The only problem with burly, protective boots? They feel like burly, protective boots. The Ascent Plus breaks the rule with low-clunk, big-boot performance. Smart materials and construction deliver support where many boots don’t: the upper. While a partial exoskeleton in the midfoot or ankle is common, the Ascent Plus boasts an extensive framework of 2-mm-thick plastic heat-fused to the Cordura, suede, and
full-grain leather upper. This web-like frame extends from ankle bone to toebox and from the lace eyelets to the wide suede rands that protect each side, giving the shoe a degree of structure and strength approaching plastic mountaineering boots.
One Vermont tester praised the outstanding ankle support and rock-solid heel stability after kicking steps into mud and sidehilling on
Mt. Mansfield. “The plastic framework made it possible to achieve uniform tension across the top of my foot,” she says, “while the roomy toebox prevented toe bang when I was hammering downhill.” In addition to a rubber-infused leather toe bumper, a narrow, stickier band of rubber on the front of the toebox helped our tester maintain grip when scrambling. “The Vibram soles have a nice smear,” she says, “and worked great for rock scrambling on the Long and Frost Trails, where you’re often relying on toe holds or cracks on wide rock faces.” The Ascent Plus is also well-suited for strap-on crampons: It doesn’t transmit pressure, even when the straps are pulled tight, and the -length carbon shank—lighter, more durable, and more expensive than a typical nylon or steel one—is stiff. Bonus: The molded-plastic insole is as supportive as some aftermarket options, and the easily tensioned exoskeleton upper accommodates all foot types. Bummer: They’re spendy. $329; 2 lbs. 14 oz.; m’s 8-13, w’s 5-10; crispiusa.com