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.
Below 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.
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 iffy lines, 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.
So, should you buy footwear with really stiff soles?
No, not for scrambling and hill walking, they are usually far too bulky and uncomfortable.
You only need super stiff soles if you’re out in the winter.
Approach shoes and scrambling boots usually have a semi-firm but not rigid sole and that’s just fine for hill walking and scrambling up to grades 2-3.
3) Sole Grip and Shape
The softer the grip on the soles, the less likely you are to slip, but soft lugs 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 found that “regular” hiking boots often have deeper lugs that work great on grass and mud but slide easily on steeper rock.
The Best Scrambling Shoes and Boots
Below are my recommendations.
I’ve included one approach/scrambling boot, one general hiking B1 boot and one B2 boot which is perfect for winter:
La Sportiva Tx4
Ideal for scramblers who want lighter footwear but plenty of grip. I own the boot version and you’ll find my 1-year review here.
Scarpa SL Active
A classic all-around rugged trekking boot with enough rigidity for scrambling yet comfortable enough for longer walks in most conditions. I owned the previous version of this boot.
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, 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?
Recommended Guide Book:
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.
Daniel Woodley aka The Bald Scrambler