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Oh boy, these are some of the most “missed” numbers: mis-understood, mis-represented, and mis-referenced. We see flex ranges from 50 to 150 for adult boots. Why and how are these numbers set? You might as well try to figure out airline pricing models or the calculation of your credit score. I almost wonder if some manufacturers have a big “Price Is Right” wheel in the product room; they spin it, and whatever number it lands on will be the flex. No, that isn’t what happens, but what makes one boot a 120 and one a 130? Very good question. It tends not to be a difference in the plastic of the shell; it usually it comes down to MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) or MAP (minimum advertised price). Yes, boot flex is based as much on price as on actual stiffness.

Look at any boot wall: start at the bottom and work your way up. As you do this, the numbers go up, too, both in flex and in price. Is a 120-flex boot a $100 better boot than a 110 flex, which is $100 more than a 100 flex? In many cases, no. The difference is because every $50 price point must be represented; each brand needs to offer a boot at $399 to $799 (MAP) and all of the $X49.00 and $X99.00 price points in between.

No this isn't a bad thing, you aren't being taken advantage of -- but look past the number and see the boot and what you are getting for your money. As you spend more money, usually you get higher quality. Look at the buckles: as a boot gets more expensive, the buckles will be screwed on rather than riveted, making the boot easier to work on. The cuff will be bolted on instead of riveted. The most important level of quality is a better liner. The difference between a 100- and a 120-flex boot might just be the liner, and in most cases, a better liner is well worth that step up.

All 110-flex boots are not created equal. There is no standardized rating for flex, no independent lab that tests boots and gives them a stamp of approval. This is why you hear that a boot is a stiff 110 or soft 130. You might also notice that a women’s boot is a 95 or 105 while the men's version is 100 or 110. Is there really a measurable difference of 5? Well, some feel there has to be a marketing difference because [sarcasm hat on] no woman can flex a 110 boot; a 105 is as stiff as she can handle, plus it sounds much better [/sarcasm hat off]. I use the 105/110 flexes as an example, but pick almost any manufacturer and you will see differences between men's and women's ratings.

What do all of these numbers actually mean to you? Nothing more than a point of reference. It will still come down to fit and how you flex the boot to actuate the ski to turn. Not all beginners need a soft 50-flex boot, and not all experts need an I-beam-stiff race boot, but all skiers need a boot that fits their foot and that will transfer their energy to the ski.

Link to: The Numbers Game Boots, Part 1.
About author
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.


Flex number comparisons across manufacturers are useless. But flex number comparisons within manufactures may not mean much either. I have a pair of Dalbello Axion 9s which have a 100 flex. I tried on a pair of Dalebllo Pantera 120s (120 flex) and they were way softer than my Axions. Go figure.

Moral of the story: never purchase a pair of boots without trying them on first.
I’ve noticed this too anecdotally. Is there any known info on manufacture differences that anyone has seen consistently?
Such as Nordica’s run soft, Langes run stuff, etc?
I’ve noticed this too anecdotally. Is there any known info on manufacture differences that anyone has seen consistently?
Such as Nordica’s run soft, Langes run stuff, etc?
No consistancy anywhere, even between collections.
Should i look for stiffer boots or not?
Last spring when i got back into skiing after >15 yr lapse, my ancient Dolomites exploded and i needed a pair of boots fast before the season ended. Searching what could be gleaned online, i settled on Rossignol track 110 or 90. Boots got good ratings, but choice also was based "largely" because my feet are very wide. 9-1/2 EEE with very high arches. Locally 110's were not available in my size but Bergers had a pair of 90's. They were professionally fitted, (What great staff!) I set the camber with my wife's help, and after a further session on Berger's machine to stretch the width some more, they have been fairly comfortable and reasonably "solid". {Certainly better than any boot previously owned in almost 60 years)

If i did not read Skitalk and other forums, i probably would not wonder if there might be improvements to be had.
This year i take a weekly lesson, ski at least twice/week (all day), carve turns on all front side slopes and seem to have advanced. Lots of work remains, & i intend to keep doing so.

Again, the boots seem more or less "fine" to me, but what do i know?
Other than reading, the small thing that prompts me to wonder is that the buckles are screwed down to minimum, and if i boot up in the lot with access to a screwdriver for prybar/leverage in my truck, all except the arch buckle are cranked down to the last notch. OTOH, I can ski comfortably when booting up in the lodge, with most of the buckles in the next to last notch, or even one less.

Until last season, i had never been at a ski area that included "off piste" terrain, but am somewhat interested in exploring as i get better. Realistically, i am essentially a front side skier, but would prefer to develop in less groomed terrain than seems to have become the norm today. At my age it would be difficult to spend all day in moguls, but my aspiration is to begin to include them more & more in my repertoire as they begin to grow in some areas on the hill, and my abilities grow or return on modern skis.

Thanks for any musings, comments, or advice.
I’ve noticed this too anecdotally. Is there any known info on manufacture differences that anyone has seen consistently?
Such as Nordica’s run soft, Langes run stuff, etc?
It's so weird. My first pair of Langes (L8) were so stiff I had to hang out in the lodge till the plastic had warmed up before I could put them one. And getting them off after the Vermont cold was a chore.
I bought some Lange RX 100s and they were quite soft.
Recently I bought Nordica Speed Machine 130s and they are stiffer than the RX 100s but can be put on and taken off fairly easily.
I also have Rossi Hero 110s and they are easy to put on and take off.
There is not much correlation as to boot flex among brands.... there is no standardization. Within brands, if the same model year.... usually the graduation of flex has some efficacy... so 150 flex is the stiffest boot in that particular brand... while maybe 90 or below is the softest... however... a 130 in the World Cup race line a particular brand is most probably stiffer than the 130 in the all mountain line in the same brand.

Go with fit first.... then assess flex.

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