Best Mountaineering Boots Reviewed for Performance

In mountaineering, one of the original extreme sports, summiting sometimes seems like everything. But you know better. Maybe you’re climbing a ‘small’ local mount over a day or two, maybe you’ve spent the last year planning your approach to K2, or maybe it’s something in between – Rainier to Denali or Logan. You’ve spent months or years planning every detail, selecting a team to climb with, ensuring your crampons, rope, anchors, carabiners, gloves, goggles, jackets are all up to par and obtaining permits. You’ve double checked every detail for safety and efficiency. You’ve planned for every contingency and nothing is overlooked.

Last Updated: May 23, 2018
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By Himmatpreet Kaur:

We have updated our list to include 15 of the best mountaineering boots on the market. While we were at it, we updated our Criteria and Frequently Asked Questions sections as well to provide you with even more information to consider when choosing a mountaineering boot.

You know your life and the life of your team members depends on both calm, careful decisions based on experience and the quality and functioning of your equipment. One misplaced anchor can spell disaster. A poor pair of boots can mean severe frostbite and perhaps amputation. You know your sport is dangerous and you treat that danger with the respect it deserves.

Featured Recommendations

La Sportiva Nepal
  • La Sportiva Nepal
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Comfort weight
  • Excellent durability
  • Price: See Here
Scarpa Chamoz
  • Scarpa Chamoz
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Outdry technology
  • Multi-density midsole
  • Price: See Here
Salewa Crow
  • Salewa Crow
  • 4.8 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Mixed mountaineering
  • Gore-Tex waterproofing
  • Price: See Here

That is why you don’t throw on any pair of winter boots and begin your trek to base. You’ve researched your boots, you’ve talked to other climbers and you’re ready to buy boots that are appropriate to your climb whether it’s a few hundred meters above tree line or 848m above the dead zone.

We have researched 15 of the best mountaineering boots available whether you’re headed for the Coast Mountains or Sierra Nevadas or you’re headed deep into the Himalayas, you will find a pair here that will suit your trek and help you reach the summit safely.

 

15 Best Mountaineering Boots

 

1. La Sportiva Nepal

The La Sportiva Nepal EVO GTX is a winter, mixed climbing mountaineering boot. This is a double boot that is a winner of Climbing Magazine’s Editor’s Choice award. It really needs no introduction because it is such a popular boot among mountaineers, especially those who have some ice in their way on the way to the summit. To create the best fit Nepal has an adjustable and removable tongue. It’s really no wonder this boot is such a favorite.
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EZ-Roller
The EZ-Roller hardware on this boot lets you lock down the laces. This lets you achieve different tensions on the forefoot of the boot and the cuff of the boot for superior, secure fit.

Gore-Tex Lining
Ah, Gore-Tex, best friend in any winter conditions but especially at altitude in the mountains. Your boots will stay warm over long periods and the Gore-Tex also offers additional waterproofing.

Cost and Value
This is a mid-ranged price boot for our list but still a substantial investment. They will take care of your feet in the mountains though, the rest of the climb is entirely up to you. You’ll appreciate the additional features like the 3.2 mm single piece silicone impregnated leather upper. These boots have great durability which increases the value by giving you longer wear.
Pros
  • Winter mixed climbing
  • Ample insulation
  • Adjustable tongue
  • 9mm Ibi-Thermo insole
  • 8 - 9 mm TPU/PU midsole
  • Comfort weight
  • Crampons: C2 or C3
Cons
  • ~2.2 lbs each

2. Scarpa Charmoz

This is a relatively lightweight three-season mountaineering boot from Scarpa, experts in making boots for climbing. The boots are designed for fast moving days over rock, ice, and snow and for missions that are weight-sensitive. Built in northern Italy, by a family familiar with alpine terrain since 1938, you can expect a lot of quality and engineering has been built into the Charmoz.
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Nylon L-Tech/Micromesh
The upper of this boot is made from Nylon L-Tech and Micromesh for durability and breathability. The Outdry liner keeps water out while allowing enough air in to keep your feet comfortable.

Full rubber outsole
A full rubber outsole protects your feet while providing for a high-performance, durable mountaineering boot.

Cost and Value
This boot is priced in the low-range relative to the boots on our list. These boots are a great value when you consider the great performance these mountaineering boots deliver. Features not yet mentioned include a lightweight multi-density polyurethane and EVA midsole for excellent shock absorption and cushion. Each boot weighs less than 2 pounds, which is considerably less weight than many. It makes for a great approach boot as well.
Pros
  • Pro-Nylon L-Tech
  • Rubber sole
  • Outdry technology
  • Lightweight synthetic leather
  • Lightweight midsole
  • Crampons: C1
Cons
  • Not for ice climbing

3. La Sportiva G5

This is a triple-mountaineering boot, with an upper gaiter, interior boot, and exterior boot. It is built for epic ascents over sometimes unknown terrain, perfect for finding a new line up your mountain. This is a boot with an extensive amount of engineering and mountaineering experience built in. These are much lighter than they appear to be as well. For the true, modern adventurer.
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Quick lacing
The lacing system on this mountaineering boot is designed for use while you are wearing gloves. It features a Boa ® lacing system at the bottom part of the shell and a velcro strap to adjust tension near the top.

Vibram Matterhorn sole
The Matterhorn rubber sole on the G5 includes large lugs for grip and traction along with step-in universal crampon compatibility when you need the extra hold that only a great crampon can provide.

Cost and Value
This boot is a real investment but if you are planning to climb at high altitudes, into the death zone, this boot is well worth the money. The built-in gaiter is one less piece of equipment to worry about, it has a waterproofing membrane, stretch high-tenacity nylon and a PE barrier, a felt insulating boot and a heat-sealed zipper closure in the gaiter. This is an amazing boot for the money.
Pros
  • Cordura ® gaiter
  • Heat sealed zipper
  • Triple mountaineering boot
  • Water resistant membrane
  • Lightweight insole
  • Flex zone at ankle
  • Full crampon compatibility
Cons
  • Not for water crossing

4. Tefaneso Mountaineering

4. Tefaneso Mountaineering
These Swiss designed boots are very strong and durable along with being wind and waterproof. It is designed for mixed mountaineering and trekking, but the company also lists another of other purposes for the boot. These are dark boots for those who do not want to wear brightly colored varieties.
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Anti Nail Soles
The Vibram ® soles on this boot are puncture resistant and durable. They provide good traction on the approach and are crampon compatible.

3M Insulation
3M ™ Thinsulate Insulation has established its reputation for providing great warm in cold conditions. The insulation in this boot is 3M insulate and the lining also features Moisture-Tech water removal to keep your feet dry.

Cost and Value
This boot falls into the lower range of prices on our list. It is still an investment though, for the price you are getting a good, 4 season boot for the mountains. It features a lace lock system as well, which is a relatively new innovation in mountaineering boots that allows for adjustable tension.
Pros
  • 3M ™ Thinsulate insulation
  • Polyurethan midsole
  • Moisture Tech Water Removal
  • TPU reinforcement
  • Memory foam insole
  • 3D Flex system
  • Crampons: C1, C2
Cons
  • Split-focus design

5. La Sportiva Olympus Mons

5. La Sportiva Olympus Mons
Olympus Mons is the tallest mountain on Mars and Everest is a molehill in comparison. With a boot named after such a mountain, it has a lot to live up to. This is a triple-mountaineering boot with an incorporated gaiter. These are a heavy-duty mountaineering boot capable of taking on any mountain you put before it - from Rainier to K2, this boot is made for the high-altitude, big mountain challenge.
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Polyamide coated inner boot
The inner boot on the Olympus Mons has a water repellant and breathable upper that features a polyamide external layer and a dual-density PE micro-perforated, thermally insulating foam that is well ventilated to keep your feet at temperature.

Thermoreflective insole
The insole on this boot has a thermo-reflective aluminum layer to keep your feet warm. It also has a perforated hydrophobic non-woven facing to keep your feet dry.

Cost and Value
This is the most expensive boot on our list but it is also the most engineered. La Sportiva has listened to generations of mountaineers in developing the huge number of comfort, safety and stabilizing features in this boot. It can tackle any earth-bound mountain, more than living up to its impressive name.
Pros
  • Kevlar upper gaiter
  • Riri Storm zipper
  • Hydrophobic lining on insole
  • PE thermal insulation
  • Thermoreflective facing
  • Virbram PE sole
Cons
  • More than 5 lb/pair

6. Scarpa Grand Dru GTX

6. Scarpa Grand Dru GTX
The Grand Dru GTX is designed to bridge the gap between a full mountaineering boot and the hiking boot. It is meant for hauling heavy loads across rugged terrain that lacks permanent trails and secure footing. This is the perfect boot for hauling your equipment into a Himalayan base camp without using your high-altitude boots on the approach. A thoughtfully engineered boot for the roughest of terrains.
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GoreTex Waterproofing
The Gore-Tex waterproofing in the upper and lining of this boot will help you deal with any water on the approach you can imagine from wet brush to mud to river crossings. No need to re-dry your shoes when camp is set up because the water won’t get in.

Hybrid crampon compatible
These boots are compatible with hybrid crampons (C1 type) for when you need that extra bit of traction to get your load to camp.

Cost and Value
These booths are mid-range for prices on our list. For still a significant investment you are getting the best approach & carry boot on the market. When you’re not hauling loads, this boot will also function as a superior backwoods exploration tool.
Pros
  • Excellent approach boot
  • Perwanger suede upper
  • Versatile
  • Waterproof
  • Stable midsole for talus
  • Crampons: C1
Cons
  • ~ 4 pounds

7. La Sportiva Spantik

7.  La Sportiva Spantik
The Spantik is designed for mountains in the 6000m - 7000m range (~Mt. Denali) or any other environment with cold weather mountaineering conditions that demand high performance. It is a double boot with a carbon fiber sole that will last. The entire boot is anti-abrasion for the roughest terrain and warm for the coldest. It is lighter and smaller than it’s higher altitude cousin, the Nuptse.
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Dual-density midsole
The dual-density midsole in the Spantik is made from TPU and micropore EVA for shock absorption and cushion. It is covered by a 5mm thermal carbon fiber and aluminum insulating insole.

High Tech outer boot
You could not ask for more in an outer. The outer boot on this mountain beast is polyurethane coated, CeraCom ® PUR leatherette that will resist abrasion in the rocky alpine and icy high-altitudes.

Cost and Value
This is a very expensive boot but worth every penny given the technology to match the altitude engineering. A trek up Denali has been made easier and warmer with these boots. They will last long enough to make them a good value as well.
Pros
  • Anti-abrasion
  • Polyurethane coated
  • Lorica ® inner boot
  • Vibram ® Montagna sole
  • TPU backstay reinforced
  • Replacable inner boot
  • Universal crampon compatibility
Cons
  • Narrow build

8. Scarpa Phantom 6000

8. Scarpa Phantom 6000
This a great lower altitude (below 6000m) mountaineering boot. (think Mt. Rainier, Mt. Logan, Mt. Kilimanjaro). It features a quick-lace system and a waterproof T-Zip integrated gaiter for one less piece of equipment to worry about. Bright, comfortable and high-performance for lower altitude alpine adventure.
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ErgoFit System
The ErgoFit System in this Scarpa boot allows for omnidirectional flexing. You get the natural motion and great support at the same time, while the rear randing locks your heel in place for climbing performance.

Maximum shock absorption
All the rough rocky terrain in the lower alpine elevations will be no match for the Vibram rubber soles and advanced midsoles on the Phantom 6000.

Cost and Value
This is not a cheap boot by any means. It is near the top of the price list but for its mountain readiness, it is a good value. The boot can take a real beating and still protect your feet, making them well worth the price.
Pros
  • Vibram sole
  • ErgoFit System
  • Heel lock randing
  • Waterproof T-Zip
  • Integrated gaiter
  • Quiick lace system
  • Universal crampon compatibility
Cons
  • Over 5 pounds

9. La Sportiva G2 SM

9. La Sportiva G2 SM
Another award winning boot (ISPO Product of the Year in 2015/16), this triple boot is meant to get you over the world’s most technical mountains. It promises and delivers a responsive fit that can easily be adjusted with gloves on. The boots are incredibly lightweight and designed to deal with highly challenging climbs.
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Warm hand operation
The G2 SM is designed to be used and adjusted with gloves on, limiting your exposure to cold and wind. The outer features a dual Boa ® closure, the gaiter with an elastic Cordura ® cuff and the inner with a dual velcro closure. Warm hands are agile hands.

Lightweight
This is a surprisingly lightweight boot with each element made as light as possible to reduce fatigue and overall equipment weight. To maintain warmth, features are designed to conserve your own body heat as much as possible.

Cost and Value
This boot will cost you but it will be protective, warm and functional below 6000 m. Worth every penny to the serious climber who wishes to approach the altitude boundary while staying warm and not carrying extra weight. This is a well-designed boot from an expert mountaineering boot manufacturer.
Pros
  • Dual Boa ® closure
  • Water repellent
  • Low density PE foam
  • Therm-reflective aluminum
  • Lorica ® coating
  • Insulating gaiter
Cons
  • Plastic guide irritates

10. Salewa Crow GTX

10. Salewa Crow GTX
This is a versatile, mixed mountaineering, summer boot for lower altitudes. It features a stiff sole that is crampon compatible with any icy spots that might be encountered. Great for those rugged, rocky terrains.
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Interchangeable Footbeds
The Crow features an MFF and interchangeable footbeds that will adjust to the shape of your foot for maximum comfort.

Breathable Gore-Tex liner
This boot features a Gore-Tex liner to help keep your feet dry and cool during your summer mountaineering missions.

Cost and Value
This is one of the least expensive boots on our list, which is a great value for your summer climbing needs. It is tough and stiff for stability over rough terrain and crampon compatible when you encounter snow or ice at higher altitudes or for glacier crossings.
Pros
  • Leather upper
  • Adjustable footbeds
  • Suitable for summer
  • Mixed mountaineering
  • Gore-Tex water proofing
  • Durable rubber rand
  • Crampons: C1
Cons
  • Heel may cause blisters

11. Scarpa Fuego

11. Scarpa Fuego
The second of our load-bearing, rough-terrain boots, this is a favorite of wildlands firefighters. It is definitely a boot meant for below the treeline and makes an excellent approach boot. This boot is meant to traverse rough and rocky terrain on an approach or during a wildfire. It is a very durable and protective boot that has a classic style to it.
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Durable, flexible sole
The flexible sole makes it unfit for crampons but allows you to move well through the lower altitudes. The sole is Vibram which is a very durable material, especially if working among smoldering bush.

Double tongued
Double-tongued makes it sound like something snakelike but the purpose of this double is to provide an excellent fit. The tongue is also gusseted for full protection.

Cost and Value
A hard-working, durable boot from mountaineering experts, this boot is an investment in the lower range of prices. You really can’t ask for better performance, durability or protection for the altitude though so you are getting great value for your money.
Pros
  • Leather upper
  • Classic mountaineering style
  • Vibram sole
  • Gussetted tongue
  • Durable, high traction sole
  • Durable upper
Cons
  • Not rated for crampons

12. Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX

12. Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX
The Mont Blanc was named for the highest mountain in the Alps. It is an “all-around” mountaineering boot that can handle practically any mountain conditions that it encounters, just as can be found on Mont Blanc. It is a protective and comfortable boot that will serve the purposes of most mountaineers but especially those that prefer a mixed-use performer.
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Shock absorbing midsole
The Advanced midsole in the Mont Blanc provides both maximum shock absorption with improved sensitivity over many other mountaineering boots so you can feel those edges much better.

3mm suede upper
The suede upper on the Mont Blanc is tough and durable, great for middle altitudes. It’s also very breathable, allowing your feet to stay dry and cool.

Cost and Value
These boots are in the lower end of the price range relative to the list, which is not uncommon for boots that aren’t meant for the highest altitudes. Still an investment, these are a great light, middle altitude, general purpose mountaineering boot.
Pros
  • All around performer
  • Suede upper
  • ErgoFit system
  • Heel locking randing
  • Advanced Mid-sole system
  • Lightest in class
  • Universal crampon compatibility
Cons
  • Not suitable for high-altitude

13. La Sportiva Makalu

13. La Sportiva Makalu
The third lower altitude, heavy duty, mountaineering boot, on our list, this is a very water repellent boot that still breathes, leaving your foot cool and dry. These boots feature a very thick cushioning insole over a rigid shaft to provide stability over rough terrain. The boot is durable and will last well even after taking one solid beating after another. This is another great boot for hauling heavy loads or for the approach.
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Precision tensioning
The boot features rollerball hardware in the eyelets along with locking D-rings that allow you to precisely and effortlessly tension your boot laces for a great fit on your feet.

Extreme durability
The Idro-Perwanger leather upper is extremely durable, water-repellent and breathable. This leather can take many years of abuse making it great for its purpose.

Cost and Value
These boots are at the lower end of the price range but still costly. For the value, you are receiving an excellent heavy-duty mountaineering boot for that rough lower-altitude terrain. You’ll have no troubles approaching in these boots.
Pros
  • Vibram ® rubber rand
  • EZ Flex tongue
  • Dry-Best ® lining
  • 3mm Idro-Perwanger Leather
  • SBR Aircushion midsole
  • Thick insole
  • Crampons: C1
Cons
  • Fits wide

14. Scarpa Zodiac Tech GTX

14. Scarpa Zodiac Tech GTX
This boot is the transition between an approach boot and full mountain boot, for those terrains that are too rugged for an approach boot but not rugged enough for your higher-altitude boots. These are very lightweight mountaineering boots that are waterproof and protective. If your base camp is located above insanely rough terrain, these are the boots to haul your equipment in. They can also handle snowy summit at lower elevations as well.
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Very lightweight
This is among the lightest boots on our list of the best mountaineering boots at just under 3 lbs average. Every detail is made durable, strong yet lightweight including the Sock-Fit construction.

Waterproof build
Waterproofing is essential in a hard-working approach boot and this boot is built for waterproof comfort with a Gore-Tex membrane and extended rubber rand.

Cost and Value
This boot is in the lower range but is a value for such a hardworking, get you to base camp boot. You will really appreciate the precision fit and weatherproofing on this boot as you approach your chosen massif.
Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Lightweight
  • Sock-fit construction
  • Extremely durable
  • Great for scrambling
  • Designed for roughest terrain
  • Crampons: C1
Cons
  • Not for higher altitudes

15. La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX

15. La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX
The final boot on our list is another general purpose mountaineering boot - the Trango Cube from La Sportiva. This is a seamless boot that is great for altitudes that are moderate and temperatures that drop just below freezing, making it a solid three-season boot. It is designed for mixed and technical mountaineering primarily during summer but spring and autumn as well.
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Seamless upper
The upper is seamless which reduces the risk of hot spots in the boot. It is also waterproof, lighter weight and abrasion resistant.

Opposing Lugs
The opposing directional lugs on this boot increases braking power by roughly 20% and also decreased impact forces by approximately the same degree.

Cost and Value
This boot is priced in the low range of prices relative to other boots on the list. However, you are getting a boot ready for technical mountaineering in moderate altitudes for a reasonable, though still investment-level price.
Pros
  • Removable tongue
  • Seamless construction
  • Ultralight build
  • FlexTec2 upper
  • Multi-directional lugs
  • Crampons: C1
Cons
  • Sizes run wide

Of all the equipment you will bring on your trek, clearly the most important are your boots. Sore feet can prevent you from continuing your climb, poor boots for the conditions could actually endanger your health and your life, deadened, numb feet can endanger your team and make a descent difficult and more dangerous. So you invest in your boots, getting the right pair for your adventure and you can focus on other details.

Buying the right boot can be confusing. Different types of mountaineering boots are suitable for different elevations, different weather conditions, different types of climbs. It can feel a little too much. This is why we’ve expanded our criteria section, using advice from all kinds of experts, to help you select exactly the right boot for your climb. We’ve brought your 15 of the best boots, learn below which is right for you.

 

Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Mountaineering Boots

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Comfort

We’re going to spend a lot of time on comfort in our criteria for mountaineering boots. This is because comfort is absolutely vital to your climb, your safety, and the health of your feet, especially when participating in such an extreme sport. Imagine the following scenario and you will understand the importance of comfort.

You hit the trailhead in a new pair of boots that fit just okay, not well. They were a little snug when you tried them on but you figured they would loosen up a little as you walked in them. You also went overboard on the thermal for your needs and your feet are already a little warm. You’ve spent hours with your team hiking from the trailhead to the base of the mountain and now your feet are painful. Your arches are killing you and you have blisters developing on the sides of your toes and on the bottom of your feet. You take the boots off, remove your socks and try some moleskin for relief but now your feet have swollen and they’re even tighter and warmer when you put them back on. You can barely tolerate lacing them up. You’re in agony and there are two options – try to summit to avoid disappointing your team or walk the five miles back out the trailhead. Walking in bad boots has already caused your feet a lot of pain and their in bad condition now, walking back out or trying to climb on swollen, unstable, painful feet. Neither is an acceptable option. All of this could have been prevented with the right boots for the climb and the right boots for your feet.

Let’s look at what makes the right boot for your feet:

  • Fit – Mountaineering boots come in all sorts of shapes and sizes – wider, narrower, lace-ups, zip-ups, straps, longer, shorter, high or low or moderate arch profiles. Each part of the boot needs to fit your foot comfortable, without causing any compression, pain, or spots that might rub or irritate. Have your feet measured accurately by a podiatrist if you are uncertain. Read reviews to tell you whether boots run large or small and where pressure points may be located. Most importantly, never start down the trailhead in boots that don’t fit thinking that they’ll ‘break in’ along the way.
  • Weight – Weight is important in mountaineering. We are constantly trying to make each piece of gear as light as possible so we can be efficient in the mountains. Mountaineering boots, whether they are for winter climbing, mixed climbing, ice climbing, are heavier than hiking boots or regular winter boots. You should check the specifications for each boot carefully, noting the weight and purchasing the safest that will suit your needs that are also lighter than other options. The lighter the boot the better but do not sacrifice safety and fit for weight.
  • Warmth – The boot needs to be rated for the coldest weather you will encounter on your climb. This might be significantly colder at the summit than at base but cold feet are numb and dangerous feet so err on the side of warmth. While this can be impossible to pin down accurately, studying typical weather conditions for the mountain for the time of year you are climbing will help. Don’t go too far overboard either. If you need a boot to deal with -10C conditions, you won’t need the extra weight or warmth of a -40C boot.
  • Single or Double? –  Mountaineering boots can come as single boots our double. Double boots have two layers – one is an insulating inner boot and the second is a water and windproofing outer layer. Double boots are available in plastic, leathers and other materials and are heavier than single boots. If you won’t require a double, go for a single boot for weight and comfort.
  • Stiffness – Mountaineering boots are stiffer than typical boots for stability. The stiffness is important to the function of the boot. Do not sacrifice stability for flexibility in the high alpine.
  • Integrated Gaiter?  A gaiter is designed to keep snow out of your boots, pants, and socks. Many modern mountaineering boots come with integrated gaiters which can be one less piece of equipment to worry about. Integrated or not, a gaiter is important to your comfort in snowy conditions. A double boot with an integrated gaiter is also known as a triple boot – great for Everest or Denali. Triple boots are great above 8000 m (the dead zone) or very cold conditions like Mt. Everest, Mt. Denali and Cho Oyu. Plastics with a good inner boot are great high-altitude materials that are usually good up to 8000 m but not above. These are good for mountains between Muztagh Ata (6000m) to Elbrus (near 8000m). Hybrids usually have a limit of 6000 – 7000 m and 4 season boots are suitable for mountains like the Moroccan Atlas range and Toubkal.
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    Performance

    You need boots that perform in the mountains. If they’re comfortable and warm they still will not be much use to you if they don’t do the job they are meant to do – deal with the terrain and conditions and get you to the top of the mountain.

    The boots you choose should consider how they will perform based on what you intend to use them for. It is essential that you start there – with identifying your intended use. It may include hiking, ice climbing, mixed climbing, rock climbing and mountaineering in different weather conditions. Different boots will be designed for different types of mountaineering activity and weather. Finding one boot to meet all those demands will be difficult and you may need more than one pair for different parts of the trek or for different day trips into the mountains.

  • Recreationalists – if you are staying below the tree line and only climbing on warmer days, you can prioritize things other than warmth in your boots.
  • Technical climbing – Technical climbers will place more of an emphasis on the weight of the boot because that is essential when climbing sheer rock faces or ice faces. They will choose a stiffer boot for ice climbing and a more flexible boot for rock.
  • Mountaineers – Mountaineers are generally ready for technical climbing and trekking above the tree line so warmth and weight are both important.
  • Crampons – Too often overlooked is whether or not your trek will require crampons and more importantly, are your boots compatible with crampons. Like boots, there are a variety of crampon types available that suit different boot designs. Be sure they match up. Also choosing a boot with a rigid sole will make your crampons work correctly. A flexible sole and you risk the crampons popping off at a critical time.

Speak to other mountaineers and climbers who are familiar with the mountain you intend to be on for detailed advice on what performance you will need from your boot. This is one area where reading online reviews or even relying on staff in a mountaineering shop, could lead you straight into trouble. Talk to experts in the area and do thorough research to choose the correct boot for the purpose.

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A Note About Cost

You need to be prepared to spend good money on a good pair of mountaineering boots. Depending on the purpose, they can range from a little more than $100 for a good pair of hiking boots for well below the tree line to nearly $1000 for a good pair of double-boots with gaiters that will take you up K2 and back down. The cost of your equipment is typically higher the more technical it is and the more engineering that is put into the equipment. Every aspect of a good mountaineering boot is designed to withstand the conditions, take a serious beat down, and still protect you.

Your safety is no place to scrimp and save. Do not make the mistake believing that a good pair of winter boots with a nice tread will do. The wrong pair of cheap boots or boots unsuitable for the purpose could cost you your life.

Don’t be tempted to think “I have $XXX left to spend on boots so I will get the best pair that I can afford.”  Instead, your thinking should be the pair(s) of boots that are best for me for this climb will cost, $XXX and I will wait until I have the money to purchase those.”  Don’t rely solely on a shop owner either, who may not completely understand your needs and whose goal it is to sell you a pair of boots.

We do not recommend trading off other equipment to invest in your boots either. Stick to the adventures that you can afford to accomplish safely, with good equipment that you would literally trust with your life. If you need to wait a little longer to save up the funds, then waiting is better than the alternative – losing toes, feet, your mobility, your life.

Luckily many makers of mountaineering boots keep the costs to a minimum themselves because their boots are their flagships – their best advertisers – and they earn their profits off the sales of other boots and equipment. However, it is always worth checking on the reputation and experience of the manufacturer before you buy.

You could also check out the end of lines, sales and discounts, and older models of the boots you need to save some money but again, don’t sacrifice your safety, your team’s safety or anyone’s life for by buying less boot than necessary.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q:  Is there one mountaineering boot that will do it all?
A:  No, sorry. Different types of mountaineering boots are designed for different mountain terrains and conditions. Ice climbing boots are very rigid to accept C3 crampons, rock climbing boots are more flexible to provide great grip, alpine boots are great for short climbs in lower mountains and expedition boots are designed for higher elevations and much colder temperatures. There are also boots designed for summer climbing and others for winter. An “all-rounder” is also limited and designed for shorter periods in the mountains that involve only minimal technical climbing. You will need to invest the time in determining what you need and finding the boot to match.

Q:  Come on now. Hillary climbed Everest with a pair of low-tech leather mountaineering boots.
A:  Sure. We haven’t always had it as good as we have it now. Hillary and Tengay had a minimal amount of less-engineered equipment and they made it. But many died before them trying and even after the first summit of Everest, more climbers died and still more lost toes and feet as well. These accidents and injuries are becoming less frequent with better equipment. Better equipment is also allowing more people to achieve their goals of summiting and then returning safely.

Q:  What do B0, B1, B2 and B3 grading mean for mountaineering boots?
A:  These gradings tell you whether or not and what type of crampon a boot will be compatible with. B0 foots are too flexible for use with crampons and will actually pose dangers if you attempt to use crampons with them. B1 matches C1 crampons, B2 matches C1 or C2 crampons and B3 matches C3 crampons. B1 and C1 are for moderate snow and ice. B2 and C2 are a little stiffer and meant for moderate snow and ice as well – the difference is a clip lever on the C2 crampon. B3 and C3 are for technical climbing (any climbing that will make sustained use of the front part of the crampon). B1 and B2 boots can be comfortable for approaches but B3s are more rigid and uncomfortable over long approaches. For example, the Scarpa Mont Blanc GTX boot is a B2 graded boot that will fit C1 and C2 crampons. You can see the ledges in the photograph above. The Scarpa Charmoz is a B1 graded boot that will fit C1 crampons.

Q:  Why are so many boots rated in meters and in degrees Celsius?
A:  Mountaineering boots began their life in places like Italy, where the metric system and centigrade systems for temperature are used. These have since developed into an international standard so that all mountaineers are sharing and speaking the same “language” when it comes to rating equipment. There are handy conversions online to help you convert to Fahrenheit and feet and Google has a shortcut you can use directly from their search engine.

Q: Can you give me a rough estimate of what different boots are rated for?
A:  Sure, we can but it will be very rough and you should thoroughly research every boot you consider. Check out our “Comfort” criteria above for a few tips.

Q:  Won’t my hiking boots do a good job?
A:  I haven’t seen them, so I don’t know what they may be good for but I can tell you this. Hikers are meant for lower altitudes and usually light snow and ice conditions and even rough but not icy terrain. They are great for summer and even winter trekking and hiking but not climbing or even deep snow or serious ice. Be safe and purchase correct footwear if you are going to encounter these conditions.

Q:  Can I wear runners or hiking boots on the approach?
A:  Yes, depending on the nature of the approach or trail to the base of the mountain you intend to summit, you can wear trail runners or hiking boots on the approach. These you should also keep as light as possible without sacrificing safety. And don’t push it, people have died wearing runners and hikers where they shouldn’t. Safety should always be your first priority.

Q:  What about other equipment?
A:  We can’t offer any advice on other equipment (because we haven’t assessed it) except to tell you to be sure to purchase the correct crampons for your boot type if you will need crampons (and they generally do go where most mountaineering boots go). For other advice, check out the American Alpine Club as a great resource.

Q:  Can you wear the inner boot on a double or triple boot?
A:  Yes, they are designed to take into the tent with you and sleep with so that you have a nice warm boot come morning when it’s time to climb again.

Q:  Are crampons the same thing as snow grips?
A:  You may be able to fit snow grips onto your mountaineering boots but they are not crampons. Snow grips are not meant for mountaineering. They are designed for maintaining traction on very slippery roads and other surfaces in winter. They are shallower than crampons and are not safe for serious mountaineering.

Q:  Can I use mountaineering boots for other purposes?
A:  Yes, we’ve heard from tree cutters for example, who use some of these boots in their work where they have to stand in crampons often. Some of the lower altitude boots have also been used by wildfire firefighters in their important work.

Q:  What is up with the bright colors?
A:  The bright colors on most of these boots serve several purposes but primarily, bright reflective colors help you stay visible in low-visibility conditions that you might encounter mountainside. And if the worst does happen, high visibility boots means you may be located much faster when help arrives.

Sources

  1. FeetRelief, Shoe Support,
  2. Eastern Mountain Sports, Understanding Down Insulation,
  3. Iowa State University, Helpful Hints When Walking on Ice,
  4. Merrel, What's Inside a Hiking Boot,
  5. Northeast Mountaineering, A Guides View: How to Select Mountaineering Boots, Website, May 23, 2018
  6. Andy Kirkpatrick, Getting the Right Mountain Boots, May 23, 2018
  7. Dave Miller, Is there one mountaineering boot to do it all?, May 23, 2018
  8. American Alpine Club, Mountaineering Boots of the Early 20th Century,
  9. Adventure Alternative, Mountain Boot and Crampon Guide,

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