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Reviewed by our gear Geeks:

BEST ALPINE SKI BOOTS OF 2021

Z

Our experts at work

We gave our Gear lovers one job:

Test 23 different Alpine Ski Boots and write reviews of the best.

The result is 12 of the best Alpine Ski Boots on the market today.

hunter bierce

Hunter Bierce

PSIA Ski Instructor
Hunter Bierce is a PSIA Ski Instructor and multidisciplinary outdoor professional.

Bradley Axmith boating & sailing editor

Bradley Axmith

Editor at DIVEIN.com
Vikingship building gear enthusiast and waterworld fanatic.

Trying to find the best ski boots for your feet is an intimidating decision regardless of your experience level as a skier. And they need to be good.

Any boot fitter will tell you that the best skis in the world won’t make a difference to you if your boots don’t fit. The boot is how you communicate with your ski and tell it what you want it to do. It’s crucial to have a way to bend, rotate, and otherwise interface with your skis quickly and precisely. 

 

Top 10 Best Ski Boots In 2021

See our quick top 10, or go further down and read our in-depth reviews.

Still unsure as to what Alpine Ski Boots to choose? Check out our buying guide to know what to look for when buying ski boots.

These are a few simplified definitions for words you’ll see throughout the guide:

Last= measurement of foot width

Mondo= measurement of foot length

Flex= Non Standardized measurement of how the boots bend

Ski gear is expensive. To find the best ski boots specifically, you can spend more on them than most of the rest of your kit. Hybrid boots are a great means of cutting costs for the rising number of skiers interested in backcountry travel, but oftentimes diminish the performance of aggressive inbounds riding. The Lupo Pro is Dalbello’s solution to the underperforming hybrid boot. A stiff, aggressive shell with all of the amenities that you’d want for uphill travel.

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Dalbello Lupo Pro HD:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: 130
  • Last: 98mm
  • Mondo: 24.5-29.5 (Half Sizes)
What we like:
  • A hybrid boot that can hold up against a full alpine for aggressive inbounds skiing
  • Great range of motion for uphill travel
  • The removable tongue is easy to take out for more comfortable walking
What we don’t like:
  • Pretty heavy, even when compared to an alpine boot
  • The removable tongue can be a hassle to get on in a pinch

Durability comes at the cost of weight. Common amongst these hybrid style boots, they definitely are built with the descent in mind, so don’t expect them to fly up the skin track like a skimo boot. 

The Pro model out of the Lupo line is made from race-grade plastic that has a more resilient and damper feel when you’re really pushing the boot. The flex is equally aggressive, and should be able to provide the kind of resistance that expert skiers want out of their boot, despite having a removable tongue. At a glance it fits exactly like you’d want a burly alpine boot to, with small exceptions around the ankle and toe box.

As mentioned the Lupo pro has a removable tongue to ease uphill travel. Dalbello totes the fact that you can get it off with one hand, but doesn’t mention that getting it back on can be a hassle, and could potentially be a headache in heavy wind and snow. Still, combined with the walk mode the boot has excellent range of motion, and more than makes up for its weight when you factor the tec binding you’ll likely be using.

In an industry filled with experimentation and competition to stay on the cutting edge, sometimes it pays to remember tradition. This is evidenced by the recent popularity of heavy, aggressively cambered skis, and also by Dalbello’s DS Asolo 13. 

Consistency is key here, the more aggressive Asolo boots are impressive because they are so unremarkable. They’re just a very well-executed 2-piece, 4 buckle boot built just like they have been for the last few decades that delivers dependable results turn after turn.

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Dalbello DS Asolo :
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: 95-130
  • Last: 98mm
  • Mondo: 24.5-30-.5 (Half Sizes)
What we like:
  • Good traditional fit boot with top-quality comfort
  • Available in a wide variety of sizes and flexes
  • Could be the best ski boot for resort riding
What we don’t like:
  • The cuff feels a little low for some riders
  • You definitely pay more for a high flex rating because of the race style

DS Asolo’s borrow a lot from Dalbello’s race line. The way they ski feels very supportive and responsive, the way they push back on the skier keeps them from feeling dead over time and can help to keep your legs feeling fresher, longer. 

Following the consistency theme, the flex is consistent throughout the entire length of the boot. They deliver a snug squeeze around the entirety of the foot, without bunching or dead space around the toes and heels. This firmness in fit is carried all the way through the cuff, so that when you engage the boot with your shin you feel consistent pressure, even right under the calf. Skiers who tend to have a lot to tell their boots will appreciate the predictability and the precision they afford through turns.

They’re one of the best ski boots if you want to ride fast, and are a powerful option for any skier seeking a devoted frontside option. Additionally they feature a new IF liner and shell that are fully customizable, and textured soles to help stay on your feet when you’re walking in them. The Asolo’s are a premier resort crusher boot, and should be strongly considered by anyone who spends a lot of time riding the resort.

Boot manufacturers sometimes seem overly fixated with providing results for the top echelon of riders, and lose sight of casual riders who don’t feel like they have to jump off of cliffs to have a good time. While Nordica definitely makes boots for the best, they don’t forget about the rest of us too. The Speedmachine is available in a wide variety of flexes, but we think that a softer shell highlights the best things about this boot- the comfort.

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Nordica Speedmachine:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: 90-130
  • Last: 100mm
  • Mondo: 24.5-30.5
What we like:
  • Top contender in comfort for a performance boot
  • The IR molding technique provides customization for a great fit
  • Good option as a starter boot or a “fun” boot
What we don’t like:
  • If you’re a serious rider, you might want something more performance-oriented

It’s unique for a comfort based boot to actually feel like a real ski boot; the Speedmachine emphasizes the best parts of its mid-volume design while still providing a snug, comprehensive grip. Adding to both comfort and performance is the option for comprehensive customization, from the cork liner up to the buckles. 

One of the best things is that they provide a great opportunity for newer skiers to have the experience of a full custom boot. The cork liners can be heat molded to the exact contours of your feet. The boots can be precision molded with infrared heat and suction, allowing you to target specific parts of the boot that you want to adjust without potentially jeopardizing the structural integrity of the rest of the shell.

The Speedmachine rides responsively, but its wide toe box and plush liner keep it more forgiving than the competition. But it’s simply too comfortable to keep up with the hardest riding boots, the toe and heel have a little too much give to really lock it in for any kind of extreme skiing. Beginners and leisure skiers will find this an excellent option for a sporty front-side boot. 

Nordica’s line of HF “Hands Free” boots  are a contemporary take on old rear-entry boot technology. A daring throwback move sure to crinkle the eyes of veteran skiers, and an approach being adopted by other boot manufacturers for their comfort lines. Nordica has a reputation for plush, accommodating boots; the “Hands Free ”  is their attempt to push comfort into new realms. 

These Nordica ski boots are designed with skiers who don’t want to spend all day bent over adjusting buckles, or for those with long feet who feel like their bodies are simply geometrically incompatible with modern boots. 

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Nordica HF:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: 85, 110
  • Last: 102mm
  • Mondo: 24-30.5
What we like:
  • Great way to stay on the slopes longer if you constantly have foot issues
  • Comfort oriented boots that deliver dependable on-piste results
  • Heated variations maximize warmth on the slopes
What we don’t like:
  • Limited appeal by nature of their design
  • Definitely an on-piste boot

But don’t be fooled, HF boots are by no means rentals. They’re as customizable as any other Nordica boot, with the heat-moldable cork liners, and localized infrared shell punching. They’re well-insulated, soft, and are still available with a 110 flex to give you a little more control than other comfort boots. 

The HF is built to keep people on the mountain longer, and they’re perfect if you find yourself thinking about your feet instead of having fun. They’re also lightweight and have built-in textured grips on the bottoms of the boots to make getting around the base area less of a hassle

The Nordica HF comes in several different heated varieties in addition to the classic shell. If you have any issues with fun while skiing because of your feet, or if you have a sore back or any issues with keeping your toes warm, an HF boot might be the solution to your problem, and keep you warm where others fail.

The Salomon X Max was an absolute dynamo favored by aggressive frontside skiers who wanted a racey-like ski boot. This line was retired last season and replaced by the new S/Max series. The new S/Max aims to keep the brash and burly fit forged by its predecessor while improving on some performance issues and keeping the quirks that made the X/Max so popular in the first place.

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Salomon S/Max:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: 100-130
  • Last: 98/104
  • Mondo: 24-29.5
What we like:
  • Aggressive frontside boot that you can depend on
  • A boot fitter’s dream shell
What we don’t like:
  • Quirky fit if you have short or big calves
  • Definitely can take some getting used to if you haven’t worn a race-oriented boot

Though similar to its spiritual predecessor, Salomon has included several marked improvements in the S/Max making it a better ski boot. The first is weight: the S/Max is significantly lighter than other powerful downhill boots and it retains the stability of a charger while minimizing the bulk that kept the X/Max shackled down.

It’s a boot that feels good at high edge angles, and feels eager to carry the energy from turn to turn when it’s ridden hard.  

They’ve also adjusted some issues with the fit. Typical of a race boot the S/Max is narrow and low-volume pretty much all the way to the cuff. Issues people have had in the past were centered around extra width in the heel that led to some inconsistencies in performance, the S/Max has a more consistent grip around the heel and keeps your foot locked in even when your skiing gets undisciplined.

Though it fits better and is now significantly more comfortable, the S/Max is definitely not a luxury model. In fact, unless you’re tall with low volume calves (i.e. chicken legs) like me, you’ll probably have to make significant adjustments to make it work as an all-day-every-day boot. But the S/Max is customizable, just not in the modular “one size fits all” sense where the boot is built to accommodate different foot shapes. 

The S/Max is more akin to a blank template, that when in the hands of a seasoned fitter, can be shaped and carved into contours that can accommodate your foot. Fortunately Salomon has completely overhauled the polymer mix that they use in their boot shells. The S/Max has a much more consistent blend of moldable materials, which leads to much more predictable results during the molding process. 

The Salomon Shift Pro boots are built for riders who have some interest in the backcountry, but prioritize stability on descent over an effortless ascent. Salomon very much anticipated the high demand for hybrid touring equipment, and has remained on the forefront with the release of this ski boot, an innovative development that demands looking at their revolutionary bindings.

In Winter of 2018 Salomon rocked the ski industry with the release of the Shift binding, the first lightweight touring binding that offers the same downhill benefits as a full frame or alpine binding. As a match for a do-all option, Salomon has indeed stayed relevant with one of the best ski boots available.

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Salomon Shift Pro:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: 90-130
  • Last: 100-106
  • Mondo: 22-31.5
What we like:
  • The focus on downhill allows this boot to be a great “do-all” option
  • Salomon makes a Shift boot for everyone- across sizes and flexes
  • Compatible with their Shift binding
What we don’t like:
  • Doesn’t hold up as well going uphill as you’d expect

The Shift boot is conceptually a freeride tour take on the S/Max that we reviewed above. It’s primarily oriented towards downhill dependability, with some concessions made for uphill travel. They have a mid-volume, fairly average fit, with the full degree of customization that Salomon affords all of its boots. The toe box is wider than some of their more race oriented options, but the boot has enough grab in other areas that you still get the downhill results. 

It’s more of an all-mountain alpine boot that has tech binding compatibility, and to be fair this set up is going to appeal the most to people who already have the Shift bindings. There’s not as much range of motion for uphill travel as you would want out of a dedicated “fast-and-loose” touring boot. 

This Salomon ski boot is for people who want to work hard on the climb as well as the descent. It’s perfect for people who are more casual backcountry riders who only want to invest in one pair of boots, or for those who want alpine charging capabilities out of bounds.

Trends in the ski industry are fickle. Innovations come and go, and companies are constantly digging through the ski gear of yesteryear looking for ways to improve on classic designs. While over the last 40 years, the sport of skiing has progressed to beyond what was once imagined as possible, one boot remains largely the same. Like a shark unchanged by time, the Full Tilt Classic still prowls resorts confident in the proven efficiency of its design. 

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Full Tilt Classic Pro:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: ~90-130
  • Last: 99mm
  • Mondo: 22.5-31.5
What we like:
  • Trusted and dependable boot design
  • Appropriate for nearly every kind of skier
  • Adjustable flex with replaceable/customizable tongue
  • Solid price by comparison
What we don’t like:
  • It’s been around so long, it’s hard to find anything to complain about

Aside from the Nordica HF, it doesn’t get any more old-school than this, especially within the realm of performance boots. The Full Title Classic isn’t the most aggressive boot on the market, nor is it the most comfortable. It shines in its utility and its practicality, whether you’re a beginner looking for a boot that will grow with your skills, or an experienced skier whose seen “innovation” come and go with the decades, and would rather bet on something that you know works.

The Classic Pro works for a large number of skiers right out of the box, they have a reputation in the industry for stock liners that can compete with popular aftermarket models.  Although it will adapt to the contours of your foot over time, both the shell and liner can be heat molded for a more precise fit. 

There’s some more room in the toe box than you’d expect from other performance alpine boots, but this is compensated for by the heel lock buckle that fastens the lower section of the shell, and foam reinforcement around the ankles. 

The replaceable tongue is also noteworthy. The Classic Pro comes with a Flex 8 tongue which is the rough equivalent of a 100 flex boot, but you can order stiffer or softer tongues from their website according to your specific needs. The boot doesn’t come with many amenities, but all of the pieces on the are interchangeable and replaceable with a phillips head screwdriver. 

Full Tilt makes a number of specialty boots for touring and park, but the Classic made our list because of its universal appeal. The reputation it’s garnered over 4 decades of hard riding speaks volumes, and the price compared to this year’s latest and greatest isn’t anything to balk at, either.

 

The Tecnica Cochise has been around for a while, and was one of the boots that sparked the whole free tour craze currently ripping through the industry. While it’s had many incarnations over the course of the last decade, it now most closely resembles a touring compatible version of Tecnica’s Mach 1 alpine boot. The Cochise differs from similar models such as the Lupo Pro, in how fully they commit to the downhill aspects of the boot.

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Tecnica Cochise:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range 110-130
  • Last 99mm
  • Mondo 22-30.5
What we like:
  • Hybrid boot that actually skis like a downhill
  • Made of more durable plastics than other hybrids
  • We love the emphasis on downhill
What we don’t like:
  • Not the best walk mode in the game, but that’s not the reason you’re buying this boot

We talk a lot about compromise when discussing ski gear, the story with boots lately has been trying to optimize touring features and downhill performance. The Cochise takes a different approach and fully kit out the boot as an alpine. It’s made of the more durable plastics typical of real downhill boots, with some precision shaving to cut down on the bulk in areas that don’t see much strain. The heel is much narrower than you see in a lot of other hybrids, and it’s cuff is a little bit higher.

The only thing that separates the Cochise from an aggressive downhill boot is the inclusion of a walk mode and pin compatibility. You should know going in that it definitely isn’t one of the “lightweight” hybrid options hitting the market this year. It still has a decent range of motion and maneuverability, despite its weight.

As far as hybrids go, this is one of the best ski boots. The only criticism we can honestly give it is that you’re forced into a little bit of a forward stance even in walk mode. This isn’t a huge issue if you love busting up hill, but for long, flat, approaches it could be annoying

There are plenty of reasons to want a lightweight alpine ski boot. Not everyone agrees with this, and some claim that reduced weight comes at the expense of responsiveness and durability. While  durability can’t yet be accounted for in K2’s brand new Recon boot, it certainly holds up in maneuverability. Next to the much-celebrated Atomic Hawx, K2’s Recon series are some of the lightest boots on the slopes.

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the K2 Recon:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: 100-130
  • Last: 98/100
  • Mondo: 24.5-30.5 (Half Sizes)
What we like:
  • Very impressively light alpine boot
  • Easy to get your foot in the boot even when the plastic is stiff
  • Exciting possibility for the future of downhill ski boots
What we don’t like:
  • There’s a lot of skepticism regarding its long-term durability

One of K2’s main goals in the Recon was to make a boot that was easier to get on your foot. To achieve this they incorporated a little softer plastic around the entry point of the boot, allowing some give to the already very thin shell. But thin doesn’t mean weak. Their precision orientation means Recon boots hang with the burliest boots in comparable flex levels. 

Both the liner and shell are heat moldable, the boots themselves are notably slim. The boots incorporate a satisfying amount of cuff into the flex action through the use of their energy interlock. It helps spread the stress across the whole back of the boot without the use of rivets, which tend to create hotspots when flexed aggressively.

If they do hold up as well as your traditional high-performance boot, they present an exciting new possible standard for gear across the industry. But skepticism is abound, and only time will truly tell if K2 can truly pull off the paradoxically burly-yet-lightweight boot.

In terms of breakthrough ski boots, the Atomic Hawx Ultra is right there alongside the Salomon Shift binding. These boots cater to this growing market of single quiver riders who want to split their time between the resort and the backcountry. But the Hawx line isn’t just a hybrid touring boot. There’s a Hawx model for nearly every demographic that would be interested in a lightweight performance boot. 

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Atomic Hawx Ultra:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: 70-130
  • Last: 99mm
  • Mondo: 24-29.5
What we like:
  • Top of class in the freetour category
  • The XTD is a great hybrid boot that nails the resort and backcountry profile
  • Also a great lightweight alpine boot
What we don’t like:
  • It can be difficult to find depending on the season

Indeed, Atomic didn’t release a dedicated touring version of the Hawx Ultra until an entire season after its frontside debut. It’s an excellent alpine ripper that performs up to the standards of other topline boots, and has minimal bulk great for people who want a little more freedom while jibbing. 

If your local resort’s best lines require an inbounds bootpack, your boots will never be the thing that holds you back. The Hawx boot line also comes in special high-volume “Magna” sizing so people with notoriously difficult feet don’t miss out on the fun. 

Let it be said that the Hawx Ultra is not going to deliver the same results as a heavy race boot, but it gets pretty close despite weighing as much as your given dedicated touring boot. If you come from an aggressive race background and love that style of skiing, this factor is definitely worth considering. It has an interesting fit, and is marketed as a “low-volume” boot, with a little more length in the toe box than some riders might be used to. 

Standard for boots of this quality, the shell and liner are heat moldable, the touring model uses a more resilient liner that’s built to withstand the wear of hours in walk mode; all liners are have a pivot point that allows for a smooth walk appropriate for a ski boot that weighs as much as your average hiking boot. The Hawx Ultra truly leads the pack in the lightweight performance category.

I’ve spent the better part of the 20/21 season riding the Lupo AX as my full-time touring boot, with quite a few days spent riding it in bounds as well. For something intended to be a 50/50 frontside/backside boot, the whole Lupo series is just about as good as it gets. I think it’s up there with the K2 Mindbender and Tecnica Cochise for the best hybrid boots out there.

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Dalbello Lupo AX120:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • 100mm Last
  • Contour 4 "Comfort Zones"
  • Kinetic Response Tongue
  • Cabrio 3-Piece Construction
  • Low-Cuff Hinge Point
  • Twin Axis Cuff Alignment
  • 67° ROM Walk Mode
What we like:
  • Comfortable on the climbs, chargeable on the slides
  • The removable tongue is available in different stiffnesses
  • Pretty generous range of motion for a hybrid boot
  • Wider-than-average last is great for skiers with wider feet
What we don’t like:
  • The plastic is undeniably softer than you'd want
  • GripWalk soles can be worn through if you're tromping through a lot of parking lots
  • Suffers from the plight of all hybrid boots, not light enough for long tours and not durable compared to heavy alpines

 

Lightweight boots are less stretchable

There’s no doubt that the boot industry is fixated on pushing the boundary in terms of weight. Lange led the charge in the burgeoning freeride tour market with the original XT boots. As the competition has risen up around them, Lange has felt the pressure to keep honing their craft, and the XT3 is the latest incarnation. 

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Lange XT3:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex Range: 100-140
  • Last: 97mm, 100mm
  • Mondo: 24-29.5
What we like:
  • Increased range of motion tackles the biggest classical criticism of the boot
  • Another great boot if you only want to own one pair of boots
  • One of the stiffest touring boots on the market
What we don’t like:
  • High price tag
  • They weight quite a bit compared to similar boots

Compared to the rest of the models flooding the market, Lange’s lightweight hybrid boots have typically erred on the side of downhill performance. But, this year’s model brings some exciting changes that much improve the climbing capabilities of the XT3 and keep Lange’s hybrid line competitive when weighed-up against models like the Hawx Ultra or the Lupo Pro.

The Lange XT3’s increased ease of uphill travel can be largely attributed to its extended range of motion. Longtime proponents of the boot are thrilled by the prospect of no longer needing to justify the pain on the skin track in exchange for freedom going downhill. Their new walk system adds a significant amount of range of motion to the boot, bringing the grand total up to 53 degrees. 

They’ve also made some adjustments to the way the boots ski. Through “Dual Core” construction Lange has essentially sandwiched a malleable lightweight plastic layer between two much stiffer pieces. This unique construction cuts weight, dampens vibrations, and gives the boot a lot of return on the energy you invest into your turns. They’ve also included an upgraded boot board, further reducing weight and adding a little more insulation. With the XT3, Lange continues to make strides towards furthering boot technology. 

Rossignol is a dominant force in the ski industry. One need look no further than the massive success of their Sky 7 ski to see how strong their presence is with a massive number of skiers. A large part of Rossignol’s aim in the ski marketplace is to make gear that is fun and user friendly. The Rossignol Alltrack ski boots are no exception.

We’ve done all the research for you and found the best place to buy the Rossignol Alltrack:
Where to buy:
Specs & Features:
  • Flex: 90-130
  • Last: 102mm
  • Mondo: 24.5-31.5 (Half Sizes)
What we like:
  • It’s just a boot, they aren’t doing anything crazy, they’re just doing it well
  • High-volume fit means more skiers will be able to fit their feet into them
  • Option to get the free tour version
What we don’t like:
  • The fit isn’t right for the hardest skiers
  • People with low volume feet will swim in it

At its heart, the Allrack line is just an alpine boot with a solid walk mode. But in response to the rise of freetouring, Rossingol has since added compatibility with pin bindings. But, if you ask us, the Alltrack performs far better as a solid alpine boot than an improvised touring option. 

With a higher-volume fit than most of the other boots on this list, the Alltrack splits the difference between accommodation and performance. It’s by and large one of the best options out there for skiers who aren’t interested in the vice-like grip of a top-performance boot, but still want to be able to ski accurately. 

The toe box is spacious, but the real story with fit is in the heel. It’s deep, and lets the skier make up for the spaciousness in the rest of the boot with ample opportunity to lock in their heel. 

As mentioned, Alltrack boots are now available with pin-binding compatibility, that being said they’re widely adaptable and can handle a lot of different takes on skis and styles. Though it’s perfectly capable of getting the job done, the Alltrack line ultimately seems like it was made with more casual skiers in mind. With the spacious interior and very practical resort walk mode, we can see why anyone who isn’t 100% committed to performance will find this a great ski boot.

Boot Buyer’s Guide

Perhaps the best place to start narrowing down your quest for the best ski boot is to consider what exactly you want out of it. Skill level, style, and terrain are great factors to consider throughout the length of your search. Do you want to charge downhill with impunity? Do you want a boot that can dependably rip the resort but still gives some ability to go uphill? Maybe you miss your old race boots and want to relive the old suffering. 

There are as many different philosophies about how a boot should fit as there are ski boots; and with advances in lightweight boot tech, comfort and performance are no longer mutually exclusive. 

A common critique across the ski industry is a lack of standardizations when it comes to metrics. This is definitely an issue when it comes to categorizing the different kinds of boots; so for our purposes we’ve divided all of our “downhill” boots into three performance based categories.

True Alpine

Alpine ski boots are your typical resort style, designed for riders in lift access areas. The first alpine ski boot came into existence nearly a century ago, but it wasn’t until the mid 60’s that plastic was introduced to the equation and the true modern ski boot was born. Since then, developments in boot design and technology have focused on delivering dependable downhill results. Every boot that’s included on this list is an alpine ski boot of some sort, but the distinction is that true alpines typically only go downhill. 

Check out this video with some downhill alpine skills:

Alpine boots and classic ski form are inexorably intertwined. Some variation of a forward stance helps skiers engage with their boots more, while a stiff spine supporting the lower calf can be depended on to generate power. They’re designed to make skiing easier, but this makes them an inconvenience when you don’t have your skis on. 

These ski boots are heavy and compression on the rider can be very tight around the feet. Though, nowadays it’s not uncommon to see dedicated resort boots that have some kind of walk mode to let the spine move, and with developments in lightweight boot technology such as the new Recon Line from K2 present an exciting new frontier of fit and function. 

There’s a ton of variation amongst dedicated downhill boots, even if you only account for the variation in stiffness across one model. Boundary breaking boots are out there whether this is your first season, or you’re out there pushing the limits of the sport itself.

Freetour/Hybrid

Reports from within the last decade or so indicate a huge uptick in the interest in backcountry skiing. And with restrictions on resort access in place this winter, there’s an even bigger expected influx in the coming months. Most of these riders will be splitting their time between resorts and the occasional tour, so the industry has comprehensively responded and almost every manufacturer has some kind of hybrid touring option out there.

There are a couple of reasons to be interested in a hybrid boot, and chief among them is money. Ski equipment is so specialized, that the average rider isn’t interested in buying a different pair of skis or boots for circumstance. They increasingly prioritize utility and don’t mind making compromises on specialized features. 

Hybrid boots aren’t going to be as lightweight or comfortable as dedicated touring boots, but they still have the advantage on an alpine/frame binding set-up because they at least have a walk mode and are compatible with pin bindings. Freeride touring boots have a wider toe box than true alpines for the inevitable friction that you produce while touring

The other angle you can approach a hybrid boot is from a freetour perspective. Many favor these more durable boots for the backcountry because of the performance results that they deliver on the descent. Particularly with the rise of bindings like the Salomon Shift and the Kingpin from Marker. Skiers are able hit lines in a less conservative freeski style without having to make the daunting choice between pre-releasing or not releasing at all. In either case, a lot of the best alpine boots on the market now are hybrid boots, or at least come available in some touring variation. 

Boot Breakdown

The best advice that you can get on the right boot for you is going to come from your local boot fitter. They’re intimately familiar with the crunchy details of every model in their store, and can give more feedback about how a particular boot will work with your particular foot. 

Check out a boot fitter walking you through the process:

The fact that “Ski Boot Fitter” is a profession tells you how valued these services are within the industry. We here at Divein can tell you what our favorites are and the performance benefits that you can expect out of them. But the only person who can tell you what boot is right for you has spent countless hours answering that exact question for thousands of skiers.

That being said, it’s definitely easier to find a deal online. And with all of the aftermarket care becoming standard across the ski industry, going into a fitter is a great idea regardless of where you actually get your boots. Still, boots are arguably the most important piece of equipment you can buy, and at least getting someone to take a look at your feet before you pull the trigger on an investment is sound advice.

Sizing

Beyond style and intention, finding the right boot is mostly about finding something that fits your foot. The two standardized measurements that we use to figure out which shell you should buy are the last and the mondopoint.

Last= measurement of the widest point of the boot in millimeters

Mondo= measurement of the length of the skiers foot in centimeters

Adult boots typically come in size runs ranging from 24-34cm, different models and manufacturers will have a little variation in size options if you find yourself on either extreme of the spectrum. One of the harsh realities about boots is that tighter boots work better, if faced with the choice it’s always better to err on the side of sizing down. But tight doesn’t always have to mean uncomfortable. 

Experts in the industry estimate that three quarters of skiers on the resort have boots that are significantly too big for their feet. Boots are designed to be worn in a ski stance, and someone standing straight up in a shop with a brand new pair of unpacked liners is going to feel their toes much more than they will after a few runs.

If you need more volume around the top of the foot, you may want to consider a wider last. Boots are casually referred to as being “low-volume” or “high-volume”, this is a way of indicating how much lateral room there is in the boot for your foot to move around. The most aggressive boots will be lower volume, but given how far boots have progressed it’s possible for people with clunky feet to get a performance fit if they visit the right fitter.

Flex

Most of the progress in ski boots historically has been a matter of mechanical design, but recently the focus has shifted to tinkering with the actual materials the boots are made from. This has led to the rise of lightweight alpine boots, and has also impacted the way we think about how you bend the boot, or it’s “flex”.

Flex is a tricky thing to talk about. Despite companies using a similar format to rate their flex (e.g. 100 flex, 110 flex, etc.), there’s no standardized “flex rating”. Most boot manufacturers have their own means of measuring stiffness, so a 110 flex from Salomon could feel way different from a similar model from Rossignol. 

It’s a frustrating problem, and manufacturers are hesitant to jump to standardization less they discredit their classic proprietary flex patterns. Though there is some informal consensus, you’ll often hear the term “true 130” floating around. To avoid implication in the whole thing, Full Tilt offers interchangeable tongues based on their own scale.  These discrepancies in flex are another great reason to rely on the sage wisdom of your local boot fitter.

The only other piece of interest about flex is the distinction between progressive and linear styles. Progressive flex gets stiffer the further you lean into your boot, giving a smooth and flowy feel. Directional flex is more uniformly rigid and can give an extra edge to your power.

Women’s Boots

Many boot manufacturers offer women’s variation of certain boots, or go as far to make an entirely separate “model” with similar specifications. Aside from maybe a slightly extended size range and a lower standard, the only major differences that a women’s boot is going to offer will be a lower cut cuff, and aesthetic. Everything else is tangent upon your body and what type of skier you are. I’m 6’5” and around 215 lbs, and have many smaller female friends who like a much stiffer boot than me, probably because they’re way better skiers than I am. 

Color

Your priority with ski boots should always be what works best with your feet. “Look good, feel good, ski good” is a common mantra around the resort, but at the end of the day, I’d rather have people commenting on how good my turns look than how well coordinated my gear is. Talk to a seasoned and certified boot fitter to find a size and a shell that works best for your feet, and then see if it comes in a color that’ll match your new bibs. 

Aftermarket Boot Products

There’s a saying that you’ll hear floating around boot shops, “Date your skis, but marry your boots”. This is more than just a reducible tagline to justify selling you all the extra bells and whistles, it’s hard-learned advice. Aftermarket boot care, at the very least some kind of heat molding, is pretty standard for anyone who skis more than the once yearly vacation or the occasional weekend. Before you worry about any other piece of equipment you should find and fit your boots. 

Here we’ve listed a few of the biggest things that you can do for your boots, you can do all or some of these things and expect a better fit. Specifics regarding your feet and style are probably best taken up with your friendly local boot fitter. Skis come and skis go, and a solid boot can see you through many pairs. 

Custom Footbed

No piece of gear or product is going to improve your comprehensive ski experience like a custom footbed. It’s hard to give a concise explanation of the history and importance of the custom footbed, but the thrust of its influence cannot be denied. Unfortunately, they also come with a considerable price tag. 

It’s hard to stomach shelling out the extra money after you’ve already spent so much on a new pair of boots, but most boot problems that arise while skiing can be fixed with a custom insole. 

Every foot is different, and the nature of ski boots is to tell you exactly how your foot is unique in painful, unsubtle ways. A real master boot fitter is somewhere between an artist and a scientist, the idea is to work with the skier that can deliver a product that considers their physiology, their ski history, and the direction that they would like to take their riding in the future. 

Getting a custom footbed is an impressively intricate process, and the best way to go about doing it is going to change depending on who you ask. It can be in some cases as involved as a full digital scan of a clients foot. If you’re willing to make the investment, you’re likely looking for a solid return. 

Power Strap

Ski boots typically come with a power strap situated around the cuff. Power straps are used to give you a tighter fit at the top of the boot, but stock straps simply don’t do as good of a job as some of the aftermarket options. 

The biggest benefit they offer over stock models is how much tighter you can crank them down. Many models use a cam strap or some kind of ratchet system that, when fully engaged, frees up enough space that you may need to make some micro adjustments on your buckles for the extra volume in the shell.

Booster Strap is the biggest name in the game, and their products are woven with elastic to give a little more of a progressive flex feel to the boot. They’ve been recommended to me by everyone from budget skiers trying to squeeze a little more life out of their packed-out liners, to full cert ski instructors looking for the most precise means of skiing possible. 

booster dynamic power straps 2

Their highest-strength models are strong enough to really leverage your boot before they start to give in to the flex, and are often seen dangling from beneath the cuff of Olympic athlete’s snow pants. 

An aftermarket power strap is the cheapest and least invasive way to get more out of your boot. The flex they offer on impact also goes a long way towards reducing shin bang, but don’t take that as an invitation to land anything too backseat.

Heat Molding/Shell Work

A lot of the work that can be done on boots happens internally. But for the things that can’t be fixed with a footbed or liner mold, getting some shell work done is your only option. The way heat molding a shell works is simple enough to do at home, though the risk of damaging your brand new ski boots makes it ill-advised unless you’re supremely confident. 

Beyond this, stretching, grinding, punching or otherwise manipulating the plastic of the boot shell is a great way to deal with problem spots on your feet; all it takes is scheduling an appointment at your local shop.

Aftermarket liners are also moldable from home, but it’s a much less involved process with much less at stake. 

Aftermarket Liner

An aftermarket liner is a good way to breathe new life into a packed-out boot, and to add a little performance specificity to a new shell. Stock liners are increasingly customizable, and for the majority of skiers they’ll be adequate for a casual season of skiing. But for others, aftermarket liners tend to add a little height above the cuff of the boot, and if you combine this with a solid cuff strap you can get more surface area to leverage against the flex of your boot. 

There are two different ways to go about liners, you can choose the flex pattern that you want to emphasize. For raw power, look to a wrap liner. They’re a little trickier to fit correctly, but having two layers of reinforcement along the shin is quite beneficial for people who ski in the most aggressive, forward styles. 

If you want a smoother, more flowy ride you should consider a tongue liner. Tongue liners are generally considered better options for touring, but some people prefer the wrap, making a similar trade off for the downhill performance benefits as you would with a free touring boot. 

Beyond Boots-Bindings, socks, and skis

When it comes down to it, all of the different pieces of your ski kit are components of the same system working together to direct your mass down the hill in a more-or-less intentional way. While boots may be the lynchpin of the system, your performance is going to be cumulatively impacted by individual components of your kit. 

If you’re set on a pair of boots and are in need of direction assembling the rest of your winter gear, be sure to take a look at our article on socks, as well as the best all-mountain skis of the year.

If you already have ski boots or you just bought one, leave a comment in the comment section below and share your experience with it.

FAQ – Frequently asked questions about alpine ski boots

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    🧐 How should ski boots fit?

    It was always thought that tight meant right when it came to ski boots. They’re not going to feel like your tennis shoes. And while snug is certainly still the standard, updated takes on the “performance fit boot” allow for a bit of space for the foot in strategic places, namely the heel.

    After you get a new pair of ski boots buckled for the first time, stand up. You should be able to feel the front of the boot with your toes with a little room behind your heels. Then bend your knees into a forward ski stance, you should feel your heels slide back into the pocket, and the front of the boots open up a little for your toes. This is only the briefest glance at the intricacies of ski boot fit, you as a skier are going to have your own preferences that can and should be accounted for.

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    🤩 What size ski boots do I need?

    Ski boots are sized by two different metrics, and finding the right shell for you is as easy as taking a look at your foot. The mondopoint (length of your foot in cm) and the last (the widest point of the boot in mm) are easy to find, and can be used in conjunction to find the best fitting boot size from the get-go. 

    Finding the mondopoint is literally as easy as measuring the length of your foot in cm, though it’s a little more accurate if you’re standing on a fully weighted foot when measured. You don’t want your toes to get mashed, but the boot should definitely fit snugly.

    The last is a little trickier, particularly if you’re an aggressive skier with wide feet. Fortunately many manufacturers now make whole runs of different widths within particular models like the Atomic Hawx Magna- a whole model built for skiers with difficult feet. If you find yourself between sizes, trust the advice of your boot fitter and remember that most skiers are in oversized boots, and that you should very likely err on the side of the smaller boot.

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    🤔 How to put on ski boots

    The first step in getting your ski boots on your feet is to unhinge all of your buckles and undo your power strap, this will make the rest of the job much easier. After your boots are loosened, grab the tongue of your boot and place your foot pointed downward into the boot’s throat. Pull the tongue up and away from your leg as you slide your foot down into the boot. 

    Tap your heel a couple of times to make sure your foot is nestled back into the heel pocket, then take a look at your legs. Make sure that all of your clothing except whatever socks you’re wearing is rolled clear above the cuff, the only thing inside of the boot should be your leg and a ski sock. Long johns, extra socks, or other clothing tucked into the ski boot will quickly become irritating.

    After your foot is comfortably inside of the boot you can start bucking, either top down  or bottom up depending on what feels better  to you. Don’t force the buckles, just take it easy and tighten your boots incrementally. Make a few pass-throughs, play with the micro-adjustments by spinning the buckles around and once you’re confident stand up to see how they feel. They shouldn’t be agonizingly painful. If they’re a little uncomfortable, that’s okay, just trust the process and give your feet some time to adjust

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    🤷‍️ How long do ski boots last?

    How much time you get out of your ski boots is mostly influenced by how much you’re willing to put into them initially. Most of the cost difference between a given pair of boots comes from the kinds of plastics that they’re molded from. Higher quality boots use heartier plastics that are less prone to breaking down quickly, and will retain their rigidity over time. If you notice your boot cracking or breaking down, you probably shouldn’t ski it anymore. 

    Investing in a boot liner is another great way to extend the lifespan of your boot, because the liners will pack out much faster than the shells will break down. Provided you regularly replace your liners and show your gear the proper care and respect, it’s possible to get many seasons out of the right boot. And your feet will appreciate it very much.

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