Gear Review: Salewa Pro Guide Boot

A solid mountaineering boot that handles distance.

[two-in-one hybrid]

The problem with many mountaineering boots is that they’re too stiff for long approach hikes. “You either suffer through and risk blisters or wear comfortable hikers and carry your mountain boots,” says a Rainier guide and ice climber who wore the Salewa Pro Guides more than 100 miles. Not with these innovative boots. The secret of these burly 2-in-1 climbers is a unique adjustable sole: With a turn of a hex wrench (included, but a coin or ice axe also works), you can transform it from a semi-flexible mountain boot—ideal for hauling a 50-pound pack for many miles—to a completely rigid, step-in crampon-compatible platform suitable for vertical ice climbing. The secret? An embedded aluminum shank that runs from forefoot to the heel, where it attaches to a cam. In walk mode, the shank has some slack, which allows the midsole to flex. But in climb mode, the shank becomes fully tensioned and the midsole completely rigid for climbing. Plentiful ankle padding and stretchy neoprene in the Achilles area enhance support and comfort, while a Gore-Tex liner, Thinsulate 400-fill insulation, and 3-millimeter Perwanger leather (the good stuff, from cattle in the Tyrolean Alps) provide warmth and waterproofness. After multiple Rainier summits and ice climbs in temps just above 0°F, our tester said, “My feet stayed warm and dry, even after hours and hours kicking steps in snow and frontpointing vertical ice.” The aggressive tread pattern maintained excellent traction in all terrain, and a two-piece footbed allows you to fine-tune fit to suit any volume foot. $499; 4 lbs. (9); m’s 6-12;