Boot Reviews

2018 Atomic Boots

When Atomic’s parent company, Amer Sports, acquired Salomon from adidas, it forged a perfect marriage of skiing nobility. Salomon would benefit from Atomic’s acknowledged artisanship in race skis and Atomic would gain instant access to much better boot and binding designs.

The union continues to be a happy and procreative one. Atomic reaped the rewards of its synergy with Salomon 2 years ago when its Memory Fit system borrowed a concept or two from Salomon’s Custom Shell technology. Memory Fit is now standard on all Redster, Hawx and Backland models.

The Memory Fit process puts Atomic on a technical par with Salomon for in-store custom fitting, and the sustained success of Redster athletes like Marcel Hirscher and Michaela Shiffrin attest to unassailable technical bona fides. In other words, Atomic has arrived as a clicking-on-all-cylinders boot supplier, a worthy pretender to Salomon’s throne.

With the arrival in 2017 of Hawx Ultra, Atomic now has a single shell and liner concept spanning all fit possibilities, from narrow to ultra-wide. In addition to a narrow (98mm) last, Hawx Ultra adds reinforcement to the spine with Energy Backbone, an enhancement unbestowed upon Hawx Prime (100mm last) or Hawx Magma (102mm).

A longtime godsend for the high-volume foot, Live Fit still lives, in 100 and 80 flex iterations for men and 90 and 70 flexes for women. The Live Fit panels in the forefoot effectively alleviate pressure across wide metatarsals, and the voluminous fit from the aperture to the toes is a blessing for skiers with Sequoias for calves.

The limitation of Live Fit is that its 2-buckle construction puts more emphasis on convenience than performance. The 4-buckle Hawx Magma series, also a 102mm last, is meant to contain the same, magnificent hoof, but with a traditional shell and cuff that don’t dilute performance. There’s no doubt the Magma delivers superior snow feel and more accurate envelopment, and its probably easier for most hefty hooves to slip on and off.

Most boot reviews focus on 130-flex models as they usually represent the top of the recreational line and embody all the most deluxe features, but most skiers shouldn’t be in a 130. The trick is finding a softer flexing boot (that’s also perforce less expensive) that doesn’t diminish the fit and steering properties of the top model. The Hawx Ultra, Prime and Magna series retain a high cost/value relationship from their top price point to the bottom.

The big news at Atomic for 2018 is the renewal of its flagship series, represented by two new families of Redsters: World Cup (92mm last), with flexes ranging from 110 to 170 (not a typo), and Club Sport (96mm), in 110 and 130 flexes. If you’re not certain you belong in the World Cup boot, you don’t. The out-of-the-box fit of the Redster Club Sport 130 is plenty snug enough for 90% of all narrow feet.

In all its incarnations, the Redster is a super close-fitting shell that feels sprayed on. The flex indices are accurate, meaning they aren’t meant to enhance your self-esteem but to guide model selection. As if to underscore their race credentials, all the 2018 Redsters are elevated 3mm inside the shell to the maximum height allowed by FIS. The extra leverage makes an already insanely responsive shell feel even quicker to the edge.

If you’re wondering why Marcel and Michaela are the best skiers in the world, it may not be because of their boots, but one thing’s for certain: they sure aren’t holding them back.

Hawx Magna

In the long, inglorious history of the plastic ski boot, the skier with the wide foot has had to content himself with either an Iron Maiden fit meant for a much slighter foot, or a pair of cavernous, collapsible pits into which he could pour both his feet and his hopes and dreams as a skier. The new Hawx Magna is one of the few boots built on a 102mm last that delivers the same
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Hawx Prime

The original Hawx series, a medium-lasted shell without a lot of flashy features, became an international best seller for a lot of subtle touches – a domed instep, flexible sidewalls, an abducted stance – that added up to above-market comfort and support at every price point where Hawx competed. The first generation Hawx were particularly beneficial to value-seekers who wanted as much boot as they could afford on a tight budget. The current Hawx series,
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Hawx Ultra

A lot of boots made for narrow feet are minimalist affairs derived directly from a race boot. The Hawx Ultra, however, is based on a recreational boot, although the Ultra is more than just a narrower Hawx Prime. It uses a new shell design called Progressive shell that removes as much material as possible without compromising strength where required. (To pare even more weight, the cuff on the 130 is made from Grilamid.) The spine
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Live Fit

Some people with very large feet also possess equally impressive ankles and calves, all of which can be at considerable pains to insert in a ski boot. While Atomic’s Live Fit series can’t actually perform miracles, it may feel like the Promised Land to some extra-large feet who have yet to experience comfort in a ski boot. Everything about the Live Fit models aims to accommodate the XXXL skier. The two-buckle shell can’t get much
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Redster Club Sport

It’s become the norm to make a 130-flex boot with a well-padded liner and forgiving flex that would bend in a stiff breeze. Atomic has too much respect for the race community to slap a phony flex index on a boot bearing the Redster imprimatur, so you can count on the Redster Club Sport to fit like a C-clamp and flex the way it’s supposed to. Normally a boot we’d classify as “Narrow” uses a
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Hawx Magna W

Women with wide feet face the same litany of woes as men do, often ending up alleviating the agony by accepting a boot that doesn’t meet their performance expectations. The Hawx Magma 90W and 80W deliver performance perfectly pitched to the woman with so-so skills who wants out of the intermediate rut in a package voluminous enough to fit any full-figured foot. We can make this claim unequivocally because the Magna 90W incorporates Memory Fit,
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Hawx Prime W

As useful as the Hawx 2.0 series is for the male of the species, women might benefit even more from these special shoes. That’s because the boots don’t lose a lot of their quality features as they decline in flex index and cost, meaning that the Prime 80 W buyer still gets a lot of boot, particularly for the price. Since women tend to be lighter than men, a lower index boot is more likely
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Hawx Ultra W

High performance female skiers with narrow feet haven’t had a lot of options aside from race boots; the Hawx Ultra W gives them a cornucopia of options in a single shell. Even if the skier never changes the flex or forward lean, never heats the customizable shell or the moldable liner, the superlight weight, close fit, stout spine, short sole, abducted stance, cantable soles, 1mm offset shell and immaculate Thinsulate™ insulation ought to be enough
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Live Fit W

The beauty of the Live Fit W models is that they surrender all pretensions of trying to be close cousins of a race boot and instead deal directly with the problems of real skiers with outside-the-bell-curve foot and lower leg dimensions. The two-buckle shell design delivers best-in-show convenience without forgetting that the foot and ankle have to be held securely.  The Live Fit 90W and 70W know something this skier doesn’t: what a comfortable, relatively
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2018 Dalbello Boots

No other boot brand has done more with the 3-piece, external-tongue shell design than Dalbello. Dalbello didn’t just copy the Raichle design they adopted; they improved on it. They optimized its performance properties by playing up its strengths: a stout spine and sidewall construction extending from the lower shell; correct pivot location, a key element in this design’s successful execution; and a ribbed external tongue to manage flex and forward energy transmission.

From a performance standpoint, the brilliance of the 3-piece “cabrio” design is the way it blends lightning lateral reaction with a progressive flex that’s well suited to handling the shocks of off-piste skiing at speed. If this doesn’t sound like your kind of skiing, fear not: Dalbello makes several very different flavors using the 3-piece shell as the foundation, from super cushy ladies’ slippers to rugged Alpine Touring iterations, in fits that range from tugboat wide to daringly close-fitting.

Dalbello would have a complete collection if they stopped there, but they also have an end-to-end line-up of four-buckle overlap shells for all-mountain skiing, a race boot series and a catalog of kids’ boots that sell like candy. The overall line accommodates so many foot shapes in so many different shell structures, it’s meaningless to say, “I like how Dalbellos fit.” With Dalbello, you have to be very specific about which shell and liner combo intrigues you, for they cover so many distinctively different fit environments and performance attributes.

Almost every model in the 2018 line incorporates some degree of customization. The majority feature MyFit, Dalbello’s umbrella term for boots that include among their attributes a heat-moldable shell. (Note that any polyamide (PA) external tongue won’t be affected by heating.) Any MyFit shell includes either a partially moldable inner boot (Instant Fit) or a 100% moldable EVA liner (Intuition Dalbello).

Dalbello’s take on heat molding is that it’s a fallback position when its already well-mapped boots aren’t comfortable right off the shelf, but it never hurts to cook shells and liners a tad to accelerate break-in and ensure a blissful first day. The MyFit package of heatable shells and liners are found across the high end of Dalbello’s 2-piece, four buckle boots and its signature 3-piece, 3-buckle cabrio models.

Last season Dalbello offered its signature (98mm) Krypton shell in a medium, 100mm last, introducing the 120 AX and 110 AX, either with or without an ID liner. This season, the Lupo series of Kryptons with a hike mode (HM) receive the same treatment, adding the Lupo AX 120, AX 115 and AX 110 W for women. Women with short but wide feet – you know who you are and hard it is for you to find anything that fits – should note that the Lupo AX 110 W goes down to size 21.

New to the 2-piece, 4-buckle DRS series of overlap shells are lower cuff versions made for women, the DRS 90 LC and DRS 80 LC. The women’s DRS boots are also 98mm lasts with PU cuffs and shells.

The series with the elemental changes for 2018 is Panterra, a HM boot that shed 25% of its weight over the summer. The new Panterra shells remain the only 3-piece Dalbellos with an accommodation for forefoot width built into the first of its four buckles, opening the area up from 100mm to 102mm. The ID liner is standard equipment on the Panterra 130 and optional on the 120. The 100 and 90 also use the new, lighter shell material; a variation of the 90 comes with a GripWalk sole installed. The returning Panterra MX 100, 90 and 80 models use a 103mm last for wider feet.

Many 2018 models with regular DIN replaceable toe and heel pads can be retrofit with a heavy-tread, rockered Gripwalk sole that meets the ISO standard for AT boots, making it easier to walk even if you’re not an actual hiker.

Avanti

The Avanti series, which supplanted the Viper line in the Dalbello collection two years ago, strives for neutrality and by and large achieves it. The stance angle of 4o is upright, or what is considered a naturally centered position. The shell has been contoured around critical fit zones so it won’t intrude on sensitive toes and protruding ankle bones, which makes the fit of the Avanti’s feel more generous than the 100mm last advertises. The
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Avanti MX

Recreational skiers with a flipper-sized forefoot will find relief in the 105mm Avanti MX, in super-soft 75 and 65 flexes.

DRS

The DRS series made for civilians (as opposed to the DRS WC series made for actual racers in a 93mm last) returns in 130 and 110 lasts for men and adds new Low Cuff iterations for women in 90W and 80W flexes. All the DRS boots, new and old, are 2-piece overlaps made with PU cuffs and shells (yes, material matters) and feature My Fit shells, monoblock soles and DB Comp liners. Dalbello understands the
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Krypton

The Krypton shell embodies the best attributes of the 3-piece, cabrio design. One of the Krypton’s dominant traits is evident from the instant you lock in: the wrap around the steering column of the lower leg and ankle is ironclad, ready to respond at the first twitch of lateral energy. While boots with a ribbed external tongue are known for their long flex range, the 98mm Kryptons are no pushovers, but stout 130 and 120
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Krypton AX

Kryptons come in either a narrow, 98mm last or 100mm last, designated by the AX suffix, in 120 or 110 flex, with or without ID liner.

Lupo

Lupos are Kryptons with a rock-solid hike mode (HM) integrated into the back of the boot. Because the Krypton cuff blocks rearward travel by sitting on a shelf on the lower shell, the addition of a hinged block at its base that can swing out of the way does little to change the flex behavior of the boot in the ski position, a function that remains controlled by the external tongue. The 2018 Krypton contingent
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Lupo AX

New for 2018 is a trio of wider Lupos, the medium-lasted Lupo AX series in 120 and 115 flexes for men and 110W for women. Because the Krypton shell doesn’t possess a lot of natural elasticity in the forefoot, offering a wider Lupo is an important addition to the series. All Lupos come with GripWalk soles as standard equipment. Note that the new ladies version is sized down to a 21, a blessing for the
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Panterra

The Panterra is a 3-piece shell with a bonus fourth buckle that allows the forefoot to relax into a 102mm position or snug up to a 100mm, medium width. This season the Panterra switches shell and spoiler material to cut out 25% of excess weight that didn’t serve the purposes of hike-mode (HM) boots very well. The weight-loss plan applies to the 130 ID, 120 ID, 120, 100 and 90. The 90 flex is also
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Panterra MX

The returning Panterra MX models offer all-mountain skiers with big feet their best shot of fitting a Dalbello Cabrio shell. The MX 100, 90 and 80 all use an extra-wide, 103mm last. The MX 100 uses PU shells and cuffs for added support for the XL skier who’s likely to inhabit it.

Avanti MX W

The Avanti MX 75W and 65W are wide-bodies (105mm) with elementary features that allow them to sell at entry-level price points.

Avanti W

It’s no slander to say the Avanti 95 W and its little sisters, the 85W and 75W, are simple, basic boots. The classic, 4-buckle overlap shell works best when tampered with least. The Avanti W models deliver on the fundamentals: a 4o ramp angle, 12o forward lean angle, pliable plastic to wrap the leg and forefoot securely, coupled with a cut-down cuff height so the calf is less constricted. The Avanti 95W and 85W both
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Chakra

The Krypton series for women has been whittled down to the Chakra. Its 3-piece sisters, the 85-flex Lotus and 115-flex Kryzma have been put out to pasture, replaced with the 98mm Chakra 85 and 100mm Chakra AX. All the Chakras feature keep the close-fitting Krypton shell from feeling too intrusive by punching it out in four likely zones bones likely to feel its pinch: the ankle, heel, fifth toe and navicular. If that doesn’t do
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Chakra AX

The new Chakra AX brings a medium (100mm) last to women who crave the unique feel of a Krypton shell.

DRS LC

Dalbello took a different tack with its women’s race boot this year, dropping the DMS W 100 after only a year in favor of two new low-cuff (LC) boots in softer flexes, the DRS 90 LC and 80 LC. Both the new 98mm-lasted boots are made with PU cuffs and shells with My Fit adaptability and DB Comp liners, just like the men’s models.

2018 Fischer Boots

Fischer had a long and illustrious history as a ski maker before they decided to jump into the boot pool, despite said pool already being awash with brands. The focus of their debut models was an abducted (toes-out) stance, a clever idea it slightly overcooked, leaving some test pilots feeling like they were travelling in a downhill herringbone.

Undeterred by the difficulties of getting traction in an over-served market, Fischer pressed on, tinkering with their stance and story until several years ago they went all-in on a fancy new system for custom molding the shell, Vacuum Fit. Vacuum technology had been part of Fischer’s manufacturing expertise for many years, so transferring this concept to ski boots may have been an easier step for Fischer to imagine than for other, tradition-bound brands.

Vacuum Fit was such a hit with specialty shops it enabled Fischer to steal the limelight from industry leader Salomon, even though Salomon was first to market with a shell-molding technology of their own called Custom Fit. The big deal about Vacuum Fit was that it didn’t just expand the shell (although it could); it could shrink it. Even the one-in-a-thousand shops with a history of boiling boots to modify them never had the means of reducing shell volume all around the forefoot like Vacuum Fit.

Like many first-of-their-kind innovations, Vacuum Fit didn’t get everything right immediately. The biggest limitation was it didn’t have much effect on the critical rear foot, but a second-generation Vacuum station corrected this oversight. Today, the Fischer Vacuum is a Full Fit process, and still the only heat molding technology that facilitates reducing shell volume.

Vacuum Full Fit is standard on the new RC4 The Curv series of narrow (97mm) race boots, with the exception of the value priced 130 ($599.99). The top models in the medium-lasted RC Pro series, the 130 and 110, also reap the benefits of Vacuum Full Fit.

The latest high-octane, 97mm boot from Fischer borrows its name from The Curv collection of carving skis, and it has the same mission in mind: to facilitate trench digging. The close fit feels spot-on right out of the box, although Vacuum Fit will make it even more accurate. Initial fit impression is greatly enhanced by added radius in the toe box that creates wiggle room hereto unknown in a narrow-lasted Fischer. The cuff cant on The Curvs covers a 6o range, so skiers who routinely ride a raked-up rail can dial in their angle of attack.

Whether you live to race or race for a living, the new RC4 Podium family of 92mm-lasted race boots are power incarnate. If you’re not an active racer, or you just can’t crush your foot to this degree, the RC4 The Curv 140 Vacuum Full Fit will have to suffice.

Returning to the Fischer stable is its medium-lasted (100mm) RC Pro series. The key to the dynamic comfort of the RC Pros (and RC4 The Curvs) are Active Fit Zones (AFZ) built into the liners that provide something Fischer had previously been missing: instant gratification. Customers tend to judge a bootfit almost immediately, so Fischer concocted an inner boot with 3 separate fit zones that don’t require thermomolding to provide an accurate, comfortable fit. The Power Zone in around the ankle is reinforced to transmit energy, the Flex Zone in the midfoot allows for subtle movement and the Comfort Zone in the forefoot provides elasticity, cushy materials and insulation. The AFZ liner is found in all RC4 The Curv and RC Pro models and the Ranger 120.

The RC Pro 130 and 110, as well as the women’s RC Pro W 110 and W 90, offer Vacuum Full Fit, but the hidden gem in the series could be the RC Pro 120. This value proposition dispenses with shell customization in order to hit the $499 price point, or roughly $100 below the standard market price for a 120 flex, 100mm last boot. The women’s RC Pro W 100 offers a similar superior value.

All RC Pro models can be retrofit with rockered WTR walking soles ($60).

RC Pro Vacuum Full Fit

The RC Pro series are so comfy out of the box, you might be tempted to forego the Vacuum Full Fit process, but don’t. Fischer’s edge over other brands with heat-moldable shells is their Full Fit Vacuum is equally elastic whether they’re asked to expand or contract. This makes the new RC Pro Full Fit models ideal for a foot with a narrow heel and ankle that spreads into a flat spatula across the metatarsals.
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RC4 Curv Vacuum Full Fit

High-speed carving isn’t exactly like racing, and the new RC4 The Curv aren’t exactly race boots. But they’re pretty darn close. To get the most from this design, it pays to get one of the Vacuum Full Fit models (140, 120 or 110 flex), but if the tariff is too steep, the non-Vacuum Curv 130 is a capable substitute at a value price. All the Curvs fit better out of the box than narrow Fischers
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My Curv Vacuum Full Fit

The two fundamentals all ski boots must provide are a solid stance and conforming fit. The new My Curv Vacuum Full Fit, available in 110W and 90W flexes, possesses a centered, neutral stance from which steering is automatic. As for the fit, out of the box it feels a bit generous for a 97mm, perhaps because the new toe box affords more room. This is where Vacuum Full Fit comes in, able to suck up
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RC Pro W Vacuum Full Fit

There might not be another boot as female-friendly as the new RC Pro W Vacuum Full Fit, in flexes 110W and 90W. Consider that the shell can be expanded or shrunk by 5mm; that’s a range that includes race-room tight 95mm up to bucket-big 105mm. The AFZ women’s liners might as well have been conceived exclusively for women with their more confining fit in the ankle and roomy forefoot. Even the buckles are adapted for
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2018 Full Tilt Boots

Full Tilt prides itself on maintaining close ties to its roots, so product turnover isn’t the priority it is elsewhere. The only change to the 2017 line was the addition of the Drop Kick, a slam dunk from a product development standpoint as it adds a spiral wrap liner to a Classic shell, or pretty much where both concepts began 25 years ago.

The new boots for 2018 are both athlete-associated re-assembly of existing shells and liners. The B&E Pro uses the wide, 102mm Evolution shell of the Descendant 6 with the Descendant 8’s Pro liner. (Full Tilt follows its own star when it comes to applying a flex index to its boots, hence the 6’s and 8’s in place of 90’s and 100’s). The Tom Wallisch Pro uses the same shell as the First Chair 6, with new bi-material, treaded walking soles.

That’s it for the news; now back to our regular programing. 

To old-timers, Full Tilt boots represent Raichle resurrected; to today’s high-flying Pipe & Park population, they’re dope. Kids who cavort and contort in the halfpipe or on rails feel about their Full Tilts the way Charleton Heston felt about his rifle, although it’s actually pretty easy to slide out of any of their 3-piece shell models whether your feet are dead or alive. The external tongue rocks completely out of the way, and the open-throat shell likewise poses no obstacle for exit or entry.

 

The irony of what was once Raichle’s World Cup race boot now serving a generation that intentionally aims backward down the hill – while lining up for a launch pad – is immaterial to the daredevils who have embraced Full Tilt as their preferred footwear. Landing big airs in switch position asks a boot certain questions to which Full Tilts know the answer: have an elastic range no 4-buckle boot can match, supple at the top of its movement and consistently resilient thereafter.

The biggest influence on a Full Tilt’s behavior and a key differentiator among their models is the flex resistance of the external tongue, indicated by a flex number that works on a logical 10-point scale, with 10 being the stiffest. Should the standard issue be too firm or flimsy, any model can be retrofitted with a softer or stiffer tongue. What won’t change much is the fixed volume in the forefoot area, so be sure the Full Tilt you fancy is a good match for your foot’s widest point.

As Raichle did before them, Full Tilt has infiltrated Intuition heat-moldable liners throughout their line. The Pro and Performer use Intuition’s distinctive, multi-density wrap liner; the Classic is a more traditional, tongued liner with its own recipe of soft and firm foams.

Aside from their exceptional range of forward flexibility, another prized attribute of Full Tilt shoes is their weight, or rather, the lack thereof. Their lightest models feel like they don’t weigh more than a baguette, a feature you value if you have to spin your feet three times around your head before you land.

You have to give Full Tilt credit for focus: every boot in their line is built on the same principle and aimed at essentially the same audience. Some are wider, some are stiffer, some are lighter, some can suck up a little more shock; but all use the same fundamental architecture with a shared bundle of benefits. If you take to the air a lot, you’re bound to land one day in a pair of Full Tilts.

Classic/Drop Kick

Just about every boot being sold today can trace its roots back to a handful of shell archetypes that were developed decades ago. But only one actually is the original – as the name for this Full Tilt shell implies – for the Classic is a faithful replica of the Raichle Flexon Comp. All the strengths of the Original shell are retained: a strong spine that travels with the leg, an external tongue that suffocates
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Descendant

Full Tilt used to subject the wide-body foot to a flimsy bathtub called the Booter, but two years ago the high-volume foot was treated to a new wide shell called Evolution. The Evolution retains Full Tilt’s 3-piece architecture but uses a vastly improved buckle system that’s half-cable, half traditional buckle. The men’s Evolution models are dubbed Descendants, available in a stout 8 flex, a standard 6 flex and a 4-flex that’s aimed at the lightweight
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First Chair

Full Tilt didn’t stray far from their Original formula when they concocted the Soul, a similarly narrow-lasted shell with a touch more toe radius and high-traction, replaceable rubber soles. The Soul shell forms the foundation for Full Tilt’s stiffest tongue in the First Chair 10, and serves the same function for the slightly softer First Chair 8 and 6. Because Full Tilt’s signature ribbed tongue remains elastic in all its iterations, even the burly First
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Plush

Women’s models that use the Evolution shell as their foundation, the Plush 6 and Plush 4 provide plenty of room for the high volume fem foot, but with more built-in support than the Mary Jane’s they replaced a year ago. The Plush 6 has a functional forward lean adjustment to help women dial in their stance and comes with a Plush wrap liner that warms you up just looking at it. The Plush 4 uses
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Rumor

The Rumor marries Full Tilt’s Original shell with a classic Intuition™ liner, i.e., one with a separate tongue. The cuff is cut a little shorter for a women’s less lengthy calf and the tongue is a relatively soft 4, but otherwise the Rumor is the largely the same boot as the men’s Classic.

Soul Sister

Women suffer more from cold feet than men do, and if there’s one trait the Soul Sister has in spades, it’s warmth. The well-insulated Intuition™ liner is pre-molded for the narrow female foot and can be further custom molded with a dose of heat. The more rounded toe box of the Soul shell assists circulation to heat-deprived tootsies. As its name makes plain, the Soul Sister is built with the narrow-lasted Soul shell and a
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2018 Head Boots

Head has garnered an avalanche of well-earned accolades for its amazing Race and Technical skis, precipitating a rise in the brand’s fortunes at retail. Most of the athletes hoisting Head skis on a podium are also wearing Head Raptor boots, yet the magnificent Raptor has yet to catch fire with consumers to a commensurate degree.

What’s up with that? It must be due to the public’s apprehension about using a real race boot for recreational skiing, because if more advanced skiers tried them on, you’d see a lot more white boots on the hill. It’s understandable why even skilled skiers would shy away from a 140 flex, but their worst fears are unfounded. The Raptor 140 puts the skier in a perfectly balanced stance, and the fit through the steering column of the leg and rear foot is intimate and so accurately contoured that contact is felt everywhere.

The 2018 Raptor 140 eliminates two obstacles to pervasive public appeal: the liner is no longer of the minimalist, lace-up variety but a conventional – and very good –design; and the sole is ready to step into any alpine binding, rather than the thick, non-standard sole that needs to be shaved down to be skiable. It’s unlikely a skier with a narrow foot will want to expand the 96mm Raptor shell, but both it and the liner can be heat molded as required.

The Vector Evo shell borrows its stance angles from the Raptor series, but little else. The Raptor skis as if it were made from a single block of polyurethane; the Vector Evo is palpably two-piece, it cuff reasonably compliant even in a 130 flex, with a customizable liner and shell built for comfort, not for speed.

Every change in shell volume in the Head line triggers a complete change in shell construction, so the high-volume Advant Edge shell uses architecture tailored to the recreational skier. The lower shell extends into the upper cuff to help manage stance and pressure. Both shell and liner use Head’s Perfect Fit heat molding system, so even the most elephantine pedal extremity can be housed therein.

Perhaps the best feature on the Advant Edge and Vector Evo models is Head’s unique Double Power lever that’s so neatly integrated in the cuff buckles you hardly notice it. Until you need to use it, when the extra leverage it applies makes even the tightest setting easy to close.

Advant Edge

All the hub-bub about heat-molding technology – wonderful as it is – tends to obscure the built-in virtues of the shell being heated. In the case of the new Advant Edge, such oversight misses what makes these boots perform like training wheels for intermediate skiers. Advant Edge shells are bi-material, with a stiffer rear and base and more supple and adaptable front, which rises all the way up the tongue, creating instant contact when the
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Raptor RS

The Raptor 140 RS and 120 RS are as close to World Cup race boots as anyone not wearing a start bib needs to own. Contact around the heel and ankle feels like a velvet vise before the boot is even buckled. Once cinched in with their low-profile Spineflex buckle system, you feel welded to the monoblock structure, your every twitch instantly transmitted to the sole. The foundation of high performance skiing is the boot,
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Vector Evo

The Vector Evo series blends race-bred fundamentals with fancy customization features to create a series for the recreational skier with no interest in running gates. The chassis is a relatively roomy medium (100mm @ 26.5) that can easily be heated and expanded in any direction using Head’s Form Fit system. While the heat-moldable shell and liner are laudable features, what really makes the Vector Evo awesome boots are all the elements not affected by custom
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Advant Edge W

There are plenty of other options for the intermediate to advanced woman with a wide foot. Nowadays, several of those other options also have heat-moldable shells and liners, as Advant Edge W models do. But the Advant Edge 95W and 85W models have one feature not found on any other women’s boot, the Double Power lever. Women have a tough time exerting enough force to get the critical lower cuff buckle tight enough to retain
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Raptor RS W

Head has the unusual – but welcome – habit of referencing forefoot width by size, indicating just how scaled down this dimension becomes with each drop in shell size. Also unusual is a volume measurement for each model, which for the Raptor 110 RS W is 1800cc, or the same small interior as the unisex Raptor 140 RS. This confirms that the Raptor RS W is every cc the same shoe as the men’s boot,
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Vector Evo W

Every so often boot designers come up with a feature that has more value for women than for men. Once in a blue moon you’ll find two such features on a boot, as is the case with the Vector Evo 110W. The boot components that the skier handles every day are the buckles, yet most buckles, particularly on high-end boots, are rudimentary affairs, often with short latches just to make closing them even more arduous.
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2018 K2 Boots

As America’s preeminent ski brand, K2 has made the core recreational skier – not the race competitor – the focus of their best engineering. This philosophy has been extended to their boot line, where they’ve aimed at the all-terrain, big mountain skier as their top-end target. To take an obvious example of how this orientation finds expression in the new shoes, flip one over.   The sole of a race boot tends to be a single, monoblock structure, but the Spyne series uses a grippy sole that’s a far better solution if you’re climbing a rocky ridge or riding a snowmobile in the backcountry.

The central feature from which the Spyne derives its name is the Powerfuse Spyne, a carbon exoskeleton that adds rigidity in the rear, allowing the rest of the boot structure to be a more effective shock absorber. This is a design element that, in conjunction with the Energy Interlock that controls the rivet-less rear connection between shell and cuff, makes the K2’s particularly well suited to charging through the irregular terrain features and broken snow conditions that prevail off piste.

In another echo of their ski origins, for every Spyne there is a Spyre, or a parallel women’s-specific boot made for the go-everywhere gal. For 2018, both the Spyne and Spyre flagship models get a Precision Fit Pro EVA liner that takes full advantage of this heat-moldable, custom inner-boot material.

K2’s freeride orientation puts an automatic emphasis on all things off-trail, so its version of a hike-mode (HM) model, Pinnacle, was integrated into its overall design plan from square one. Energy Interlock was conceived from the outset to accommodate a latching mechanism that would unlock the Powerfuse Spyne. To further facilitate hiking, the upper buckle connects to a broad power strap that will remain latched when unbuckled, increasing forward range of motion needed for steep climbs.

If the Pinnacle is made for sidecountry (lift assisted access to backcountry), the Pinnacle Pro is made for the purist who begins his climb from the bottom. Made in super lightweight Pebax instead of PU, it has two long-bale buckles on the cuff as well as a Velcro strap. Like the Pinnacle 130 and 110, the Pro uses integrated Tech fittings so they can be used with regular DIN bindings or with Tech bindings.

If you have chronically cold feet or ski where the mercury regularly hovers near zero, K2 has four new boots with an integrated heating unit made by industry leader Thermic. The four Heat models being introduced in 2018 are the Spyne 120 Heat, the Spyre 100W Heat, B.F.C. 100 Heat and the B.F.C. 90W Heat. All these models come with amply insulated inner boots, but if your toes are never warm, a heating element right on top of them should solve the problem.

Completing the K2 boot collection are its B.F.C. – Built For Comfort – models, as always in men’s and women’s iterations. Their high-volume 103mm last and Cushfit liners won’t put a lot of pressure on a foot unaccustomed to the concept of fit tension. Soft, pliable plastic over the instep allows the lower shell to spread open for “hands-free” entry. In further acknowledgement of this skier’s less polished skill set, the B.F.C. hike switch is cleverly re-positioned as “A/M”, for “Après Mode.”

For 2018, K2 has added a new flagship to both the men’s and women’s B.F.C. lines, the B.F.C. 120 for men and the B.F.C. 100W for women. With the addition of the two new Heat models, skiers looking for outstanding convenience and the comfort of an over-sized fit now have 8 B.F.C models from which to choose.

K2 deserves special commendation for introducing its boot into a brutally competitive market and never wavering on the first principle of its commercial plan: K2 would not, have not and will not authorize the sale of its boots on the Internet. K2 understands the special requirements entailed in fitting a boot properly, an exercise that can only be accomplished long distance with the intervention of a thousand angels. Since most angels are busy elsewhere, we wouldn’t count on them sorting out boot-buying on the Internet anytime soon.

B.F.C.

K2 isn’t circumspect about who it made the B.F.C. for: it’s right there in the name: Built For Comfort. The C could just as easily stand for Convenience, for the B.F.C.’s are as easy to slip on as a 4-buckle boot can get. The latch on the spine that unlocks the upper cuff so it’s easier to walk is referred to as “Après Mode,” in recognition of the likelihood that this feature will be used
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Pinnacle

K2 had an advantage when they built their first hike-mode (HM) boot: they hadn’t made any boots, so they could build the HM model from the ground up. Since making a killer BC boot was central to their line from the outset, they built an alpine boot technology, Energy InterlockTM, which was easily adaptable to hiking. This is why Synchro InterlockTM, K2’s HM mechanism, has first-in-class rear support without losing the needed range of motion
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Spyne

K2 has shuffled the Spyne deck without changing any of the fundamentals of its shell design. Two new flexes, 120 and 100 have replaced the retired 110, and a Heat option is also available in the 120 (only). The new line-up all receive a new EVA liner with more toe height and a preformed shape in the critical rear-foot area. The fit all around the foot in the Spyne 130 LV feels well contoured and
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B.F.C. W

One could make the case that if a boot holds you comfortably in the correct stance, it’s done its job. This is the modest ambition of the B.F.C. models for women, wide-lasted recreational boots available in two new upscale versions, the 100 and 90 Heat. The 100W is naturally more supportive than the returning B.F.C. 90W and 80W (the 90W has a new inner boot), but it shouldn’t be mistaken for a high performance machine,
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Minaret 100

K2 has given the Minaret 80 its walking papers, leaving only the Minaret 100, in either narrow (LV) or medium volume, to outfit the advanced woman with an itch to explore the backcountry. Like just about every boot in the 2018 collection, the Minaret 100 has a new liner with a smidgeon more toe-wiggle room. Its Lux Fit Tour Light inner boot that can be custom molded in a matter of minutes.

Spyre

K2’s Spyre line of ladies’ all-mountain boots parallels the men’s Spyne collection in most respects, right down to the Precision Fit Pro liner in the 110W and Lux Fit Pro in the 100W. About the only deviation from the men’s series is there’s no one women’s model that’s offered in all last widths from narrow to wide. Instead, the Spyre 110 comes in narrow (97mm) or medium (100mm), while the Spyre 100 comes in medium
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2018 Lange Boots

Lange isn’t the sort of brand to make changes for change’s sake. It’s supremely confident in how it builds boots and could care less about the current fashion. It weathered the rear-entry storm 30 years ago, and sees little incentive in jumping on the heat-molding bus today.

But Lange understands that innovation must be served. The brand that sits still gets run over, and so Lange has gradually adapted to market realities. When the market moved to higher volume lasts, Lange responded with the RX and SX series. When hiking off-piste emerged as a viable market, Lange stepped up with its XT and XT Tour families. In the current golden era of heat molding, Lange has returned to manufacturing fundamentals to create boots that don’t beg for modification in the first place.

One way to describe the major overhaul to Lange’s flagship series, the RS and RX collections, is enigmatic but accurate: everything has changed and nothing has changed. The RS is still the pure race, no B.S. archetype of what a competition boot should fit like and ski like. The RX remains a slightly softened all-mountain boot for advanced to expert skiers who stay away from the racecourse.

But what’s changed is nothing less than amazing, particularly for generations of Lange skiers who endured considerable pain and suffering in order to win ski races. A new manufacturing method has allowed Lange to preserve the best performance qualities of the RX and RS boots while changing, well, everything else.

The key word in Lange’s latest lexicon is “dual.” Both the new shell and liner use a multi-layer construction to take race boots to the next level. The latest Lange shell for the RS and RX series simultaneously injects two different densities of polyether (PE) or polyurethane (PU) via 5 separate injection points. The result is a plastic sandwich in which one material or the other dominates, so the shell ends up with hard and soft zones. The softer areas are in the cuff and on top of the lower shell, where malleability facilitates entry, exit and a tight wrap on top.

The duality in the Dual 3D liner is between inside and outside, the soft layer caressing the foot and lower leg, and the rigid outer layer connecting the foot to the shell. The entirety is, of course, heat moldable to the skier’s foot shape, making skier, boot and ski feel like a single, integrated entity.

Before you ski the new Langes, what you’ll notice most is that they’re simplicity itself to take on and off, something one could never say about a Lange RS in years past. (Ask the next codger you see about the early generation Langes and the grown men they reduced to tears and be prepared for a 3-hour history lesson.) Once you’re on snow and pressing the edge of the speed envelope, fit issues are behind you. All you have to do now is ski and there it is: the precision, the reactivity and the purity of the snow connection you get with a Lange.

The new injection technology affords Lange the opportunity to put a little more distance between the RX and RS series, so the former is more comfort-oriented and the latter more focused on shaving seconds off the clock. On paper, the difference between the RX and RS doesn’t sound like a big deal: 3mm of extra volume will fit more feet, duh. But RS and RX, while only a silly consonant apart in nomenclature, are miles apart on snow. The RS is a highly reactive race boot, for which it makes no apologies or concessions (except it no longer has to return to room temperature to remove). The RX is a very capable all-mountain shoe, but it’s not in same league as the RX when it comes to measuring success in hundredths of a second.

As evident by both their long history and their current collection, Lange doesn’t care to deviate from what they correctly feel is their heritage and their strength. When rear-entry boots were ubiquitous, Lange finally made a feeble stab at the concept as if to prove what an abomination all such silly boots were.

The current craze is the alpine hiking boot, a trend that at first caught Lange flatfooted. But Lange quickly caught up, producing first-rate exemplars of the budding genre by not corrupting their alpine structure much beyond adding a walk-ski latch to the rear spoiler. Two years ago, Lange committed to the genre by making new, more hike-friendly molds for their top HM model, the XT, in both narrow and medium widths.

Last year Lange finally dove into the deep end of the hiking pool, emerging with the 3-model XT Free Tour series with a Grilamid® shell, polyolefin cuff, Dynafit® certified Tech inserts and a WTR sole. The latching mechanism on the spine resembles every other Lange Ski/Hike switch, but it’s attached to a wider notch in the lower shell so the Free Tour’s total ROM is 23o in either direction. The radical switch in materials notwithstanding (1770g/shell), the XT Free Tours look every inch like classic Langes. The shells that sit atop their rockered soles are monoblock construction, and all the stance angles and pivot points are pure Lange. As the true AT genre requires, the liner is a minimalist, lace-up affair.

RS

Since the creation of the plastic ski boot, no single brand and design has proven as enduring as the four-buckle overlap Lange race boot. Of course there has been considerable evolution over 50 years, but the essentials have remained much the same: get the stance angles correct (4o ramp angle, 12o forward lean) and cut out all frills. Today’s incarnation is the RS 130, the “true 130,” the blue boot that represents the gold standard
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RX

Oh, the difference a couple of silly millimeters make. The new RX’s are so comfortable right out of the box you won’t believe you’re in a Lange. How did this come to pass? Several seasons ago, Lange increased the instep height on its classic RS race boot and instantly earned thousands of new adherents who wouldn’t have worn a blue Lange race boot on a bet. The green machine, the RX 130, took another clever
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SX

One has to admire Lange’s uncompromising standards. Many boots made for big, wide feet surrender any number of performance attributes to achieve a more immediately accommodating fit. Lange knows that for a wide boot to ski like a Lange, it has to be built with the same stance and inner boot technology as its other models. This commitment to making technical products for all skiers makes the SX 130 a standout shoe for any fellow
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XT

Two years ago, the first, built-from-scratch Lange XT debuted, with its own mold and V-Lock Hike-Ski system that boosted the hike mode ROM to 20o. The latest version of the XT doubles down with Power V-Lock 2.0, bringing the ROM to 43o, more than enough to be taken seriously as a backcountry boot. The metal-to-metal connection in the new XT’s hike-mode lends added security to the dicey descents that often accompany off-piste exploration. Adding to
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XT Free Tour

A true AT boot with the requisite Tech inserts and rockered WTR sole, the XT Free Tour lies outside our normal field of inquiry. We reference it here so those of you contemplating this activity – related to alpine skiing, but not to be mistaken for it – can find it among the Realskiers/ABB specialty shop network and sort out its suitability for your purposes for yourselves. Another precautionary note: the shell material (Grilamid) doesn’t
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RS SC

Lange’s new Dual Core technology is an innovation that could prove more beneficial to women than men. By softening and thinning the shell wherever possible, the new shoes are easier to take on and off, easier to position the heel all the way back and easier to initiate forward pressure. The RS SC – for Short Cuff – uses the same PE lower as the men’s model but substitutes a PU cuff in place of
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RX W

The RX W series are sensational women’s boots because they don’t compromise on performance. The 110W and 90W use polyether shells and cuffs and Dual 3D liners that fit the skier and match the shell better than ever. The RX W inner boots are no-nonsense affairs, unadorned by fluffy faux fur or other girlie adornments. Every gal would like a little more toe room, and the RX W liners oblige with a bigger toe box
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SX W

In the world of alpine boots, skiers with the widest feet get the narrowest number of options. At least at Lange, you know the limited wide-body selection will still retain the essential stance angles that deliver steering accuracy and reduce fatigue by helping the skier retain a more neutral, upright stance. The SX 90W and its softer sisters, the SX 80W and SX 70W, won’t sacrifice ski control on the altar of pillow-lined comfort. These
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XT Free Tour W LV

The XT Free Tour W 110 LV is a classic, 4-buckle boot made with every adaptation a woman with a yen to climb can covet: ultralight materials, a longer ROM, WTR sole with Tech inserts, Ultralon custom-fit liner and, for the downhill portion the exercise, all the power and precision of a 97mm Lange.

XT W

The XT line got all new shells and liners just a year ago, so this collection of HM models built on RX W lasts didn’t get the Dual Core upgrade, at least not yet. The XT 110 LV is notable for being the rare narrow-lasted boot with a Hike Mode latch on the back. When in hike mode, the unlatched upper cuff allows for 43o range of motion, more than enough for sidecountry jaunts, and
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2018 Nordica Boots

Two years ago, Nordica revived its legendary Dobermann and Grand Prix franchises; last year the resurrection trend continued with the reanimation of Speedmachine in a new twist on a classic, built on a medium (100mm) last. Speedmachine models would be comfortable and capable 4-buckle overlap shells even without a trifecta of bonus features that Nordica bundles under the umbrella term Tri-Fit Technology.

The sexiest element in the Tri-Fit triad is a locally applied infrared heating system used to achieve quick and lasting shell expansion. An Infrared Heating lamp warms the shell from the inside out, then a suction cup is placed over the heated zone to initiate the shell’s distortion. After a few minutes the separately heated liners (the second element of Tri-Fit) are re-inserted and the skier puts the still warm boots on and wears them for 5 minutes.

The oven-heated inner boots use a cork compound to follow every contour of the heel and ankle area, a material that readily adapts to any foot shape. The third piece of the Tri-Fit tool kit is the ability to disassemble whatever parts of the boot aren’t molded together; buckles, power straps, cuff cants, soles and spine screws are all removable.

Speedmachine spearheaded Nordica’s retrenchment in the critical medium-last (100mm) chunk of the market; for 2018, the venerable Italian brand hopes Sport Machine – the identical features assembled on a high-volume (102mm) shell – will generate a similar spark in the brand’s fortunes. Adhering to a Nordica tradition, the top Sport Machines are positioned to sell for less than a Speed Machine model at the same flex index, but the two series merge into price parity at the 100 flex/$499 MSRP. This aggressive pricing means the Sport Machine 120 is likely to street price at $499, giving skiers with high-volume feet a boot that fits, functions and won’t break the bank.

Anyone who races knows that Nordica doesn’t need to inflate its resume to establish its street cred. Great racers of a bygone generation hoarded secret stashes of the venerable Grand Prix, and if Nordica ever stops making their Dobermann line of undiluted race boots, they’re also likely to be black market booty the instant they’re officially retired. The GPX line fills an interesting market need: a really good boot for the thin-profile foot that, while imitating a classic race paradigm, subtly softens the vise-like grip and brittle flex of a true race boot.

Nordica is at their best when they don’t stray from their roots in traditional, overlap shell design. Purists will applaud how the Dobermann GP 130 delivers the support and power of a true race boot in a flex more suitable for freeskiing on today’s rockered skis. Any skier who likes sensation in all his toes will appreciate that the rounder radius of the new GP’s toe box has room enough for five digits.

Dobermann GP

If you fit ski boots long enough, you discover that people have vastly different tolerance levels for what we’ll call “fit tension.” Some feet crave the confinement of a shell measuring 92mm – 95mm at its widest point; others may love the extraordinary support the narrow shell provides but can’t tolerate the compression and don’t a need a flex over 130. The Dobermann GP (98mm) was made for the feet in Group B, the slightly
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GPX

The GPX line of men’s and women’s boots, marries the take-no-prisoners attitude of race boots with the slightly more relaxed fit and shock-absorbing properties of all-mountain shoes. The inner boot and its attendant fit sensations are the biggest differentiators between the men’s GPX line and their race-bred spin-offs, the Dobermann GP’s. The GPX liners are imbued with Primaloft® so they’re automatically guaranteed to be warmer than the denser, bare-bones affairs that inhabit the insides of
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Speedmachine

The name Speedmachine has been plucked from the past, but every significant feature of this series is brand, spanking new. Nordica’s entry into the heat-moldable shell market comes with a twist: an infrared lamp applies internal heat to a relatively small zone, then a suction cup is applied to expand the shell just in that area. The Custom Cork liner is separately oven-heated to make the cork compound in the heel and ankle malleable enough
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Sportmachine

The new Sportmachine series are basically Speedmachine models expanded by 1mm or more in every direction but down. This may not sound like much, but in a ski boot, 2mm more freedom in the forefoot, 7mm extra room in the cuff and whopping 4mm higher instep add up to a very roomy fit with an adjustable upper spoiler to relieve pressure on an ample calf. As with Speedmachine, the Sportmachine shell is only stiff where
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Strider

For 2018, Nordica ends a several season siesta from making a hike-mode (HM) boot. The wait has been worth it. The new Strider delivers outstanding downhill performance in a four-buckle boot with all the requisite HM elements. The heavily treaded sole was developed in collaboration with Michelin, so you know it has some serious traction. But it isn’t its uphill features that grab your attention, but the accurate fit and most of all, the ski-ability.
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GPX W

If you believe that classics never go out of style, the GPX W is your kind of footwear. The narrow, 98mm last was born in the race room, although the GPX 95W and 85W aren’t competition caliber. The flagship GPX 105 W is an all-business boot with a little more give over the instep, where women often have fit issues. The competition in the women’s narrow-fit, performance boot market has never been fiercer. There’s more
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Speedmachine W

Look at all the flexes the Speedmachine W comes in. This carpet bombing of the women’s flex spectrum tells you Nordica expects a lot of women to gravitate to this medium-lasted collection. Already endowed with a fundamentally sound fit, the Speedmachine 115W and 105W embellish its accuracy with Custom Cork. Every Speedmachine W liner is insulated with Primaloft® and all shells can be modified with Nordica’s unique infrared heating method.

Sportmachine W

The new Sportmachine W models are made for women with thick feet and thin budgets. All the features that made the Speedmachine 95W model an instant hit with average-volume feet are included in its Sportmachine counterpart, at a probable sale price that’s $100 lower. The two lines settle into price parity for the 85W ads 75W models, which makes the Sportmachine 95W the standout value in the series. A strong woman will benefit from a
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2018 Rossignol Boots

Rossignol hit a home run when they launched the Alltrack line of hike mode (HM) boots 4 seasons ago. In 2016 Rossi essentially re-built its entire collection around the foundation laid by Alltrack, creating a parallel universe of classic overlap shells (i.e., no hike mode) dubbed Allspeed. Within its middle-of-the-bell-curve realm, Allspeed has all the bases covered: every flex from 80 to 130; narrow-, medium- and wide- lasted iterations and a choice of men’s and women’s models. The evergreen Alias and Kiara (women’s) models fill in the need for an ultra-wide chassis.

Nature and boot brands abhor a vacuum, so Rossi has attached a hike mode (HM) à la Alltrack to a 104mm last and applied the Track tag to it. Insulated with Wintherm®, a reflective aluminum membrane to reflect and retain heat, the Track liner is customizable to deal with any fit issues its cavernous interior might not accommodate. The instep area is softer and more flexible, so big feet can get in and out without assistance.

Skiers with ginormous feet aren’t necessarily hikers, but the hike mode mounted on the rear spoiler is nonetheless handy for traversing parking lots and other non-skiing activities. Skiers concerned about traction when walking should know that all Track models are compatible with separately available Walk to Ride (WTR) soles.

The Track series rounds out an HM collection headlined by the Alltrack Pro series of 100mm (medium) all-mountain boots and the Alltrack trio of 102mm (wide) HM boots.

Skiers who don’t want or need a hike mode are offered an equally well-stocked selection of all-mountain, 4-buckle boots bearing the Allspeed tag for men and Pure for women. Allspeed Elite models are 98mm (narrow) shells; Allspeed Pro fills the 100mm, medium slot and Allspeed takes care of wide feet with a 102mm last.

The signature technical feature of Allspeed boots is a trim, anatomical spine called Sensor Blade that serves as the boot’s power source. Sculpted cutouts reduce weight and reinforce the lean but muscular structure. The rear screws that connect the cuff to the shell can be rearranged or removed to alter the forward flex.

The keys to comfort are held by the inner boot, a Custom Liner pre-molded to retain the heel and ankle securely. Thinsulate™ insulation keeps feet warm and dry without adding bulk, so the liner can be close fitting for more sensitive steering. An Easy Entry Insert over the instep makes this area of the shell more pliable so feet can slide in and out without being pinched in the process.

All the Allspeed models can be retrofitted with Walk to Ride (WTR) soles that substitute a grippier tread pattern for the standard DIN sole. This modification probably makes more sense to apply to an Alltrack Pro model as the Alltrack is bedecked with a hike mode, but there’s certainly no harm in swapping the soles on an Allspeed if you want better traction when on foot.

Alias

Rossignol has always made a home for the guy whose nickname is Bigfoot. Sasquatch gets a choice of high-volume boots from Rossignol, the Track (referenced above) and Alias families. With a 104mm last, the Alias 120 definitely qualifies as big, and it’s also substantial and supportive, qualities big men require in their boots. The 120 flex feels supple enough for everyday skiing on any snow surface. An Alias model is a good fit for the
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Allspeed

Rossignol has always had a soft spot in its corporate heart for the high-volume foot, going back to its very first days as a boot brand. Maybe that’s why the narrow Allspeed Elite collection is two boots deep, the medium Allspeed Pro line presents three models, while the wide Allspeed contingent includes four models, in flexes from 130 down to 80. Or maybe it’s because Americans keep growing in every dimension, feet included, making the
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Allspeed Elite

The Allspeed Elite 130 sets the tone for the entire extended Allspeed family, even though from a sales standpoint the wider and softer Allspeed Pro 120 will probably be a hotter seller. The Allspeed Elite 130 has the accurate, low-volume fit the world’s best skiers are accustomed to, without the Iron Maiden aspects of true race boots. Rossi learned a few tricks when it concocted the original Alltrack Pro that it applied to the Allspeed
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Allspeed Pro

The key differentiator across the three branches of the Allspeed family is shell volume, which by current convention is indicated by forefoot width, measured in millimeters (usually, but not necessarily, in size 26.5). The Allspeed Pro fills the all-important “100mm” slot in Rossignol’s line, the wheelhouse fit for the average foot.   Befitting their importance, all the Allspeed Pro models (120/110/100 flexes) are equipped with Thinsulate™ Platinum insulation. We wouldn’t expect to see all three of
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Alltrack

The Alltrack series comes in three widths, the medium-gauge 100mm last of the Alltrack Pro, the wider, 102mm last used in the 3-model Alltrack pack and the new Track, in an ultra-wide 104mm. All the Alltracks include a hike mode, but that’s probably not the best reason to buy one. The 102mm Alltracks represent one of the best options for any guy with a big foot, even if his longest hike of the day is
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Alltrack Pro

One doesn’t expect a hike-mode (HM) model to offer first-rate performance in ski mode, nor does one hope a HM 130 will have the same flex resistance as an on-piste race boot with the same flex index, yet the Alltrack Pro comes awfully close on both accounts. As a true 100mm last with a conforming inner boot set on a neutral platform, it’s instantly comfortable for many foot shapes, which never hurts first impressions. Part
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Track

Extending the Alltrack series to an ultra-wide, 104mm shell, the new Track series gives someone with a pair of giant grape-stompers an option he didn’t have before. Unlike most large-volume boot lasts, the 4-model Track series is headlined by a 130-flex model, so big boys with big feet might get the support they need and so rarely get. Big feet have feelings, too, and the Track liner takes loving care of them with Wintherm® insulation,
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Alltrack Pro W

The signature feature on the Alltrack Pro W models is a hike/ski latch on the rear spine that Rossi purloined several seasons ago from sister company Lange. The curious quality of the Alltrack Pro 110 W is that it skis brilliantly, not because of its focal feature, but despite it. Most hike mode (HM) boots lose some of their downhill flavor with a loosey-goosey flex that doesn’t quite live up to its numeric billing. This
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Alltrack W

The chances of the classic 90-flex American woman climbing anything more demanding than the stairs leading to the upper deck at the base lodge is close to nil, but that doesn’t mean she won’t appreciate flipping into hike mode as she prepares her assault on the first flight. Back in the 1980’s we referred to such shell/cuff connections as a “walk mode,” and for models such as the Alltrack 90W and its softer-flexing sisters, that’s
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Pure

Ladies with high-volume feet don’t get equal treatment, from Rossignol or anybody else. The flex range that rose to 100 in the Pure Pro line and to 120 for the Pure Elite skier with a tiny set of tootsies, tops out at 90 in the 3-model Pure branch of the family tree and its 102mm last. All pretense of delivering the ultimate performance experience is jettisoned in favor of getting a lightweight, warm and supportive
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Pure Elite

Give a lady a lever that’s long enough, and she can move the world. Fortunately, the cuff height on the Pure Elite isn’t tall enough to shift the earth off its orbit, but it’s tall enough to deliver pristine power to the edge. Close-fitting yet still cushioned, the women’s version of the Allspeed Elite gets away with its tall upper cuff by flaring it enough to allow for a woman’s lower calf to be held
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Pure Pro

You won’t find a much more homogeneous line than Rossi’s 3-boot, Pure Pro collection of medium-lasted, recreational boots for the on-piste skier. Every model is a PU shell (yes, this matters) with a Merino wool insulated liner, built on a performance platform. The reason we’re leading with this observation is that when most boot families slip down the flex index, they jettison every performance feature along the way, until the last boot in the line-up
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Track W

The women’s Track W models don’t aim high. They are meant to encase high-volume feet attached to low-skill skiers whose main objectives are enjoying the day and returning alive. Everyone has her own definition of what makes a perfect day; the Track W’s mission is to be sure cramped, cold feet don’t impinge on that vision. The Track 80W and 70W are priced low enough that entry-level skiers can contemplate owning their own boots instead
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2018 Salomon Boots

The success of Salomon’s boot line is difficult to overstate. It rules the roster of top models by an unprecedented margin, at one time having the top seven best selling boots in the U.S. Maintaining this level of market dominance is impossible, yet Salomon shows no signs of slowing down.

Salomon wins the point of sale battle for a lot of reasons, but two fit-related features are largely responsible for Salomon’s separation from the pack: heat-moldable shells and a clever re-shaping of its shell last that enhances first impressions.

Everyone knows about heat molding by now, as every boot in God’s Creation has a moldable liner, and half the major boot brands feature heat-moldable shells with a fit process just as simple as Salomon’s.

The magic trick that gives Salomon a better first fit impression and the inside track on the ensuing sales is two-fold: a toe box with a wider radius matched with a heel pocket with extra curvature along the longitudinal axis that gives the heel room to retreat when the skier presses into the tongue. Toes instantly have enough room and the discussion between bootfitter and skier can proceed to whether or not heat molding will even be necessary.

It’s against this backdrop that Salomon makes moves every year to shore up its position. Its latest initiative is a migration away from polyurethane (PU) as its go-to lower shell material to polyamide, a material the brand has used in its cuffs since the SX91, circa 1985. Polyamide (PA6 to be more precise) appeared last season in the spine and rigid sole of the QST Pro’s and X Pro’s bi-material Twin Frame 2 shell; this year it makes its debut throughout the narrow-lasted X Max collection.

Among polyamide’s enviable qualities are superior insulation, lighter weight, less reaction to temperature change and faster response to distortion. Like PU, PA can be made in a wide range of stiffnesses, but unlike PU it can’t be re-shaped at relatively low temperatures, making it the perfect partner for the PU/Caprilene blend that allows the X Max and X Pro to heat-mold so effectively.

For 2018, Salomon found a new niche between the 95mm X Lab+ 130 and 98mm X Max 130 and slipped in two new 96mm “recreational race” models, X Max Race 130 and 120. Compared to the returning X Max 130, the X Max Race 130 feels much stiffer and more resilient, and, unless heat molded, quite a bit narrower. Elite skiers who felt the previous X Max 130 wasn’t quite race-caliber, yet don’t want a FIS-level plug boot, should slip into an X Max Race 130. Even on the boot bench, you can feel the difference.

The QST Pro line of hybrid in-resort/backcountry boots returns intact with a new flagship, the QST Pro 130 TR with a touring sole as standard equipment. Other new top-of-series models in 2018 are two performance women’s boots: the X Max 120 W uses a shorter men’s cuff (i.e., less flared) in the new PU/PA Twin Frame 2 formula, and the X Pro 100 W raises the performance bar for women with medium to wide feet.

Two returning models of note are the X-Pro Custom Heat boots for men and women, in 110 and 100 flexes, respectively. Recreational skiers who need a high-volume fit have four new 104mm models to consider, the X Access 80 Wide and 70 Wide for men and 70W Wide and 60W Wide for women, all at entry-level price points. The same generous fit is found in the improved HM models, QST Access in 90, 80 and 70 flexes for men and QST Access W in 80W. 70W and 60W flexes for women.

MTN Explore

If you’re essentially an in-bounds skier with the occasional yen to roam the backcountry, the QST Pro is the shoe you’ve been looking for; however, if you regard riding a lift as weakness, the MTN models are right in your wheelhouse. If performance to weight were a standard metric, the MTN Lab would win hands-down. Made from Grilamid (PA12), a high grade of polyamide that can’t be co-molded with polyurethane (PU), the MTN lower shells
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QST Pro

The unusual look of the new QST Pro models suggest that they’re hybrids of a sort, and indeed they are. Made from equal parts of MTN and X Pro elements, QST Pro boots are an amalgam of on-trail and out-of-bounds properties. On the OB side, the skier is dropped as close to snow as he’d be in a rock-climbing shoe, and the Surelock hike-mode mechanism provides more than adequate range of motion when open and
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X Max

This season the X Max series gets a top-to-bottom makeover with the new Twin Frame 2 shell that uses polyamide in the lower shell and spine to increase rigidity and rebound and decrease weight. The new X Max 130 now uses a wide Velcro strap (instead of a cinch strap) and a thinner liner for greater sensitivity and snow feel. The women’s X Max models take performance up a notch with the addition of the
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X Max Race

X Max Race is a new series that might be more accurately named X-Racer Max, for it aims at a skier with race-level skills who isn’t inclined to ski a pure race boot, in other words, an ex-racer. The PU/PA shell of the X Max Race 130 and 120 are narrower, livelier and noticeably stiffer than the corresponding flexes in the regular X Max series of 98mm-lasted shells.

X Pro

The most popular boots in America since their introduction three years ago, the 2018 X Pro models don’t tamper with the formula that made them so successful. They still start with a medium (100mm) Twin Frame 2 shell that can be expanded up to 6mm, fitting all but the most problematic feet in a matter of minutes. The beauty of Salomon’s molding method is that while the entire shell is heated, expansion can be limited
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MTN Explore W

Women who don’t take their BC skiing lightly yet want a superlight boot should try the MTN Explore W. The only option made for women in the MTN collection, the Explore W weighs only 1,275g (24.5). When its Surelock mechanism is open, the total range of motion is a whopping 63o. When closed, Surelock lives up to its name, keeping the Explore W’s rigid Carbon Spine in a balanced and secure ski position.

QST Pro W

The key features of the returning QST Pro W family read like a litany of what women want: lightweight, warmth, convenience and custom-fit capability. That’s it’s also easy to walk in, whether it’s around the base area or across a ridgeline, is a bonus. Most women who purchase a boot with a hike mode do precious little hiking, but the QST Pro W series can handle the occasional jaunt into the backcountry with the same
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X Max W

Women are characteristically proportionately wider in the forefoot and narrower in the heel than the male of the species, which makes the heat-moldable X Max shell an ideal environment for the low-volume female foot and lower leg. Pesky bones like the first cuneiform are readily molded around, resulting in perfect envelopment for imperfect feet. High performance woman skiers with slender calves should rejoice at the arrival of the new X Max 120 W, which dispenses
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X Pro W

The X Max W models are adept at gripping the smaller female ankle area; the wider (100mm) X Pro W models provide luxury accommodations for wider forefeet that need their lebensraum. Expandable to up to 106mm measured across the metatarsals, the 90W and 80W can handle any bunion known to podiatric science. The X Pro 80W doesn’t have the moldable shell feature, but Salomon’s idea of a 100mm last for women is plenty wide enough
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2018 Tecnica Boots

Tecnica is much more than just a boot company, although to the boot buying public appearances remain unchanged. Tecnica’s alpine boot line remains a classic amalgam of narrow to wide lasts, with the obligatory option of boots with a hike mode (HM). What most skiers don’t know is that the folks behind Tecnica also own Nordica, a brand with its own storied history as a market leader, and Blizzard, a ski brand so hot it can’t keep its award-winning all-mountain skis in stock.

All of which is of little consequence to you unless you’re a stockholder in the Tecnica Group. As a boot buyer, all you need to remember is that Tecnica’s line is comprised of classic overlap, anatomically accurate 4-buckle shells in three different lasts and a full line of hike-mode boots that underwent a thorough re-design last year.

The Cochise 130, flagship of the HM series, is a 4-buckle boot with a readily modified Custom Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.) liner and shell. The Cochise 130 is one of the few ski boots with an alpine norm sole incorporating low-tech inserts for use with a backcountry binding. This feature, along with its more accurate 99mm last and supportive inner boot, gives the Cochise 130 its uncompromised ski-ability. The stock sole can be replaced with a rockered touring sole if so desired.

Most significantly from a performance standpoint, the Cochise shell material isn’t polypropylene, Grilamid or some other less sturdy stuff, but high-grade polyether (PE) in a bi-injection that makes the sole and spine 2.5 times stiffer despite shell walls that are 30% thinner. This results in a boot weighing less than 2000g with the steering properties of a World Cup race clone.

One of the battleground issues in any serious HM boot is range of motion (ROM), or how far the unlatched cuff will allow the lower leg to travel in stride. Tecnica contends that the issue isn’t simply how far rearward the rear spoiler can rotate, but achieving a balance between fore and aft movement. Working with their stable of athletes, Tecnica arrived at two inescapable conclusions: 1) world-class athletes demand an equally elite level of support in their touring boots and don’t care to settle for less, and 2) on steep inclines, forward ROM is every bit as important as rearward ROM.

Since the new Cochise didn’t have to share its shell or cuff molds with other models, special accommodations could be made to address the number one criterion of all gear that will be worn far, far from home: it must not fail. The one element in a touring boot that can’t degrade or disappear is the hinge rivet, so Tecnica eliminated it. Instead of a squashed rivet that can impinge cuff travel, Tecnica molded a post into the lower shell for the cuff to fit around. This creates a more solid connection with no teeth or fittings to wear out. Don’t worry that the cuff can’t be canted, as it won’t matter in most Tech bindings and in the alpine arena of DIN soles and standard bindings, Cantology™ shims will suffice in most cases.

As we’re on the subject of soles, I should italicize a Cochise anomaly: the men’s 130 and 120 and women’s 105 W come with a DIN sole and Dynafit-certified Tech inserts. This is a very cool set-up for the resort skier with only an occasional sidecountry scratch to itch. A rockered touring sole (ISO9523) kit is available for those intending to do more long-haul hiking.

At the end of the day, the 2018 Cochise is more an all-mountain boot with a hike mode than a touring boot with in-bounds chops. Perhaps the best way to approach the Cochise clan is as a fit alternative, particularly as pertains to the rest of the Tecnica line. The Mach 1 LV is on the tight side of the fit scale; the Mach 1 MV is a bit relaxed for a 100mm last. The Cochise slips in between the two, providing a 99mm last that is snug where it needs to be and easily opened up by a competent bootfitter using C.A.S. features to relieve pressure points.

Also returning to the Tecnica fold are its benchmark in-bounds performance models, Mach 1 LV for low-volume feet and Mach 1 MV for the mid-sized. Both boot families use the same features and components and are offered at parallel price points. Also returning are the more voluminous Ten.2 models for both men and women.

If there’s one feature that defines the new Tecnica – little is left of the line of 3 years ago – it’s C.A.S., for it’s the glue that provides the primordial connection between ski, shell, liner and skier that determines the success of any ski experience.

In a market besotted by heat molding, Tecnica sticks to its own customization methods for a very simple, yet compelling reason: their boots ski great just as they are. The fit process may be different, but the results are hard to ignore: the Mach 1 and Cochise are undeniably among the best boots in their respective categories.

The big news for 2018 is a significant re-design of the women’s Mach 1 models, a direct result of Tecnica’s Women to Women campaign. The major changes are to the C.A.S. inner boot, the upper cuff and stance position. The women’s C.A.S. liner is softer, to improve initial fit impression and lined with Merino wool, which is cooling when it’s hot out and super insulating when it’s cold. To improve circulation and blood flow, all Mach 1 W liners feature a Celliant® and Lambswool blend. Celliant is a bi-component fabric that converts body heat into infrared energy, which in turn enhances circulation and oxygen delivery.

The upper cuff, where women’s calves are often pinched or left to flop around in an overly flared opening, is an area of particular attention on the new Mach 1 W series. C.A.S. Cuff Adapter remolds the top of the spoiler and liner cuff in a 6-minute heating process that can open the calf volume by 10% or shut it down by 5%. Having this broad range of adaptation is a major benefit for the large percentage of the female population that has trouble fitting this area accurately.

Research conducted with Cerism University Research Center found that women ski in better balance when at a well-supported 12o stance angle, so the new Mach 1 W’s spines are 3mm taller and set to this natural stance position.

The one part of your boots you have to use every day are the buckles, and Tecnica has one of the best buckle features, Lift Lock. After unbuckling, Lift Lock buckles move out of the way and stay out of the way so they won’t accidentally re-latch when you’re trying to get your boots off. Nice touch.

Cochise

As noted in the brand profile, the new Cochise is a start-from-scratch shoe that addresses every foible in its predecessor from the foundation up. Most elementally, the lower shells are made from different stuff, polyether (PE), so they transmit energy better and are much easier to adapt. (The Cochise 130 also uses polyether in the cuff; the other Cochise models switch to Triax.) One reason the 2018 Cochise succeeds where the prior iteration fell short
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Mach 1 LV

The Custom Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.) concept that is the key to the Mach 1 LV’s popularity with both bootfitters and their customers is a many splendored thing. Inspired by feedback from a cluster of America’s top bootfitters (including a few Realskiers’ test shops), C.A.S. prepares the shell for customization in problematic zones by perforating the rigid polyether shell so it will heat and cool faster if the area needs to be stretched. The C.A.S. liner
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Mach 1 MV

Tecnica’s Custom Adaptive Shape (C.A.S.) is an umbrella concept that influences how the shell, liner and other components are crafted. What C.A.S. enables are localized solutions that don’t require the entire structure to be stressed in order to relieve a pressure point that’s no bigger than a quarter. While superficially C.A.S. doesn’t sound as sexy as baking the entire shell, in fact it facilitates the implementation of artisanal bootfitting techniques that accomplish the same ends
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Ten.2

The trouble with boots for big feet is they tend to overshoot the mark, making the boot so huge in all directions that, once set in motion, the skier feels barely held at all. The Ten.2 120 HV (High Volume, 106mm last) addresses the problem by making the liner and shell more anatomical and supportive. The 120 flex is plenty beefy for the big boy who belongs in this shoe, and the steering properties are
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Cochise W

Not to condescend to the fairer sex, but women might well appreciate the Cochise W family more for its everyday convenience, comfort and performance properties than for any purported proficiency for traveling off-trail. (The same could be said for all of the 2018 Cochise models, men’s or women’s.) Every member of this 3-model family is light, easy to walk around in, eminently fit-able to the female foot and more than capable of transmitting energy on
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Mach 1 W LV

The women-specific parts of any boot are the liner and the upper cuff, and Tecnica made several noteworthy moves in both arenas on its Mach 1 W models for 2018. The liner cuff and collar have been reshaped to better fit the female calf, but Tecnica didn’t stop there. The entire upper spoiler area can be heated and reformed, increasing volume at the aperture by up to 10% or shrinking it 5%. This is a
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Mach 1 W MV

The medium-volume Mach 1 W MV moves in lock-step with the Mach 1 LV, feature for feature, flex by flex, price point by price point. Everything that goes into the LV is likewise found on the MV, along with a little extra room in every dimension. There are zero compromises made in the transition from a narrow last to a medium, so a woman can choose whichever feels like a better match for her feet.

Ten.2 W C.A.

A woman with big feet is justifiably afraid she’ll have a hard time finding a comfortable fit. What should cause her equal concern is whether the boot that seems to fit her can also provide the support necessary to convey her downhill. The Ten.2 W models address both issues. The fit is generous from the wide entry aperture, through the instep and down to the toes. An adjustment on the low-cut, scalloped rear spoiler allows
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