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Ski boots are the most crucial piece while outfitting your gear setup. The greatest ski and binding combo will not do you any good if your feet are uncomfortable and you spend your day in the lodge. It is essential to find a pair of boots that fit your feet, more so than the technology in the boot itself. There are a handful of specifics that you need to consider when shopping for new ski boots, such as the size, flex, and last. Understanding these pieces will save you from spending your money at the bootfitter or buying a second pair of boots. For a better understanding of these specs, take a look at the text and charts below.
Boots are sized in Mondo Point sizing. Here is a sizing chart for your convenience. In general, beginners want a boot that directly corresponds to their street shoe size. Intermediates should go a half size smaller. Experts should go a full size smaller. If you add the first two number of the mondo point size that will equate to a men's US street shoe size, for example a 26.0 would be a US mens 7.
There is no difference between men's and women's sizing when it comes to Mondo Point sizing, but there are some slight differences within the design of the boot. One major difference is the height of the cuff, on a women's specific boot the cuff will be much shorter to accomodate lower calf muscles. There are some boots that will have adjustability in that cuff as well to provide even more flexibility. Often times the materials used in the liners will be more plush, providing even more warmth and comfort.
The higher the number on the flex index, the stiffer the boot. The metric associated with flex varies from brand to brand. Skiers lighter in weight and beginner to intermediate skiers tend to prefer a boot with a softer flex. Conversely, heavier and more aggressive skiers are more likely to prefer a stiffer boot. On the women's side, flex starts around 50 and go up to about 110 flex before you get into race boots. For men, the flex range starts at around 80 and ventures up to 130 before getting into racing boots. These flex suggestions are a good rule of thumb but the height and weight of the skier using them also factors in. An expert male skier that weighs 140 lbs may not need a 130 flex boot to gain the same performance as someone weighing 220 lbs. Likewise, a heavier skier that is a beginner or intermediate may need a stiffer boot as well.
|Ability||Men's Flex||Women's Flex|
|Beginner||Less than 80||Less than 65|
Measured in millimeters, the last refers to the width of the boot at its widest point, which is generally across the forefoot. Narrower boots are best for expert, aggressive skiers, who care more about performance than comfort. Foot width factors in as well, with narrow-footed skiers preferring boots with narrower lasts. Keep in mind that in general, the narrower the boot the less comfortable it will be, but the higher level of control you will have over your skis. Most people like to find a happy medium between a tight performance fit and a wider comfort fit.
This is the type of boot that most people think of when envisioning ski boots. There will be a firm toe and heel piece with little to no rubber on the base of the boot. If you have a traditional downhill setup, this is the style of boot you are looking for. These types of boots will work in any downhill binding as well as frame-style touring bindings.
With backcountry skiing becoming increasingly popular, there is an influx of alpine touring boots on the market today. These boots will have a 'lugged sole' providing much more traction for hiking/climbing than the plastic bottoms of traditional downhill ski boots. This aggressive lugged sole also requires specific bindings to step into and will not fit within a DIN Sole binding. As these styles of boots become more popular companies are finding ways to accommodate these soles, such as the Marker Griffon ID and Salomon Warden MNC. These bindings allow a technician to move the toe height up and down allowing for a release regardless of the sole type. The preferred application to use with these boots would be a pin-tech binding such as a G3 Ion 12, or Marker Kingpin 13, or any Dynafit binding. These will be the lightest weight setup for touring uphill, but require the tech inserts found on alpine touring boots.
The introduction of WTR boots is designed to bridge the gap between a downhill boot sole and an alpine touring sole. WTR boots have a rockered toe sole to allow for easier walking, but also require a WTR compatible binding by Look, Rossignol, Salomon, or Atomic. Most boots that come with a WTR Sole will have an additional alpine sole kit that you can swap out for to use with regular bindings. Look and Rossignol call their WTR bindings Dual, such as the Look Pivot 14 Dual, which will work with both WTR and downhill soles but not alpine touring boots.
The newestmulti-norm soles that will allow for the boot to click into both alpine touring bindings, as well as downhill alpine bindings. Some examples of these would be the Technica Cochise 120 DYN or the K2 Pinnacle 110. These boots have an alpine compatible sole that also has tech fittings built into the toes and heels. This is designed to allow skiers to have one boot that they could use for both touring and resort skiing.
Many boot companies are incorporating some sort of Hike or Walk mode in their boots. This addition is for varying reason depending on the skier, some higher end boots incorporate this walk mode for accessing side country and hiking on the mountain to access more technical terrain. At the same time, some of the comfort oriented boots will have this feature to ease the trek from the parking lot to the lift, including K2's Apres Mode on their B.F.C. models. When looking for a boot with a hike mode one thing to consider would be the range of motion. This will make hiking and/or touring much more efficient if the boot you choose has a higher range of motion. One additional point to consider would be the fact that boots with a hike mode will not be as stiff as a boot without a hike mode. Regardless of the boot considering, the spine of a boot with a hike mode will soften the chassis and not provide as rigid of a flex.
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