Best Ice Climbing Boots: How to Choose and Our Top 8 Picks

Toes are important. If you’d like to keep yours in good shape (or keep them, period) having a reliable pair of boots for ice climbing adventures is a must. Our guide to the best ice climbing boots will help you find the perfect pair for you!

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Footwear for Forays on the Frozen Stuff

Looking for the Best Boots for Ice-Climbing?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • Our recommendation for the best boots for ice climbing this year
    • Reviews of a selection of technical and non-technical ice climbing and mountaineering boots
    • Advice on how to choose between leather, synthetic, and plastic boots

With some outdoor pursuits, you can get away with not using the most suitable gear available. For others, only the crème de la crème will do. This, as you might imagine, is never more true than for scaling steep stretches of ice and snow, where anything less than perfect might land you in serious trouble.

This may sound like scaremongering, but we’d much rather our readers keep their toes. Or, at the very least, avoid such grim eventualities as frostbite, frostnip, or even a bad bout of the “screaming barfies”. 

To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the best ice climbing boots to help ensure your adventures on the frozen stuff are safe and happy sendfests rather than sketchy and/or scary sufferfests.

Editor’s Choice

Scarpa Phantom Tech

SCARPA Phantom Tech Waterproof Boots for Climbing and Mountaineering - Black/Bright Orange - 9.5-10

Scooping our award as this year’s top boot for ice climbing is the ever-popular Scarpa Phantom Tech.

These Phantom Tech are the go-to choice of cold clime lovers everywhere and excel both on technical climbs on the frozen stuff and mixed climbs. The Phantom aren’t as warm as their double-boot siblings, the Tech 6000 and Tech 8000, but are lighter, offer more agility, and are about as warm as a single boot gets. 

Whether you’re planning an ascent of Island Park, ice climbing in Ouray Park, or technical mixed routes on Ben Nevis, these Phantom Tech are the best in the business.

Bottom Line: A lightweight, agile technical boot that packs more than enough warmth for winter climbs in the lower 48.

At a Glance: Quick Recommendations

  • Editor’s Choice:  Scarpa Phantom Tech
    “A highly technical, lightweight boot that excels on both high-grade ice and technical mountaineering routes.”
  • Runner Up:  La Sportiva G2 Evo Mountaineering Boot
    “A no-nonsense synthetic boot that’s ideal for ice climbing in colder climates or ascents of high mountain peaks.”
  • Best All-Rounder:  Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX
    “A robust, versatile, performance-oriented single boot that excels on everything from steep snow slopes to mixed gullies and mid-grade ice.”
  • Best for Mountaineering:  La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX Mountaineering Boots
    “A longstanding favorite of mountaineers and ice climbers everywhere.”
  • Best Lightweight Double Boot:  Arc’teryx Acrux AR
    “A sleek, lightweight, highly agile boot designed for technical ascents in frigid climes.”
  • Honorable Mention:  Lowa Alpine Expert GTX Mountaineering Boot
    “A versatile boot that ticks all the boxes for frequent baggers of snowy peaks who like to dabble in a bit of ice climbing.”
  • Best Value:  La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX Mountaineering Boot
    “Lightweight, versatile boots that excel on rock climbs, steep winter hikes, and moderate icefalls.”
  • Best Budget:  La Sportiva Makalu Mountaineering Boot
    “These non-technical, all-around mountaineering boots lack insulation and rigidity but are nevertheless a good pick for winter hikers who’d like to try their hand on a few low-grade ice climbs.”

8 Best Ice Climbing, Mixed, and Mountaineering Boots

Scarpa Phantom Tech

Editor’s Choice

SCARPA Phantom Tech Waterproof Boots for Climbing and Mountaineering - Black/Bright Orange - 9.5-10

The Scarpa Phantom Tech (click here for womens version) is a quiver-of-one kind of mountaineering boot that is just as happy – and effective – on high-grade ice as it is on mixed climbs and high peaks.

The Phantom Tech is a single boot but is one of the warmest of that kind on the market thanks to its beefy (but not bulky) Primaloft insulation and integrated gaiter. In terms of agility and precision, this boot leaves both of the double boots on our list, and most of the singles, trailing in its wake.

The sole of the Phantom Tech is stiff enough for long pitches of vertical ice but has enough flex to prevent discomfort on approaches. On the inside, there’s an HDry waterproof membrane to fend off meltwater, and on the outside an integrated gaiter with a water-tight zipper that provides a reliable first line of defense. 

At 3 lbs. 3 oz., the Phantom Tech is one of the lightest boots in its performance class, besting competitors like the La Sportiva Nepal Cube and Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro by a whole 12 ounces.

Specs

  • Type: Technical 4-Season Alpine Boot
  • Material: Synthetic
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 3oz.
  • Crampon compatibility: Automatic and semi-automatic
  • PROs

    • Lightweight
    • Built-in gaiter keeps feet dry
    • Highly waterproof
    • Warm
    • Agile for such a warm boot
    • Synthetic upper dries fast 
  • CONs

    • Not as warm as the La Sportiva G2

Bottom-Line: For a technical snow, ice, and rock climbing boot that boasts an outstanding warmth-to-weight ratio, look no further than the Scarpa Phantom Tech. 

La Sportiva G2 Evo Mountaineering Boot

Runner Up

La Sportiva Mens G2 EVO Mountaineering Boots, Black/Yellow, 10

If you plan on doing your ice climbing in particularly frigid environments or have a few big peaks in the pipeline, the La Sportiva G2 Evo is well worth considering. 

There’s no getting around the fact that this is a scarily expensive boot. However, the greatest indicator of its superiority is that it is still good value for money nonetheless.

At 4 lbs 10 oz, the G2 is among the heaviest boots on our list, but it’s also the warmest. As such, it’s our top pick for anyone aiming to summit peaks over 5,000 meters, take on frozen waterfalls in especially cold conditions, or winter climbers who are particularly prone to cold feet.

A few nice touches make the G2 stand out as compared to its peers geared towards the same end-use. The most notable of these are a tall, built-in gaiter that keeps the inner boot dry and warm, and a dual Boa lacing system that is quick and easy to adjust even with thick gloves on. 

While less agile and far heavier than the Phantom Tech, the G2 are our go-to for climbs in temps below the 15°F mark and/or at altitude. 

Specs

  • Type: 4-Season Technical Alpine Double Boot
  • Material: Double synthetic
  • Weight: 4 lbs. 10 oz.
  • Crampon compatibility: Automatic and semi-automatic
  • PROs

    • Excellent warmth-to-weight ratio
    • Built-in gaiter
    • Dual Boa lacing system
    • Highly durable
    • Removable inner boot
  • CONs

    • Pricey
    • Heavier than single boot competitors

Bottom-Line: A beast of a boot that excels at both high altitudes and on technical ice routes.

Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX

Best All-Rounder

SCARPA Men's Mont Blanc Pro GTX Waterproof Gore-Tex Boots for Hiking and Mountaineering - Tonic - 9

Looking for one boot to do it all? If so, the Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro (click here and here for womens version) deserves a place near the top of your shortlist.

The MB Pro GTX’s main selling points are its durability and versatility. Its leather construction makes it tough enough to deal with years of use and abuse, while its light-weight, precision-oriented outsole, and moderate insulation make it ideal for low-altitude mountaineering and steep icy climbs alike.

Not much separates this boot from the La Sportiva Nepal Cube (below), though the Mont Blanc Pro is a little cheaper, slightly more agile, and a better fit for people with wider feet. 

Specs

  • Type: 4-Season Technical Alpine Single Boot
  • Material: Leather
  • Weight: 3lbs. 15 oz.
  • Crampon compatibility: Automatic and semi-automatic
  • PROs

    • Extremely durable
    • Agile
    • Relatively lightweight
    • Good ankle support
    • Better fit for wider feet than La Sportiva Nepal Cube
  • CONs

    • Not warm enough for high altitude

Bottom-Line: A tough, agile, and technical jack of all trades.

La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX

Best for Mountaineering

La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX Hiking Shoe, Yellow, 42.5

This updated and upgraded version of the iconic La Sportiva Nepal GTX (click here and here for womens version) has quickly established itself as one of the most popular mountaineering boots out there.

Compared to its predecessor, the Cube GTX adds a built-in ankle gaiter, a removable tongue, and weighs a whole 8 oz. less, all of which make a great boot an even greater one. 

While the Cube is a single boot, it’s warm enough for (most) winter mountaineering conditions in the lower 48. It’s also light and agile enough for more technical ice or mixed climbing and even three-season summit missions on the higher peaks, whether Mont Blanc, Rainier, or 6000ers like Island Peak.

The closest competition in the Cube’s niche of the market is the Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX. The Mont Blanc Pro is cheaper and slightly more agile, but we found the Cube to be the warmer of the two by a fraction. 

The only downside to the Cube is that it’s leather upper takes a little longer to dry out than synthetic materials. 

Specs

  • Type: 4-Season Technical Alpine Single Boot
  • Material: Idro-Perwanger Roughout Leather Upper
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 15 oz.
  • Crampon compatibility: Automatic
  • PROs

    • Versatile
    • Comfortable
    • Warm for a single boot
    • Relatively lightweight
    • Better fit for narrow feet than Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro
  • CONs

    • Take longer to dry out
    • Heavier than La Sportiva Trango

Bottom-Line: One of the best mountaineering boots out there for buyers looking for a “quiver of one” jack of all trades that excels in every environment.

Arc’teryx Acrux AR Mountain Boots

Best Lightweight Double Boot

Arc'teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boot | All Round Insulated Mountaineering Double Boot with Removable Liner

The Arc’teryx Acrux is a boot built for ice climbers and mountaineers who need plenty of warmth but aren’t willing to compromise on agility. 

While the Acrux aren’t as warm as our list’s other double boot, La Sportiva G2 Evo, they’re a whole 8 oz. lighter and boast a sleek, streamlined design that allows them to excel in more technical terrain, whether that’s technical rock or steep ice and snow. 

Both the inner and outer boot of the Acrux are made with synthetic material, so they dry faster when wet than a leather boot like the La Sportiva Nepal. The outer boot is also pleasingly streamlined and low-profile, something that’s sure to appeal to anyone who places a priority on agility and precision. 

Specs

  • Type: 4-Season Technical Alpine Double Boot
  • Material: Double synthetic
  • Weight: 4 lbs. 2 oz.
  • PROs

    • Agile
    • Lightweight for a double boot
    • Built-in gaiter with fully waterproof zipper
    • Tough as nails
    • A super-stiff boot (maybe a ‘con’ for some)
  • CONs

    • Not as warm as other double boots
    • Pricey

Bottom-Line: A badass, double synthetic boot that offers an agility and precision upgrade on most of the competition.

Lowa Alpine Expert GTX

Honorable Mention

Lowa Alpine Expert GTX Mountaineering Boots - Men's

The Lowa Alpine Expert GTX (click here for womens version) is a great choice for buyers seeking an affordable boot that performs well on both ice and mixed routes but is comfortable enough to put in multiple miles on the trails, too. 

While the Expert GTX isn’t warm enough for climbs in anything south of 25 degrees, they offer a comfort and agility upgrade on most competitors on this list thanks to their light weight, nimble feel, and precision-oriented design. 

While they’re better suited to summer or shoulder-season missions on 14ers or peaks in the 4,000-5,000 meter range, their awesome heel lock allows them to front-point and tackle icy ascents very well. Unlike many alpine boots, the Expert GTX are also comfortable enough to wear on long approaches on rock, ice, scree, or trails.

Specs

  • Type: 4-Season Technical Alpine Single Boot
  • Material: Leather 
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 13 oz.
  • PROs

    • Versatile
    • Lightweight
    • Durable
    • 400g Primaloft insulation
  • CONs

    • Heavy compared to other single boots
    • Too flexible for steep, stiff, and sustained ice

Bottom-Line: A lightweight, technical single boot that’s comfortable enough to hike in but warm and stiff enough for moderate, less technical climbing on ice.

La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX Mountaineering Boot

Best Value

La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX,Black/Yellow,45.6

Think you have to break the bank to get your hands on (or feet in) a pair of top ice climbing boots? Think again! 

The La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme are among our favorites for mixed climbing and mountaineering, especially when we know we’ll be faced with stretches of crampon-free climbing on technical rock.

While they’re a little too flexible and won’t keep your feet warm enough for cold days in temps below 25 degrees, they’re solid performers on moderate ice and plenty warm for spring ascents of frozen waterfalls in most areas.

The Trango Tower Extreme is built with a combo of synthetic materials and leather and uses a Gore-Tex membrane to protect you from getting wet feet. They also have a low-cut, elastic cuff that keeps out snow. 

Weighing just 3 lbs. 4 oz., these are also among the lightest boots on our list, so won’t tire out your legs on long approaches or summit missions. 

Specs

  • Type: Technical Alpine Single Boot
  • Material: Synthetic
  • Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz.
  • Crampon compatibility: Automatic and semi-automatic
  • PROs

    • Lightweight
    • Affordable
    • Agile
    • Versatile
    • Great for technical climbing on alpine rock climbs and mixed routes
  • CONs

    • Lack warmth
    • Not the most durable

Bottom-Line: A lightweight, versatile, and affordable boot that offers solid all-around performance.

La Sportiva Makalu

Best Budget

La Sportiva Mens Makalu Mountaineering/Hiking Boots, Natural, 7.5

Looking for a boot that’s a jack of all trades, even if this means it might be the master of none? If so, the ever-popular La Sportiva Makalu is well worth considering.

While the Makalu is far from being an out-and-out ice-climbing boot, its toe welt and heel welt mean it has automatic crampon compatibility (C3). And although this leather boot is short on insulation as compared to the other options on our list, it will provide just enough warmth for lower-level mountaineering and ice climbing in less frigid alpine environments.

We chose to include this boot on our list because of its versatility, and because not every hiker or occasional mountaineer wants to splash mega $ on a pair of boots they’re only going to use for a few months per year. 

Therein lies the Makalu’s beauty. Outside those few months of the year, the Makalu will serve you well as hiking boots, backpacking boots, and summer mountaineering boots, something that can’t be said of most other models on our list.

Specs

  • Type: General Mountaineering Boot
  • Material: Idro-Perwanger leather
  • Weight: 4 lbs. 5 oz
  • Crampon compatibility: Automatic and Semi-Automatic
  • PROs

    • Versatile
    • Affordable
    • Durable
  • CONs

    • Not warm enough for extreme cold
    • Less rigid sole not suitable for technical ice climbing
    • Heavy compared to single-layer synthetic boots

Bottom-Line: A traditional mountaineering boot that’s just stiff and warm enough for low-grade ice climbing.

How to Choose Ice-Climbing Boots

Warmth

Any ice-climbing boot that doesn’t score highly in this metric is, simply put, one that isn’t worth it’s salt. As anyone with any mountaineering or ice-climbing experience will tell you, cold feet can make the difference between a fun and successful day out and a miserable one (or, worse, a smaller shoe size in the event of frostbite…).

Of all the models on our list, the warmest are double boots like the La Sportiva G2 Evo and Arc’teryx Acrux. Both of these are intended for use in extremely cold environments, whether on the 6000ers of the Himalayas or ice climbing in the Canadian Rockies. If keeping your feet warm is your primary concern, these should be top of your shortlist.

Single ice climbing boots offer the least warmth, but models like the Nepal Cube and Mont Blanc Pro pack plenty of insulation for winter mountaineering or most ice routes in the lower 48 and cost far less than doubles.

View of resting feet wearing ice boots at the top of a snowy mountain
Double boots offer the greatest warmth but are typically more expensive than single boots

Materials

Synthetic, leather, or plastic boots?

All of the options on our list are made with either leather or synthetic materials. 

Leather boots like the Nepal Cube and Mont Blanc Pro trump synthetics like the Phantom Tech in durability, but lose out on agility, mainly because of leather’s bulkiness and tendency to absorb water, which can add a hefty whack of weight to your feet. 

Boots with a plastic shell are something of a rarity these days. While ultra-durable, cheap, and warm when combined with a burly inner boot liner, their bulk makes them the most cumbersome of the bunch. This makes them less suitable for icy ascents but an option for climbing high peaks like Denali or Himalayan 6000ers.

Weight

In most cases, there is a direct correlation between warmth and weight – the heavier the boot, the warmer it will be. 

The trade-off in this metric is in agility. As you might expect, heavier boots make nimble footwork a lot trickier and can lead to leg fatigue, particularly if you’re using them for longer routes.

Stiffness

Different levels of sole stiffness are required for different types of climbing. 

For steep icy ascents and technical mountaineering, a full-shank sole with little or no flex is the best option. For general mountaineering, more flexible boots like the Lowa Alpine Expert or Sportiva Trango Tower will provide more comfort on flatter approaches and provide enough stability on low- to moderately-angled slopes (up to 55 degrees). 

Approaching the ice pitches of the Biancograt on Italy's Piz Bernina
For mountaineering up steep terrain over 55 degrees a full-shank sole with minimal flex is optimal (Kieran Cunningham/MyOpenCountry ©)

Liner

On double boots, the liner or inner boot is responsible for providing most of the boots’ warmth. Most liners are made with water-resistant materials like closed-cell foam and can be removed at the end of the day to dry out at home or in your tent.

With single boots, the liner is built-in and far less substantial, meaning they provide less warmth and take longer to dry out when wet. 

Double Boots or Single Boots?

This will ultimately come down to the conditions in which you plan on doing your climbing.

Double boots like the La Sportiva G2 Evo and Arc’teryx Acrux are by far the warmer of the two options. These are a better option for you (and your toes) if you anticipate climbing in temps below 15 °F or at higher altitudes, where your feet will feel cold quicker due to the lack of oxygen. 

Single models, on the other hand, are generally a lighter boot and thus more agile. They have less insulation and tend to have less rigid soles that allow you to walk further without discomfort. You’ll also be able to use them for summer summit bids and general mountaineering. 

Built-in Gaiter?

This feature adds a water-tight seal that extends (usually), three-quarters or halfway up your shin. This adds warmth, prevents snow or water from sneaking in, and saves you from having to carry (and buy) a separate pair of gaiters. The only downside to built-in gaiters is that they’ll be overkill in less extreme environments and likely to cause sweaty feet. 

Crampon Compatibility

All of the boots on our list have both toe welts and heel welts, so are compatible with both C3 (automatic) and C2 (semi-automatic) crampons. For more on crampon compatibility, check out this guide from Ellis Brigham.

Close up of person climbing an icy face wearing snow shoes with crampons attached
All models on our list have both toe welts and heel welts

Ice Climbing, Mixed Climbing, or Mountaineering?

The right choice for you will depend on the technical difficulty of the climbs in your personal pipeline and the temperatures you expect to face.

For general mountaineering in most of the lower 48, a non-technical pair of leather boots like the Makalu or Lowa Alpine will do the trick and also take a C3 crampon (or strap-on crampon, of course) for any steep terrain in ice or snow.

For “big hills” like Rainier, Hood, or Mont Blanc, or mixed climbs, a more technical single boot like the Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX, Nepal Cube, or La Sportiva Trango Tower Extreme GTX will suffice, though you may want to upgrade to a double boot for winter ascents or if you do any out-and-out ice climbing on the side.

For technical mountaineering or ice climbing on routes at or above WI3, we recommend a stiff boot like La Sportiva Nepal Cube or Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro, though a burlier and even less flexible boot like the Scarpa Tech will serve you better the higher you go in the grades.

Man wearing ice boots and crampons climbing up vertical ice face
Technical mountaineering and ice climbing at or above WI3 will require a stiffer boot

For high-altitude or winter climbs on big peaks, we recommend a technical double boot like the Scarpa Phantom Tech or La Sportiva G2 SM.

Best Ice Climbing Boots: The Verdict

Still struggling to decide? Let’s wrap it up with a quick roundup of our top picks per adventure type.

For technical ascents on steep ice or mixed routes, our favorites are the uber-agile, precision-oriented Scarpa Phantom Tech. These lightweight boots tick every box and are warm enough for ascents anywhere from Ouray to Cogne.

Heading to higher altitudes? If so, we recommend a burlier boot like the La Sportiva G2 Evo. This double boot is toasty enough for 7,000-meter peaks and light enough for long days on vertical, high-grade ice.

Looking for more flexible boots for general mountaineering, mixed routes, and the odd foray onto icy terrain? If so, it’s a toss-up between the La Sportiva Nepal Cube and the Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro. As mentioned above, these are both great boots, and choosing between the two will ultimately come down to the shape of your feet. 

How did you like our article? If you have any questions, please drop us a line in the comments box below. And if you’d like to share this post with your friends, feel free!

Last update on 2022-10-07 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Kieran James Cunningham is a climber, mountaineer, and author who divides his time between the Italian Alps, the US, and his native Scotland.

He has climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps, 14ers in the US, and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.

Kieran has taught mountaineering, ice climbing, and single-pitch and multi-pitch rock climbing in a variety of contexts over the years and has led trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the Alps, Rockies, and UK. He is currently working towards qualifying as a Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and International Mountain Leader.

Kieran’s book Climbing the Walls—an exploration of the mental health benefits of climbing, mountaineering, and the great outdoors—is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster in April 2021.

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