The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

K2 Recon 120 Review

The K2 Recon 120 is a great intermediate ski boot that is light on the feet and on the the wallet.
Best Buy Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $500 List | $374.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, comfortable last width, inexpensive
Cons:  Powerstrap is hard to operate with gloves, can be cold
Manufacturer:   K2
By Ryan Huetter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 26, 2018
  • Share this article:

Our Verdict

The K2 Recon 120 is a great ski boot for an intermediate skier, and comes at a bargain price. We are impressed by their medium volume shape, which fit many tester's feet well right out of the box. When you pull it on, it is immediately apparent that the Powerlight shell is much lighter than any other boot we tested. That weight savings translated well into on-hill performance and enjoyment. Skiers looking for a stiffer boot that will help them drive big skis, or seeking more power and control will likely be more interested in K2's Recon 130. But if you're an intermediate skier who doesn't want the stiffest boot around, this is the best deal of any ski boot in our review. It wins our Best Buy Award.

Other boots, like the Atomic Hawx Prime 120 offer higher performance and a tighter fit. This works well for advanced skiers who will notice the performance advantage and are willing to work with a stiffer flex.


Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The Recon 120 was not outmatched by these big mountain Black Diamond Boundary 115 skis  whether in soft or chopped up conditions.
The Recon 120 was not outmatched by these big mountain Black Diamond Boundary 115 skis, whether in soft or chopped up conditions.

Downhill Performance


One of the most noticeable attributes of the Recon 120 is its light weight. With a single boot weight of only 3.8 pounds, it is nearly a pound lighter per foot than the Lange RX 120 (4.75 lbs). While weight is certainly an issue when ski touring, it is not as much of a concern when riding lifts at the resort. That said, shaving a pound off each foot left us with noticeably more energy at the end of a long ski day. The lighter weight boot also allows for a more playful style of skiing. It allowed us to swing the skis around much more fluidly, especially in short-radius turns. This works because they weigh less, but do not suffer a dramatic loss of stiffness that can be associated with lighter boots.

The Recon's 120 flex allows for powerful turns  making this a boot that both intermediate and expert skiers alike will appreciate.
The Recon's 120 flex allows for powerful turns, making this a boot that both intermediate and expert skiers alike will appreciate.

Some reviewers have called this a stiff 120 flex boot. We felt the opposite. It is stiff enough to compete with most of the other 120 flex boots in our review, but, in our tests, it was not as consistent as others. In heavy, off-piste crud, the Recon 120 did not have the predictable, steady flex that the Lange RX 120 or the Atomic Hawx Prime 120 offer.

We think this boot is more appropriate for an intermediate skier because we can overpower them while driving a big ski in challenging conditions. This boot would not do well if competing against a proven big mountain charger like the Tecnica Mach1. But it doesn't need to. The Recon offers dependable performance in most on-piste conditions and can handle some off-piste conditions, making it suitable for many resort skiers.

Whether you choose the 12 or the 14 degree forward lean  the Recon 120 promotes an upright skiing stance.
Whether you choose the 12 or the 14 degree forward lean, the Recon 120 promotes an upright skiing stance.

Comfort and Fit


The Recon 120 is a slightly softer boot than the expert-advanced oriented Recon 130. Our initial impressions putting the boots on out of the box were that they are quite comfortable, even verging on roomy. The Recon MV is a medium volume last, which, at 100mm, felt wider than even some 102mm boots in our review. This was especially apparent in the toe box area, where our lead tester, who typically wears a 100-101mm last width boot, felt the excessive space the most.

The buckles can all be micro-adjusted. They stay close to the boot  keeping a low profile.
The buckles can all be micro-adjusted. They stay close to the boot, keeping a low profile.

This size 27.5 pair also felt slightly long for their size, leading to a roomier fit that we seek out in an alpine boot. An experienced boot fitter should be able to add padding or shims to take up the volume if you are between sizes like our lead tester is. Once properly fitted, this boot is easy to pull on and remove. Its shell overlap is less stiff than other models, making it easier to take off in cold temperatures. The included insole offered enough support for testers without pronounced arches, but our lead tester found the need for aftermarket insoles to make the boot supportive.

One of only a few complaints we have about the Recon 120 is that its power strap is difficult to use. We wish it was easier to tighten when you're wearing big gloves.
One of only a few complaints we have about the Recon 120 is that its power strap is difficult to use. We wish it was easier to tighten when you're wearing big gloves.

Features


The Recon 120 has well-conceived features that allow for a customizable fit. The shell offers a canting adjustment to optimize lateral alignment, and a simple plastic wedge gives skiers the option to choose between a 12-degree and 14-degree forward lean. Four buckles with micro adjustments secure the shell, and a 45mm wide Power Cinch power strap provides additional stability around the cuff.

While the power strap is adequate, the buckle closure is difficult to operate with gloved hands. It's not nearly as user-friendly as straps that close with velcro. The included alpine soles are replaceable, and can also be interchanged with alpine rockered soles that are compatible with Marker Grip Walk type bindings.

Durability


It will take long-term testing to see whether or not the lighter weight Powerlite shell material will lose any stiffness over time. But, during our testing, we did not experience any noteworthy issues indicating that the Recon 120 will have significant durability issues. The Ultralon liners feel hearty and resistant to packing out quickly, and the materials used are high quality.

On the coldest storm skiing days  our feet did get cold while riding the lifts  perhaps due to the thinner shell material and liner that helps these boots shed weight on the scales.
On the coldest storm skiing days, our feet did get cold while riding the lifts, perhaps due to the thinner shell material and liner that helps these boots shed weight on the scales.

Warmth


The Ultralon liner used in the Recon 120 is high quality, resistant to packing out and warm in most cold conditions. We did notice our feet getting colder than in other boots on really chilly days riding the lifts, even though we had plenty of circulation. The thinner material in the shell and liner may have something to do with this, but it only happened a few times. It helped that our feet are not as crammed in as in other more performance fitted boots and our toes have some wiggle room. The liners are ready to receive an aftermarket boot warmer such as Hotronics.

Best Application


This lightweight alpine boot is a good choice for an intermediate skier who wants to shave a pound of weight off each foot when compared with popular models in the same stiffness category. It is a soft feeling 120-flex boot, making it appropriate for an intermediate skier looking for a boot for all conditions. It could also work for an expert skier who appreciates a softer flex and isn't ready to jump into a 130 flex boot just yet.

The K2 Recon handles choppy snow conditions well and its progressive flex is predictable.
The K2 Recon handles choppy snow conditions well and its progressive flex is predictable.

Value


This boot is a good bargain, especially considering its light weight and reasonable features. We know that it might be hard to see a $500 pair of ski boots as a "Best Buy", but for the crowd that this boot is likely to attract, it offers good value. Because the Recon 120 has an accommodating last width that can fit lots of foot types, and offers enough downhill performance that many resort skiers will find it appealing, we award it our Best Buy Award.

Conclusion


It is not very often that an alpine ski boot, especially one in a moderate price range, makes a big leap forward. Cutting weight by nearly 25% when compared with other contenders in this flex category, the Recon is light on the feet as well as on the wallet. It is capable in many conditions but is outmatched by the most challenging inbounds conditions. This combination of factors makes it a perfect choice for the solid intermediate skier looking for a medium volume boot at a value price.

Other Versions


The K2 Recon line also includes 100 and 130 flex versions, as well as a 120 Heat model, which is the same as the one reviewed here but includes Thermic heated liners.


Ryan Huetter