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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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FIND THE BEST SKI BOOTS

PICTURE
SKI BOOTS
BEST USE
HEAT MOLDING
LAST
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
SKI BOOTS
BEST USE
HEAT MOLDING
LAST
PRICE
RATING
Rossignol All Track Pro 90
Overall
Thermoformable liner
100mm
$$$
5
Atomic Hawk Prime 100
Overall
Moldable shell and liner
100mm
$$
4
Nordica N-Move 100
Overall
Moldable liner
102mm
$$
4.5
Rossignol Evo 70
Beginner
None
104mm
$
4.8
Salomon Quest Access 80
Beginner
Thermoformable liner
104mm
$$
4.9
Scarpa Freedom SL 120
Touring
Thermoformable liner
101mm
$$$
3.8
La Sportiva Spectre 2.0
Touring
Thermoformable liner
102.5mm
$$$
4.8
Atomic Backland
Touring
Moldable liner
98mm
$$$
5
Atomic Live Fit 80
Budget
Partially moldable liner
102mm
$
4.5
Dalbello Aspect 80
Budget
None
103mm
$
4.2

 

 

SKI BOOTS 101

 

7 THINGS TO CONSIDER TO FIND THE BEST SKI BOOTS

 

1. 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/DOWNHILL

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

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.

 

2. 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.

 

3. HEAT MOLDING

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.

 

4. FLEX

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

Soft flex is usually below 80 Flex. This is ideal for beginners and is forgiving when learning technique and making mistakes.

 

MEDIUM FLEX

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.

 

STIFF FLEX

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.

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES

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.

 

5. SOCKS

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.

 

6. SIZING

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.

 

7. LAST

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.

 

ski boots must-have

Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/buenaventuramariano

 

SKI BOOT REVIEWS

 

1. BEST SKI BOOTS FOR OVERALL USE

ROSSIGNOL ALL TRACK PRO 90

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Intermediate and advanced skiers on piste

WOMEN’S VERSION: Rossignol All Track Pro 90 

HEAT MOLDABLE: Thermoformable liner

LAST: 100mm

PROS: Can be used with WTR soles (sold separately) for hiking, Thinsulate liner keeps feet warm even on really cold days, cuff has hike mode and ski mode for increased flexibility, great design

CONS: Pretty pricey for downhill boots but WTR sole compatibility makes up for this if you want to hike

 

 

 

ATOMIC HAWK PRIME 100

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Intermediate and advanced piste skiers

WOMEN’S VERSION: Atomic Hawk Prime 100 

HEAT MOLDABLE: Mouldable shell and liner

LAST: 100mm

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

 

 

 

NORDICA N-MOVE 100

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Confident intermediate downhill skiers

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

HEAT MOLDABLE: Moldable liner

LAST: 102mm

PROS: Primaloft insulated liner means feet stay warm all day, heat molded liner will fit foot contours, ski/walk mode means walking in resort and between cable cars is much easier, great traction for added walking ability

CONS: Outer shell is not moldable like the Atomic Hawk above offering less customizable fit

 

 

 

 

2. BEST SKI BOOTS FOR BEGINNERS

ROSSIGNOL EVO 70

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Enthusiastic beginners in resort

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

HEAT MOLDABLE: None

LAST: 104mm

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

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Beginners wanting maximum comfort in resort

WOMEN’S VERSION: Salomon Quest Access 80

HEAT MOLDABLE: Thermoformable liner

LAST: 104mm

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

 

 

 

 

3. BEST SKI BOOTS FOR TOURING

SCARPA FREEDOM SL 120

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Advanced backcountry tourers and all-mountain skiers

WOMEN’S VERSION: Scarpa Freedom SL 120 

HEAT MOLDABLE: Thermoformable liner

LAST: 101mm

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

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Expert backcountry skiers

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

HEAT MOLDABLE: Thermoformable liner

LAST: 102.5mm

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

 

 

 

ATOMIC BACKLAND

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Backcountry skiers looking for the perfect fit

WOMEN’S VERSION: Atomic Backland 

HEAT MOLDABLE: Moldable liner

LAST: 98mm

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

 

 

 

 

4. BEST BUDGET SKI BOOTS

ATOMIC LIVE FIT 80

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Beginners looking for a comfy first boot

WOMEN’S VERSION: Atomic Live Fit 80 

HEAT MOLDABLE: Partially moldable liner

LAST: 102mm

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

 

 

 

DALBELLO ASPECT 80

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | REI

BEST FOR: Beginners and lightweight intermediate piste skiers

WOMEN’S VERSION: N/A

HEAT MOLDABLE: None

LAST: 103mm

PROS: Ski/Hike mode means it’s easy to walk in resort and then lock in for secure downhill skiing, thick cushioning in liner keeps feet warm, soft flex is forgiving for beginners and lightweight progressing skiers

CONS: Without heat molding, those with more unusually shaped feet may suffer