Aku La Val Low PLus | £150
BEST FOR Lovers of Italian styling and quality
Lesser known Italian brand Aku produce high end footwear and this subtly stylish model is no exception with a full grain leather lining and nubuck upper. We're more accustomed to technical Gore-tex linings, so were pleasantly surprised. Its soft and supple nature gives the foot an all-round cushioned feel and on a hot day, the leather didn’t get sweaty. The foot bed is constructed of coco, latex and bamboo and is just as sumptuous as the leather. On the trail the La Vals take a bit of loosening up, but after a few miles they feel like an extension of your feet despite a surprising weight of 900g per pair.
VERDICT We were surprised by the capable nature of these shoes and would recommend them for active travel.
Asolo Nucleon GV | £135
BEST FOR Moving fast on technical trails
The Nucleon GV is the most technically-minded shoe in our active/travel crossover category, but just about manages to qualify due to some understated colourways. The fit and materials however are all about trail performance.
To this end you get GoreTex lining, Schoeller fabrics for breathability and longevity, and Vibram's latest 'Megagrip' sole unit for traction.
The fabrics and construction create a surprisingly supportive shoe, given its relatively low weight of 650 grams per pair. The Vibram Megagrip sole is the star of the show however, and is seriously versatile.
VERDICT Great value considering the amount of tech involved, and light enough to take as a spare pair for trail work.
Haglofs Explore GT Surround | £150
BEST FOR Keeping cool, dry feet on hot or wet hikes
The Explore GT Surround may force you to reconsider the premise that Gore-tex lined shoes are too hot in good weather. From the moment these shoes are slipped on there's an evident lightness that we've only ever encountered in minimal running shoes. They are immediately slipper-comfy. But the lightness isn't simply an effect of the weight. What Haglofs call 360 breathability – the shoes breath through the sole as well as through the upper – is genuinely noticeable, and creates something like an air-conditioned micro-climate around your foot.
VERDICT An innovative, comfy shoe with Gore-tex to keep water out and then clever venting to prevent sweat build up.
Hanwag Cameros Wide | £130
BEST FOR Good weather travel and hiking tours
Hanwag have very specifically aimed the Cameros Wide at the emerging active/travel crossover market, with a wide last for comfort and features that can handle a range of environments such as G1000 fabric and a breathable lining.
The first thing you'll notice though is the striking looks. This is the best looking travel/trail shoe we've seen in a long while.
Hanwag have taken cues – and fabric tech – from Swedish brand-of-the-moment Fjallraven, in the form of their proprietary G1000 fabric. And it turns out to be a great choice in footwear, being way more breathable than a membrane and water repellent enough for all but the heaviest downpours and boggiest ground. It's also highly durable, compared to membranes which tend to be a little delicate and the weather proofing can be periodically boosted with Greenland Wax.
The sole unit – featuring a hexagonal structure – is designed for grip on wet surfaces, and while the rubber boasts great traction, the lug pattern may struggle on the muddiest of British hills; but that's not what they're designed for.
VERDICT A bit pricey but superbly well-built, incredibly comfortable, perform brilliantly in a good-weather, active-travel scenario.
Keen Westward | £100
BEST FOR Rough and tumble active travellers
The Keen Westward is a casual shoe in the mould of the usual bomb-proof trail shoes we've come to expect from Keen. It keeps Keen's capably aggressive sole lugs and loses the waterproof membrane, which should make it ideal as a hiking/travel crossover. The Westward is a slightly narrower fitting model than some Keens, but it still sports that reassuringly 'big' feel – it's stiffer than most shoes in this category and more supportive as a result. That also means it's slightly heavier, despite a pared-down construction of suede and canvas – the latter enhancing breathability effectively.
VERDICT A kind of 'Keen-lite' addition to the line-up from a trusted brand of durable multi-purpose footwear.
Scarpa Mojito | £110
BEST FOR Downing a coffee then going for a scramble
Scarpa pitch this shoe at pavement-pounding, climber-about-town lifestyle and in any given Alpine square you'll see they are hugely popular. For good reason: construction is as you'd expect from a world-leader in climbing, hiking and mountaineering boots; their Italian outdoor styling with endless colour options is spot on; and that Vibram Spyder sole unit, with 'climbing zone' rubber underneath the toe rand is more capable of delivering real off-road performance than any 'lifestyle' shoe we know. Those among us who don't wish to book an extra suitcase purely for footwear will love the Mojito.
VERDICT The price is good for a street shoe, but with their sole, comfort and style we've joined the Mojito fan club too.
Five Ten Aescent | £85
BEST FOR Dry climate travel adventures
Five Ten describe the Aescent as 'the ultimate all-round multi-sport approach shoe' and with a minor caveat or two, we'd say they're not far off the mark. Stealth Mi6 rubber provides the legendary traction of other Five Ten models, but with added cushioning, and a rockered sole adds walkability. Leather and mesh combined with toned-down styling complete a travel-friendly, well ventilated and versatile offering. There is only one compromise that might deter some; the Aescent is fairly useless on wet, muddy terrain – which will be a consideration for UK all-weather walkers.
VERDICT A near perfect shoe for dry weather active travel – versatile from trail to trattoria and at a very attractive price.
Need something different?
Keen Uneek 02 | £70
BEST FOR Hot climates and conversation starters
Against expectations the Uneeks are very comfortable, with or without socks. Add a good heel cup with the well-designed upper and lacing system and you get very little heel slip – something that can be quite hard to achieve in a shoe-like sandal. Inside, the EVA footbed is more trainer than flip flop with pronounced arch support, and the rubberised sole has decent general traction.
VERDICT A comfy, if eccentric looking, pair of trainers with added breathability.
Merrell All Out Blaze Sieve | £80
BEST FOR Pulling up your canoe then exploring on foot
The Sieve's start with a grippy, 3mm lugged Vibram sole, add a tough toe rand to an lattice-like upper made of waxy waterproof leather, then cover most of top of the foot with stretchy Lycra neoprene. The result is a sandal-like trainer which loves watersports then sheds water as you explore on land.
VERDICT The amphibious car of walking shoes with credentials in and out of water.
Teva Terra Fi 4 | £70
BEST FOR Those looking for an all-terrain sandal
This is a pretty weighty sandal but the pay back is in strength and stability for real world practicality over varied terrain. On the trail the padded straps are comfortable, the foot bed is immediately soft, with just enough give for the contours of your foot to sink into, and there is a decent amount of arch support. The anti-microbial treatment should help to keep the pungency at bay too.
VERDICT A good walking sandal from a well-known and respected brand.