Alpine ski boots, Outside Buyers' Guide, Fall 2016

AlpineBootsOBGBoots don’t have to be torture devices. Here’s what to look for when buying your next pair—plus seven of our favorites.

The holy grail of the ski world? A comfortable boot that doesn’t sacrifice power for roominess. Gear designers have wrestled with this problem for years, but we’ve seen some significant gains this season with three major developments. 

First, companies are offering stiffer, speed-hungry models in medium and wide widths. Behold the best-in-test Rossignol Allspeed Pro 120 (100 millimeters; $750), which let our broad-footed testers enjoy race-car speed and precision. Full Tilt, a cult-favorite brand championed by Seth Morrison, introduced the wider Descendant (102 millimeters; $750) to let big dogs enjoy the shin-cushioning benefit of three-piece construction. 

Next, custom fitting, which started with heat-moldable liners, has progressed to shells. The Tecnica Cochise Pro 130 (left, 98 millimeters; $840) accommodates bulging ankles and metatarsals. Need further tweaking? The shell’s dimpled plastic can easily be reshaped. The Salomon QST Pro 120 (100 millimeters; $725) has a heat-­moldable Grilamid exoskeleton that’s svelte (3.5 pounds per boot) yet stiff. Instead of heat, the Nordica Speedmachine 130 (100 millimeters; $799) uses infrared rays and suction to dial in critical fit zones.

Lastly, new materials are allowing brands to add stiffness while shedding weight. With a walk mode and sole compatible with DIN and tech bindings, the 130-flex K2 ­Pinnacle Pro (100 millimeters; $950) drives big planks, but the ultralight buckles and plastics add up to just 4.2 pounds per boot. Even lighter (3.7 pounds), the Atomic Hawx Ultra 130 (98 millimeters; $700) trims weight with a graduated shell that’s thick where necessary for maximum power transfer and thin everywhere else.