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The thrill of barreling down a snowy hill on a flimsy plastic sled as a child surely kick-started a lifelong enthusiasm among many regular skiers and snowboarders, but there are some pretty obvious differences between an upturned snow shovel and an actual pair of skis. For one thing, there’s a lot more gear involved in skiing. If you’re regularly hitting the slopes, you may want to invest in your own boots. You’ll save money in the long run, and you can ensure that you’ll find something that actually fits you. Boots vary tremendously by performance and design (and price, for that matter) which is why it’s important to consider a few key factors before pulling the trigger on a pair of new ski boots.
When buying regular shoes for work or the weekend, you really only have to think of one number, and that’s your shoe size. But there’s a second number that you have to look at when buying ski boots, and that’s the flex index. As the name implies, the flex index refers to how much the boot flexes. A higher number indicates a more rigid boot. More skilled skiers generally prefer a stiffer boot because it’s more responsive and offers greater control. Ski boots are also sized differently, and generally use a universal scale called mondopoint. REI has a helpful table that breaks down mondopoint and how it relates to your regular shoe size.
You’ll also want to consider what kind of skiing you’re doing. Downhill skiing, cross-country and backcountry have different requirements, and you’ll want different boots depending on what you’re doing. We’ve rounded up some of the best skiing boots that you can buy online.
1. Salomon S/PRO 100 Ski Boots
These boots are from Salomon, one of the most trusted (and surprisingly trendy) outdoor brands. It has a medium flex (100) making it a good all-around option for intermediate skiers. The interior liner is custom moldable, so these boots will fit to your feet more closely. The various customizable features make it a great option for anyone who wants a comfortable boot.
2. Rossignol Evo 70 Ski Boots
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
These boots from Rossignol are listed as 70 on the flex index, making them softer and more flexible. That means that they’re great options for beginners. The last width is on the wider end, making it more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. And while the red and black color won’t make you go any faster, it sure makes the boots look cooler.
3. Lange XT3 120 Ski Boots
BEST ALPINE TOURING BOOTS
If you’re looking for a stiffer boot, consider this option from Lange, which is 120 on the flex index. It has a custom moldable liner made from Thermal-formal Ultralon foam. These boots are alpine touring are suitable for downhill and backcountry, and the walk mode makes these easier to wear when you’re not going downhill.
4. Nordica Speedmachine 85 Ski Boots – Women’s
BEST WOMEN’S BOOTS
In terms of women’s boots, this pair from Nordica is a good option. The 85 flex index rating makes it a good intermediate option, and the liner is custom moldable. The lightweight shell is more comfortable and easier to put on. The insulation is Primaloft, a breathable and water-resistant material that is partially made from recycled materials.
5. Alpina Alaska Backcountry Boot
BEST CROSS-COUNTRY BOOT
For a cross-country boot, consider this option from Alpina, which has moderate flex to accommodate to different kinds of terrain. The genuine leather upper adds a touch of style and ruggedness, but the waterproof membrane protects your feet. Thinsulate insulation will keep you warm, too.
6. Fischer XC Ski Boots – Women’s
BEST WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY BOOTS
These women’s ski boots from Fischer are a good option for cross-country skiing. The uppers are made from a fabric that’s breathable but waterproof, making them comfortable for long backcountry trips. The heel tabs make the boots easy to pull on and off as well.
7. Dalbello Sports Lupo Pro HD Alpine Touring Boot
BEST FOR EXPERIENCED SKIERS
These boots from Dalbello are designed with backcountry touring in mind, and they have a stiff 130 flex rating and narrow 98mm last, making them well suited to more experienced skiers. The liner is Thermo-moldable for a customized fit.