Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
Our industry pros have tested over 30 pairs of the best men's ski boots over the last 9 years, and we recently bought and tested 9 of the market's top models. We put each boot to the test on the snow in a rigorous and objective side-by-side comparison to help you find the best. Whether you want to lay over your skis in a fast GS turn or send it in the park, we tested a boot that will suit your style and budget. We know that the ski boot market is a difficult world to navigate with an overwhelming amount of expensive choices and confusing terms. We are here to make it easy to find the right product to suit your needs and your budget.
If you're looking for a women's boot, you can check out our women's lineup of ski boots here, where our team of expert female testers weighs in. In addition to the best skis and boots, we've tested ski clothes like ski pants, ski jackets, and gloves, as well as essentials like goggles and ski helmets. Whether you're an aspiring skier starting from scratch and need all new ski gear or just need to upgrade some old equipment, our write-ups can help you find the right products for you.
Editor's Note: With ski season drawing to a close, you may find many of the past year's boots on sale. Now is a great time to buy for next season. This review was updated on May 2, 2023, to edit for clarity and ensure our affiliate links are up to date.
Available Widths: LV (98mm), MV (100mm), HV (103mm) Available Flexes: 110, 120, 130 What We Tested: MV (100mm), 130 Flex
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to mold PU shell
Quick-release cam strap at cuff
Grip Walk technology
REASONS TO AVOID
Product Update Note — November 2022
The Mach1 MV 130 now comes standard with a GripWalk sole.
The Tecnica Mach1 is an aggressive boot built to drive any ski in all types of terrain by an experienced skier. The 130 Flex model that we tested felt the stiffest of all the boots in our lineup. It also offers a consistent flex throughout the cuff without any collapsing at the ankle. We love polyurethane (PU), as do most boot fitters, as the premier material to mold the boot to your unique foot shape. PU can be molded and remolded multiple times, and although it is heavier, it is a superior material for an all-mountain boot. The CAS liner is unbelievably comfortable and heat-moldable as well. The cam strap at the top of the cuff holds snug and adds stiffness and stability while turning compared to other models tested.
The price tag of the Mach1 may drive some consumers away but is a solid investment for those who are ready to take their skiing to the next level. Also, for those who like a looser style or spend time in the terrain park, this may not be the boot for you. Tricks and landings usually benefit from a more moderate flex. This boot is perfect for the ski racer or just the Olympic GS wannabe in the rest of us. Whether booting out on groomers or dropping steep chutes, this expert/advanced boot wants to go fast. If your palms are sweating, keep reading, our testers have found the right boot for you.
Available Widths: 100-102mm (variable) Available Flexes: 90, 100, 120, 130 What We Tested: 100-102mm (variable), 130 Flex
REASONS TO BUY
Easy to take on and off
Wide last range
REASONS TO AVOID
Product Update Note — November 2022
Dalbello released an upgraded version of this boot with a redesigned tongue and liner with the intention of providing a more comfortable fit and an easier time getting your foot into and out of the boot.
The Dalbello Panterra ID offers easy access with its Cabrio three-piece design. The PU tongue easily folds up out of the way, making for the most inviting instep we tested. The soft liner detracts from the performance but makes this the warmest boot we tested. The variable last width from 100 to 102 millimeters makes this boot great for those with a wider or higher volume foot. The lower hinge point in the cuff creates less ankle friction. Integrated walk mode makes for more smiles at aprés ski and finding your car in the lot. The opposed forefoot buckle design pulls the boot nicely over the top of the foot.
The same attributes that make for easy entry also diminish the responsiveness and performance of the boot. The extra material in the tongue and three-piece construction make this the softest 130 flex boot in our lineup. If you prefer a softer flex or spend time in the park, this could be the perfect boot for you. The soft ID liner is great for walking or hanging out but doesn't perform as well in high-speed turns as firmer liners. All that said, if you have a large foot or a park style, this boot is built with you in mind. The walk mode and Cabrio design also would suit a frame binding in the side-country, but this boot is not compatible with backcountry tech-style bindings.
Available Widths: 99mm only Available Flexes: 110, 120, 130 What We Tested: 99mm, 130 Flex
REASONS TO BUY
Excellent power transfer
REASONS TO AVOID
The Tecnica Cochise 130 wowed our testers with performance on par or surpassing any resort boot we tested. This is the true one boot quiver able to shred the resort and then turn around and do it in the backcountry. The DYN capable toe cap and 50-degree walk mode make these a pleasure to wear for quick side-country and backcountry adventures. The 99-millimeter last is bigger than a true 99 millimeters and fits close to the medium volume Mach1 MV. We found the toe box to have ample room, but the PU shell allows for multiple punches should you disagree. The CAS liner is among the most comfortable we tested, offering plush yet firm comfort, and it's fully heat-moldable. We love the cam strap on the cuff and swear it's every bit as stiff as an aftermarket competitor.
While we love this boot on shorter tours, its whopping four-plus pounds per boot mean that it isn't for the ultra randonnée tour you are planning. Its best use is for resort-accessed side country and roadside tours. Another drawback is the high price tag. But if you get this boot only, you save on having two pairs: one resort and one backcountry; this boot covers both. Another thing to remember is that this is a true 130 flex — very stiff. For smaller or less aggressive skiers, Tecnica offers it in 110 and 120 flex. This boot is perfect for you if you are looking for one boot that can do it all.
Available Widths: Pro (98mm), Speed (100mm), Sport (102mm) Available Flexes: 80, 90, 100, 110, 120, 130 What We Tested: Speedmachine (100mm), 130 Flex
REASONS TO BUY
Cork ankle in liner
REASONS TO AVOID
Velcro cuff strap
The unique comfort offered by the Nordica Speedmachine impressed us, earning it a top spot on our lineup. The cork embedded in the liner molds to your ankle but stays fresh due to the cork's inherent moisture-wicking nature. Our testers overall prefer firmer liners as they offer more consistent control. Cork is the winning material in this category, and we hope other brands pick up this innovative design. The comfort of the Speedmachine is also enhanced by its PU shell material, which can be molded more easily than other materials. The 100-millimeter last width is a very comfortable medium volume boot with ample space in the toe box. The top pressure is just right and easily adjustable with the four-buckle system, and the flex adjustment offers an easy way to change the boot's stiffness from day to day (or even run to run).
We were disappointed that the cuff strap was only a velcro cross piece and did not hold as snug as other models. This boot is advertised as a 130 flex, but our testers found it to be a moderate flex in this category. This may be the perfect boot for skiers who are wishing to move from a 110 or 120 flex into a stiffer boot. Overall, our testers did not have much to complain about and felt this is a great step-up boot or a work boot for ski instructors or patrollers who spend all day in the shell due to its outstanding comfort.
Our ski boot testing begins with thorough research into the current market before making our selection of boots for purchase and testing. Ski boots are a very personal purchase, but we determined five metrics that can objectively compare boots across different styles and shapes: comfort, performance, materials & durability, warmth, and extra features. Of course, all of these categories have much interplay. A boot's materials directly affect its comfort. Also, every foot is different so we get as many testers as possible to compare notes. We performed side-by-side comparisons in similar terrain or the same run to adjudicate the subtle differences and nuances between boots. We hope that this review not only guides your decision-making but also informs your process so that you avoid dreaded buyer's remorse.
Our ski boot testing is divided across five different metrics:
Comfort (30% of overall score weighting)
Performance (30% weighting)
Materials & Durability (20% weighting)
Warmth (10% weighting)
Features (10% weighting)
Our staff brings decades of ski experience to mind when analyzing and testing each boot. Every model has been tested in every array of conditions: groomers, trees, chutes, powder, hardpack, wind buff, and anything else Mother Nature has to offer. We snap the buckles on the coldest days and endure the warmest spring afternoons. Ryan Baker is a professional ski patroller at Mammoth Mountain and usually spends over eight hours each day in a pair of ski boots in every condition imaginable. Carrying heavy loads, skiing toboggans with injured guests, and performing early morning avalanche mitigation describe only some of these scenarios. In his free time, he loves to ski tour in the backcountry and especially loves finding steep tree skiing.
Analysis and Test Results
We chose our lineup of boots from the leading brands in the ski industry. As many brands maintain the same or similar style and construction in subsequent years, we purposely seek out any models with major changes or updates to compare to the previous class. We strive to test with as few variables as possible, repeating lines with different boots, one right after the other, to have side-by-side comparisons in all conditions. To find the right model for you, we score each model on performance, comfort, materials and durability, warmth, and extra features.
Skiing is an industry, like most, where a higher price typically denotes better materials, better workmanship, proven performance, or durability. All the boots we tested are the premier model offered by their respective brand in a medium volume and last width. Usually, a less expensive boot is not equipped to perform to the expectation of a pro or expert but is designed for an intermediate to advanced skier. In this lineup, the Atomic Hawx Prime and the Dalbello Panterra stand out for their value. While they don't offer the top-end precision and power of some of our top-rated boots, they make great options for those who value comfort, balanced performance, and affordability.
Although comfort is in the eye of the beholder, we strived to make this rating as objective as possible. We considered the material the boot is made from and how easy molding and working the boot would be. The Tecnica Mach1 and the Nordica Speedmachine are examples of boots made primarily of polyurethane (PU). Boot fitters favor PU for its easy workability, and it can withstand multiple punches in the same area. This is in contrast to Grilamid, which can become brittle after it is molded.
We also looked at how easy it is to navigate the different width offerings in each model from a specific boot manufacturer. The Atomic Hawx Prime is a medium last boot, whereas Atomic also offers the Hawx in a narrow Ultra version and a wide Magna version. Nordica, for example, also changes the name of its boot between widths, with the Promachine, Speedmachine, and Sportmachine. It's a small bone to pick but one that nonetheless could throw off and confuse potential customers. Look carefully at the specs we provide for each boot to help understand the different offerings.
It is important to consider how comfortable the boot is fresh out of the box. The Dalbello Panterra has a variable last (100 to 102 millimeters) and a very plush liner. The extra room and variability make for a roomy, easy-to-slip-on boot. This is great for a skier who isn't yet ready to suffer through the foot scrunching that may come with increased performance but detracts from the accuracy and precision necessary to carve at high speed.
Our testers were also very concerned with the toe box. The Fischer Ranger has a very narrow and low toe box. This may serve certain foot shapes appropriately but rejects a large population who would need the Grilamid expanded to avoid cutting off circulation.
Many skiers prefer a tight cuff, snug pressure on the top of the foot to reduce heel rise, and enough room to just wiggle your toes. That said, no top manufacturer makes a bad boot. But, some manufacturers will play to some shapes more than others, while some offer an array of boots for most consumers. We took heel rise, toe room, and cuff pressure for the average foot as a benchmark. We also looked at the liner materials and construction. The Nordica Speedmachine stands out in the comfort category because of its moldable liner with an integrated cork insert.
What you ask a boot to do and what it can do in response is the essence of performance. We asked the Tecnica Cochise 130 to carve, hop turn, tour, hike, and ski every type of snow the Sierra Nevada had to offer. To all this, it performed marvelously, ranking the highest in this category. For this metric, we looked at the flex rating, including consistency across the cuff and lateral movement in short, medium, and long radius turns, as well as in hop turns and power stops. In effect, we aimed to see how the boot reacted in as controlled of an environment as possible.
All the boots tested in this year's lineup are a 130 flex, but we found a great diversity of stiffness within this group. Our testers favored boots with stiffer flexes like the Cochise and the Mach1 for fast, high-intensity skiing. The softer flex of the Hawx Ultra or the Panterra is great for the park or less aggressive skiers. We performed drills of the above-stated turns and maneuvers to determine how well it controlled the skis.
The Mach1, the Cochise, and the Speedmachine performed best at high speed and in every turn due to the consistent flex and stiffness. We also liked the quick-release cam straps offered by both Tecnica models and the Atomic Hawx Prime to add further control up the cuff. The Speedmachine performs in the middle and is a great option for a less aggressive style or a skier looking to level up to a firmer flex but not ready for the rigidity of a true race boot.
Materials & Durability
Durability is difficult to test adequately in the limited time frame of this review. We did not experience any buckle failures, sole depletion, fractures, or failures in months of testing and pushing these boots as hard as we could. Some features caused us to pause and maybe could be of concern after years of abuse. We put all these boots through the usual wear and tear that they would experience by years of use: ground into the asphalt on many trips back to the car, kicking steps, hiking over scree, clambering in the trees, and clicking into various bindings.
Our favored construction material for the shell is Polyurethane (PU). This is an easily moldable and very strong plastic. Varying degrees of thickness can change the weight or flex of a boot. The heaviest race boots are thick PU and usually are ground out rather than punched. Polyurethane resort boots are less thick and can be molded or ground to suit the user's needs. Grilamid is a lighter polymer common in touring boots that is lighter than PU and still strong but less adept at molding and shaping. Brands also manufacture boots in proprietary hybrid plastics such as Dalbello's DB Hyperlite in the Panterra, including Grip Walk soles for added durability.
Almost all major brands offer a heat-moldable liner. This ubiquitous offering promotes further comfort by individualizing the fit for each user. We gave higher marks to brands that include a moldable liner, like the CAS system from Tecnica or the 3D from Nordica. Another important factor to consider in longevity is interchangeable toe and heel caps.
The warmth of a boot can be a blessing or a curse. The air in the boot creates the best insulation. This requires a slight amount of space, especially in the toe box, to allow the feet to stay warm. A boot that is too tight will cut off circulation and put the foot in closer contact with the elements without the insulating air. Conversely, a very warm boot can cause sweating and discomfort on a warm spring day. In an ideal world, you would have a boot that can serve both.
We tested these boots in sub-freezing mornings and blistering spring afternoons. The Dalbello Panterra proved to be exceedingly warm even on the coldest days due to its plush liner and variable last. The Fischer Ranger scored lower due to its slender profile and minimal liner, the cost of cutting weight for a touring boot. All boots can be outfitted with aftermarket boot warmers which we recommend for the coldest climates.
The Atomic Hawx Prime also scored highly with a larger feeling last for its stated 100-millimeter last width and a softer plush liner. The firmer liners, such as the CAS from Tecnica, stay considerably warm but sacrifice some warmth for firmer materials to promote higher performance and power transfer. On tours and while hiking, the Tecnica Cochise ventilated very well due to its extendable buckle system, which allows you to ascend with the buckles wide open but still clasped, so they are not flopping about. We didn't experience excessive overheating in any model tested in spring conditions.
The bells and whistles section of ski boots usually includes a walk mode, Grip Walk soles, inserts, or special features that make the boot stand out. This metric allows some models to shine where they otherwise haven't. For example, the walk mode in the Fischer Ranger was well received by our testers. It is integrated into the top buckle, so you won't readily forget it before you drop in (unless you forget to buckle your boots altogether). We also liked the locking mechanism on the Cochise to keep the boot in ski mode. There are few things as harrowing and unsafe as descending, only to realize that your boot is still in walk mode.
Perhaps our favorite extra doodad was the quick-release cam strap on the cuff touted by the Mach1, the Cochise, the Ranger, and the Hawx Prime. Of these, Tecnica makes the most intuitive to use and easiest to release, giving two boots that already scored high even higher marks. This category won't unseat any champions but is well worth considering if you enjoy the ease of walk mode or micro-adjust buckles.
The ski boot market is full of excellent products ready to suit every level and ability of riders. The above metrics are the standard by which we have rated some of the top boots on the market for this upcoming season. We did our best to scrutinize every boot in similar circumstances to provide you with the best information to find the boot that will help you launch into the next level of your skiing! Our testers racked up dozens of days and countless hours in each boot to meticulously provide you with our opinion of the best boots of 2021/22.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.