Ski boots are an extremely important part of skiing. If you think about it, the items are to skis what a transmission is to a car. That is because they convert power and movement into control. Without them, you’re not going to get very far downhill. A quality set of boots can make a huge difference in your overall skiing experience.
I’ve known some skiers who have a love/hate relationship with their boots. Breaking in a new pair can be quite excruciating, and dealing with a worn-out set of shoes can certainly limit your abilities. Regardless of how you feel about them, ski boots are absolutely necessary for skiing. It pays to get ones that match your skiing style.
This write-up is going to take a look at some of the best ski boots on the current market. Ski boot technology has improved over the years, and after the initial break-in period, good boots will provide you with years of steady skiing. If you’re in need of a new pair, or if you want to get your own gear for the first time, the options listed here are sure to provide all of the warmth, comfort, and performance you would expect out of quality ski boots.
- For a boot that performs at high-levels and works in a variety of skiing situations, check out the Head Kore 1. Another great high-end option for skiers at all levels is the Dalbello Lupo Pro HD.
- Ski boots can be expensive, nearly rivaling the cost of your skis. If you’re looking for budget options, check out the Fischer Ranger Free 100 and the Rossignol Evo 70.
- The Rossignol Alltrack Elite and the Solomon X Pro 70 are two great female ski boots.
- Backcountry skiers will love the Scarpa Maestrale RS Alpine Touring Boot. If you want a specific ski mountaineer boot, take a look at the Arc’teryx Procline Carbon Lite.
- If you are a park rat and want a boot that will serve you well in the terrain park, the Full Tilt Tom Wallisch Pro LTD is for you.
- The Atomic HAWX Ultra XDT is a great hybrid option that can both hold its own in the backcountry and tackle resort runs all season long.
Who Should Get This
All skiers need ski boots. Regardless of your style or abilities, there’s really no way to ski without boots. Luckily, there are many different great models to choose from. All of the options listed here are great, but be sure to check where each model excels and decide what’s best for you.
Modern boot technology has really advanced in the last decade or so. This means there are more specialty boots than ever before. If you stick to one particular style of skiing, such as resort or backcountry, you can get boots that will help you perform better in these situations. You can also get a hybrid style of boot that will be able to handle a wide range of conditions.
If you’re a beginner skier who’s not too familiar with your preferences, you may want to rent boots before purchasing your own gear. That will allow you to explore different styles and fits before spending money on your own set. When you’re just starting out, comfort can be more important than performance.
Best Ski Boots in 2020: Things to Consider
As mentioned above, modern ski boots come in many different styles. If you’re an avid skier that likes to do a few different styles, you may need to get a couple of pairs. There are a few main styles of ski boots. Those are alpine/downhill, backcountry/touring, and hybrid.
Alpine or downhill boots are catered to resort-style skiing, and they work best for the average skier who spends most of their days riding up the lifts. These boots are stiff, tight, and have a special design that gives them ample edge control.
Backcountry or touring boots are designed for skiing outside of the resort. They are built to be manageable while skinning uphill or even mountaineering to the top of the mountain or run you wish to ski. These boots have more flexibility to allow for a natural walking motion and are lighter in weight.
Hybrid ski boots provide elements of both resort and backcountry skiing, and they can be used in both situations. This is the style of boot I use because it allows me to handle any condition at the resort, but I can dive into the backcountry when I want. Hybrid boots are a little more flexible and lightweight than alpine boots, but they are not quite as specific as backcountry options.
Your ski boot’s flexibility is another important consideration. Flexibility is usually described in a number and the lower the number, the more flexible the boot. This number can be a personal preference, but it typically dictates how well the boot can perform under demanding conditions.
A soft flex in the range of 75-85 is a good range for beginner skiers. This will allow your foot and leg to move and flex with limited resistance. A medium flex of about 85-110 is good for intermediate skiers that want a bit more performance and control out of their ski boots.
A stiff flex is anything over 110. That is the best for advanced and expert skiers. This stiffness has a direct relationship to responsiveness and performance, making it desirable for any skier who likes to go down the mountain aggressively without sacrificing control. If you’re a serious skier, you will want a pretty stiff boot.
Ski boot sizes can be a little bit difficult to figure out at first. A common measurement system for most downhill ski boots is the mondopoint system, also known as Mondo sizing. This is technically a measurement of your foot in millimeters, but it’s more commonly seen as measured in centimeters. The measurements needed for your ski boot size are both the length and width of your foot at the widest point.
These sizes can vary by brand and model, which is why you should always try on boots before purchase. Boots that don’t fit correctly can present many different problems, ranging from comfort to performance, and it’s imperative to get things right so you don’t suffer on the slopes.
Liners are another important ski boot element. They provide warmth, comfort, and additional performance. As such, great models tend to use them. If you don’t like what your boot has, you can always get customized liners that will work in just about any shell and match your individual needs.
There are three different types of ski boot liners: custom moldable, thermoformable, and non-moldable. Custom moldable liners are very popular these days (I just got a new set of custom moldable liners myself) and they use a boot heater or oven to custom mold the foam lining material to the shape of your foot. Custom liners can be molded at home, but it’s best left to professionals if you want it done right.
Thermoformable liners use the pressure and heat of your feet to mold and match their shape. These liners need to be broken in over the course of a few days on the mountain. However, once fully formed, they provide solid performance and comfort.
Non-moldable liners are basic liners that do not have any custom fit. These can suffice for beginner skier, but they don’t work for each foot shape. They do tend to be the cheapest option, which can be appealing.
Always pay attention to any additional features your boots might have. Some models come with a changeable buckle or connection that allows for more flexibility. Those are good features to have if you plan on doing any hike-to or backcountry skiing.
Also look for flex adjustment, which will allow you to change the stiffness of the boot to match your skiing conditions. This is a nice feature if you like to vary your skiing style or visit different locations throughout the season. I also like to look for a replaceable rubber foot sole that provides grip when walking.
Best Ski Boots: Our Picks for 2020
1. Best All-Around Ski Boot: Head Kore 1
If you want a high-performance ski boot that’s able to handle many different conditions with ease, look no further than the Head Kore 1. These boots are responsive and stiff, making them an excellent option for serious skiers looking for boots that will allow them to ski to the best of their abilities. These boots are stiff-but-comfortable thanks to LiquidFit customization that molds to your feet.
The Kore 1 is designed with downhill performance in mind and utilizes a Smart Frame technology that adds extra material to the lower shell without adding much weight. Primaloft insulation keeps your feet warm and the FormFit plastics help to add flexibility and performance. The Graphene construction of the outer shell makes for a durable, strong, and lightweight construction.
- All-around solid performance
- Excellent stiffness for serious skiers
- Grip-walk soles
- Walk mode
- Not best for backcountry use
Another great option is the Dalbello Lupo Pro HD. This popular model is one of the best options on the market because it is durable, sturdy, and incredibly reliable. The boots have a three-piece design that creates an amazing fit. They also provide excellent shock absorbing characteristics for hard-charging skiers.
The Lupo Pro can handle backcountry trips, but are built with downhill performance in mind. They have a good range of motion for uphills, while providing plenty of stiffness to keep the boot responsive at high speeds. They come with a fully heat-moldable liner for custom comfort, and feature an easy-to-use walk mode buckle in the back. A great boot for a variety of skiers.
- Trusted brand
- Reliable performance
- Stiff but lightweight
- Walk mode
- Heat-moldable liner
- Good flex but can be difficult for serious backcountry use
3. Best Budget Ski Boot: Fischer Ranger 3
If you’re looking for a solid ski boot that’s also affordable, the Fischer Ranger 3 is a great option. These boots are both comfortable and responsive. On top of that, the low price point makes them great for skiers on a budget. These boots have a fairly tight fit and are not best for wide feet. Even so, they stay snug enough to give you excellent edge control.
This boot features a strong, flexible, and lightweight Grilamid shell. In addition, the built-in Somatec technology helps your knees and ankles stay engaged while providing extra control over your skis. They have a 55-degree range of motion that enables you to easily cruise uphill, but are stiff enough to perform at high levels during serious downhill skiing.
- Nice flexibility
- All-around performance
- Walk mode
- Not good for wide feet
- Can have a little too much forward lean for some skiers
The Rossignol Evo 70 boots are sturdy and affordable. These are a lightweight alpine style boot that’s built strong and sturdy with both comfort and performance in mind. They feature a 3-buckle design alongside a strong top cuff that lends to a customizable fit. The boots also have an open instep and articulated ankle area that allows for easy on and off.
The Evo is a classic boot in both look and feel. It’s not the highest performing option on the list, but it’s best suited for beginner to intermediate skiers who want to have a mixture of comfort, warmth, and responsiveness. The comfort fit liner is not customizable, but it should work well for most skiers. The boots also have a nice wool liner and replaceable soles.
- Good option for beginners
- Easy on and off
- Replaceable soles
- Lacking a bit in performance
- Non-moldable liners
5. Best Women’s Ski Boot: Rossignol Alltrack Elite
The Rossignol Attack Elite is one of the best women ski boots around. The hybrid model works well both at the resort and in the backcountry, enabling to handle different conditions with ease. The boots are light and flexible, two aspects that make them great for uphill hiking, but they also have the support and stiffness needed on the mountain.
These boots have a dual-core polyurethane construction that gives them plenty of strength and durability, but they are flexible and comfortable as well. They come with an Optisensor T2 liner with 3m Thinsulate insulation incorporated into the design. That makes for a comfortable fit that will keep you warm and active on the mountain. This is a very versatile and reliable ski boot perfect for women who like to ski a variety of conditions and terrains.
- Excellent hybrid women’s boot
- Hybrid design more catered to downhill than strict backcountry
- Only a semi-custom liner
The Solomon X Pro is another great women’s ski boot. Solomon is a trusted ski brand that has been making quality equipment for many years. Their boots are some of my favorite and I have a few friends who highly recommend them as well. They are designed to have an ‘instant fit’ specially created for the shape and needs of women’s feet.
The boots feature a comfortable 3D liner that makes them perfect for long days on the mountain. A Twinframe design creates a durable, responsive shell that works well for intermediate to advanced level skiers who want full control under demanding conditions. The boots also have four 3d buckles and a large calf strap for a secure and sturdy fit.
- Trusted brand
- Designed specifically for women skiers
- Comfortable liner
- Durable and strong shell
- Can have a soft flex
- Can fit tight on top of foot
7. Best Backcountry Ski Boot: Scarpa Maestrale RS Alpine Touring Boot
If you’re a serious backcountry skier looking for a boot that can hold up to the constant and ever-changing demands of the discipline, you’ll want to get your hands on the Scarpa Maestrale RS Alpine Touring Boot. This expertly constructed model provides excellent feedback in both long uphill ascents and fast downhills through deep snow. They are a favorite among backcountry skiers for good reason.
These boots are lightweight, thanks to carbon fiber and Grilamid construction, and they come standard with an Intuition Cross Fit Pro liner. That fully heat-moldable attribute adds lasting comfort and warmth needed for long days going uphill. This is a durable and versatile backcountry ski boot that excels in any off-piste situation.
- Extremely well-engineered for the backcountry
- Works well in uphill and downhill situations
- Comes with Intuition Cross Fit Pro liner
- Can be difficult to get on and off
8. Best Ski Mountaineering Boot: Arc’teryx Procline Carbon Lite
Ski mountaineering can be a sport all unto itself. It blends elements of skiing, climbing, hiking, and possibly serious repelling and rock climbing as well. It’s not for the faint of heart and you need the best gear to tackle the task. The Arc’teryx Procline Carbon Lite ski boots are designed specifically for the needs of serious ski mountaineers, and they live up to the task in style. They are comfortable, warm, and fully functional.
These lightweight boots help on any mountaineering adventure by allowing the flexibility and comfort needed to keep them on for extended periods of time. The boots have excellent forward and back flexibility, but stand apart from the competition due to their 36-degrees of side to side flexibility. A built-in Vibram outsole helps with grip when climbing and hiking as well.
- Great for ski mountaineering
- Excellent flexibility
- Vibram soles
- Side to side flex
- Lacks stability for downhills
- Not the warmest boot
9. Best Park Ski Boot: Full Tilt Tom Wallisch Pro LTD
If you live for the terrain park and want a boot that can help you excel in your freeriding pursuits, the Full Tilt Tom Wallisch Pro LTD is a great option. Tom Wallisch is a legendary skier and these boots hold his namesake for good reason. They are designed with park skiing in mind and are sure to hold up to the high-flying abuse and rail scuffs that occur out in the park.
The boots feature a three-piece design that allows for a solid flex to give you comfort and absorption through big airs. Even with this flex, they offer a solid foothold and excellent side to side stiffness as a way to increase responsiveness and performance in the park. The flex also cuts down on the shin discomfort that can come from hard landings.
- Park-specific design
- Great flex
- Solid foothold
- Forgiving on shins
- Not great for other styles of skiing
10. Best Hybrid Ski Boot: Atomic HAWX Ultra XTD
If you want a boot that can do a little bit of everything, the Atomic HAWX Ultra XTD is probably the best hybrid boot out there. These boots can handle anything at the resort with ease, and also offer great performance on serious downhills and fresh groomers. They are excellent in the backcountry as well. Overall, a versatile ski boot with a modern and comfortable fit.
The Ultra XTD combines a serious lightweight design with exceptional stiffness to create a versatile shoe. They are minimal in design but hold up under all conditions. The boots have a Grilamid progressive outer shell as well as a thick supportive liner that allows for a comfortable fit. In addition, the boots come with GripWalk soles that make them great for slippery trails, slopes, or ski lines.
- Great hybrid option
- Minimalist design
- GripWalk soles
- Nice liners
Useful Tips and Resources
As you can see, there are plenty of different options when it comes to choosing a ski boot that’s best for you. All of the options listed here work well for many different types of skiers, but you need to find the boots that work best for your skiing style. Always pay special attention to performance and comfort.
Remember that boot sizes can vary from brand to brand and model to model. It’s important to know your boot size, but you always want to get fitted properly at a ski shop with an experienced boot fitter before making a big purchase. If you want to measure your own foot to find your Mondo boot size get a blank piece of paper and stand on it with your heel on the bottom edge and your inner foot on the inner edge.
Next, make a mark with a pen or pencil at both the top of your highest toe and the outside of the widest part of your foot. Take your foot off of the paper and get out a ruler to measure the two marks. The length in centimeters is your Mondo foot size. The width is called the last. Check out this post for more in-depth directions on how to measure your foot for a ski boot.
Ski liners are another aspect of ski boots where it’s good to know a few extra tips. These days, it’s possible to just get a new set of liners and keep your old shells. I just did this, and after breaking in my new liners, it feels like a have a new pair of boots. Check out this story on how ski liners can revamp your ski boots and save you money.
I always get custom insoles when I get new ski liners. Your local boot fitter will most likely suggest this to you when you go in to fit your liners, but it’s a recommended option that will go a long way for extra comfort and support. These insoles match the arch of your foot to give a little extra comfort that can pay off during long days on the mountain.
Ski boots need to be snug, but there is a difference between a tight fit and constant pain. New boots usually have a break-in period where you might suffer through some serious discomfort and pain. That is normal, but not if it lasts more than 3 to 4 days of steady skiing.
If your new boots causing you pain after that timeframe, go have your fit and feet checked out by professional boot fitters. You’ll be amazed at how precise and well-informed today’s ski and boot technicians can be.
Ski boots are as important as any other piece of skiing equipment. It pays to know where to find high-quality boots and what to look for when choosing the best boots for you. Every boot on this list works well for a certain style of skier. Just make sure the one you’re interested in matches the style you like to ski. You don’t want to end up on a big backcountry trip with a strictly alpine boot and vice versa. It pays to be informed.
Do you have a favorite ski boot? Do you prefer a hybrid boot or do you like to get different styles for different skiing disciplines? Let us know in the comments below!