Beginner crampon-compatible boots?

I have a lot of experience in summer conditions (or what americans call "3-season"). I came to tramping from a trail running background, and continued wearing trail runners happily - so I know f all about boots. This winter I am taking an intro snow-skills course with the local alpine club - my goal is to get comfortable enough with crampons and an ice-axe to extend the conditions I can tramp in. I don't have desires to do winter alpinism adventures. Shoes are one of those things that I really feel should be purchased in a brick and mortar store, which sucks, as online shopping has (probably) killed the specialist stores around here. I went to town today (New Plymouth) to try and find some boots that would be suitable for beginner-level cramponing, and sadly, it seems that knowledgeable staff are next to impossible here - we don't have any serious mountain stores here (went to Kathmandu, Macpac, Shoe Clinic, Frontrunner, Hunting & Fishing - none of those are stores I'd associate with serious mountains, but it's all we have here!) So, unfortunately I couldn't get good advice to wrap my head around my options. I feel out of my depth, but does anyone have advice on how to pick out a good-enough boot from these kinds of big-box stores? I don't expect to be doing a lot of serious alpinism - probably my trips would have the majority completed without crampons. So I don't think I want a full alpinism boot with no flex in the sole, as I'd still use it for walking. Ideally I will keep the budget tight - I don't really know if I will enjoy technical winter tramping, I'm just exploring at the moment to see if I want to get into it seriously. I usually buy quality gear, but to 'dip my toe in' I can go with low quality (as long as its not dangerous) - and by the time they're ready to replace, I'll have a clearer idea of whether I want to invest seriously, and what kind of boot I need for my adventures. Does anyone have any guidance, or specific models at these generic stores I should look for?
Boots that are made of plastic and have a rigid midsole are designed not to flex behind the toes at all. These were once the only real option for crampons. They are also the most waterproof option. Over time there has come about a plethora of fabric and leather boots which have the capacity for fitting crampons. These initially seem stiff with the rigid midsole but over time they become flexible as they stretch and twist with use. They become less compatible with rigid crampons over time but can at least serve as tramping boots for another life. There have however, been in existence for some time, crampons which are articulated. These are designed to flexible and to bend with the boot. They usually employ a strap on system, front and back, and don't require the lip on the back and/or front of the sole. I would suggest you look for an articulated crampon. I used to own a Charlet Moser set. You would probably have to get them from Europe or the US. If you don't intend to ice climb or ascend vertical routes and your efforts will only require you to walk on ice or glaciers, front points such as those on 12 point crampons are unnecessary.
I use the Asolo Aconcagua boot which I mail-order from OMS ( This is a tough-end tramping boot that passes well into the easier end of mountaineering. It's more flexible than the 'proper' 'plastics' mountaineering boots so there'll be some crampon movement compared to those, but for me is a good compromise for the sort of stuff I do. They were previously known as Granite, and before that Asolo 635, if those models mean anything to you. I use Petzl Charlet Moser 12-point crampons with them, and find them reliable. They cam from 'small planet' in Queenstown. They have good toe points, which for me is a must for climbing ice/snow chutes which is probably the most common use I have for them. And I find the combination reliable sidling on steep (by tramping standards) stuff. The Aconcagua has heel and toe welts to take 'automatic' crampons. All (crampon-suitable) boots used to be rated B2 or B3 to correspond with the crampon type C2 or C3 fittings - which was really easy to follow. But I see that those terms seem to have dropped away in the advertising of both boots and crampons. Now they seem to use trademarks for the type of attachment (e.g. Petzl seem to use Leverlock and Flexilock) and boots use words like 'automatic crampon compatible' to describe what types they take, which are more ambiguous. Maybe someone else can decode those new terms for us? == I know you mentioned this yourself, but for anyone else condidering starting with crampons and reading this: An ice-axe is and essential tool when using them. Crampons are your snow-tyres, but they're of no value without an axe - your brakes!
Thanks - good info. Yeah, just planning to do walking in snow and ice (and probably not a lot of it - but who knows, maybe I'll love it and it'll become the focus of trips). I probably won't purchase crampons just yet, the club has a few different ones I can borrow (Grivel, Singing Rock, Black Diamond - not sure which models or styles) for my first trips before deciding if I want to invest more into the hobby - I'm open to the possibility that I just might not like it, and don't want to have put a lot of money into trying it out.
Madpom, indeed I find the language and vagueness all very confusing for someone without experience in mountaineering. Those boots are realistically too expensive for me as a "just trying it out" purchase, though that's in the ballpark what I'd expect to spend if I decide I'm getting into it in earnest.
Look for a good 3 to 4 season boot. These should be solid enough for a flexible crampon. They will also handle muddy and rocky trails no issue but might give you sore ankles on hard smooth tracks ie roads. Talk to the people sorting out the crampons in your club as they will have favorite boots that they know work with those crampons. They will also fit the crampons to your boots. They may even have loan boots available. Another option although not suitable fot the alpine course is microspikes. You wont be climbing mountains in them but they will hold you on mild slopes and fit to your trail runners
I have a pair of [Salewa Rapace]( boots which I find good for this sort of use - light enough and comfortable enough for tramping all day, hold a crampon well enough to do quite steep, hard snow. They look to be cheaper than the Asolo Aconcaguas Madpom mentions, also quite a bit lighter. (740 g each vs 990 g each for the Asolo Aconcaguas) I use them with a pair of [Petzl Leopard Aluminium Alloy crampons]( These and a 200 g Camp Corsa Alu ice axe, and I can do some pretty serious trans-alpineering with very little extra weight carried. I'll sometimes go with some light steel trail crampons on these boots, they're not as good on steep hard snow/ice, but really good on the kind of country which has easier angled hard snow with patches of scree/rock/slick tussock in-between. The Alu Crampons are good as long as it's all snow/ice, not good if you end up crossing bits of rock/scree between the snow/ice. If you were doing harder stuff, needed to crunch across or up a bit of rock, scree from time to time, there is a version with the front part steel, rear alu, or the [all steel Irvis version]( I find the Petzl Flexlock attachment system works well with these somewhat flexible boots, goes on quick, stays on reliably. The front plastic/strap/rear leverlock setup like in the picture of the Irvis crampons above would also work on these boots.
Thanks for all the info guys. I chatted to someone in the club about what's suitable for 'easy cramponing' with the crampons they hire. They suggested a Kathmandu pair that they say work with the crampons they have and is good for beginner-level cramponing on Taranaki mounga. At $250 on sale, it felt like a reasonable deal to 'try it out.' I don't plan to get into more serious alpinism, so I suspect these'll be 'good enough' until I wear them out - even though I don't normally like Kathmandu's low grade gear!
One thing I would say is the newer crampon attachment systems for flexible boots are a lot more secure on a flexible boot than the older kind. Older kind of straps: Newer kind: Worth being aware of if you are using older Club hired crampons on flexible boots and getting frustrated trying to get them to stay on without pulling them so tight they cut off circulation to your toes. I can and do put my Petzl Leopard crampons on a pair of running shoes and they stay on and function quite well. People have climbed Mt Aspiring in a day on their running shoes and these alu crampons and been back at the pub in Wanaka for dinner.
Yeah - I went and had a look at the crampons they usually lend out, they're a flexible kind (and locking for stiff boots). Thanks for all the advice guys!

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Forum Gear talk
Started by dreambroom
On 9 July 2022
Replies 9
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