I’m looking for a versatile boot/crampon combination that will be comfortable enough to hike a 14er with snow and ice only near the peak but also durable enough to withstand a long hike in straight snow and ice. (Not sure if this exists). I’m having trouble finding the right footwear for me because many comfortable hiking boots are not crampon compatible while many mountaineering boots, although crampon compatible, are not recommended for wear on long approaches. Essentially I’m trying to avoid buying multiple different types of footwear since I’m new to this hobby.
@NicoleHv Thanks for reaching out!
When it comes to finding that sweet spot between long range comfort on trails and good performance on snow you are probably going to want to start with a heavy duty backpacking boot. It will give you the support and stability you need on snow and also a good amount of flexibility and comfort on trails. The critical feature you want to look for is a full length shank in the boot. That will give you the support and rigidity you need for kicking steps in snow and ice but will also be flexible enough to cover a long approach comfortably. A few examples are the Zamberlan Vioz Lux GTX RR Boots, the Asolo TPS 520 GV Evo Boots, and the Lowa Tibet GTX Boots. I recommend scheduling an appointment at your local REI with a boot fitter to get your fit dialed in and get any further questions answered.
In terms of crampons, when you step down out of a true 'mountaineering' boot you typically lose the groove on the back of the boot that allows you to use hybrid or step in crampons. However, for general mountaineering use a strap-on crampon typically will be adequate as long as you're not climbing any vertical ice (i.e. ice climbing). This Expert Advice article can give you more information on how to choose a crampon.
I hope this helps, best of luck on all your climbs!