Ski boots don’t have the best reputation. They don’t look particularly cool (even snowboard boots can claim some style points). Ask anyone about the most uncomfortable footwear to walk in and they’re liable to say ski boots. Stiff, clompy, and ugly: Why bother buying a decent pair?
It is easy to get jazzed up on the latest and greatest skis. But anyone who skis seriously will tell you that your boots are the most important piece of gear on the mountain. They transfer energy from your body to your skis, and they have a major influence on how well you ski. Plenty of people don’t know they could ski better, longer, and more comfortably if they upgraded to a better pair of boots that fit properly.
Getting the Right Fit for Your Ski Boots
All the various factors contributing to finding the right ski boot for you can be overwhelming. Fit, feel, and application should reign supreme in your decision making. Do some research and go to a winter sports store to get sized; if you have a well-fitting pair of boots already, you can use them as a guide.
Ski boots have varying stiffness or flex levels that range from more flexible (usually around 70), to medium flex (around 100), all the way to very stiff (120 and up). The stiffer the boot, the more intense the energy transfer. Therefore, most rigid boots are suited for aggressive skiers.
Sizing is where fitting a boot can get a little dicey: Manufacturers often have proprietary sizing that isn’t equivalent to other companies’ systems. To compare boots, use Mondopoint sizing. This system measures the interior sole length in centimeters, and it’s a more reliable way to find boots that fit. In addition, boots have different last widths, which allow them to accommodate narrower or wider feet.
Buy Once, Cry Once
Finding the perfect ski boot can feel like a difficult process, and quality ski boots are pricey. But everyone I talked to for input on this guide has owned ski boots that last for years (myself included). If you think of your boots as a long-term purchase, your cost-per-use will be considerably lower than renting from a shop every time you head out to ski—especially if you ski a lot each season. Below, I’ve rounded up 10 options suitable for a range of budgets and skiing styles, from aggressive alpine ski boots to backcountry hikers.