There have never before been more options (and specialization) in mountaineering boots than right now. Our testing team analyzed over 45 models before purchasing the top 8, putting them to the ultimate test. Some have been on the market for several years, some are new and improved versions, and others introduce new concepts. All of these models will work with any crampon binding system, though some fit better than others. Some of these boots were light and nimble, perfect for technical mixed climbing or ankle intensive French technique, while others provided more calf support, which is ideal for sustained front-pointing on classics in the Canadian Rockies. Our testers wore these models year-round, discovering that some provided more insulation than others. No matter your style or budget, we've included a variety of models to fit most needs.
The 8 Best Mountaineering Boots for Men
The eight models we've included in our fleet were tested across a broad range of conditions, in both the winter and spring. In addition to fast and light models, we looked at full-shank boots that can perform just as well on single pitch WI6 horror shows as kicking steps on Mount Rainer's Disappointment Cleaver. Our brand new roundup details each boot, alongside its pros and cons. We've also included a performance value chart to highlight each boot's performance compared to its price point.
In the past, if you needed a mountaineering boot with a removable liner (for drying out in your sleeping bag on overnight adventures) your only choice was a big, heavy, double boots. No more. The Arc'teryx Acrux AR has a removable liner but is as agile as any super-gaiter boot. We wore them on multi-night winter trips at altitudes above 14,000 feet (4200m). The waterproof zipper and durable gaiter fabric kept our feet dry through multiple creek crossings. Our testers liked the velcro ankle strap which helped quickly dial in the fit of the boot for different applications.
Our one climbing concern is that some testers found the sole to be slightly flexible. Our heavier testers seemed to experience this more often. Our other worry is durability. The sole of our first testing pair peeled off after five days of use, and our second had some separation between the rand and toe cap. We hope these are isolated incidents. These are one of the most expensive boots in our review, but we think they could be an excellent tool for climbers spending multiple nights out in cold environments.
Read review: Arc'teryx Acrux AR
The Scarpa Phantom Tech is a significant upgrade from the old Phantom Guide. Like other boots in this review, the Tech is pleasingly lighter than its older version, it's also slightly lighter than the comparable La Sportiva G5. Our testers also found it to be stiffer fore-to-aft than the Guide, and while we agreed that this was an improvement in climbing performance we're not sure it hiked as well. The fabric of the super-gaiter held up reasonably to wear and tear. This boot seems best suited to climbers with wide or high volume feet.
The Phantom Tech is lighter than any of the traditional single boots in our review, and warmer too. It's possibly the warmest boot in our review. However, because it lacks the high-top leather construction, it doesn't offer quite the same calf support as those options. Long pitches of WI4 and WI5 still require good technique. While we like the waterproof zipper, our testers were never able to figure out what is the point of having it twist around our legs. On several occasions, the zipper teeth disengaged after zipping, which left a gaping opening in the boot for water or ice chunks to get in. While this was always easily fixed, our testers wonder if this could become a long-term issue. This is also the most expensive boot in our review. Nevertheless, this is still our top choice for single day missions on brutally cold days
Read review:: Scarpa Phantom Tech
The Nepal Cube GTX is the latest in La Sportiva's venerable Nepal series. The Cube has trimmed 8.2 ounces (232 grams) per pair off of the previous version (the Evo). It has a carbon honeycomb construction in the sole, which our testers find makes them warmer. The overall height of the boot, combined with the stretchy, gaiter-like, design of the top of the cuff, keeps snow out even during extended post-holing. The other benefit of the height of this boot is that once laced up tight they become front-pointing machines. Even our skinny legged lead tester experienced zero calf burn with these boots.
This calf support does mean that the Cube is not quite as nimble on tricky mixed terrain as some of the more flexible options. It's made of 3.2mm Perwanger leather which showed no signs of wear during our review, and we expect them to last for years. The cost of the excellent calf support and durability is weight. While the Nepal is not the absolute least expensive boot we reviewed, it is one of the longest lasting. That coupled with its other qualities make it the best value for your money.
Our testers enjoyed climbing in this lightweight, nimble boot. The La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube is very stiff for the weight, which made for excellent performance on steeper mixed terrain. There's quite a bit of ankle flexibility, which made for great French technique but called for more calf stamina on extended front-pointing sessions. While our testers like the protection afforded by the integrated gaiter it does make lacing the boot a bit awkward. The tongue has some adjustable padding (like the Nepal Cube) which is helpful for fine-tuning the fit. Speaking of fit, even our testers with low-volume feet find the Ice Cubes to be snug in the forefoot.
No lightweight boot will be as warm as a traditional single boot and that's certainly true of the Ice Cube. Our testers found this boot to be warm enough on warmer winter days or colder days with steady movement. Those with cold feet, or climbers on more stop-and-go, pitched out terrain on colder days should be careful with this boot in the winter. The main qualm we have with this boot is durability. Our testers broke the plastic lace hooks on the upper part of the boot on two pairs in a row. Moreover, we found multiple reports of similar incidents online. Climbers with muscular calves who can keep their feet warm when it's cold outside, or those looking for a very technical boot for warmer weather (for summer alpine ice routes) will enjoy this boot.
Read review: La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube
Another boot upgrade, the G5 replaces La Sportiva's Batura 2.0. The G5 is slightly lighter than the Batura and also features the Boa lacing system in combination with a velcro ankle strap. We like this combination for quick on and off and comfortable micro-adjustments. However, we have heard many rumors about durability issues from other climbers with Boa laces in their boots. Another update with the G5 is the "air-injected rubber" rand. This has a more textured feel than a traditional rand that protected the Batura but we're skeptical if it will prove to be as durable.
Those concerns aside, we're pleased with the way this boot climbs. The sole is very stiff, and while the upper isn't quite as supportive as a traditional single leather boot like the Nepal Cube it still performs well on terrain with sustained front pointing. It's also lighter and warmer than two of the three traditional leather boots in our review. Take this boot on day missions in cold, technical terrain.
This Scarpa Rebel Pro GTX is one of the lightest boots in our review and is a pleasure to hike in. So naturally, our testers were pleasantly surprised with how well they performed on a 1500 foot M4 in California's Sierra Nevada. Of course, the ankle flexibility we enjoyed on the approach was beneficial, but we were also very impressed with the fore-aft stiffness of the sole. However, the same ankle flexibility that is beneficial on moderate mixed terrain (or for proper French technique) guarantees the dreaded calf pump on continuous steep ice. This is not an ideal boot for long, steep, water ice routes.
Our narrow-footed testers were pleasantly surprised by the fit; climbers expecting the wide forefoot typically found in Scarpa footwear might be disappointed. While our testing team used this boot in the winter, we weren't choosing it for colder days as it's noticeably less warm than other options. We also found ourselves wishing for the integrated gaiter of the La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube. Without a gaiter, snow gets in while wallowing on approaches and descents. This boot is ideal for climbers who need a technical boot for summer applications (think summer in the Cascades), or warmer winter days with minimal post-holing.
Read review: Scarpa Pro Rebel GTX
Nominally an upgrade, the Mont Blanc Pro has some significant differences that we don't entirely consider to be improvements. The gaiter/cuff at the top of the boot worked well for keeping out snow on approaches and descents with a lot of post-holing and we felt that it also added warmth to the boot. That being said, this boot did not feel as warm as the super-gaiter boots or the Nepal Cube, though it was warmer than the lightweight boots.
Our testers also found this boot to be fairly flexible both in the sole and in the upper. While this was a boon on long hikes, lower-angled snow and ice, and even some technical mixed terrain it was a bummer on continuous steeper ice. Our testing team did find this flexibility to be advantageous on moderately angled snow and ice when French technique was called for. We think this could be a good boot for climbers who need something comfortable and durable but won't be spending a ton of time on particularly steep terrain.
This is the least expensive boot in our review and also (just barely) the lightest. Uniquely among models in this test, it comes in three colors: lime, brown, and red. Aside from the weight, price, and color options, little about it stands out. Right out of the box our testers noted the lack of an integrated gaiter or even a snug cuff (like the Nepal Cube). Some sort of feature to keep snow out of the boot is becoming standard (6 of our 8 boots have something) and we missed it in the Lowa Mountain Expert GTX EVO and when in the mountains.
Our testers also found this boot to be not as stiff in the sole as our other traditional single boots but also not quite as flexible in the ankle as our other lightweight options. This made it suitable for easy to moderate alpine and mixed climbing, but not fantastic for ice or steeper terrain. This is a great value choice for climbers on easy to moderate terrain and winter hikers.
How To Choose A Mountaineering Boot
Mountaineering boots are possibly the single most important piece of gear you will bring into the mountains. Boots not only connect your feet to the terrain but keep you protected from the elements. Today's mountaineers have an exciting yet confusing array of options to pick from. Boots vary significantly in weight, warmth, support, and function. This article will help guide you towards a boot that will allow you to send with a minimal amount of suffering and hopefully let you keep all of your toes.
Mountaineering is an expensive sport no matter which way you spin it, with models running anywhere from $400 to $750 (or more). We've ranked each of the eight boots in order based on their performance and specialty uses. While some mountaineers or ice climbers might seek out the best of the best no matter the price tag, we also realize that others are willing to sacrifice some aspect of performance in exchange for a more affordable cost. We've awarded the La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX our Best Bang for the Buck and it rings in at $575 list price. While others in our review offer cheaper price points, the performance is not as high; however, if you're on a tight budget, we recommend taking a look at the La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube, Scarpa Rebel Pro GTX, Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX, or the Lowa Mountain Expert GTX Evo .
Style of Boot
When considering which mountaineering boot to buy, you first need to consider what category of boot will help you achieve your goals in the mountains. In picking a category of boot you should consider what types of objectives you have in mind. Some questions to ask yourself: Will I be climbing vertical ice, neve, snow or rock? Will I be hiking long distances to get to the climb? How cold is it going to get? Will I be spending nights in the mountains or just day tripping?
We have broken the boots we reviewed into four categories:Lightweight Boots
Lightweight boots have an upper boot that is all one piece. The upper may be composed of many layers sandwiched together, but they do not separate in any way. This is a relatively new category of boot. They typically have little insulation and more flexible uppers than heavier boots but retain a stiff sole. This lighter construction makes for a more precise feel on technical ground. They work well in warm to cool conditions and some climbers will carefully take them out on colder days. Single boots are the lightest category and are suitable for climbing hard ice, rock, and mixed terrain. The La Sportiva Trango Ice Cube and Scarpa Rebel Pro are lightweight bootsSingle Boots
Like a lightweight boot, a traditional single boot does not have a removable inner boot. Historically made mostly of leather, newer synthetic materials are increasingly being incorporated into the upper. These are typically warmer and have more supportive and taller uppers than a lightweight boot, so they perform better on steeper ice. They are not quite as nimble as lightweight boots. Single boots are a good option for climbing anywhere in the lower 48 year-round and many objectives in Canada and Europe. The La Sportiva Nepal Cube, Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro, and Lowa Mountain Expert GTX Evo are single boots.Super-Gaiter Boots
One downside to super-gaiter models is that they can be hard to dry. Since the gaiter cannot be removed, it makes for less drying airflow around the inner boot. This may not be a problem if you climb once a week but might become an issue if you are climbing many days in a row.Double Boots
Double boots are composed of an inner and outer boot which separate. The removable inner boot goes into a sleeping bag at night to dry out, so they're the best choice for multi-night adventures in the winter. Traditionally double boots have been warm enough to wear on the highest peaks of the planet, with the cost of added weight and bulk and compromised climbing performance. The Arc'Teryx Acrux AR is the only double boot on the market with climbing performance to match that of a super-gaiter boot. This is because it doesn't have all the insulation for slogging up some snowy Himalayan Peak. It does still have a removable liner, making it an excellent choice for winter overnight trips throughout the lower 48.
How to Size Mountaineering Boots
The size of a mountaineering boot will have as much to do with warmth and performance as features of the boot. Many climbers feel that they must fit their rock shoes as tight as possible in order get maximum performance out of their feet. While this is debatable in sport climbing shoes, it is certainly not the case when it comes to mountaineering boots. If they fit too tight, you will suffer from two problems for sure: the first is that your blood flow and toe movement is restricted, so your feet will get cold. The second problem with fitting your boots too tight is that your toes will bang against the end of the boot when kicking in your front points or when walking downhill. We recommend sizing big enough to be able to wiggle all of your toes about one third as much as you can without shoes on.
Whenever possible we recommend trying on mountaineering boots before buying them. Our testers prefer a single mid-weight wool sock for all styles of boots over any combination of two socks. Try on boots with whatever sock set up you will climb in. Since your feet swell in the mountains, attempt to try on late in the day when your feet are naturally slightly larger. Lace them up tight and try to kick into something with as much force as it takes to kick front points into ice. If your toes bump the end of the boot when doing this, then we recommend you upsize until this stops. Second, try to stand on a small edge under the toe welt of the boot. This will simulate standing on front points and you should feel if your heels lift up in the back of the boot. A small amount of heel lift is okay but too much and your climbing will suffer. The key is to find a balance between toe wiggle and heel lift. We have found that different brands have distinctly different heel cups, so you may need to switch brands to find the right combo of length vs heel hold down.
None of the boots in this review are cheap, so we also recommend buying boots from online retailers that have generous return policies. If you can swing it, order two sizes and return the ones that don't fit. We won't tell. As a very general rule, we recommend buying your true street shoe size or possibly one-half size bigger.
When considering footwear you must consider that our test feet are not your feet. Even though we may highly recommend a boot for its features if the boot doesn't fit your foot well it simply isn't the right boot for you.
The boots in this review differ in weight, support, and function making it difficult to sort through the options. When choosing the best pair of mountaineering boots to buy, you first need to take into account what type of boot will best fit your mountaineering goals. We hope that the tests and observations written about in this review has helped you to sort through the different features to find the perfect pair for your feet. Our Buying Advice article offers even more advice on what to keep in mind when making your decision.
— Ian McEleney & Luke Lydiard