5 of the best... 3-4 season boots reviewed (2018)

Stiff enough to wear with crampons on snow, yet flexible enough to be comfy below the snowline on scree, rock and mountain paths, 3-4 season boots are the most versatile you can buy. Let’s check out five of the best...


FIT

No boot is worth having if it doesn’t fit your feet properly. The inside of the boot should be around 13-15mm longer than your foot, which you can gauge by putting on the boot without the laces tightened up and then placing your forefinger down the inside of the boot at the heel. The upper should be snug and comfortable across the foot. Better outdoor stores will measure your feet and match you to the correct footwear.

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ANKLE CUFF

The ankle cuff helps prevent mud and grit from entering the boot. It also protects the ankle against scrapes on rocks. Stiffness in the ankle cuff reduces the strain on the ankle on slopes and scrambling by adding extra support, which makes it less tiring to wear on rockier ground or snow. But on easier ground, smooth paths and moorland, ankle support is less important. Some also prefer the freedom and easier ankle movement of boots with lower or softer ankle cuffs.

DURABILITY

If you want your boots to last as long as possible, look for uppers with minimal stitching and a rubber rand at the toe box. For maximum durability look for a rubber rand that encloses the whole boot. Durable designs are most important for those regularly heading out onto rockier ground and ice-covered mountains, but less important if you walk less often in the hills or tend to stick to paths or moorland walks.

CRAMPON COMPATIBILITY

Not all boots are designed to be used with crampons, due to the stiffness of the sole and flexibility of the upper. Crampons are not generally recommended for 3-season boots, but flexible crampons rated as C1 can be fitted to 3-4 season boots, while stiffer crampons rated as C2 can be fitted to 4-season boots.

MIDSOLE STIFFNESS

Grab the boot by the toe and heel and bend the toe towards the heel, then twist the toe while holding the heel stationary. The harder it is to bend the boot in these two directions, the stiffer the midsole is and the better the boot will perform on snow and ice, and be compatible with crampons.

OUTSOLE LUGS

Deep, widely-spaced lugs will bite into soft mud and snow without clogging, while also providing many years of wear before they are too shallow to give a good grip on soft ground. A heel breast between the forefoot lugs and heel of the sole adds valuable braking power on descents.


Asolo Lagazuoi £210

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  • Men’s 6-13

  • Women’s 4-9

  • Weight 1722g (size 11)

It's good

This is a very well-priced boot for what you get, and it’s also lighter than others. The upper is 2.2-2.4mm nubuck leather with a Gore-Tex waterproof lining, and this is protected by a full rubber rand for more durability. Underfoot you get a Vibram sole unit with deep, well- spaced lugs and a deep heel breast for grip in soft terrain. Sole stiffness is also good both laterally and toe-to-heel, so this makes the boot great for scrambles and edging on snow. The ankle cuff is slightly softer than some other boots, so you get slightly more comfort when walking below the snowline than stiffer boots. So all that for less cash and less weight is pretty impressive.

However

Both the upper and ankle cuff are a little softer than on other boots, and this means your foot has to work a little harder on more uneven terrain, but of course this is not a drawback on easier ground. Some boots have a little less stitching on the upper and it is likely that they will be more durable in the long-term, so really hard users may benefit from looking elsewhere. The toe box is quite narrow and shallow, and while this fitted my narrow, pointy feet well, and felt great for scrambling, those with wider feet may feel this is too restrictive.

Verdict

A relatively low-weight and low-priced boot that offers great 3-4 season performance, with only small benefits available to those that spend more.

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Alt-Berg Mallerstang £215

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  • Men’s 5-14, with five width fittings

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1982g (size 11)

It's good

The size range and width fitting options set this boot apart from many, so this is a great option if you are struggling with fit. It’s a classic design using 3mm-thick leather that is virtually stitch-free, so there is little chance of water getting in or abrasion having too much impact. However, you do also get a Sympatex waterproof lining to manage any leaks. The outsole sports an exceptionally deep set of lugs and towering heel breast, making this ideal for getting grip in scree, snow or mud. The sole is well stiffened too, so again it is great on more challenging terrain. To allow easier walking the toe does flex more easily than some.

However

There is no women’s version, although the size range and width options mean there is a good chance this will fit many women. You don’t get a full rubber rand, so really hard users may prefer others for even more durability. Although the weight is similar to others, this does feel a little less precise on the foot when scrambling, and the foot feels further from the holds too, so others are nicer for delicate footwork. That slightly soft toe flex also means this is not quite as good as others for edging on snow or rock steps. A great boot for rough terrain though.

Verdict

The width fitting options and the stable performance on rough ground put this boot a step ahead, but others are better for more precise footwork.

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  • Fit

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Zamberlan Vioz Plus GTX £240

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  • Men’s 37-49

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 2040g (size 46)

It's good

Designed with a wide last, so it should fit those with wider feet better than some other designs. The boot features a very robust Hydrobloc waxed full grain leather upper, which offers plenty of durability and weather protection. You also get a Gore-Tex waterproof lining and a wide rubber rand for even more protection. The outsole is a Vibram unit with very deep and widely-spaced lugs that are great for biting into soft ground. Lateral stiffness of the sole is good, making this great for scrambles, scree and edging on snow. But you also get a little more softness during forward flexing, which will suit those looking for more comfort below the snowline.

However

That softer forward flex means you have to work a little harder on scrambles or snow slopes than slightly stiffer and more supportive boots. Also the forefoot and toe don’t feel quite as precise as some other models, so while good for easier scrambles, others are nicer when the holds need a little more careful foot placement. It is slightly heavier than some boots that are stiffer, and when this is added to the other drawbacks it just feels slightly less precise. There is no women’s version either.

Verdict

A great mountain walking and backpacking boot for rough terrain and easier snow slopes, but others are slightly better on more technical ground.

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  • Fit

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Scarpa SL Activ £250

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  • Men’s 41-50

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1918g (size 46)

It's good

For its 80th anniversary, Scarpa has produced the ninth version of the SL. This latest makeover brings a closer heel hold and a leather lining inside the ankle cuff, as well as some weight shaving. The weight reduction comes from the use of a new mono-density outsole for more cushioning underfoot. The upper is still a supportive leather design, but with little extra forward flex at the top of the ankle cuff thanks to two fingers of leather rather than a solid panel. Lacing eyelets have been upgraded too. You still get great stiffness and support for years of durability in this boot.

However

Female hillwalkers still have to look for other Scarpa boots to meet their B1 needs, such as the Marmolada Pro at £235, which may favour some users as it does have a waterproof lining, which is something the Scarpa SL cannot claim. However leaks are few, as there is barely a stitch to allow water through and if treated, the thick leather will fend off water easily. The weight has come down but there are still lighter boots, though those generally don’t provide the durability or support of the SL. Others can be yours for less cash, but they don’t always offer the benefits of the SL.

Verdict

The birthday boy gets another welcome makeover, which should ensure the SL maintains its popularity. But still nothing for the girls...

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Salewa Raven 2 £250

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  • Men’s 6-13

  • Women’s 3-9

  • Weight 1866g (size 46)

It's good

This is lighter than other boots with its support, but you still get plenty of stiffness in the sole to allow it to perform really well when scrambling or edging on snow slopes. The ankle cuff is a little more supportive than others too, so again this is great when tackling slopes or scrambling up rock. The very deep lugs are well spaced to bite into softer ground, gravel and scree. The fit is slightly unusual as it is quite broad in the forefoot and very close around the heel and ankle cuff, and then you get a choice of footbeds to refine the volume. The upper has a full rubber rand for protection and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining.

However

The upper has some exposed seams and softer materials. This may be the weak point in the design if this boot is used too much on the kind of rough terrain on which it excels in many other ways. The ankle cuff is also higher than others, which makes it superb for more technical ground but when walking up snowy Munros you may value just a little more freedom of movement in this area. The upper materials tend to bunch up at the lower eyelets and this area may more easily allow grit and abrasion to take their toll. These are all tiny points but at this price point they are worth considering.

Verdict

A lighter 3-4 season boot with a more supportive ankle cuff, though durability of the upper could be a potential drawback for harder users.

  • Features

  • Fit

  • Comfort

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  • Value for money

  • OVERALL SCORE


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