Boots made for mountains in winter need to be capable of handling a mix of terrain, but also the most gnarly conditions.
When figuring out what the best mountaineering boot for you is, you have to consider factors like ankle support, stability, tread pattern, laces, the weight of the boot itself, flexibility in the sole, and the material the boot is made from.
The type of terrain you plan on walking is also key when investing in the right pair of mountaineering boots. We've gone into more depth about this at the end of this article.
Winter hiking boot buying advice
Every winter I go through the same traumatic footwear transition. As a lover of lightweight, modern, trainer-like hiking boots, it’s a shock to the system whenever I have to switch them out for heavy, rigid, bombproof mountaineering boots. I go from feeling light, fast and nimble in the mountains to a sensation akin to strapping anvils to my feet. But it’s a vital switch for hill safety. When the high peaks are covered in snow and ice, 3-season boots just won’t cut it anymore – and instead, you’ll need serious footwear capable of tackling gnarly conditions and rough terrain. Moreover, technical mountaineering footwear will give you better confidence, comfort and security, and ultimately improve your experience out on the hill.
Boots are graded in terms of stiffness from B0 to B3. B0 are 3-season summer boots. B1 boots are the lightest and most flexible winter boots available, and hence the comfiest for walking. They are sometimes known as 3-4 season boots, and they can take a C1 crampon, providing enough security for easier UK winter walking in snow. At the other end of the scale, completely rigid B3 boots are designed for ice climbing and technical mountaineering and therefore are complete overkill for the average hillwalker.
The best overall option, therefore, sits in the middle. A B2-rated boot with a sturdy upper and wraparound rand, as well as a touch of flex and cushioning, will give you the best of both worlds: rigid technicality for ‘edging’, ‘step kicking’ and ‘heel plunging’ in ice and snow when required, plus added comfort for the long walk-in over grass, mud and rocky paths. A quality B2 boot will deliver excellent traction, reliable waterproofing and long-term durability, and will be compatible with C2 crampons.
The best winter hiking boots
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La Sportiva Trango Tech
Verdict: A fully featured, durable leather boot that’s ideal for big mountain days. As far as an all-round hiking boot goes, you’ll struggle to find anything better.
This is one of the best mountain boots we’ve tested in many years. The Trango Tech is protective and supportive, yet surprisingly comfortable. It features a single-piece nubuck leather upper with minimal stitching, high-ankled cut, soft tongue, and rubber protection at the heel and toe. Waterproofing is via a Gore-Tex lining and a rubber Vibram outsole provides slip-free traction with a front climbing zone for edging.
Scarpa Manta Tech GTX
Verdict: A robust B2 mountaineering boot with a legion of loyal fans – it’s a classic.
If you’re looking for a safe bet when purchasing a big, tough mountaineering boot, this is the one for you. The iconic Scarpa Manta has been around for decades and is a perennial Trail ‘Best in Test’ winner and for good reason.
It’s strong, durable, waterproof, fully-featured and beautifully engineered. This latest iteration, the Manta Tech, features an upgraded upper with less stitching, a warmer Gore-Tex liner and a more modern look.
But ultimately Scarpa has stuck to its proven formula: classic B2 stiffness, a heel welt for integration with C2 crampons, beefed-up Vibram Mulaz S outsole with a front climbing zone, Perwanger suede upper, and 360° wraparound rubber rand. The result is a stiff, bulky boot well-suited to kicking steps and negotiating ice, but with just enough flex and underfoot cushioning for comfy hiking on the approach. A broad, spacious fit leaves enough space for thick winter socks.
At 919g per boot, these are rather heavy and can feel cumbersome compared to other pairs – precision and accuracy in foot placement isn’t a forte of the Manta Techs. The broader, high-volume fit may feel too roomy for those with narrower feet. Quite pricey too.
Sizes men's EU 40-50, women’s sizes EU 36-42 | Weight per boot 919g (men’s EU 43)
Salewa Rapace GTX
Verdict: A very comfy and lightweight B2-rated boot with a technical design – but not as tough as other models.
This boot’s strengths are two-fold: a lighter build (777g) for enhanced all-day comfort and an approach shoe-inspired design for a precise, natural feel underfoot. Walking in the Rapace GTX is, therefore, far comfier than many other mountaineering boots, while the aggressively-lugged Vibram WTC outsole feels nimble, accurate and secure when negotiating snowy ground.
For full-on, gnarly winter days, we’d probably opt for a bulkier, bigger boot, but for long walk-ins followed by technical ground when you’re higher, the Rapace GTX hits a lovely sweet spot. It’s stiff enough to take a C2 crampon, yet on-foot doesn’t feel a million miles away from a standard 3-season boot, with good cushioning (courtesy of a Bilight TPU midsole), flexible ankle cuff and comfy fit.
You also get a breathable Gore-Tex Performance Comfort waterproof lining, a full rubber rand for protection against rock and scree, and a hard-wearing nubuck and fabric upper.
Some will find the build too lightweight and lacking in stability, particularly for very wintry outings. The ankle cuff isn’t as high or supportive as beefier pairs, and the overall fit (particularly at the tapered toe box) might be too narrow for some users. And due to Brexit, stock is scarce in the UK.
Sizes men's 6-13, women's 3-9 | Weight per boot 777g (men’s 8½)
AKU Tengu GTX
Verdict: A technical, well-engineered, B2-rated boot for wintry adventures – but it might be too stiff for some.
This B2-rated, 4-season boot ticks all of the boxes for winter use: it’s rigid, stable, waterproof, grippy and built with high-quality Italian craftsmanship. More so than other boots, it has quite a climbing-focused style, with a precise fit that delivers a better feel underfoot and improved footing over rugged terrain.
Tacky traction courtesy of the Vibram Curcuma outsole with climbing zone further enhances grip. Structurally, the Tengu GTX is rock-solid stiff with only the slightest bit of flex. It’s made up of a dual-density PU midsole with a carbon fibre shank, while the upper is pretty tough with a high-ankle cuff, internal gaiter and padded tongue. A strong toe box, wraparound rand and rigid heel counter complete the burly design.
Comfort is surprisingly decent, considering the stiffness of the boot, but ultimately this boot isn’t for general hillwalking – it’s all about reassuringly stable and precise footing on snow and ice. The fit is relatively narrow.
The relatively long and narrow fit might not suit all foot shapes, so it’s best to try before you buy. They are colder than others, due to a lack of insulation, and the extremely stiff sole isn’t the comfiest for walking. Despite being unisex, there isn’t a women’s specific model.
Unisex sizes 4.5-12 | Weight per boot 740g (7)
Arc’teryx Acrux LT GTX
Verdict: An ultralight and stylish B2-rated boot that enables precise footwork – but for some it’ll be too flimsy.
While there is arguably little to choose between the other five boots in this test, which all have a relatively similar design and build, the Acrux LT offers something rather different...
For a B2-rated boot, it’s incredibly light (645g per boot, men’s 8), thanks to the narrow, streamlined fit and very flexible, thin SuperFabric upper. This approach will polarise opinion. Some will see the boot as flimsy, weak and unstable for winter use; others will love the ultralight style for its hiking comfort and precise-feeling underfoot.
It is the latter Arc’teryx shouts about, with ‘exceptional climbing precision’ billed as this boot’s USP – and for technical manoeuvres like edging the difference is noticeable. Yet the Acrux LT still has a stiff foundation compatible with C2 crampons, thanks to a 3mm carbon plate with PU foam core.
You also get a Gore-Tex liner, grippy Vibram Mont outsole, rubber toecap and gusseted tongue.
The narrow fit certainly won’t suit all foot shapes. Long-term durability and waterproofing might be compromised due to the light, thin construction of the upper. And the overall build will lack the strength and beefiness many look for in a B2 boot.
Unisex sizes 4.5-12.5 | Weight per boot 645g (8.5)
Hanwag Ferrata II GTX
Verdict: A good all-rounder for 4-season use – but it’s not as burly as other pairs.
Despite the name implying this boot is for via ferrata climbs, in truth the Hanwag Ferrata II is a capable and versatile B2 boot suitable for all UK snowy adventures, from technical scrambling to winter Munro ascents.
It’s mid-range in terms of weight and sturdiness – a step down from the La Sportiva and Scarpa offerings, but stronger than the Arc’teryx boot. As such, the Ferrata II strikes a nice balance: for hillwalking, it feels about as nimble and comfortable as B2 boots get, without the clunky, chunky unwieldiness of other pairs, while for snow and ice the carbon-reinforced midsole and lateral stiffness deliver sure-footedness and stability as required.
The fit is medium-wide and the last, which isn’t as asymmetrical as others, syncs excellently with a straight C2 crampon via a heel welt. Also present: Gore-Tex liner, grippy Vibram outsole, functional ankle cuff, stiff heel counter, solid toe box and 360° rand.
Due to the lower weight and flexible upper, this boot won’t be hefty or thickset enough for some, and it isn’t the warmest boot here. The tongue isn’t as padded as some may like and the overall fit, with a medium-width and slightly pointed toe, won’t suit all foot shapes.
Sizes men's EU 39.5-48.5, women's EU 36-43 | Weight per boot 762g (men’s EU 42.5)
La Sportiva Karakorum HC GTX
Verdict: A muscular, durable and well-made boot for winter hills – but it’s heavy and expensive.
For a boot named after a fearsome mountain range, the B2-rated Karakorum HC (High Collar) GTX is suitably hardcore, well-built and impressive.
It has a more traditional construction than many of La Sportiva’s mountaineering boots, despite being newly released in the UK in 2021, and features a sturdy 2.8mm-thick, one-piece leather upper, Gore-Tex Performance Comfort liner, sturdy wraparound rand and bombproof toe box.
The fit is relatively broad and the all-round build is as strong as an ox, with a very stiff base and C2 crampon compatibility. Yet comfort is surprisingly decent, courtesy of the upper’s ‘3D flex system’.
The TPU welt insert in the heel locks securely with your crampons and the Vibram Impact Brake System outsole delivers good traction on both the ascent and descent.
Overall, these boots look and perform similarly to the Scarpa Manta Techs, which can only be a positive thing.
It’s both the heaviest and most expensive boot on test, so for many, it’ll be either too unwieldy or too pricey. The ankle cuff is very high (the highest on test), which some might find unnecessary, and the sole has a rather pronounced curve, meaning it’d be prudent to check the fit if you have straight crampons.
Unisex sizes EU 38-48 | Weight per boot 961g (EU 43)
Hiking boot care and maintenance
Before we dive into the best hiking boots, don't forget about boot care and cleaning. This is vital to boot performance and longevity. Some of our favourite gear care products come from Grangers. Its products are both effective and Bluesign approved.
For cleaning any fabric, including leather and suede, use Grangers Footwear Car Kit; for maintaining water repellency use Grangers Footwear Repel - it works on all fabrics but for full-grain leather, its Waterproof Wax is best for conditioning and waterproofing.
Read our in-depth footwear care guide for more.
What to consider when buying mountaineering boots:
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.
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.
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. 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.