How to choose mountaineering boots

13/12/2019



We have previously seen that choosing the ideal hiking shoes is not so trivial. For a correct purchase, you first need to have a clear idea of how you want to use the shoe. From approaching to backpacking, from hiking to mountaineering, each shoe has specific technical characteristics that allows you to safely tackle mountain activities.

Today we are going to explore the mountaineering category, which includes the most technical mountain boots, designed for ascents and for those who approach the world of alpinism.



This type of footwear is designed to offer support and protection to the foot; the materials used for the upper are anti-abrasion, to resist rubbing against rock. The sole is characterized by a rigid and durable compound: in general, the different materials used to build a boot of this kind are more resistant and more performing than those used for hiking shoes.

Furthermore, these boots are usually compatible with automatic crampons - that is, they have a design that best accommodates ice crampons, with inserts to house the front metal cage and a lever on the heel - or semi-automatic crampons (ie they have the back insert but not the front one and are less rigid than the former to ensure a certain sensitivity on rock).

Last but not least is the presence of insulating material that guarantees optimal thermal insulation while using the boots on ice and snow.

But how do you choose the most suitable mountaineering boots for your feet? Andrea Fusari, mountain guide expert in all mountain disciplines, gives the below advice.

What influences the choice of a mountain boot?

Surely the choice of mountain boots is deeply linked to the terrain, to the environmental conditions and therefore to the context in which it is used. A well-chosen boot not only allows you to spend your time in the mountains pleasantly - that is, with your feet comfortable and protected - but above all it helps increase your safety.

It is therefore important to choose well, paying attention to the right warmth and waterproof performance, to the correct flex of the sole and to the reliability with the use of crampons, without forgetting the support and protection of the ankle, and not least the comfort. In short, it is essential to understand the kind of activity to be undertaken and its seasonality.



For clarity and simplicity, we can make an initial distinction between the various mountaineering activities in the four seasons:
  • Ice climbing and mixed climbing
  • Mountaineering in the high mountains
  • Via ferrata and rock climbing
 
Winter boots to tackle ice

Climbing on ice and mixed terrain is certainly a delicate and highly technical discipline: vertical progression requires the use of different equipment including single or double-point crampons. The boot must be precise, effectively lock the heel and offer excellent protection from the cold. It must also be equipped with a specific midsole that makes the boot stiffer. This characteristic is very important because on vertical ground most of your weight lies on the front part of the crampon so for safety and comfort you need excellent foot support. The specific models for these activities are usually compatible with automatic crampons, such as Pumori LX and Icon Plus GTX.



Mountaineering boots

The high mountain environment, on the other hand, has many different facets and there are various possible activities in this context: from large glacier crossings to ridges on the edge of the 4000 m Alps, from "simple" rock and ice climbs to ascents on the biggest mountains in the Alps, like the Matterhorn and the Eiger. You therefore need multi-purpose footwear, which perform well on glaciers with crampons but also on rock or along trails on approaches.

Technological innovations have helped greatly in this choice: today you can find high-performance footwear with less weight to easily lift your foot at every step! It is not necessary to use excessively rigid boots, indeed, a slightly more flexible shoe (without exaggerating too much) helps in the classic use of crampons and in rock climbing on easy grades because it improves sensitivity (compared to a fully rigid boot). Obviously, the choice of footwear for this kind of environment will be influenced by the very variable conditions such as temperature, quality and quantity of snow, etc.



​​​​​​​If you are looking for a boot suitable for temperatures that are not excessively cold, the G-Radikal GTX is certainly one of the benchmarks on the market: it offers excellent comfort and breathability and provides  safety even on the most technical ascents. We could call it a “Matterhorn shoe”, sensitive on rock and stable with crampons on. Another tried and true option is the Pinnacle GTX boot, which is stable and comfortable at the same time.

Boots for via ferrata and rock climbing

For a more "summer" use and for routes on rocky terrain, choose a lighter and more agile shoe for walking and climbing, perhaps with a more precise fit for enhanced precision on smaller holds. Don’t forget that a via ferrata or a "normal" route in the Dolomites includes both the approach and the return and therefore comfort is fundamental! The Ascent GTX boot combines all these features with semi-automatic crampon-compatibility: a very useful solution when on routes at the beginning of the season where you could find residual snowfields.



In summary, the choice of the best mountaineering boots starts from you and the type of activities planned in which season. Once this has been established, proceed with evaluating the different technical characteristics of the boot.  Don't be afraid to ask for explanations or advice in the shop and to mountain professionals: this will help you identify the right boot for your foot, guaranteeing safety and fun at high altitudes.
 


​​​​​​​Andrea Fusari has always considered the mountains his real home, a place without boundaries where he’s able to express himself 100%. He has been going to the mountains since he was a child, thanks to his parents and grandparents, learning first to hike and then to ski, progressing into rock climbing, icefalls and high mountains. He has been an Alpine Guide since 2014 and currently works for InMont. InMont has been a longtime partner of Garmont, helping us test and develop boots suitable for mountain professionals and beyond.
 
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