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All You Need To Know About Climbing Boots

Geethanjali Jujjavarapu

Last updated: 09-05-2023

Climbing boots provide you with much needed support and comfort to walk and climb long distances. Without them, your feet wouldn’t make it to the summit! They also protect your feet from harsh weather conditions in higher altitudes and keep them warm. It is crucial to have the right kind of boots that meet the requirements of your expedition. 

This article gives you an understanding of the types of climbing boots available, their uses and how best to maintain them when not in use.


Different Types of Climbing Boots and their Usage

Mountaineering boots come in various models, each offering different features and catering to different terrains. Some are ankle length, some are shin length and some go even higher up. While there are a variety of them in the market, the following is a basic segregation based on insulation. 

Single Boots: These are lightweight boots made with leather or synthetic or a mix of both. They are best suited for climbs with low elevation and relatively warm temperatures, thus also giving them the name ‘trekking shoes’. They are of limited use in mountaineering expeditions to higher altitudes and do not provide protection against winds and cold. They offer varying degrees of ankle support and their sole is fully rigid or flexible depending on your choice of model.


All You Need To Know About Climbing Boots


Plastic or Double Boots: These consist of a hard outer shell with a soft bootie on the interior. This provides additional warmth and is suitable during climbs to moderate-high altitudes. The interior bootie is removable, allowing you to dry it out during multi-day expeditions. They are heavier than single boots but offer better protection against water, wind and cold. They have full shank, rigid sole and provide good ankle support. They have a front toe welt and rear welt. Overall, double boots could prove to be less agile, but while walking on snow, they offer the much needed grip and insulation.


All You Need To Know About Climbing Boots


Hybrid Boots: These are high quality synthetic boots that are durable and also highly insulated. They offer all the features of a double boot without the added weight. The outer layer is made from Gore-Tex or other synthetic material which blocks water and wind from reaching your feet. Similar to double boots, the inner layer adds an additional layer of insulation and can be removed for drying. They have full shank, rigid sole and provide full ankle support, which makes them less agile in general, but more suitable on snow. They have a front toe welt and a rear welt. Hybrid boots are not suited for climbs at lower altitudes.


All You Need To Know About Climbing Boots


Triple Boots or 8000m Boots: True to their name, they are best suited for mountaineering in high altitudes with the best protection against extreme climatic conditions. They are made of an outer insulating gaiter, hard boot shell and an inner lining of insulation. They hold all the features of hybrid boots with an extra layer of protection offered by the gaiter, which keeps frostbite at bay. These do not work well with certain types of crampons due to their large size.


All You Need To Know About Climbing Boots


The above are a basic variety of boots available based on their insulation. There are certain factors that are important to consider while purchasing a pair of climbing boots. Apart from the insulation required for your expedition, it is crucial to check for weight, wind and water resistance and the warmth offered by the boots. Another important factor to consider is the lacing system offered by the boots. Since your hand dexterity reduces at higher altitudes with the use of insulating gloves, it becomes difficult to tie up climbing boots with a regular lacing system. Climbing boots now come with a zipper or BOA lacing system which allows climbers to fasten their boots with ease. Boots with a zipper can be fastened by pulling up the zip and securing it in place. In the BOA system, stainless steel wires replace regular laces and are connected to a turning knob. Adjusting the knob will tighten, loosen and snap your laces into place. 

Information regarding the boots’ features are available on the product and it is important to go through the information thoroughly before buying the product. Ensure that the features are in alignment with your needs.


Parts of a Climbing Boot

Bellows Tongue: These are wide folding flaps that are found on the top of the boot to prevent water or other debris from entering the boot.

Collar: Padded cuff around the top of the boot.

Crampon Welts: These are indents made in the heel and toe that allow you to attach crampons.

D-Rings: Metallic rings on the upper part of the boot. These are a part of the lacing system and hold the lace in place once tied.

Fastening System: This is the lacing of the boots which allows you to fasten the boots with a snug and comfortable fit.

Lining: The soft material inside your shoe which comes in contact with your socks.

Outsoles: Refers to the part of the hiking boot that comes in contact with the ground.

Insoles: Padded material found inside your boots for extra warmth and comfort.

Midsoles: These are found between the outsoles and the insoles. They absorb impact from the trails and provide comfort.

Shanks: Thin inserts between the midsoles and outsoles for rigidity and support.

Toe Box: Part of the shoe that surrounds the toes. Your toes should never press against the toe box. The correct size for your climbing boots is usually 0.5 or 1 size higher than your regular size. This allows for extra space to accommodate layers of woollen socks. It also offers sufficient space for your toe to manoeuvre, preventing it from hitting the toe box and causing injury. This extra space allows the climber to walk long distances and more particularly to descend in a safe and comfortable manner. 


All You Need To Know About Climbing Boots


Maintenance and Safe Storage

Your mountaineering boots are bound to be dirty at the end of a long expedition. Dirt accumulated on the boots could lead to degradation over time if left uncleaned. Following are a few simple steps to clean and store your boots safely:

  • Use a soft brush and rub off the dirt with the help of warm water and a mild detergent if necessary. 
  • Remove the insoles, rinse them and dry them separately.
  • Vigorously clean the outsoles to remove all the dirt.
  • Rinse the boots in clean water and air dry them away from direct sunlight.
  • If your boots have gathered mold during the expedition, gently wash them in 80% water and 20% vinegar.
  • Ensure that the boots are fully dry before storing them. Damp boots will degrade over time or result in the growth of bacteria and mold.
  • Store the boots in a cool dry place away from sunlight.


We hope the above information is helpful in understanding climbing boots and their features. Should you have further queries or more information you wish to know, our team is always available to help you out!

Geethanjali Jujjavarapu

Lawyer by education, Geethanjali loves travelling and documenting her travels through photographs an Read more

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