The Best Boots and Shoes For Scrambling

By The Bald Scrambler

Footwear

Published By: Daniel Woodley. Updated: 8th May 2024. Filed at: Guides. Disclosure: I may earn a commission from purchases made via links.

If you’re serious about scrambling, you’ll need to get proper footwear that provides the best balance between comfort and safety.

Unfortunately, climbing shoes are rarely comfortable on long hill walks, and soft, spongy shoes might be comfy on paths but provide little support when you’re hanging off a ridge or making your up an iffy gully.

While scrambling shoes and boots may appear more expensive than regular hiking footwear, their specialist design means they provide the wearer with plenty of grip and comfort.

On this page, you’ll find an explanation of the three things to look out for.

1) Scuff Protection Around the Edges

Scrambling will take its toll on shoes and boots, and the edges of regular footwear are rarely up to the task; I’ve had cheap boots fall apart after just one season due to the wear and tear of the edges.

It would be best to look for footwear with full rand coverage – this is usually a rubber band covering the front, rear and sides of the boot or shoe, often up to about an inch or so above the sole. Climbers shoes typically have a rand too, as it also protects the feet from sharp edges.

Can you safely scramble in footwear without this feature? Sure, but the shoes might not last as long, and you’ll feel sharp edges more.

Scarpa-SL Active scrambling boots

2) Sole Stiffness

Here’s the deal with sole stiffness:

Firm, sturdy soles aren’t comfortable on long walks in the hills or on regular paths, but they provide much-needed support when scrambling up challenging routes, especially in winter conditions.

If you need to jam your toe onto a narrow ledge, a stiff-soled boot will provide support and give you the confidence to make the move; you’ll also be able to stay perched on the ledge for longer without your feet hurting or tiring.

A soft, spongy sole will flex, and you’ll find it harder to keep your toe on the ledge, however they are far better at smearing.

So, should you buy footwear with really stiff soles or flexible soles?

This depends on the type of scrambler you are and the routes you undertake.

I mostly scramble grade 1 and 2 routes and I see no reason to wear overly stiff boots – I rarely find myself on my toes for very long, and I am a smearer, so a softer sole is best for me.

In winter and on steeper routes where one may need more support, a firmer boot would be the better option.

3) Sole Grip and Shape

I’ve found that the softer the grip on the soles, the less likely I am to slip, but soft lugs do wear out more quickly.

The shape and depth of the lugs are also important. I’ve found that shallow rounded lugs offer the best traction on rock but they perform poorly on grassy slopes and in mud.

I’ve also found that “regular” hiking boots often have deeper lugs that work great on grass and mud but slide easily on steeper rock so they aren’t ideal for scrambles.

On my La Sportiva TX4 boots the lugs are also spaced far apart to prevent dirt/grass from getting caught in the lugs. This is a feature I look for when choosing footwear (see photo).

Sole and tread on a la Sportiva TX4 boot

Scrambling soles should have a solid block near the toe for extra traction on rock. Note the shallow rounded lugs – these offer good traction on rock but perform poorly on grassy, wet and muddy slopes. They are spaced far apart to prevent dirt-grass pick up.

The Best Scrambling Shoes and Boots

Below are my recommendations.

I’ve included one approach/scrambling boot, one general hiking boot and a firmer boot which is perfect for winter:

La Sportiva TX4

la Sportiva TX4 approach boots

Ideal for scramblers who want plenty of grip on rock, at the expense of grip on grass/mud. The TX4 is quite flexible and is perfect for smearing on the rock. I own the boot version and you’ll find my updated review here.

Scarpa Mescalito TRK

Scarpa Mescalito TRK

A classic all-around rugged trekking boot with enough rigidity for muddy hikes, also good for scrambling in all weather. I use these mostly on walks in muddy wet conditions but they also great for those who scramble and prefer a firmer sole.

La Sportiva Trango Tech

Red and black Trango Tech boots

La Sportiva Trango Tech boots are perfect for winter walks and easy scrambles. Warm, crampon compatible but not overly stiff, I always wear these in winter conditions. 

Don’t Forget Crampon Compatability

If you plan on using your footwear for winter scrambles and mountaineering, don’t forget about crampon compatibility.

In short, if you want to complete a technical winter scramble, experience tells me that a B2 boot would be your best option as you can fit a C2 crampon which offers better heel support and more aggressive points.

This is the best crampon guide and well worth reading if you’re considering about winter scrambling.

Scrambling Clothes & Accessories:

I hope you found my guide to scrambling shoes and boots insightful – don’t forget to try the footwear on in a shop rather than buying online; nothing beats testing out shoes and boots, and many independent shops offer expert advice.

Want to know what I wear in the mountains?

Check out my kit list here.

Recommended Guide Book:

Scrambles in Snowdonia

Scrambles in Snowdonia by Steve Ashton (#ad)

About Daniel Woodley

This guide to the best scrambling shoes and boots was created by Daniel Woodley, aka The Bald Scrambler.

From walking along beaches and kayaking down rivers to making his way up mountains and even jumping out of planes, Daniel has a love of the outdoors but scrambling is his real passion.

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Daniel Woodley

Daniel Woodley aka The Bald Scrambler

Have fun, keep safe. Hopefully I’ll see you on the mountains one day

By The Bald Scrambler

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