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When outfitting your ski setup, boots should be the number one priority — even before the skis themselves. The best ski boots connect you to your skis for power and control at all times. Plus, ski boots have the not-so-easy job of keeping your feet warm and comfortable throughout a long day on the slopes. Even if you’re new to skiing, it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of good ski boots as they’ll help you learn faster than rentals.
However, if you’ve never shopped for ski boots before, it can seem like a daunting task with all the terms, fit measurements and brands to figure out. To help you get properly booted, we’ve done some legwork (or footwork, rather) to find the best ski boots currently available online. Read on for our top picks, as well as a brief shopping guide to ski boot terminology and sizing.
What Are the Types of Ski Boots?
Ski boots come in a few varieties depending on their intended use. Here are the main types of ski boots to know (note: we’re only reviewing alpine and touring ski boots for this roundup).
Alpine Ski Boots: For regular downhill skiing, you’ll want alpine ski boots (a.k.a. downhill boots). The most common type of ski boot, these are secured to the ski at both the toe and heel for optimum control and power transfer on downhill runs. They’re typically stiff, snug-fit and slightly shock-absorbent for drops or jumps.
Touring Ski Boots: Combining elements of alpine and backcountry boots, alpine touring boots let you toggle between a flexible touring mode and a more stiff downhill mode. Also called all-mountain ski boots, the heel of touring boots can usually be detached for traversing flat ground or uphill slopes.
Telemark Ski Boots: Telemark ski boots feature a flex point at the toe and don’t lock at the heel. These boots are specific to telemark skiing, allowing for the signature squatting telemark turn. Telemark boots also make it easier to hike with your skis attached and walk around without skis, although telemark skiing is far less popular than alpine.
Cross-country Ski Boots: For cross-country skiing, you’ll want purpose-built boots. These look and feel more like hiking boots, locking to cross-country skis at the toe and not the heel.
How to Choose the Best Ski Boots?
Shopping for ski boots isn’t like choosing any other shoe. Here’s how to choose the best ski boots, including what terms to know.
Fit: First and foremost, the best ski boots should fit just so. The right pair will be snug but not so tight that they cut off circulation or cause discomfort (a rule of thumb is that a new pair should create just a bit of pressure on your big toe when standing up).
Ski boot sizing is broken up into two measurements: the length (skiers use “mondo” sizing for length) and the forefront width (referred to as “last”). If you have narrow feet, go with a 97 or 98mm last. For average-width feet, choose a boot with a last around 100mm, and at least 102mm if you have wide feet. As far as length size goes, check out a comprehensive mondo to US size chart here.
Flex Rating: A ski boot’s flex rating (or flex index) dictates how hard it is to flex the boot forwards. Generally, the higher your skill level, the higher your boots’ flex rating should be.
Soft flex ratings — which are recommended for beginners — are considered 60 to 80 for men’s boots and 50 to 70 for women’s boots. Medium flex ratings range from 80 to 100 for men’s boots (and 70 to 90 for women’s boots) and work for intermediate skiiers. Stiff boots, ideal for experts, have a flex rating of over 110 for men’s or over 90 for women’s.
Warmth: Few things can ruin the fun (and your performance) like frozen feet. Look for boots with a quality liner and ample protection from the cold snow.
What Are the Best Ski Boots for Men?
No matter what type of skiing you’ll be doing — or your skill level — here are the best ski boots for men to buy right now.
1. Rossignol Evo 70
New to downhill skiing? Strap on These EVO 70 boots from Rossignol. With a flex rating of 70, the boots are soft and easy to maneuver as you get in the hang of things. The last is also quite wide at 104 millimeters, which is obviously great for wide-footed skiers, but it’s also good for beginners as you’ll get more comfort and circulation on low-intensity runs. Overall, the EVO 70 is an affordable, no-frills boot that’s very helpful in the early stages of learning to ski.
2. Dalbello Panterra 90 GW
Once you’ve moved up to an intermediate level, check out these Dalbello Panterra 90 GW boots. Designed to accommodate more speed and sharper turns, the Panterras feature a mid-level flex rating of 90 for support and power without discomfort.
Another highlight of the Dalbellos is a moldable Ultralon foam liner for all-day warmth. Dalbello has outfitted the boots with a Kinetic Response tongue which balances feedback and support through carves. As far as fit, the boots are a bit wider than average with a last of 100 to 102 millimeters. When you’re suiting up (or down), the boots’ F-5 buckles ensure a quick entry/exit.
3. Tecnica Mach1 MV Concept
For advanced skiers, we recommend these lauded Tecnica Mach1 MV boots. Their flex rating, clocking in at 140, is among the highest you’ll find in any ski boot. That means you get exceptional control and power transmission — especially at high speeds while bombing down blacks. Better still, the Mach1s can be fine-tuned for a tight, race-ready fit thanks to thermo-moldable C.A.S. tongue liners and micro-adjustable aluminum buckles. In short, you’ll be hard-pressed to feel these boots’ limits.
4. Full Tilt Drop Kick
Those of us with slim feet can sometimes feel sluggish in regular boots. If you fall into that category, check out these Full Tilt Drop Kick boots; they’re some of the best ski boots for narrow feet with a 99 millimeter last. Designed for higher-level freestyle skiing (but good for all downhill skiing), the boots have a slightly soft flex rating of 90. Their three-piece build provides a natural flex motion, and a heat-moldable Intuition liner ensures proper fit (even around narrow feet).
5. AtomicHawx Ultra Xtd 130
Thinking of trying some backcountry skiing? Pick up these AtomicHawx Ultra Xtd boots. As an alpine touring boot, the Xtd boots can transition between regular downhill runs to backcountry flats with ease. This ability rests on the boots’ Free/Lock 2.0 latch, which lets you securely lock the heel for resort runs. While walking in the backcountry, the boots are lightweight and flexible for mobility. When you’re ready for a resort run, the boots are prepared with four buckles, a performance stance and a solid memory foam liner.