So this is my first season mountaineering/ice climbing and I love it. I have been picking up cold weather gear over the past 3-4 years (starting with hiking/hunting/snowboarding/snow mobile/etc) but have been accelerating into these new grounds this year. I would like to get a pair of versatile boots for mountaineering and ice climbing at the end of the season when things go on sale. I would like them to be usable for waterfall climbing, but to really be great for multi-day mountaineering trips, which I have several I would like to start planning.
I would mainly be in the lower 48 US (based in the NE, but a few trips to higher altitudes out west as well), but I really want to try and plan a Denali trip in June of 2013 and would like to be able to break in and know the boots by then (with over-boot added on for that trip). My feet run cold. I am tall and thin, which also makes fitting a little bit more difficult. I demoed the Koflach Arctis Expe's this past weekend up at Mt Washington while carrying a 40-50lb pack, and really loved them for ice climbing, the temps (0-5F with wind dropping it to -30F at summit, toasty warm) and the Mt Washington accent, but on the decent the pain was unreal. Both my big toes banged the whole way down, slowing down my group, and leaving me really sore toes, shooting pains, and a "waddle" for several days after. Taking these boots as fit on a longer trip is just not an option. The boots had felt perfect until that point, and I was really excited to get them up until leaving the summit. Now I am very afraid of them. I had tried on 11 and 11.5, 11 had felt a little snug on my big toes at first (should have listened to my toes then!) in fitting but were brand new and after walking around the store for a few minutes felt great. The 11.5 felt too loose overall, my gut tells me moving up a half size will not solve my problem, but of course I am no expert. Boots were worn with smart-wool mountaineering sock and liner.
Given this, was it just a fitting issue? I had the laces cranked down hard, but I do have thin ankles, could booster straps etc, solve the toe bang problem? Custom molded liner are another thing I have read about, would they improve the situation as well? I am hesitant to basically throw away what amounts to the $200 stock liner just to get a new $200 custom liner, but is it possible I could find just the shell, no inner liner at lower cost, then get the custom liner? Was I just 1/2 size to small?
All that said, what other boots would be a recommended alternative to the Arctis Expe's that have the potential to clear up the toe bang issue out of the box?