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.
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.
- Scarpa Phantom 6000 Guide
- Dual Boot
- Excellent Durability
- La Sportiva Spantik
- Traction and Grip
- Salewa Rapace GTX
- Mixed Mountaineering
- Gore-Tex Waterproofing
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 10 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.
10 Best Mountaineering Boots
1. Scarpa Phantom 6000 Guide
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.
- Vibram Sole
- ErgoFit System
- Heel Lock Randing
- Waterproof T-Zip
- Integrated Gaiter
- Quick Lace System
- Universal Crampon Compatibility
- Over 5 pounds
2. La Sportiva Spantik
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.
- Polyurethane Coated
- Lorica ® Inner Boot
- Vibram ® Montagna Sole
- TPU Backstay Reinforced
- Replacable Inner Boot
- Universal crampon compatibility
- Narrow Build
3. Salewa Rapace GTX
Vibram sole bases the Salewa Rapace GTX, so you know you’ll keep grip and traction on any kind of surface with the durability and stickiness Vibram soles are known for. The Bilight midsole consists of TPU injected and ergonomically correct design, which acts to cradle the foot and mimic a spring, helping to reduce foot fatigue over long treks. Adjustable footbeds let you interchange MFF+ footbeds to best suit your foot shape and support your level of ideal comfort.
Nubuck uppers make the Salewa Rapace GTX durable and weatherproof, and the Gore-Tex liner helps maintain breathability for when conditions change. Ankle high lace up vamp helps provide stabilization and support for your trek, and the Rapace GTX is crampon compatible for when you need to dig in deep to hit the summit. And with a weight of only 24 ounces, you get rugged durable footwear that won’t slow you down!
Cost and Value
One of the more budget friendly options, the Salewa Rapace GTX is really best suited to alpine trekking where conditions are more mild that summiting Mount Everest. A great entry level boot, it’s crampon compatible with a sticky Vibram sole, and Gore-Tex lining to keep you dry when pushing hard up the mountain. Great for beginner mountaineers and those on a budget.
24 oz Weight
4. La Sportiva Nepal
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.
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.
- Winter Mixed Climbing
- Ample Insulation
- Adjustable Tongue
- 9mm Ibi-Thermo Insole
- 8 - 9 mm TPU/PU Midsole
- Comfort Weight
- Crampons: C2 Or C3
- ~2.2 lbs Each
5. Asolo Elbrus GV
Vibram soles give a sticky traction to the Asolo Elbrus GV, keeping your grip durable for the long haul, and suited for rougher terrains with lug pattern. This sole also incorporates a Dual Integrated System technology to help maximize impact absorbance. Midsole is a dual-density lasting board of nylon and fiberglass, giving you support and structure when you need it most. Lite 4 footbed provides a cushioned ride for the roundtrip trek to the summit and back.
The Asolo Elbrus GV utilizes suede leather and a Schoeller softshell, making the upper durable and lighter weight. Gore-Tex lining helps keep breathability for changing conditions so your feet can adjust as you do to effort and your environment. Traditional lace up keeps you snuggly inside the boot, and helps stabilize the ankle in this mid length mountaineering boot. A protective toe cap gives some extra protection, and the Elbrus is compatible with semi-automatic crampons should you need them.
Cost and Value
Another of the more budget friendly options on our list, it’s great for beginner mountaineers, or those who enjoy trekking hard or easier alpining tours in the snow. Crampon compatible and breathable, they will get you to the top feeling supported and stable, and Vibram sole will have you rock hopping like a pro. A great investment for those starting out!
Schoeller Soft Shell
Dual Density Midsole
Dual Integrated System
Semi-Automatic Crampon Compatible
6. La Sportiva Makalu
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.
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.
- Vibram Rubber Rand
- EZ Flex Tongue
- Dry-Best Lining
- 3mm Idro-Perwanger Leather
- SBR Aircushion Midsole
- Thick Insole
- Crampons: C1
- Fits Wide
7. Scarpa Fuego
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 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.
Durable, High traction sole
- Not Rated For Crampons
8. Scarpa Grand Dru GTX
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.
- Excellent Approach Boot
- Perwanger Suede Upper
- Stable Midsole For Talus
- Crampons: C1
- ~ 4 Pounds
9. La Sportiva Olympus Mons
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.
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.
Kevlar Upper Gaiter
Riri Storm Zipper
Hydrophobic Lining On Insole
PE Thermal Insulation
Virbram PE Sole
- More Than 5 lb/pair
10. Arc’teryx Acrux AR
Combining lighter weight with protection and insulation, the Arc’teryx made this double boot capable for handling whatever athletic performance is needed by the alpinist adventurer wearing them. Both suited for climbing and mountaineering, it provides support through a custom 3D molded Ortholite footbed which supports the arch and delivers comfort when wearing. Heel brake ad mountaineering heel tread help with grippy traction, and quick braking action when you need it most. Semi-blocked toe with anti-slip groves make this protective and functional in one brilliant design
Gore-tex membrane helps control the ventilation and climate inside the boot, adapting to changing conditions of an alpine environment, and perforated foam has quick dry properties to help wick away moisture and provide comfort. Arc’teryx Adaptive Fit technology helps give the ultimate in support and cushion, while laminated construction keeps these waterproof.
Cost and Value
For a double boot, boasting of technology that supports comfort, stabilization, traction, and climate control, the Arc’teryx Acrux AR is a brilliant option for the advance alpine adventure seeker. Made for all the conditions and challenges a mountaineering expedition would face, it’s lightweight, low volume and waterproof construction will keep insulated comfort to the wearer. More expensive than most on our list, it’s an investment worth the extra cost for serious mountaineering adventurists!
Ice and Mountain Climbing
Adaptive Fit Technology
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 you 10 of the best boots, learn below which is right for you.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Mountaineering Boots
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.
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.
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.
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.
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