5 OF THE BEST... 4-season boots REVIEWED (2018)

When the hills are plastered in snow a well stiffened 4-season boot is ideal to make mountain walking safe and secure, so here’s five of the best. 


Fit

No boot is worth having if it doesn’t fit properly. The inside of the boot should be around 13-15mm longer than your foot. You can gauge this by putting the boot on, without the laces tightened up, and then placing your forefinger down the inside of the boot at the heel. Better outdoor stores will measure your feet for a precise fit. The upper should be snug and comfortable across the foot too.

Durability

If you want your boots to last as long as possible, look for uppers with minimal stitching and a rubber rand that fully encloses the whole boot. Durable designs are most important for those regularly heading out onto rockier ground and ice-covered mountains, but it’s not so important if you walk less often in the hills, or tend to stick to paths or level terrain.

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Ankle cuff

The ankle cuff helps prevent mud and grit from entering the boot. It also protects the ankle against being scraped on rocks. The stiffness in the ankle cuff reduces the strain on the ankle when traversing slopes and while scrambling by adding extra support. But on easier ground, smooth paths and level ground, such support is less important. Some walkers also prefer the freedom and easier ankle movement of boots with lower or softer ankle cuffs.

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 better the boot will perform on snow and ice, and with crampons. A 4-season boot will be almost totally rigid,
while a 3-season boot will be very bendy, and a 3-4 season boot will be somewhere between these extremes.

Outsole lugs

Deep, wide-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.

Crampon compatibility

Not all boots are designed to be used with crampons due to the stiffness of the sole and flexibility of the upper. Crampons are not generally recommended for 3-season boots, but 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.


Asolo Elbrus GV £250

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  • Men’s 6-13.5

  • Women’s 4-9

  • Weight 1802g (size 11)

It’s good

This well-priced boot is built around a suede leather upper, with Schoeller soft shell materials around the ankle cuff. There is not too much stitching or overlays of material, so durability is good and you also get a full rubber rand. There is Gore-Tex inside for waterproofness. The very aggressive Vibram outsole has deep, well-spaced lugs and a deep heel breast, which is ideal for crunching through snow and keeping a grip. The fit is great, with a slightly narrow toe which helps with scrambling over rock. The ankle cuff is very comfortable and allows a gentle flex forward, while the outsole rolls smoothly from heel to toe. Walking below the snowline is good for this category of boot.

However

This boot holds the foot slightly higher above the ground than some, which means that when walking over rocky ground or when scrambling you feel slightly less stable. But this is a tiny difference and will only impact those wanting the absolute best performance on tricky ground. I’m always cautious about recommending synthetic materials for hard environments, as they’re rarely as durable as quality leather or a plain rubber rand, but again this will only impact the hardest of users. For pure mountaineering others are very slightly better if you want the best and can afford it. But most hillwalkers will find this ideal for their needs and any benefits from others are small.

Verdict

A great boot at this price for general winter hillwalking, with some benefits available if you pay more.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 92%

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Zamberlan 1000 Baltoro GTX £250

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  • Men’s 38-48

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1828g (size 11)

It’s good

Zamberlan’s 1000 Baltoro competes well with other boots, particularly as the price is more tolerable than some and it’s also relatively low in weight. The upper is made from Hydrobloc Perwanger leather, with Cordura nylon around the tongue and the ankle cuff. Inside the boot there is a Gore-Tex waterproof lining. I like that there’s not too much stitching, and for even more durability there is a rubber rand at the toe and heel. Underfoot you get a Vibram sole unit with widely-spaced lugs and a heel breast. Get the boot on and the toe box is spacious, and the upper is quite stiff and supportive, so the result is a great boot for general hillwalking.

However

While this feels good on the foot, it does not feel quite as neat and precise as some. Also the ankle cuff is not quite as well padded as others and doesn’t flex quite so smoothly forward when walking, so this area in general is just a little less comfortable than higher-priced boots. The sole unit is good but the outsole lugs are not quite as deep as others, so on snow without crampons the boot does not crunch into the surface and grip as well as others. If you want a boot for scrambling then those with a slightly narrower toe are better, as they offer more precise foot placement. There is no women’s option either. 

Verdict

For its price tag this boot is ideal for most hillwalkers who don’t need the best performance but do want to save some cash. Slightly more expensive boots offer extra benefits though.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 5/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 92%


AKU Tengu GTX £280

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  • Men’s 5-12

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1812g (size 11)

It’s good

The Vibram Curcuma sole unit of this boot sets it apart from many others, and makes it ideal for winter use thanks to its deep and widely-spaced lugs. The sole has great stiffness too, and a good heel breast. Working from the ground upwards you get a full rubber rand for durability and an upper made from synthetic fabric with suede leather overlays. The tongue and flexpoint of the ankle cuff are made of softer synthetic materials. Get it on and this boot feels great on the foot, with a fit that is neither too narrow nor too wide. The ankle cuff is supportive and ideal for general use. When walking below the snowline the sole rolls nicely. It’s a pretty lightweight boot too. 

However

While the overall performance and general comfort is great, what lets this boot down is that there is no women’s option, although at least the unisex size range does go down to a 5, which may be sufficient. Like other synthetic boots, it probably won’t be quite as durable as a leather boot without stitching, although only really hard users need to worry about that. If you do lots of scrambling or mountaineering you’ll notice that others allow for slightly more precise footwork. Some also offer more comfort around the ankle cuff for a little more cash, while for those with an eye on the budget other boots carry a lighter price tag.

Verdict

A relatively lightweight boot with great performance for general winter walking, but regular scramblers or mountaineers will find others offer even better features.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 4/5

  • Comfort 4/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 4/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 84%


Meindl Jorasse GTX £300

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  • Men’s  6-12

  • Women’s 3.5-8

  • Weight 1885g (size 11)

It’s good

The first unusual feature of this boot is that the top of the ankle cuff gets an elasticated gaiter to help block debris from entering the boot. The ankle cuff itself is high and supportive, but it also flexes forward comfortably to allow easy walking. A double tongue design extends from the ankle cuff down the boot to add more cushioning and breathability. The upper is made from leather with synthetic materials, while a Gore-Tex waterproof lining keeps feet dry, and a full rubber rand provides more durability. The outsole is a Meindl Vibram Alpin 3 unit with a great set of deep, well-spaced lugs for grip on snow. Get it on and it instantly feels spacious and comfortable, and generally great for mountain walks on snow.

However

While this boot feels spacious and comfortable, it doesn’t feel quite as precise on the foot as others, which is slightly more noticeable when scrambling over rocks or mountaineering rather than walking. It is not the lightest boot either, and so when that is combined with its slightly less precise feel it just feels a little clumpier than some others when scrambling. These are tiny drawbacks though and not really that apparent when just walking. The main drawback is that this boot has a higher price tag than others, so you have to really value the extra comfort and spacious fit you’re paying for. 

Verdict

This very comfy and spacious mountain walking boot is ideal in many ways, but isn’t the best if you want a more precise feel for climbing over rocks.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 4/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 88%


Scarpa Manta Pro GTX £320

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  • Men’s 40-50

  • Women’s 36-42

  • Weight 2074g (size 46)

It’s good

The Manta Pro defines the 4-season mountain walking boot category, and while it remains unchanged it is still the best option if you can stretch your budget. Built around a leather upper with synthetic overlays and Gore-Tex waterproofness, the upper is supportive, with extra durability coming from a full rubber rand. The ankle cuff is slightly more comfortable than other boots. It provides great support and also flexes forward particularly smoothly for comfortable walking. The outsole is a Vibram unit with deep, well-spaced lugs and a good heel breast, and it also rolls reasonably well from heel to toe when walking. A nice benefit is that the forefoot and toe areas are slightly wider than others, but still afford a precise feel for scrambling over rocks. 

However

If you need a boot mainly for mountaineering then a more dedicated design would be better, owing to those boots having a narrower toe and therefore an even more precise feel. It would be nice if this was a little lighter, but on the foot it actually feels lighter than some other boots that do weigh less, and this is due to the careful design that works so well with the foot. A boot with fewer overlays might be more durable for those of you that really hammer your kit. But the main drawback is the price, so if you aren’t a regular winter walker then a lower-priced boot will no doubt suffice.

Verdict

Sets the standard for regular walks and scrambles over British mountains in winter, but others have benefits for climbers or less regular hillgoers.

  • Features 5/5

  • Fit 5/5

  • Comfort 5/5

  • In use 5/5

  • Value for money 3/5

  • OVERALL SCORE 92%

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5 of the best... 3-4 season boots reviewed (2018)

Stiff enough to wear with crampons on snow, yet flexible enough to be comfy below the snowline on scree, rock and mountain paths, 3-4 season boots are the most versatile you can buy. Let’s check out five of the best...


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.

Main.jpg

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. Some also prefer the freedom and easier ankle movement of boots with lower or softer ankle cuffs.

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. Crampons are not generally recommended for 3-season boots, but 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.


Asolo Lagazuoi £210

Asolo.jpg
  • Men’s 6-13

  • Women’s 4-9

  • Weight 1722g (size 11)

It's good

This is a very well-priced boot for what you get, and it’s also lighter than others. The upper is 2.2-2.4mm nubuck leather with a Gore-Tex waterproof lining, and this is protected by a full rubber rand for more durability. Underfoot you get a Vibram sole unit with deep, well- spaced lugs and a deep heel breast for grip in soft terrain. Sole stiffness is also good both laterally and toe-to-heel, so this makes the boot great for scrambles and edging on snow. The ankle cuff is slightly softer than some other boots, so you get slightly more comfort when walking below the snowline than stiffer boots. So all that for less cash and less weight is pretty impressive.

However

Both the upper and ankle cuff are a little softer than on other boots, and this means your foot has to work a little harder on more uneven terrain, but of course this is not a drawback on easier ground. Some boots have a little less stitching on the upper and it is likely that they will be more durable in the long-term, so really hard users may benefit from looking elsewhere. The toe box is quite narrow and shallow, and while this fitted my narrow, pointy feet well, and felt great for scrambling, those with wider feet may feel this is too restrictive.

Verdict

A relatively low-weight and low-priced boot that offers great 3-4 season performance, with only small benefits available to those that spend more.

  • Features

  • Fit

  • Comfort

  • In use

  • Value for money

  • OVERALL SCORE

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Alt-Berg Mallerstang £215

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  • Men’s 5-14, with five width fittings

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1982g (size 11)

It's good

The size range and width fitting options set this boot apart from many, so this is a great option if you are struggling with fit. It’s a classic design using 3mm-thick leather that is virtually stitch-free, so there is little chance of water getting in or abrasion having too much impact. However, you do also get a Sympatex waterproof lining to manage any leaks. The outsole sports an exceptionally deep set of lugs and towering heel breast, making this ideal for getting grip in scree, snow or mud. The sole is well stiffened too, so again it is great on more challenging terrain. To allow easier walking the toe does flex more easily than some.

However

There is no women’s version, although the size range and width options mean there is a good chance this will fit many women. You don’t get a full rubber rand, so really hard users may prefer others for even more durability. Although the weight is similar to others, this does feel a little less precise on the foot when scrambling, and the foot feels further from the holds too, so others are nicer for delicate footwork. That slightly soft toe flex also means this is not quite as good as others for edging on snow or rock steps. A great boot for rough terrain though.

Verdict

The width fitting options and the stable performance on rough ground put this boot a step ahead, but others are better for more precise footwork.

  • Features

  • Fit

  • Comfort

  • In use

  • Value for money

  • OVERALL SCORE


Zamberlan Vioz Plus GTX £240

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  • Men’s 37-49

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 2040g (size 46)

It's good

Designed with a wide last, so it should fit those with wider feet better than some other designs. The boot features a very robust Hydrobloc waxed full grain leather upper, which offers plenty of durability and weather protection. You also get a Gore-Tex waterproof lining and a wide rubber rand for even more protection. The outsole is a Vibram unit with very deep and widely-spaced lugs that are great for biting into soft ground. Lateral stiffness of the sole is good, making this great for scrambles, scree and edging on snow. But you also get a little more softness during forward flexing, which will suit those looking for more comfort below the snowline.

However

That softer forward flex means you have to work a little harder on scrambles or snow slopes than slightly stiffer and more supportive boots. Also the forefoot and toe don’t feel quite as precise as some other models, so while good for easier scrambles, others are nicer when the holds need a little more careful foot placement. It is slightly heavier than some boots that are stiffer, and when this is added to the other drawbacks it just feels slightly less precise. There is no women’s version either.

Verdict

A great mountain walking and backpacking boot for rough terrain and easier snow slopes, but others are slightly better on more technical ground.

  • Features

  • Fit

  • Comfort

  • In use

  • Value for money

  • OVERALL SCORE


Scarpa SL Activ £250

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  • Men’s 41-50

  • Women’s n/a

  • Weight 1918g (size 46)

It's good

For its 80th anniversary, Scarpa has produced the ninth version of the SL. This latest makeover brings a closer heel hold and a leather lining inside the ankle cuff, as well as some weight shaving. The weight reduction comes from the use of a new mono-density outsole for more cushioning underfoot. The upper is still a supportive leather design, but with little extra forward flex at the top of the ankle cuff thanks to two fingers of leather rather than a solid panel. Lacing eyelets have been upgraded too. You still get great stiffness and support for years of durability in this boot.

However

Female hillwalkers still have to look for other Scarpa boots to meet their B1 needs, such as the Marmolada Pro at £235, which may favour some users as it does have a waterproof lining, which is something the Scarpa SL cannot claim. However leaks are few, as there is barely a stitch to allow water through and if treated, the thick leather will fend off water easily. The weight has come down but there are still lighter boots, though those generally don’t provide the durability or support of the SL. Others can be yours for less cash, but they don’t always offer the benefits of the SL.

Verdict

The birthday boy gets another welcome makeover, which should ensure the SL maintains its popularity. But still nothing for the girls...

  • Features

  • Fit

  • Comfort

  • In use

  • Value for money

  • OVERALL SCORE

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Salewa Raven 2 £250

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  • Men’s 6-13

  • Women’s 3-9

  • Weight 1866g (size 46)

It's good

This is lighter than other boots with its support, but you still get plenty of stiffness in the sole to allow it to perform really well when scrambling or edging on snow slopes. The ankle cuff is a little more supportive than others too, so again this is great when tackling slopes or scrambling up rock. The very deep lugs are well spaced to bite into softer ground, gravel and scree. The fit is slightly unusual as it is quite broad in the forefoot and very close around the heel and ankle cuff, and then you get a choice of footbeds to refine the volume. The upper has a full rubber rand for protection and a Gore-Tex waterproof lining.

However

The upper has some exposed seams and softer materials. This may be the weak point in the design if this boot is used too much on the kind of rough terrain on which it excels in many other ways. The ankle cuff is also higher than others, which makes it superb for more technical ground but when walking up snowy Munros you may value just a little more freedom of movement in this area. The upper materials tend to bunch up at the lower eyelets and this area may more easily allow grit and abrasion to take their toll. These are all tiny points but at this price point they are worth considering.

Verdict

A lighter 3-4 season boot with a more supportive ankle cuff, though durability of the upper could be a potential drawback for harder users.

  • Features

  • Fit

  • Comfort

  • In use

  • Value for money

  • OVERALL SCORE


For the latest reviews - including extra photos and products that won't appear online - 
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