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The 5 Best Ice Climbing Boots in 2023
There are almost as many kinds of ice climbing boots as there are ice climbing objectives. When you’re ice climbing, technical skill only accounts for so much. You’re also relying on your boots to keep you on the wall, and to keep you from getting cold feet.
As big fans of ice, we are obsessive about finding the right tools for the job. So we put together this guide to help you find the right boots for your next trip. Whether you’re into technical ice or mixed routes, the ice climbing boots you’re looking for are right here.
Scarpa Phantom Tech
Best Ice Climbing Boots on The Market
Stiff vibram soles
On the expensive side
Not intended for extreme high altitude
It’s hard to find fault in the Scarpa Phantom Tech. It’s an excellent all-rounder that performs very well in the cold and on technical ice. They’re some of the most popular boots among ice climbers and mountain guides, for a lot of reasons.
The main standout with the Phantom Tech is its construction. It features Primaloft insulation, a built-in gaiter, and Vibram soles, checking all the major boxes for quality. And yet it still clocks in at a little over three pounds per pair of boots, making it the lightest alpine single boot on this list.
For objectives in the US, the Phantom Tech is plenty enough to get the job done. But at higher elevations, you will want something with more insulation.
Scarpa Phantom Tech
Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX
Best Budget Ice Climbing Boots
All-around climbing performance
Automatic crampon compatible
Good for wider feet
Not as warm as others
Not as good for technical climbing
If you’re new to ice climbing, you’re probably not looking for anything too aggressive. Having burly leather boots that are automatic crampon compatible is plenty.
The Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX is a great choice for beginners taking on spring and summer ascents. They give you just enough warmth and technical performace without being overkill.
The Mont Blanc Pro sits right between a 3-season mountaineering boot and a more aggressive ice climbing boot. It features solid lace locks, a low gaiter, and Gore-Tex waterproofing. It climbs quite well all-around, making it a strong boot for mixed routes.
But the Mont Blanc Pro isn’t as specialized as other boots on this list. It won’t handle high elevation, and vertical ice will be more effort. It's also not the most durable boot on this list.
Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX
Arc’teryx Acrux AR
Best Lightweight Boots for Mixed Climbing
Built-in ankle gaiter
Very waterproof outer boot
Great mixed performance
Solid lacing system
Not as strong on vertical ice
Mixed climbing is a demanding activity. You need a boot that’s warm, waterproof, durable, and nimble enough to handle lots of different kinds of climbing. The Arc’teryx Acrux AR fits this description perfectly.
The Acrux AR is, foremost, the lightest double boot on this list. On long adventures in the alpine, that makes a huge difference.
It features both an integrated gaiter and liner for additional warmth and waterproofing. Its soles are also slightly more flexible than pure ice climbing boots, which improves hiking performance.
But having flexible boots will decrease your performance on vertical ice somewhat. And while the Acrux AR is still capable, those who focus on vertical ice will want something stiffer.
Arc’teryx Acrux AR
La Sportiva G2 EVO
Best Extreme Cold/High-Altitude Boots
BOA lacing system
Full synthetic body
Not as stiff as others
When you’re bagging peaks miles above sea level, spare no expense on footwear. The La Sportiva G2 EVO brings outstanding warmth and waterproofing, while still being lightweight. It performs well in extreme cold on rock, snow, and ice.
Featuring a high gaiter, removable liner, and intuitive BOA lacing system, the G2 EVO is right at home in a high alpine mountain environment. The outer boot is made of durable synthetic materials, which keep it light. It's also the warmest boot on this list, by far.
The main drawback to the G2 EVO is cost. If you’re suiting up for a major expedition, this may not be much of a deterrent. But it will cause some buyers to look elsewhere.
La Sportiva G2 EVO
La Sportiva Mega Ice EVO
Best Ice Climbing Boots for Technical Ice
Top-of-the-line technical ice climbing performance
Not very warm
Doesn’t do anything other than climb ice
Looking at the La Sportiva Mega Ice EVO is a little confusing. Is it even a boot? Why does it look like a climbing shoe?
A quick answer to the last question is that it essentially is a climbing shoe, but redesigned for use on ice. La Sportiva created the Mega Ice for dedicated ice climbers who need as much precision and as little bulk as possible.
The Mega Ice EVO strips away all the extra weight, leaving what you need for ultra-technical ice routes. The result is a lightweight design (just over a pound) that's highly waterproof, with built-in crampons. So when you’re on an overhung route, swinging in and out of a figure four, you’ll barely even feel them.
But buyer, beware. The list of things the Mega Ice EVO doesn't do is long. It is not a mountaineering boot. It will not hike. It’s a specialized tool that does one job, and one job only.
La Sportiva Mega Ice EVO
How to Shop for A Pair of Ice Climbing Boots
Ice climbing boots offer tons of different options. And there's a lot of pressure to find the perfect boot. Boots are, after all, a crucially important piece of gear.
So which is right for you? Do you need a double boot, or a single boot? Integrated gaiter, or no? Which crampon style should you go with?
Here, I'll explain some of the things to look for while shopping, so you can make a solid boot purchase.
Ice climbing boots vary wildly in price. On the low end, you should expect to pay more than $500 for ice climbing boots. Adding a liner, gaiters, a higher shank, and better waterproofing increases this number.
Mid-range boots meant for 4-season use on technical ice typically cost $700-850. Examples in this price range are the Arc’teryx Acrux and Scarpa Phantom Tech. These boots will work great for winter ascents in the US.
On the upper end, boots come with knee-high gaiters, liners, and bombproof construction. These boots will handle the harsh conditions found in places like Nepal. They often cost well over $1,000, up to $1,300 or so.
Ice climbing boots are made of three main materials: leather, synthetic, and plastic. “Synthetic” is a blanket term for different high-tech nylons used in outdoor gear. These do the best job of repelling water while staying lightweight. Synthetic boots are often the most high-performance.
Leather boots are more common for general mountaineering. However, they can do well climbing in mixed conditions. They’re heavier, but also more durable in general.
Plastic boots are the least common. They use a hard outer shell and liner, like ski boots, but have laces and rubber soles. These are lightweight, repel water exceptionally well, and are bombproof for durability.
But plastic boots are often less precise in technical climbing situations, and on the off-chance water does get in, they don’t breathe at all. They have become less common in the last half decade or so, but some, like the Scarpa Inverno, are still being sold.
There are two main designs when it comes to insulation, single and double boots. Double boots have a liner which sits inside the outer boot, similar to a ski boot. They're the best way to avoid cold feet in extreme weather. This design is most common with extreme cold/high-altitude boots.
Single boots have the same construction as normal hiking boots, with a single-piece insulated outer boot. This design is more common with 3-season boots and is less warm, but cheaper. If you're climbing in the shoulder season, a single boot will keep you from getting sweaty feet.
When all you’re touching is water, you’re going to get wet. Ice climbing involves chipping ice into tiny pieces that spray all over your gear and melt. If that ice water gets your foot wet, you’re in trouble.
The gold standard for waterproof material is Gore-Tex. This porous membrane keeps liquid water out, while letting steam filter through from underneath. So even when you’re sweating, you stay dry. Most ice climbing boots feature several layers of Gore.
But only having Gore-Tex isn’t enough. Boots have lots of seams, each of which can fail. Ice climbing boots address this issue by using wide rubber strips to cover seams. More aggressive boots feature rubber outers that go up to the laces, or higher.
Last, many boots will feature gaiters to add an extra layer of waterproofing. Gaiters vary in height, with the most extreme boots going almost to the knee. These open and close with zippers, covering your laces and the tops of the boots.
Gaiters are more important for pure ice climbing, winter expeditions, and multi-day trips. But they can also be helpful for kicking steps in wet snow on spring trips.
Stiffness and Fit/Laces
When you’re climbing ice in steep terrain, you will have to place your whole weight over the points of your crampons. Having a rigid sole makes this easier.
When climbing in mixed conditions, stiff soles also help to kick steps in snow and climb on vertical rock. But, stiff soles make trail hiking harder. So if you’re after a 3-season boot that can handle long approaches, don’t go for the stiffest boots available.
Another factor that influences how well a boot performs is the lacing system. You want to be able to tailor the fit of the boot with the laces, and then lock it in place. Laces that come loose or are tough to do up can be a pain on the wall and hurt your performance.
Ice climbing, as a sport, is all about precision. As such, there’s no “wiggle room” for your crampons and ice tools. You need crampons that will do exactly what you want them to do every time.
Automatic crampons (which clip onto your boots, as opposed to a strap-on crampon) are the most common choice for providing this precision.
They do a great job of keeping your points in place, and they’re easy to get on and back off again. Find boots that have automatic crampon compatibility, with toe and heel welts.
The best ice climbing boot on the market is the Scarpa Phantom Tech. The Scarpa Mont Blanc Pro GTX is a good budget option for beginners. The Arc’teryx Acrux AR is ideal for climbing mixed terrain in cold conditions. And the La Sportiva G2 EVO is the perfect companion for a high-altitude adventure.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.