Ski boots can make or break your day on the mountain and finding the right one can feel like a part-time job. We researched dozens of models and bought and tested the best to help you get into a comfortable pair of boots quickly. Not everyone has the time to demo dozens of ski boots out on the hill, so we took some of the most popular options and spent months skiing them in all kinds of snow conditions to see how they compared to one another. We scored the boots based on how well they perform on the hill, how comfortable their fit is for all of our testers, and how well made they are overall. In addition to testing the boots, our reviewers guide you through the process of selecting the appropriate pair of boots. Our goal is to get you off the internet and out onto the hill. If you're looking for women-specific boots, carve over to the women's ski boot review for more information.
The Best Ski Boots for Men of 2018
This winter, we hit the slopes as the first storms blanketed our home mountains in the Sierra Nevada and put a fleet of ski boots to the test. We ripped around on groomers, floated on deep powder, and had a lot of fun while ranking the boots on a set of metrics that gave us the data we need to rank them. After a rigorous testing period, we found the Atomic Hawx Prime 120 S to be the best boot overall, and the Tecnica Cochise 130 Pro takes home the Top Pick for Sidecountry Adventures. The K2 Recon 120 holds steady as the Best Value boot for intermediate skiers.
We chose the Atomic Hawx Prime 120 S for our Overall Best Men's Ski Boot this year, thanks to its inspiring performance in all of our test metrics. This boot fit our medium volume feet right out of the box and required no additional boot fitting at our local ski shop. Once on the slopes, the Hawx Prime 120 boots comfortably skied all snow conditions that we found, whether steep chalky faces or high-speed groomer runs. What helps the Hawx Prime 120 stand out is its many features, which can be used to customize the fit and performance of the boot.
Although it only has a 120 flex, this is a stiff boot, and it may not work well for lighter or less aggressive skiers. Its snug fit also makes it tough to pull off at the end of the day. But, with three different forward lean settings and the ability to change flex rating with the turn of a key, these boots are versatile. They will easily grow with an intermediate skier as they want a stiffer and more aggressive stance.
Read review: Atomic Hawx Prime 120 S
The Tecnica Cochise 130 Pro is built with big lines in mind, both in the ski resort and out of bounds. It has a sole that is compatible with both alpine and tech bindings. You don't even have to switch sole blocks. Also 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 to hike or to take on 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 130 flex is one of the stiffest in the review, and this boot should be considered an expert-advanced boot. We found that works best for about 80% ski area and 20% backcountry due to its limited walk range and heavy weight. This is not a touring boot, but it is 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 features a stiff 130 flex similar to other boots in this review, but flex is non-standardized, and we felt that this is 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 low, mid, and high-volume versions (LV, MV, HV) 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 — we were intrigued at first but found it to be awkward and cumbersome to use, especially when wearing gloves. This is 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 you have 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 Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 was our Best Overall Men's Boot for 2017. It showcases many outstanding features, is highly customizable, and has a lightweight that will appeal to all but the most performance-oriented skiers. While the medium volume Hawx Prime 120 beat it this year for its widely popular fit, we still consider the Ultra to be a great lower volume boot. 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. 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 so it can feel cold and be tough to take off. Those needing a wider model would do well to look at the Atomic Hawx Prime 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 Scarpa Freedom RS 130 is a freeride-inspired touring boot that offers the best performance for those spending 60-80% of their skiing time in bounds and the rest in the backcountry. They let you click into tech or alpine bindings and give you high-end downhill performance on both sides of the ski area boundary rope. The Power Block XT switch allows for easy transitions between walking and skiing. With a 101mm last, this boot offers a comfortable fit when hiking into side-country terrain, while still providing a supportive race-inspired upper. The Cross Fit Ride RS liner is easily thermo-molded, and despite the wider fit, the downhill performance of the Freedom RS is as good as many alpine boots we have worn. We credit the carbon reinforced Pebax shell, which gives one of the stiffest flex ratings of any touring boot we have worn.
The Freedom RS requires you to swap the tech binding compatible sole with a DIN sole (sold separately) if you plan on skiing on both types of bindings. They are expensive, but for the skier who values a high performing boot while skiing in and out of bounds, the Scarpa Freedom RS 130 is an excellent choice.
The Salomon X-Pro 120 is an all-mountain ski boot that blends comfort, performance, and many customizable features. This boot fit our feet well right out of the box and it skis well in most resort conditions and terrain for intermediate to expert skiers. You can expand the last width of the medium volume shell from 100mm up to 106mm, so this boot gives lots of room for medium to high volume feet. That's if you're willing to work with a boot fitter to attain a dialed-in fit. The soft tongue lessens 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. This boot has many adjustment points, including a forward lean adjustment that lets the user toggle between Sport and Performance settings. This requires an Allen wrench and puts the skier farther forward without changing the flex rating.
If you have narrow feet these probably won't work for you and their height won't work well for shorter skiers. Bottom line, this is a great all-around boot for an intermediate to advanced skier who wants performance, comfort, and a range of customizable adjustments.
Read review: Salomon X-Pro 120
The K2 Recon 120 MV has garnered a fair bit of attention for its light weight and overall good performance. This is an intermediate to advanced skier's boot with its 120 rated flex index, but that shouldn't scare a heavier beginner skier from looking at the Recon 120. The lighter materials that help the boot shave pounds off when compared to similar boots allow them to flex more easily than their direct competitors. We liked the comfortable, slightly wider fit of the Recon 120 MV, though it is also available in a low volume (LV), 98mm version. The fit is customizable from the canting angle to the forward lean, making it versatile for many skier's preferences, at a bargain price as well.
They aren't very warm and aren't as stable in variable conditions due to their lighter flex. Still, we have no qualms about recommending the K2 Recon 120 as our Best Buy Award Winner.
The Rossignol Alltrack 120 gets a nod for being an inexpensive option for intermediate skiers seeking an all-mountain adventure boot. These skiers don't want or need the extra stiffness that a 130 flex rate boot provides. With usable features and a comfortable all-day fit, the Alltrack 120 is a good boot for most inbounds skiing, and can even handle short boot packs or long parking lot walks thanks to its walk mode. The roomy 102mm last width and wide lower leg fit would be perfect for larger men seeking a snug fit. Overall, the Alltrack 120 doesn't feel that much wider than other boots in this review, and an aftermarket footbed takes up some volume and adds support underfoot. The advantage for more average sized feet is that the roomier boot is warm and comfortable for long days.
This boot is soft for a 120 flex and left testers feeling a little wary about its ability to tackle varied, expert level terrain with confidence. If you're not on expert terrain thought, this is an excellent all-mountain boot for the budget conscious or those who only ski a few days a year.
Read review: Rossignol Alltrack 120
Ski Boot Buying Advice
Your ski boots are one of the most crucial pieces of equipment to consider when hitting the slopes. Choose boots that suit your needs. They don't need to 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. Also, 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. Below, we walk you through the most important considerations.
After you choose the best boots for you, check out our detailed review of all-mountain skis to complete your kit for the mountain.
Types of Ski Boots
They are too heavy and clunky to be a dedicated backcountry ski touring boots but make walking and skinning more comfortable if you need to go a short distance outside your resort's boundary. However, they are still stiff enough to ski everywhere you want to go in-bounds. Our review includes adventure/freeride boots like the Tecnica Cochise 130 Pro and the Scarpa Freedom RS 130. The adventure/freeride boots reviewed here are probably a bit much for a dedicated backcountry boot or tours that demand lightweight gear.
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. Your ability, size/weight, skiing style, and personal preference all determine what flex boot is appropriate for you. 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 refer to boots both by their flex rating as well as by the type of skier they are best suited for. Beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers require different stiffness levels to correspond with their skiing style, but these are not absolute. For example, an advanced skier who does not weigh very much might have a hard time flexing a stiff boot and could opt for a softer flex. Using the same logic, a heavy intermediate skier might want an advanced level boot for better performance.
Sizing Ski Boots
Buy boots that fit your feet well. Seek professional boot fitting advice if you 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.
When shopping for ski boots you should have an idea of your skiing ability, the style and terrain you prefer, the metric length and width of your foot, and the general shape of your foot. 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.
Ski boot manufacturers use the Mondo Point sizing system. It is a measurement of the length of your foot in centimeters. (Width is measured in millimeters.) Here we provide a conversion chart that can show you what your street shoe size equates to in Mondo Points. This is a good place to start. You can also measure your foot or have it measured by a professional.
Boot Sole Length
The total boot length is measured in millimeters. The actual external length of a boot from the toe to the heel will vary from boot to boot, 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.
The last width of a boot refers to how broad it is at its widest point. This is a good indication of the general shape and width inside the shell, which is the outer boot excluding the lining. Generally speaking, narrow boots have a last width somewhere in the 97 to 98mm range. Medium width boots are in the 100-102 mm last range. Wide boots are 102mm and larger.
Unlike a pair of running shoes, which easily expand to accommodate different foot shapes, a pair of ski boots should match your foot's width more precisely. Last widths can help narrow down potential boot selection. But since ski boot shells are rigid plastic, it is common for skiers to need an expert boot fitter to help expand the shell and mold the liner for them. A last width is a good starting point, but if the boot is still somewhat uncomfortable do not hesistate to have them worked on. Skiing isn't supposed to be painful!
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 mitigating the risk of buying boots that are too small. Also 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 boot fit will increase your performance, make you more comfortable, and reduce the risk of foot injury. Visiting a professional boot fitter will help you choose a boot that is right for you and make adjustments to the boot as needed.
Anatomy of a Ski Boot
Here's a quick run-down of the most important parts of a ski boot.
The liner is a soft, removable inner boot that is contained within the shell. Often these liners are heat moldable for a customized fit.
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.
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 power strap is the large, usually Velcro, strap along the top of the boot's shaft that tightens the cuff around your shin and calf.
Ski boots have between two and four buckles that tighten the shell. We prefer metal buckles because they are more durable. Most buckles have a number of adjustments and micro-adjustments to customize the fit.
Alpine boots are DIN compatible, meaning they are designed to function safely with traditional alpine ski bindings. The sole can be a continuation of the shell or may consist of pieces that can be removed and replaced. This helps you deal with wear and tear and can make a boot compatible with touring bindings. For example, Alpine/Freeride hybrids are DIN and Tech compatible, so they work with alpine or backcountry bindings. Some soles are made of soft rubber to provide traction on slick surfaces.
It is increasingly common to see a walk/ski mode on alpine boots. This mode disengages the cuff from the bottom of the boot to allow more ankle flexibility. This is a technology adopted from alpine-touring boots, which are used by backcountry skiers.
We know how important it is to have the right ski boot. They transfer your body's energy to the ski and then to the snow. Having a boot that fits well and has the appropriate amount of flex for your style improves ski performance and your comfort on the mountain. It's critical to take the time to find the right pair of boots for you. We sincerely hope this article has helped you in your search.
— Mike Phillips & Ryan Huetter