Ever started skiing and realized that your boots are pinching your feet? Ill-fitting ski boots will not only hurt, they’ll prevent you from having proper control over your skis and ruin your day on the slopes. Ski boot technology has improved a lot over the last decade and choosing the best ski boots now means giving your feet ultimate comfort.
With all-over heat molding available, the liner, footbed and outer shell can all be molded to your feet. This creates an environment that gives you control, comfort and ensures good circulation to stop your feet from getting chilled.
With touring boots, alpine boots and Walk-to-Ride boots on the market, knowing which boot suits your needs is essential. Armed with the following information, you’ll soon understand exactly what you need.
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QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST SKI BOOTS
1. ATOMIC HAWX PRIME 100
2. ROSSIGNOL EVO 70
3. SALOMON QUEST ACCESS 80
4. SCARPA FREEDOM SL 120
5. LA SPORTIVA SPECTRE 2.0
6. ATOMIC BACKLAND
7. ATOMIC LIVE FIT 80
COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST SKI BOOTS[table “151nbspresponsivescroll” not found /]
SKI BOOTS REVIEWS
ATOMIC HAWX PRIME 100
BEST FOR: Intermediate and advanced piste skiers
WOMEN’S VERSION: Atomic Hawk Prime 100
HEAT MOLDABLE: Mouldable shell and liner
PROS: MemoryFit technology allows both outer shell and inner liner to be heat molded for the ultimate individual fit, Thinsulate liner offers great insulation for toasty feet, size adjuster included to fit under footbed and downsize boot by a half-size
CONS: No WTR compatibility or ability to convert to backcountry
ROSSIGNOL EVO 70
BEST FOR: Enthusiastic beginners in resort
WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A
HEAT MOLDABLE: None
PROS: Great price for alpine boots, pre-molded liners are designed to support feet and keep them warm, soft 70 flex is forgiving for learning
CONS: Standard pre-molded liner may not support feet enough, especially if you have had previous issues with finding well-fitting boots, flex may be too low for beginners who progress quickly
SALOMON QUEST ACCESS 80
BEST FOR: Beginners wanting maximum comfort in resort
WOMEN’S VERSION: Salomon Quest Access 80
HEAT MOLDABLE: Thermoformable liner
PROS: Ski/Walk mode is easy to change and allows much easier walking to the lift or even backcountry hiking, liner is simple to remove to dry separately, replaceable heel and toe plates means boots will last for years
CONS: Flex may be too low for progressing skiers to make the most of any backcountry suitability
SCARPA FREEDOM SL 120
BEST FOR: Advanced backcountry tourers and all-mountain skiers
WOMEN’S VERSION: Scarpa Freedom SL 120
HEAT MOLDABLE: Thermoformable liner
PROS: Vibram soles are compatible with both AT and Tech bindings, additional piste soles are available for these boots to enable you to use them as piste boots as well, adjustable forward lean between 10 and 18 degrees gives you control over your needs, walk mode offers 27 degrees of flexibility
CONS: Buckles aren’t as elegant and streamlined as some touring boots, pricey
LA SPORTIVA SPECTRE 2.0
BEST FOR: Expert backcountry skiers
WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A
HEAT MOLDABLE: Thermoformable liner
PROS: Some of the coolest looking touring boots out there, 60-degree cuff movement while hiking for total flexibility, three forward lean settings, compatible with tech and most AT bindings, lightweight
CONS: With a flex of 115 these aren’t as stiff as some touring boots and may be too soft for some skiers
BEST FOR: Backcountry skiers looking for the perfect fit
WOMEN’S VERSION: Atomic Backland
HEAT MOLDABLE: Moldable liner
PROS: 74 degrees of cuff movement gives you full foot motion while walking, Quick Click tongue systems means you can remove tongue for walking and even buy a stiffer tongue, breathable liner can be heat molded to fit foot contours perfectly, really lightweight
CONS: Forgiving for novice backcountry tourers but the flex of 90 might be too low for more advanced skiers, only compatible with tech bindings
ATOMIC LIVE FIT 80
BEST FOR: Beginners looking for a comfy first boot
WOMEN’S VERSION: Atomic Live Fit 80
HEAT MOLDABLE: Partially moldable liner
PROS: Live Fit panels in liner automatically mold to your feet, two large buckles simplify buckle tension, good for beginners but also for lightweight intermediate skiers
CONS: Beginners who progress fast might want a higher flex, Live Fit isn’t as customizable as Atomic’s fantastic Memory Fit technology
HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST SKI BOOTS
TYPE OF BOOT
In general, there are two types of ski boots, Alpine Touring (AT) and Alpine/Downhill. There’s also a third which isn’t a different type per se, but it’s a major added feature; Walk-to-Ride (WTR).
Alpine boots are for alpine bindings and downhill skis and are certified with ISO 5355. The majority of people in ski resorts will be using these boots and there is an enormous range on the market to suit every foot type.
Typical features in alpine boots are multiple adjustable buckles, customizable liners, and different lasts to match your foot and flex.
SKI-TOURING AND BACKCOUNTRY
Alpine ski-touring boots come in different formats but, generally speaking, they either have tech fittings (for use with tech bindings) or soles that are compatible with AT bindings and even alpine bindings. Some AT boots have rugged, grippy soles for easy hiking and compromise on their inability to work with alpine bindings and some have flatter soles that are compatible.
AT boots that are designed to work as ski-touring and alpine boots offer the most flexibility for the all-round skier. They might sacrifice the supreme lightness of the tech fitting boots but they feel great bombing down pisted runs as well as touring up mountains.
Standard AT boots are ISO 9523. Tech touring boots are not ISO 9523 and are only compatible with tech bindings. Some boots have interchangeable soles, making them compatible with almost all types of bindings! The Scarpa Freedom SL touring boots are a great example of this.
Walk-To-Ride (WTR) soled boots are compatible with some alpine bindings and some AT bindings. All compatible bindings should specifically say that they accept WTR boots.
LINER AND SHELL
Ski boots are made out of two separate components, a hard outer shell, and a soft inner lining. Although some shells are customizable, it’s predominantly the lining that can be altered to fit the exact form of your foot.
Some liners are heavily insulated while some are thinner and lighter. Brands like Primaloft and Thinsulate are often used for liners.
With many ski boot brands offering heat moldable liners, it’s easier than ever to get a ski boot that fits like a glove. Feet are fairly unique shapes on an individual level and having your liners heat molded can transform your comfort and experience.
Custom footbeds are also available in conjunction with many ski boots. These insoles are sold separately and, when molded to your foot’s sole, ensure complete support. These are particularly useful for those with high arches or poor circulation.
Many boot liners are thermoformable. This generally means that the liners use the heat from your feet to mold around your exact foot shape. In this way, they are ‘worn in’ and will reach optimum comfort after the first day’s use.
Ski boot flex is based on an internationally adopted scale. Generally speaking, the stiffer the flex rating, the more power is transferred from your legs to your skis. However, stiff flex boots are much less forgiving and therefore a softer flex is required for beginners and park skiers.
Ski boots often contain their flex rating in their name. So the Atomic Hawk Prime 100 for instance, has a flex of 100. This is a quick and easy way to see what flex boots have and therefore the general skiing ability they’re aimed at.
Soft flex is usually below 80 Flex. This is ideal for beginners and is forgiving when learning technique and making mistakes.
Medium flex is between 80 and 100. This allows for more accurate control of skis and edge control and is good for intermediates or confident learners.
Flex over 100 is counted as stiff and is perfect for advanced skiers and race skiers. Unforgiving, stiff flex transfers as much energy as possible through your leg and into the skis. This provides ultimate control and accurate turning. Backcountry boots are usually stiff flex.
It’s worth noting that while the same flex numbers are used across brands, one brand’s 90 might not be as stiff as another brand’s 90. Skier weight is also a factor, with lighter skiers requiring lower flex levels than a heavier skier with the same ability.
In the past, thick ski socks were required to keep your feet warm but technology has changed a lot. These days, ski boot liners usually provide excellent insulation. On top of this, the advent of heat molded liners means that the foot is supported without compromising blood circulation. Good circulation helps prevent the feet from getting too cold.
Ski boots are sized according to the Mondopoint scale. This scale is used across all brands as well and ski bindings. The Mondo size is the length of the boots inner sole and is listed in centimeters.
The Mondo size of your boot will also usually be written on the outside of the boot. This means that when you buy ski bindings and get them fixed on your skis, they will be matched to your boot size. You can get a good idea of your size by using an online mondo calculator.
The last of a ski boot has a different meaning from that of a normal shoe. When we talk about the ‘last’ in reference to ski boots, we’re talking about the width of the boot at the widest point (on the inside). This point correlates with the widest part of your foot, just backward of the base of the toes.
Last is important in ski boots as a perfect fit across the width of your foot is one of the key factors in buying your boots. Some ski boots are specifically made for narrow feet, some for wide and some for average. The last is measured in millimeters.