Do I need to wear a hefty boot when hiking Mount Whitney?

I plan to hike Mount Whitney over the course of two days with a 35-pound pack. What kind of shoe do you recommend? Hiking or backpacking boots? I want boots that are comfortable and fast. Yves Dana Point, California


I want boots that are fast, too. But, alas, they can go only as fast as I can move them. So they’re never as fast as I want. I have the same problem with bicycles, kayaks, etc. I don’t understand it.

Asolo Fugitive GTX Boot

Fugitive GTX Boot

I assume that when you say “hiking boots," what you mean is a light hiker. By “backpacking boot," you mean something, well, heavier. A real boot, as opposed to a running shoe in buff clothing.

With that in mind, the answer to your needs is…either. Assuming you’re taking the “standard" route, even though it’s 11 miles to the summit at 14,494 feet, I don’t see any real reason why a person with solid ankles couldn’t wear a fairly light hiker such as the Montrail Namche ($100;, a mid-ankle shoe that has a trail-runner chassis grafted to a light-hiker upper. They are very comfortable with adequate foot protection and good traction.

But, you can expect some wet stream crossings, a snowfield near the summit, and even the off chance of a sudden storm. So I think that overall you’d be happier in something that gives your feet some real support and protection. That hardly means concrete overboots—in this day and age, even fairly hefty boots have remarkably short to non-existent break-in periods. I think you’d love Asolo’s Fugitive GTX boots ($170;, for instance. They’re reasonably light, with nylon and leather uppers, but have reinforced toe and heel areas, a supportive shank (the backbone of the boot), a Gore-Tex liner, and grippy rubber soles. You could take them on Whitney after just a few try-out hikes.

Zamberlan’s 189 Phenom GT ($165; tells a similar story: leather and nylon uppers, Gore-Tex inner booty, and a comfortable fit. And they add a slightly better Vibram sole for excellent trail-ability. You’d be happy with either the Fugitive GTX or Phenom boots on light day-hikes in the future, as well as longer treks.

You’d even do well with a heftier boot such as the Scarpa Escape ($229;, which is more of a rugged trail/light mountaineering boot. They have very rugged leather uppers, more stiffness in the midsole, a Gore-Tex liner, and deep Vibram soles. They’d be mucho at home on Whitney or any other tough hikes you plan, but would hardly prove a hardship on day hikes. I’ve been wearing a pair this spring on hikes in the Olympic Mountains—at least, where it’s not all snowed in—and they’re great.

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Filed To: Hiking ShoesHiking Boots
Lead Photo: courtesy, Asolo