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A pound on your feet equals five on the back, that's what the US military say and they've got a bit of experience when it comes to hiking so who are we to argue? Take your pick from our list of the best lightweight walking shoes and save your feet from miles of suffering.

salomon outpath

Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX.jpgSalomon X Ultra 3 GTX | £100

The X Ultra 3 GTX is our top pick hiking shoe for 2018. 

The X Ultra’s are a seriously lightweight hiking shoe with a superbly comfortable fit and great support.

The speed lace system works fantastically well in conjunction with the foot cradle, which extends right around the front of your toes and around the back of the foot. There's even distribution of pressure across the whole shoe making them the type of shoe that you fit and forget.

The sole unit gives just the right amount of 'trail feel' without undue and painful prodding by jagged rocks and protruding branches.

The deep lugs work well for hiking in mud, on wet grass and on loose ground and don't get clogged up too easily. They aren't so proficient on smooth, wet rock, for that you'll need a much stickier rubber or a denser packing of lugs.

Descent Control Technology is surprisingly effective on wet, slippery, steep descents. The general grip level and support of the X Ultra 3's is confidence inspiring.

Overall the X Ultra 3 hiking shoes are a triumph of design and development, with some minor but worthy improvements over the previous models. They will be gracing our feet in all seasons for many years to come.

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Columbia Ventralia II Outdry.jpgColumbia Ventrailia II OutDry | £95

The Columbia Ventralia II OutDry is our top budget pick hiking shoe for 2018

The Ventralia shoes feel great straight out of the box. The shoe is mid width across the midfoot, opening out into a toe box that allows decent wiggle room without leading to sloppiness. There's a good amount of comfortable cushioning in the tongue and around the ankle and the footbed is joyously comfortable while still giving you a good amount of trail feel.

The sole is stiff enough to be accurate across variable terrain but not so stiff that you get prematurely fatigued. The mid-sole provides noticeable energy return, really helping to put a spring in your step and the roll of the foot off the outsole feels natural.

There’s good support around the ankle, the very back of the foot could have been made a touch higher and more contoured but you can tune out any heel lift using the laces.

We were impressed with the Omni-Grip outsole which was super grippy on wet rock, tree roots, grass and shallow mud but suffers slightly in deep mud.

Waterproofing is guaranteed by an OutDry membrane which is also very breathable. The midsole ports aid cooling by allowing some air to flow closer to your feet.

Overall the Ventralias are an accomplished pair of hiking shoes that are also excellent value at £95.

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Berghaus FT18 GTX.jpgBerghaus FT18 GTX | £120

Everything about the FT18 GTX is streamlined and built for purpose, from the minimalist sole to the lacing system and heat sealed upper. At 400g per shoe in a UK 10.5 these easily fall into the lightweight category.

That's not to say that the FT18 GTX' don't do comfort too though. The Ortholite insoles provide ample padding for most, and the mid-sole offers a good balance between comfort, energy return and trail feel.

The heat sealed upper eliminates seams which can cause painful rubbing, this is clearly of benefit in footwear that's designed for eating up the miles and we've had no problems at all so far in this regard.

Although there isn't a massive amount of cushioning around the ankle and tongue the upper material compensates for this by being lithe and flexible, effectively doing away with the need for plump padding.

With the upper providing good flexibility there's a danger that the support could be lacking, but not so in the FT18 GTX. The thin layer of upper material is flexible but tough, and the solid heel cup holds your foot perfectly in place with the help of the simple but effective lacing system. The sole unit has a stiff shank along 2/3rds of its length, this stops the sole from twisting too much on uneven ground, the forefoot still has plenty of flex in it though.

The Vibram Optistud sole has been tested in a range of conditions from wet grass to mud and slippery rocks and has performed as you would expect, providing grip in all but the worst conditions and loosest of ground.

The FT18 GTX is also a great shoe for travelling. Looks are subjective but we love them. Once they've been given a good clean up they can easily pass as work, casual or general travelling wear, with an upmarket trainer look to them.

Overall a great option for the avid hiker and for those who appreciate a touch of outdoors chic in their street footwear.

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Haglofs Strive.jpgHaglofs Strive | £100

The Strive from Haglofs boasts a great deal of tech which adds up to virtually nothing – it weighs in at a mere 260 grams per shoe.

The lack of weight is borderline impossible. The Strive almost doesn’t exist; we have slippers that weigh more. And that are less comfortable. The feel on the foot is genuinely astonishing, and is enhanced by the crazy breathability. The largely mesh upper – which extends through the tongue too – is so tissue-thin that you can feel the slightest breeze as though you’re wearing sandals.

The GEL cushioning in the heel does it’s job well, as does the Wet Grip rubber of the outsole (which is also shaped for natural foot motion). The garish yellow may not be ideal for the discreet traveller, but the GoreTex version (Strive GT) is much more understated – doubtless with some compromise to breathability though.

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Merrell Chameleon 7.jpgMerrell Chameleon 7 GTX | £145

There are a lot of interesting design inclusions in the Chameleon 7, from the Flexplate to the moulded TPU heel counter. 

The upper has good structure to it, this is bolstered by the moulded TPU heel counter that extends up to the top lacing eyelet, providing excellent ankle stability when you consider that this is a relatively lightweight shoe.

Mesh inserts maximise breathability, the shoes on test have a gore-tex liner which knocks the heat and sweat levels up a notch, but this is a fair pay off if most of your walking is done in damp conditions. During the test period they breathed well enough for us, and thanks to the liner kept our feet dry through a particularly wet spring. 

Rather than use a traditional shank to prevent the sole from twisting Merrell have gone for a ‘FlexPlate’. This is a great success and we’ve found the Chameleon 7 to be very stable underfoot without feeling like a dead weight.

The Vibram TC5+ outsole has an interesting and unconventional lug pattern utilising oval shaped rubber ‘pods’ rather than the more usual shapes you might find on the underside of your shoe. This supposedly helps to reduce weight, in use we found them to work excellently across varied terrain. 

The traditional lace closure system runs smoothly, and effectively cinches the shoe in, cradling your foot without too much bunching of material. The toe box allows a natural splay of the toes without succumbing to sloppiness.

Overall the Chameleon 7s are very good general use outdoor shoes.

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Arcteryx Acrux SL Leather.jpgArc’teryx Acrux SL Leather | £135

The Acrux SL Leather from Arc’teryx is heavy on simplicity; a seamless one-piece upper, a bespoke Vibram sole, and minimal toe and heel protection allow clean lines to belie some neat features within.

Simplicity is a hard thing to get right, but Arc’teryx make it their forte. The smart looking leather upper conceals what they call their ‘Adaptive Fit Lite’ liner – a sock-like stretchy inner that is super-comfy out of the box. It also replaces the tongue, saving weight and improving comfort by keeping everything where it should be and boosting breathability. Even in the hottest climates (we tested these in the desert) the shoe is a lightweight, surprisingly airy, joy to wear.

This is enhanced by balance in the sole; often approach shoes – aimed at climbers - are too stiff for general use. It’s a very subjective area, but we think Arc’teryx have nailed it here – stiff enough to be supportive on moderately techy hikes, but soft enough to be comfortable all day.

The sole unit helps in this too. The flat-ish lug profile of most approach shoes is helped out with a nicely curved heel to promote a natural gait, and there is good shock absorption in the EVA midsole. Further forward the standard ‘climbing zone’ rubber is ideal on rock, but does lose a little grip on steep softer ground.

Overall this is an incredibly balanced shoe, which gives it its versatility and therefore its value. Smart simplicity perfected.

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Vivo Primus Trek.jpgVivo Barefoot Primus Trek | £140

Vivo are one of the pioneers of the barefoot movement – radically redesigning footwear to promote the natural movement of the foot – and the Primus Trek Leather is their flagship model for hikers. Features include a 3mm lug pattern for off-road traction, a neoprene inner sock and a thermal insole for winter-proofing.

These features in particular are testament to the design ethos of Vivo, and are aspects which protect from the elements without compromising the connection to nature which is after all one of the selling points of barefoot shoes. The sole lugs do inspire confidence on rough ground while still allowing the foot to feel its way, and the thermal insole is removable for warmer weather use (which further increases the tactile effect).

The neoprene sock is simply superb. For anyone new to barefoot shoes, the fit of the Primus Trek might be unnerving; splayed toes are a feature of natural movement, so the cavernous forefoot in the Primus Trek feels like it won’t be able to hold the foot in place. The neoprene is the answer to that concern, and combined with the close fit around the ankle prevents the foot from sliding around on the footbed, while allowing huge freedom for the toes.

For anyone new to barefoot, the Primus Trek is a great place to start; off-road terrain is a tactile place to dip a toe, and this shoe will give the confidence to embrace the idea. For converts, this model adds all-terrain chops without compromising the philosophy. A bonus for travellers is that the Primus Trek rolls up very neatly for packing.

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Salomon Outpath.jpgSalomon OutPath £110

At only 310 grams the OUTpath is clearly intended for the fast and light crowd, and comes with a range of Salomon-standard features to enhance its on-hill credentials.

Chief among those is the proprietary Contagrip outsole – in this case the Premium Wet Traction Contagrip, seen in many of Salomon’s recent trail running shoes. As the name suggests, this iteration of Contagrip offers the same durability and grip even in wet conditions, and combined with the versatile lug pattern, it certainly promotes confidence in varying terrain.

The low weight is of obvious benefit to anyone that likes to move fast in the hills, but it is also a great selling point for travellers – enhancing all-day comfort in any situation (especially in warm weather) and making this an easy addition to all but the most overloaded suitcase.

But unlike many lightweight products, the OUTpath still manages to retain a feeling of solidity and robustness and the sense it will stand up to the rigours of travel. That’s partly down to the sole unit, which is a bit chunkier than might be found on the more paired down of Salomon’s running shoes. But it’s also a result of the upper which appears very well laminated and also features the signature Quicklace system (brilliant for slipping your shoes on and off on the plane!)

The OUTpath treads a fine line between durable and lightweight with some considerable finesse – stable and robust in the right places, without compromising the fast and light philosophy.

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