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Even though skiers are spending more time hiking into the backcountry, their boots are still geared to traditional lift-access runs. Most alpine boots have cuffs and uppers that are single, rigid pieces, which makes walking in them awkward and painful. And boots made specifically for trudging through snow are so flexible that they’re harder to control when skiing downhill. With stronger materials and adjustable cuffs, manufacturers are creating a new, adaptable breed of boot—one that offers comfort on the way up without sacrificing support on the run down.

1) K2 Pinnacle 130

With the flip of a lever, the Pinnacle 130 boots toggle easily between walking and skiing modes. When a skier locks the cuff in place, a carbon-fiber insert slides into the upper to provide extra stiffness. When the boots are in walk mode, the insert lifts into the cuff, which allows the skier to move freely. $850

2) Scarpa Freedom SL

People say one pound of weight on the feet adds five pounds of pressure on the back. At 3.9 pounds each, the Scarpa Freedom SLs are the lightest alpine boots available. Designers thinned the shell in areas where a skier doesn’t need much support, such as the top of the upper, shaving about half a pound off each boot. $769

3) Black Diamond Factor MX

The Factor MXs have a greater range of motion than any other alpine boots: 40 degrees in walk mode. The cuff rotates on ball joints, so the boot moves more naturally with the ankle. A whale-tail cutout in the calf of the shell leaves room for the leg to flex so skiers can take longer strides. $769

This article originally appeard in the January 2014 issue of Popular Science.