When I made the decision to trek Nepal’s Annapurna region** next year (January 2018), I was pretty chuffed when two of my close friends jumped at the opportunity and booked their flights with me. That’s right, we chose to hike in middle of winter through Nepal’s punishing terrain, without a tour group. You could say we’re tough, or you could say we’re idiots. I won’t argue either point.
To gear up for the big trip in the best way possible, I reached out to a community of trust-worthy explorers* to hear their experiences (and thoughts) on the best set of hiking boots for icy conditions.
Reviews & Opinions on the Best Hiking Boots for the Job
There really was no better place to ask a crew of explorers than on the NSW/ACT We Are Explorers Facebook Group. Here’s what they had to say:
“I’m a huge fan of Merrells (I have problem feet), and they are comfortable to wear from the get go. But I also have Scarpa walking boots which are more expensive, heavier, but have lasted like 20 years and are rock solid. Paddy Pallin on York St Sydney is worth checking out. Each mountain gear shop will stock select brands only, so shop around to find one that works.” – Jade J
“Try Salomon Quest 4D. Waterproof. Great ankle support. Lightweight. Even makes your wallet lightweight…” – Benny P
“La Sportiva are light, have great ankle support, great grip, and are waterproof.” – Rachel A
“Go try a bunch on, what works for some people may not work for you, as everybody has different feet.” – Colin L
“I’ve got Merrell Moab’s FST. They survived the Inca Trail and many Blue Mountains hikes in the rain. I’ve got flat and wide feet, and wear these without inserts. Love them.” – Kate W
“I wore Adidas Terrex Fast R Mids.They are Goretex, super light and sole is fairly aggressive. I went to EBC in mid-winter January too. Only time my feet got cold was pre sunrise to Kala Pattar.” – Yunn C
“I wore my Salomon’s for Gokyo and EBC. As others have said, your best bet is to try on as many as you can.” – Sarah J
“I spent a lot of time looking at all the hiking shops in Sydney. I found Scarpa to be the best – which I ended up buying. For me, I found the Salomon’s too much like trainers. The Scarpas give you really good support, but they fit well on narrow feet.” – Annabel S
” I also visited Nepal in the dead of winter and trekked the EBC in the first two weeks of January. I took my trusty Kathmandus with me and found them comfortable and handled the snow well! Something I found extremely helpful were these (extra daggy but functional) crampons we picked up at Namche, during a stopover on the trek. We had some sections that were iced over and these were a LITERAL life-saver. Most hiking gear stores in Kathmandu and Pokhara will have them if you want to prepare beforehand – just something to consider.” – Magna C
“As a few people above have said: go and try a whole bunch on, wear your hiking socks, work out what brands fit your feet, and then explore what those brands have to offer. In terms of shoes this never really a one style fits all.” – Max S
“I recently trekked the Circuit in a pair of Merrell’s and they were fantastic, lightweight, and super comfortable. They were a bit cold as we went through Tharong La, but that was only one day out of the 10 we trekked. The main thing is to get something that is comfortable for you!” – Marty C
“I also agree with other people that said try a bunch on and see what feels ‘right’. I have ‘keen’ boots and absolutely love them, but they weren’t what I intended to buy when I went shopping, they were the ones that felt the most comfortable for me.” – Emma H
“Teva‘s tick almost every box: light, waterproof, stylish, excellent reviews, super comfy. Only potential negative for you, is that the soles aren’t for hardcore hiking – not super grippy.” – Grace H
“Once I wore Sportivas, and another time Asolo. Always wear two pairs of socks, a thin liner and really good quality wool thick hikers sock. You really need to go to a decent outdoor store to try them all on. Mountain Equipment are my go to for everything. Try on several brands, as all feet shapes are different and so are different brands. Best get leather as they are generally more waterproof.” – Deidre M
“I would recommend something high top, just for better ankle support as it there are a lot of slippery rocks towards the top. Get something with a tough toe as well, as you will stub your toes when you walk!!” – Scott P
“Sage advice above. My personal favourites are Merrell Moab (for lightweight) and Scarpa Delta (heavier leather). I did Annapurna last November in my Scarpas. Definitely agree with making sure you have good toe caps (even on your “camp shoes”), because that’s how I lost a toenail at ABC! (Trust me, it was no fun hiking back).” – Cathy T
Tips for Hiking During Winter in Nepal
If you happen to be researching for your own winter adventure in Nepal, a few tips were shared specifically for this, too:
“It’ll be an average of 8 days to trek to Annapurna base camp and return. Carry plenty of socks and clothes to change. If you get enough time, visit RARA Lake as well – it’s in the far western part of Nepal, but so beautiful.” – Suraj A
“I did Everest in January and it was amazing – cold but sunny (so quite warm in the day) and the best part was that the tracks were clean and clear because most people avoid winter. Good decision!! ” – Emma H
“I have been to Everest region in Feb/March and it was cold for sure! However whilst walking, despite in snow a lot, I never felt cold.” – Deidre M
The Verdict: Merrell Moab 2 Mid GORE-TEX
So, after much deliberation over this advice and after trying on a whole slew of shoes – I decided to purchase a pair of Merrell Moab V2s. Funnily enough, the weekend I went to get them, the new version came out. I tried both on, and loved the support provided in the new version, so went with them.
I’ve got problem feet, so it was important for me to buy a pair of shoes that would support my ankles from rolling and have a good inner-sole. Safe to say, these feel pretty damn good while walking around the house – and when I took them out to hike the 6km, rocky, up-hill/down-hill Jerusalem Track in NSW, they provided great support under the arch of my foot, felt light-as-a-feather, and were a dream to walk in.
Considering that was the first time I wore them, I’m pretty stoked to say I walked away with zero blisters or complaints! I guess we’ll have to wait and see how the Annapurna Ranges punish my feet.
How important is it to choose the right shoes for each specific adventure? If you’ve hiked through the Annapurna region, I’d love to hear your stories!
*All comments have been edited for clarity and last names have been removed in respect for privacy. If you’re from NSW or ACT, sign up to be a member of the We Are Explorers Facebook group to share your local insider advice or get tips from others near you! Or, visit their website here.
**In late 2016 I helped produce and commission all content for the World Nomads Insider’s Guide to Nepal. This was the final straw that convinced me to book the trip.