Whether you ski 100+ days a year or only make a ski trip with the family for a long weekend once a winter, you want to treat your feet to the right pair of ski boots. We chose 10 top alpine and freeride-oriented ski boots for this year's review, and we put them to the test in a wide variety of snow conditions at Mammoth Mountain, CA. Our reviewers considered comfort, fit, performance, versatility and warmth among the metrics used to evaluate these boots. Ski boots can make or break your trip, so read on to find out which ones we liked the best, and which ones might be right for you.
The Best Ski Boots for Men of 2018
This spring, we put our fleet of ski boots to the test, ripping in each one. We've gone over our selection and chosen two new award winners. The Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 is recognized as our best boot overall, while the Tecnica Cochise 130 Pro takes home the Top Pick for Sidecountry Adventures.
We chose the Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 as our Best Overall Men's Ski Boot for 2017, as it showcases many outstanding features, is highly customizable, and has a lightweight that will appeal to all but the most performance-oriented skiers. This boot is a relatively soft 130-flex boot, meaning that it does not require the power to drive the boot that burlier models do. Most intermediate skiers will find this to be a good introduction into stiffer, hard-charging boots.
Numerous adjustments such as forward lean, canting and heat molding allow you to make this boot truly form fitting, and we recommend taking advantage of the moldable Memory Fit shell that Atomic uses on the Hawx Ultra 130. This is a boot for narrow to medium volume feet. Those needing a wider model would do well to look at the Salomon X-Pro 120. While the shorter than average boot sole length makes this boot easier to walk in, we preferred the Cochise Pro 130 for hiking to those secret powder stashes.
Read review: Atomic Hawx Ultra 130
The Tecnica Cochise 130 Pro is built with big lines in mind, both in the ski resort and out of bounds. Featuring a walk mode, the Cochise 130 Pro is a good option for those who plan on spending most of their time inside the boundary line but would like the option for hiking or short touring missions. These performance-oriented boots will be best appreciated by aggressive and heavier skiers who will be able to take advantage of their stiffness and stability.
The Cochise 130 Pro has a sole that allows use with both alpine and tech bindings without having to switch sole blocks like many freeride boots require. The 130 flex is one of the stiffest in the review, and this boot should be considered an expert-advanced boot. We found that its best use was 80% ski area/20% backcountry use- due to its limited walk range and heavy weight this is not a touring boot, but capable of short tours and hikes.
Read review: Tecnica Cochise Pro 130
The powerful, advanced level Tecnica Mach1 130 was one of the most fun to ski in our review. It featured a stiff 130 flex similar to other boots in this review, but since flex is non-standardized and relative to other boots, we felt that this was the stiffest model. The Mach 1 demands to be driven hard, and in turn, it can power most all-mountain skis through a variety of snow conditions. The Mach1 comes in both MV and LV versions, so a performance fit is available for those with both narrow and wide feet. The included C.A.S. liner is cushioned and comfortable, made from microcell foam, and is readily heat-molded to provide a custom fit.
The C.A.S. shell uses different plastics in the overlap, making it easier than others to step into, and the Lift Lock buckles stay out of the way when donning boots. The Mach 1 had a unique power strap of the models we reviewed — we were intrigued at first but found it to be awkward and cumbersome to use, especially with gloves on. This was our biggest grievance with the Mach 1, an otherwise top of the line boot that delivers nearly race-day level performance.
The Lange RX 120 has been a two-time Editors' Choice Award winner in past reviews and offers top-notch performance in an approachable design for most intermediate and advanced skiers. With a stiff, progressive flex that is in the top of its class, this boot is capable in most any in-bounds ski conditions that you are likely to find yourself skiing. The Lange RX 120 comes in two widths, with the Medium Volume version that we tested measuring 100mm wide and the narrower Low Volume version measuring 97mm. This medium volume boot delivered excellent edging ability out of the box, and the low-profile design of the RX120 allows the skier to get closer to the snow for quicker turn initiation.
The liner used by Lange in the RX120 is relatively comfortable with no modifications, but it will fit much better after having it heat-molded to your foot. The shell of this boot is a basic 4-buckle design with a precise overlap design. The 120 flex is quite stout when compared to other boots of the same flex, and with a 12 degree forward lean it has a very upright stance that can be comfortable after practice, but at first it can be challenging to stay forward. The canting is adjustable, but otherwise, these boots are no-frills.
Read review: Lange RX 120
The Scarpa Freedom RS 130 is a freeride-inspired touring boot that offers the best performance for those spending as much time out of bounds as they do skiing at the resort. If you plan on spending 60-80% of your skiing time in bounds and want the ability to click into tech bindings as well as alpine binders thanks to interchangeable sole blocks, then the Freedom RS will give you high-end downhill performance on both sides of the ski area boundary rope. The Power Block XT switch allows an easy transition between walking and skiing.
The Cross Fit Ride RS liner is easily thermo-molded, and with a 101mm last this boot allowed us a more comfortable fit when hiking into sidecountry terrain while still providing a supportive race-inspired upper. Despite the wider fit, we still found the downhill performance of the Freedom RS to be as good as many alpine boots we have worn, thanks to a carbon reinforced Pebax shell that gives one of the stiffest flex ratings of any touring boot we have worn. The Freedom RS requires swapping the tech binding compatible sole with a DIN sole (sold separately) if you plan on skiing on both types of bindings; for the skier who values a high performing boot while skiing in bounds and also plans on hiking and touring, the Scarpa Freedom RS 130 is an excellent choice.
The Salomon X-Pro 120 falls into the familiar category of an all-mountain ski boot that blends comfort, performance, and many customizable features. This boot fits our feet well right out of the box and found it to ski well in most resort conditions that intermediate to expert skiers will find themselves skiing. The medium volume, 100mm wide shell can be expanded up to 106mm, so this boot gives lots of room for medium to high volume feet if you are willing to work with a boot fitter to attain a dialed-in fit. The soft tongue lessened the discomfort often experienced after skiing a boot this stiff for a full day, and a wide power strap allows a for an even tighter fit.
There are many adjustments on this boot, such as a forward lean adjustment that lets the user toggle between Sport and Performance settings. This requires an Allen wrench, and though it puts the skier farther forward does not change the flex rating. The bottom line is that this is a great all-around boot for an intermediate to advanced skier who wants performance as well as comfort, with a range of customizable adjustments.
Read review: Salomon X-Pro 120
The Dalbello Panterra ID 120 is a feature-laden boot that falls into what we are terming an adventure/freeride boot. The Panterra ID has abundant features to easily adjust the fit of the boot and to help the boot crossover from in-bounds to out-of-bounds skiing. It has a medium volume, performance-oriented fit and will be best suited for advanced and expert level skiers.
The 120 flex feels spot on, and we were able to get forward in this boot, though it felt somewhat sluggish in its transmission of power when going from edge to edge. The Panterra ID 120 is a strong skiing boot with a close performance fit. Its features that allow for fit customization are a strong suit for this boot, though some of the features are overkill and crowd the boot. Keep this boot inbounds, and it will perform on the down and keep you comfortable with easy adjustments that can be made on the fly and the boot-fitter's bench.
Read review: Dalbello Panterra ID 120
The K2 Spyne 100 is new this year, and offers intermediate skiers a comfortable boot that provides enough performance for all mountain conditions, but does not come with the price tag or stiffness that race-inspired boots often have. With a flex rating of 110, this boot is approachable for those seeking a boot that allows them to power their skis a bit more than they had in softer boots and is appealing to those lighter weight skiers who might have a hard time flexing a 120 or 130 rated to boot.This boot is available in two different widths and has a customizable liner. We liked the quality buckles and grippy sole on this boot and found it to be a good performer on the down in most on-piste conditions.
We feel that this boot offers good solid performance in a relatively inexpensive package, and if coming from a softer boot, will allow you to take advantage of its intermediate to advanced flex.
The Rossignol Alltrack 120 is our Best Buy award winner because it's downright affordable and is a quality ski boot for the budget conscious. While not everyone skis one hundred days per year, finding a boot that is affordable, easy to ski, comfortable, and warm is essential. With the money saved compared to more expensive models in this review, you can invest in some professional boot work to dial in the fit. This boot has a predictable flex and skis well in consistent snow conditions.The Rossignol Alltrack 120 is yet another all-mountain boot offering the added perk of a walk mode. This boot is soft for a 120 flex and left testers feeling a little wary about the boot's ability to tackle varied, expert level terrain with confidence. The roomy 102 mm last width and wide lower leg fit would be perfect for larger men seeking a snug fit. Overall, the Alltrack 120 didn't feel that much wider than other boots in this review, and an aftermarket footbed helped take up some volume and add support underfoot. The advantage for more average sized feet is that the roomier boot is warm and comfortable for long days.
This is an excellent all-mountain boot for the budget conscious or for those who only ski a select number of days a year.
Read review: Rossignol Alltrack 120
The Nordica Speedmachine 120 are quite comfortable right out of the box, but if they do not fit your feet at first, do not worry- these boots are incredibly customizable and offer unique differences in materials and construction than any of the other boots featured in this review.
The shell can be heated with an infrared lamp and then molded with Nordica's Suction device (to be done by a professional bootfitter), and the inner liner uses cork material around the heel cup to allow for a comfortable, yet highly capable performance fit. With an easily changeable forward lean you can switch between a neutral or more aggressive forward lean, and the stiff 120 flex is predictable, making this a boot that can appeal to the intermediate skier and the be appreciated by the performance-oriented advanced all-mountain ripper alike.
Ski Boot Buying Advice
Your ski boots are quite possibly the single most crucial piece of equipment to consider when hitting the slopes. They transfer your body's energy to the ski and then to the snow. Good boot fit improves ski performance and comfort for full days at the mountain. Everyone's feet are different, and proper fit is key to enjoying your day at the ski hill, so take the time to find the right pair of boots for your abilities and needs.
After you choose the best fitting boots, check out our detailed review of all-mountain skis to complete your kit for the mountain.
Types of Ski Boots
Scarpa Freedom RS 130. If you are a dedicated backcountry skier, there are boots for you too! The adventure/freeride boots reviewed here are probably a bit much for tours that demand lightweight gear.
Anatomy of a Ski Boot
The shell is the hard plastic outer boot, which is the primary factor contributing to the weight and stiffness of the boot. Usually, a skier fits into a specific shell size and then can make adjustments to the liner to fine-tune the fit.
The liner is a removable soft inner boot contained within the shell. Often these liners can be heat moldable for a customized fit.
Alpine boots are DIN compatible, which means that they are designed to function safely with traditional alpine ski bindings. Some soles are made of soft rubber to provide traction on slick surfaces. The sole can be a continuation of the shell or may consist of pieces that can be removed and replaced due to wear or to be compatible with alpine touring bindings.
The footbed inside the liner gives your foot support. Usually, the ones that come with boots are thin and do not provide adequate support. We suggest purchasing an aftermarket footbed.
Ski boots usually have between two and four buckles to tighten the shell. We prefer buckles to be made of metal for durability. Most buckles can mico-adjust to customize the fit.
The power strap is the large Velcro strap along the top that allows you to tighten the top of the cuff on the boot for a close fit to your shin.
It is becoming more common to see a walk/ski mode, which disengages the cuff of the boot from the bottom to allow for more ankle flexibility, on all-mountain models of boots. This is a technology adopted from alpine-touring boots, which are used by backcountry skiers.
Trying On and Sizing Boots for Skiing
Before trying boots on, you should have an idea as to the general shape of your foot, the length and width of your foot, your skiing ability, and the application of the boot. With this information, you can look for a boot in the correct size, last width, and with an appropriate flex rating for your ability or preference.
Mondo Point System
Manufacturers use the Mondo Point sizing system. It is a measurement of the length of your foot in centimeters. There are conversion charts that can show you what your street shoe size equates to in Mondo Point or you can have your feet measured. This is a good place to start.
The last of a boot refers to its general shape and width inside the shell (outer boot). Generally speaking, narrow width boots will be somewhere in the 97-98 mm last range, medium width boots will be in the 100-102 mm last range, and wide boots will be 102 mm and larger.Boot Sole Length
The length of the boot sole is measured in millimeters. The actual length of the boot from the toe to the heel will vary, even if they are the same size. Check the sole length of your current boots before stepping into your bindings with new boots. They may not fit! You should have your bindings checked every season with the boots that you are going to use with those skis/bindings.Boot Stiffness
The flex rating of a boot refers to how difficult it is to flex the boot forward. It tells you how stiff the boot will feel. Skier ability, size/weight, skiing style, and personal preference may determine what "flex" boot is appropriate. The flex rating is expressed using a number. You will find men's models rated from about 50 to 130. The higher the number, the harder the boot is to flex forward, and in turn, the stiffer it feels. In general, beginner skiers will get more out of a softer flexing boot, while advanced and more aggressive skiers will appreciate a boot that is harder to flex.
We suggest trying on ski boots later in the day. Feet tend to swell a bit throughout the day and at higher elevations. By trying boots on in the afternoon or evening, you are helping to mitigate the risk of buying boots too small. Try boots on (and ski) while wearing very thin wool or synthetic socks. They help to wick moisture away from your skin, are resistant to bunching up, and provide a more precise fit. Thick socks can restrict circulation and can actually make your feet feel colder.
A precise fit of your boots will increase performance, make them more comfortable, and reduce the risk of foot injury. Again, it is strongly recommended to visit a professional boot fitter to help you choose a boot that is right for you and make adjustments to the boot as needed.
Buy boots that fit your feet well. Seek professional boot fitting advice if are having trouble finding a good fit, and try on several different boots in different sizes before buying. Ski boots should be snug without being painful, and you should be able to wiggle your toes but not be able to lift your heel. There should be little to no lateral movement in your forefoot.
Choose boots that suit your needs. They need not be overly stiff if you are a beginner or intermediate skier or if you are not an aggressive skier. If you are crossing over to skiing outside the resort boundaries or want to access hike-to terrain in-bounds on occasion, consider a boot with a walk-mode feature. Consider your budget and how much you ski; there is no need to get an expensive boot if you only ski a handful of days a year. There are affordable boots with excellent features that could fit your feet well and provide good ski performance at your level.
— Mike Phillips & Ryan Huetter