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This question reffers to "single" alpine climbing boots used for mountaineering with a stiff 3/4 to full shank, not heavy duty backpacking boots or "double" (plastic) boots. I have owned two pairs of climbing boots, both of which have caused foot pain and/or blisters on many trips. While climbing 3rd to 5th class rock or climbing vertical ice/snow, I appriciate the stiff shank and am able to stand in my crampons and climb in boots just fine with no pain. However, most of the climbing in my area requires long and sometimes bushy approaches on anything from level ground to steep hills. I find my feet start to really hurt on the approach (even more so on the walks back to the car) as the boots are so stiff and hard on my feet they seem to really pound with each step.

I guess I'd like to know, as the boots are designed for climbing, should I always just expect this when walking on flat/moderate terrain?

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2 Answers 2

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I am not entirely sure, but I think you are referring to boots like the La Sportiva Nepal.

In this case, while these shoes are as you mentioned designed primarerly for technical mountaineering, you should not expect these sort of problems. I did my military service mostly in these boots and we did a lot of marching on flat concrete. While this is a shameful misuse of great boots, it did not result in hurting feet. There are a few points in the design that make it less practical for flat walking though, but some of thame can be remedied:

  • You mentioned the stiff shank:
    This gets a whole lot better if you do not tie the shoelace too hard in the upper shoe lace hooks and leave out the top shoe lace hooks.
  • Much more of a problem is the stiff sole with almost no damping. This makes your walking very harsh to your knees. This is the main reason why I would not recommend these kind of shoes for walking. With time, you learn to roll as smoothly as possible while walking, but it still is quite bad.

But despite these two points, if these shoes fit, they should not cause hurting feets. Even in mountaineering you have to walk and they are designed to do this. It seems like the model you use does not entirely suit you. Very often a personaly optimized sole can help that problem.

Summarizing: You should not expect hurting feets from walking in these boots, but they are not optimal for flat terrain. For this I advise to use some sort of approach shoe to personal taste. That can be anything from a running shoes to dedicated climbing approach shoes.

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Interesting topic and nice answer. I understand what you mean by hooks for shoelaces and I heard the same advice not to tie the top too hard. Somehow inherently I would give the same advice of using approach shoes, these days they are small and light. On the other side mountaineering boots should be suitable for the approach too not only to omit the unnecessary second pair of shoes. I have no solution for the problem, seems one has to try hell a lot of different boots to find the ones which really fit your feet. –  EverythingRightPlace Aug 12 at 22:59
    
The optimised sole is a good idea, I'd recommend this if your having problems. –  Liam Aug 13 at 8:08
    
Thanks for this! I'm starting to see that my old system of "approach shoes until not possible" is not a bad one and that others use this. I may just have to suck it up and sacrifice the extra weight and pack room! –  jonny.milano Aug 15 at 16:59

Imsodin's answer is good and covers a lot of good points. One thing that is relevant here is Alpine boots come in 3 grades (to match the grades of crampons). You need to pick the right boot grade for the job you want it to do. Some trade off comfort (when walking) for ability when climbing.

B1

B1 one boots are softer and allow the most comfort when walking. This softness comes at the expense of technical ability though. You'll find yourself using much more effort when using your crampons, you should also only use your crampons for short period of time as the softness stresses the joining arm in the middle of the crampon.

Use these when your spending more time walking than using Crampons.

B2

Harder than B1 but softer B3. These are what most winter alpine boots are. They're designed for using crampons for extended periods. They have some flex but it's limited. The trade off for better ability with crampons here is the comfort when walking (especially without crampons)

B3

These are the stiffest. These are technical ice climbing boots. I wouldn't walk in these at all if you can avoid it. The soles will generally be solid. They are designed for front pointing with crampons on sheer ice.


Compatibillty

  • A B1 boot can only use C1 crampons (typically only strap on crampons)
  • B2 boot can use C1 or C2 crampons
  • B3 boot can use C1, C2 or C3 crampons

These are all rules of thumb. There is variations between brands, models, etc. Andy Kirkpatrick has written a good blog post on the subject

Here's a UKClimbing article going into greater details and some specific boots

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Do you know the source of this rating of Alpine boots and crampons? I never heard of this system here in switzerland and would like to read about it. –  imsodin Aug 13 at 9:15
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It's very common here in the UK @imsodin . Here's an article talking about it –  Liam Aug 13 at 9:25
    
Thanks! This is good information to know. I really enjoyed reading the Andy Kirkpatrick article. Interesting that he uses approach shoes until he "can't" any more. I've done this myself on a couple of climbs in my area, and have found it to be the best system for me. Maybe I am over thinking this.. –  jonny.milano Aug 15 at 16:54

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