Which boot do you need in winter?
Posted on January 11 2019
Well, it looks like winter is on the way. We have snow on the outer edges of the forecast period and that will eventually thaw and turn the ground to mud. So, what’s the best footwear for wet/snow/cold winter walking?
Winter, so far, has been mild and dry. Perfect walking conditions, that are relatively undemanding on footwear. Softer, flexible boots and even ones that are no longer water-proof have been enough. When the weather returns to wet and cold, they will tend be inadequate. We can break it down into moorland and mountain.
Mountain is a difficult one, as crampon use comes into the equation. You need a crampon compatible boot at the rating you require for your intended routes. For most users its either B1 or B2. Basically, this is whether it takes a flexible or a ridged crampon. (It’s also worth noting you need and ice axe and the skills to use them)!
For a B2 you can’t go far wrong with the Scarpa Manta Pro. Its an updated classic Scarpa Manta and it’s a fantastic example of a B2. I have had a pair for a good few years and they have seen action in the Alps and Scotland, (see the below vids for more usage insights). With these you can tackle basic gullies, but they are also great over snow without the need for crampons. Solid and dependable, but little use in anything but the mountains in winter.
The Scarpa SL is a fantastic B1. A version of the SL has been in the Scarpa range for years and it constantly wins awards. The 2018 SL Activ is no exception. It’s a wonderful evolution of the original boot. I have an old pair and they are still in serviceable order. The Great thing about the SL is it’s a good winter boot for the North Yorkshire Moors to, or even a summer mountain boot. Its heavy, but they tend to be, but that heaviness gives you a great stable footbed, ankle support and stiffness to give security with crampons or just on snow or mud without. So, the Scarpa SL is a cross over boot, giving some usage in the moorlands in winter.
So, let’s have a look at the characteristics that give the SL this cross over. What do you need on snow and mud, (if we put aside mountain use)? Sole stiffness is important. A stiff sole unit will allow you deeper purchase in mud/snow by helping your foot dig in, instead of sliding off the top as the front of the foot flexes. In addition to this, it allows you to kick steps, especially in snow, on slopes.
Good ankle support is also a great help. With an increased chance of slipping, it gives you added protection from injury and takes some of the pressure of the ankle in maintaining foot to leg support.
The other issue is water-proof. While fabric boots can be water-proof, the upper layers tend to be more vulnerable to water ingress than well maintained leather, allowing the boot to get saturated and the foot to be more cold vulnerable. They are also difficult to wash off!
So, for example, the Aku Superalps is a great winter boot with some usage in the mountains in winter, (and lots in the summer). While not a B1 boot, with careful usage, you can use a flexible crampon if needed, (although I am not recommending this)! Its great in the moors, stiff for the mud but with enough flex to not over fatigue the foot on the flat. More mountain then moor, but a great cross over.
For a bit more of an allrounder, the Scarpa Ranger proves to be a great choice. Much more flexible on the sole, (so no crampons here, although trail spikes like the Grivel Ran will do a treat), it’s much more comfortable on the flat but has enough stiffness to give more purchase on snow/mud. Also, lots of ankle support gives a stable winter boot for moorland use. It will also do most jobs in the mountains when they are ice free, and give year moorland use.
So the boot needs to fit the task you have in mind. But it also needs to fit well, with the socks you intend to ware. So pop in and see us, (with your socks), and we will walk you though your winter boot options!
In this video you can see both the Scarpa Manta Pro and Aku Superalps in use-
The Scarpa Manta are used with ridged crampons to assend Helvelyn
Here, Andy uses his old Scarpa SL's in a Scottish highlands March winter crossing