Anybody who watches World Cup ski racing has probably noticed the plethora of white ski boots with a distinctive “HEAD” logo. There is good reason for this…Head makes really good products. World Cup athletes do not make changes precipitously so when they do change equipment it is for one reason only-it lets them go faster.
The boot seen in races worldwide is the Head Raptor. The Raptor is the flagship of the Head lineup. At Footloose you’ll find the Raptor 115…they are not the World Cup race boots but the genealogy, chassis and the attributes have been distilled into ski boots that we mere mortals can ski.
Like many boots in this stratum, the Raptor is a well-developed tool. What makes the Raptor desirable is a combination of things; last, stance and functionality.
The last of the Raptor 115 (here’s where many of the things to be said will sound so similar to many other ski boots of this ilk) has the now requisite sculpted heel pocket, the medial wall is a bit beyond vertical…there is a fair amount of varus (looking at the mold seam at the rear of the shell lower you’ll see it is tilted outward-varus) built into the shells making medial support very precise and very strong. The instep is average height, the 98mm forefoot is 98mm’s in the right place and the toe box radius is surprisingly spacious. Head puts the internal volume on their shells…the Raptor is 1800 cc’s in a 26.5.
The Raptor is clean and simple; four unique-to-Head Spine Tech buckles, bi-lateral cuff alignment adjustment screws, optional bolts for flex tuning if so desired-they come out of the box with one bolt and the option to install another. The Raptor 115 does not have replaceable toe and heel-the shells can be planed and lifted but if that is not wanted care must be taken when walking on them primarily so the boot/binding interface won’t wear out.
On snow the Raptor 115 is as close as one gets to 1:1 steering. Like its construction the on-snow characteristics are clean and simple. The precision and power is, initially, almost too quick. Once the realization occurs that one can ski with less muscle and more finesse, things become more sublime.
The Raptor 115 does everything well. The 115 flex does not overpower the skier and it is a good all-mountain ski boot because the inherent precision is balanced with a more amenable demeanor. Turn shape and radius are set with microchip execution and needed adjustments in either require only the subtlest of movements with the feet.
A revelation in wide boots comes in the form of the Head Vector. We carry the Vector 115, which has established a good track record and is testimony that wide, high performance boots exist and are viable.
The Vector 115 is 101 mm in a 26.5, 103 mm in a 27.5. Width measurements from any manufacturer need to be taken with a grain of salt. Head puts the internal volume on their boots rather than the width. They give a width measurement also and this in accompaniment with the volume gives a truer sense of the overall dimensions of the boots. The Vector 115 and the women’s Vector 105 L are 2000 cc’s…the US still has difficulty accepting metric measurements so perhaps even this is of little value but, in simple terms 2000 cc’s is more than 1800 cc’s which is what the Raptor checks in at.
The elements of the Vector that distinguish it are multi-fold. The last has good anatomical contours. The heel pocket is deep and married to a plumb medial wall-less aggressive than that of the Raptor but there is no forfeit in power or precision.
The girth from the front of the ankle to the base of the heel is proportional to the overall volume-important as this dimension helps retain the feet in the rear of the boots. The forefoot width is generous, expected given the 101-103 mm designation, and for the feet that need the breadth of this boot, the forefoot profile at the 1st and 5th metatarsals is pretty inviting. The toe box has plenty of wiggle room.
The Vector 115, and the Vector 105 L-in the interests of “transparency”, I have not skied the ladies boot-are very solid performers. Edge–to-edge can be as quick as needed and at intermediate to long radius turns at virtually any speed the Vector excels.
Amongst the more persistent problems voiced from a large segment of skiers is entry and exit of their ski boots. The Vector 115 and 105 L address this by the use of softer plastic at the instep and ankle of the boots. It seems to work without compromising on-snow qualities.
The features of the Vector 115-105 L are essentially the same as the Raptor; Spineflex buckles that wrap well around the contours of the shell, dual cuff alignment, “Flex Tuning” by way of either the insertion or removal of a bolt at the rear cuff and what seems initially like a way over-engineered “Booster” power strap that, once it gets explained, is actually clever and effective.
A stalwart in the Head lineup since its introduction are the AdaptEdge 110 and AdaptEdge 100 L. The “Adapt” part of the AdaptEdge is a simple mechanism under the forefoot of the shell that changes the width from 104 to 102 mm’s or visa versa…all done with an Allen key and a 90 degree turn. The device works and has a decided effect.
The given volume for the Adapt Edge is 2100 cc-these are high volume ski boots. Head actually seals their boot shells (26.5’s) and fills them with water to a certain height to quantify the volume.
For those feet that have the width and volume, the AdaptEdge is homey and skis well.
As voluminous as the AdaptEdge is there is good shape to it. There is a well-defined heel cup, the medial aspect of the shell is not as perpendicular as that of the Vector or the Raptor but the AdaptEdge should be considered as a solid, high performance recreational ski boot. As such it need not be the exacting Ginsu knife that the Vector or the Raptor are. It can be taken for granted that the forefoot width is ample, and then some, and the same goes for the instep height. The toe box radius is roomy enough that the toes can sit flat.
The AdaptEdge is a fairly simple ski boot-not too many bells or whistles; Spineflex buckles (4), dual cuff alignment, flex adjustment at the back of the boots adjusted by turning a bolt 90 degrees one way or the other which takes the flex from 100 to 110-truly not a significant difference but there nevertheless-and the Booster double “D” ring power strap. In the women’s AdaptEdge 100, which one would assume to be a 100 flex, the flex is actually a 90 with the adjustment dropping it down to 80. The women’s also has an adjustable rear spoiler so the cuff can be opened up for a larger calf muscle.
The AdaptEdge does ski well though it is not super quick. The medial support of the shell is adequate however so acquiring an edge and holding it is relatively efficient. Modulating turn shape and radius does not require major effort and cruising at reasonable speeds is not intimidating.
The single complaint there might be is that many male skiers with the width and volume to fit well in the AdaptEdge 115 could use a bit more stiffness. The body type that fits into the AdaptEdge is generally commensurate to the dimensions of the boots-not always-but being mindful of that, Head could produce a stiffer version.
Head has done well at focusing their product effectively for a given customer. They make the right tool for the job.
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.
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