The Best Mountaineering Boots For Women Review

From wet and snowy glaciers and peaks in Patagonia, to many laps on steep pitches of solid ice in Ouray, Colorado, to temperate ice climbing in Lee Vining Canyon, California, these boots spent several seasons scaling pristine frozen water, which allowed us to evaluate ice climbing ability. To test hiking ability, we hiked many miles in them on rocky dirt trails, wallowing through snowy approaches, and traipsing about in rain. We scrambled up rock steps, and climbed rock routes in winter to evaluate rock climbing ability. We scored the boots on warmth, water resistance, weight, ice climbing ability, hiking ability, rock climbing ability, and durability. After extensive testing, we are confident we have found the best women's mountaineering boots.

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Test Results and Ratings

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Analysis and Award Winners


Review by:

Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
April 10, 2013

Best Overall Women's Mountaineering Boots


La Sportiva Nepal Evo - Women's


Editors' Choice Award
La Sportiva Nepal Evo - Women's
Price:   Varies from $408 - $510 online
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The La Sportiva Nepal Evo - Women's easily pulled ahead in our tests, winning it the Editors' Choice Award. Though it is the heaviest boot in the review, it has the highest climbing performance of any of the boots. It is a beefy, durable boot that is insulated and fully waterproof with a full leather upper and metal lace grommets. It has the most sophisticated lacing system of the boots we evaluated, allowing the wearer to customize tightness and fit, while providing excellent heel-lock for steep ice climbing and front-pointing. This boot performs for ice climbing, mixed climbing, and mountaineering.

Best Bang for the Buck


Lowa Mountain Expert - Women's


Best Buy Award
Lowa Mountain Expert - Women's
Price:   $395 List


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The Lowa Mountain Expert - Women's proved to be the best deal if you are in the market for a single boot for ice climbing. Costing almost $200 less than our Editors' Choice winner, and still climbing very well, this waterproof boot can get the job done without breaking the bank.

Top Pick for Three-Season


La Sportiva Trango S Evo - Women's


Top Pick Award
La Sportiva Trango S Evo - Women's
Price:   Varies from $256 - $320 online
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Though not ideal for vertical ice climbing, the La Sportiva Trango s Evo - Women's wins our Top Pick award for being a top notch three-season alpine boot and excelling at hiking and rock climbing. It is extremely lightweight and nimble, allowing the wearer to move light and fast over snowy and rocky terrain to achieve incredible summits.




Analysis and Test Results


Finding the perfect mountaineering boot can be tricky. Depending on your objectives, the shape of your foot, and your budget, the search for the ideal boot can take some digging. Here we have compared the top women's models on the market. There are currently only unisex versions of double boots and super-gaiter boots, so if you are a woman who is interested in those warmer styles of boots, read our Men's Mountaineering Boot Review for even more possibilities.

Weight


The weight of your boots is significant. As we mentioned in our hiking boot reviews, one pound on your foot is the equivalent to carrying five pounds on your back. Over miles of hiking, this really adds up to more effort and strain on your body. Therefore, lighter is better whenever possible, without sacrificing warmth and protection. The lightest boot in this review is the 3-season La Sportiva Trango S Evo - Women's which only has a shank instead of a full-length shank and also does not have a front toe welt, both of which save on weight. These boots are 23.3 ounces per boot for a size 39.5. The lightness of this boot makes them ideal for long, wintery approaches, but the lack of a toe-welt and fully rigid sole make them not work for vertical ice climbing. The fully rigid boots all weigh more, with the heaviest being the super burly Nepal Evos at 35.26 ounces per boot for a size 40. These all-leather boots with metal lace grommets are super durable, but this also increases their weight.

Warmth


All the mountaineering boots have some type of insulation, but some are warmer than others. We found the warmest to be the Scarpa Mont Blanc - Women's and the Sportiva Nepal Evos. Both are lined with Gore-Tex Insulated Comfort Footwear lining, which is waterproof and insulated to keep your feet protected in winter conditions. The tall, stretchy gaiter-like cuff on the Nepals helps to seal in warmth and keep more of your ankle protected. The Lowa Mountain Experts are insulated with Primaloft synthetic insulation to keep your toes from freezing, but we found them slightly less warm than the other two single boots we reviewed. For even warmer boot options, check out the best double boot, the La Sportiva Spantik or a unisex version of a super-gaiter boot, like the Editors' Choice La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX.

Water Resistance


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After extended periods under snow and wetness, cold and water can leak a bit on the top of the foot in the Scarpa Mont Blanc.
All four women's boots that we evaluated are lined with a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex membrane. This keeps water out and still lets a moderate amount of perspiration escape so that your feet aren't drenched on the inside. Other features such as the silicone impregnated leather on the Nepal Evos repels water from the outside- keeping your feet as dry as possible. For even more protection from wetness, check out the unisex versions of super-gaiter boots, such as the Salewa Pro Gaiter. These types of boots have a permanently attached outer gaiter which adds a second layer of protection to the boot. Additionally, the laces usually stay dry by being safely tucked under the gaiter with a waterproof zipper.

Rock Climbing Ability


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Rapelling a rock step on the approach to Paso Superior in the Chalten Massif, Patagonia, while wearing the Scarpa Mont Blanc. The Vibram sole grips the rock well.
The most nimble boots for scrambling over rock is the Trango S Evo. With a more flexible sole and more sensitive toe due to the lack of a crampon welt, these boots edge and smear surprisingly well for somewhat bulky footwear. The other three fully rigid boots all have Vibram rubber soles for added grip on the rock. The range of motion allowed by the flexible ankle cuff in the Nepal Evos makes scrambling a fairly doable task in clunky boots.

Ice Climbing Ability


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The La Sportiva Nepal Evo lacing system. Note the special lace-lock grommet that is the 5th down. This amazing feature allows you to first tighten the bottom laces on top of the foot, lock them in, and then lace the top of the boot.
Two primary features allow for a boot to climb ice well: a stiff, supportive sole (which every full-shank boot provides), and sufficient heel-lock (which is often a function of the lacing system). Ideally your heel will be held firmly in place without it lifting in the back or sliding forward as you kick. This is where we noticed a difference in the models of boots.


When comparing the very similarly designed Mont Blancs and Nepal Evos, the Nepals shine in the lacing system, which securely holds the heel down, but the Mont Blancs fall short. Seemingly to mimic the Nepals, they have a webbing lace loop on top of a metal lace catch, where the Nepal has a webbing loop above a metal lace lock.
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The annoying lacing system on the Scarpa Mont Blanc. Note the fourth lace loop down from the top is webbing, and below it is another open metal lace catch. When the laces come out of the lower lace catch, they are hard to replace due to the webbing loop.
On the Nepal, this feature tightens the bottom of the boot and the top of boot separately, which really customizes fit and support. By contrast, the Mont Blancs have an open lace catch instead of a locking piece. This results in the laces coming undone from the catch, but being constricted by the webbing loop above it. This does not allow for additional fit customization, but is instead just really annoying and also allows the heel to slide up instead of staying securely in place. If the lace comes out of the catch, there is no way to fix it with gloves on, so you have to remove your gloves to fiddle with the laces, which are hard to tighten enough as it is.

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The metal tongue stud is a patent-pending innovation that is intended to allow the wearer to customize lace pressure along the front of the boot. We feel that it does help with the heel lock while climbing.
The lacing system on the Lowa Mountain Experts allows them to open up further than any of the other boots, and makes them the easiest and most comfortable to slip into. They also have a metal stud in the center of the tongue, which when laced properly, helps to hold the heel in place. For a less expensive boot, the Mountain Experts climb extremely well.

We found the Nepals and the Mountain Experts to be the best boots for climbing vertical ice. The Scarpa Mont Blancs, since they also have a fully rigid sole, are not far behind. The Trango Evos are a three-season boot with a 3/4 shank and no toe welt, so they are not appropriate for vertical ice climbing.

Hiking Ability


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The La Sportiva Nepal Evo (left) and Scarpa Mont Blanc. It is interesting to note that the Nepal is size 40 and the MB is 40.5, but their sole length is virtually identical. The Nepal has a deeper incut heel on the sole, providing better downhill traction
The hiking ability of a clunky mountaineering boot is greatly improved by sole rocker. A rockered sole encourages more natural movement, and in combination with a flexible ankle cuff for range of movement, you can walk somewhat naturally. All three of the fully rigid soled boots, the Nepal Evo, the Mountain Expert, and the Mont Blanc, have a rockered sole, though the Mont Blanc has the least Rocker and the Nepal has the most noticeable.

Obviously, the best boots for hiking are ones with only a partial shank instead of a fully rigid shank, because these allow for forefoot flex while walking. The Trango S Evo is an example of this type of boot, and is designed to be worn on longer hikes and approaches than the fully rigid boots in this review.

Another factor affecting hiking ability is the height of the heel on the sole. La Sportiva uses an "Impact Brake System" on the Nepal Evos, which is essentially a tall heel designed to catch on rocks, dirt, and snow as you hike downhill to prevent you from sliding. This adds more traction and stability to descents. The Nepals had the deepest cut heel of any of the boots we reviewed and while the Mountain Expert and the Trango S Evo have the shortest incut in the heels.

Durability


The most durable boots we evaluated were the La Sportiva Nepal Evos. With an all leater upper, a beefy Vibram sole, and metal lace grommets, there is not much on this well made boot that can fail or break. The only downside we noticed was that the plastic on one of the toe welts began to delaminate slightly. Similarly, the Scarpa Mont Blancs and the Lowa Mountain Experts are also and all leather boot with long life spans. The least durable model is the lightweight Trango S Evo, which has a synthetic and fabric upper that will wear out faster than full leather. However, these boots will last several seasons of hard use before wear is noticeable.
McKenzie Long
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Unbiased.