Why Do Mountaineers Carry Special Shoes
mountaineering requires special boots

Mountaineering is a very extreme activity. It requires a lot of special equipment. Once upon a time it even caused unexpected lifestyle habits.

So, you’ll often see mountaineers that have a lot of gear with them. Very important items are shoes and boots. Many people wonder why mountaineers have those special shoes.

Mountain climbers have shoes/boots with special spikes (crampons), so they can easily move and climb through various terrains, even glaciers. Spikes make friction between shoes and the mountain and enable easier climbing.

So, today’s topic will give you more detailed info regarding mountaineering footwear.

Table of Contents

Difference Between Mountaineering and Hiking Boots

It’s not unlikely for people to think that mountaineering and hiking boots are similar. Because they are…in some ways. Both of them can be used for hiking and tours, they can be waterproof and breathable.

But, here are things that make mountaineering boots different from hiking ones.

  • They are a bit more robust. Mountaineering boots are much stiffer and bulkier. You can bend hiking shoes with your hands, but won’t be able to do the same with mountaineering ones.
  • Different insole. Their insoles are made from a stiff material. Earlier they consisted of heavy metals, but today they are made from plastic and weigh much less.
  • They have a higher stem. This can provide more support for feet and therefore make them more stable. But, that’s why these boots weigh a bit more.

So, if you go hiking, your hiking shoes will do the job, but if you tend to try mountaineering, never go without a proper mountaineering boot.

Can You Use Mountaineering Boots For Hiking?

Many outdoor enthusiasts and extreme sports lovers often combine two activities. So they opt for mountaineering and hiking. Logically, they question if they can wear mountaineering boots for hiking.

Well, mountain climbing boots are not initially designed for hiking, but people can still use them for some specific hiking conditions.

If there is some snow or ice on hiking trails, mountaineering boots can be a good option. Also, if you plan to hike on steep terrain, mountain boots can come in handy.

Bear in mind that these boots are bulkier and have reduced breathability than hiking ones. If you plan to go on some flat terrain hike that involves a lot of walking, you should opt for hiking shoes.

So, choosing the right shoes really depends on sports activity, terrain, and weather conditions. Therefore, before choosing your new footwear, be sure to know what kind of activity you’ll be doing.

Note: Be sure to check all the information regarding gear and footwear in the professional shop.

Mountaineering Boots and Crampons

One thing that is commonly related to mountaineering boots is crampons.

These gear items are essential for mountain climbs and mountaineering boots are made to fit with crampons.

They are friction gadgets you can attach to the boots.

Crampons are mainly used for traversing snowy terrain and ice climbing. Boots and crampons when combined, provide more secure traveling.

Climbers never go to icy terrain without crampons. Mountain climbing boots are special because their construction enables an easy crampon attachment.

That’s why you should never use hiking shoes/boots for mountaineering, as hiking shoes won’t be able to support crampons.

Types of Mountaineering Boots

Good mountaineering boots are extremely important. They can give you stability on various terrains. Plus, you can attach crampons for snow conditions and glacier climbs.

Bear in mind that having backpacking boots may not be a good option for mountaineering. That’s because you might not be able to place crampons on backpacking footwear.

These kinds of boots are more flexible, therefore their soles may not be best for your feet, as they can make your feet easily tired.

On the other hand, mountaineering boots can give you much-needed stability. So, take a look at two types of most common mountaineering boots.

there are various types of mountaineering boots

Insulated Mountaineering Boots

Insulated mountaineering boots are great for snow and glaciers. Even though some people love to wear them during any time of the year, they are mostly meant for winter, early (May/June), and late-season (September).

When it comes to the warmest insulated boots, they are also called double boots. That is because they have two parts.

The first part consists of inner booties for insulation, and the other part is made from waterproof shells that have soles.

Some traditional shells were plastic earlier, but today there are many various fabric options. Synthetic materials are good, as they are more flexible and can provide more comfort.

Note: An insulated boot that doesn’t have removable booties might not have as good insulation as the ones with inner booties.

Non-Insulated Mountaineering Boots

For mountaineering in milder climates that don’t have much snow or glaciers, non-insulated boots might be a good option. They are lighter than insulated ones, so that adds to their comfort level.

Many people wear them during mid-season (July/August).

So, depending on the climbing season, it’s mandatory to choose the right type of mountaineering boots.

Note: Best mountaineering conditions and seasons depend on the place and type of mountain. So, always check the information about your climbing route.

Types of Crampons

Crampons are extremely important for mountaineering. They are actually quite inevitable. Here are two types of crampons you will come across.

  1. Steel crampons. These ones are sturdy and last very long. So, many people use them for general mountaineering adventures.
  2. Aluminum crampons. Even though aluminum ones are a bit lighter than steel crampons, they are also less durable. On moderate snow slopes, aluminum crampons can be a good choice. But, if you plan on going through rocks and snow or the steepness, you will need steel crampons, as they have front pointing.

Note: Be sure to check with a specialized person at the store. They should give you advice regarding which type of crampons to use and when.

Crampon’s Binding Types

Before stepping on some rough terrains, you will need to attach your crampons to the boots. There are three binding types, so check them out.

  1. Strap-on crampons. These ones are made from nylon webbing straps and they have flexible toe and heel bindings. You can attach them almost to any mountaineering boots.
  2. Step-in crampons. These crampons have wire bails in the front and heel levers in the back. That way you can attach them to your boots for extra security. You need to have boots that have at least 3/8” welts or grooves, both on the toes and heels.
  3. Hybrid crampons. These ones have heel levers that need boots with some rear welts or grooves. The toes can be attached with some straps and toe bindings. The bindings can fit boots with or without toe welts.

Crampon and Boot Compatibility

Mountaineering boots would not be that special without crampons. But, with them, they really look all-mighty. So, having the right crampons for your boots is not just a matter of aesthetics, but a major security need.

Any steep or icy terrain requires some nice crampons. They are necessary for traction, so you need to use them as they will enable you to travel safely through snow and glaciers.

So, here are a few things to consider when choosing crampons/boots for mountaineering. Of course, always consult with the professionals at the store, as they should be able to help you make the right choice.

Determine the Type of Boot

Before choosing the right crampons, you’ll need to make sure you know what kind of boots you have.

What’s like the boot’s sole? Is it highly flexible, semi-flexible, or rigid? Does the boot have some toe or heel welts, or maybe both?

That way you will know what to search for in boot in order to match desired crampons. Plus, you will be able to explain easier to a professional at the store what you need.

What Will Be Your Activities?

It’s mandatory to know what kind of activities you are planning. This is going to determine what kind of footwear and crampons you will need. It’s good to know there are various types of crampon bindings.

That way you can easily pair your boot type with the right crampons so they can support you throughout your adventure. 

Match the Boot and Crampon Flexibility

Flexibility is also a major thing when it comes to crampon-boot compatibility. You need to make sure the flexibility of your boots matches the crampon flexibility.

It’s important to know that various terrains require different footwear flexibility. So, to make sure you choose the right pair, always check with the professional at the store.

Take the Boots to Shopping

If you want to be sure your crampons will fit your boots, take the boots with you to the crampons shop. That way you’ll be able to choose the right fit.

Crampons must fit the boots, it’s extremely important, as they are the main thing that enables you to walk through various terrains.

They may protect you from slipping when walking over glaciers.

The Bottom Line

Mountaineering gear is mandatory. That means boots too. Besides all the other gadgets, footwear is extremely important.

Always make sure to have quality mountaineering boots and crampons by your side.

Before heading on any mountaineering adventure, hire a professional guide, and never do it by yourself.

People that are professionally trained for mountaineering should explain to you everything about technique, safety, and gear.

That way you’ll be able to enjoy this extreme activity more confidently.

Bear in mind mountaineers’ mantra: “It’s always farther than it looks, it’s always taller than it looks and it’s always harder than it looks.”

So, stay safe and never underestimate the environment around you.

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