The 5 Best Mountaineering Boots For Women

Enjoying the extra pitches of ice on a late-season ascent of the North Ridge of Mt. Baker  Washington.

After evaluating over 40 pairs of women's mountaineering boots, we purchased the best 10. Our experts put them head to head, testing them over several winters, climbing frozen waterfall ice, and in summers on alpine ice routes, which allowed us to evaluate ice climbing ability. To test hiking ability, we hiked many miles on rocky dirt trails, wallowed through deep snow on various approaches, and even mucked around in the occasional (and often unfortunate) rain storm. We scrambled up rocky peaks in summer boots and climbed rock routes in winter for the insulated boots, to evaluate rock climbing ability. No matter your style or price point, we've included something for your budget. Some top mountaineering boots are only available in unisex versions included in the Men's Mountaineering Boot Review.

 
Review by:
Lyra Pierotti
Review Editor

Last Updated:
Friday
May 18, 2018

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Updated May 2018
From snowy glaciers in Alaska to rugged peaks in Patagonia, we tested some of the industry's best mountaineering boots for women. We took them on ice and alpine climbs in Washington, Colorado, and Montana and plowed through deep snow on expeditions in Alaska. We also trekked miles of trail to reach scenic granite peaks in the Sierra and Cascades. We've included 10 of the industry's top models within a range of budgets, which you'll find below.

Best Overall Women's Mountaineering Boots


La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX - Women's


Durable, with ample ankle support
Lace-locking grommets
Super warm & waterproof
Good climbing ability
Bit into the top of some tester's feet
Sole collects snow
No pull-on loops

The La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX - 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.

Read review: La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX - Women's

Best Bang for the Buck


Lowa Mountain Expert GTX EVO - Women's


Lowa Mountain Expert GTX EVO
Best Buy Award

$395.00
at Amazon
See It

Easy to get into
Deep heel helps create good walking traction
Climbs very well
Lightweight
Less warm than other contenders
Webbing loops for laces seem delicate

The Lowa Mountain Expert GTX EVO - 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.

Read review: Lowa Mountain Expert GTX EVO - Women's

Top Pick for Summer Durability


La Sportiva Trango Alp Evo GTX - Women's


Top Pick Award

$299.95
(24% off)
at Amazon
See It

Durable
Excellent articulation
A little bit warmer
Heavier
Not for ice climbing
Cannot be used with step-in crampons

The Trango Alp is a very durable summer mountaineering boot. It is made of mostly leather, which improves its durability, and also adds a little bit of warmth to an otherwise un-insulated summer mountaineering boot. This may be a pro or a con depending on your uses, but we loved it for the ability to stretch the summer season and use a lighter pair of boots for more of the year. The leather also provides a supple, natural feel when hiking and climbing, flexing smoothly with every move, and a comfortable toe box ensures more comfort on the trail. The partial shank guarantees excellent smearing and edging on alpine rock routes, by allowing the toe to flex, which increases dexterity and improves confidence in your footwork.

The Alp is not optimized for snow, however, and is not designed at all for ice climbing. It has a rounded toe, so it cannot be used with step-in ice climbing boots that have a metal toe bail. (This smooth, rounded toe makes it much better for rock climbing). The partial shank also means it is not as easy to kick flat steps in steep snow—but gives it some forward rocker to make hiking and scrambling much more fluid. The leather also adds a little weight when compared to the Trango Cubes. We felt this was well worth it, overall, due to the improved comfort and climbing dexterity of a leather boot, as well as the excellent durability.

Read review: La Sportiva Trango Alp - Women's

Top Pick for Lightweight Three Season


La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX - Women's


La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX
Top Pick Award

$299.95
(23% off)
at Amazon
See It

Lightweight
Incredible edging/climbing ability
Comfortable and flexible when hiking
Gusseted tongue tightens down well
Not the best strictly ice-climbing boot
Less durable

Though not ideal for vertical ice climbing, the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX - 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 incredibly lightweight and nimble, allowing the climber to move light and fast over snowy and rocky terrain. Footwear is arguably the best place to focus on going lightweight—just think of how many times you lift each foot en route to the summit, and suddenly shaving a few ounces becomes a much, much more significant savings.

The Cube is a lightweight specialist, however, which comes at a cost to durability. That makes it a great "sending" boot, for your fast-and-light missions, but it might not be your best choice for regular trips in rugged terrain. If you have a quiver of boots, however, this one will be beloved for its light weight, tennis-shoe-like feel, and your body will thank you at the end of a long day.

Read review: La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX - Women's

Top Pick for High Altitude Alpine Climbing


La Sportiva Spantik


La Sportiva Spantik mountaineering boots
Top Pick Award

$750.00
at Backcountry
See It

Very warm
Light for what they are
Great climbing dexterity
Not durable for extended use on trail or rocky terrain
Not waterproof

The Spantik from La Sportiva is an excellent high altitude alpine climbing boot. It is very warm, especially for the weight. It is comfortable and supple. The boot has enough dexterity to feel precise on moderate alpine rock routes and to give you confidence on steep ice climbs. The double boot design adds warmth but also allows you to pull out the inner boot and keep it warm and dry in your tent or sleeping bag overnight.

The Spantik is not waterproof, which is not ideal for some climbs—or climates. We are glad to be able to pull the inner boot out and speed up the drying process, but when the sun is glaring on the glaciers we trek across to get to higher elevations, this can be a troubling and soggy ordeal. The Spantiks are also not optimized for rocky terrain or extended trail use, and while they perform very well, the durability will suffer from extended use on dry ground. The heel cup is a bit larger than the average female climber's heel, which meant that some of our female reviewers got a little heel lift when ice climbing and hiking. Overall, however, this is an excellent boot that offers a lot of good features for female alpinists.

The features that were most pleasing to our female reviewers were the light weight and suppleness of the outer boot. We know that it is best to think of pack weight as a percentage of body weight rather than a raw number—this means that smaller climbers will have to be stronger in order to carry a 50-pound pack because it might be nearly half of their body weight—but for a larger climber, this will be a lower percentage of body weight, which improves efficiency (assuming similarly fit climbers). The other, more anecdotal observation our reviewers made was that the suppleness improved comfort and movement economy. We think this is because the boots are often scaled down in size but the materials used are the same, so for a smaller size, this may make the boot proportionally more rigid. The Spantik is well articulated and supple, and we noticed.

Read review: La Sportiva Spantik

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. In this review, we have compared the top women's models on the market and included some common unisex boots, tested from a female perspective. For a broader discussion of some unisex double and super-gaiter boots, read our Men's Mountaineering Boot Review for even more possibilities.

Weight


The weight of your footwear is one of the most important things to consider. For this reason, it is our first testing metric. As we mentioned in our hiking boot reviews, one pound on your foot is the equivalent to carrying roughly five pounds on your back, because you must lift your foot repeatedly to climb a mountain (whereas a backpack stays in place, more or less).

Over miles of hiking, this adds up to more effort and strain on your body. Therefore, lighter is better whenever possible—so long as it doesn't come at a cost to warmth and protection. The lightest boot in this review is the 3-season La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX - Women's which only has a ¾ shank instead of a full-length shank, does not have a front toe welt, and is not insulated, all of which save on weight. These boots are 21.9 ounces per boot for a size 39.5. The lightness of this boot makes them ideal for long approaches on trail, talus, and even on firm snow, and excellent on alpine rock—but they are not designed for vertical ice climbing, long snow routes, or winter climbs. The fully rigid boots all weigh more.

Warmth


All the mountaineering boots have some type of insulation, but some are warmer than others. This is a function of the insulation amount and type used, but also of the shape and design—a little more wiggle room in the toes can help you keep them warm. We found the warmest to be the Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX - Women's and the Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX. Both are lined with Gore-Tex Insulated Comfort Footwear lining, which is waterproof and insulated to keep your feet protected in winter conditions.

Ice climbing in the Spantiks is pretty enjoyable.
Ice climbing in the Spantiks is pretty enjoyable.

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. We were impressed with the warmth-to-weight ratio of the Spantik, and highly recommend this one for women climbing at high elevations or in cold locations.

Water Resistance


Several of the women's boots we reviewed are considered waterproof, with Gore-Tex liners. This keeps water out and still lets a moderate amount of perspiration escape so that your feet don't get wet from sweating on the inside. Other features such as the silicone impregnated leather on the Nepal Cubes repels water from the outside- keeping your feet as dry as possible.

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.
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.

For even more protection from wetness, check out the unisex versions of super-gaiter boots, such as the La Sportiva Batura. 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.

The Trango Alp  an excellent summer mountaineering boot that can stretch the season just a little bit with the added warmth of the leather upper  and still keep you dry on the soggy  hot  midday descent.
The Trango Alp, an excellent summer mountaineering boot that can stretch the season just a little bit with the added warmth of the leather upper, and still keep you dry on the soggy, hot, midday descent.

The Trango Alp was an all-star in this category. The upper is made of Idro-Perwanger® Leather with a SubSkin Injection which eliminates the need for external seams and guarantees the total waterproofness of the product. If that isn't enough, it is backed up by a Gore-Tex Performance Comfort liner. In the challenging Pacific Northwet, we loved the durability and weatherproofness of these boots.

Rock Climbing Ability


The most nimble boots for scrambling over rock were the Trango boots from Sportiva: the Trango Alp and the Trango Cube GTX. With a more flexible and sensitive toe design, and (due to the lack of a crampon toe welt and a 3/4 length shank), these boots both edge and smear surprisingly well for boots.

The Trango Alp smears and edges like a dream on alpine rock routes.
The Trango Alp smears and edges like a dream on alpine rock routes.

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 Cube GTX makes scrambling a reasonably doable task in clunky boots. These full-shank, insulated boots still hold an edge well, so long as you pay a bit more attention to keeping your foot angled right.

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.
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.

Ice Climbing Ability


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.
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, and one of the most critical differences between men's and women's footwear.

When comparing the very similarly designed Mont Blancs and Nepal Cubes, 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.

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.
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 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 is 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.

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 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 appropriately laced, helps to hold the heel in place. For a less expensive boot, the Mountain Experts climb exceptionally 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 Alp and Cube GTX are three-season boots with 3/4 shanks and no toe welt, so they are not appropriate for vertical ice climbing.

For unusually cold regions, you may want an even warmer boot. We much prefer single insulated boots like the Nepal for ice climbing, due to less overall weight and bulk (and therefore increased dexterity, as well as movement economy), but if you need a double boot, the Spantik does surprisingly well. The heel was a bit large for many of our women climbing ice in them, but for moderate or easy ice, they can be adequate. Another consideration is the La Sportiva Batura, which some women rave about.

Hiking Ability


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 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 of the full shank boots in this review feature some degree of sole rocker to allow you to roll more easily from heel to toe while on the trail (on snow, this is less important, because you want to be able to kick flat, stable platforms in the snow to step up on).

Not surprisingly, the best boots for hiking are the ones with only a partial shank instead of a full-length shank, because these allow for forefoot flex while walking. The Trango Alp and Trango Cube GTX are an excellent example of this type of boot, and are designed to be a better balance for your summertime climbing priorities: they are much more comfortable on trails, talus, and rock, but less ideal for steep snow and ice.

Hiking on trails was still a pretty reasonable task for the Trango Alp summer mountaineering boot.
Hiking on trails was still a pretty reasonable task for the Trango Alp summer mountaineering boot.

Another factor affecting hiking ability is the height of the heel on the sole. La Sportiva uses an "Impact Brake System" on the Nepal Cubes, 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 Nepal had the deepest cut heel of any of the boots we reviewed and while the Mountain Expert and the Trango Cube GTX have the shortest incut in the heels.

Durability


The most durable pairs we tested were the La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX and the La Sportiva Trango Alp. With all leather uppers, a reliable Vibram sole, and metal lace grommets, these boots are designed to be your mountaineering and alpine climbing workhorses.

The only durability issue we noticed was that the plastic on one of the Nepal's toe welts began to delaminate slightly. The Scarpa Mont Blancs and the Lowa Mountain Experts are also all-leather boots with long life spans. The least durable model is the lightweight Trango Cube GTX, which has a synthetic and fabric upper that wears out faster than full leather. The Cubes are best reserved for you fast-and-light missions.

Conclusion


About to cross the glacier to reach the Torres in Patagonia while wearing the La Sportiva Trango S Evo with strap-on crampons. Cerro Torre rises in the background.
About to cross the glacier to reach the Torres in Patagonia while wearing the La Sportiva Trango S Evo with strap-on crampons. Cerro Torre rises in the background.

Finding the ideal pair of mountaineering boots to suit your needs can be difficult. We tested some of the top-rated women's mountaineering boots, and included some unisex boots tested by women, to help you compare the available options and make an informed decision when purchasing. To read more about the different styles available and why you might need a pair, consult our Buying Advice article.

Lyra Pierotti

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