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 for the 2021-2022 season. 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.
Last: 98, 100, or 103mm (narrow, medium, wide widths)
Flex: 120 (advanced/expert skiers)
Other flexes: 90W, 105W, 110, 130
What we like: Top-end fit customization and all-around performance.
What we don’t: 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 well-loved 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 120 is offered in a class-leading range of lasts, including low (98mm), medium (100mm), and high-volume (103mm) widths.
The alpine performance of the Mach1 is no slouch either, with a natural stance and predictable power transfer both on- and off-trail. And Tecnica honed the design for expert-level skiers last winter with a new “spine” that connects the cuff and shell for improved stiffness and precision. Compared to the popular Lange RX below, the Mach1 stacks up extremely well in build quality, comfort, and all-around performance. The RX does get the slight edge for hard chargers with its stout, race-ready feel, but we think the Mach1 is a little more well-rounded for advanced all-mountain riders. Tack on the wide range of lasts and excellent shell and liner customization, and you have a market standout.
See the Men's Tecnica Mach1 MV 120 See the Women's Tecnica Mach1 MV 105
Best Downhill Boot for Intermediates
Last: 100mm (medium width)
Flex: 100 (intermediate/advanced skiers)
Other flexes: 80, 90W, 100W, 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 a couple seasons ago 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-Charging Skiers
Last: 97 or 100mm (narrow or medium width)
Flex: 130 (advanced/expert skiers)
Other flexes: 70W, 80W, 90W, 100, 110W, 120
What we like: Successful all-mountain adaptation of a downhill racing boot.
What we don’t: Requires a strong and powerful pilot.
For expert skiers looking for the ultimate in performance and comfort, we like the stellar RX 130 from Lange. Inspired by their race-bred RS model—evident in the powerful stance, burly four buckles, and substantial power strap—the Lange is a stiff, aggressive boot that responds precisely to skier input. Plus, its fit and customizable shell are well-respected among bootfitters, and the comfort and warmth 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 new GripWalk soles on the 2022 model, although we'd prefer to also see a walk/hike mode for sidecountry exploring. Another downside is that the burly Lange can feel like too much boot, particularly for those who prefer a little less rigidity for dipping into the trees and soft stuff (the Mach1 above beats it out in this respect). But for hard chargers that aren’t put off by the $750 price tag, it’s the real deal. And for lighter-weight rippers, Lange offers the RX in a 120 flex, and those with low-volume feet should check out the “LV” variations that feature a 97-millimeter last.
See the Men's Lange RX 130 GW See the Women's Lange RX 110 GW
Best All-Mountain Boot with a Walk Mode
Last: 100-102mm (variable fit and medium width)
Flex: 120 (advanced skiers)
Other flexes: 95W, 105W, 130
What we like: Useful walk mode and smooth downhill performance.
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 features a useful walk mode and slick three-piece shell. The lower portion is super stiff for reliable power transfer, while a slightly more forgiving upper flexes smoothly to absorb impacts in the bumps or 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. It adds up to a boot that’s well-suited for everything from attacking corduroy to hiking into the sidecountry.
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 DS Asolo.
See the Men's Dalbello Panterra 120 I.D. See the Women's Dalbello Panterra 95 W
Best Hybrid Downhill/Backcountry Boot
Last: 98mm (narrow width)
Flex: 130 (advanced/expert skiers)
Other flexes: 95W, 100, 115W, 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. Of note: The Ultra XTD listed here has a fairly narrow 98-millimeter last, and for those that need a little more room, there’s also a Hawx Prime XTD model with a more accommodating 100-millimeter shape.
See the Men's Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130 See the Women's Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 115
Best of the Rest
Last: 100mm (medium width)
Flex: 100 (intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 85W, 95W, 105W, 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 offers 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. Finally, Nordica has updated the top end of the Speedmachine lineup for 2022 (the higher flex options have a "3" in the name), and highlights include a lighter yet impressively sturdy shell and more premium liner.
See the Men's Nordica Speedmachine 100 See the Women's Nordica Speedmachine 85
Last: 98 or 100mm (narrow or medium width)
Flex: 120 (advanced skiers)
Other flexes: 75W, 85W, 90, 100, 105W, 115W, 120W, 130
What we like: Lightweight and a great value.
What we don’t: Unproven long-term durability.
K2’s Recon technically replaced the older Spyne, 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 half a pound less per boot than the top-rated Tecnica Mach1 MV 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 105
Last: 94, 96, or 98mm (narrow width)
Flex: 140 (expert skiers)
Other flexes: 70, 90, 95W, 115W, 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 WCR 140S 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 WCR 140S 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 WCR in 90 and 120 flex versions, although the 140 model takes full advantage of the boot’s potential.
See the Men's Head Raptor WCR 140S See the Women's Head Raptor WCR 115
Last: 100mm (medium width)
Flex: 110 (intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 105W, 115W, 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
Last: 99mm (medium width)
Flex: 110 (intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 95W, 105W, 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 98 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 50 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
Last: 96mm (narrow width)
Flex: 130 (advanced/expert skiers)
Other flexes: 95, 105, 110, 115, 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 among the narrowest to make our 2021-2022 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 recently expanded the Curv line 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
Last: 102mm (wide width)
Flex: 90 (intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 70W, 80W, 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
Last: 97 or 100mm (narrow or medium width)
Other flexes: 80W, 90W, 100, 110, 110W, 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 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)... Read in-depth review
See the Lange XT3 130 See the Women's Lange XT3 110
Last: 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 recently—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
Last: 104mm (wide width)
Flex: 90 (beginner/intermediate skiers)
Other flexes: 60W, 70, 70W ,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—and especially those with average- to narrow-width feet—will be better off with Salomon's S/Pro line above.
See the Men's Salomon QST Access 90 See the Women's Salomon QST Access 70
Last: 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.
Other flexes: 90W, 100, 110W, 130
What we like: Custom fit and comfort of Salomon’s well-loved S/Pro with a walk mode.
What we don’t: Less capable for touring than the Lange and Atomic options above.
The third hybrid downhill/backcountry boot to make our list is the Salomon Shift Pro. Sharing a name with the brand’s extremely popular touring binding, the boot has a similar intent: its sturdy four-buckle design puts a premium on downhill performance, but a walk mode, GripWalk soles, and reasonable weight make it decently capable on the skin track. Importantly, Salomon put a premium on fit with the build, and its medium-width 100-millimeter last, high-quality liner, and very customizable shell (like the S/Pro above) should deliver reliable comfort for a variety of foot shapes.
Who is the Shift Pro 120 best for? It can’t match the Atomic XTD above in weight and climbing efficiency, and the Lange XT3 is only a few ounces heavier yet offers better range of motion (53° vs. 40° for the Salomon) and power on the descent. This leaves the Pro 120 as a viable option for advancing intermediates that spend the majority of their time at the resort but have plans for a handful of tours each season. In reality, that lines up with a good portion of the skiing market, which is why we fully expect the Shift Pro to be a popular do-it-all choice this winter.
See the Men's Salomon Shift Pro 120 See the Women's Salomon Shift Pro 110
Last: 104mm (wide width)
Flex: 70 (beginner skiers)
Other flexes: 65W, 75W, 85W, 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
|Tecnica Mach1 MV 120||$650||98, 100, 103mm||120||90W, 105W, 110, 130||No|
|Salomon S/Pro 100||$550||100mm||100||80, 90W, 100W, 120, 130||No|
|Lange RX 130 GW||$750||97 or 100mm||130||70W, 80W, 90W, 100, 110W, 120||No|
|Dalbello Panterra 120 I.D.||$600||100-102mm||120||95W, 105W, 130||Yes|
|Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 XTD||$800||98mm||130||95W, 100, 115W, 120||Yes|
|Nordica Speedmachine 100||$400||100mm||100||85W, 95W, 105W, 110, 120, 130||No|
|K2 Recon 120||$500||98 or 100mm||120||75W, 85W, 90, 100, 105W, 115W, 120W, 130||No|
|Head Raptor WCR 140S||$925||94, 96, 98mm||140||70, 90, 95W, 115W, 120||No|
|Atomic Hawx Prime 110 S||$500||100mm||110||105W, 115W, 120, 130||No|
|Tecnica Cochise 110 DYN||$550||99mm||110||95W, 105W, 120, 130||Yes|
|Fischer RC4 The Curv GT||$799||96mm||130||95, 105, 110, 115, 120||No|
|Rossignol Alltrack 90||$350||102mm||90||70W, 80W, 110, 120||Yes|
|Lange XT3 130||$750||97 or 100mm||130||80W, 90W, 100, 110, 110W, 120, 140||Yes|
|Full Tilt Classic Pro||$500||99mm||8/10||None||No|
|Salomon QST Access 90||$400||104mm||90||60W, 70, 70W ,80||Yes|
|Dalbello Il Moro I.D.||$600||98mm||120||None||No|
|Salomon Shift Pro||$700||100mm||120||90W, 100, 110W, 130||Yes|
|Nordica Cruise 70||$200||104mm||70||65W, 75W, 85W, 90, 120||No|
- Boot Flex and Performance
- Ski Boot Sizing
- Boot Liners
- Heat-Moldable Liners
- Buckles and Strap Systems
- Boot Soles
- Ski Boot Weight
- Walk/Hike Modes
- Hybrid Downhill/Backcountry Boots
- Women's-Specific Downhill Ski Boots
- Boot Warmth and Ski Socks
- Choosing Skis and Bindings
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.
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:
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.
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 130, 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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Lange XT3, and Salomon Shift Pro.
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 aforementioned Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130, Lange XT3 130, and Salomon Shift Pro. All three have sturdy flex ratings (130 for the Atomic and Lange and 120 for the Salomon) 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.
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.
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.
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.
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