Best Mountaineering Boots Reviewed for Performance
Mountaineering is not like the average outdoor practice; it can get to be much harder, dangerous, and tough on your body and feet. Unlike conventional hiking, mountaineering takes things to the next level, as it consists of reaching the very peak of a mountain. Thus, you should take your equipment to the next level as well.
In sports as extreme as this one, selecting budget equipment is simply not an option. When you’re facing the harsh environment and obstacles of mountaineering, you’ll want to count with the best equipment available, and that includes mountaineering boots. Cutting your budget down the low-quality shoes translates into also cutting down your performance, but most importantly, your safety.
- Timberland Chocorua
- GTX & Seam seal
- Full-grain waterproof leather
- Salomon Quest 4D 2
- Salomon 4D Chassis
- Salomon Contagrip outsole
- Hi-Tec Altitude IV
- Multi-directional traction
- Absolute waterproofing
The best mountaineering boots, on the other hand, will bring you as close as physically possible to your most optimal performance. This sport involves hiking, rock climbing, traversing slopes, and a lot of physical effort – and you want to make sure to succeed at all of them.
10 Best Mountaineering Boots
1. Timberland Chocorua
If you’ve done any mountaineering before, you’ll know full-grain leather is one of the most protective, durable, and efficient materials you can put on a boot. As if that wasn’t enough protection, the materials of this boot are completely waterproof to prevent any liquid from becoming an obstacle.
Gore-Tex and seam seal
Waterproofing certainly make a difference by preventing the leather from soaking or absorbing any water. However, when we’re talking about leakage protection there’s nothing more efficient that a seam seal that absolutely seals the shoe. Complemented by the Gore-Tex waterproof membranes, the Chocorua is guaranteed to keep your feet dry at all times (given that you don’t misuse the boots).
Timberland performance footwear usually offers a fairly accessible value, not to mention their efficient performance-to-value ratio. The Chocorua is one of the most efficient products on the list while being the second best value as well – which is why it’s ranked on the top spot.
Full-grain leather build
Water repellent materials
Runs half a size short on some users
2. Salomon Quest 4D 2
Salomon’s 4D Advanced Chassis patent leads your feet even on the most difficult environments and surfaces, minimalizing the effort you need to perform and thus decreasing muscular fatigue. The chassis includes the waterproof Gore-Tex membrane to allow breathability while stopping any potential leaks.
Salomon Contagrip Outsole
The Contagrip outsole by Salomon enhances the grip to be capable of holding onto a greater variety of surfaces and under different circumstances. The patented technology will hold onto wet or slippery surface, loose rocks or obstacles and hard elements.
Salomon isn’t a cheap nor an expensive brand; the Quest 4D 2 particularly sits just around the average value of our list. The quality of this model goes undoubted, and the inversion is something very few users have regretted – and usually because of personal preference rather than malfunction.
Protective rubber caps
Must break in thoroughly before using on the mountain
3. Hi-Tec Altitude IV
Hi-Tec’s traction technology allows users to smoothly rotate and move their feet around the same spot without losing contact quality with the surface. It also assists lateral and diagonal movements rather than just the conventional walking gait. This comes in extremely handy on uneven and loose surfaces.
Absolute waterproof protection
The upper build materials have been waterproofed to prevent the shoe from soaking or absorbing any liquid. Furthermore, a seam seal absolutely seals the shoe to guarantee total protection against liquids even in moving waters, such as rivers or mountain streams.
The Altitude IV takes the trophy home when talking about the performance-to-value proportion. You won’t be able to get your hands on a pair of boots of this quality for a lower price, which is why we believe this is a very appropriate option for mountaineering. As of the publication date of this guide, the Altitude IV is in discount.
Rust proof hardware
Half a size smaller than it should (order half a size larger)
4. Vasque Breeze 2.0
The Breeze 2.0 incorporates a number of air mesh breathing panels, which concerned some users seeing as this material is too soft for such as rough sport. However, the air mesh panels count with resistant technology that efficiently endures friction, abrasion, exposure and direct contact with debris and rocks.
Vibram Contact outsole
Vasque’s exclusive outsole technology, Vibram Contact, makes use of the XSTrek compound to expand the amount of surface covered by the grip. It also assists you in executing much firmer movements, as well as more stable gaits.
Not the most affordable item on the list, yet still below the average value. In terms of both value and performance, the Vasque Breeze 2.0 is an excellent option for people who can’t (or simply don’t want to) afford top-tier equipment, yet want to stay within a professional margin of performance.
Fits like a glove
Great ankle support
Breathable GTX waterproofing
The width was off for some users; especially wide feet
5. Adidas Outdoor AX2
Adidas patent adiPRENE technology consists of a footbed/midsole compound that serves the purpose of increasing cushioning and support for both the heel, the back heel, and the forefoot area. Although this feature normally goes for sneakers, Adidas implemented it on the Outdoor AX2.
The Outdoor AX2 aims at the most optimal performance while retaining a lightweight perspective. Every element from the EVA midsole, to the upper build materials and the lining was carefully selected based on its ability to perform professionally without creating a heavy shoe.
Almost everyone loves Adidas footwear, but users are often discouraged to acquire their products due to hefty price tags. Fortunately, this isn’t the case of the Outdoor AX2, which offers a professional level of mountain performance while going under the average value of our list.
GTX inner lining
Reported as slightly large by some hikers
7. Asolo Fugitive
Polyurethane is one of the best materials for mountaineering soles, which is what makes the sole of the Fugitive so good. On top of that, lugs on the whole sole strengthen the grip on pretty much any solid and steady surface you can get your feet on, also increasing the sole’s flexible range of motion.
The Fugitive wouldn’t be an outdoor Asolo product if it didn’t count with the essential GTX inner lining to protect your feet from the water. Furthermore, the waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex technology is complemented with soft and comfortable materials for an optimal experience.
This boot goes over the average value of the list, but it doesn’t make it a bad option at all. If you’ve put your money on Asolo products in the past, you’ll know the chances of being dissatisfied with their products is very low.
Suitable for harsher hikes
The grip decreases considerably on wet/slippery areas
8. Scarpa Kinesis Pro
The innovative lacing system of the Kinesis Pro works like a micro pulley. With this technology, users are able to obtain the most out of the fit by tightening the whole laces in perfect synchronization. Additionally, the improved lacing also increases the support for the shins and the ankle.
Dual-density PU midsole
Polyurethane is unquestionably one of the most adequate solutions for mountaineering boot midsoles. Yet, Scarpa doesn’t stop at a traditional PU midsole. By doubling the density of the material, you’re practically doubling its qualities by much more material within the same space
The Scarpa Kinesis Pro sits atop the top-tier mountaineering footwear selection. This means their performance is outstanding, but it also means the cost stands over the rest of the other products, too. Although it’s not something most people are willing to afford, you can rest assured getting these boots is the whole opposite of wasting your money.
Micro-pulley lacing system
Firm and resistant leather upper
9. La Sportiva Makalu
A steel shank makes the Makalu design compatible with hiking crampons, expanding your possibilities when selecting mountaineering gear. This allows you to opt for a more aggressive performance to face rougher mountaineering environments.
Rough outsole lugs
Believing you should be prepared for absolutely any obstacles on the mountain, the La Sportive Makalu counts with pronounced slugs on the outsole suitable for pretty much any surface. At the same time, the lugged design makes the outsole more flexible by leaving a certain amount of space between the lugs.
The Makalu design is an especially aggressive product, meant for the toughest possible mountaineering environments. These boots are prepared for anything you put them up against, but this ability comes at a very hefty price, competing for the highest value of the list.
Skywalk rugged sole
Full steel shank
Some users may require half or a full size up
10. Scarpa Fuego
The gusseted tongue design prevents debris, rocks, and any small elements to enter the shoe and potentially go under your foot. This is done by extending the tongue and binding it to the shoe as one piece rather than a separate hanging element.
The frame of the Scarpa Fuego is reaffirmed by the smart lacing system that distributes tension and pressure equally throughout the whole tongue. This not only adds support to the shins, but it also improves the fit of both boots. The stainless eyelets are guaranteed to endure the elements as well as certain extent of physical damage.
There’s an abysmal performance gap between a Scarpa mountaineering boot and any other generic mountain footwear. However, they abysmal gap also applies to the value of the product, and while they’re one of the best pieces of mountain gear out there, they’re not something most users are willing to afford.
Double tongue design
Some users may find a custom insole to be necessary
In conclusion, pro equipment doesn’t make you a pro – but it takes you considerably close to being one. The last thing you want when you’re mountaineering is your equipment to fail, and as the quality of your boots decrease, their chances of failing increase.
We understand that some pieces of equipment exceed the price that most users would normally agree to pay for sports equipment. However, if you’re not willing to afford equipment that is adequate for such extreme circumstances, you should reconsider practicing the sport at all. Once again, trying to peak a mountain with low-quality shoes is not only inefficient, but also greatly dangerous and irresponsible towards your wellbeing and health.
At the same time, we make an effort to compile a list of products that are of high-quality and efficient while still staying within an acceptable value margin.
Criteria Used to Evaluate the Best Mountaineering Boots
Some users, especially those new to mountaineering, see waterproofing as an optional or additional feature. At first sight, it may seem like a functionality that has your back in unfortunate or unlikely situations, like sudden rain or unexpected exposure to water. In reality, waterproofing should be a necessary and elemental factor while judging, selecting, and purchasing mountaineering boots.
When performing mountaineering, exposure to water isn’t something unlikely anymore. You’ll be completely open to the elements as well as the circumstances of the environment that surrounds you. Additionally, you may simply encounter water during your trips; whether it’s a river you have to cross or a pond you could potentially step on.
Underestimating the impact that water will have on your performance is a huge mistake. Exposing non-waterproof footwear to liquids will most likely result in the cease of your performance (although it ultimately depends on the degree of exposure, of course). There’s a list of effects that water has on your footwear and your feet which will considerably affect your ability to hike or climb.
To begin with, non-waterproof materials become much heavier when they’re wet. You don’t need to completely submerge your boots in water for them to be affected; brief exposure is more than enough to affect your boots. Later in the guide, we’ll discuss the importance of the weight of mountaineering boots.
Furthermore, any water that manages to leak in the boot will very likely mess up everything on the inside. The inner build materials will be the first to be affected; the lining, insole, tongue, and so on. Water (and even humidity) can, and in most cases will affect the materials in different ways. If water leaks into your boot you can forget about comfortability straight off the bat.
But it doesn’t stop there. The materials may actually suffer a reduction in their lifespan when exposed to water. Although this is not always the case, certain materials simply aren’t meant to be wet – especially while being used. It’s possible that repeated or prolonged exposure to water will shrink certain materials. Additionally, they’ll lose some of the key qualities required to perform, such as flexibility.
When mountaineering, you should always keep in mind the circumstances under which your mountain boots are waterproof. No matter how effective the waterproof technology is, it’s useless if it’s not applied properly. In the case of some boots, for example, the tongue has a specific design that prevents water from leaking in. If the tongue isn’t placed or held correctly, however, water will most likely break in the shoe.
Also, keep in mind that waterproof shoes are meant to repel water – not necessarily endure it. What we mean by this is that, while a pair of mountaineering boots may stop water from going in the shoe, it’s not necessarily prepared to be affected by water in case of accidental leakage, like the example above. Waterproofing does not ensure that your shoe will retain all of its qualities when exposed to water from the inner side. In most waterproof technologies and designs, the protection is strictly limited to the external build.
The weather is one of the biggest obstacles you’ll face when on the mountain. Thus, it’s one of the things you should keep in mind when looking for the best mountaineering boots protection features. People who are getting started in mountaineering, or that are increasing their hiking heights, often tend to underestimate the importance of feet protection.
When hiking or climbing, protecting your feet is just as important as protecting the rest of your body. Just like you would normally wear thick clothes that protect you from the cold, you should count with according footwear as well. But, what exactly makes a mountaineering boot suitable for high peaks?
If you’ve ever been to the peak of a mountain, you’ll know that the higher you go, the colder it’ll be. This is a general rule that, of course, may be influenced by other factors; for instance, mountains with snow are much colder on your feet. So, if you plan on reaching the coldest point of a mountain, you should count with thermal insulation.
There’s some controversy regarding the definition and appliance of insulating technology, so let’s get that out of the way first. Thermal insulation consists of reducing the rate of heat transfer between the environment and your boots/feet. This can be achieved by certain materials and synthetic technologies.
Normally, synthetic insulating technologies work in a way that “traps” air molecules within the insulation space. These trapped molecules act as a barrier between your feet and the external surface, as they prevent any fresh and cold air molecules from going through. Because of this, the rate of heat transfer is reduced considerably and feet remain much warmer for longer.
Primaloft and Thinsulate are some of the most popular synthetic solutions for insulation boots. They’re very similar, although they have differences in their designs and patents. The main concept of these two technologies is to apply small and hollow fibers made from polyester, resulting in an easily compressible and highly water resistant compound. The hollow fibers then trap the air molecules as explained above.
But, insulation is not limited to human synthesis. Goose and duck down act as a highly efficient insulating material, possibly the most efficient out there. The down of these animals is nature’s way to keep them warm; it consists of a layer of soft material that retains air molecules within small spaces. Like synthetic materials, this creates a heat-retaining barrier.
However, when it comes to natural down we’re talking about a much larger amount of molecule-retaining fibers – around 7 million threads per 100g (3,57oz) of down, created by microscopic hairs. Up to the present, synthetic insulation hasn’t been able to achieve the same warmth level as natural down, but it surpasses it in other aspects. For example, synthetic insulation is considerably lighter and more compressible, meaning you can fit more of the material.
Synthetic insulation technologies are rated and classified based on the amount of insulating material used. For example, if a boot contains 200g (7,14oz) of insulating material, it’ll be labeled as a 200g insulation boot. Normally, 200g insulation is all you would need while being active and moving around. Extreme circumstances (extremely cold weathers, deficiency of circulation, or lack of movement) call for 400g (14,28oz) insulation.
Modern-day shoe manufacturing centers around the weight of footwear. Regardless of the use or specialty of the shoe or boot, manufacturers will always aim to deliver products that are as light as functionally possible (meaning that they’re as lightweight as they can be without losing other qualities such as support).
Mountaineering boots are no exception to the weightless manufacturing approach. Some users would normally think that extreme sports and other heavy-duty activities require heavy boots that offer thick layers of protection. While it is true that the protection of the boot should be according to the activity, this doesn’t necessarily imply a heavy build.
The synthesis and modifications of materials have allowed companies to implement highly functional designs at weights lighter than ever. Full-grain leather, for example, is one of the preferred materials for applications that require protective, durable, and comfortable features. However, the main drawback is its weight. Synthetic leathers, on the other hand, offer the same qualities while weighing less, and in some cases, they even improve some other qualities, such as the flexibility.
The weight of your mountaineering boots is not something you should ignore. The impact it has is not instant, but the whole opposite; it’s a long-term effect. In fact, while trying different mountaineering boots you might not even be able to tell apart the lightest one unless the weight gap is large.
If you’ve read some of our guides in the past, you’ll know we try to emphasize the importance of footwear weight. Weight differences may seem insignificant; most users wouldn’t think that a few hundred grams would make a difference in their performance. A few hundred grams don’t matter when performing brief activities, you might not even notice them. However, when undergoing constant and prolonged use, each gram starts to make a difference.
When you’re on the mountain, keeping your energy and muscular capacity is paramount. Selecting lightweight boots will help you do just that; they require much less effort to move around, saving a lot of energy and extending the durability of your muscular capacity. But, mountaineering is just moving around – the harsher circumstances of the mountain usually require significantly more effort to move through, making weight even more important.
Always keep in mind that mountaineering boots are, well, boots. You can’t compare the weight of a boot to the weight of a shoe. Even amongst boots, the mountain specification is a factor that plays a decisive role in the materials, technologies, design, and thus their weight. The activities performed while mountaineering call for thicker, rougher, and heavier materials. Their weight may be optimized as much as possible, but they’re still some of the heaviest types of footwear.
While lightweightness is generally a benefit, it should not be abused. Too much of anything will kill you – even this. The weight of mountaineering boot materials should only be optimized to a point where its other features are not hindered. You should look for a light boot, but one that is still supportive, durable, protective, and firm. Sacrificing any of these qualities to reduce the weight will ultimately result in an inefficient boot.
Flexibility & Comfort
These two are possibly the most underestimated features of all types of footwear. With mountaineering boots (and every other footwear really) you won’t get too far if you’re lacking flexibility or if the shoe is discomfortable for you. It’s pretty much as simple as that. Flexibility is required in order to perform smoothly and naturally, and comfort is what ultimately decides whether a shoe is suitable for you or not.
We’ve previously covered the importance of flexibility in some of our previous guides, so you should be familiar with this point if you’ve read our past lists. To begin with, flexibility and comfort are related. Although the comfort does not affect the flexibility of a boot, it does the other way around. A shoe that isn’t flexible sooner or later will become discomfortable – especially if we’re talking about performance footwear, which is the case of mountaineering boots.
Flexibility is something you need for the simplest of activities. Your feet will inevitably flex when walking, not to mention any other activity. A stiff shoe won’t flex along the foot, which means the range of motion of each gait will be limited. Furthermore, the foot will be confined to the space within the shoe; it simply won’t be able to bend if the materials resist it.
This comes with a list of consequences. Starting off, you can forget about reaching the most optimal performance (or even an optimal performance really). You don’t have to take our word for it – try walking with an absolutely straight foot without bending it at any point. It’s very unlikely that a shoe totally prevents your feet from flexing, but it should give you an idea of what limiting your range of motion feels like.
This not only affects your comfort but your performance as well, of course. If you had a hard time walking with a straight foot, just imagine performing any sports. Now, imagine yourself performing an extreme sport on the peak of a mountain. We’ll go ahead and assume it’s not a scenario where you’d like to be. The lack of flexibility will decrease (or rather end) all aspects of your performance.
At the same time, there are many other factors aside from flexibility that have an impact on how comfortable shoes are. But, once again, it’s important to keep in mind that mountaineering boots should not be classified or judged the same as any other shoe. This applies to all footwear in general; consider its purpose while evaluating its qualities.
Breathability is normally one of the features directly related to comfort. However, under certain circumstances, it may actually affect your performance. Cold environments are definitely not a scenario where you would require a breathable shoe, as you’d want to retain as much heat as possible within the boot. Likewise, a sealed boot with no breathability will just bake your feet if hiking in a hot environment.
Cushioning & Support
Cushioning is one of the key features that all performance shoes must have. Don’t get us wrong – commonly, any type of footwear should count with a minimum of cushioning, even if it has no specific purpose. But, when it comes to activities that involve shock, cushioning is no longer a comfortability feature, but rather a must.
Sports like mountaineering are no joke. Practices like that place a considerable amount of stress on the body and one of the most easily affected area is our feet. Although cushioning may look like a feature related to the softness and the comfortability of a shoe, it serves a much more functional purpose. In activities like mountaineering, constant impact, shock, and stress are inevitable. Having an adequately cushioned boot will remove a huge amount of stress off your feet.
Mountain sports in general place a lot of stress on our feet. Although the impact is not as consistent as in other sports, like running, it tends to be much tougher regardless. If your mountaineering boots lack cushioning, your feet are basically exposed to shock from every single gait.
In most cases, the process of shock absorption is performed by the midsole of the boots. However, a midsole doesn’t guarantee the successful absorption of all the impact. When performing any activity, the shock from each gait starts at the very surface and moves upwards. The midsole is the first element to deal with shock by reducing it. Posteriorly, if there is no further cushioning, your feet are the next thing in the way.
If the raw impact gets to your feet, you’ll start to feel it sooner than you think. The heels are the part of our feet that suffer the most from this kind of activities, and normally it’s also the first part to enter in contact with the surface. The lack of cushioning may result in significant heel pain, and may posteriorly result in bruised heels. We’re talking about an amount of damage that may prevent you from performing any further (you shouldn’t continue if your heels hurt, regardless), and that will also create post-performance soreness.
Support is another important aspect of footwear in general. It complements (and at the same time is complemented by) cushioning, and its primary purpose is to prevent the user from over-pronating while wearing shoes. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, pronation basically consists of twisting your feet inwards.
In other words, the support of a shoe is supposed to hold your feet in a neutral stance, in a manner in which it can’t overpronate. Do note that this doesn’t necessarily mean stiff materials act as good support. Efficient support is one that helps you assume a natural stance without limiting your mobility.
There are three essential support elements; the heel counter, the arch, and the midsole. The heel counter should always compress the Achilles tendon a bit (without creating friction or hurting it). This keeps your heel and ankle rotation completely neutral, reducing fatigue and any possible straining.
The midsole is responsible for acting as a steady platform. It should be flexible enough to allow your feet to flex vertically, yet firm enough to prevent your feet from twisting or bending to either side. Lastly, the arch support is the one responsible for “holding” your arch so it rests in a natural position rather than being in constant tension. However, it’s impossible for the same arch mold to fit all feet; the smartest option would be acquiring insoles that fit your very own anatomy.
There’s not much thought behind this criteria; the sole is what ultimately determines whether you stay on the mountain or not. It can be your friend just as much as it can be an obstacle, and if you’ve ever been on the mountain, you know your outsole is the last obstacle you want to struggle with.
If you’re visiting the mountain – for whatever reason or sport it is – you need a pair of mountain soles. We’re no longer talking about variety or personal preferences; there’s just no other choice. Any sole that does not count with the necessary features to endure the environment and conditions of a mountain will fail miserably in activities like mountaineering. That also translates into you failing, which is the last thing you want when climbing.
Upper build materials and other parts of the shoe have an influence on its quality and performance, but the sole is what finally determines the real purpose of a shoe. You could take a running sneaker and attach a mountain sole to it and you would be able to get somewhere. Having a mountaineering boot with a non-mountain sole, however, is the equivalent of a free trip down the mountain (rolling, that is).
So, which qualities are the ones that make a sole suitable for the mountain?
The best mountaineering boots should have a much stronger grip than any other shoe, as they’re the type of footwear that generally requires the best grip. Your boots should be able to grasp uneven, irregular, and unstable surfaces to a certain degree. This is much easier when the boots’ sole counts with a rugged design, which basically consists of rubber lugs that stand out from the outsole. The deeper the lugs, the greater traction.
A multi-directional grip is greatly recommended. Normally, soles are engineered to function in the direction they are facing. For example, when you take a normal step you obtain a vertical grip – certain outsole and lug patterns are made to enhance the vertical stance. However, the same grip won’t be as efficient if the following motion is diagonal or horizontal. Keep in mind that the mountain is an uneven environment, and unidirectional traction might not be enough.
Q: How should mountaineering boots fit?
A: Mountaineering boots should fit in a manner that leaves enough space for you to voluntarily wiggle a bit inside the shoe, yet tight enough to prevent the boot from sliding back and forth as well as to the sides unintentionally.
Q: When to wear mountaineering boots?
A:As you can probably guess by the name, mountaineering boots are the most efficient on the mountain. However, their aggressive and heavy-duty design makes them suitable for a variety of other rough and heavy activities where regular footwear isn’t enough.
Q: Should I opt for synthetic insulation or natural down?
A:It really is up to you, they both have their pros and cons. Natural downs are much more efficient in terms of warmth and general insulation, as well as much more durable. Synthetic fibers tend to damage faster, but are much lighter and won’t lose insulation if wet.
Q: How to tie mountaineering boots?
A:It may seem like a silly question, but this is actually quite important. If your shoe counts with a waterproof design, it’s important to firmly lace the shoe in a way that the tongue is compressed thoroughly without leaving any space – else, water might leak in even with waterproofing.
Q: How long do mountaineering boots last?
A:Although mountaineering boots go through much heavier activities than any other footwear, they’re designed for it, and thus should last just as much as any other pair of shoes would for the intended activity. Any direct damage will affect the boot regardless.
Q: How much do mountaineering boots cost?
A:It depends on what you’re looking for. The top-notch mountaineering boots can cost up to $400, but they deliver only the best quality. Some other boots may offer a respectable performance for as low as $75 to $100.
Q: How to clean mountaineering boots?
A:The best moment to clean your mountaineering boots is as soon as you arrive from an expedition. The longer you wait, the harder it’ll be to clean the boots. If your boot is waterproof and there is a significant amount of dirt in a specific area, you could even wash it off while on the mountain to make things easier later on.
Q: Are these any good for snow?
A:Mountaineering boots and snow boots have a lot in common, meaning that they’re indeed efficient for snow. The rough design and thick soles make them ideal to dig firmly and keep balance on uneven snowy surfaces.
Q: Should my boots be waterproof or water resistant?
A:Water resistance is better than nothing, but waterproofing will always be the most effective solution. We recommend going with waterproof protection whenever it’s available, as it’s simply a much more thorough protective system in general.
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