Buying the best ski boots should be a very fun experience. With modern technology there are many things to consider when buying. Companies have put in a lot of time and money to research the best materials and construction of their boots. They have come a long way in the last few years. No longer being the heavy, cumbersome boots of the 90’s.
Technology has made huge strides since then. Some boots have liners that are heat moldable giving them a perfect fit from day one. Others have a high flex rating allowing them to be taken off the tallest jumps. Weight of these boots have been significantly reduced and are much easier to walk in. This makes bending and hiking almost like walking in shoes.
Types of Alpine Boots
When looking for the best ski boots, it is important to note that there are two different types of ski boots depending on your use and level of expertise:
- Traditional Style Boots: These boots are for your everyday skiing and are the most common boots you are going to come across. Most boots will fall under this category as they are the ones bought for your basic day at the slopes and will work for beginners and professionals alike. Lightweight and comfort are the main focus for these boots. The sole of the boot is less durable, as they are intended more for ski use rather than hiking up the mountain in search of the perfect spot. Durability and precession are the key components of these boots.
- Adventure/Freeride Boots: These boots are for adventurists who prefer to hike for the best powder. These boots, while typically heavier, are better walking boots and have extra durability for walking on different surfaces. For those who love to play out of bounds and off the beaten track, these boots will take you just about anywhere.
Components of a Ski Boot
There anatomy of the ski boot is more complex than it may seem and there are a lot of different parts that should be considered before buying. It is important to understand the different lingo used.
This refers to the hard plastic outer casing of the boot. The shell is where you will find the cosmetic designs to give the boot a more aesthetic appeal.
Make no mistake, the shell plays an important role in determining the boots quality based on the flex the boot has.The materials used to construct the shell will also influence the weight of the boot.
This refers to the soft inner lining of the boot. This is a flexible and removable piece that will control how your foot feels in the boot. Many liners are heat moldable which means you can take them out, warm them in your oven for a while and then put them back into your boot, and the liner will mold specifically to your foot.
This allows a custom fit that reduces break in time. This means you won’t have blisters or sore feet even on the first day after you buy your new boots.
This is a very important component of your ski boot. The sole refers to the bottom of your boot. Some soles are a continuation of the boots shell, which means they cannot be removed. Others, have removable toe and heel pieces which makes them much more desirable.
These bindings can wear out and if they are replaceable will be much cheaper than buying new boots. This will give your boots a longer life expectancy.
Buckles are typically made out of metal, not plastic. Typical buckles work in a ladder like operation giving you a gap between an adjustment size.
On newer models, there are micro adjusters that will give you a closer tighten and will make your foot feel more comfortable. It is important when buying that you make sure you can work the buckles even with thick ski gloves on.
This refers to the sole of the liner, the part where you stand on. This often is very thin and offers little support to your foot. For prolonged wear or if you require more support we recommend you trading this out for a thicker pad, or adding an additional one inside.
This is a strap that is located at the top of the boot. Tightening this will secure the upper part of the boot to your leg. This helps with making sure the boot fits properly. It is important to check this and squat leaning forward to make sure there is no discomfort.
These are adjustable so they can move with you and accommodate those with thin or thick calves. Usually a large piece of material, power straps usually use velcro to help fasten them.
Anyone who’s been skiing for a long time knows walking in boots can be challenging. Boots from years ago wouldn’t allow free movement when walking, especially up steep hills or in slushy conditions. This feature allows the foot to bend more freely. Done by releasing the bottom of the boot from the top the ankle is able to be bent more. If you like backcountry skiing this could be a welcomed feature.
Understanding the different technology used on a boot will ensure you buy the proper boot for your foot. A beginner boot and a boot meant for a professional will have vastly different technology used. It is important to understand so you do not get the wrong boot for you.
This is a term used to describe how stiff or flexible the boot is. A stiffer boot will be harder to flex forward. When skiing, being able to move around in different ways will affect your performance. This is largely due to the flex of the boot and its ability to move with you. Manufacturers use a number rating scale.
A higher number means the boot is more rigid. As you increase in skill level the flex of the boot will change. The less flex indicates a more novice skier. Women’s boots are also rate for flex and are usually around 10 – 20 points lower than men’
- Soft boots are rated below 80. These are the best boots for people who are still learning. These boots are designed to make your feet feel comfortable. If you are a quick learner think about moving up to medium flex as the soft flex makes it a little harder to control the skis. When enjoying mostly groomed runs, soft boots are a good fit.
- Medium boots fall between 80 to 100 flex. These are designed to be more rigid. This allows you to go on more advanced runs. Your boots will feel like they are working with you as you ski down runs. Being more responsive, these type of boots will allow you to ski moguls and steeper runs. Most boots are in this range as it will provide great control for just about any level.
- Stiff boots are rated above 100 on the flex rating system. These boots are meant for advanced skiers and should only be chosen if you are comfortable on any type of terrain. These boots respond to every move you make. Designed to help while taking jumps and going down black diamond runs, these boots are not for beginners.
Sizing for ski boots are not like conventional shoe sizes. These sizing numbers refer to the length of the inside of the boot. This is called Mondo Point.
We suggest you take a look at a sizing chart and go get measured by anywhere that sells these boots so you can understand your size before purchasing any boots. These sizes are also different between men and women. For example, a size 28 would translate to a women’s size 11.5 and a men’s 10.
If you are curious about what Mondo size you are there is an easy way to find out. Put your foot on a piece of paper and mark the back and front of your foot. Measure how many centimeters (cm) the distance between the two marks are and that is your size.
Ski boots are designed to fit tight
You are not supposed to be able to lift your heel at all. Just like regular shoes you should be able to wiggle your toes, without sliding around. Feet tend to change sizes during the day so it is recommended to try boots on in the evening.
Keep in mind what socks you will be using and when possible bring them with you to try on boots. Boots will need to be a different size if you are using wool socks rather than a thinner wicking material. Socks that can bunch up can cut off circulation and make your feet colder.
- Last Width: In addition to these sizes boots also have something called a last width or footbed width. This is the distance from the inside of the boot around the ball of the foot. This is measured in millimeters for a more precise fit ranging from 95 millimeters (mm) to 107 mm. Small boots are around 97 mm, medium boots 100 mm and large boots 102 mm. Advanced riders should look for a snug fit. Newer boots come with technology that allows this width to be adjusted. Even though it is usually just a few millimeters it can make the boot feel better no matter what you’re using them for.
- Construction: Boots come in a few different configurations. A three-piece overlap is what the common boot looks like. Buckles are first seen on the outside of the boot. These allow for it to be loosened and tightened as needed. The upper cuff encases your shin which can be adjusted by a power strap. The lower shell includes the bottom of the boot in which a liner sits. Two inside wings overlap which seal the boot affecting the boots rigidity.
A Cabrio is designed a little differently. The front part, including the tongue, moves forward allowing for easy entry. This is an older favourite as they have lots of flex and feel comfortable in any weather. The newest style of boot is the Alpine or AT Hybrid.
This combines alpine touring (AT) with the traditional alpine boot. These boots have better grip that makes them better for climbing and hiking. But the tradeoff is that they are heavier. As technology increases keep an eye out for this new type of boot.
To save you the trouble, we have compiled a list of the top rated boots for skiing. Our experts have put in the time, scoured the market and done the research so you don’t have to. These boots excel in almost every category and serve as a great place to start your search for the perfect boots.
Top Ski Boots Reviewed
Atomic Live Fit 80
Best Use: Downhill, Groomed Runs
Skill Level: Beginner
Description: Starting off with the best boot for new skiers, the Atomic Live is a wide fit boot. The 80 flex rating of this boot means it is a soft boot, perfect for beginners or those spending their time cruising down groomed runs. The large power strap gives it that added ability to fit perfectly.
Excellent 3M insulation ensures your foot will be warm and properly insulated even in the coldest conditions. Atomic has made a stylish boot that is designed for comfortable riding.
Dalbello Panterra 90
Best Use: Downhill, All Mountain
Skill Level: Intermediate – Expert
Description: These boots are designed for a well rounded intermediate rider. Having a center stance allows you to be on your toes while sitting lower in your stance. Intermediate and advanced riders will appreciate the higher flex rating of these boots.
This allows for a more stable run while hitting jumps and slaloms. Equipped with the Variable Volume Fit, these Dalbello boots have an adjustable width. The heat moldable liner means these will fit your feet perfectly and give you a custom made feel. Added padding makes this high quality boot added comfort with an expert fit.
They thought of everything including giving your ankle more movement to make walking even easier when worn in the boots Hike mode. A lightweight and high quality boot.
Lange SX 90
Best Use: Downhill, Racing
Skill Level: Intermediate – Expert
Description: This top of the line boot is great for riders with more experience. This wide boot is perfect for riders with larger feet or those who like to wear extra thick socks. Also a great boot to put an additional liner in, including orthotics this boot has added space for whatever your needs.
An all around a high performance boot, the Lange SX are highly customizable. The large power strap makes sure your boot fits snugly around your shin while the highly tunable buckles keep your foot stationery as you navigate downhill. The stance is set at a slight incline to point you in the right direction.
A high flex rating will allow you to take any jump you want while making sure your foot is cushioned. Designed to keep your foot warm in subzero temperatures the Thermofit RL1 liner creates the perfect balance of comfort and ability.
Rossignol Alltrack 90
Best Use: Downhill, Terrain Park
Skill Level: Intermediate – Expert
Description: One of our favorites and it is clear to see why, this is an incredibly high quality boot for skiers with an intermediate to advanced skill level. With technology to make them warm and stiff, the Rossignol Alltrack performs at the top of its class as an all around great boot.
A comfortable walk mode allows you to move freely when scoping out the best jump or climbing to find fresh powder. The boots come equipped with added grip making them easier to navigate even the slipperiest slopes. A high flex count allows you to go down any run you like.
The specially designed OptiSensor 3D liner combines comfort with performance. All of this in combination with a large power strap means these boots will fit perfectly. These stylish boots are sure to make you stand out on the mountain.
Rossignol Evo 70
Best Use: Downhill, Groomed Runs
Skill Level: Beginner
Description: This boot is designed for a beginner learning the techniques of skiing. A softer flex means they will fit more comfortably while allowing lots of movement. This helps when learning as it makes turning and stopping much easier for a novice skier.
The neutral stance of the Rossignol Evo 70 ensures the rider learns the basics before adding features such as an inclined boot. A large pull loop allows for the foot to enter easily and the large power strap makes adjusting even easier. This boot is easy to use, leaving you to focus on the mountain.
Tecnica Ten.2 90 HV
Best Use: Downhill
Skill Level: Beginner – Intermediate
Description: An excellent choice, this boot excels in every category. The Tecnica Ten.2 90 HV boots’ removable inner lining has heat moldable technology allowing you the opportunity to completely customize your fit. Simply heat it up and prepare for a mold that is completely individualized to your foot’s needs.
With a micro buckle adjuster you won’t face that awkwardness of being in between sizes again and instead have a customized tightness that will move with your foot. With a polyurethane outer shell it is clear to see the quality of this boot.
Buying ski boots should be a fun experience but make sure you take the time needed to try on each boot and mock the motions of skiing as well as walking. Keep in mind the type of socks you will be wearing when at the mountain. It is important to find a snug fit that doesn’t cause any discomfort. It is easy to spend hours up on the mountain so ensure that your shoes will last as long as you do.
After picking your perfect boot, ensure you regularly check the soles of your boot to monitor its integrity. This will likely be the first part, after the footbed, that will need to be replaced. If you have a boot with removable toe and heel soles, changing them out will be an easy and affordable task.
Are you an avid skier? Do you have any of the boots on our list? What technology do you look for in a boot? Did we miss a boot that you love? Let us know in the comments, we love hearing from you.