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.
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.
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