How we rate boots

It's tough to grade boots. Fit is personal and is so critical to the match between skier and boot, and all the boots we test are among each brand's best. That's why you find a review for every boot we test on We know there are foot matches out there for each of these models.

As part of our partnership with SKI and SKIING magazines we have to whittle down the field to a select number of boots that appear in the print Buyer’s Guides. In order to do this fairly, we employ a complex scoring system that approaches each boot in a variety of different ways to reduce bias and ensure as fair a test result as possible.

Boots are tested within targeted use and skill categories and against similar-width boots. Narrows are tested with other narrows, wides with wides. Our testers understand that the foot-shape targets and design goals are different for different widths and different categories.

Using a 1-10 scale, testers judge boots on five macro criteria:

  • Anatomic Fit & Initial Feel
  • Dynamic Balance
  • Edge Power/Fore-Aft Support
  • Quickness, Steering & Feel for the ski and snow
  • Convenience (Entry/Exit, Warmth & Features)

These scores were averaged for the score matrix’s “initial score.” Custom technology models were tested both off-the-rack and as custom tests. Those score averages are both shown separately, stock first, custom second with the aggregate total average last, like 39.8/34/39.4

We then asked veteran testers who tested a large number of models to identify their “top 50%” of boots within a given category and width. This is a “reality check” for the numeric scoring to ensure that testers’ best boots didn’t somehow get lost in a scoring anomaly. We awarded a half-point for every top-half vote and added that to the initial score. This provides a bit more differentiation between the models’ scores and helps separate the most-favored from the rest.

We also review every test form on every model to ensure that written tester sentiment matches the numeric score—for unanimously positive test forms we add 1.5 points to the score; for majority positive forms 1 point; for generally positive forms 0.5 point. Again, this adjustment doesn’t make or break for any given model but does help break ties and is another way that we “triangulate” the position of one boot versus another.


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