It’s easy enough to confuse ‘mountaineering boots’ with ‘hiking boots’ if you’re just starting out. After all, you may well be hiking up mountains! But there are differences between the two types.
Mountaineering boots are pretty stiff, designed to be used with crampons in colder conditions on the mountains. They’re also very well insulated. They’ll offer you support if you’re climbing on rugged terrain, and they’ll keep your feet dry if it’s wet (although don’t forget your Sealskinz!). You can use mountaineering boots in a wide range of harsh conditions including ice climbing and alpine mountaineering.
If you’ll be on mountains where there’s a little light glacier trekking, you may be better off with a stiff hiking boot that will allow you to attach crampons (i.e you’ll see a crampon groove around the boot’s toe). You can get strap on crampons if your boots don’t have the groove.
If you’re likely to spend more time climbing on ice, a mountaineering boot is a better choice. They’re not only crampon compatible but they’re stiffer too, allowing you to do some low-angle ice climbing.
Hiking boots bend easy as you walk over terrain – there’s a noticeable difference in stiffness. Mountaineering boots by contrast are not only stiffer but also tougher.
Both types of boot tend to offer decent ankle support although as you might expect, mountaineering boots offer a higher level of more rigid support. Of course, this varies from model to model.
There’s a little more weight in mountaineering boots compared to hiking boots, because there is more too them. This is a generalisation though because there are some lightweight mountaineering boots on the market – but generally you’ll find they weigh in a little heavier than hiking boots.
Finally, mountaineering boots offer more insulation so again, if you’re hiking in icy conditions, your feet will thank you for picking them over hiking boots which tend to have little or no insulation. Some even have liners that you can remove as well for added warmth.