17. Selecting Alpine Boots

Selecting alpine boots is typically based on mountain objectives, plus conditions. Factors include weather, altitude, and terrain.

Here we look different styles and brands of popular alpine boots, with considerations for each category. Bear in mind that most of the respected alpine and mountaineering boot manufacturers offer an array of boot options, based on your objectives.

1. Lightweight or Hybrid Hiking / Approach Shoe:

– Conditions – Great for a dry alpine climbing such as summer in the California Eastern Sierra
– Pros – Sticky rubber soles, waterproof, lightweight
– The video shows a pair of shoes from the Adidas mountain series. Adidas is better known for their urban adventures. However, their shoe line-up now includes fantastic trail runners, as well as mountain kicks with integrated gaiters to keep out the scree pebbles and dirt often encountered in talus fields
– Here is more info on scree and talus fields. While some loathe having pebbles in their shoes, it can be fun to run and jump down the talus as if skiing

2. Slightly More Technical Boot:

– This category is an excellent all-around boot.
– Conditions – Great for mixed terrain and alpine climbing
– Pros – Stiff enough on the sole or “shank” to accept crampons for low angle ice or snow climbing. Can also remove crampons for alpine rock climbing in these boots up to about 5.7+
– Typically features a Vibram sole, or other proprietary lug and/or patterned sole. While lacking sticky rubber as found on lighter hybrid shoes, they do provide a climbing rand for edges and slabs
– In this video, we show a slightly more technical Lowa boot. Lowa is one of those amazing mountain boot manufacturers offering a spectrum of trail, alpine, ice, and technical mountaineering kicks. For this boot, Lowa states that minimalist concepts unite lightweight construction with a stable, low-profile design and shock-absorbing features. The result is a close-to-the-ground feel, with comfort and support
– Here is a great read on Vibram:

3. Classic Mountaineering Boot:

– Old-school favorite
– Conditions – Winter snow and ice climbing in lower elevations and general mountaineering
– Pros – This style offers a high-top with insulated leather and a very stiff shank. Includes front and rear welts for fully automatic crampons. This style of crampon attachment is often easier to attach and remove, versus lace-up-and-cinch-style crampons for boots lacking attachment welts.
– Cons – Heavy and unwieldy. With today’s technology, one can find a technical boot that is both lighter AND warmer. This type of boot doubles as the shoes needed for a Frankenstein halloween costume. However they do everything, even if a bit tiring. Even long slogs and moderate rock climbing, depending on the user. After all, this is a technical mountain boot.
– The black boot depicted in the video is an older LaSportiva

4. Technical Ice & Alpine Climbing Boot:

– Conditions – Full winter and ice climbing
This style is the future of winter alpine and mountaineering boots
– Pros – Front and rear welt for automatic crampon. Integrated gator zips up and keeps snow out. Comfortable for walking, and very warm.
– Cons – Too heavy for summer alpine, and too cold for extremely high altitudes
– Here we show another LaSportiva from Italy. LaSportiva is often one of our favorite boots, based on the shape of their foot bed and their precision, across all their technical footwear

5. High Altitude Boot:

– Typically these boots are selected for high altitude mountaineering or extreme cold weather, such as on Denali in Alaska, or in the Himalayas of Nepal
– Pros – Features a “double boot” or even a plastic boot, with inner liner
– Conditions – High altitude peaks
– This is an entirely different class of technical mountain boot, and is NOT depicted in this video

Know your objective, choose the boot that fits your needs, and have fun!

We hope you found this video helpful. Do you have favorite mountaineering boots, or boot / crampon combinations? Feel free to comment below with questions or thoughts!


Please remember, climbing is inherently dangerous. Climb at your own risk.