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.
Head has increased their presence dramatically in the recent past. For those few in the US who watch World Cup racing this has been quite apparent.
Head has hit on a combination of products that fill a broad range of fit and performance with good lasts, sound mechanical elements and practical accessories.
Apparent to us mere mortals is the increased on-hill presence of Head ski boots- the most visible is the Raptor. The Raptor 115, which you will find on our shelves, is clean and simple; four “Spine-Tech” buckles, bolted rear cuff, dual cuff alignment, Power Strap and that’s just about it…oh yeah, liners. No replaceable toe or heel.
This boot differs from others of its’ ilk by virtue of subtle differences in internal configuration (the last) and stance. Most if not all boots at this level vary subtly as discussed earlier, however these subtle differences have significance on snow.
Mid-foot and heel, as one might guess, share the attributes one will find in any of the boots at this level. Instep height is comparable to the Dalbello Strike-greater than the Atomic Redster. Head is one of the few that rates the volume of their boots with cubic centimeters as opposed to strict width measurements. The Raptor is 1800cc’s (98mm+/-). The toe box has ample room side-to-side and good wiggle room.
Stance is neutral…ramp angle is 4 degrees; forward lean is commensurate.
There is minimal flex adjustment-again like most if not all boots of this caliber-accomplished by either installing or by removing bolts at the rear of the cuff. In the case of the Raptor 115 removing a bolt makes it a 100 flex.
The Raptor is a precision tool-edge to edge is crisp and subtle movements are all that’s needed for making changes in trajectory. Feedback is detailed.
The AdaptEdge LTD is listed at 104-102mm however Head has been putting the internal volume as well on their boots; good because width measurements are all over the place and do not tell the whole story. The AdaptEdge LTD is a 2100 cc last.
From the first generation Head Edge into the current AdaptEdge LTD, the high volume shells have been workhorses for the Head line-up for a number of years.
There is good reason for the success the Edge has enjoyed. The shells provide the forefoot width, instep height and internal volume for wide, high volume feet. Coupled to the ample forefoot and instep, the AdaptEdge has the mid-foot and heel configuration to provide the retention and stability necessary for steering.
With the AdaptEdge LTD there is additional versatility given the shells “Adapt-” capability; there is a simple and effective mechanism incorporated into the toe lugs at the bottom of the shell that allows the user or the boot fitter to alter the width from the stated 102mm to 104mm.
Boot fitting is a game of millimeters-one or two here and there makes a big difference. Generally once the width is established the “Adapt-” gets set once then left alone.
The AdaptEdge Mya ladies boot sports the same features with the addition of a cuff adjustment for the calf coupled to a lower rear spoiler.
The LTD has a flex rating of 100-110 and the Mya 80-90. The AdaptEdge LTD/Mya ski well, both very solid high performance recreational ski boots.
The Vector series has set a standard for wide lasted high performance ski boots. The Vector is not the width of the AdaptEdge and has no “Adapt-” capability. The distinction between the two is the Vector has a medial mid-foot and heel pocket that one would expect in “racier” ski boots…that’s what makes the Vector a step above many wide lasted ski boots.
The Vector 115 and Vector X L 100 have a stated forefoot width of 103 and the internal volume is 2000cc’s-just 100 cc’s less than the AdaptEdge but the distinction here is in the construction of the mid-foot and heel, that plumb medial wall.
The forefoot and toe box are anatomically well shaped, the instep height is ample and the mid/rear-foot is pretty intimate. The Vector X L 100 has the usual rear spoiler mod for lower calf muscles.
The Double Power Booster Velcro Strap (say that 5 times fast) on the Vector seems at first to be overkill but in fact works really well. The Spineflex buckles follow the curvature of the shell and so far have had very few issues with durability.
The Vector 115 and X 100 L are powerful-a characteristic not normally associated with “wide” lasted shells. Rolling into turns can be done deftly. The Vector has enough race in its genealogy so that holding an edge, modifying turn direction and finishing turns are quick and efficient. The feel underfoot is clean…having replaceable toe and heel mutes the feedback some but does not detract from the performance.
The stance is well balanced-the ramp angle is at a default 4 degrees, forward lean is not given but it falls in line with a vast majority of current boot models…14 degrees give or take.
Atomic has a lengthy pedigree and success at all levels of skiing. They have been at the forefront of many of the technological innovations we’ve seen since Rohrmoser took over Koflach and ESS bindings some years ago.
They were first to push the amount of abduction in their ski boot with the “Offset Shell”.
They acquired ESS bindings because it was discovered that if the ski were allowed to flex without the inhibitions of traditional binding mounting platforms they were faster.
They were the first to make boot shells that let the sole flex just a little. This complemented what Atomic was doing with skis and bindings.
Their success at the very highest levels of the sport is unparalleled (pun intended).
Nothing has changed.
With the Redster they have brought forth a more sophisticated and refined model of what started out as the Beta Race.
The evolution of the design is not as much on display as it is on the Hawx-another eminently successful ski boot in the Atomic quiver-but what the Redster does on snow exhibits the effectiveness of Atomics’ design philosophy.
The Redster has a broad yet well defined range of motion-in the 130 it has been narrowed somewhat from the initial incarnation-one instance where the 130 flex might well have been something less-which makes the boot more precise.
The carbon in the shell around the heel pocket does a couple of things for the boot; it enhances lateral stiffness and finishes turns off sharply.
In keeping with the Atomic philosophy there is a unique feature to the Redster 130: the zeppa has 3 interchangeable inserts that fit into a cradle at the bottom of the shell. These are of different densities of material; one pretty soft, one medium and one really firm. They affect the sole flexing; the softer one allowing the sole to bend a bit more than the stiffer ones will. Along with the zeppa inserts the shell has grooves underfoot to let the sole bend. This system works and it is worth trying each of the zeppa inserts.
The Redster has a very narrow heel pocket and, like most boots of this caliber, the mid-foot is close and plumb. The 98mm forefoot is not overly voluminous, the instep is fairly low and the toe box has adequate wiggle room and is well shaped, no side-to-side toe pinch. The Redster is low-to-medium volume…the Pro series is 98mm, the WC models are 95mm. We’ll have the 98’s.
The Redster skis really well. The 130, as with any boot at this level, has a good deal of precision built in and requires an attentive skier.
The different zeppas have a distinct effect on the feel of the boot as well as how they interact with the skis. The soft zeppa attenuates a lot of high frequency vibrations- the firmest provides more feedback and all three have a decided effect on what’s happening underfoot. The soft zeppa has a nice round, silky feel through the turn-less abrupt at the start and finish. Initiation and completion is more progressive.
The firmer zeppa is quicker to the ski and loads the tail in a manner more like what most of us are used to. Which one to use is up to the skier-it’s worth trying all three to see which suits you the best.
The range of motion at the ankles is more restricted than the previous years’ but it is still broad and fluid yet predictable.
We’ll have the Redster Pro in a 130, 110 and 90 flex.
The Hawx has carved out a sizable niche in both men’s and women’s 100mm boots. They have a good balance of fit and function.
Atomic goes about the sole flexion on the Hawx a different way than they do with the Redster; the sole has the flex grooves molded into the sloes of the shell between the toe and heel lugs but instead of the zeppa having different inserts, the Hawx incorporates gill-like slots on both sides of the shell that allow the shell to bend at the forefoot.
The Hawx is fairly high volume; the forefoot and toe box are quite roomy and instep height can accommodate a fairly burly foot. The shaft or cuff of the men’s Hawx is relatively high up the lower leg…neither here nor there, just a consideration. Medial mid-foot and heel remain plumb and intimate and stance is pretty neutral.
The Hawx was originally designed to have a stiff ankle flex because of the way the soles flex-the theory being it is easier to control a shorter lever (the foot) than a longer one (the leg and everything above it).
There is good power in the Hawx without being overbearing-one can relax some without being penalized. Both the Hawx 120 and Hawx 100 seem to be fairly close on the flex ratings as do the Ladies Hawx 90 and Hawx 80.
On snow the Hawx is smooth and crisp, ankle flex is progressive and predictable. Underfoot feel is sharp-essentially the feet are on the bottom of the boot augmenting snow-feel.
Edge-to-edge is quick enough when needed and all of the Hawx boots hold well on medium to long radius turns.
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