In the mountains, low weight, comfort, and high technical performance are all qualities which are highly desirable. The Lowa Mountain Expert GTX EVO - Women's hits that sweet spot of being comparable to a comfy light-weight hiking boot while possessing technical ice capabilities. The wide tongue-opening makes them slide on to the foot more easily than any other product tested and the flexible ankle cuff and rockered sole allow them to hike very well. The stiff full shank and innovative tongue stud for lacing combine to offer the perfect amount of support and stability for front-pointing in the ice. The main downside we see to these well-priced boots are that they are less warm than some of the competition. However, in our tests, these are the most reasonably priced full-shank women's mountaineering boots that accept step-in crampons, and we think they are an amazing deal for what you get, which wins them the Best Buy award.
Lowa Mountain Expert GTX EVO - Women's Review
Cons: Not as warm as other boots, webbing lace loops seem vulnerable
Our Analysis and Test Results
Hands-On Review Of The Lowa Mountain Expert Boots
As the lightest full-shank women's boot we tested, the Mountain Expert provides great performance without weighing down your feet. Each boot weighed 31.32 ounces for a size 41 (which was the largest size we tested, and still the lightest). The lightness of these boots adds to the comfort while hiking and climbing. Even though we like the performance of the La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX - Women's, they are much heavier, which tires the legs and feet much more quickly over a full day of activity.
Insulated with synthetic Primaloft, these lightweight boots skimp a little on warmth. They still protect your feet in the cold while ice climbing and standing in snow, but are noticeably less warm than the Mont Blanc or Nepal Cube boots. This makes them a better choice if you plan to do a lot of hiking in your boots, but not a good choice if you plan on spending a great deal of time outdoors in below zero temps.
Lined with a waterproof/breathable Gore-Tex membrane, these boots protect well against wetness.
Rock Climbing Ability
The flexible ankle cuff also allows for more movement while pulling the occasional rock move. The sole rubber is fairly sticky, which helps to grip the rock, but the edging precision in these boots is less than in some of the other boots. Having a front toe-welt allows for use with step-in crampons, which makes them climb ice far better than a boot without a front welt, like the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX - Women's, but reduces the edging and smearing ability simply by adding bulk to the front of the boot. These boots are best at ice climbing, and won't fail you if you have to climb the occasional rock step to the summit. If you plan to do a lot of rock scrambling, try a boot like the Trango which is tailored to that purpose.
Ice Climbing Ability
Qualities that make for good ice climbing ability are stiff, full-boot support, and good heel-lock, which often comes down to fit and the lacing system. The Mountain Expert has both. The tongue has a metal stud in the center for winding the laces around. Lowa claims that this patent-pending feature allows for customization of the tightness along the top of the foot. At first we were skeptical, but found that this in conjunction with a good-fitting heel cup keep the foot firmly in place and prevent the feet from sliding forward and banging into the front of the boot.
With the heel locked in place, the feet and legs have good leverage when front-pointing in the ice without the insecure feeling of the heels sliding up in the boot. The stiff- full shank provides a great platform to stand on in crampons. Overall we were quite impressed with the ice climbing ability of these boots.
The flexible, slightly lower-cut ankle cuff allows for a great range of movement while hiking and approaching. The sole is rockered, which enhances the hiking ability and makes for more natural movement in an otherwise stiff boot. The heel is not as deeply incut as on the Nepal Cube GTX or the Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX - Women's, but is still pronounced enough to provide decent traction and braking when walking downhill in slippery snow.
Overall, we found the Lowa boots to be durable and hold up to hard use well. The one problem we foresee is that the webbing loops that hold the 3rd metal lace loop seem vulnerably placed, and could be snagged by sharp crampon points.
Since these boots are less warm than some of the other boots we tested, they are not the best choice for very cold climates like Colorado, but work better in wetter, warmer maritime climates, such as California and the Cascades. Since they are lightweight and hike well, they also make sturdy boots for backpacking in snowy, alpine environments.
For $100 less than our Editors' Choice winner, the Lowa Mountain Expert is a lightweight, high performing boot at a lower cost, which is why it wins our Best Buy Award. It is an excellent deal for a high-quality product.
— McKenzie Long