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The 7 Touring Ski Boots of 2020-2021 - Men's & Women's

In recent years the touring boot category has simply exploded. More and more brands are offering great boots that walk well, and offer plenty of power on the down. There’s never been a better time to be in the market for new touring boots. That said, not all touring boots are created equal. In general, most boots fall somewhere on a spectrum of compromises. That’s because boot brands are trying to make a product that strikes a balance between being very light, with a huge range of motion for uphill hiking, while still being stiff and supportive enough to drive wide skis in variable snow conditions.

Every brand approaches that conundrum differently, and every skier personally prefers a different level of support and uphill comfort from their boots. So the key to finding good touring boots is finding a boot that strikes the right balance of lightweight and high ROM, while still skiing downhill at the level you need. With our picks of the best alpine touring and backcountry ski boots of 2021, we aimed for the middle of the spectrum with boots balanced for uphill and downhill performance. This means you won’t find the most lightweight randonee racing boots nor the most stout boot that still has a walk mode on the list, but rather the best all-around touring boots. That’s why we’ve broken down each boot on this list, explaining its strengths and weaknesses, and rating where it lies on that spectrum. We’ve also included relevant info with flex ratings and range of motion to help you understand at a glance where each boot’s priorities lie.

Atomic Hawx Prime XTD 130 and 115 W

Best 2020-2021 touring ski boots

Atomic’s Hawx XTD line was one of the first big name boot lines to strike a really nice compromise between uphill chops and downhill power in a way that works for a lot of people. The “Prime” is a new version of the XTD that features all the same technology, with a slightly wider last, for folks with wider feet. So if you have a narrow foot, you’re not missing out on anything by going with the regular XTD, but if your toes need a little more room to breathe, the XTD Prime is the boot for you. Similarly, the XTD 115 W offers the same features at a slightly softer flex and smaller sizes for women.

The folks at Atomic went to a lot of pains dialing in the Hawx line, every detail has been accounted for. The Hawx liner is one of the best in this group. It’s fairly light, but fits and feels much more like a race level liner than a lightweight touring liner. And, to help you further dial in fit, the Hawx Prime has a fully heat moldable shell as well.

The Hawx Prime XTD is a “do-everything” touring boot. It has a 130 flex, so it’s stiff enough for even the biggest skiers, but that flex number is only a tiny part of the equation. Luckily, the Hawx isn’t just stiff, it’s also damp and supportive, it does a very efficient job of transferring power to your skis. It genuinely skis well enough that most skiers will have no problem skiing it every day as their inbounds boot. It’s remarkably stiff and supportive for its weight. And that weight is low enough that you won’t be held back by your boot on all-day touring missions. If you’re looking for one pair of touring boots that can handle any day on snow, the Hawx XTD is our top choice.

FlexWeightRange of MotionOriginal Price 
130, 1151650g (Size 26.5)54 degrees$799 (Men's), $699 (Women's)

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Dalbello Lupo Air 130

Best 2020-2021 touring ski boots

The Dalbello Lupo Air is a relatively unique take on creating the best lightweight touring ski boots. The Lupo Air is much lighter than the Hawx XTD, and it cuts that weight in some creative ways. Most three piece boots have a clog, a cuff, and tongue. The Lupo Air ditches the tongue in favor of an extended cuff that wraps around your shin, and a waterproof gaiter where the tongue would usually sit. This saves a lot of weight, but also gives the Lupo Air a unique on-snow feel. It’s not as “locked in” feeling as the heavier boots on this list. Sure, it’s still got a stiff flex, but it’s not as damp, and your foot doesn’t feel as secure, so it’s a little more challenging to ski fast when the snow is inconsistent, but that’s not really the point of the Lupo Air.

It’s designed to be super lightweight on the up, to get you to untracked powder and un-skied lines. This isn’t a boot that’s designed to do double duty inbounds - it’s too light. Sure, you’ll be fine taking a lap through the resort after a day in the backcountry, but, unlike some of the boots on this list, it’s not a one-boot quiver. Instead, it’s a great dedicated backcountry boot with superior hiking performance.

So if you’re looking for something very light, that walks really well, and has a stiff flex, the Lupo Air is the boot for you. But if you want your touring boot to serve double duty on resort days and have the ability to drive fat skis, you should be looking at a heavier boot.

FlexWeightRange of MotionOriginal Price 
1301299g (Size 26.5)67 degrees$799.95

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Dalbello Lupo AX 105 W

Best women's touring ski boots

The Lupo AX 105 W is Dalbello’s take on a do-it-all touring boot for women. It’s not as exotic as the Lupo Air, instead it’s got a tried and true three piece design, with a removable tongue for touring. This design is really good for versatile boots. Removing the tongue allows the Lupo AX to have a great range of motion while skinning or hiking, but once you’ve slipped it back in you’ve got the smooth flex and support of a much beefier boot. On top of that, Dalbello offers the Lupo AX 105 W in true small women’s sizes, instead of just slipping a thicker liner into a bigger shell. So ladies with smaller feet can get a snug fit with the Lupo.

The Lupo AX isn’t quite as light as something like the Lupo Air, but it walks almost as well with the tongue removed, and skies much better on the way down. While it’s not quite as powerful as a true inbounds boot, a lot of skiers will be able to get away with this as their only boot, it handles inbounds skiing quite well. Of course, the removable tongue that makes the Lupo AX so versatile, also has its downside. It’s a bit of a hassle to have to swap your tongue in and out at transitions, especially if you’re skiing with friends with simpler boots. It’s not the end of the world at all, it’s just something to keep in mind. If you want the simplest transitions possible, and similar uphill and downhill performance, the Hawx Prime or Zero G is a good option. But if you’re a fan of how three piece boots feel, and want to just have one pair of boots that work fine for just about any day on skis, the Lupo AX 105 is great for you.

FlexWeightRange of MotionOriginal Price 
1051620g (Size 24.5)67 degrees$549

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Salomon Shift Pro 130

The best touring ski boots of 2021

So far we’ve been dealing with touring boots that fall a little more on the uphill, or do-it-all end of the spectrum. The Shift Pro 130 is a radical departure from that. Its sole focus is to deliver the same power and precision you’re used to from an inbounds boot. That shouldn’t be a surprise since it shares the “Shift” name with Salomon’s game-changing binding, and it’s based off Salomon’s S/Pro inbounds boot, with a very similar fit and construction. So yes, the Shift Pro 130 holds its own inbounds, and we have no reservations recommending it to folks who are buying new boots and think they may tour at some point, but don’t want to sacrifice any inbounds performance.

All that said, the Shift Pro does a reasonable job on the way up too. Sure, it’s one of the heavier boots on this list, and doesn’t have a huge range of motion, but it does just fine on short to mid-length skins. Of course, this isn’t the boot to choose if most of your touring days are long, with a bunch of human-powered vertical feet. Instead, it’s perfect for short backcountry laps out the resort, or sled-assisted skiing. Sort of like the Shift binding it compliments. So if that sounds like you, the Shift Pro is one of the best skiing touring boots.

FlexWeightRange of MotionOriginal Price 
1301670g (Size 26.5)40 degrees$799

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Technical Zero G Tour Pro

Best 2020-2021 alpine touring ski boots

The Zero G has always been Technica’s lighter do-it-all touring boot, and the current iteration is no different. The Zero G is very light, it competes with the Lupo Air for low weight and range of motion, but it skis much better than you’d expect. This isn’t some dainty, backcountry-only slipper. Instead the Zero G is happy to take a few inbounds laps, while still being optimized for big days with lots of vert. It’s very similar to the Hawx XTD in this regard, although it’s just slightly less capable in firm snow.

The Zero G also features an innovative walk mode with a single lever that unlocks two separate portions of the shell. This allows the Zero G to walk very well, while still locking down stiff and secure for the way down. And that’s indicative of the Zero G’s whole ethos, from its lightweight buckles, that still offer the security of a four buckle boot, to its easy to unlock power strap, to its Vibram sole, the Zero G has been carefully tuned for versatility. It does everything pretty darn well, and doesn’t have any real weaknesses, which makes it a great choice for a whole bunch of skiers.

WeightFlexRange of MotionOriginal Price 
1301320g (Size 25.5)55 degrees$899.95

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K2 Mindbender 130 and 115 Alliance

The best men's & women's touring ski boots

K2 describes their new Mindbender as a mullet. They’re all business up front, with a burly shell and 130 flex, based on their Recon inbounds boot. But when it’s time to party, the Mindbender’s got an easy to use walk mode with a great range of motion, and a relatively light weight. So this boot is a little harder to categorize than others on this list. It’s most similar to something like the Hawx Prime XTD. It’s stiff enough for inbounds skiing, but lacks that super smooth ride a heavier boot like the Salomon Shift would deliver. It walks really well, but it doesn’t have the super low weight and flexible liner of something like the Lupo Air. Instead it falls into the do-it-all category with a slight bias toward shorter days, lift or sled assisted laps, and fast skiing in variable snow.

K2 makes the Mindbender in a 110 flex “Alliance” women’s version as well, so ladies can have the same access to a very versatile touring boot. At the end of the day, the Mindbender is a great boot for someone who often heads out to go skiing without a definite plan for the day. It’s happy to head out the gates for a long tour, or just lap groomers inbounds if the avy danger is high. If the idea of a do-it-all boot appeals to you, and you want something a little burlier than the Zero G, but not as heavy and hard to hike in as the Shift, the Mindbender series are some of the best backcountry ski boots.

FlexWeightRange of MotionOriginal Price 
130, 1101740g (Size 26.5)55 degrees$699.95, $599.95

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Full Tilt Ascendant Sammy Carlson

The best touring ski boots of 2021

Full Tilt has long been a household name for park and freestyle skiers, but they’ve recently stepped into the touring game with their “Ascendant” line of boots. The Ascendant is designed to offer folks who love Full Tilt’s fit and three piece feel a touring-ready boot that doesn’t compromise at all on downhill performance. And Full Tilt has managed to nail that goal, the Ascendant feels exactly identical to its inbounds sibling, the Descendant while you’re skiing. The Sammy Carlson version of the Ascendant gets a more cushy liner, a modified power strap, and more durable (and heavier) shell material, but is identical in every other way. So hard-charging skiers will prefer the Sammy Carlson model, but more weight-focused folks should go for the standard version.

When it’s time to head uphill the Ascendant’s removable tongue and walk mode mean it’s happy to slog along just fine. Of course, this is far from the lightest boot in this group, it’s closer to the Shift than something like the Lupo Air, and it feels like it on the uphills. But setting speed records up steep skin tracks isn’t the point of the Ascendant. It’ll get you to the top just fine, but it’s in no hurry. The focus of this boot is on the down, and that’s where Full Tilt nails it. Overall, this makes the ascendant not only one of the best three-piece touring boots, bit one of the best wide touring boots with its 102mm last.

FlexWeightRange of MotionOriginal Price 
1201930g (Size 27.5)60 degrees$649

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