How Tight Should Mountaineering Boots Be? Do Mountaineering Boots Break In?

Sometimes, when you get a pair of mountaineering boots, they fit your feet perfectly and are comfortable from the first time you use them. However, sometimes they are so tight, stiff, and uncomfortable that you can’t enjoy using them until you do something about them.

At this point, two things come to mind; stretching the boots and breaking them in. however, is it possible to achieve them with your mountaineering boots? Thankfully, yes, you can. Let’s find out how. 

Why Are Mountaineering Boots So Stiff?

If you have ever wondered why mountaineering boots are stiff, the answer lies in the nature of the boot and its functions. 

Mountaineering boots are stiff for several reasons. First, they are designed to be used with crampons for climbing in snow and alpine environments. 

These boots are designed to be used in mountainous terrains, including alpine rocks, glaciers, and snowfields. For them to work well, they need to be tall and stiff. 

Mountaineering boots often contain a shank made of plastic or metal that’s used to create a rigid sole and ensure that your boot won’t bend as you climb or walk, especially on ice and steep snow.

A shank can also be made with fiberglass or kevlar, provided it does the job of delivering extra stiffness when placed inside the boot. Shanks are crucial for all mountaineering boots because they make it easier to climb and also use crampons in technical ice-climbing situations.

Sometimes, the level of stiffness of a mountaineering boot also depends on the amount of shank inside the boot.

For instance, a ¾ shank boot contains partial shank, making them less stiff and delivering more underfoot flexibility. Many summer-weight mountaineering boots have this kind of shank. However, this kind of boot doesn’t work well with automatic crampons so you’ll need to use semi-auto crampons.

On the other hand, a full shank mountaineering boot is the stiffest because the shank runs through the entire boot length. This is the best kind of boot for technical alpine climbing and automatic crampons, but it doesn’t offer much comfort when you’re climbing rocky terrain.

Should Mountaineering Boots Be Tight?

The answer is no. 

You might think that mountaineering boots should be tight so that they don’t come off or dangle around as you climb, but they shouldn’t be tight.

No doubt, mountaineering boots should never be too large to be discomforting. But they should have sufficient space for your feet to breathe and also accommodate a pair of thick socks. 

So, what you need is a pair of well-fitting mountaineering boots that are neither too tight nor too loose. They should be spacious enough that when you walk, your heel lifts slightly off the footbed but doesn’t graze the back of the boot.

The space is also necessary to avoid hitting your toe against the front section of your boots and feeling discomfort when descending.

When going to buy mountaineering boots, ensure that they are between half and one size larger than your usual shoes. That way, a pair of thick socks can go in and your feet will still be comfortable.

Can You Stretch Mountaineering Boots?

So, what if you get a pair of mountaineering boots and they are tight and uncomfortable? Is that the end, or is there hope for you to salvage the situation?

You can stretch Mountaineering boots to make them more comfortable for you. You can either do it yourself or visit a Cotswold’s store and have them stretch your boots using a boiler and steam stretching bar.

Now that we’re on the topic, let’s talk about how to stretch your mountaineering boots apart from steam stretching and boilers.

How Do You Stretch Mountaineering Boots?

There are three notable methods of stretching mountaineering boots. You can use a stretcher, work on the laces, or use hot water.

1. Using a stretcher

Stretch Mountaineering Boots Using a stretcher

You can purchase a shoe stretcher at a store where sporting goods are sold. The stretcher isn’t expensive, and you can use it on your boot to make more space.

Using a stretcher, you can apply pressure on all sides of your boot, thereby creating more space and allowing it to adapt easily as you wear it.

That way, when you walk or climb and your feet change positions, the boots will be in a better situation to conform without discomfort.

2. Removing the laces

Removing the laces to Stretch Mountaineering Boots

You can also stretch your mountaineering boot by taking out the insoles and loosening the laces.

When you do this, your boots will stretch out and afford you more room over time.

Ensure to relax the boots enough to create at least an inch of space between your toes and the front of your boot when it is all laced up.

3. Hot water and soap

Stretch Mountaineering Boots Using Hot water and soap

Hot water and soap can also help you stretch your mountaineering boots.

To do this, you’ll need to use hot water and soap on your boots for 15 minutes every day while you have your boots on but without socks.

It could take anywhere from two weeks to six months to stretch your boots sufficiently using this method until they’re as comfortable as you need them to be.

Do Mountaineering Boots Break In? 

Breaking in, in this context simply means achieving the state where your feet fit perfectly and comfortably into your mountaineering boots. 

The answer is yes; mountaineering boots break in, but with some amount of work on your part. Some conditions should be met for your mountaineering boots to break in.

When dealing with some mountaineering boots, it is pretty straightforward; you simply have to wear them for about a month and your fit will slowly and comfortably break into the boot.

You can also break them in by taking a 10-mile walk; that way, your feet must have expanded by close to one size, and you’ll get more room for your toes.

For some other boots, you don’t even need to break them in; they just break in while you’re using them on your first mountaineering trip.

For some other serious mountaineering boots with stiff soles designed specifically for rock climbing or cramping it is very tough, and in some cases, impossible to break them in. Some of such boots never break in until you’re done using them and they wear out.

Here are some other things you can do to break in your mountaineering boots. You can call them shortcuts if you want.


You can break in your boots using treatments such as heat treatments, leather softeners, and wetting your boots, then walking them dry.

However, these treatments can reduce the lifespan of your boots.

Climbing Tape

You can wrap your heels with a large amount of climbing tape and then go on several walks and outings (maybe even shopping) in your mountaineering boots.

You can cover only your heels or even your entire feet if you deem it necessary and use it with your boots for as long as it takes for them to break in.

Metolius tape and Dream tape are some of the stickiest tapes you can use on your feet and they hold firm.

To apply tape, get an average of four or five tape strips the length of your index finger. Apply one on your lower heel and another one on your higher heel.

Place two fingers of tapes overlapping the joins, and the fifth wherever you feel needs extra protection, especially a spot that blisters easily.

For a better hold, angle your toes upwards when applying the tape. That way, the skin on your heel is tightened as you fix it.

Final Words:

Now you know that mountaineering boots can be stretched, and you know exactly how to go about it. You can do it yourself or have an expert help you handle it. 

Whatever the case might be, you’ll enjoy using your mountaineering boots better and more comfortably if you take the tips above into consideration. 

Similar Posts