The 9 Best Ski Boots to Buy in 2018

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If your only experience wearing ski boots are of the rental variety, your skepticism about buying a pair of your own boots is understandable. Rental boots are the necessary evil of the ski industry, those horrible things that come with packed out cushioning, cramped toes, pinched angles, zero insulation, and Frankenstein-style walking. And while no pair of boots will ever fit as comfortably as a pair of plush lamb’s wool slippers, today’s ski boots provide unparalleled comfort, support, stability, and control, with features like walking modes and custom-fit liners that rentals will never match.

In building your ski kit, boots are the best place to start — they’re the primary way you control your skis, and all boots will work with rental skis, so you can get a pair of boots before deciding on the perfect pair of skis. In choosing the right boot, think about what type of skier you are. Those who want serious control on edging when racing, running moguls, or aggressively lapping runs want something stiff and tight, while more casual skiers can opt for boots that provide a bit more comfort and plush add-ons like heated inner booties. Backcountry and hike-in skiers, meanwhile, want something that’s light and offers a lot of flex and maneuverability at the ankles. And women should also go for boots that have been built with smaller feet and toes in mind to help you achieve your natural, forward-leaning posture for better control and comfort.

Want some pointers when shopping for ski boots? Take a peek below for our recommendations of the best ski boots to buy today.

Our Top Picks

01 of 09

Best Overall: K2 Pinnacle Pro

K2 Pinnacle Pro
Amazon

Seattle-based K2 has been making some of the industry’s best skis since 1962, but they waited decades before dropping their first ski boot. That patience has paid off. The Pinnacle Pro is the lightest boot in their freeride line, with an overall stiff construction for maximum control and a last that threads the needle between narrow and wide. It uses their proprietary Y-shaped spine, which runs up the back of the boot, to add strength and power to the Energy Interlock system, bolstering fore and aft flexing and lateral stiffness to help you respond to every turn smoothly.

And, for hike ascents, you can disengage the Synchro Interlock, detaching the upper cuff from the lower shell, to increase fore/aft mobility and increased forward flex. Lock it down, and it’s a full-on downhill boot, with an asymmetrical tongue, pre-molded ankle pockets, and a medium-density collar and foam package that offers cushion without sacrificing control. A pre-molded inner boot can be heat-molded to fit the specific contours of your feet, with four adjustable clamp-down buckles and a massive Velcro top strap to dial in the optimal fit.

02 of 09

Best Value: Salomon S/Max 100

Targeted to strong intermediates looking to up their game — and cash in on Salomon’s custom fit technology — the S/Max 100 carries a slightly narrow forefoot and a narrow leg shaft that almost makes them look streamlined. Part of that is thanks to the new CoreFrame technology, which boasts a thinner wall than other models, reinforced with fiberglass to give you solid connection to your skis for optimal power transfer and control. The heat-molded shell itself can be customized; just hook up with an authorized dealer to use their oven, and the fit is dialed in about 30 minutes. And the customization also carries over to the boot liner, which you can heat-mold to match the shape and contours of your feet. The boot hovers a bit on the stiff side, with a standard four-buckle secure closure and a Velcro strap across the top.

03 of 09

Best for Racing: Lange World Cup RS ZA+

Lange World Cup RS ZA+
Courtesy of Lange Boots

Racers want boots that others would find insanely tight and very stiff — but that’s what you need to execute precise control on your skis at high speed. Designed to fit as close to your feet as possible, the World Cup RS ZA+ gives you optimal reactivity and precision for best-in-class power transfer. Constructed on Lange’s Dual Core system, the boot utilizes the softer and more rigid durometers of Grilamid plastic at key areas of the boot, with a sandwich shell composition that lets you enter and exit turns with confidence, while the Dual 3D Liners made of high-density PU foam have been pre-shaped to match the inner shell to further enhance agility and control.

04 of 09

Best for Women: Tecnica Mach1 MV 105 W

Built on a femme-specific medium last, the Mach1 MV 105 W utilizes Tecnica’s Custom Adaptive Shape tech to let you configure various fit solutions for both the shell and liner to make the boot fit like a glove. The plush lambs wool lining has been treated with Celliant micro-crystals that convert body heat into infrared radiation to stimulate blood circulation and increasing warmth — another bane that often plagues more woman skiers than men.

After performing scientific studies to ID the optimal stance for femme skiers, they’ve made the boot to be more forward-leaning, with a slightly higher back spine to increase performance and balance and to fight fatigue. The Mach1 MV also comes in three different volumes — low, mid, and high — to match every foot shape. Even the buckles are positioned at 45-degree angles to make it easy to pull them off and on. Beyond all those comfort-focused tweaks, you also get optimal energy transfer and control, from powder skiing and bumps to groomers and glade runs.

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05 of 09

Best for the Backcountry: Scarpa Maestrale

Scarpa has been making navigating the backcountry and ski touring easier for decades — and the Maestrale is the culmination of all their hard-earned experience. The Speedlock Plus makes it easy to transition from ski to walk mode, the latter of which boasts some of the most ankle flex in the industry. Lock it down, and it’s almost as responsive as a dedicated alpine boot thanks to the Grimalid shell and cuff that’s stiff for power transfer but flexible enough to dampen the rough stuff.

The lower section of the boot is secured by one bucket, which tightens a flexible wire that’s threaded across the toe to the inner arch for a snug fit without hot spots. The inner liner is equipped with waterproof/breathable OutDry fabric along with plush Intuition Cross Fit Pro Flex G padding that molds to match your feet as you wear ‘em, though candidly they’re ready to go right out of the box. And you also get a solid, sure grip under foot when hiking — a huge benefit for touring in the backcountry — thanks to the Vibram Cayman Pro outsole.

06 of 09

Best for Wide Feet: Nordica Sportmachine 110

Wide feet can make wearing ski boots akin to Chinese foot binding. Thankfully the Sportsmachine 110 from Nordica has heard your cries. This high-performance boot sits on a wider last than the rest of their line, and is designed to accommodate high-volume feet, with an aggressive overall flex that’s just a wee bit more forgiving than their more aggressive Sportsmachine 130. The result? Day-long comfort without giving up control.

The boot comes with Primaloft insulation for added warmth and padding, while the inner liner can be customized to fit by dropping it in the oven and then heat-molding it to your feet. The outer shell, meanwhile, is also custom-ready and uses infrared tech to add volume to trouble spots like the outer toe box and the top of the foot’s arch to relieve pressure from sensitive areas and typical bunion or blister spots. Beyond all that custom comfort, you also get a tri-force shell construction that utilizes three different plastics that make it easy to get in and out of the boot while still offering maximum power transfer when in the saddle.

07 of 09

Best for Warmth: K2 Recon 120 Heat

The Recon 120 utilizes four different TPUs that help narrow the shell wall thickness to deliver elite-level performance with the lowest weight possible, with PU strategically placed where the boot meets the binding for reactive power transfer, along with medium and softer PU around the body of the foot and near the instep to dampen vibration.

As with other K2 boots, the Recon is built around the company’s Spyne tech, a co-injected Y-shaped support that runs the length of the back of the boot to max flex in the fore and aft while also keeping things stiff and responsive when you need it. Both the shell and the liner are heat-moldable, but — as its name implies — the Recon 120 Heat adds another essential element for cold-footed skiers: an integrated electronic heating system within the liner that runs on three settings to deliver warmth for four to 19 hours.

08 of 09

Best for Comfort: Fischer RC4 Curv 130

You’ll never be inspired to wear your ski boots unless you’re actually skiing, but if you score a pair of the RC4 Curv 130s, you may not rush to kick them off at après. Fisher employs their exclusive RC4 Curv construction in their liner, which boasts three defined function zones and comes in three versions: hard for optimal power, medium for more comfort through those zones, and soft, which optimizes the comfort by bolstering the space of that zone. Better still, the tongue is 100 percent seamless, assuring a tight fit without any risk of friction against the thread.

An anatomical last marries the heat-moldable Aramid outer shell — which is reinforced inside and out by thermos-moldable structural fibers — to the liner, which bolsters not only the overall comfortable fit, but also puts you closer to “feeling” the ski for energy transfer, control, and flex.

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09 of 09

Best for Ski-Hike Perfection: Rossignol Alltrack 110

If your alpine ambitions include quick summit hikes to catch a few extra fresh turns after getting off the lift (to say nothing of the long slog from parking lot to the lift line and back again), the Alltrack 110 proves that you don’t have to give up on performance when wearing a boot with a comfortable walking mode. Dubbed Hike Mode 2.0, the setting includes a forward-leaning opening in the back of the lower shell and a lower axis of rotation to provide 50 percent mobility, with an articulating lower shell insert and a metal-on-metal locking mechanism to lock things down when descending.

The shell, meanwhile, employs Rossignol’s Sensor Grid, which makes the boot rigid enough to push energy into the turns with the lightness and freedom of movement hikers need. Inside, the Thermo Optisensor 3D T3 liners include dual-density molded padding in key fit zones to amp comfort, warmth, and support, with an adaptable rear cuff to let you achieve even more mobility. It may not give you same range of movement that you’d find in a backcountry-specific boot, but for resort-centric two-footed exploration, it’s tops.

Our Process 

Our writers spent 20 hours researching the most popular ski boots on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 10 different boots overall, screened options from 11 different brands and manufacturers, read over 10 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 3 of the boots themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.