10 Best Mountaineering Boots in 2021

Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto on

Are you feeling anxious and unsure about which pair of mountaineering boots to snag? Well, shake off that feeling and worry no more. Whether you need a boot that delivers a well-rounded performance or the best there is for the most treacherous of elevations, this selection right here will help you choose the right pair.

We have tested 70+ mountaineering boots to come up with this comprehensive top-picks list. There is a lot to sink your teeth into here—from the most versatile mountaineering kick to the pair that can be your starting point budget-wise.

How we test and review mountaineering boots

Core to the RunRepeat experience is helping mountaineers of all skill levels find the best footgear for their next ascent. To meet that goal, we test and review boots ourselves. Here is our approach:

  • To eliminate bias and promote objectivity, we buy mountaineering boots with our own money.
  • Our professional testers go through mountain-climbing hoops to identify each pair’s strengths and forte.
  • We reflect hundreds of expert reviews and thousands more from regular mountaineers in our reviews.

All those elements result in our very own rating system, called CoreScore. This exclusive 0-100 scoring system helps us round up the best mountaineering boots for your shopping pleasure.

Best overall

Ready your mountaineering hearts because the Karakorum from La Sportiva is simply stellar in almost every way! Yes, after testing over 70 brilliant mountain-specific kicks, this offering deserves the top spot in our books.

On rock, the Karakorum’s tough and studded outsole didn’t relent, giving us excellent surface traction and control. It wasn’t just on steep surfaces where we were quite pleased with its grip performance; even on flatter terrain, the boot kept us anchored.

Our ankles were also quite secure on crags and extremely uneven terrain. We give its stiff-yet-comfy collar A+ when it comes to support, yes!

Speaking of comfiness, it wasn’t just the Karakorum’s color that gave us an easier time on our ascents. It was practically every inch of it that’s plush, and from the moment we slipped into it, at that! Props to its gusseted tongue for giving us neither hotspots nor bunching around the instep.

And the Karakorum’s mostly leather upper floored us with its durability. Abrasive hazards didn’t seem to affect it that much, only causing some superficial scratches. The boot’s low-rise randing also did a fantastic job of preventing cuts and the like.

All that goodness in a light-ish pair? Yes, the Karakorum only reads approximately 880 g per boot on the scale. Give yourself a break and get this remarkable beast when you can!

See our full review and facts

Searching for a smart-looking mountaineering boot that crushes vertical miles at the same time? Then make space in your quiver for the Arc’teryx Acrux AR!

Precision is the name of the game in the Acrux AR. Its slim design really paid off in dividends during our climb, affording us laser-like accuracy on toeing maneuvers. The caveat to its slender build, however, was that we found getting in the boot rather challenging at first.

We were also wowed by the Acrux AR’s snug rearfoot zone. We didn’t get heel lift in at all, and our heel placements were very confidence-inspiring because of it.

For a double boot, this Arc’teryx must-buy doesn’t weigh a ton (unlike others). It’s not lighter than our top pick, but at 940 g per boot, its engineers did a great job keeping its weight as low as it is!

As for comfort, the Acrux AR gave us what we expected. While we had to go through its moderately lengthy break-in period, the boot kept our tootsies cozy soon after. Anyway, we want to give credit where credit is due: Most of the comfort we got out of the Acrux AR came from its foot-conforming liner. It’s insulated, too!

See our full review and facts

Best lightweight

Who doesn’t like taking on ascents with ninja-like prowess? We do, especially if it’s in the ultra-light Zodiac Tech GTX from Scarpa!

At no more than 620 g per kick, the Zodiac Tech GTX will give you nimble feet as you make your way to the top. We’re linking its awesome lightness to the boot’s minimalist leather upper and springy midsole.

Speaking of its leather shell, the Zodiac Tech GTX didn’t hold back in protecting our feet from bad weather. It stayed watertight throughout our ascent-slash-test, not allowing a single bead of moisture to ruin our day.

That said, we were equally floored by its moisture management on the inside. We didn’t get sweaty feet in the Zodiac Tech GTX. Yes, we highly recommend this mountaineering boot for summer use, too!

Gaining elevation with the Zodiac Tech GTX was also amazing. Scrambling was a cakewalk thanks to its aggressively treaded Vibram outsole. On vertical rock, we got the amount of purchase we needed on both smooth and rugged surfaces.

And have we bragged about its 300-dollar MSRP price tag yet? Yes, the Scarpa Zodiac Tech GTX is as light on your feet as it is on your wallet. Get a pair now and fast!

See our full review and facts

Trailing so close behind our top pick is the Aequilibrium ST GTX. This is among La Sportiva’s lightest bunch, weighing a measly 630 g per boot!

Flexibility is the Aequilibrium ST GTX’s forte. Whether on level terrain or slopes where we needed to scramble, the boot moved with our feet without much resistance. Whatever the engineers at La Sportiva did to make this kick highly maneuverable (although we’re placing our fingers on its mighty pliable ankle flex point), they deserve all the praise!

But what is mobility without secure footing to match? Fortunately, the Aequilibrium ST GTX has it. We tested its rubber outsole on scree and smooth rock, and we got more than enough traction out of it. We also didn’t slip on lightly mossy vertical terrain.

As for balance, we got tons of it in the Aequilibrium ST GTX. On the same scree field, not once did we lose our footing. Yep, this mountaineering boot is one stable piece of gear!

Its Gore-Tex liner gave us incredible waterproofing. We let the Aequilibrium ST GTX stand in water for about ten minutes, and it fenced out every bit of moisture.

See our full review and facts

Best alpine

Yet another Scarpa boot makes alpine pursuits a cakewalk, and it’s none other than the Phantom Tech!

Armed with the Zero Gravity outsole from Vibram, the Phantom Tech allowed us to safely climb moderately steep and icy terrain with extraordinary friction. Descents were also made safe by its blocky lugs and super-aggressive heel brake.

Despite all that stickiness, the Phantom Tech still managed to give us impressive responsiveness underfoot. There’s nothing quite like feeling your way on alpine territories, and this boot made us experience just that!

As towering as it may seem, the Phantom Tech is light. Weighing no more than 820 g per shoe, this Scarpa offering is lighter than our top pick by roughly 100 g.

We got cozy tootsies within its layered confines, too. Yup, its insulation never backed down in the snow, leaving us with happy, toasty feet in the cold.

The Phantom Tech’s zippered high-top upper also made our slushy climbing adventures one for the books on the dryness front. Not one drop made its way into its fabric upper, all while keeping our feet comfortably warm (but not sweating) on the inside.

Just a fair bit of warning: This mountaineering boot is among the most expensive alpine kicks out there!

See our full review and facts

Best for extreme cold

Are you aiming for that “king of the world” status by reaching the summit of that towering mountain? Well, we got the best footgear for you in the Phantom 8000 by Scarpa!

The name of the game in the Phantom 8000 is surmounting daredevil peaks, and in every sense, we highly agree.

Dubbed by Scarpa as their warmest mountaineering boot, the Phantom 8000 never gave us chilly feet throughout our high-altitude adventure. Its multi-layered outer shell (6 layers according to the brand) and top-to-bottom insulation made our journey to the top as warm as it could be!

Its no-freeze outsole courtesy of Vibram served its purpose to the nines. Yes, the Scarpa Phantom 8000 made every step on frozen rock reassuring for us. And although mainly used with automatic crampons on, its Vibram outsole granted excellent grip where thick snow, whether or not hardpacked, was present.

And have we mentioned its blessing of a closure system yet? Both its quick-pull lacing on the inner boot and the zipper on the outer shell were super-easy to configure. It’s true—the Phantom 8000 is among the easiest to configure, even with gloves on!

See our full review and facts

Whether it’s your first time climbing higher peaks or you see yourself as a virtuoso of extreme altitudes, the Scarpa Phantom 6000 will do you good!

Harsh weather? Biting cold? Deep snow? All that you can conquer in this summit-obsessed boot. Yes, we’re confident that the Phantom 6000 will do for you what it did for us, which is to keep your delicate feet toasty for hours.

Besides incredible insulation, this alternative must-have from Scarpa gave us pure water protection in extremely snowy conditions. Its built-in gaiter deserves a stronger emphasis here, as moisture didn’t even get past it at all, leaving the inner boot and our cozy piggies dry!

Just like our top pick, the Phantom 6000 offered us unbelievable traction on ice. It helped us ascend and descend with surefootedness, whether the surface we had to trample on was frigid, snowy, wet, or dry.

The Phantom 6000 also left a very positive impression on us on the support front. We’re bragging about its heel-centering rearfoot zone and impressively supportive arch!

While it’s a bit expensive, the Phantom 6000 has all the trappings of a fantastic high-elevation gear!

See our full review and facts

Best budget boot

Who said mountaineering equals overspending? If you ask the Salewa Crow GTX, it’s not!

At its 280-dollar MSRP, the Crow GTX goes against the current of pricey mountaineering boots and swims contently within the waters of affordable backpacking kicks. For the things it can do (which we’ll talk about shortly), this piece from Salewa has the word “value” written all over its proverbial face!

This boot has superior traction to match its low price. Yup, the Salewa Crow GTX helped us claw (no pun intended) our way across icy terrain and snowy slopes no problem. Over more normal backcountry surfaces—rocky patches, mud, and inclines—the boot provided us with intense grip.

“Highly insulated and watertight” also describes the Salewa Crow GTX. While its coziness is limited to a few Fahrenheit below zero, the boot kept our tootsies toasty on the icy mountain we climbed. No moisture from the slushy snow also got past its leather upper, which only meant dry feet for all of us!

Comfort-wise, the Salewa Crow GTX was also quite a doozy! Sure, its insulation played a big role in this regard, but the boot’s break-in-free interior translated to blister-free feet and zero hotpots from the off.

See our full review and facts
Garmont Ascent GTX
Garmont Ascent GTX Garmont Ascent GTX
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Also great

Coming in boldly but not pricey from Garmont’s camp is the Ascent GTX!

At $300 a pop, the Ascent GTX schools most mountaineering boots on the affordability front (bar our top pick, of course). To be honest, when we first saw it, we thought we’d need to spend about $100 more on it, but we’re glad we were mistaken!

For a B2 boot, which requires a semi-automatic crampon for steeper climbs, the Ascent GTX is quite light. Yes, this piece weighs no more than 650 g per shoe, which made our mountain-walking trips as speedy as can be.

About the Ascent GTX’s grip performance, we’ve only praises to give. Its outsole was as downright incredible on ice as it was on loose soil. The boot’s Vibram outsole also made descending on scree such a great experience—we got down slip-free!

Is the Garmont Ascent GTX stable on uneven terrain? Yes, the boot in question kept us as upright as possible on extremely rocky surfaces. We also didn’t lose balance on old gnarly roots.

So, yeah, the Ascent GTX from Garmont is a wise second choice, but maybe not for those who prefer extra-cushy footbeds in their boots.

See our full review and facts
Author
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto

Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and ran all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyses every detail of the shoes that you might buy.