The first step in buying a ski boot you’ll love is knowing how and where you want to ski. Here’s our guide to help you pick the best ski boots of 2021-2022.
Alpine boots, touring boots, and hybrid boots all bring different features and benefits to the table. So before you walk into your local ski shop, determine if you’ll want to stick to lift-served skiing, if you’ll also explore the backcountry or side-country, or if you’re only going off-piste or racing. There are also nordic ski boots, which we won’t dive into here.
Buying new ski boots is best done in person or with a customer service representative who knows the category well. A good shop will measure your feet and help you hone in on what brands and models naturally fit you, your experience, and your aspirations.
We took this season’s newest boots up and down the lifts for hundreds of inbounds runs, and then skinned up and hiked for our turns — in more than six mountain ranges, three states, and two countries.
More boots are offering skiers the ability to resort ski and hike for turns in a single boot. But a hybrid boot isn’t the best option for every skier. Read on for more information on our favorite 2021 ski boots.
If you’re not sure where to start, read over our buyer’s guide, which includes advice from a master boot-fitter on how to make sure you buy the best boot for you, and FAQ at the bottom of this article.
Otherwise scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:
- Best Alpine Ski Boot
- Best Alpine Boot for Expert Female Skiers
- Best Budget Downhill Boot for Intermediate Skiers
- Best Alpine Boot for Wide-Footed Men & Women
- Best Durable Boot for Beginners
- Best Hybrid Boot
- Best Touring Boot
- Best Runner-Up Touring Boot
- Best Downhill Boot
- Best Lightweight Touring Boot
- Best Ultralight Uphill Touring Boot
- Best Speed Touring Boot
- Best Skimo Race Boot
- Best Balanced Boot
- Best Ultralight Boot for Ski Mountaineering
The Best Ski Boots of 2021-2022
Best Alpine Ski Boot: Tecnica Mach 1 — Men’s MV 120 TD & Women’s LV 105 TD
Possibly the most comfortable, easy-driving full-alpine boot we’ve ever worn, Tecnica’s Mach 1 MV ($650) is a powerful boot that kept our feet warm even on the coldest days.
To give this all-mountain, high-performance boot maximum lateral stiffness and forward drive, Tecnica used a carbon spine to connect the cuff to the shell. The spine regulated the boot’s flex so we could ski with more power and precision in all snow, temperatures, and terrain.
The Mach 1 is designed to be thermo-molded, and the shell, liner, footboard, and tongue can be customized through molding as well as punching and grinding. Tecnica simplifies the process for ski techs by molding dimples into the shell that reduce surface tension and clearly indicate modification-friendly zones. The boot board also has dimples to guide techs in the fitting process.
The Mach 1 shell’s anatomical shape matched our feet for best-in-class fit straight out of the box — an achievement we’ve rarely experienced. The boot closely matched our feet right out of the box even before we molded them.
The boot’s liner was also anatomically shaped for out-of-the-box comfort and secure heel hold both before and after the liners were molded. The dual-density microcell liner was easy to fit, and even after 4 months of skiing, it hasn’t packed out.
Also, the asymmetric shell concentrates thicker, stiffer material in the medial areas of the shell (identified by a shiny versus matte finish) and liner, as well as the cuff, which enhances control and power transfer.
On snow, the Mach 1 MV was stiff and powerful. It was also warm, efficient, and easy-skiing, so we could charge longer with less fatigue. The boot was quick edge to edge. We felt connected, in control, and confident even when we were pushing the limits of our comfort zone.
According to Tecnica, its T-Drive Technology — that carbon spine that runs from the calf to ankle — gave these boots smooth, progressive, and consistent flex while increasing our ability to steer precisely and powerfully.
Tecnica says the T-Drive boots require 15% less forward pressure and 15% less edge angle to make the same turn shape as a traditional boot. The roomy toebox helped our feet stay warm. So did the Celliant and wool-insulated liner.
Celliant uses 13 heat-reactive minerals to turn body heat into infrared energy, which it claims penetrates the body’s tissues to increase circulation, oxygen, and blood flow for enhanced performance, thermal regulation, and faster recovery.
It sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but with Celliant, cozy wool, and the roomy toebox, we were able to ski longer and harder in this boot — even in temperatures that would have previously had us heading for the base lodge.
The women’s-specific Mach1 boots (we tested the LV) are built with a unique upper liner that molds to the shape of the female calf. We experienced no pressure points while charging steeps laps or making fast carves.
The cuff is also built with a tad more forward lean and higher spine, which increases performance while decreasing overall fatigue. The ladies’ boot is also updated with TD, new for the 2021-2022 season, but only in the low-volume pair.
- Last: 100 mm
- Flex: 110, 120, 130 flex (men’s)
- Weight: 2,060 g (4.6 lb.)
- Sizes: 24.5-30.5
- Takes less energy to drive this boot
- T-Drive is now available in the women’s low-volume boots
- T-Drive is available in MV (mid-volume) men’s only
- Low- and high-volume men’s boots and mid- and high-volume women’s boots don’t get T-Drive
Best Alpine Boot for Expert Female Skiers: K2 Anthem Pro Women’s
Proving a boot doesn’t need to be heavyweight to be a heavy hitter, K2’s 120-flex Anthem Pro ($750) is stiff and responsive and gives badass female skiers all the benefits of K2’s top technology.
Designed for aggressive female skiers, K2’s Anthem Pro Women’s is a liner and shell-moldable boot designed around a women’s-specific 98mm last. The boot uses four different stiffnesses of TPU and variable-thickness walls to give hard-charging women skiers a responsive, relatively light alpine boot for bell-to-bell laps in every kind of snow.
The custom-fit liner is thicker and denser than the liners K2 previously used in its women’s boots. The PowerFit Pro liner, which is also used in K2’s Anthem 110, is strong against the shin, with a form-fitting foot that women felt gave this boot better control. The boot is easily cantable for most stance angles. And the cuff adjusted so we could find a forward lean that felt good.
In the Anthem Pro, K2 incorporates a Y-shaped spine for maximum lateral stiffness, a feature usually found only in men’s boots. That spine also stabilizes the boot’s fore and aft flex, which upped our ability to control our skis regardless of which ski we were driving.
The rivet-free design connects from cuff to shell. K2 said that creates less stress for smoother, more progressive flex while skiing.
The boot is one of the lightest alpine freeride boots on the market. It skied with the power and drive of heavier boots, and it was easy to slide on for the first chair and slip off at the end of the day.
- Last: 98 mm
- Flex: 120
- Weight: 1,650 g (3.64 lb.)
- Sizes: 22.5-27.5
- Carbon-reinforced spine for precision and control
- The high-density liner didn’t pack out
- Liner felt too comfortable to be high-performance, though it wasn’t
Best Budget Downhill Boot for Intermediate Skiers: Dalbello Panterra — Men’s 90 GW & Women’s 85 W GW
Graduated beyond the greens and looking for a more supportive boot? The Dalbello Panterra ($400) alpine ski boots are built for intermediate-level downhillers who’ve progressed from big carves on the mellowest groomers to confident, higher-speed turns down blues and even blacks. The well-constructed boots provide out-of-the-box comfort with just-right flex.
The Ultralon foam liner provides enough cushion and security, and it’s custom-moldable. The women’s liner is designed with a more cushioned heel area and increased insulation compared to the men’s design. The female boots also have a lower, more scalloped cuff plus a removable cuff insert, so skiers can drop the overall boot height by 1.5 cm and widen the circumference.
Three buckles down the front are adjustable with an easy rotation that helps lengthen or shorten the reach for a more tailored fit. And we appreciate the GripWalk soles for preventing post-ski slips through the icy parking lot.
To improve ergonomics, the boot’s tongue was upgraded to provide more rebound yet is still supportive while powering through turns. At the end of a long day at the mountain, these boots are just as easy to get out of as they are getting into the next morning. Ultimately, the ease of entry and exit is a bright characteristic of this boot.
For those who want to head to the backcountry or need to walk to a parked rig, this all-terrain boot features a walk mode of 33 degrees.
- Last: 99-101 mm (women’s)
- Flex: 85
- Weight: 1,785 g (3.94 lb.)
- Sizes: 22.5-27.5
- Good choice for experienced intermediate-level skiers
- Easy entry and exit
- More budget-friendly compared to premium boots
- Not supportive for narrow feet
Best Alpine Boot for Wide-Footed Men (Advanced): Lange LX 120 Ski Boots
If you’re a guy with broad feet, your too-tight boot pain can finally subside with the Lange LX 120 ($500), a comfortable, rigid downhill boot for bell-to-bell days at the resort.
Immediately out of the box, the preshaped liners fit well and feature dual-fit zones with various degrees of rigidity and softness. The same goes for the shell with hard plastic sandwiched around soft plastic.
There are no pressure points, and the feet feel snugged in. That dual-core polyurethane shell is fairly light with an easy entry, thanks to a softer plastic above the instep that doesn’t make us cringe as we pull on the boot.
The boot sole also has a replaceable toe and heel that offers traction while walking on hard surfaces.
- Last: 102 mm
- Flex: 120
- Weight: 1,850 g (4 lb.)
- Sizes: 24-31.5
- Heat-moldable liner
- Great for high-volume feet
- Not suitable for narrow or average feet
Best Alpine Boot for Wide-Footed Women: Nordica Sportmachine 65
For ladies with high-volume feet and growing confidence with carving the slopes, the Nordica Sportmachine 65 ($250) is a cushy choice that’ll support long days at the hill.
In the boot shell, a hard plastic is combined with a softer plastic that’s wrapped around the foot in the throat area. The pliable material helps streamline a pain-free boot pull-on as we head to the ski area.
The special plastic blend in the shell and cuff is also lightweight, weighing 25% less than competitor boots, claims Nordica. The formula, called Triax, also performs consistently across temperature variants and is easy to manipulate by a boot fitter.
- Last: 102 mm
- Flex: 65
- Weight: 1,610 g (3.54 lb.)
- Sizes: 22.5-27.5
- Good pair for wider-than-average feet
- Heat-moldable liner
- The soft flex might be outgrown by intermediate skiers
- Not for narrow or average-width feet
Best Durable Boot for Beginners: Salomon QST Access — Women’s 70 W & Men’s 80
Salomon designed this well-crafted, women’s-specific fit for beginner alpine skiers, plus an option for men, and both deliver all-day comfort.
The QST Access ($350) ladies’ boot features an anatomically shaped cuff and lower calf support for a better fit. The liners are constructed with a layer of woolmetal (wool and metallic polyester) that helps to retain warmth as it radiates off the body. The buckles are lightweight, shaving ounces off the set.
Overall, the men’s and women’s boots are wider-set for broader feet and shafts and average instep.
- Last: 104 mm (women’s)
- Flex: 70
- Weight: 1,560 g (3.4 lb.)
- Sizes: 23.5-26.5
- Features walk mode
- Beginner-friendly ski boot
- Best for wide feet
- Great quality
- Not an option for narrow feet
Best Hybrid Boot: Atomic Hawx Prime XTD 130 Tech GW
A boot that skis like an alpine boot inbounds but clicks into full tour mode for hiking for turns, the fully customizable Atomic Hawx Prime XTD ($800) is a one-boot quiver.
For many hybrid boots, the touring mode seems more of an afterthought than an integral part of the boot’s performance. The Hawx Prime, however, skis uphill as well as it skis downhill. The cuff has an impressive 54 degrees of cuff flex in tour mode, with tech inserts for pin bindings and upper buckles that locked open when we skied uphill.
It’s not the lightest boot on the market, but it was so comfortable to tour in and so solid on downhills that we packed it for a trip to Italy where we used it as our do-it-all boot for all-day tours in the Alps that ended on-piste. We took it on a trip to Colorado for bell-to-bell skiing at Vail and Telluride resorts. And in Vermont, we wore it to explore new backcountry zones.
When we ended our day inbounds, the Gripwalk sole gave us traction on snow and ice on the walk across an icy parking lot back to our car. It also prevented wipeouts on the dance floor when the ski day transitioned straight to après, while also having maximum binding compatibility. So, we could safely ski these boots with both touring bindings and Gripwalk-compatible alpine bindings.
The key to the Hawx Prime’s perfect fit is its highly moldable liner inside a heat-moldable shell. The shell plastic is thicker and stronger where the boot may need to be worked, like ankle and forefoot, and slimmer everywhere else.
That kept weight manageable without compromising this boot’s power transfer and downhill performance. Atomic enhanced the boot’s lateral stability and skier-to-ski power transfer by adding a carbon spine.
Atomic’s Thermo-moldable liner looked comfortable even before we had it molded to our feet. It’s preshaped with an obvious ankle pocket and a narrow Achilles.
The tongue and liner collar are the same plastic as the shell and also moldable. Thinsulate insulation in the toebox made this one of the warmer boots we’ve skied. But we had to keep tightening the buckles on warm days, as the heat from our feet caused the liner to pack out.
- Last: 100 mm
- Flex: 120 and 130 men’s; 95, 115 women’s
- Weight: 1,852 g (4.1 lb.)
- Sizes: 24.5-32.5
- Warm and infinitely moldable
- It packs out, so don’t get too aggressive with molding before you’ve skied it several times
- On the heavy side
Best Touring Boot for Big Days and Big Lines: Scott Freeguide Carbon
If you’re used to alpine boots but want to search for fresh off-piste powder or tackle big-mountain lines, this boot can drive a big ski, but it won’t bog you down on the way to the summit. A freeride-inspired hybrid touring boot, Scott’s Freeguide Carbon ($900) will feel familiar to alpine skiers who want to get off-piste and into the backcountry.
The Freeguide Carbon uses a Cabrio hybrid three-piece shell. The top of the two-piece tongue tilts forward and out of the way to make getting the boot on and off pain-free. With the buckles engaged, the two-piece tongue locks down to provide the critical resistance a skier needs from their boot for descents.
The shell overlaps the liner on both sides, which gave it power and progressive flex skiing without restricting movement in walk mode. When we were skinning, the flexible tongue moved comfortably with our foot and ankle.
The Freeguide Carbon’s Thermo-moldable liner closed with a BOA dial that let us quickly fine-tune the boot fit and support when we switched from skinning to skiing and back.
With the boot buckled down in ski mode, it had a 15-degree forward lean, which gave it the feel of an aggressive alpine boot. In tour mode, it claims 60 degrees of rotation.
Lining up a touring boot’s tech fittings with a binding’s pins can be frustrating. The Freeguide has indicators on the toe to streamline that process.
Efficient transitioning from ski mode to tour mode and back is key to getting in as many runs as possible. The Freeguide’s 180-degree auto-lock buckles stayed open and out of the way in tour mode, speeding the transition process. Then they clipped closed in a flash. But we did have to fully undo the top buckle to get the full range of motion for uphill walking or skiing.
- Last: 101.5 mm
- Flex: 130
- Weight: 1,455 g (3.2 lb.)
- Sizes: 25-29.5
- Indicators help skier line up boot with binding pins
- BOA liner gives a great fit
- Top buckle has to be released for touring
Best Runner-Up Touring Boot: Scarpa Maestrale XT
For most skiers, the standard Maestrale is a solid choice. With a flex rating of 110, it can handle what most skiers throw at it. A 60-degree range of motion gives lots of room for comfortable hiking uphill. And the fast Speed Lock XT ski/walk mode lever is easy and intuitive.
While the Maestrale boot is excellent on the skin track, we love its progressive flex on the downhill. The boot uses excellent Intuition Cross Fit Pro liners that shops can heat mold for a custom fit. The 101mm last proves comfortable for modestly wide feet, but it may be a bit sloppy for those with very narrow feet.
It works with most AT bindings, but do verify your bindings before purchase. Modest updates for 2022 include replacing Grilamid with a more sustainable “bio” version.
For heavier or more aggressive skiers, a step up in stiffness to the RS version, which we tested in the Alps, gives even more power for charging steep terrain. Go all the way to the XT, new for 2022, for the most aggressive boot in the line.
- Last: 101 mm
- Flex: 130
- Weight: 1,508 g (3.3 lb.)
- Sizes: 25.5, 27.5, 28.5, 29.5
- Very stiff for experienced skiers
- Comfortable fit
- Great warmth retention
- Fist-bumping power transfer
- Feels good on the uphill
- Pricier option
- Not the glass slipper for narrow feet
The Best Downhill Boot That Also Tours: Salomon SHIFT PRO 130 AT
For the expert skier who wants a single pair of boots for both inbounds and out of bounds, Salomon’s SHIFT PRO ($800) is an alpine boot with a functional tour mode. Best for hard-charging resort skiers unwilling to sacrifice downhill performance when they dabble in backcountry adventures, the SHIFT PRO AT is made to pair with Salomon’s SHIFT binding and a powerful all-mountain or big-mountain ski.
The SHIFT PRO 130 AT boot uses a seamless race liner Salomon says is warmer than other race-focused liners, and that won’t cause pressure points because it’s seamless. The heat-moldable liner and shell were highly customizable and an excellent choice for skiers who usually get their boots grounded or punched.
The 100mm last worked well for medium-width and medium-volume feet without heat-molding the shell. The shell is thin and sensitive to help skiers feel their ski and the snow beneath it while also putting the skier’s foot in as close contact as possible with the binding for best-in-class power transmission.
The SHIFT PRO AT’s Surelock walk mode was easy to operate and had a good range of motion for skinning. Salomon added a Core-Frame element under the midfoot of the boot to stiffen the shell where the foot pressures the ski for best edge engagement and power transfer.
A polyamide cuff spine added lateral stability and forward drive. The boot was easy to get in and out of, but it was ready to charge once buckled down.
Because the SHIFT PRO’s Gripwalk soles were highly compatible, we wore this boot as our resort-focused alpine boot. But when the side-country filled in, the snow was stable, and the gates opened, we didn’t have to go back to the car to change boots before we booted or skinned out of bounds.
Whether we were on a rocky ascent spine or back in the resort parking lot, the slightly rockered, snow- and ice-gripping soles always made walking a slip-free event.
- Last: 100-106 mm with shell-molding
- Flex: 100, 120, 130 in men’s; 90 and 110 in women’s
- Weight: 1,631 g (3.6 lb.)
- Sizes: 22.5-31.5
- Heat-moldable shell
- Excellent downhill performance
- Not as much range as most touring boots
Best Lightweight Touring Boot for Downhill Performance: Dynafit Hoji Free 110
Many dedicated touring boots claim to have alpine-level downhill performance, but they fall short. This boot lives up to its claims. It skis powerfully on descents while weighing in significantly lighter than a hybrid boot with comparable performance.
When it first launched, Dynafit’s Hoji boot set a new standard for lightweight touring boots that descend aggressively. But the various iterations of the Hoji boot have been 130 flex only, which is too stiff for most skiers. The original boots also weren’t compatible with frame or hybrid bindings.
The Hoji Free 110 ($750) makes the Hoji boot accessible to a broader audience of dual-plan snow sliders who prefer a slightly softer flex in a boot that’s compatible with all touring, frame, and hybrid bindings.
The Hoji Free 110 uses a glass fiber-reinforced Grilamid shell with three microadjustable buckles and a powerful top strap to wrap the foot, hold it in place, and give the boot progressive flex for maximum power transfer.
In downhill mode, the Hoji Free locked into an aggressive 15-degree forward lean. By removing the back spoiler, we reduced the lean to a more comfortable 11 degrees.
When we climbed in the Hoji Free, the V-shaped tongue and 55 degrees of cuff rotation made striding comfortable and easy. So did this boot’s modest weight.
The Hoji Free uses a new Thermo-moldable Sidas liner that was comfortable and supportive and didn’t pack out as fast as some other liners.
When we’re perched on a blustery mountaintop or barely edged into an icy slope and it’s time to transition, anything that can make getting our skis back on quickly and easily is a win. The Hoji Free has quick step-in settings that took the stress out of getting our skis back on. And the boot’s Pomoca rubber soles gave us confidence hiking to our objective in technical rocks and ice.
The Hoji Free is compatible with all pin, hybrid, and frame-touring bindings. And a toe lug made this boot compatible with fully automatic crampons too.
- Last: 102 mm
- Flex: 110
- Weight: 1,550 g (3.4 lb.)
- Sizes: 24-31.5
- More welcoming than other Hoji boots due to softer flex
- Compatible with hybrid and frame bindings
- Tongue pulls out easily
- The frame can be painful on entry
Best Ultralight Uphill Touring Boot: Dalbello Quantum Asolo Factory Alpine Touring
In designing the first uphill-focused touring boot, Dalbello decided to focus on making the Quantum Asolo Factory Alpine Touring Boot ($800) light (which is standard for the category) and comfortable (which is not).
The brand wanted the boot to follow the natural shape of a skier’s foot and ankle. So it devised a process to mold the boot in lengthwise dual-injected polyamide composite shell halves that are infrared-welded together. This gave the boot shell an anatomical shape that can’t be achieved with a standard boot-molding process.
To save weight, Dalbello also eliminated buckles, adding a proprietary BOA-like twist-to-adjust lacing system with a hidden 45-degree ankle lace to lock the skier’s heel in place. A locking length of Dyneema SK78+ Black Technora Rope at the cuff replaces the top buckle and power strap.
Not only did subbing lacing for buckles save weight, but it also gave us the ability to dial in a precise fit we could easily adjust as our feet swelled or as liners warmed and compressed. Under the lacing, a heavy-duty gaiter with anti-abrasion pads kept out snow.
Dalbello added a full-length boot board to the Quantum Asolo Factory’s lower shell, which increased the boot’s warmth as well as its custom-fitting capability. It also gave us more support edging and scored strong marks for stability.
Skinning, the Quantum Asolo’s dual-link cuff was unrestrictive. The boot claims an impressive 65-degree range of motion. On downhills, it was laterally stiff, which boosted our confidence edging and helped us stick to our chosen line. Carbon fiber in the cuff gave the boot a progressive feel and made it more capable in technical terrain than other boots in this weight class.
Dalbello didn’t skimp on the liner to make this boot light. The Quantum Asolo’s liner is fully customizable, so skiers can fine-tune their fit inside the already contoured shell.
The Quantum’s Vibram dual-density sole gave us grip on rocky traverses, and the DIN sole was compatible with frame and hybrid bindings, not just pin bindings.
This boot had one of the best weight-to-performance ratios for touring boots. It was also a favorite hard boot for snowboarders.
- Last: 99 mm
- Flex: Medium
- Weight: 950 g (2.1 lb.)
- Sizes: 22.5-30.5
- Easy adjustments
- No buckles
- Not frontside-compatible
From start to finish of our backcountry and skimo race season, the TLT8 Expedition CR ($750) felt plush, sturdy, and durable yet super light for speed-driven ascents. Our hip flexors thanked us and so did our ankles. This premium, precise-fitting boot was a nice hug for our feet straight off the shelf.
We reached for this boot for quick uphill laps at the resort and to pair with skinny skis for alpine races or time-focused missions and workouts in the backcountry. While the boot feels airy, the structure didn’t let our ankles or feet flop around at the end of a tiring climb or in a powder-filled basin on the descent. The shape is streamlined with a narrow nose that’s key for kicking into hardpack.
The shell is built of Grilamid, a low-density plastic with a high level of stress and crack resistance. The sole is compatible with the Cramp-in crampon system, too.
For efficient and easy access to TLT8 Expedition CR boots, we loved the Ultra Lock 4.0 closure system — a simple-to-use upper buckle around the calf that has two functions. The buckle opens and closes the shell, and when flipped forward, secures the shell open for the ski-walk mechanism in the boot.
When we raced the Gothic Mountain Tour, a 24-mile skimo race with 5,100 feet of ascent through the high-altitude backcountry and tough cut-offs, we were thankful for how easy and smooth the system was to flip between while wearing mittens over our gloves in freezing temps. The second lower-hung buckle sits well over the arch to secure the foot and ankle.
The cuff is a bit taller, providing us with solid power transfer in whipped turns or while edging icy skintracks and slopes. While climbing in Colorado’s Elk Mountains near 12,000 feet, our calves sang on steep, continuous climbs with the 60-degree cuff rotation, which feels more like hiking in trail runners than in beefy backpacking boots, let alone ski boots.
When we’re ready to carve downhill, the forward lean locked in at either 15 or 18 degrees. Note: This design is only compatible with tech bindings.
- Last: 103 mm
- Flex: 115
- Weight: 1,040 g (2.29 lb.)
- Sizes: 23-27.5
- Top-tier weight and comfort for efficient ascents
- Stable on descents
- Heat moldable liner
- Not the best hug for narrow feet
- Isn’t a full hybrid boot
The Alien has long stood as a benchmark for skimo racers, and you’ll often find iterations of this boot to rent at retailers that tailor to the Lycra-suit crowd. New for 2021-2022 is the Alien 1.0 ($1,400) for men and women.
The carbon fiber cuff is hand-constructed, extremely stiff, and super lightweight. The shell is also a carbon-Grilamid blend, a low-density plastic with a high level of stress and crack resistance.
A boot this feathery in weight shouldn’t feel this tough: They come in at less than 2 pounds per wingtip.
When transitioning from ski to walk, the cuff closure is operated via a Dyneema cord, which shaves ounces while being super streamlined. When walking on toothpick skis up steep faces, the 75-degree cuff rotation is a whopping relief. When we’re ready to fly downhill, the forward lean options are either 9 or 13 degrees.
The boot is closed not with buckles but an exclusive BOA system integrated beneath a reinforced gaiter, a waterproof fabric cover that protects the setup against snow, ice, and moisture. When the dial is turned, the interior cable pulls down atop the foot into the liner below, lessening the overall volume and securing the fit.
The outsole is well-constructed with Vibram UFO, a sole with Top85 compound. The material offers excellent stability, durability, resistance to wear, and applaudable grip properties with medium-level hardness.
Between the men’s and women’s boots, the biggest difference is the size options for the men’s version is 24 to 30 and the flex is 110. The boots are only a hair heavier. If you’re female and need a longer boot or stiffer flex, consider buying the men’s option.
- Last: 99 mm (women’s)
- Flex: 100
- Weight: 735 g (1 lb. 9.9 oz.)
- Sizes: 24-27
- Extremely lightweight
- Huge range of motion in walk mode for tackling steeps
- Whole sizes only
Best Balanced Boot for Uphill, Downhill Freeride Performance: Fischer Ranger 130 Walk DYN
Comfortable, user-friendly, and ready to tackle any ski day, Fischer’s Ranger 130 Walk DYN ($800) is a mid-volume, one-boot quiver that required no compromises uphill or downhill. It’s narrower than previous Ranger boots with a 99mm last and designed to drive a big ski in deep conditions.
Fischer distinguishes itself with the sleek walk mode, a pull-activated lever positioned under the top buckle. It’s not a lever we needed to muscle to engage and disengage like in some other boots.
And while it seems fragile compared to other ski/walk-mode levers, we’ve never had a problem with this clever integrated system Fischer has been using for years.
The Ranger 130 EWalk is not an alpine binding masquerading as a touring boot. In tour mode, it has 55 degrees of motion as you stride uphill. And when our skis were on our back, the rockered Vibram Gripwalk soles gave us solid footing.
Locked and loaded for descending, the carbon-reinforced Grilamid shell gave us the stability, flex, and support we’d expect from an alpine boot. And we felt secure at any speed.
In the past, our Fischer liners have noticeably packed out during the course of a ski day. These liners use a denser material, so there was less space between the shell and our foot, which has a more supportive-feeling and less variable fit, especially where the boot is precontoured in the instep and heel.
The cam buckle top strap wasn’t the easiest to operate with gloves on, but it had a powerful hold, and the sewn end prevented it from sliding out of the buckle skiing or transitioning. The strap is long enough that it never interfered with rotation when walking.
Buy the Ranger 130 Walk for on- or off-piste or a combination of the two. It defies categories, and if it fits your foot, you’ll have a single boot that can tackle all terrain and conditions. The boot pairs with any Gripwalk-compatible binding as well as pin bindings.
- Last: 99 mm
- Flex: 130
- Weight: 1,600 g (3.5 lb.)
- Sizes: 24.5-30.5
- Stealth walk more level
- No compromises uphill or downhill
- True one-boot quiver
- The thin liner gave this boot a race-like fit that felt too aggressive for some testers
Best Ultralight Boot for Ski Mountaineering: SCARPA F1 LT
If uphill speed is your top priority, this lightweight touring boot will help you fly up the mountain, but it won’t kill your stoke when it’s time to ski down.
At just over 2 pounds per boot and 100 flex, SCARPA’s F1 LT ($800) felt more like a hiking boot than a ski boot while climbing. But once we locked it down, it could still drive a ski.
The boot uses a lighter iteration of SCARPA’s tried-and-true Alien ski-mountaineering race boot clog paired with a stiff backcountry upper for enhanced performance and fun on descents.
The F1 LT is a light and powerful boot. Its Carbon Grilamid LFT shell is stiffened up with power-enhancing carbon fiber that boosts performance and supports the boot’s progressive flex. In the cuff, SCARPA incorporated its 3D Lambda Torsion Frame, which has an in-molded reinforced I-beam and raised ribs for lateral stability. That bolsters the boot’s downhill performance.
The design lets SCARPA maintain performance without having to add more material and weight. A floating BOA closure on the lower boot, which also has an integrated gaiter, gave the boot a pressure-point-free fit.
Paired with a fast-buckle closure and power strap on the cuff, the boot transitions between runs lightning fast. We had enough resistance on the way down that we could carve and edge. And the gaiter kept our feet warm and kept melting snow out.
The narrow-fitting F1 LT has a thin shell and less material to be molded. It’s not a boot that will fit every skier, though its full-length boot board allowed for some customization. And this boot maneuvered a ski better — both in perfect, creamy conditions and more challenging variable snow — than other lightweight boots in this class we’ve tried.
SCARPA’s friction-free ski/walk mechanism had an exceptional 72-degree range of motion. Three forward lean positions let us dial this boot in to suit our stance. And though we hope to never need them, the boots have integrated RECCO reflectors to help patrollers and emergency personnel find us in an emergency.
- Last: 100 mm
- Flex: 100
- Weight: 990 g (2.18 lb.)
- Sizes: 24-31
- Extremely lightweight but high-performance
- Narrow-fitting and not workable due to the ultra-thin shell
Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose Ski Boots
“Your boot is the most important part of your skiing setup,” said Dan Weis, master boot-fitter and Snowsports Department manager at Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, Vermont.
Weis, who has fitted at least 2,000 pairs of boots over the past decade, said, “Your boot is where your day starts and ends. It needs to be properly sized for all parts of your foot so that you can be comfortable without compromising performance.”
Ski Boot Construction 101
Ski boots are constructed with a squishy foam interior liner that absorbs vibration, provides warmth, and protects the foot. The hard exterior of a ski boot is made with a rigid outer shell, typically made of plastic.
The front of the boot widens a bit for you to slide your foot inside and then closes via buckles. Make sure your liner is flat against and cupping your shin before closing the boot.
Boot designs have various interior liners as well as exterior boot soles and insoles that affect the boot’s fit, compatibility, performance, and comfort in various conditions.
Types of Ski Boots
“The first step in buying ski boots is knowing if you want an alpine boot, touring boot, or hybrid boot,” said Weis.
Buy a boot to match your priorities (alpine/downhill, uphill, or both) and the ski you’ll wear it with. While a touring boot can be skied at the resort, most aggressive downhill skiers prefer a hybrid boot if they’ll ski resort and backcountry equally.
Alpine or Downhill Boot
These boots will have a bill at the toe and a DIN-compatible sole, which means they’ll release when they need to. Some downhill boots come with a cuff release to make it easier to walk to your car from the slopes. But Weis warns not to confuse a “cocktail clip” with a proper touring mode.
- For lift-served skiing
- Compatible with downhill bindings
Touring or Backcountry Boot
Also known as an uphill boot, a backcountry boot’s cuff will rotate so you can walk uphill. Some have a bill that’s compatible with a hybrid binding. They typically use pintech inserts in the toe, small metal divets on either side of the toe that accept pins from compatible bindings.
- Many backcountry-specific boots are lightweight
- Usually lighter than a downhill boot
- Some are geared toward quick ascents with a superlight ski, not technical terrain, deep powder, fat skis, or freeriding
A hybrid boot will have a tour mode, like a touring boot, but it will usually ski more like an alpine boot on descents.
- Usually heavier than touring boots
- Somewhat less forward and aft rotation when you’re skiing uphill than touring boots
Ski Boot Flex
Flex describes a boot’s stiffness, and the correct amount of flex is determined by a skier’s experience level, strength, style, and preference.
Ski boot flex is determined and assigned by manufacturers. While the ratings give us an idea of how the ski boots feel within a brand’s lineup, the flex isn’t standardized across each company. So, for cross-brand comparison, the flex ratings can help you make broad versus apples-to-apples comparisons.
As you shop around, you’ll see boots with a flex that generally ranges from 65 to 120. The lower number represents a softer boot and gradually stiffens as you go up the scale. You’ll also see these flex ranges are usually lower for women’s-specific ski boots compared to the men’s boots.
- Soft: 65-90
- Medium: 100-110
- Stiff: 110-130
Weis said a new skier should be looking at boots with flex from 65 to 90. A lower flex number is easier to engage.
“When a skier is engaging a boot, or flexing it forward, the boot needs to have resistance to transfer energy to the ski. If it’s too stiff, a skier won’t be able to flex the ski to carve — there won’t be any energy transfer,” said Weis.
Soft boots are also typically more comfortable and retain heat better than stiff designs. These are a good choice if you prefer cruising on green and blue runs or if you’re just getting started on the slopes. They’re also a fair choice for folks that weigh less.
They’ll also have the most economic price tag, but paying more for boots that match your ski style and skill level is worth the extra cost.
Intermediate skiers should focus on flex from 100 to 110. A higher flex number indicates the boot will have more resistance and responsiveness. The boot can handle more aggressive turns and faster descents than soft boots. “If the boot is too soft, the skier won’t be able to control their ski,” said Weis.
If you’re a beginner skier but heavier-set, consider a medium flex boot right off the bat.
Advanced and expert skiers should buy boots with flex from 110 to 130. These designs provide the highest level of response and hold their own through speed. The price tag is higher in this category because these boots usually have a more technical build.
Advanced-level boots strategically place and integrate a range of soft, medium, or stiff materials into the design for optimal energy transfer. Don’t be surprised if the most rigid boots, typically intended for racers, simply feel too tight to use as an everyday driver.
Sizing: Mondopoint & Last Width
Ski boots use unisex mondopoint sizing, often referred to as “mondo,” which is the foot length in millimeters. You’ll also commonly see this size reference in centimeters, instead, like the 24.5-30.5 size range for the Fischer Ranger 130 Walk DYN.
Mondo sizes start as low as a 21.5 (U.S. women’s size 5) and go up to 30.5 (U.S. men’s size 13). They increase by half-size increments.
The last or footbed width ranges from 97 mm to 106 mm. Skiers with a narrower foot will want a slimmer last, as will athletes that want a tighter fit for snappier energy transfer and precision. Many ski boots offer a variety of last width options for narrow, average, or wide feet.
- 96-98 mm
- Narrow feet
- Precise fit, feel, and responsiveness
- 99-100 mm for women
- 100-102 mm for men
- Good target range for feet with normal widths
- 103 mm+
- Wide feet
- Can be more comfortable for beginner skiers but might need to quickly upgrade to an average-width boot
To get the best boot for your foot, Weis recommends scheduling a fitting with your local shop. At that fitting, a ski tech will measure the length and width of both of your feet. They’ll properly determine your ski boot mondo and last size.
Depending on the ski boot model you need and your skill level, you also might need to size down to account for packing out the boot. But once they have those numbers, they should be able to advise you on which boots from which brands will match your physiology and best help you meet your goals.
Boot Sole (Outsole)
Not all ski boot soles are compatible with all bindings. Check with your ski shop to confirm the boots you’re considering will work with the bindings you own or plan to buy.
Don’t think you’re just being upsold if the ski tech recommends custom insoles. Weis said skiers with a soft or collapsed arch will especially benefit from aftermarket or custom insoles. By supporting the arch, an insole keeps your foot from over-splaying inside your boot.
“You want to make sure the natural shape of your arch is matched to the insole of your boot,” said Weis. “When your foot sits in the correct spot in your boots, it’s less likely to become fatigued.”
Following the growth of backcountry, side-country, and uphill exercise on skis, a boot’s weight has become a more important differentiator between boot types and preferences. There are more lightweight boot options for downhill and backcountry skiing on the market today than in years past. And the lighter a ski boot, the less weight you’ll need to slide atop the snow or step with as you climb a bootpack.
For instance, the SCARPA F1 LT is an ultralight boot for ski mountaineering that weighs 990 g (2.18 pounds). The SCARPA Alien 1.0, which is a hit among skimo racers, weighs 785 g (1 pound 11.7 ounces).
A step up in downhill performance adds grams like the Dynafit Hoji Free 110, which is a touring boot built for freeride-style descents and weighs 1,550 g (3.4 pounds). Pure alpine ski boots are heavier like our top pick, the Tecnica Mach 1, which weighs 2,060 g (4.6 pounds).
Note: Our guide references the weight of one ski boot out of the set.
Women’s-Specific Ski Boots
A handful of manufacturers make ski boots that are women’s-specific. Compared to a unisex or men’s ski boot, women’s lineups typically have a lower flex rating set, so the boot options are softer. The models usually feature a smaller size or mono range compared to the men’s models.
Sometimes you’ll see narrower last options for women but not for men in a particular ski boot. The style features, like the color scheme, are usually tailored to a female demographic, too.
Some women’s-specific boots also have anatomical differences based on research, boot-fitter input, and feedback from female skiers. That includes the Tecnica Mach1 LV 105 TD boots, which are built with a unique upper liner that molds to the shape of the female calf. The result is no pressure points while charging steep laps or making fast carves.
The cuff is also built with a tad more forward lean and higher spine, which increases performance while decreasing overall fatigue. In general, some ski boots have a narrower or tapered heel and greater cushion around the ankle for security.
While the male- and female-labeled ski boots might help the average skier, there are folks who identify as male who need narrower, softer boots, and there are female skiers who want extremely stiff boots. Don’t be afraid to try on boots across these two general categories. Choose the style and fit that best matches your feet.
Boot liners are made from various densities of foam. They provide foot and ankle support and comfort and help prevent fatigue. They also add a layer of heat insulation inside the boot’s exterior, which is a hard plastic shell.
Most boot liners naturally break in with the foot’s heat. Many boot liners are custom-moldable, so another heat source can warm the material to be worn and conform to the owner’s foot. Generally, the boot liners of the priciest ski boots feature a greater quantity of heat-moldable material.
Most boots have Thermo-moldable foam liners, which are removable and should be heated at a ski shop and molded to your foot, a process that takes 30 minutes to an hour. Weis warns it can take up to three visits to get new boots perfectly fit.
The time investment of molding your boot liner is worth it. During the boot fit process, the tech will heat your liners, add padding at pressure points to compress the liner, and create more space. In some cases, a boot-fitter may also grind, punch, or heat-mold a shell to accommodate prominent ankle bones or bunions.
Buying new ski boots can be one of winter’s biggest challenges because how a boot feels when you first slip your foot into it in the shop can be a far cry from how it feels once you have had it heat-molded and fit by a reputable boot-fitter.
The temperature inside the shop versus on a wind-chilled ski lift will influence the fit, as will how your foot swells on a spring day or during exercise.
“Go with the mindset you’re buying the tightest piece of footwear you own,” said Weis. “And pick the boot that most feels like you could ski it out of the box.”
It’s easier to make a boot bigger than smaller, and if a skier has one or two small issues, including pressure points or pain points, a boot should be workable. “If your foot isn’t happy in the boot in the shop,” Weis advises, “try something else.”
Whether you’re buying an alpine, hybrid, or touring boot, the same rules apply. Get your boot fit, consider aftermarket insoles, and be sure the boot you’re planning to buy matches your foot and binding.
What Are the Different Ski Boot Types?
The types of ski boots include alpine or downhill boots, which are the burliest, heaviest, and used for downhill lift-served skiing at the resort. You’ll also find touring or backcountry boots, which are lightweight and made for off-piste terrain.
There are hybrid boots that have a tour mode and weigh more than lightweight tour boots, but can perform more like a downhill boot. They withstand more aggressive descents. Read more about the differences between these types of ski boots in the buyer’s guide above.
How Do You Determine Your Ski Boot Size?
To get the best boot for your foot, schedule a fitting with your local shop. At that fitting, a ski tech will measure the length and width of both of your feet. They’ll properly determine your ski boot mondo and last size, which might also be influenced by the type of boot you choose and the type of skiing you aim to do. Read more about ski boot sizes, including the mondopoint and last width, in the buyer’s guide above.
Do You Need a Soft or Stiff Ski Boot?
Generally, new or beginner-level skiers, or skiers who prefer mellow terrain (greens and some blues), prefer a soft ski boot. A medium-flex ski boot is great for an intermediate skier who’s progressed to steeper terrain, more and sharper carves, and speedier days. The stiffer boots are sought by advanced and expert skiers for a higher level of responsiveness.
What Is the Difference Between Men's and Women's Ski Boots?
Women’s-specific ski boots are different from men’s ski boots in a variety of ways, and not all boots are women’s-specific for the same qualities. Some boots differ aesthetically, and the size range is smaller and has a narrower option, too.
Other women’s-specific boots are anatomically designed based on female input. Those features could include unique liners that mold better to the female calf muscle, more forward lean in the cuff, a tapered or narrower heel, and additional cushion around the ankle.
Are Expensive Ski Boots Worth the Investment?
Higher-priced ski boots typically have a more complex blend of pliable materials, which provide a precise boot fit and performance. They can offer a more tailored fit out of the box and additional features like grippy soles for walking over ice.
Also, narrower boots typically cost more, so skiers with those alleyway feet should upgrade from the get-go for a good fit. Premium boots also have liners with a blend of various foams, which enhances security.
Overall, more expensive ski boots are worth the investment for a better fit but not at the exchange of comfort. If you are new to skiing, it’s a good idea to start with a cushy, soft boot versus pulling on a more aggressive-fitting premium boot right away.
How Do You Take Care of Your Ski Boots?
To preserve ski boot soles, don’t walk on gravel, asphalt, or long distances on a sidewalk. Walking on firm surfaces will degrade the toes and heels. To help protect the soles, you can wear cat tracks, which are detachable sole protectors.
After every use, hand-remove the snow (joint bang the boots together). Then remove the liner and thoroughly dry it with a boot dryer. Moisture builds throughout the day from snow and sweat. If they stay wet, then mold, mildew, and bad odors can form. Wetness can also deteriorate the liner.
You can also wipe down the exterior and interior of the ski boot shell with a dry cloth. Close each buckle so the shell can sit in its preferred shape and avoid damage or getting warped over time.