If you’ve ever shopped for real mountain boots, you’ve probably choked on the price tags. Any weathered mountain hunter will tell you that good boots are a vital investment, but do you really have to spend that much?
The answer, unfortunately, is yes. On a sheep, goat, or alpine mule deer or elk hunt, your success can hinge on the wellness of your feet and your ability to move over the terrain. Your boots must fit properly and provide the support, protection, and durability to withstand mile after mile of steep slopes and sharp, abrasive rock. It cannot be overstated how quickly this ground can wreck boots. Even the best ones usually last me only three hunts. Boots that are up to the task are specialized and crafted with exceptional materials and great attention to detail. That’s why they don’t come cheap.
Stiff soles aid in climbing steep terrain, rubber rands protect the boot from the constant grind of sharp rocks, and good support keeps your ankles steady in precarious spots.
When you pick boots for yourself, it’s important to try on multiple pairs, and even bring your own insoles to try, because factory insoles can make a boot fit differently. Remember, if you feel pain or discomfort, it will only get worse in the mountains. No one can choose the right boot for you, but I’ve tested the following six pairs of mountain boots, and my notes can at least point you in the right direction. Find a pair from this list that fits, and they’ll get you through the roughest hunt.
La Sportiva Nepal Cube GTX
Don’t let the flashiness of this boot distract you; it’s all business. It’s an almost seamless blend of leather and synthetic material, with an ultra-protective rand. The Carbon-Tech honeycombed insole provides fantastic stiffness and torsional stability while staying surprisingly lightweight. This pair also features a removable, additional tongue to create a precise fit. It’s crampon-compatible and would be sufficient for full-on ice climbing.
Crispi Guide Non-Insulated GTX
This is a lightweight leather boot with great ankle support that is flexible enough for gentle terrain. Its upturned sole at the toe helps the boot roll forward on even terrain, improving ease of walking, but that also makes it less ideal for steep climbing. The lacing eyelets and hooks are basic, but it’s easy to vary lacing tensions. The Air Mesh insole does seem to help with perspiration, but it has a different feel than what most mountain-boot users are familiar with.
Han Wag Omega GTX
The Omega is heavy, but with a full-length shank and cemented sole, it gives ample support for moving about safely in the terrain you’d encounter on a goat hunt. It has a cow-leather upper, a high rubber rand, and dual lacing zones with roller eyelets on the bottom and locking eyelets at the top of the foot. You get a ski-boot feel out of these bad boys, which might make long distances less comfortable, but they will pay off once you start to climb.
Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Non-Insulated
This is a little more like a traditional hunting boot. It has a 10-inch full-grain leather upper with double and triple stitching, and also a protective rand. The Mountain Extreme is lightweight and not as stiff as some, so it’s ideal for those who prefer more flexibility. The K-Talon outsole is contoured to help the foot roll forward, making long treks over gentle terrain more comfortable, and it has good arch and ankle support for carrying loads of meat.
Lowa Alpine Expert GTX
This midheight boot is a great balance of stiffness and weight, with enough flexibility for comfort in gentler terrain. It has a synthetic and split-leather shell with minimal exposed stitching on the heel, and is protected with a high rubber rand. The roller eyelets help achieve a tight lace on the bottom of the boot, which is crucial for preventing debilitating blisters, and the lacing hooks allow for a variety of tensions on the top and bottom of the boot.
Scarpa Grand Dru GTX
This is a serious boot, built on an all-around mountaineering platform. It features a stiff, reinforced Vibram sole with deep, aggressive treads, and is crampon-compatible. It features a heavy-duty split leather and synthetic upper with double stitching, and a rand that protects not just the toe, but also areas of the heel where stitching can be easily cut by rocks. This boot is one to look at if you have wide feet, because the toe box is roomy.