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How to match crampons and boots

The question of how to match crampons to boots has always been a hot topic, especially among hikers who are on the verge of climbing and need to use crampons.

The question to be answered is “which crampons are suitable for my boots? Or, “Which boots should I use to mount certain crampons?

Let’s start by saying that crampons are an essential safety accessory for anyone who frequents snow-covered mountains and, in winter, should be in the backpack of even the most casual hiker above a certain altitude.

However, it is important to know that not all boots are suitable for wearing crampons. For example, some boots may have a sole that is too soft, a heel that is too wide or an upper that is too high. There are also different types of crampons that need to be matched to different types of boots.

To make things clearer, there is a catalogue that gives four classes of footwear: B0, B1, B2 and B3 (where “B” stands for “boots”). The same is true for crampons, but they use the letter C (as “crampons”): C0, C1, C2, C3.

The different types of boots

A Great Dane and a Chihuahua are both dogs, yet they could not be so different. The same thing happens when it comes to mountain footwear. Let’s look at the different categories of boots.

B0 type boots

These are light, easy and fast hiking boots with a loosely structured upper and a very flexible sole. With these shoes, crampons run the risk of slipping or being damaged by breaking the connecting rod between the front and back, with very dangerous consequences.

Only so-called “climbing spikes“, category C0, which do not have the performance (and safety) of a normal crampon, are suitable for this type of shoe. Trail running shoes, which can be fitted with special climbing spikes, also fall into this category.

B1 type boots

These are hiking and trekking shoes with a moderately stiff sole and a more structured upper, often with a protective rubber rand.

C0 category climbing spikes and C1 category universal binding crampons can be fitted here.

B2 type boots

They are classic mountaineering footwear with a totally or partially rigid sole, structured upper with a protective band and a roll that facilitates walking.

They are equipped with a rear notch for semi-automatic crampons. They can fit C1 and C2 category crampons.

B3 type boots

These are boots for high-altitude mountaineering, winter mountaineering and ice climbing. They are characterised by a completely rigid sole and a very structured and protective upper. Those intended for classic mountaineering must have the “roll”, the sole that facilitates walking thanks to its slightly arched shape.

They also have the notch for automatic crampons in the front and back. Type B3 boots are designed for category C3 crampons, but they can accept all types of crampons.

The different types of crampons

To complete the discussion on how to match crampons and boots, let us now look at the classification and different types of crampons. These differ basically according to the number and shape of the points and the type of lacing.

Climbing spikes of category C0

C0 crampons climbing spikes

The C0 category groups so-called “climbing spikes“. These are minimalist versions of crampons that should only be used on very limited slopes and in the absence of exposure, as they do not provide the same safety as classic crampons. They usually have 6 points and a webbing or elastic band lacing system.

True crampons for mountaineering use belong to categories C1 to C3.

C1 category crampons

C1 crampons

C1-type crampons, also called “universal” crampons fit all cramponable shoes (B1 and up). They have lacing based on webbing that wraps around the collar and upper of the shoe, adapting to various footwear. They have 10 to 12 spikes.

It should be kept in mind that they cannot be precisely adjusted as is the case with C2 and C3, so they are not suitable for high-level technical mountaineering.

C2 category crampons

C2 crampons

Type C2 crampons fit type B2 and B3 boots and are 12-pointed. The lacing is of the semi-automatic type, with automatic lacing at the heel and use of the webbing and “cage” at the front.

They are preferred on high altitude expeditions as the front cage closure system makes them safer in case of unexpected release. Compared to the C3 type they remain less “anchored” to the boot and the front tips are less prominent.

C3 category crampons

C3 crampons

Type C3 crampons are compatible only with type B3 boots, have 12 points and feature automatic front and rear hooking. When properly adjusted, the crampon remains stable and perfectly integral with the boot.

These crampons can then have different front point orientations depending on use: horizontal for classic mountaineering, vertical for icefalls and ice goulotte.

Examples of proper matching crampons and boots

Matching of crampons and boots, at a glance

As we set out above, there are specific types of crampons that only fit specific categories of boots.

The general principle is that the more “technical” the crampon is (with semi-automatic or automatic lacing, 12 points, rigid structure), the more it will have to be matched with a hard-soled boot with notches for automatic hooking. Only then will proper matching of crampons and boots be possible.

Below is a useful summary diagram.

how to match crampons and boots
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