Three-four season multi-day boots – also known as trekking boots – are foundation equipment that should provide dependable reliability and comfort in a variety of conditions.
Leather is still the optimal material for long-term durability and comfort. Synthetic boots tend to be lighter and faster drying. Avoid uppers that have seams in high-wear areas (such as the sides of the midfoot).
These boots will contain a waterproof and breathable lining – Gore-Tex or equivalent – which helps keep feet warm and dry. But these boots also hold water and drying time is increased.
This protects the top of the foot from the lacing and keeps debris out of the boot. They should be gusseted to at least three-quarter height and ideally full height for maximum protection from trail debris.
Boots with a firm toe box will protect toes from rock strike. A rubber rand (the strip around the edge of the boot upper) helps protect feet, makes the boot more durable and improves traction when scrambling in rocky terrain.
The midsole provides the balance between footbed comfort and a stable and protective platform for the foot. For longer trips on rough terrain, firmer boots are preferred both for protection and to prevent foot fatigue.
Shanks are usually nylon or fibreglass. Sandwiched between the midsole and the outsole, they provide stiffness for crampon use, edging and rugged terrain. Some boots include a ‘rock plate’ to protect the foot on uneven ground.
The taller the cuff, the more protection there’ll be for ankles and lower legs but very tall cuffs might restrict agility. Tall cuffs also add weight and increase a boot’s drying time. Boots with two sets of lace hooks in the cuff are a good mid-point option.
Laces should be easy to adjust and flow freely through the eyelets so you can create a precise and comfortable fit. Lace locks keep the boots firm in the midfoot and heel and prevent laces from loosening.
A perfect fit takes time to determine and each brand will be slightly different. Try several models and don’t determine fit until the boot is laced correctly and you’re standing up. Allow a little space for foot swelling and thicker socks.
Boot soles will be a high-carbon rubber that provides a balance between firmness (for ‘bite’ on slippery slopes), durability, and friction (on wet rock for example). Look for a heel that will provide good braking on descents.
Now you know what to look for, here are some of 2023’s best 3-4 season boots:
La Sportiva Aequilibrium ST GTX $799.95
An alpine trekking, glacier travel and mixed terrain boot with a ‘Double Heel’ that assists walking and downhill braking. The midsole is replaced with a carbon-loaded nylon insole and combined outsole to provide an ergonomic and precise fit. There’s a Gore-Tex Comfort lining, high-tenacity abrasion-resistant nylon uppers, and a Vibram outsole. 1260g (m), 1030g (w). www.mountainadventure.co.nz
Salewa Rapace GTX $579.90
A mountain trekking boot with a hard-wearing nubuck and fabric upper and Gore-Tex protection. It features Salewa’s 3F System for ankle support, flexibility and fit, a Flex Collar (for ankle mobility), a full rubber rand and a rock- gripping Vibram WTC outsole. It’s stiff enough for semi-automatic crampons. 1480g (m), 1230g (w). www.bobo.co.nz
Salewa Crow GTX $529.90
This boot is designed for mixed and general alpine terrain with an abrasion-resistant fabric upper and Gore-Tex lining. It features a crampon-compatible Vibram New Mulaz sole (offering grip on rock and in snow), Salewa’s 3F System for ankle and heel support, and a Flex Collar. 1350g (m), 1040g (w). www.bobo.co.nz
The North Face Summit Breithorn FutureLight $500
A light, protective boot using TNF’s breathable-waterproof FutureLight technology. It has a ripstop fabric upper with stretch Lycra collar, a rubber rand, toe cap and heel overlay, semi-rigid nylon fibreglass-reinforced shank and a Vibram Litebase Mont rubber outsole with a heel bail for semi-automatic crampons. 1103g (m), 920g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Dolomite Tofana GTX $469
This is a multi-day trip boot with an oiled full grain leather upper, soft nubuck leather panels and a 360-degree rubber rand. There’s a Gore-Tex lining, a microporous dual-density midsole, metal lacing hardware and a Vibram XS outsole. 1380g (m), 1230g (w). www.colorado-traders.co.nz
Dolomite Crodarossa Hi GTX $459
A mountain approach and technical tramping boot with a suede leather upper, Gore-Tex lining, TPU Shank for torsional control and rubber protection at toe and heel. Also featured is a stretch fabric tongue, Slipknot lacing for comfort and precision (especially on uneven and rocky terrain) and a Vibram Winkler Evo outsole for stability and traction. 1166g (m), 1020g (w). www.colorado-traders.co.nz
Merrell Phaserbound 2 $399
A full grain leather and suede boot with Merrell’s waterproof and breathable M Select DRY membrane. There’s a shock-absorbing air cushion in the heel, a medium-flex nylon shank for stability, a bellows tongue and rubber toe protection. 1320g (m/w). www.merrell.co.nz