The Getaway team tested five types of new footwear for all sorts of travellers. Whether you’re a hard-core hiker or a city stroller, you’ll find your perfect walking shoes.
Team members tested these shoes for comfort and function, taking into account how well they handled different types of terrain, how light they felt on foot, their durability and style.
1. Best for hiking, running and city strolling: Asics Gel Fuji Trabuco 5
Tested by: Ondela Mlandu
Testing terrain: Lion’s Head, Sea Point promenade, Cape Town CBD.
Straight out of the box and onto the trail, that’s how I like to break in shoes. So I took them for a hike up Lion’s Head as soon as I got them. Then for a run on the Sea Point promenade. Then for a walk in the city. Although originally designed for trail runners (where grip often trumps comfort), the Trabuco’s have thick outsoles and ultra-comfortable heel cushioning which made them great for walking all day. On the trail, they performed well on loose stones and steel ladders (which can get slippery). There’s also a plate built into the sole for protection against rocks. Plus, they were easy to clean – a simple wipe with a wet cloth and they looked good again.
2. Best for everyday wear and casual hikes: Hi-Tec Badwater Cosy Shoe
Tested by: Melanie van Zyl
Testing terrain: Joburg city, Golden Gate National Park.
I wanted a slim shoe with a casual look that I could wear when driving to a destination (in this case Golden Gate in the Free State), hike in should the opportunity arise and still stylishly strut out on city streets back home. These new sleek sneakers are a welcome deviation from Hi-Tec’s usual hiking-dominated range and fit right into the popular athleisure trend, but at a more competitive price. At first I struggled to push my foot into the shoe because there is no tongue (it’s more of a bootie), but once inside the fit was snug and the soft synthetic upper helped secure my foot so it didn’t move around. They are exceptionally comfortable and the sole has super-soft cushioning too. There’s enough variance in the tread for good traction (on a day trail from Glen Reenen Rest Camp) and although I like the grey and white colouring, they did easily get dirty outdoors. I loved wearing these and found them a great multipurpose shoe for walking almost anywhere. Available in different colours and in a men’s cut.
Melanie also tried the new Sneaker Lab Sneaker Wipes to keep her shoes clean when travelling and they worked. Much like a wet wipe, each one is individually wrapped so you can stash a few in your bag – the cleaner solution is biodegradable, non-toxic and environmentally friendly. R99 for a pack of 12 wipes. sneakerlab.com.
3. Best for big walks and bad weather: Men’s K-Way Kili 16 Boot
Tested by: Tyson Jopson
Testing terrain: Table Mountain, Cape Town
I’m a sucker for a good boot and for this test I wanted to see if the top-of-the-line K-Way was a good option for someone looking for a hard-core, all-weather boot at a decent price (for perspective, peers from Salomon and Adidas are around the R3000 mark). It’s got a classic look, which I like. The nubuck and suede upper is hardy and not just wind and waterproof, but also puddle proof. The rigidity is faultless: a steel shank and polypropylene board reinforcement give it stiffness without sacrificing too much flex (great for ankles and minimising fatigue). Grip on rocks and wet surfaces is good but they’re a little skittish on the loose stuff. They’re light (for leather boots) and incredibly comfortable: the Ortholite soles are snug and springy and long walks were a breeze.
A good ladies alternative
The new Hi-Tec Sierra X-lite hiking boots for ladies prove that a good, durable shoe can also be sleek and look modern. Melanie found them to be a relieving deviation from bulky, clunky boots, but still with good support and they held her ankles in place without feeling too rigid for steep climbs. They also have super breathability thanks to the mesh uppers, but are not waterproof. R1299. hi-tec.co.za
4. Best for trail running and walking on uneven terrain: Adidas Terrex Agravic
Tested by: Michelle Hardie
Testing terrain: Table Mountain contour paths, Muizenberg to Kalk Bay promenade
I’m not used to teenagers looking so admiringly at my feet, but I got the green eye in spades with these stylish tackies. They would go into my suitcase first and I’d also wear them on the plane and happily pound the pavements all day in them. They are actually designed for negotiating trails and I know why – when I hit the gravel roads on Table Mountain, I was sure-footed (the shoes felt strong) and clambering over rocks was a doddle. The outsole has an impressive lug profile and they transition well to everyday walkers (although they snag on house rugs because of the deep lugs). They were more comfy the second time I wore them and by the third, they felt like a second skin. The tongue (which looks long and might be irritating) is snug and flexible. The sole has Boost technology which means it’s still comfy but has energy return (I did feel springy). I preferred wearing them with thicker socks. Dirt shows up on these so they need to be cleaned regularly.
5. Best for budget and casual walking: Maxed Walk Shoe
Tested by: Welcome Lishivha
Testing terrain: Cape Town CBD
It took a while after strolling around town to figure out why I was still feeling snug and sleepy after a strong cup of coffee the morning I tested the Maxed Walk Shoes. It was the weight, they’re ultralight. And, for a sub-R250 pair of walking shoes, really comfortable. I felt like I was still wearing my slippers! They have non-slip outsoles which work well in urban environments but not all that well on more rugged, changeable terrain. The soft uppers moulded to the shape of my feet nicely and the small ventilation holes in the front kept my feet feeling fresh without sacrificing too much warmth. There’s not much ankle support, but I found this made them easier to slip off without having to untie the laces (lazy habits die hard).
This story first appeared in the July 2017 issue of Getaway magazine.
Our July issue features the best places to stay in the Midlands, budget family breaks in Durban, and the best (and mostly free) things you have to do in New York.