No matter your ability level, a comfortable boot is an absolute necessity. Nothing ruins a good powder day faster than cold or painful feet, and ill-fitting boots also run the risk of not properly transferring energy to your skis and thereby harming your performance. Amid this doom and gloom, however, is the welcome news that ski boots have never been more foot-friendly than they are today. Most new boots have customizable liners and some even come with heat-customizable shells. Below are our picks for the best downhill ski boots of 2020-2021. For more information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks. To complete your alpine kit, check out our articles on the best all-mountain skis and ski bindings.

Best Overall Downhill Ski Boot

1. Lange RX 120 ($600)

Lange RX 120 ski bootsLast: 97 or 100mm (narrow or medium width)
Flex: 120 (advanced/expert skiers)
Other flexes: 100, 130
What we like: Successful all-mountain adaptation of a downhill racing boot.
What we don’t: Steep price tag.

For advanced skiers looking for the ultimate in performance and comfort, we like the stellar RX 120 from Lange. Inspired by their race-bred RS boots, which is evident in the powerful stance, burly four buckles, and substantial power strap, the Lange is a stiff, aggressive boot that responds precisely to small inputs. Plus, its fit and customizable shell is well-respected among bootfitters, and the comfort of the included liner is top-notch. All told, it's a high-quality build that will make demanding skiers quite happy, from former racers to serious up-and-comers and just about everyone in between.

The RX adds all-mountain flair to its downhill performance with swappable soles for hiking, although we'd prefer to see a walk/hike mode for sidecountry exploring. But if you can afford the $600 price tag, it’s the real deal. For heavier skiers and those that really like to rip it, the Lange RX is available in a 130 flex and a 130 Low Volume version with a 97mm width. And you can step down in stiffness to the Lange RX 100 as well.
See the Men's Lange RX 120  See the Women's Lange RX 110


Best Downhill Boot for Intermediates

2. Salomon S/Pro 100 ($550)

Salomon S/Pro 100 ski bootLast: 100mm (medium width)
Flex: 100 (intermediate/advanced skiers)
Other flexes: 80, 120, 130
What we like: Lots of thoughtful upgrades from the old X Pro.
What we don’t: Fairly pricey considering the flex rating.

Salomon replaced the extremely popular X Pro line last season with the S/Pro. It’s always a risky move to revamp such a big-time seller, but we think they pulled it off nicely. The latest S/Pro is more comfortable with a seamless liner (it’s smooth even around the toes), gets an uptick in performance with better power transfer from the thinner Coreframe shell, and is noticeably lighter-weight, which translates to better control for an intermediate rider. Price went up by $50, but it’s hard to complain considering the S/Pro’s upgrades.

Importantly, Salomon retained much of what we loved about the old X Pro 100. You still get a highly customizable, heat-moldable shell, the flex is smooth and predictable, and the plush liner holds your feet comfortably in place. Further, build quality looks to be up to the French brand’s typical standards, so we don’t have any concerns for now about longevity. The 100-flex version should match well for anyone from ambitious beginners to advancing intermediates, but powerful or expert skiers will want to step up to the S/Pro 120 or 130. Finally, those prone to cold feet should consider the Custom Heat variation of the S/Pro, which includes a built-in heated liner.
See the Men's Salomon S/Pro 100  See the Women's Salomon S/Pro 90


Best Boot For Hard-to-Fit Feet

3. Tecnica Mach1 130 ($750)

Tecnica Mach1 MV 130 ski bootsLast: 98, 100, or 103mm (narrow, medium, wide widths)
Flex: 130 (advanced/expert skiers)
Other flexes: 110, 120
What we like: Top-end fit customization and all-around performance.
What we don’t: Like the Lange above, it's a big investment.

A lot of brands tout fit customization as a key feature of their boots, but few go as far as Tecnica with their popular Mach1 collection. Built to match the anatomical shape of your foot, you get a highly customizable liner and a tough but reasonably light polyether shell that can be punched, grinded, and all-around manipulated by a bootfitter. In addition, thanks to a greater market emphasis on medium- and high-volume boots, the latest Mach1 130 is offered in a low-volume (98mm), medium (100mm), or high-volume last (103mm).

The alpine performance of the Mach1 is no slouch either, with a natural stance and excellent power transfer. And Tecnica honed in the design for expert-level skiers for this winter with a new carbon “spine” that connects the cuff and shell for improved stiffness and precision. Compared to the Lange RX above, the Mach1 stacks up extremely well in build quality, comfort, and all-around performance. The RX does get the slight edge in price by $50 for comparable flexes, which pushes it ahead in our rankings. But for those with hard-to-fit feet, the Mach1’s combination of a wide range of lasts and excellent shell and liner customization makes it a standout.
See the Men's Tecnica Mach1 130  See the Women's Tecnica Mach1 105


Best Hybrid Downhill/Backcountry Boot

4. Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130 ($800)

Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130 ski bootsLast: 98mm (narrow width)
Flex: 130 (advanced/expert skiers)
Other flexes: 100, 120
What we like: A great crossover option for resort and backcountry use.
What we don’t: Expensive (although cheaper than buying two pairs of boots).

A quick glance at the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD reveals that this is no ordinary downhill boot. The slim shape, large walk/ride lever, and tech binding-compatible inserts at the toe are built for backcountry adventure. But what earns the Atomic a spot on this list is its versatile nature—if you split your time between touring and the resort, this is one of the best options yet. The Hawx is very lightweight and flexes freely while hiking but is planted and impressively solid for railing a groomer.

As with any product that aims to balance conflicting priorities—in this case it’s weight and stiffness—there are some downsides. Race-oriented downhillers likely will want a sturdier and more locked-in ride, and while the boot is very light and offers competitive range of motion, we’d still take a boot like the Scarpa Maestrale RS for touring exclusively. But if you’re investing in a single boot to do it all, the Hawx Ultra XTD deserves a serious look.
See the Men's Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130  See the Women's Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 115


Best of the Rest

5. Dalbello Panterra 120 I.D. ($550)

Dalbello Sports Panterra 120 ski bootsLast: 100-102mm (variable fit and medium width)
Flex: 120 (advanced skiers)
Other flexes: 130
What we like: Supremely supportive with an adaptable liner.
What we don’t: Fit technology isn’t a universal fix for narrow feet.

A great boot for skiers that cover all of the mountain, the Panterra is made with a slick three-piece shell. The lower portion is super stiff for superior power transfer and a slightly more forgiving upper flexes smoothly to absorb impacts in the bumps or hitting natural features off trail. In addition, the high-quality I.D. liners are a real treat: comfortable, light, and resistant to packing out, they land in that ideal space of warmth and support. Aggressively priced at $550, the Panterra also manages to undercut a good portion of its 120-flex competition.

Should you not have the option or not want to spring for a bootfitter, the liner and shell are designed to give a custom fit without any of the after-the-purchase work. Contour 4 Technology means the low-volume performance liner is given a little extra breathing space between liner and shell around the toes, and heel and bend in the foot and ankle. Further, the buckle across the toes allows you to adjust the last width between 100 and 102 millimeters. The result for most folks with normal-sized feet is a snug fit that doesn’t pinch at the usual pain points. For an even more powerful design from Dalbello that’s tuned for on-trail use, check out their new DS Asolo.
See the Men's Dalbello Panterra 120 I.D.  See the Women's Dalbello Panterra 95 W


6. Nordica Speedmachine 100 ($400)

Nordica Speedmachine 100 ski bootsLast: 100mm (medium width)
Flex: 100 (intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 110, 120, 130
What we like: Excellent fit customization, comfort, and value.
What we don’t: Not a high-performance piece.

Nordica boots are known for comfort, and the Speedmachine 100 is no exception. This all-mountain boot has a wallet-friendly price of $400, but includes a cushy, warm liner filled with PrimaLoft insulation and offering fantastic fit customization. Using their proprietary infrared lamp and suction cup system, the liner, shell, and even some of the hardware pieces can be molded by a Nordica bootfitter. And with four sturdy buckles and a smooth flex, the Speedmachine 100 makes a great option for lightweight or intermediate skiers.

The Speedmachine’s affordable price does have a mild impact on performance. Within the 100-flex category, the mid-range Nordica is a fine alternative to the Salomon S/Pro above, although skiers who get out a lot may appreciate the Salomon’s upgraded, long-lasting liner. But comfort shouldn’t be an issue with the Speemachine, and we really like that Nordica has recognized that a highly customizable shell has real appeal even for casual skiers.
See the Men's Nordica Speedmachine 100  See the Women's Nordica Speedmachine 85


7. K2 Recon 120 ($500)

K2 Recon 120 ski bootsLast: 98 or 100mm (narrow or medium width)
Flex: 120 (advanced skiers)
Other flexes: 100, 130
What we like: Lightweight and a great value.
What we don’t: Unproven long-term durability.

K2’s Recon technically replaces the outgoing Sypne, but it’s a whole different animal. This all-mountain boot has been designed from the ground up to trim weight wherever possible. The result is impressive: the Recon weighs more than one pound less per boot than the top-rated Lange RX 120 above. It’s true that an ultralight design isn’t as important for downhill use as in the backcountry, but the Recon has a very nimble feel on the slopes that’s relatively easy to control. And at a true 120 flex, it’s still plenty strong for most skiers when powering through high-speed turns.

Priced at $500, the Recon 120 undercuts most of its direct competition by $100 or more (the 130-flex version is equally competitive at $600). From a performance standpoint, you don’t give up a lot—expert-level skiers likely will want to stick with the Lange for its premium feel, but most should find little to complain about. The main question mark is long-term durability, and given the extent of the weight trimming, it’s safe to assume it won’t be a standout in the area. But the Recon nails the fun factor, and its excellent price and low weight make it an intriguing resort option.
See the Men's K2 Recon 120  See the Women's K2 Anthem 100


8. Head Raptor 140S RS ($825)

Head Raptop 140 RS ski bootsLast: 94, 96, or 98mm (narrow width)
Flex: 140 (expert skiers)
Other flexes: 90, 120
What we like: Race-level feel and adjustable flex.
What we don’t: Snug fit is best for narrow feet and serious riders.

The 120 and 130 flex boots above should do the trick for most aggressive riders, but super strong skiers or those with a racing background may be left wanting more. If this sounds like you, the Head Raptor 140S RS deserves a serious look. This boot packs an extremely rigid 140 flex, top-tier power transfer and feel, and a very snug fit (96mm last for the 26.5 size). In addition, its liner is just thick enough to offer decent protection and comfort while not compromising performance, and the buckles, power strap, and shell all have a quality feel. All told, the Raptor 140S RS is a fantastic boot for hard-charging, on-piste skiers.

While the steep price and sky-high flex push the Raptor into the racing category, it’s a surprisingly versatile design. With a few simple adjustments, the boot can be run at either 120 or 130 flex, giving it a more forgiving character. It’s still not as comfortable when exploring the sidecountry or the bumps as the all-mountain designs above, but the softer flex option is a nice feature. Head also makes the Raptor RS in 90 and 120 flex versions, although the 140 model takes full advantage of the boot’s potential. 
See the Men's Head Raptor 140 RS  See the Women's Head Raptor 110 RS


9. Atomic Hawx Prime 110 S ($500)

Atomic Hawx Prime 110 S ski bootsLast: 100mm (medium width)
Flex: 110 (intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 120, 130
What we like: Light but still very comfortable.
What we don’t: No hike mode to utilize the trimmed-down weight.

The Atomic Hawx Prime has earned a reputation as a go-to choice for skiers with medium-width feet. Revamped a couple seasons ago, they retained that excellent fit but in a new ultralight design. Taking inspiration from their XTD touring model above, the Prime trimmed away about 15 ounces per boot (the number varies a bit based on flex). Importantly, this didn’t involve compromising comfort: the memory foam liner, adjustable forward lean, and strong four-buckle layout are all still there.

As with the K2 Recon above, we’re not sold on the fact that cutting away a ton of weight from the downhill-oriented Hawx Prime S is all that necessary. It’s something you’ll appreciate on a long bootpack, but the Prime doesn’t have a hike mode to really utilize the slimmed-down design. Also, the Atomic is not as good of a value as the K2 above, which offers very similar performance and quality at a $100 discount (comparing 120-flex models). It’s worth noting that Atomic also makes a narrow 98-millimeter version of this boot called the Hawx Ultra S.
See the Men's Atomic Hawx Prime 110 S  See the Women's Atomic Hawx Prime 105 S


10. Tecnica Cochise 110 DYN ($550)

Tecnica Cochise 110 DYN GW ski bootsLast: 99mm (medium width)
Flex: 110 (intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 120, 130
What we like: Good price considering its hybrid design.
What we don’t: A little soft and flexy for a hard charger.

Prized by bootfitters for being both comfortable and customizable, the Tecnica Cochise 110 DYN is a great all-around value at $550. This lightweight, medium-stiff boot pairs well with an all-mountain ski like the Salomon QST 99 that isn’t overly rigid but excels just about everywhere on the mountain. And for those who like to venture into the sidecountry, the Cochise’s smooth-operating walk/tour mode features competitive range of motion at 42 degrees.

Among hybrid resort/backcountry boots, the Cochise hits a good balance of on- and off-piste performance. It falls short of the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD above in tour mode and can’t put the power down like the Lange XT3 130 below, but it easily undercuts them both in price. In the end, the Cochise 110 is a great match for intermediate-level riders that spend most of their time at the resort but want to hit the skin track a few times each winter.
See the Men's Tecnica Cochise 110 DYN  See the Women's Tecnica Cochise 95 DYN


11. Fischer RC4 The Curv GT 130 ($750)

Fischer The CURV GT 130 VACUUM Walk ski bootLast: 96mm (narrow width)
Flex: 130 (advanced/expert skiers)
Other flexes: 110, 120
What we like: Awesome Fischer downhill performance.
What we don’t: Narrow fit and on-trail focused.

Fischer’s RC4 The Curv shares its name with the brand’s hyper-aggressive downhill/race ski, so its high-speed intentions are very clear. This boot is all about pro-level power and control: it’s made with a very solid shell, strong 130 flex (softer options are available), and narrow 96-millimeter last (in the 26.5 size). But comfort hasn’t been forgotten, and the RC4 has an anatomical liner with a number of customization options, plus its exterior is compatible with Fischer’s Vacuum heat-molding system.

As we touched on above, the 96-millimter last on the GT model is the narrowest to make our 2020-2021 list. And while this delivers excellent precision and both the shell and liner can be worked on to nail the fit, the snug shape has its limitations. The good news is that Fischer has expanded the Curv line for this season to include wider medium-width and high-volume last options. What all three models do share is an on-piste focus, and we recommend that all-mountain riders check out the brand’s Ranger One collection instead.
See the Fischer RC4 The Curv GT 130


12. Rossignol Alltrack 90 ($350)

Rossignol Alltrack 90 ski boot_0Last: 102mm (wide width)
Flex: 90 (intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 110, 120
What we like: A nice hybrid boot for downhill and hiking.
What we don’t: Not a standout in any one category.

Rossignol’s Alltrack line of boots is extensive and popular among skiers for doing just about everything well. We’ve picked the Alltrack 90 here, which is a nice option for intermediate skiers who stick mostly in bounds but may venture to other parts of the mountain on occasion. Rossignol plays up the walk mode function, which performs decently well but still falls behind the competition in terms of the flex's smoothness on the uphills.

But at the $350 price point, the Alltrack 90 is a solid boot for lighter skiers and those who want to start with short bootpacks without taking the plunge on an expensive pair of specialty boots. And we like the comfort factor, which is cozy on the foot and lightly insulated for added warmth. For more flex options, the Alltrack series has two other models (110 and 120) and the narrower 100mm-width Alltrack Pro line has four (100, 110, 120, and 130). 
See the Men's Rossignol Alltrack 90  See the Women's Rossignol Alltrack 70


13. Lange XT3 130 ($750)

Lange XT3 130 ski bootsLast: 97 or 100mm (narrow or medium width)
Flex: 130
Other flexes: 100, 110, 120, 140
What we like: Lange comfort and precision with touring capabilities.
What we don’t: Much heavier than the Atomic Hawx Ultra above.

The new Lange XT3 takes the comfort and performance of the RX above and trims it down for touring use. It’s a great combination for downhill-minded backcountry skiers: the boot is strong enough to be considered a full 130 flex (there’s even a 140-flex Pro model offered), so you’re not compromising in terms of performance. But flipping it into hike mode gets you surprising climbing capabilities. Building on the discontinued XT Free, the latest model has improved range of motion (53 degrees) and a smoother flex when in the open hike setting. It adds up to a boot that is fully comfortable with a 50/50 split between the resort and backcountry.

The Lange XT3 and Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD above are direct competitors in the growing segment of all-in-one downhill/touring boots. In comparing the two, the Lange is incredibly solid on the downhill, but it comes at a significant weight penalty (nearly 13 ounces per boot). For shorter days in the backcountry or if you’ll be hitting big lines, the tradeoff will be worth it, but those that spend a lot of time on the uphill will likely prefer the Atomic. If you need a wider last, however, the Lange is the better option with a 100-millimeter-width model to compliment the low-volume 97-millimeter version (the Hawx Ultra XTD currently is only available in a 98mm last).
See the Lange XT3 130  See the Women's Lange XT3 110


14. Full Tilt Classic Pro ($500)

Full Tilt Classic Pro ski bootsLast: 99mm (narrow width)
Flex: 8/10 (advanced skiers)
Other flexes: None
What we like: Lightweight and versatile.
What we don’t: Design favors freestyle over all-mountain riding.

Nothing is groundbreaking about the Full Tilt Classic Pro, which is exactly why many people like it. Full Tilt lightly revamped the Classic for last winter—adding the “Pro” to the name in the process—with a stiffer flex, premium Intuition liner, and the addition of metal buckles. All told, the three-piece design is a nice all-around option for advanced skiers with narrow feet. Full Tilt doesn’t use the same flex ratings as other manufacturers, but the Classic Pro gets an 8 out of 10 for fairly stiff flex and good versatility all over the mountain.

The Full Tilt's lightweight materials allow for playfulness over moguls and in the park, but these boots can snap into turns when necessary (it’s right in line with the brand’s freestyle slant). With a $500 price tag, the shell doesn’t have the precise power transfer of some of the options above on hardpack, but the Classic Pro performs reasonably well and is a good value. And we love the simplicity: there just aren’t a lot of moving parts with this boot but it checks all the boxes.
See the Full Tilt Classic Pro


15. Salomon QST Access 90 ($400)

Salomon QST Access 90 ski bootLast: 104mm (wide width)
Flex: 90 (beginner/intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 70, 80
What we like: The liner is made with a wool hybrid material for warmth.
What we don’t: Not for narrow feet.

The QST Access 90 is a solid beginner to intermediate boot from one of the most well-respected brands in the business. One of our favorite features is the hike/ski switch on the back—when flipped to hike, the lower and upper cuff unlock to allow for normal upright walking, which is handy for schlepping gear from the parking lot or standing in the bar after a long day. The three-buckle design is simple to operate, and the liner is heat-moldable to customize fit before you head out.

The 104mm last width is the widest in the Salomon lineup, and the QST Access 90 is designed to work best with an average calf volume. A step up in terms of stiffness and overall quality from the Nordica Cruise below, this boot should serve progressing beginner and intermediate resort goers quite well. More ambitious riders will probably want to check out Salomon's S/Pro line above.
See the Men's Salomon QST Access 90  See the Women's Salomon QST Access 70


16. Dalbello Il Moro I.D. ($600)

Dalbello Il Moro ski bootsLast: 98mm (narrow width)
Flex: 120 (advanced/expert skiers)
Other flexes: None
What we like: Awesome freeride option.
What we don’t: Dabello’s Panterra is the better all-mountain design.

For a different sort of downhill beast, Dalbello’s Il Moro I.D. is built for aggressive freeriders that hunt out big jumps, drops, and features all over the hill. In contrast to the boots above, the Dalbello allows for extra lateral flex and even includes a “Landing Board” to help take the sting out of a hard impact. And despite the focus on off-piste adventuring, the Il Moro is plenty responsive, sharing the same three-piece shell technology as the Dalbello Panterra above.

Unlike the Panterra, however, the Il Moro isn’t a top choice for standard all-mountain use. The boot’s specialized construction and three-buckle layout emphasizes shock absorption and isn’t as steady carving a hard or icy corner. But for the right skier—the Il Moro I.D. is a popular choice for pro freeriders—this is an awesome boot.
See the Dalbello Il Moro I.D.


17. Nordica Cruise 70 ($200)

Nordica Cruise 70 ski bootLast: 104mm (wide width)
Flex: 70 (beginner skiers)
Other flexes: 90, 120
What we like: Flexible, comfortable, and cheap.
What we don’t: Too wide for most; low performance ceiling.

Not everyone requires a rigid boot that’s been designed to extract every last ounce of performance. Some folks just want to head to the slopes and cruise down their favorite green or blue run time and again, hence the aptly named Nordica Cruise 70. With a roomy 104-millimeter last and super-forgiving flex, it’s about as cushy as any skiing experience out there. And Nordica has incorporated other beginner-friendly touches like a wide opening at the top to make the Cruise easier to take off at the end of the day.

We don’t recommend the Nordica Cruise 70, however, for anyone with narrow feet or those that love carving down the hill. Even skiers just starting out that are planning to spend a lot of time on the mountain may want to upgrade to a boot like the Rossignol Alltrack 90, so they don’t outgrow its limited capabilities (Nordica also makes the Cruise in a 90-flex version). But at $200, the Cruise 70 is an affordable and comfy way to get started.
See the Men's Nordica Cruise 70  See the Women's Nordica Cruise 65


Downhill Ski Boot Comparison Table

Boot Price Last Flex Other Flexes Buckles Hike
Lange RX 120 $600 97 or 100mm 120 100, 130 4 w/45mm strap No
Salomon S/Pro 100 $550 100mm 100 80, 120, 130 4 w/35mm strap No
Tecnica Mach1 130 $750 98, 100, 103mm 130 110, 120 4 w/45mm strap No
Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 XTD $800 98mm 130 100, 120 4 w/50mm strap Yes
Dalbello Panterra 120 I.D. $550 100-102mm 120 130 4 w/40mm strap Yes
Nordica Speedmachine 100 $400 100mm 100 110, 120, 130 4 w/35mm strap No
K2 Recon 120 $500 98 or 100mm 120 100, 130 4 w/45mm strap No
Head Raptor 140S RS $825 94, 96, 98mm 140 90, 120 4 w/50mm strap No
Atomic Hawx Prime 110 S $500 100mm 110 120, 130 4 w/50mm strap No
Tecnica Cochise 110 DYN $550 99mm 110 120, 130 4 w/45mm strap Yes
Fischer RC4 The Curv GT $750 96mm 130 110,120 4 w/power strap No
Rossignol Alltrack 90 $350 102mm 90 110, 120 4 w/40mm strap Yes
Lange XT3 130 750 97 or 100mm 130 100, 110, 120, 140 4 w/40mm strap Yes
Full Tilt Classic Pro $500 99mm 8/10 None 3 w/40mm strap No
Salomon QST Access 90 $400 104mm 90 70, 80 3 w/45mm strap Yes
Dalbello Il Moro I.D. $600 98mm 120 None 3 w/40mm strap No
Nordica Cruise 70 $200 104mm 70 90, 120 4 w/35mm strap No

Downhill Ski Boot Buying Advice

Boot Flex and Performance

A great place to start your boot search is choosing the proper flex. Nearly every downhill boot on the market (the Full Tilt Classic Pro is one exception) is given a flex index number ranging from approximately 60 to 140. Lower numbers are softer, have more give, and are more comfortable, making them ideal for beginner skiers. We cover a couple of our favorite entry-level models on this list, but for a complete look at the best options, check out our ski boots for beginners article.

Downhill ski boots (skiing at Mission Ridge)
Strong and advanced skiers should choose a boot with a high flex rating

Moving up in stiffness to intermediate, advanced, and expert models gets you a boot that isn't as cushy but more efficiently transfers your inputs to the bindings and skis. Less energy is wasted in flexing the boot forward and the response is instantaneous. Finally, it's worth noting that a preferred stiffness also correlates with your body weight, with heavier and more powerful skiers needing to go with a higher number. Below are general recommendations; there are ranges within ranges but this paints a good picture:

Beginner: 70-90
Intermediate: 90-110
Advanced: 100-120
Expert: 120+

Ski Boot Sizing

Ski boot sizing is one of the most difficult things to hone in online. It’s not as simple as taking your shoe size and matching it to a Mondo size (ski boot sizing nomenclature) on a chart. The length, width, volume, and underfoot profile need to be dialed in for a boot to be “the one.” As a result, we recommend getting to a local shop to get sized. If this is not an option, find a reputable online retailer that allows for returns and order a couple sizes with the expectation that they probably won’t fit exactly as you may expect. For a good baseline level of knowledge, here are the most common boot sizing terminology and considerations:

Both men’s and women’s ski boots are listed in unisex Mondo (or Mondopoint) sizing: the length of your foot measured in centimeters. You can measure your foot by tracing its outline on a piece of paper or marking the bottom of the heel and top of the toes. If your foot measures 30 centimeters in length, your Mondo size is 30. Getting measured in a ski shop is preferred, but this is a rough way to do it at home.

Every manufacturer or retailer provides a sizing chart that matches shoe sizes to ski boot sizes, but your actual Mondo size may be a size or two smaller than what you see on the chart. This is because tight fit is recommended with ski boots. Ski boot liners are made of foam and will mold to your feet over time, so it’s best to start with a very snug fit and wear them in.

Ski boots (Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD)
Nailing down sizing is easily one of the most important things to do

Footbed width, referred to as last, is another important specification for ski boots. This measurement is based on the width of the forefoot and listed in millimeters. Most manufacturers make ski boots with varying lasts to accommodate those with narrow, average, and wide feet. And some models, including the Lange RX 120, are made with multiple last options. It’s important to get this part of the fit right because side-to-side motion is a given when descending a hill, and a boot that’s too loose around the sides of your feet will negatively affect performance.

  • Narrow: 96-98mm
  • Average: 99-102mm
  • Wide: 103mm+

For those with narrow feet or looking for performance boots with a more precise fit, look in the 96-98mm range. Average lasts are around 100-102 mm wide for men and 99-100mm wide for women. Those work well for most skiers with normal width feet. For folks with wide feet, there can be some challenges in finding the right pair. But there are a growing number of boots made in 103mm or wider lasts, including the Tecnica Mach1 HV.

Ski boots (last)
The standard width version of the Lange RX 120 comes with a 100mm last

Replaceable Footbeds/Insoles
No matter how well you do in selecting the proper fit, you still may experience discomfort during a full day of skiing. That’s where the final piece of the fit puzzle comes in: replaceable insoles. Most downhill ski boot liners have a removable insole, much like a hiking boot. Swapping these out for a quality aftermarket insole that better matches your foot profile can really make a difference. New insoles can provide better arch support, more or less volume, and a heel cup that better locks your feet in place. Good aftermarket insoles can be found from brands like Superfeet and SOLE.

Another alternative is getting a custom footbed from a bootfitter (which requires getting fit in-person). This is an expensive process but can be worthwhile for those with stubbornly shaped feet or who ski a ton each year. You can call your local ski shop and ask if they make custom footbeds.

Boot Liners

Most all-mountain ski boots are made up of two independent pieces: a hard plastic outer shell that provides structure and strength and a removable liner that delivers comfort, support and insulation. The liner is filled with varying amounts of foam, depending on the type of skiing the boot is intended for. It’s not always the best idea to get the most plush and cushiest liner (beginners and comfort-oriented skiers are an exception). The softer foam will not hold your foot and shin as well while carving, and it may not mold as well to your feet over time.

Supportive but comfortable is the preferred place to be for most intermediate and advanced skiers. As we mention above, your liner will conform to your feet, so don’t be too concerned if it feels snug at first (but make sure it’s not overly restricting or that your toes aren't smooshed against the hard-sided shell.).

Ski boot (removeable liner)
Quality liners balance a secure fit with daylong comfort

Heat-Moldable Liners

Heat-moldable liners can be custom fit to your feet in a ski shop that has the necessary equipment (styles and equipment can vary between boot brands). This is a nice way to get the liner to fit your feet right out of the box, but isn’t mandatory for many folks. You can get much of the same fitting accomplished just by wearing the liners around the house or in a few early season ski days. That being said, it's a useful tool that helps dial in comfort quickly and effectively.

Buckles and Strap Systems

To start, it’s helpful to know that buckles and strap designs do not vary dramatically between brands. The buckle systems on most downhill ski boots follow a similar methodology: two buckles across the foot, one at the bend near the ankle and another along the shin. Look for buckles made mostly with aluminum for greater durability (plastic is cheaper but a bit more prone to breaking). Some boots try and cut some weight by removing the buckle at the ankle, but for downhill purposes when total boot weight isn’t as important, we find it well worth having the more supportive four aluminum buckle design.

The strap at the top of the boot near the cuff is another important piece of the design. Sometimes referred to as the power strap, it keeps that top portion nicely locked into place to help bring out the full performance potential of your boots—and at a lower weight and more comfort than adding a 5th buckle. Having a full compliment of buckles as well as a quality power strap also helps in really dialing in the fit, which can make accommodating varying sizes of legs and calves that much easier.

Downhill ski boots (Technica Machl MV 130 buckles)
Boots are often a long-term purchase, so high-quality buckles are an important feature

Boot Soles

For downhill use, ski boot soles fall into two categories: traditional ISO 5355 models and newer GripWalk-equipped designs. Starting with the former, ISO 5355-compatible boots are mostly flat underfoot and sized to fit and release from the toe piece on a standard alpine binding. The main downside is walking and hiking comfort: their shape and simple outsoles lead to an awkward gait and can be quite slippery in anything from hardpack snow and ice to slick bathroom floors. Enter the GripWalk sole, which has a rockered shape for a more natural stride and softer plastic/rubber compound for improved traction. These are commonly found on higher-end boots that have more of an all-mountain focus (the extra grip is a big benefit on sidecountry hikes). If you go the GripWalk route, you’ll want to verify your bindings are compatible. And the good news is that the majority of alpine bindings are now multi-norm-ready, including popular models like the Marker Griffon and Look Pivot.

Downhill ski boots (GripWalk soles)
GripWalk soles are designed for an easier and more natural stride

Ski Boot Weight

Until recently, the weight of a downhill ski boot was largely ignored (it’s often not even listed as a spec on many retailer websites). But with the dramatic growth in backcountry and sidecountry skiing—and an increased spotlight on weight in general in the outdoor gear world—we’re starting to see the same lightweight focus trickle down to the resort market. The benefits of lighter footwear for uphill travel and bootpacking are obvious: you have less weight to move with each step. But even for those riding the chairlift, it helps make it easier to control your skis in tight spaces like bumps and trees. The big question mark is how much trimming weight will impact long-term durability. In the past, lighter boots have required more maintenance and occasionally have had issues with the liners packing out too quickly. But if the latest batch of backcountry boots are an indication, the new downhill models hopefully will have long lifespans.

Walk/Hike Mode: Gimmicky or Worthwhile?

You’ll see a number of downhill boots that tout a walk or hike mode. In reality, these modes are best enjoyed in the trek from the car to the resort, as they don’t have the necessary range of motion and flex to be truly comfortable when walking long distances. In addition, downhill-focused boots are heavier than dedicated backcountry and randonee boots. It's not all bad news, and the walk feature has its appeals for folks that primarily ski downhill but want the option to do some light skinning or hiking. Just steer clear if you need to spend any more than a few minutes heading uphill. Exceptions to this rule include crossover backcountry/resort boot designs like the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD and Lange XT3.

Ski boot (hike ski mode)
Switching into hike mode on the Rossignol Alltrack

Hybrid Downhill/Backcountry Boots

It’s no secret that backcountry skiing is on the rise, and many downhillers are adding an alpine touring set-up to their quiver. To help make things easier, there are a growing number of crossover pieces that perform well on both resort days and while touring. In the boot world, options include the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130 and Lange XT3 130. Both have sturdy 130-flex ratings to fly down groomers, but are light enough and feature a tour mode with good range of motion for backcountry trips. However, if you plan to use them primarily at the resort, there are some compromises to be aware of. The lightweight construction is noticeably less precise when carving on hardpack, and the flex isn’t as smooth as a boot like the downhill-only Lange RX. But they’re still a pretty good option for those looking to purchase only one pair of boots.

Downhill ski boots (skinning in the Atomic Hawx XTD)
Touring in our top hybrid backcountry/resort pick: Atomic's Hawx Ultra XTD

Women's-Specific Downhill Ski Boots

Most ski boots technically are unisex, but a good number of manufacturers make women’s-specific variations of their key models. But the question remains: What are the differences between a women's ski boot and a unisex/men's ski boot? To start, women's boots have unique graphics and usually come in smaller sizes (for example, the unisex Lange RX starts at a size 24, while the women’s Lange RX W goes as low as 22). But most importantly, many women's-specific boots have lower flex ratings that make them softer. All of this assumes, of course, that women prefer different graphics, have smaller feet, and want flexier boots, which is often, but not always, the case.

The bottom line is that each ski brand makes their boots with a unique shape, fit, and features. The unisex/men's and women's models embody the distinct qualities the brand aspires to offer. If you identify as female and have found the perfect pair of boots that only come in a men's model, try them on and don't be afraid to go for it (and vice versa). The most significant factors by far are that they feel snug and comfortable and line up with the performance characteristics you’re looking for.

Boot Warmth and Ski Socks

Modern ski socks reflect the improvements made in boot liner technology. You no longer need a thick, heavy-duty sock, and the market is now full of trimmed-down options. Modern boots are better insulators and far more comfortable, which all adds up to a more enjoyable experience. The best socks are either merino wool or synthetic, and if you can swing the added expense, the wool option is our preferred type for stink prevention and temperature regulation. For a full list of options, see our article on the best ski socks.

Ski boots (Darn Tough ski socks)
Darn Tough makes some of our favorite ski socks

Choosing the Right Skis and Bindings

Boots are a great place to start in assembling your ski kit. For one, it hopefully means you get the pair that end up fitting you best. It also should help guide the rest of your buying considerations. If you choose an advanced boot, you should pick out a correspondingly aggressive binding and ski that can help deliver the performance the boot is capable of. A stiff boot transfers power very efficiently as long as the binding and ski are capable of responding to those inputs. To help get you properly outfitted, our picks for the best all-mountain skis and ski bindings are organized in a similar fashion as boots, broken down by ability level and terrain.
Back to Our Top Downhill Ski Boot Picks  Back to Our Downhill Ski Boot Comparison Table

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