Equestrian types are likely to be familiar with Ariat, the brand founded in California more than 25 years ago with the aim of combining the comfort and practicality of a sports shoe with the requirements of a riding boot. Over the ensuing decades it has become go-to footwear for both professional and amateur riders and the official label of many leading show jumpers, ropers and competitive rodeo and bull riders.
But the brand also does a mean line in tooled leather cowboy boots, and has branched out into other areas of outdoor activity with extensive ranges of traditional, technical and sporting clothes, as well as a “performance footwear” range pitched at serious, long-distance trekkers.
The arrival of the Ariat Skyline Summit GTX walking boots (£170; available for both men and women), specifically, may well put make-do footwear out to pasture. I must confess to having always dismissed specialist hiking boots as being a bit “anorakish” and, until now, have been perfectly content to tramp dozens of miles a week with the dogs around the hills surrounding my Dartmoor home in whichever pair of wellies happens to fall conveniently to foot. But an unsolicited Christmas gift from a horsey friend of a pair of these has left me entirely converted.
An “evolution” of the Skyline Mid – the first walking boots the brand introduced in Europe two years ago – the Summit boots (available from this month) are remarkably light. Yet they feature superbly grippy (and so-far hard-wearing) Duratead outsoles beneath ankle-high uppers of nubuck and breathable, waterproof Gore-Tex, while a mesh lining and shock-absorbing middle sole enhances cushioning and helps one to walk further and for longer.
I truly never thought I’d be seen dead – or alive – in a pair of walking boots until these came along, but now I don my Ariats every time the dogs start pestering me to abandon the keyboard and run them on the moor.