When buying trekking boots ask yourself, "what are they for?" Trekking can be anything from a weekend wander to a holiday in Nepal, complete with ascent to Everest base camp.
I say this as, realistically, your trekking boots may serve as your weekend walking boots, and only the most dedicated of us own 2-3 pairs.
Key things to look for if you are new to trekking are the ratings (2/3/4 season),the materials (leather or synthetic) and of course the price.Read on to find the Â best trekking boots on the shelves - and on the hills - in 2012. And never, ever buy boots based just on what you read online: Try them on first!
Salomon Synapse Mid
The Salomon Synapse Mid is a revolutionary shoe targeted towards the ultra-light fast backpacking crowd. Available in both men's and women's models, the Synapse is the first natural motion hiking shoe designed to allow you to turn your hike into a run.
Light and versatile, the Synapse uses EVA shaped footbed technology to absorb shock and features an OS Tendon insert to add stability and forefoot spring.
Ideally suited to hill, mountain and glacier walking on rugged terrain and the occasional easier Alpine or harder UK winter climb, the Scarpa Manta has been the first choice 4-season boot for hill and mountain walkers for many a year.
This year however it has undergone a redesign and now weighs an amazing 10% less and features a lower, more stable sole unit which makes it more dexterous and stable underfoot.
What is really impressive is that despite the reduction in weight, Scarpa have been able to add a rubber rand for additional protection and a new DL last which is said to be hugely comfortable and has a universal fitting ability.
Merrell Eagles Origin
If looks are a priority rather than just technical performance, then the Merrell Eagle Origins might be the boot for you. On the market for years, Merrell have launched an anniversary edition of this lightweight mid hiking boot that comes with a retro trainer feel whilst still retaining the features required to meet the demands of life on the trail.
Merrell is a company with an eco-conscious reputation and so it comes as no surprise that the Eagles Origin features 10% recycled EVA footbeds and insoles and a 20% recycled rubber outsole. This is a fun yet functional entry-level hiking boot that comes in a range of colours for men, women and kids.
Brasher Altai GTX
Whilst many other manufacturers produce products for a range of activities, Brasher has always been solely (excuse the pun) about producing quality performance outdoor walking footwear and the Altai GTX is no exception. A no-nonsense 3-season boot, the Altai GTX feels more like a mountaineering product due to the immense level of integrated support.
The Vibram Winkler sole unit, combined with EVA midsole technology and additional toecap protection, make this a rugged and durable product that pushes the 3-season limit towards 4 whilst still retaining all the benefits of a fabric upper and lower weight.
Unless crampons are required, the Altai GTX are the perfect waterproof boot for just about any terrain and are available in both men's and women's models.
Mammut Brecon Boot
Swiss company Mammut are a big player in the world of hiking, skiing and mountaineering and so it is kind of cool to see the inclusion of the Brecon boot in their product line up for 2012. The Brecon is leather 3-season boot that has been specifically designed and produced with the UK market in mind.
A mid-height chunky leather boot, the Altai GTX features an aggressive Vibram MT Traction sole designed to meet any of the grip and traction demands that the Dales or the Downs can throw at you. It also comes with a Gore-Tex lining that will keep feet dry during the inevitable British downpours on the trail. Initially it will only be available in the UK and in a men's only design but we imagine this may change if it proves to be a popular product.
Haglofs Observe Range
For 2012, Haglofs have produced the Observe range to create a series of light and breathable hiking shoes ideal for trekking in France and trail walking in different conditions. The range includes 3 different products: a mid-cut Gore-Tex shoe, the Observe Mid GT, and two regular cut shoes, the waterproof Observe GT and the regular Observe.
All of the shoes come in a variety of cool colours and are available for both men and women. Moreover the whole range feature SOLE footbeds and Asics special outsole technology known as AHAR (Asics High Abrasion Resistance Rubber).
Zamberlan 1010 Vajolet GT RR
If you're looking for a backpacking boot that you can also do some low level Alpine climbing in, then the 1010 Vajolet GT RR is a pretty good option indeed. It is Zamberlan's first semi-automatic, crampon compatible backpacking boot and packs some impressive technical features for such a lightweight package.
The Vibram Norwalk sole provides comfort, durability and support whilst the integrated PCS (Professional Crampon System) enables easy, step-in crampon use. The Vibram outsole provides fantastic traction while the full RRS (Rubber Rand System) offers protection for the whole boot. This boot was actually launched last year but is likely to establish itself in this competitive market in 2012.
Berghaus Exterra Range
Berghaus are extending their footwear range for spring/summer 2012 and have introduced a whole new line of 3-season hiking boots - the Exterra range. The Exterra boots are designed for sustained adventures on challenging trails and mountain paths wherever you are in the world.
The Exterra range were designed to fill the gap in Berghaus existing product range and is a set of three different technical hiking boots â€“ the Exterra Ridge GTX, the Exterra Trek GTX and the Exterra Light GTX. The latter two come in both men's and women's models and all in the range are loaded with technology such as Berghaus' own OPTI-STUD outsole, 100% recycled Eco Ortholite shock absorbing insoles and EHS lacing.
La Sportiva Ganda Guide
The Ganda Guide is a pretty cool and extremely versatile bit of kit that excels in a variety of technical terrain. From the approach to the hike to the climb, this mid-height shoe does it all. Super stable on the approach and really well cushioned due to its integrated anatomically sculpted PU Lite midsole, the Ganda Guide is a true quiver of one approach shoe for the mountains.
The official choice of the Jackson Hole based world-renowned guiding outfit Exum Mountain Guides, the Ganda Guide is a highly rated, technical hiking, climbing and approach shoe.
For Meindl 2012 is a year of innovation and amongst many other new products, they are launching a new addition to their selection of soft line boots: the Softline Light. The main feature of the Softline Light is its new lightweight lacing system that has been achieved by removing the use of metal lacing rings entirely.
In so doing, Meindl has reduced the weight of the boot without having to increase the price, which stays at Â£150. The Softline Light is best suited to long distance hikers who are looking for a super light, stable, soft and shock absorbing boot that allows them to clock up the miles underfoot.