Ski boots for the 2014-2015 ski season
Ski boots for the upcoming ski season will see refined or evolved boot models that are already in the market. The refinements consist mostly of last shape, liner improvements, shell customization and walk/ski devices on alpine ski boots that perform at a very high level.
The advances that make contemporary ski boots lighter (somewhat), completely moldable, more or less flexible, easier to get in or out of (again…somewhat), easier to fit and to tailor functionally have also been noted ad-infinitum…still worthy of comment however.
Over the last decade or so ramp angle and forward lean have decreased so the skier stands flatter on the skis and straighter up. Ramp angle relates to the bottom inside of the ski boots-the “zeppa” or bootboard that the liner sits on. Forward lean has to do with the upper cuff and how far forward it is fixed.
Because modern skis need far less force to engage, the skier doesn’t need to be forced into a more forward position over the front of the skis. It is more practical to stand more upright, bearing your weight through the skeleton rather than the muscles. Virtually all boot manufacturers have arrived at more or less the same conclusion regarding ramp and lean.
For several ski seasons we’ve recognized the vastly improved biomechanical traits integrated into ski boot shell designs. The subject may perhaps be wearisome and redundant but from the bootfitters perspective it is noteworthy because we have better, more reliable product with which we can achieve quicker, better solutions for skiers at all levels.
For the skier it ensures the array of product o0fferings will provide better comfort, efficiency and value so every ski trip will be more trouble free-at least where their feet are concerned.
As you go through the boot reviews you may find the same thing being said about a number of ski boots. While probably true, the fact is the quality and level of performance in any ski boot above a certain price point have converged.
The differences between one boot and another in a given category (i.e. 97mm boots, 100mm boots) generally are subtle and will be in certain fit areas, liner and shell materials, small stuff like buckles or power straps.
Differences in shell construction as in the 2-piece, 4-buckle overlap vs. the cabrio design are important because they are functionally different. That is strictly a discussion on the mechanics of the two. We’ll talk about that as the subject becomes pertinent with the relevant manufacturer.
As has been discussed ad infinitum, the basis for ski boot design must include biomechanics and a complete understanding of skiing dynamics. Given that, a ski boot manufacturer cannot diverge from proven, practically applied science as a design foundation.
Besides, the thesaurus only has so many synonyms!
There is a movement afoot (2/3’s of a pun…intended), in the last 4-5 years really, in wide, high performance ski boots.
Boot makers have come to recognize that not all feet fit into narrow boots. There also is a growing awareness that not all wide feet are wide everywhere…bootfitters have known this for some time.
To sell more ski boots they must be made to fit more feet.
The prevalent category for the last few ski seasons in ski boot sales is in the 100mm width.
This is because these wider lasted ski boots are constructed with the appropriate support in both shell configuration and ankle flex. They exhibit the well-buttressed mid-foot and contoured heel of their narrower, racier counterparts with the width, volume and girth from ankle to forefoot to accommodate wide, high volume feet.
Until recently most wide ski boots were not only wide everywhere but were also oriented toward strictly recreational skiers with respect to any meaningful performance. Stronger, more technically proficient skiers with wide feet will certainly benefit from a boot with, say, a 120 flex or more. It is more common than not to have a body type and mass commensurate to the width of the feet that carry it around throughout life.
A 250 pound guy that has EEE width feet will likely need a ski boot that will not only fit those EEE feet but that will also hold his body up!
There are boots with wider lasts up to 102mm and 104mm with the appropriate internal volume and very high performance qualities.
This does not necessarily mean that boots in this category will solve all the ills of those wide footed skiers who’ve suffered endless fit sessions or who’ve had to compromise by being in boots too big or who have quit skiing altogether because nothing was available. It does mean that current ski boots in this “wide” category gives us a far greater likelihood of finding boots that fit well off-the-shelf with far fewer visits to the bootfitter and provide a suitable performance level.
The term “performance” needn’t scare you. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary “performance” is defined as: “the execution of an action”. Also: “working effectiveness”. Both apply to ski boot function.
Performance is not meant to evoke anything more than the necessary requirements for the ski boots to control the skis. Ski boots must do certain things to accomplish that-they must perform certain functions. The more efficiently they perform the functions they are designed for, the more you benefit.
Something else to call attention to: for those who measure the width of their feet in order to determine the ski boot width they should be in, the number you come up with is not necessarily meaningful when it comes to last width. True it provides some guidance; wide feet are, after all, wide.
In bootfitting we refer to “soft tissue compression”. For ski boots to fit and perform properly, the feet must be well contained. Any slop inside ski boots translates to a sacrifice of control. A bit of wiggle room for the toes is necessary, but the rest of the foot needs to feel as if it is enveloped in a good firm handshake with nice even pressure from the ball of the feet to the top of the boots.
Feet can tolerate a certain amount of compression-some more, some less. Being evenly squeezed-compressed-in ski boots is an absolute necessity (even compression of the feet is also one of the best reasons to get a Superfeet Kork). The key here is “evenly”. Quite often the bony prominences of the feet need accommodation but once that is taken care of the ski boot should feel like a second skin.
For those that do not have wide feet there are plenty of options, as always, so we’ll be discussing them as well…so you know.
As a matter of education: the last measurements given by manufacturers for their ski boots are for a size 26.5. That means that a 27.5 will be a couple millimeters wider and a 25.5 a couple millimeters narrower...etc. This is true for most if not all boot makers.
For further edification, “last” is defined as: “a shoemakers model for shaping a shoe or boot” (New Oxford American Dictionary).
Even further…“wide” does not always mean “high volume”. Volume is defined as: “the amount of space that a substance or object occupies, or that is enclosed within a container.”
There are plenty of wide feet that would not be considered high volume. Wide feet but flat, no instep, bony, skinny heels and sinewy flipper-like appendages will still need the width but not the volume that fleshier, beefier feet need.
There are boots with the same width but not the same internal volume.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
Try Before You Buy is the byline for the boot demo program, an idea Footloose pioneered in the early eighties.
All the boots we carry-with the exception of full race and kids boots-are available for demo. If the situation requires it, we will alter demo boots so you may ski them comfortably. All our demo boots have Superfeet Trim-To-Fit Green footbeds if you don’t have your own.
Demoing ski boots on your own skis, at your pace and on the terrain you prefer is a perfect opportunity to find the pair that fits and performs as you desire. There is no better way to buy a pair of ski boots.
We charge a flat rate per day. It is possible for you to ski in more than one pair during a day (though we do not let you take more than one pair at a time-inconvenient perhaps but fair to someone else if they want to demo a boot you would consider as a second demo). Two days of demo fee will apply toward the purchase of a pair of ski boots.
We must charge a one-time binding adjustment fee to set demo boots up on your skis. The bindings will be fully function tested by certified technicians and once passed no further binding adjustment charge will be incurred. A dated sticker will be put onto your ski that is good for the rest of the season.
This is a truly win-win deal…if you are in the market for a pair of ski boots, take the opportunity to Try Before You Buy.
Footloose and Superfeet have a long association.
Sven Coomer founded Footloose in the late 70’s to develop and market Superfeet custom footbeds for skiing. The effectiveness of the original Superfeet Insta-Ski-Thotic was the impetus for the development of a full line of products for skating, running, hiking, cycling...indeed for all walks of life.
Sven was responsible for some of the most iconic ski boot designs early in the era of injection molded plastic ski boots. He continues developing products for the ski industry.
While working on ski boots, Sven encountered persistent fitting problems at all levels of skiing that lead to understanding the necessity of biomechanics-at the time a fledgling science as it related to skiing-and its importance as a foundation for proper shell design and a vital tool for bootfitting. He eventually partnered with Chris Smith DPM; Professor Emeritus of Podiatric Medicine, and Dennis Brown; owner of Northwest Podiatric Lab in Washington State. They became Superfeet In Shoe Systems and are currently Superfeet Worldwide. The rest is history.
Footloose is proud of our long association with Superfeet.
The original Insta-Ski Thotic has evolved into the Superfeet Kork…still the best ski specific footbed in this galaxy.
If you are considering the purchase of a Superfeet Kork, do so before you try on, demo and/or buy ski boots. The Superfeet Kork fits into any ski boot and eliminates a plethora of common fit maladies. This streamlines the demo process giving you-the skier-the best possible information with which to make a critical choice.
So much has been penned (a term that may well be obsolete in the very near future) about Lange ski boots that superlatives may seem redundant. Lange has been a yardstick for ski boot design since the first plastic shells because Lange has always been committed to biomechanical correctness first and design second. This commitment has been the foundation for a reign at the top levels of skiing that many competitors chased for some time, quite literally.
Lange keeps track of trends in skiing and their product line reflects the changes in ski technique we’ve all experienced in the last couple decades (yep…it’s been that long since we first skied “those parabolic’s”).
The biomechanical necessities for skiing have not changed so changing the fundaments of Lange ski boot designs didn’t require an overhaul, just refinements in stance and subtle adjustments in last.
Lange, as do many other boot makers, makes an LV and higher volume version of the same boots. The low comes in @97 mm the high @ 100mm.
A matter of education here: 99.99% of ski boots that offer the same boot model in a “low volume” and a “high-or-regular volume” are made in the same mold. In order to make a high or regular volume boot, manufacturers make the shell walls thinner than that of the low volume boots. They do not create new molds.
Why is this important? From the perspective of a bootfitter it means we have to be a bit more careful when either expanding or grinding a high volume shell.
From the standpoint of the skier there probably isn’t much that one would feel, but there is a tradeoff in the torsional characteristics of the boots.
This is very subtle and something a vast majority of us probably will never feel.
Many of us are on wider skis than we thought possible a decade ago. As has been commented on, with the additional span underneath the feet to both tip up and hold on edge, the emphasis is more on the lateral strength and torsional integrity is a necessary component of that.
Given the construction of the 2-piece shell wherein the upper cuff is riveted or fixed in some way to the lower shell it becomes apparent that if the lower shell is torsionally lacking, lateral stiffness must be compromised to a degree. Again…how many of us will notice that, who knows.
In their top-end boots Lange offers the RS and RX series. The RS is the traditional blue 2-piece overlap with solid soles…not replaceable. The RX is intrinsically the same as the RS (a different color obviously) and, because they are built as all-mountain ski boots it is assumed that the skier will wander off piste on occasion, have replaceable toe and heel.
The Lange RX 130, in both the Low and Regular Volume, is now established as a go-to for skiers looking for a high level of performance on- and off-piste. The off piste platform really consists only of what Lange calls Ultra Grip soles…replaceable toes and heels with hike-like lugs for traction.
The difference is in the feel; the replaceable toe and heel tends to mute the feedback from the soles of the boots-this does not detract from the personality of the RX series in any way-just a comment. For those who’ve skied in the blue Langes you will find there is no compromise in this regard.
The heredity of the RX 130 puts it at the uppermost performance level. Any boot with a 130 flex will be demanding yet the RX 130 is not punishing. It is stout, lively and likes to be skied with command. This boot will not let the skier get complacent-it isn’t punishing but if one gets lazy they’ll be playing catch-up.
Fit-wise the Lange RX maintains the rear-foot intimacy that their top performance boots have been known for. Where the slight mods in last occur are in the toe box and instep. In all Lange RX and RS shells (we stock the RS for race only) for that matter, there is a little extra length and increased radius-for anyone who skied Lange in the not-too-distant past this alone is more than welcome.
The other modification that falls into the same category is an improvement in the material inside the liner tongue that alleviates if not removes the immediate and seemingly omnipresent pressure on the instep. Welcome indeed!
The RX 100 is no less of a ski boot and does not lose any value in the performance category. Softer flexing boots of a series does not mean cheaper (less expensive perhaps) or lower performance. It denotes boots better suited for lighter weight skiers, skiers that may be quite proficient but ski only a few days per season and/or those that just prefer softer flexing ski boots. For the skier to whom this boot is suited, the RX 100-in both LV and “regular” last, exhibits the liveliness and command over the skis that the stouter 130 does.
In the Lange offering for ladies you’ll find the RX 110L LV, RX 90 L and RX 80L-this one in both the regular last and the LV. The differences between the ladies and men’s boots are minimal; lower rear spoiler and supplemental support around the rear-foot/Achilles in the liners.
The RX 110 is a pretty stout ski boot. Lange-whether in the men’s or women’s boots-always flex softer in the store than do other brands. It’s deceptive. This deserves mention because it is not uncommon in the shop environment to hear that Lange’s feel soft. This is due in part to the types of plastics used in the shells.
Once Lange ski boots step into a binding and get put on snow they awaken. The flex range tightens up considerably and the inherent power asserts itself.
Lange has always made good ski boots for women-whether by accident or by design-the last, stance and flex at whatever stiffness seem well matched for women’s physiology.
A new (coming out last season) boot for Lange is the SX 120.
For all intents and purposes the only difference between this and the RX is forefoot width; the SX comes in at 102 mm’s. The girth from the front of the ankle joint to the back of the heel has more dimension than that of the RX’s but aside from that the SX 120 is all Lange: the mid-foot and heel one expects from Lange and the same on-snow efficiency and authority.
The Salomon Custom Shell lineup now has a well-proven track record. The expansion last season of Custom Shell into the 100 mm X-Pro series has validated the worth of the technology and this addition complements their 98 mm siblings.
All the Salomon ski boots you’ll find at Footloose are Custom Shell.
The 98 mm X-Max is essentially unchanged. We’ll have the X-Max 120 and 100 in the men’s boot and the X-Max 90 L.
The X-Max is a complete boot: fit and performance at equal measure. The basic simplicity of the X-Max belies the technology, the simplicity harkens back to the minimalism of race boots-bells and whistles do not a boot make!
Out-of-the-box fit is as good as any boot. Volume is middling, the forefoot (@ 98mm in the 26.5) is snug; toe box has good radius and up’n’down room, instep falls into the medium volume range, the medial mid-foot is plumb and heel well shaped. This is all subject to adaptation via the Custom Shell, which works as advertised.
The process is simple and not very time consuming-15 minutes of cooking, 15 minutes on the feet and they can be skied shortly thereafter.
For fit areas of concern like the “sixth” toe, navicular, instep, ankles etc., it is common practice to pad them so there is extra relief once the customization is done. Salomon shells expand only-they do not “shrink”-the molding is quite effective.
The X-Max 120 is stronger than the 120 flex rating implies, it could easily be 5-10 points higher. The same applies for the X-Max 100. Though a stout 120, the flex is progressive and has a well-defined fore/aft range. The stance is in keeping with the necessities of current ski shapes, widths and profiles, fairly flat ramp (4 degrees) and upright cuff. Laterally the X-Max 120 is a powerhouse and can be handled equally with finesse and power. Changes in trajectory and altering turn radius and shape requires only a deft touch.
Feel is sharp, sensing the underfoot environment and the feedback from the skis makes for enhanced proprioception and proactive involvement.
The X-Max 100 exhibits the same character as the 120 but has a more playful demeanor. It has terrific edge-to-edge and a supple ankle.
The ladies X-Max 90 have the same temperament as the stiffer men’s boots-ski it with confidence. The X-Max 90 L has an adjustable rear spoiler that can accommodate lower calf muscles and commensurate scalloping of the liners.
Similarly to the X-Max 120, the X-Pro 120 on snow is powerful and very direct. Again, like the X-Max 120, the X-Pro 120 is a pretty stout 120 flex.
The X-Pro 120, like its narrower counterpart, likes to be skied confidently. The X-Pro 100 and X-Max 100 have a more forgiving nature but the softer ankle flex in no way detracts from the high performance level.
The X-Pro is positive and quick edge-to-edge when conditions demand shorter turns and is completely reliable and predictable when the time comes to open it up a bit. Snow feel is excellent- what’s happening underfoot is easy to assess.
The oversize X-series hinge rivets coupled to the denser shell plastic that forms the structure of the rear-foot cradle and the very lowest parts of the shell substantially augment lateral stiffness.
The last of the X-Pro shells is where the true performance lies-like any good ski boot-the mid-foot is plumb with a relief for the navicular and the heel pocket is deep and well defined. The cuff wraps well around the lower leg. The cuff is fairly upright but can be altered to a small degree by molding the Custom Shell with the skier standing straighter or more forward as the skier likes. The X-Max 90 L and X-Pro 90 L have a lower and adjustable rear spoiler for the athletic calf.
The stance is in keeping with the requirements of current ski shapes, geometry and widths; minimal ramp angle and no varus underfoot help maintain an athletic, “stacked” weight bearing.
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