Winter hillwalking boots combine sure-footed traction with technical precision for mixed terrain yet are also stiff enough to take a crampon for tackling ice and hard-packed snow. Here are our top picks to help you conquer the gnarliest season.
HANWAG MAKRA COMBI GTX £245
We were immediately impressed by two things when we first laced up the Makra Combis. Firstly, they are exceptionally comfortable straight out of the box, offering a level of plush cushioning that you usually only get with fabric walking boots. Secondly, they are very light, especially for a ‘proper’ mountain boot. The latter can be attributed to a honeycomb sole structure that saves a considerable amount of weight, while the former is down to a wonderfully soft, supple ankle cuff and generously padded tongue.
The uppers are made from suede with durable Cordura fabric and an all-around rand for added protection. All-day comfort is further helped by Hanwag’s Wide Alpine last, which has a slightly broader forefoot to prevent pressure points when hiking or climbing. It also means you can wear thicker socks to keep feet warmer in winter conditions. This is a typically practical approach from the German bootmaker that adds versatility for 4-season use. Indeed, the Makra Combi is a comfortable rock-hopper with the added ability to handle snow and ice, since the midsole is stiff enough to accommodate a flexible crampon. It also provides a very stable platform for lower grade scrambles, which is where these boots really excel, though their accommodating fit and hard-wearing construction means they are useful all-rounders for year-round mountain adventures.
If we’re being fussy…
The suede and fabric panelled uppers incorporate a fair amount of stitching, which is almost always a weak point – though the seams are all double-stitched, and Hanwag boots are backed by a two-year warranty.
Upper Suede and Cordura fabric
Sole Vibram Pepe
Men’s sizes 6-12
Women’s sizes 3.5-9
Weight 1645g (men’s size 12)
HANWAG Makra Low GTX Mens Walking Shoes
A low alternative...
The ideal boot for adventurous summit-baggers who relish a good scramble, but are keen to do some winter hillwalking this season too.
ALTBERG MALLERSTANG £250
The burliest option in renowned Yorkshire bootmaker Altberg’s hiking range, the Mallerstang is a very traditional boot made for demanding terrain.
It’s built like a tank, with a premium one-piece full-grain leather upper backed by a Sympatex waterproof lining.
It has a high, padded ankle cuff and a fully gusseted tongue. This sits on the brand’s stiffest PU midsole, with a Vibram Ice Trek outsole underfoot. This has seriously chunky lugs and a jutting heel breast that provides secure footing on a range of surfaces. There’s also a heel welt to accommodate a semi-automatic crampon, though to be honest this is a boot that is more at home without one fitted, which gives you all the advantages of that superb traction.
It’s really a boot built for year-round hillwalking rather than for precise, technical scrambling or mountaineering. As such, there is good torsional stability but also a little toe flex to make for easier yomping. You also get masses of ankle support, providing plenty of rigidity and protection whether you’re surfing scree or traversing snowy slopes.
The Mallerstang comes in a wide range of sizes and five different widths too, so it’s a boot that should fit a multitude of different types of feet, whether you’re narrow or broad of hoof.
If we’re being fussy…
It’s a pretty heavy boot by modern standards. The chunky sole unit makes precise foot placement tricky when scrambling. It also doesn’t fit a crampon quite as neatly as other boots tested here.
Upper Full grain Anfibio leather
Sole Vibram Ice Trek
Men’s sizes 5-14 and 5 widths
Women’s sizes No specific fit but wide range of sizes
Weight 20g (men’s size 12)
Offering a robust and supportive platform for mountain walking, this is a reassuringly honest boot on grass, mud, scree, rock or snow.
ZAMBERLAN 1000 BALTORO GTX £250
Zamberlan boots are almost always handsome beasts, and the 1000 Baltoro GTX are no exception. They’re intended as a backpacking and hard trekking boot for rocky, challenging terrain, with the ability to take on via ferrata and scrambling routes too. However, they also feature a dual density PU midsole and a heel welt, so can be fitted with semi-automatic crampons for winter use.
Although they’re most at home in Alpine environments, they also work well for adventures closer to home in places like Scotland, Snowdonia or the Lakes. Made in Italy from premium materials, the Baltoros employ high-quality Perwanger leather uppers with a Gore-Tex waterproof lining, as well as a PU toe rand and heel counter for added durability.
The padded tongue and ankle cuff utilise a tough Cordura nylon face fabric, as does the panel at the top of the foot, which enables some ankle flex. The relatively high cuff offers plenty of support – ideal when crossing broken ground or traversing slopes, even if covered in snow.
The Vibram Mulaz outsole is a proven pattern that offers good traction thanks to well-spaced lugs and a pronounced heel breast, with a front climbing zone for finding smaller toe pockets on steeper rock.
We’d describe the fit as medium volume overall. The Baltoros aren’t as narrow as some other Zamberlan boots, though unlike other models there is no wide version available.
If we’re being fussy…
The leather uppers need breaking in. Even then they are still fairly stiff, particularly around the ankle. This gives great support on technical terrain but is less ideal for all-day comfort. And there’s no women’s version.
Upper Hydrobloc Perwanger leather and Cordura fabric
Sole Vibram Mulaz Evo
Men’s sizes EU 38-48
Women’s sizes n/a
Weight 1944g (men’s size EU 47)
Plenty of boot for your money, so a good buy for hardy hillwalkers who spend a lot of time in the mountains tackling rocky ribs and scree slopes.
ASOLO PIZ GV £263
The bold banana yellow colourway of the Asolo Piz suggests this is a boot for confident, brash mountain types – those who nonchalantly stride along the crest of Crib Goch while others go on all-fours. Maybe that’s because this neat and precise boot feels remarkably light and nimble on your feet, inspiring confidence on the most technical terrain.
They have a slim heel and midfoot, with a slightly asymmetric toebox that is reminiscent of a trad climber’s rock boot. Underfoot is the popular Vibram Mulaz sole unit, a common choice for mountain boots given its proven blend of traction, downhill braking performance and contact grip for precise foot placement on smaller ledges. They also have a modest vertical toe profile that makes it easy to jam the toe into small pockets, which proved useful when scrambling.
In terms of construction, the uppers are comprised of suede and Schoeller soft shell fabric with a waterproof Gore-Tex lining. They have a full wraparound rand with a protective toecap, plus a heel welt to take a semi-automatic crampon in winter. They were among the stiffest boots we tested here, but their structured footbed meant they didn’t feel as hard and board-like as some others. The mid height with a pronounced rear cutaway also aids walking comfort, while the low weight means they’re a great boot for long days.
If we’re being fussy…
They don’t offer as much padding around the ankle as some boots, which saves weight at the expense of a little cushioning and potentially some insulation in winter too.
Upper Water-resistant suede and Schoeller soft shell
Sole Vibram Mulaz
Men’s sizes 6-13
Women’s sizes 4.5-9
Weight 1728g (men’s size 12)
Durable yet lightweight, with a precise fit and plenty of technical capability, yet also comfy with a reassuring grip.
SCARPA RIBELLE LITE HD £280
Scarpa’s Ribelle boots caused a real stir when released back in late 2017. It helped that shortly afterwards, climber Uisdean Hawthorn wore Ribelle Techs when he completed the fastest-ever winter traverse of Skye’s Cuillin Ridge, in under five hours.
The Ribelle Lite is a less hardcore version of the Tech, with an emphasis on scrambling rather than mountaineering. It is still C2 crampon compatible though, making it well-suited to UK winters. The midsole has slightly more flex than most 4-season boots, which works well for rock-hopping and aids comfort for general hillwalking. The padded ankle cuff feels supportive yet unrestrictive. The boot also has Scarpa’s excellent ‘sockfit’ soft shell tongue.
In terms of fit, they have a relatively slim heel and a narrow midfoot, with a broader forefoot that tapers at the toe. The Vibram outsole offers great all-round traction. It has a slight rocker for a more natural walking motion, but when the terrain gets tougher there’s also a front climbing zone for precise scrambling.
The uppers are a lightweight but tough fabric with minimal seams, backed with Scarpa’s H-Dry waterproof laminate. Instead of a heavy rubber rand there’s a wraparound PU layer. Given their capabilities, they are incredibly light. If you’re used to clumpy mountaineering boots, these will be a revelation.
If we’re being fussy…
The toebox has more volume than most technical boots, and some people may find them a little too roomy. On longer mountain days they also feel a bit spartan underfoot – we’d recommend replacing the standard footbed with a specialist insole to aid comfort.
Upper Tech Fabric + Microtech
Membrane H-Dry Lamination + 37.5 by Cocona
Sole Vibram Pentax Precision III
Men’s sizes EU 40-48
Women’s sizes EU 37-42
Weight 1645g (men’s size EU 47)
There is no way that a boot this lightweight should also be this capable. A great choice for mixed winter mountain routes on rock and ice.
LA SPORTIVA TRANGO TOWER GTX £300
La Sportiva’s Trango series is one of the most famous names in the boot game. Back in the 1970s, they were the first real lightweight but technically capable mountaineering boot. The brand pushed things forward when it released the Trango S in 2002, switching from leather to synthetic construction to shed even more weight. The Trango Tower has now replaced the Trango S in the line-up, but it is a worthy successor.
This is a very competent boot that is stiff enough to take a C2 semi-automatic crampon for tackling Scottish winter routes, but it is not so unforgiving that you can’t also wear them for general hillwalking and scrambling. It achieves that tricky balance thanks to lightweight but tough uppers, a midsole that offers just the right amount of flex and a super sticky Vibram outsole that provides reassuring traction and strong edging capability.
The synthetic uppers are lighter than leather, easier to look after and don’t absorb water. They also seem to be just as durable and have no break-in period. We found them super comfortable straight out of the box. And the Trango Tower is built on a relatively accommodating last that is available in European half sizes, so you ought to be able to find a precise fit.
If we’re being fussy…
The Cube outsole is exclusively made for La Sportiva by Vibram. It’s incredibly sticky on rock but is known to wear quickly. However, the Trango Tower is resoleable, which is likely to cost you about £85 – not cheap, but less than a third of the cost of a new pair.
Upper High tenacity 6.6 Nylon with Honey-Comb Guard abrasion resistant zones and FlexTec 3
Sole La Sportiva Cube by Vibram
Men’s sizes EU 41-48
Women’s sizes EU 36-43
Weight 1833g (men’s size EU 47)
A comfortable boot that’s supportive, protective and waterproof – but a tad pricey.
La Sportiva Mens Trango Tower GTX Boot
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