Mountaineering Boots Vs. Hiking Boots: What Is The Difference?

Hiking is a part of mountaineering but not all hiking is mountaineering. Hiking can be on just about any terrain and is basically walking on trails for a long amount of time. A hike that lasts a few days is called a trek. Mountaineering is getting to the summit of a mountain. This is a blend of hiking scrambling and climbing. It is an activity for those of high confidence, adventurous in nature and able to survive harsh conditions.

mountaineering boots vs hiking boots

What Are Mountaineering Boots Used For?

Mountaineering boots are generally taller, stiffer, and more insulated than hiking boots. Typically, they are meant to be used with crampons, a traction device attached to footwear to improve mobility on snow and ice while climbing ice.

Mountaineering boots are worn while climbing ice and rock. They are stiffer than hiking boots but not as stiff as skiing boots. They are for the recreational mountaineer but also for those who work in areas with a lot of snow and ice.

Do You Need Mountaineering Boots?

Mountaineering boots are absolutely vital for climbing. Hiking boots are fine for a simple, relatively flat land hike. However, they simply don’t hold a candle to mountaineering boots when exposed for a prolonged period in an alpine zone. Nothing else will do when you need warmth, dryness, and stability.

Can You Wear Mountaineering Boots For Hiking?

Get the right tool for the right job! You don’t cut a tomato with a spoon. Mountaineering boots are made to be stiff to make them adept for ice climbing. Ergo, they simply do not flex easily and they might feel more rigid causing them to be rather difficult to walk in across ordinary terrain. Because of this, it is best to use hiking boots for hiking. They’ll be far more comfortable.

How Should Mountaineering Boots Fit?

Remember that the manufacturer’s test foot is not your foot. You must try the boots on and get accustomed to them before starting your trip. The boots should not feel too tight. If your blood flow and the movement of your toes are restricted that will cause your feet to get cold easily. They may be even more prone to frostbite.

Also, if your boots are too tight that will lead to your toes banging against the end of the boot whenever you kick in your front points or walk downhill. It is recognized that you size your boots big enough so that you can wiggle all of your toes around a third as much as you can barefooted.

Why Are Mountaineering Boots So Stiff?

The rigidity of the boot increases the accuracy of the crampon and lets the climber go after steeper and even more difficult terrain. It also keeps the boots warmer.

Why Are Mountaineering Boots So Heavy?

Most of this weight comes from the shank. A full shank needs to be wholly rigid so that they will bear your weight whenever you are edging up those rocky slabs or clambering over boulders. They are shock absorbers, which you sorely need while treading rough terrain while wearing a full pack.

Are Mountaineering Boots Supposed To Flex?

It all depends on the length of the steel shaft in the boot. The shafts in some mountaineering boots do not go the whole way to the toe which makes the boot a little bit better to hike in.

Do Mountaineering Boots Break-In?

Because they are so stiff and durable, it can take a while to break in mountaineering boots. Just follow these steps and remember that slow and steady wins the race. It has been suggested that you use duct tape to protect your foot while breaking your boots in. Keep in mind that even the stiffest of boots will eventually adapt to your style of walking.

Do You Need Mountaineering Boots For Crampons?

Most types of crampons need a certain kind of boot, generally a mountaineering boot. Because hiking boots are a completely different type of traction device, crampons are not made for hiking boots. This is because crampons need a very stiff shanked sort of boot to keep them safely attached to the boot.

How Do You Tie Mountaineering Boots?

There are many different ways to do this. A surgeon’s knot is very secure and works well with heel lock lacing. Heel lock lacing is great for keeping your heel in place and preventing blisters. It will also keep your toes from banging on the front of your boots whenever you walk. downhill. Here’s how to do heel lock lacing:

  • Put on your boot and make sure that your heel is as far down in the back of your boot as it can go.
  • Find the spot on the front of your ankle where your foot joins your leg and mark where this is on your boot.
  • Lace-up your boots as usual up to this spot and then tie the surgeon’s knot. (Were you in Scouts by any chance?)
  • Run these laces up to the next hook then lock off the knot.
  • Tie yet another surgeon’s knot
  • Finish up lacing as you usually would upwards to the top of the boot.

There are many different types of lacing techniques. Some help bunions, some are good for high arches, some are more suited to flat feet and some give relief to the calves. Find out what works best for you.

What Are Good Mountaineering Boot Brands?

We could be here all day discussing this! Scarpa is a brand that comes up at the top of most lists. La Sportiva comes up a lot as well. Salewa and Mammut are also favored. Scarpa is a brand that has been everywhere from the Himalayas to Antarctica and has been adopted by many world militaries for extreme conditions.

Why Are Hiking Boots Important?

Some people like them for ankle support. Of course, the major reason people wear hiking boots is to protect your feet from rocks, dirt, thorns and other debris on the trail. This is why even nudist hikers wear boots. Some people prefer trail running shoes. Boots are more necessary if the trail is wet and muddy, or rocky.

Do Hiking Boots Need To Be Broken In?

Some brands might need a bit more time than others to break in. However, it is worth it. Just remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither will boots be broken in a day. Here’s how you do it:

  • Wear your boots around the house. Wear the same socks and insoles you will be wearing out on the trail and tie up your boots so that they fit snugly but not excessively tight. See to it that your tongues and gussets are nice and straight. If your new boots are a little stiff at first, this is to be expected.
  • Take a walk around the block and around your neighborhood. See to it that your boots feel comfortable at every stage before increasing the distance you walk in them.
  • Put on your backpack and hit the trail for the day. The serious breaking in doesn’t happen until you get off that smooth, even, manmade concrete and get out on an actual trail. Make sure that you gradually add on both weight and mileage through this stage.

How Much Room Should You Have In Hiking Boots?

If the shoes fit properly, your heel needs to be firmly locked into place inside the boot to prevent the friction that leads to blisters. Your toes should not touch the front of the boot while you are hiking downhill. This is the major cause of blackened toenails. What’s more, there must be a little bit of extra space all-around your foot.

How Do You Know If Your Hiking Boots Are Too Small?

If your boots fit properly, you should be able to get at least one finger in between the heel and the back of your boot. Should the boots become appreciably more or less than that, that means that the boot is either too large or too small. Keep in mind that you cannot check on your own as your foot and heel lift forward as you bend over. You can ask a friend or helpful salesperson to do this for you.

Do Hiking Boots Stretch?

Most boots will stretch out enough to give you a comfortable fit. Your heel should be firmly locked into place inside the boot and should not slide up or down while you walk. This is a major cause of blisters.

How Can I Widen My Hiking Boots?

Alcohol could do it. No, that doesn’t mean do shots until the boots look bigger! Soak cotton balls in isopropyl alcohol then dampen the spots on your boots where they feel the tightest. Put your boots on and walk about for a few minutes so that the alcohol has an opportunity to expand the material. The hairdryer trick might work, but it may also crack the leather. A good old-fashioned boot spreader might so it.

Should Hiking Boots Be A Size Bigger?

Some people prefer to go half a size up. This aids in the accommodation of thick hiking socks without discomfort. It should be noted, however, that boots that are too big can result in your toes knocking into the front of the boot and that could very well give you blackened toenails.

Should Hiking Boots Be Snug?

They should be snug, but not too tight. You should be able to wiggle your toes. When you try them on, be sure to wear the socks you would usually wear and any orthotics you may be using. Do this at the end of the day when your feet are at their biggest.

What Does GTX Mean In Hiking Boots?

It stands for the Gore-Tex lining. This is a membrane of rather a thin polytetrafluoroethylene that has been expanded to coat the surface area of your shoe. This will make your boots waterproof, warm and durable.

How Do You Waterproof Hiking Boots?

Follow these instructions:

  • Find out the type of material on your hiking boot. Leather, suede, and synthetics all need different types of products.
  • Select a wax, cream or spray waterproofing product depending on the material.
  • Rub in the product or spray it on liberally on the hiking boot. Remember to do this in a well-ventilated room or outside.
  • Wipe away or rub in any excess product using a clean rag.
  • Allow the boots to dry as it says on the instructions. This should take at least overnight.

Can I Wear Hiking Boots Every Day?

The only real disadvantage is the boots may wear out more quickly. And they’re only suited to casual occasions. However, you do want your hiking boots to be pliable. Just leaving them in the closet for a season can cause dry rot to set in.

Are Hiking Boots Good For Walking?

Like the Nancy Sinatra song goes, “These boots are made for walking and that’s just what they’ll do.” Hiking is just walking only outdoors and for a long time, after all. That’s why hiking boots have more padding than ordinary walking shoes and a shank for extra support.

How Long Should You Wear Hiking Boots?

Get yourself a pedometer. Your hiking boots need to be replaced between five hundred and nine hundred miles. Yes, you can walk those five hundred miles but not quite five hundred more. This depends on the quality of the shoes and what sort of terrain you use them on.

How Do You Tell If Your Hiking Boots Are Worn Out?

Are the boots no longer comfortable? Have they become too tight? Too loose? Have they lost their original shape? Is the sole coming loose? If the answer to any of the above then it is time to get new boots.

What Are Good Hiking Boot Brands?

Many of the companies that make good mountaineering boots also make serviceable hiking boots. La Sportiva and Scarpa are prime examples as is Lowa. Merrell is also a brand many people swear by. Salomon is also a trusted brand.


I’ll admit, the closest I’ve ever been to mountaineering is watching the last scene in The Sound of Music. (In real life, the Von Trapp family just got on a train and left, but Mother Abbess doesn’t sing a song called “Ride Ev’ry Train”.)

Still, researching this topic has been very enlightening and I hope it has helped people who do have an interest in mountaineering. Just remember that hiking boots are for hiking and mountaineering boots are for going over the mountain, to see what you will see.


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