In the 100 mm ski boot category Nordica has been in flux the last couple seasons-a normal cycle in the ski business-but for 2014-2015 they‘ve back to making commendable product.
Their zig-instead-of-zag resulted in a couple ski boot models that didn’t really uphold the standard for which Nordica became a household name. That’s done.
The Nordica NRGy series is all new and at Footloose includes the NRGy Pro 130, NRGy Pro 110 and the ladies Belle Pro 105. The NRGy are 100 mm and have essentially gone back to basics; simple shells with few superfluous gimmicks.
The NRGy uses technology that Nordica actually pioneered with first the Beast and the Speedmachine of the not-too-distant past. The NRGy Pro is the direct (albeit taking the scenic route) successor to the Speedmachine...welcome news for those loyal to the brand and the boots.
The instep of the shell has softer plastic for ease of entry and exit and other than that, with the exception of the adjustable spoiler height (questionable as a necessity…from any manufacturer) there are no other gewgaws.
Nordica is also introducing “Custom Cork” liners in the NRGy series. The liners have a panel filled with a cork composite as the outer layer of both the medial and lateral sides of the liners. This adjusts by either heating in the shop (recommended) or after a few runs in the boots.
As a backing for the usual padding of the liners, the cork panels augment the fit as well as the longevity and support throughout the life of the boots.
As a matter of education: the NRGy cork liners are very good but cannot be compared to Zip Fit liners. Being likened to Zip Fit’s is complimentary as far as Nordica should be concerned-the Custom Cork liners are well made and definitely enhance the fit and performance of the NRGy ski boots.
Along with the high quality Custom Cork liners, the NRGy is well and simply constructed: replaceable toe and heel lugs, the 130 has dual cuff alignment screws-in the 110 a single, bolts at the rear of the boots that can be either taken out to soften or installed to stiffen the boots, a wide ranging buckle catch setup at the top of the boots, adjustable spoiler height (?) and burly power strap.
The ladies Belle Pro 105 has the Custom Cork liner, single cuff alignment screw; the rear liner cuff has the contour one would expect for the calf.
For tippin’ ‘em and rippin’ ‘em the NRGy has plenty of muscle. Long skis, fat skis, hard snow, soft snow…whatever you are stepping into and onto, the NRGy has the horsepower. Yet if subtlety is more your style the NRGy will not demand otherwise.
In the 98 mm ski boots we’ll carry over the Patron in a 110 flex and the corresponding ladies boot, the La Nina 90. Both have had good success and maintain simple lines and clean construction. They are taken from the same molds as the Dobermann EDT 130 that you will also find at Footloose.
The Patron and La Nina are as low a volume as can be found…low instep, intimate rear-foot and heel, commensurate mid-foot and good toe box for a low volume shell.
The Patron is power steering for the skis. The Patron 110 and EDT 130 are pretty exacting, the EDT being the more demanding by far, the La Nina perhaps a bit less so by virtue of it being a softer flex, though the shell is from the same mold as the 110 and EDT. The Patron 110 is a detuned version of the EDT 130 without the rigidity of the fixed zeppa and is better suited for us mere mortals.
The EDT (stands for “Efficient Dynamic Technology”…your guess is as good as mine) 130 is unique in that a big part of the EDT is the zeppa or bootboard at the bottom of the shells’ interior. It is a very firm material that is fixed through the boots soles. What it does is twofold; strengthen the torsional characteristics of the boots and, an immediate revelation, makes the boot so longitudinal stiff that the tail of the skis loads so much and so abruptly that, until one gets used to it, it launches the skier very forcefully out of turns and into orbit.
As one gets used to the efficiency of the EDT and catches up to it, the utility of the boots becomes apparent-the EDT 130 does uphold the standard for which Nordica became renowned.
The Patron 110/La Nina is super dependable on snow…efficient to a fault. There is good versatility for differing conditions, excellent adaptability for terrain, turn shape and speeds.
The cuff of the series is a bit lower than in a vast majority of the boots at this level; neither here nor there but functionally the skier can exert more leverage over the boots which opens the range of motion a bit so it is not uncommon to feel like the boots are somewhat softer flexing at first though the ROM is very predictable. There is no question as to the lateral strength of the Patron/La Nina… formidable.
Tecnica has been remarkably consistent in developing compelling products for the skiing public over the years. Like any good boot maker, Tecnica ski boot designs take into consideration the biomechanical requirements of the sport as it evolves.
Tecnica was amongst the first to create two completely different shell molds at a very high performance level; the Tecnus Comp which became the TX and the TNT RS. At the time the TX was for a weighted foot and the TNT for an unweighted foot. Simply put the TX was wider than the TNT. In that era there were neither width measurements nor flex ratings…now they’d be labeled 98 mm and 100 mm boots and probably 120-130 flex. Both the TX and TNT were very good ski boots.
Tecnica has maintained a solid place at the top of the Footloose boot lineup by continuing to make relevant gear at a high quality…at times perhaps at the high end of the price spectrum but always well thought out and well executed.
Nothing has changed!
The R 98-formerly the Inferno and before that the Diablo Race Pro-we carry in both a 130 and 110 flex. Although the name R98 is not particularly imaginative it is logical because the R 98 is a 98 mm boot (in a 26.5-common practice for all boot company’s to call out the width numbers for a 26.5 shell size).
The R 98 is a clean, simple ski boot; four buckles, dual cuff alignment (careful with these adjustment rivets-very soft aluminum), power strap and “Quick Instep”…a softer plastic insert at the front of the ankle joint of the shell that allows easier access into and out of the boots.
The single complaint with the R 98 is the replaceable toe and heel. They are indeed replaceable but they are also recessed into the sole of the boots. The entire perimeter of the soles is exposed to wear long before the replaceable parts need replacing...this creates excessive wear on the shells and, even if the replacement soles a get installed, the wear is on the actual shell. A silly thing but…why? They can be replaced with 3mm or 5mm lifted sole that covers the entire toe and heel lug including the perimeter, but there are a lot of people who neither want nor need lifters.
The R 98 is medium volume…nebulous terminology again…but wide, high volume feet won’t fit into the R 98. The rear-foot has the requisite, well-defined contour for the heels. The mid-foot features the medial buttress and intimate proximity one should expect from a ski boot of this caliber and from Tecnica. Instep is fairly low, high arch and instep and feet with big cuneiform bumps need not apply. Forefoot width @ 98 mm is sufficient and the toe box has good up’n’down and radius.
The R 98 has a confident presence on snow-a rock solid performer that’s safe at any speed. From short to long, slow to fast, the R 98 does not play favorites.
As with all boots in this class, there isn’t a ton of material in the R 98 liners-just enough padding to provide the necessary individualized support and to cushion the feet from the shell plastic.
Not having a ton of padding is a good thing-no disguising the fit and also energy transmission through the boots is direct and feedback is crisp.
There are two Ladies models of the R series- the Crush and Fling. The shell configuration is the same between the two but the Crush has a 100 flex and the Fling is rated at an 80 flex. Also the Fling has a shorter cuff height than the Crush. There are the usual adjustments to the liner support in the Achilles/rear-foot for female feet.
Both the Crush and Fling have been exceedingly popular-testimony to good fit and the very same functionality as the R 98’s.
New Tecnica entries into the 100 mm domain is the Mach 1 series: the Mach 1 130, Mach 1 120 and Mach 1 95 Ladies.
No more Demon.
The Mach 1 has a completely new last and the graphic treatment of the 130 flex harkens to a long-established Tecnica orange.
The shell has relief contours for the traditional fit problem zones; 5th metatarsal head, big toe, navicular and ankles. The toe box of the Mach 1 has been shaped to let the toes spread out and there’s enough wiggle room to keep’em warm. The instep height is commensurate to the volume of the boots-not excessive but certainly not too low. Mid-foot is supported by a plumb media wall (a little navicular bump here) and the heel pocket is tenacious.
The Mach 1 95 L is modified in the usual areas for the lower extremities of a woman-lower and scalloped rear spoiler and slightly augmented padding for the Achilles.
The 95 flex in this boot is fairly stout, no compromise here. Lateral strength and power is incisive and very self assured.
In addition to a revamped last, the Mach 1 feature that may well distinguish it from all other 100 mm ski boots is the C.A.S. liner.
C.A.S. is an acronym for Custom Adaptive Shape. A mouthful to be sure but it describes a rigid “shell” incorporated onto the mid- and rear-foot of the Mach 1 liners. The liner shell is shaped exactly to the contours of the inside of the shell and provides a firm backing to the anatomical padding against the feet.
This accomplishes a couple things; a firmer layer between the liner and shell enhance energy transmission, reduce the long-term effects of liner attrition and ups the performance.
The C.A.S. material can be manipulated with a heat gun for shaping and, for the occasional bony prominences, can be ground if need be.
Other than the C.A.S. liner…the out-of-the-box fit is unreal…features are standard; dual cuff alignment (again, really soft metal-exercise care when adjusting), flex adjustment by way of a 90 degree turn of a bolt at the rear of the boots- “Sport” (a wee bit softer) or “Performance” (a wee bit stiffer)-no increments and replaceable toe and heel.
The Mach 1 sets a very high standard for performance. Finesse skiers need only a deft touch and power riders can push as hard as they want. Setting and holding an edge at any turn shape or radius and at any speed is akin to thinking turn and done.
The supplemental support offered by the C.A.S. liner does as advertised-additional stability and increased precision merge with a uniform, second-skin proximity that brings an intuitive feel to the boots.
The C.A.S. liner is a feature of the Mach 1 models we carry.
In the interests of “transparency” I am proud to have a proprietary interest in the Mach 1. I, along with three top bootfitters from around the US, and a couple from Canada, were invited by Tecnica Group to help with designing the Mach 1. It has been educational, enlightening and rewarding. And, yeah, the boot has come out really well.
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.
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