Hiking boots were designed with tough climbs, technical terrain and adverse weather in mind. However, thanks to menswear’s unrelenting appetite for appropriation, you no longer have to be a seasoned alpinist to appreciate them. Over the past few years, hiking boots have been making their way off back-country trails and onto city streets, undergoing something of a facelift en route. This new breed of hikers are every bit as rugged and robust as their countryside-dwelling counterparts, but with refined looks and premium materials that elevate their appeal from a style standpoint.
From how to make them last to what labels to shop, here’s everything you need to know when it comes to buying a pair of stylish hiking boots.
One of the main details that separates purpose-built hiking boots from their style-led equivalents is material. Think less Gore-Tex and mesh, and more Italian calfskin leather and brushed suede. These are high-end boots and that should be reflected in their use of premium materials. Be careful to inspect metal hardware like eyelets, D-rings and lace hooks, too.
Given that these boots are more likely to be used for strolling around Soho than scaling the Matterhorn, the type of sole is not of enormous importance when it comes to performance. Still, there are a few options to consider. The classic option is a commando sole – it’s grippy, robust and can hold its own come snow, rain or shine. Look for the Vibram logo for assurance of quality. Otherwise, a Christy wedge sole can look good on some boots, lending them a nice mid-century workwear edge.
Last but not least, it’s important to look at how a pair of boots is actually put together before deciding to make a financial commitment. The most important detail here is how the upper is connected to the sole. Goodyear welting is a time-tested method of construction favoured by traditional Northamptonshire shoemakers and for good reason – it is supremely strong and makes it easy for sole units to be replaced when worn out.
How To Look After Hiking Boots
Ensuring hiking boots are properly looked after is essential if they’re to last. But the correct way to do this varies depending on whether the boots are leather or suede.
If you’ve opted for a pair of suede hikers then the most important tools to arm yourself with are a suede brush and some protector spray. Rain and spills have the potential to ruin this delicate material but products like Liquiproof and Jason Markk’s Repel Spray are specially designed to act as a shield between your boots and the elements and are well worth the investment. Apply liberally every couple of weeks.
Caring for leather is a little simpler. Shop around for a natural leather conditioner; it should be uncultured and unscented. In our experience, Red Wing produce a superb version that is designed to protect their rugged worker boots, so you can bet it will deal with anything you’re able to throw at it. Apply it using either a cloth or a soft brush, working it into the leather in circular motions until it’s soaked in. Repeat this every couple of months through the winter, or whenever the leather is feeling a little stiff.
The Best Brands For Stylish Hiking Boots
An Italian family brand through and through, Fracap’s iconic footwear has been produced by the same bloodline since 1908. Known for its trademark red laces, this historic bookmaker keeps traditional artisanal techniques alive while adding contemporary twists. Expect classic styling alongside modern tweaks like ripple soles and masterfully executed broguing.
Hailing from the UK’s shoemaking capital, Northamptonshire, Grenson is nothing short of a pedigree footwear manufacturer. Granted, your more likely to come across classic Derby boots and Oxford wingtips than hiking boots here. Yet Grenson does have a few luxury hikers lurking in its roster, the beautifully finished Brady boot being our personal favourite.
Equally at home in the apres bar or on the mountainside, Montelliana is the last word in high-end Italian-made hikers with personality. These boots were made for hiking, and that’s just what they’ll do, but don’t be surprised to see the odd leopard-print upper or shearling cuff thrown in for good measure, too.
Assurance of quality doesn’t come more ironclad than knowing the military, the police force, polar explorers and outdoorsmen have all put their faith in the same boots as you. That’s what you’ll be getting with a pair of Danners. These hiking boots are truly America’s finest and a prime example of why good design lasts forever.
Moncler is still the quintessential high-end alpine label. It’s not all glossy down jackets and logo T-shirts though; the Italian brand also knows its way around a premium hiking boot. Expect luxurious materials, handmade construction and subtle hits of that iconic tricolour branding.
Shadowy Italian-based label ROA inhabits the middle ground where fashion meets function. These are boots that wouldn’t look out of sorts on the front row of a Fashion Week show, but that could also hold their own tackling a technical ascent. It’s fashion footwear that walks the walk, and rest assured there’s no designer doing it better.
Ralph Lauren Purple Label
Launched in 1994, Ralph Lauren Purple Label is the perfect compromise for those who like the preppy RL aesthetic but demand more from their menswear. Purple Label’s hiking boots almost look like they deserve to be fawned over on display at an art gallery. Still, we’ll happily wear them on our feet instead.
Another Italian brand with one foot in the high-fashion world, Diemme has produced footwear for the likes of Maison Margiela, Chanel and Bottega Veneta. When it’s not helping the haute-couture houses, Diemme can be found working on its own classically-styled hiking boots, featuring high-quality components, contemporary tweaks and plenty of that Italian attention to detail.