Leather boots

A general mountaineering boot is a compromise between conflicting requirements. It should be tough enough to withstand the scraping of rocks, stiff and solid enough for kicking steps in hard snow, yet comfortable enough for the approach hike. In a single day of climbing, the boots may have to contend with streams, mud, logs, brush, scree, hard snow, and steep rock.

The classic leather mountaineering boot (fig. 2-1) has the following features: high uppers (5V2 to 71/2 inches) to protect the ankles in rough terrain; Vibram-type soles for traction on slippery vegetation, mud, and snow; midsoles for insulation and shock absorption; and a semi-rigid shank.

The length and rigidity of a boot's shank (fig.

Fig. 2-1. A classic leather mountaineering boot

2-2) is a much-debated topic. The ideal length depends on how the boot will be used. For hiking, easy snow climbs, and rock routes, choose a boot with a half-length nylon or fiberglass shank, which keeps the sole reasonably flexible. Boots used primarily for technical ice climbing or difficult mountain routes benefit from being made of plastic or having a full-length shank. The rigid plastic or full-

length shank impairs walking but greatly reduces leg fatigue when front-pointing with crampons or standing on small rock nubbins.

The sole of the boot should be attached to the uppers by means of a durable method of stitching, with the Norwegian welt (fig. 2-3) considered the longest lasting. The welt should be narrw (fig.



Filler/ midsoles

- Filler Cemented midsole


Filler/ midsoles



- Filler Cemented midsole


Stitching Insole,



Rubber lug

Stitching Insole,





Rubber lug


Rubber lug

Fig. 2-3. Four common methods of boot construction: a, Goodyear welt; b, Norwegian welt; c, Littleway; d, cemented.

Fig. 2-2. The shank length determines the flexibility of the boot ; sole: a, full-length shank boot; b, hcdf-length shank boot.

Fig. 2-2. The shank length determines the flexibility of the boot ; sole: a, full-length shank boot; b, hcdf-length shank boot.

Other desirable boot features include the following:

• Tops that open wide so that even when the boots are frozen or wet, they can be put on easily.

• A minimum number of seams, to decrease the places water can leak through.

• A gusseted tongue, or a bellows tongue, to keep water from easily entering the boot.

• Double- or triple-layered leather or fabric at areas of high wear (toes and heels).

• Hard toe counters (stiffeners) built in to protect the feet, reduce compression caused by crampon straps, and facilitate kicking of steps in hard snow.

• Hard heel counters (stiffeners) built in to increase foot stability and facilitate plunge-stepping down steep snow slopes.

Lightweight hiking boots

Improvements in boot technology have led to evolution of the medium- and lightweight hiking boot (fig. 2-5). Made of leather and nylon, these boots weigh one-third to one-half as much as traditional boots, yet are sturdy enough for three-season trekking on moderate terrain. The uppers of these boots typically are glued to the sole, eliminating the need for a welt. Check that the boots are high enough for ankle protection, that a stiff counter wraps the heel and toe, and that abrasion areas are reinforced.

Advantages of lightweight boots include reduced cost, increased breathability, improved comfort, shorter break-in time, and faster drying. However, they are not as durable and cannot be made as waterproof as leather boots, and they lack the weight and stiffness for kicking steps in firm snow. On difficult off-trail terrain and on snow, leather boots are still preferred.

Stiff Firm Rigid
Fig. 2-5. Lightweight trail boots: a, leather; h, synthetic.

Plastic boots

Plastic boots (fig. 2-6), originally designed for technical ice climbing, have found a much wider market among general mountaineers interested in snow routes or winter climbing. The plastic shell of the boot is waterproof, so the inner insulating boot remains dry and keeps your feet warm. This inner boot can be removed, which helps in drying out perspiration.

Plastic boots need to fit well from the start because their rigid shape will not mold around your feet over time. The boot's relative rigidity and its

insulating inner boot.

high degree of warmth makes it a poor choice for general trail use. When fitting plastic boots, make sure that they do not constrict the feet. Feet swell at high altitude, and plastic boots are frequently used for high-altitude expeditions.

The proper fit

Whether you're looking at leather, plastic, or lightweight boots, the fit is critical. Try on several makes and styles, with socks similar to the ones you will wear on a climb. Be sure to bring along any orthotic devices, insoles, or other inserts you plan to use. Wear the boots in the store for several minutes to give your socks time to compress around your feet. Then note whether the boots have any uncomfortable seams or creases and whether they pinch against your foot or Achilles' tendon. In properly fitting boots, your heels will feel firmly anchored in place while your toes will have plenty of room to wiggle and will not jam against the toe box when you press forward. Boots that are too tight constrict circulation, causing cold feet and increased susceptibility to frostbite. Loose boots, on the other hand, cause blisters.

Most people's feet swell during the course of the day, so consider buying boots in the evening for the best fit. Given the choice between boots that are a hair too big and ones that are a bit too small, go with the larger boots. You can fill the space with a thicker sock, and most boots can shrink as much as a half size over time (because the toe of a boot has a tendency to curl).

Boot care

With proper care, good boots can last several years. Keep mildew at bay by washing the boots frequently. After washing, stuff them with a boot tree or newspaper, and dry them in a warm (not hot), ventilated area. Heat can damage the welt and the adhesive used on boot soles. Avoid drying or storing boots at high temperatures: the boots dried over a campfire are likely to be the ones that fall apart on a future trip. Boot soles usually wear out long before the uppers. High-quality boots can be resoled, although this may change the original fit because new soles tighten the size somewhat.

During an outing, water can get into boots over the top and through the leather and seams. Wearing gaiters keeps water from running into boots from the top. Waterproofing agents applied to the leather and seams stop water from going through the boots.

With new boots, treat the welt first with one of the waterproofing products designed for this purpose. It's a process that needs to be repeated periodically. Boots must be clean and dry, with any wax removed. Apply the material directly to the threads and stitching holes, and let it dry before applying waterproofing to the rest of the boot. Some boot makers use waterproof rubber rands to seal the welt, a desirable feature that simplifies boot maintenance and keeps your feet drier.

Apply waterproofing to the boots a day or two before a trip to give the agents time to penetrate the leather. The makeup of the waterproofing used on leather uppers depends on how the leather was tanned, so follow the manufacturer's recommendations. The nylon in many lightweight boots is difficult to seal completely, but you can make it more water resistant by applying silicone-based sprays. Whatever you use on your boots, apply it frequently if you expect your feet to stay dry.

After using plastic boots, remove the inner boots and clean them with mild soap and water. Remove any debris from inside the plastic shells to prevent abrasion and excessive wear between the outer and inner boots.

Specialized footwear

Depending on the trip, a climber may wear one kind of boot for the approach hike, another type of footwear in camp, and yet another on the climb. If you can afford additional footgear and are willing to carry the extra weight, consider these options:

• Lightweight, flexible trail shoes for long trails, easy approaches, stream crossings, and for wearing in camp. They are less likely to cause blisters and are less fatiguing to wear. (The rule of thumb is that 1 pound of weight strapped to the foot is comparable to 5 on the back.) However, these lightweight shoes may not provide the support you need when carrying a heavy pack.

• Camp footwear (booties for comfort and warmer sleeping; running or tennis shoes, or sandals, for comfort and to give boots a chance to dry).

• Lightweight nylon-mesh socks for camp use and stream crossings. They are very light, have waffled soles for traction, and dry fast, but give no support.

• Special rock-climbing shoes for technical rock (see Chapter 9 for details).

• Full-shank boots that you can use with rigid crampons for ice climbing.

Continue reading here: Mountaineering Boots Thick Or Thin Socks

Was this article helpful?

0 0


  • May
    How to use a filler on leather boots?
    10 years ago