly unlikely to go wrong in the hills (and is easily repaired if needed), and the Vibram sole has a deep tread to tackle all types of terrain with ease. 

Best men's walking shoes: Mammut Alnasca Knit Low

(Image credit: Mammut)

9. Mammut Alnasca Knit Low

Technical mountain shoes for the brave

Best for: Mountain walking, scrambling
Material: Vent mesh, 3D knitted
Waterproof: None
Reasons to buy
+All-round mountain tool+Technical spec+Bright colourways

The Mammut Alnasca Knit is no wallflower in the looks or spec departments. A 3D-knitted sock gives a snug fit to all foot shapes, provides impressive breathability, and the knit is reinforced on the outer sides to shrug off abrasion. The SOFtech EVA wedge in the heel of these men’s walking shoes is designed to give a smooth ride over rough trails and paths, while the Michelin Rock Tech sole boasts grippy OCX rubber for solid traction. That traction also aided by a deep lug profile, and accompanied by a ‘climbing zone’ up front for when things get more vertical. A worthy contender for our best men’s walking shoes guide.

Vivobarefoot Magna Trail

(Image credit: Vivobarefoot)

10. Vivobarefoot Magna Trail

The best men’s walking shoes for feeling the ground beneath your toes

Best for: Barefoot wandering
Material: Cordura mesh
Waterproof: Water-resist
Reasons to buy
+Sensory delight+Grippy+Foldable
Reasons to avoid
-Not for everyone

The Vivobarefoot Magna trail gtxis a somewhat different beast, looking more akin to a dive bootie than a walking shoe, but outward appearances can be deceptive. Vivobarefoot (as the name implies) are keen advocates of the barefoot movement, which in this case has resulted in a super-thin but very puncture proof sole material. 

Transferring this into a walking shoe has quite a few benefits, as you can really ‘feel’ the ground beneath your toes, improving grip and balance. This is helped out by multi-directional 3mm lugs, which do a good job of gripping in the wet and mud. Meanwhile a seamless stretch ECO neoprene ankle sock does an excellent job of sealing out trail-related debris, and a thermal insole ups usability in the colder months. If that wasn’t enough, there’s an eco card to play too - the webbing and laces are made out of 50% recycled PET, and the heel counter lining is recycled microfibre. Sometimes, different is good…

Best men's walking shoes: Helly Hansen Vanir Canter HT in Blue

11. Helly Hansen Vanir Canter HT

Trek like a Viking god with these light and flexible men's walking shoes

Best for: Lightweight, airy feel
Material: Engineered knit upper
Waterproof: HellyTech Performance Waterproof membrane
Reasons to buy
+Enormous grip+Lightweight and flexible+Waterproof+Town-to-pub ready

The Norse-god inspired Vanir Canter HT hi-tops are a world away from your traditional walking shoes, not only packing a sleek upper, but also high-tech protection and sticky rubber for off-road walking. Massive tread on the outsole keeps your feet firmly planted, while a three-density midsole is there to lavish your feet with comfort, cushioning and spring in the toe. 

Helly Hansen has created these men’s walking shoes with a waterproof membrane. And with a design that looks like a cross between a kayaking shoe and a space-welly, you’ll be golden wearing these for wintery beach walks too. Worried about your toes getting bashed by rocks and debris? Fear not, as that ruggedised upper, although an engineered knit, also sports built-in HellyWear Protection built in to protect your toes.

Best men's walking shoes: Hoka One One Sky Arkali

(Image credit: Hoka)

12. Hoka One One Sky Arkali

Enjoy max protection with these Kevlar-infused men’s walking shoes

Best for: Hiking
Material: MATRYX upper, lightweight weave with Kevlar
Waterproof: None
Reasons to buy
+Protective Kevlar upper+Rugged to the max

The Arkali draws on Hoka One One’s trail racing pedigree, resulting in a lightweight but extremely robust men’s walking shoe. An EVA top midsole in a running shoe style, allied with a PROFLY midsole, both contribute plenty to cushioning needs, without adding much in terms of weight. That said, there’s are without questions the chunkiest offering in our best men’s walking shoes buyer’s guide. Just letting you know so that you’re not blindsided by the size when you break these out of the box!

There’s also plenty of mountain heritage on show here, from a high-abrasion toe cap to massive 5mm (!) multi-directional Vibram Megagrip rubber lugs on the sole. The MATRYX upper is where the real tech is baked in, being a fairly familiar lightweight weave, but with Kevlar strands threaded in for a particularly hard-wearing fabric that’s also mercifully breathable. 

Another unusual feature is a pair of ankle and heel straps, there to deliver improved stability on uneven terrain. Ultimately, if you want maximum protection for your feet when walking, and you don't want proper hiking boots, you’ll be safe in these.

The best men's walking shoes: What to look for

So what do you need to consider when figuring out which pair for buy? The key is to pick a comfortable fit, as well as considering the terrain you'll be covering. The best men's walking shoes offer a reinforced sole (usually TPU) to fend off stones underfoot, a robust rand to protect the sides, and an aggressive, grippy sole. 

Many walking shoes will have a waterproof membrane built in, which can be useful in wet grass, for example, but can also limit breathability if you’re really gunning it, so if you're thinking of picking up a pair of these, it's worth considering how you’ll mainly be using your shoes. 

Unlike boots, rain resistance in walking shoes is a bit of a red herring, as without the closed calf of the boot your feet will be soaked in heavy rain, waterproofing or not. 

Others have made their lightness and flexibility around the ankle more of a benefit by incorporating sticky rubber and protective high rands to deliver a hybrid approach/scrambling shoe that can cope with pretty much anything in the hills. 

More aggressive tread patterns are ideal for muddy conditions, but handle rocky smearing poorly, while stickier rubber will wear out faster and can be slippy in muddy conditions.

Although spec is important, getting the right size is absolutely essential. It's a good idea to try on a few pairs to get a good idea of any potential issues. Also, keep in mind that if you are planning high-energy walking pursuits, you might want to size up as you would for running shoes, because your feet will swell over longer stretches.

Do I need a pair of dedicated walking shoes?

The reasons for getting a good pair of shoes for walking are many and varied. The best options will improve performance by making your hiking easier and more comfortable. Plus, once you're done you'll be able to pop your muddy shoes in the boot and drive off in a fresh pair. 

Proper walking shoes are ideal for lighter hikes, short approaches and summer rambles, as well as faster and lighter mountain expeditions. Although you'd be best off with the extra support of boots for the really rough stuff, some of our best men's walking shoes do offer a ‘mid’ style, providing some support akin to a boot but with more ankle movement. 

Unsure which type of footwear is right for you? Take a look at our walking boots vs walking shoes guide to discover the key differences.

There's also a whole sub-category of walking shoes dubbed ‘approach shoes’, which build in more scrambling and rock climbing orientated traits, like sticky rubber and extended lacing to grip the entire foot tightly.