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Mountaineers, ice climbers, and alpinists have never seen more options in boots. We researched 25 mountaineering boots before purchasing the top 10 for testing. All of these models will work with any crampon binding system, though some fit better than others. Some of these boots are agile and light, perfect for technical mixed climbing, while others provide more calf support, great for sustained front-pointing. We tested each boot while crushing tall mountains loaded with rock and ice. Some protected our feet from the elements, while others didn't perform as well. No matter your climbing style or budget, we've included a variety of models to fit most needs.
The Asolo Eiger XT Evo GV is a category-bending boot. It has what we expect from a super-gaiter boot: it climbs ice, rock, and snow well, is reasonably warm, and protects our feet from the elements. The surprising thing about it is the weight; it's approaching that of a three-season mountain boot.
However, it's not perfect. The lacing system is really simple, but it lacks a lace lock, so you can't isolate the lace tension in your forefoot from your heel/ankle. The gaiter zipper isn't waterproof, which slightly reduces the waterline. It's also not quite as warm as other models, though only cold-footed climbers out in the depth of winter might notice. Nevertheless, this is our favorite mountain boot, and the pair our testers reached for on hard climbs.
Boot style: Single | Weight (one boot): 1 lb 13.6 oz
REASONS TO BUY
Great on mixed and rock terrain
Simple, solid lacing
REASONS TO AVOID
Not very warm
Mountaineering boots get better every year, and the models in this review are a testament to that. Even though the La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX scores squarely in the middle of our group, it is still a great boot. Its low price and weight caught our eye. We loved it on the approach and for climbing technical rock with and without crampons. It sports a simple and secure lacing system. The fact that it's not as heavily insulated as the competition gives it some year-round versatility.
Most climbers will find the boot warm enough in the winter, but it's not the warmest. While the ankle flexibility was great for some terrain, our testers missed it on sustained steep ice. This is an excellent boot for the warm-footed on fast and light climbs or for spring, summer, and fall alpinists who need full shank performance.
In some ways, the Arc'teryx Acrux AR is in a category by itself. While it weighs about the same as some of the single boots in our test, it's a double boot, which means that climbers on overnight trips can bring the inner boot into their sleeping bag to dry out at night. It is fully waterproof. The lacing system is simple but provides some nice options on the approach and when things get steep.
The sole has an ever-so-slight flex, though we think only heavier climbers, or those with the weakest calves, will be able to detect this. These boots are also pretty pricey. However, for those who are getting high (but less than 6000m) or are spending a night (or more) out in cold weather, this boot is an excellent choice.
We've tested nearly two dozen mountaineering boots throughout the last decade. From South to North America, we truly put in the miles testing these boots throughout a range of conditions. Our biggest scoring criteria was, of course, climbing. We tested each boot with and without crampons from various different brands, climbing both ice and rock. We weighed each boot on our own scales, and we spent hours hiking up and down steep terrain. We tested using core criteria, in an unbiased way, to provide you with some of the best feedback out there.
Our scoring of mountaineering boots is divided across six performance metrics:
Climbing tests (25% of overall score weighting)
Weight tests (20% weighting)
Weather Resistance tests (20% weighting)
Warmth tests (15% weighting)
Hiking tests (10% weighting)
Lacing tests (10% weighting)
Lead tester Ian McEleney is an AMGA certified Alpine Guide. He spends over 100 days a year in mountaineering boots approaching objectives, leading technical pitches of rock, ice, and snow, and shivering at the belay. To give a well-rounded idea of how these boots performed for multiple users, other guides and experienced alpine partners who also wear size 43 gathered additional, sometimes contrasting, testing data.
Analysis and Test Results
If it's true that our security in the mountains begins with our own movement and our movement is rooted in our feet, then boots might be the single most important piece of gear you bring with you on a climb. A good mountain boot keeps feet dry in cold conditions, protects them from precipitation, supports the musculature in our feet and legs, doesn't inhibit efficient hiking on approaches and descents, is easy to adjust, and doesn't burden us with unnecessary weight. Sounds like an impossible mission! Modern mountain boots do these things better than they ever have in the past. In our test, instead of sorting the good from the bad, we tease out the differences between a field of good products.
To ensure that our test was as fair as possible, we restricted our selection to full-shank boots that have some insulation and a toe welt for automatic crampon compatibility. We excluded double boots that are designed for extreme cold and high altitudes (these are sometimes referred to as "6000-meter boots"). We also left out ¾ shank summer boots without a toe welt, the type of boot you might use for a simple snowy approach to a rock route. All of the boots in our review are suitable for use on winter ice and alpine climbs in the lower 48 states, Canada, Europe, and beyond. They are compatible with all crampon binding types.
Even with these restrictions, there are significant differences between products. This is in part because climbing mountains is more popular than ever before, and this growing economy allows manufacturers to create products that may have been too niche to be economically viable in the past. What this means for us lucky climbers is that we can find a boot designed specifically for the climbing we want to do!
Quality mountaineering gear is a major investment. While some may not hesitate to pay top dollar for a pair of boots, others are looking to walk the line between price and performance. In scoring and ranking these boots, we kept value in mind and identified boots that offer the performance you need at a price that is easier to swallow. Most notably, the La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme offers great performance at a more approachable price point. We also suggest that value-conscious shoppers consider the Lowa Alpine Expert GTX, Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX, and La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX.
A Note About Fit
A poor-fitting boot can spoil a trip. They make a WI 3 feel like a WI 6 or leave you limping - instead of leaping - up a glacier. In this review, we delve into the features and performance characteristics of the mountaineering boots, but we can't truly speak to fit because our testing team's feet are not the same as your feet. No matter how highly a boot ranks in our test, if it doesn't fit your foot, it's not the right boot for you.
Climbing performance is the most important thing we're after in this review. After all, if the boot can't handle the route, it doesn't matter if it can keep your feet warm or lace up easily. However, readers should be aware that of all of our metrics, climbing performance is most affected by fit. Also worth noting is that while these boots work with all crampon binding systems, not all crampons fit all boots well. Most of our testers prefer a fully automatic crampon binding, as it gives a better and more secure fit. It seems that the boots with less rocker, particularly the Asolo Eiger XT, Scarpa Phantom Tech, and Mont Blanc Pro, are the easiest to fit with crampons.
Our testing team tried to evaluate climbing performance as objectively as possible by climbing with the boots in three different media: water ice, mixed/dry tooling, and rock climbing without crampons. For ice climbing, we sought materials and construction in the upper of the boot that gave good support to fatiguing calves on steep ground. The La Sportiva Nepal Cube really shined here. We also wanted a sole that was perfectly rigid. Most of the models are rigid, but we found the Arc'teryx Acrux a little lacking here. Those with big burly calves won't notice, but chicken-legged ice climbers may prefer something stiffer underfoot.
For mixed climbing and dry tooling, we want a rigid sole, just like for ice, but we prefer it to be a bit thinner. We also want a lot of freedom in the ankle for fancy footwork. The Asolo Eiger XT and Scarpa Phantom Tech came through in all of these criteria, and the La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme is just behind with a slightly thicker sole. Some of our testing team was pleasantly surprised with the La Sportiva G5 Evo on mixed ground because the velcro power strap could quickly be loosened for more ankle articulation.
On bare rock with no crampons, we also like a lot of range of motion in the ankle and a thinner sole to keep our toes closer to the rock. To our surprise, we also found that we like a boot with a bit more rocker in the sole for climbing rocks. As with mixed climbing, the Asolo Eiger XT and Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme were favorites. We also liked the Lowa Alpine Expert for standard rock climbing.
Weight is an important consideration for almost any piece of gear we use in human-powered activities. For footwear, this is even truer. "A pound on your feet equals five on your back" is a classic adage from the backpacking world. It turns out that this has been validated by a number of scientific studies, including two conducted by the US Army (in 1985 and 1986). While the studies vary slightly in the exact amount of additional work required by heavy footwear, five pounds remains a good reference. For numbers a climber can understand, an additional pound of footwear is like adding four #6 Camalot C4s to your pack, or twelve 22cm steel ice screws, or ½ gallon of water.
In general, mountain boots are becoming lighter. In the past, there would be significant performance differences between heavier and lighter boots. Today, over half the boots in our review weigh two pounds or less. Among these are super-gaiter boots made for cold and gnarly conditions, as well as boots with more of an all-year mountain focus. The Asolo Eiger XT is the lightest boot in our test, but it can still go toe-to-toe with other models for warmth and weather resistance.
While the warmest boots are among the heaviest, modern insulation and construction technologies have disrupted that connection — a boot doesn't have to be heavy to be warm. The La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX is one of the lightest boots in our review. Not surprisingly, it's also one of the least warm. However, two of the warmest mountaineering boots in our review, the La Sportiva G5 Evo and Scarpa Phantom Tech, are also very light.
While light by old single boot standards, the La Sportiva Nepal Cube is pretty hefty by modern standards. What extra weight gets you is a high-top leather boot that's great for steep ice. Slightly lighter but much warmer is the Arc'teryx Arcux AR. Both of the Lowa offerings in our test are a bit heavier than comparable models.
Dry feet are warm feet, so the ability of a boot to protect our feet from water in all of its forms enhances the warmth and overall performance of our mountaineering boots. Wet feet are also more prone to blisters, which are a surefire way to spoil your trip. However, it's rare for climbers to ever stand in more than an inch or two of liquid water. Close readers of this review will notice that we avoid using the word "waterproof" to describe a boot. Step in a deep enough puddle with any of these boots, and you'll take on water fast.
There are many ways our feet can get wet on an alpine or ice climb. Snow can come in the top of the boot while we're post-holing. Seams in the upper can be weak points that let moisture in while we're belaying in sloppy wet snow. A creek crossing can be deeper than it looks. We can punch through the top layer of ice on a pitch to find water pooled beneath. It even rains in the mountains! While these boots have varying "water lines" that climbers should be aware of, our testers think how well they deal with snow in all of its forms is more important.
Our testing team looked at several factors when examining weather resistance. First, we looked at the construction and materials of the boot. Boots with an integrated gaiter score more highly, especially those with a super-gaiter. This includes models like the Asolo Eiger XT, Lowa Alpine Ice GTX, and the Arc'teryx Acrux, which will keep out any and all moisture to a depth of 11 inches. La Sportiva's Nepal Cube and Trango Tower Extreme and the Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro all lacked a proper gaiter, but the boot cuff was designed to hug our calves. We found this design to be quite effective. Taller boots allowed us to step into deeper streams before water came rushing in over the top. They also helped when engaged in serious post-holing.
In the past, some popular super-gaiter models achieved weather resistance by making the gaiter itself completely waterproof, with waterproof fabrics and a waterproof zipper. These days companies seem to be moving away from this. Three of the five super-gaiter models in our review do not have a waterproof zipper. Water is kept out with a waterproof flap sewn in behind the zipper or by the boot itself. Climbers should think of the gaiter as something that enhances the weather resistance without necessarily connoting waterproofness.
Varying designs can make it hard to tell where exactly the "water line" of a boot is. On several of these boots, the material used in the very top of the cuff let water in near our Achilles tendon. To discover these weaknesses, we filled a plastic tub with 6 inches of water and stood in it with each boot for 5 minutes. While this test might not have the most real-world crossover, it served to quickly reveal any weakness in a boot's design.
Mountain environments present many hazards, and when we're distracted, we may not notice or respond to these hazards effectively. Cold feet are a serious distraction and a challenge for any mountain boot. Not only do we sometimes stand still for extended belays, but we're also standing on the snow or ice, and with metal strapped to our feet conducting the heat away. Additionally, our feet are located far from our heart and core (the source of warm blood) and are a relatively low priority for our hypothalamus (the part of our brain that regulates body temperature).
A good mountaineering boot keeps our feet warm in several ways. It traps heat with insulation in the upper of the boot. Boots with a thicker and higher cuff generally keep our feet warmer. As a bonus, this type of construction often lends more calf support for steep ice climbing. However, sometimes the cost is decreased range of motion in the ankle and lessened performance on mixed terrain, rock climbing, and hiking. Boots also insulate our feet from the cold surfaces we stand on and from crampons. A thicker midsole and outsole help with this, but depending on the materials used in construction, can also add weight to the boot and compromise climbing precision.
The Arc'teryx Acrux and Lowa Alpine Ice are the warmest boots in our review, but they are also among the heaviest and bulkiest. An integrated super-gaiter can boost warmth. Notable is the G5 Evo. Because the lacing system is so fast and easy to use, we could snug the boot up when it was time to send, then instantly loosen it at the belay or around camp. We felt this helped our feet stay warmer than they might otherwise, without added insulation.
How warm a given boot is will be of different importance to different climbers. Those heading out in the winter who have a history of cold feet, a cold injury, or compromised circulation would do well to prioritize boot warmth. Climbers seeking a boot for technical alpine and ice climbs in the summer months (think as couloirs in the Sierra, ridges in the Cascades, and big faces in the Canadian Rockies) may seek something with a bit less insulation to avoid sweaty feet.
Even for those who don't enjoy a good hike for its own sake every now and then, hiking is an intrinsic part of mountaineering and alpine climbing. We often hike to approach and descend from even the most technical routes. On easy mountaineering routes, the movement is basically hiking! Still, that's not often the main thing we're looking for in a boot, so we don't give this metric a ton of weight in our evaluation, just some consideration.
The qualities we look for when hiking are not too far off from those we look for in rock climbing performance. A rockered sole leaves room for a more natural stride. Fore-to-aft ankle freedom contributes to this as well. Our favorite hiker is the La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme. It is the boot we reached for when the approach was long, especially when it was on dry ground. This was one area where the slightly less rigid sole of the Arc'teryx Acrux AR shone. This boot performed better than expected for a double boot on the hard, frozen ground of early-season approaches and the unforgiving ice of glaciers in late-season conditions.
The way we put the boot on our feet and get a good fit has evolved quite a bit from the simple shoelace. Some of the models in our review stand in testament to this fact. While boot closure systems don't make or break our selection of one model over another, they are relevant, so we gave them some consideration in our metrics.
We've gotten used to lacing systems that let us dial in different tensions on our forefoot and ankle. Our testers think this is crucial for a good fit and one of the tricks that help us keep our feet warm when climbing steep ice. Every boot allows us to do that. We appreciated simplicity in a closure system. The fewer steps we had to take when putting on the boot, the better.
Most anybody who has worn a boot could pull the La Sportiva Nepal Cube or Lowa Alpine Ice out of the box and immediately know how to put it on. The same can be said of the Asolo Eiger XT and Scarpa Phantom Tech, though we missed the lace lock, a feature that allows us to isolate the tension between our forefoot and heel/ankle.
The La Sportiva G5 Evo was the fastest boot to put on, take off, or adjust, and it earned some points for this. We really liked the Boa knob on the outside of the boot, which let us make adjustments without unstrapping our crampons or unzipping the gaiter. We appreciated the power strap on the G5 Evo and Acrux because it provided the fastest adjustments to upper boot fit.
Footwear is probably the most important purchase a climber makes, and also one of the most difficult. When choosing the best pair of mountaineering boots to buy, you first need to consider what type of boot will best fit your goals. None of the boots in our review are bad, but they won't all work perfectly for all climbs. Each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. They also won't all fit every foot. How well a boot fits your foot is the most important performance metric and one that's impossible for our (otherwise competent) testing team to evaluate.
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