James StanburySee other accessory reviews written by James Stanbury
Walking boots are ideal for when you're getting out and about on your caravan holidays – we lace up with eight pairs to put them through their paces
Part of the appeal of caravanning is its outdoor nature, but once the novelty wears off, this can quickly start to grate.
If you’re not on a hardstanding pitch, for example, expect soaked feet every time you leave your home from home.
Even the best-kept grass has an amazing ability to soak shoes and trainers when the weather is anything more than slightly damp.
Clearly, uprated footwear is a must, and probably one of the reasons many of us always throw in a pair of wellies – they’re completely watertight, easy to put on and take off, and don’t cost a lot.
But while they’re fine for pottering around the site, even an average-length dog walk is all that’s needed to highlight their shortcomings.
In warm weather, there’s nothing like pure rubber to bake your feet into a sweaty mess.
And it’s fair to say that orthopaedic concerns aren’t top priorities when these boots are designed. They become uncomfortable very quickly – especially on rough terrain.
One possible solution is to invest in a pair of hobby, or lightweight, walking boots.
Even if you’ve absolutely no intention of going walking or hiking, a decent pair will easily cope with the rigours of wet grass, rubble paths, wet sand and long dog walks – and most will also cope admirably if you do choose to head for the hills.
Hardened walkers will, of course, have a detailed set of requirements and favoured brands. But what about the rest of us?
What’s the difference between the best walking boots and the also-rans?
Our first test was to simulate the unique foot-soaking properties of long wet grass.
We used a shower head closer and closer to each boot to ensure they stayed dry inside – fortunately, all here passed with flying colours.
Walking boots have a stitched-in tongue that folds over itself, to allow the boot to expand when putting it on or removing it.
This means that any water falling on the top of the boot, in the laces area, cannot seep in – it simply rolls down the outside of the tongue and out over the toecap.
But many boot tongues are only sewn in part of the way up, rarely right to the top. The lower this is, the more susceptible the boot is to splashback seeping in – and, obviously, the boot cannot be as deeply immersed.
We measured the height where the tongue became free, rather than being sewn in, and looked favourably on boots with higher sealed tongues.
Although fully sealed-in tongues are great from a water resistance perspective, it’s imperative that the boots are easy to put on and take off – which we also tested.
Once on, we evaluated comfort, which is down to many factors, such as padding, sole flexibility, how well the boot’s upper moulds around the feet, whether the lacing layout helps mould the boot’s shape adequately, and mid-sole and ankle support.
We used each boot on both hard and soft surfaces, to gauge overall ability.
We also took into account secondary comfort considerations, such as the weight of the boots – the lighter the better for long walks – and their breathability.
While out on the mud, we appraised each boot’s grip. Again, this is due to several factors.
The best-designed soles are flexible in bending, rigid end to end, mix lateral and small piercing grips, and have a pronounced heel that can be dug in on slippery slopes.
Finally, we factored ultimate performance against price and warranty.
Let’s see how these eight performed! We tested four pairs of women’s boots and four men’s.
WOMEN’S WALKING BOOTS
Berghaus Expeditor AQ Trek – four stars
- Price: £75
Many walking boots place you in a slightly elevated position, which gives a walking downhill stance even when negotiating slight inclines. But not this pair.
Frankly, they could easily be trainers. But at least that means they’re comfortable, even if they’re a way behind the winning Karrimors in this respect.
The boots simply don’t mould to your feet in quite the same way, and the ankle is less supported at the rear.
But the sumptuous OrthoLite padding somewhat redresses the balance, and the superb Opti-Stud soles and high sewn-in tongue mean these remain strong contenders.
Karrimor Hot Rock Mid 3 Ladies Weathertite – five stars
Practical Caravan Editor's Choice
- Price: £39.99
A stunning pair of boots, given their current (at the time of writing) discounted price tag. But here’s the thing: even at the usual cost of £79.98, we’d still place these at the top of the list.
First impressions are slightly marred by the boots being heavier than most, but that disappointment melts away when you slip your feet into them.
There’s a neat vertical sewn-in tongue, which cossets your ankle and gives you something to hold while putting the boots on or removing them.
Once on, they deliver in all ways. They’re extremely comfortable and the soles give admirable grip.
Meindl Respond Lady Mid GTX – four stars
- Price: £129.99
Even if you’re not into outdoor sports and pursuits, you’ll almost certainly have heard of Hi-Tec and Berghaus.
But Meindl seems to be a much respected German brand of which only those in the know are aware. Occupying the premium end of our group, these boots are predictably brilliant.
Their ability to adapt to the shape of your feet is even better than that of the Karrimors, giving unprecedented comfort.
They are the lightest here, too, reducing fatigue on long treks.
The Contagrip sole is a mixed bag, though. It grips well, but on slippery slopes, we missed a more pronounced heel.
Hi-Tec Wild-Life Lux I WP Women’s – two stars
- Price: £75
Well, here’s a twist on the male and female versions of the same boots.
The male versions come pre-laced with – dare we say – boring brown laces, complete with a set of bright red spares.
And for women? Yes, you’ve guessed it – red laces out of the box, with the brown ones relegated to spares.
That minor detail aside, there’s hardly any discernible difference between the two versions.
Summing up, treat this as a fashion boot with off-road ability, and you have a great piece of kit.
But for serious walking and hiking, others here do more for a lot less money.
MEN’S WALKING BOOTS
Meindl Respond Mid GTX – four stars
- Price: £129.99
Once again, the differences between the women’s and men’s versions of these Respond Mid GTX boots seem to be little more than colour and slight cosmetic tweaks. And as with the Karrimors, this can only be a good thing.
At 510g per boot, this pair is the lightest of all the men’s in the group. Combine this with the wonderful way the boot adapts to the exact shape of your feet, and these are definitely the ultimate boots from a comfort perspective.
We like the high stitched-in tongue and the overall sole design, but we’d prefer to have a more usable heel.
Karrimor Hot Rock Mid 3 Weathertite – five stars
Practical Caravan Editor's Choice
- Price: £39.99
There’s very little to differentiate between the men’s and women’s versions of these Hot Rock boots.
This pair is a little heavier, but that’s to be expected because they’re a couple of sizes larger. Otherwise, the similarities are all good.
While these aren’t absolutely the most comfortable walking boots in the group, they are a close second.
Thanks to that rear vertical heel-tongue, a fabric and suede design that moulds around your feet, and a very flexible sole, these really do slip on and off like the proverbial glove.
Again, real-life testing proved the effectiveness of the Dynagrip sole pattern.
Berghaus Explorer Trek Plus GTX – three stars
- Price: £84.95
Although a slightly different model to the women’s Expeditor walking boots we looked at earlier, it seems both the Explorer and the Expeditor have similar characteristics.
The overall impression is that these Berghaus boots are well made and should give many years of service – something reinforced by the Berghaus lifetime warranty.
But they just don’t have that special something that makes the Meindl and Karrimor models stand out.
Yes, they’re comfortable, but they don’t quite cosset your feet in the same way.
And at 620g per boot, they’re certainly not lightweights, either.
Hi-Tec Wild-Life Lux I WP – two stars
- Price: £75
Something of a dual-purpose boot. Thanks to its leather upper and laid-back appearance, these walking boots could easily be worn on nights out.
And perhaps that’s the role this product is best suited to – mixed use, including light hiking and trekking duties.
Away from Tarmac and concrete, the Wild-Life Lux is better than trainers or sports shoes, but it lags behind the rest of the group.
The sole is pretty flat and stiff, and doesn’t grip like most others here do. This isn’t helped by an almost non-existent heel bite.
Comfort-wise, the design just doesn’t mould to your feet the way the Karrimors and Meindls do.