20/20 Vision: GripWalk

GripWalk very well may be the unsung hero of the upcoming ski season. There will be no fanfare or ticker tape parades but that's okay with GripWalk. It is a modest … sole. So, why will GripWalk be near the center of the ski world’s needs this coming season? With social distancing and base lodges limiting skier access, people will be booting up in the parking lots and areas distant from the lifts and slopes. There will be a lot of walking.

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GripWalk (rear); DIN (front)​

GripWalk, one of the newer evolutions in ski boot designs, is a rounded sole that allows for a much easier and smoother stride when walking. The soles are a softer and grippier design along the lines of a knobbier tire on your vehicle. I have to admit, I was skeptical of GripWalk when it was introduced a few years back, and even though I have gone two seasons with them on my boots, I am still not fully sold. Don’t get me wrong, GripWalk works 100% as advertised. It makes walking a lot easier and safer on slippery surfaces, no question. But, is it that much better than a traditional ISO 5355 sole that has a textured toe and heels? Of that I am not completely sure, but that is a discussion to be had elsewhere. What we are talking about now is that it is GripWalk’s time to shine in the sun and say to the ski world: “I got this.”

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DIN (top); GripWalk (bottom)​

Other than a full backcountry boot with an AT sole, a GW-soled boot will be your safest and easiest way to trek from the parking lot to the lift. GripWalk is not the only safe method, however, so we will also discuss your other sole options.

Tecnica, Nordica and K2 Gripwalk soles
Other options depend a lot on your boots. If your current boot has replaceable toes and heels, you are better off than most. Replaceable soles will give you a good amount of grip, but think of them as all-season tires. They perform equally well or poorly, depending on your perspective, in most conditions. They are better than a solid-soled boot, to be discussed next, but most are not as good a GripWalk sole. If your boot is less than a few seasons old, you may be able to upgrade to GripWalk for about $50 and the use of a screwdriver. For this, all you need to do is check with your local shop or your boot manufacturer's website.

The least safe way to access the lifts in your boots is if you have solid-lugged (soled) race boots. These are the slipperiest of all the boots to walk in, like a giraffe on ice skates. These boots tend to be the preferred choice of racers and instructors, but fear not, they also can be upgraded to GripWalk or even a textured sole by a qualified bootfitter who has the vision, knowledge, proper tools, and skill.

Now, if you do not want to go GripWalk or upgrade your current soles, there are Cat Tracks (the Kleenex or Xerox of ski boot walking devices), Skiskootys, or Yaktrax. These devices work as advertised, but they can be messy and inconvenient because you have to store or hide them somewhere while you are skiing. There is also always the risk of losing them at some point on your trek from the parking lot.

Last, and most important, if you are going to upgrade to a GripWalk sole, make sure your binding is GripWalk-compatible. It will have either the GripWalk logo, an AT designation (some Tyrolia-based bindings), or WTR (Walk to Ride). Also, most race-specific bindings are not GW-compatible, but that should not limit your ability to put a grippier sole on, just not a GripWalk.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

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Something to bear in mind if you are purchasing new boots and bindings. When not wearing my AT boots, I simply use slip on gripped rubber soles. $20 or less. I punched holes in them so I can look them up on the ski rack at the bottom of the gondola.
 
Weird, can't edit... seems odd it's taking a pandemic to sell a product. Other than a touring boot, I have no plan or desire to move away from the DIN standard, but I'm a luddite dinosaur. :)
 
Something to bear in mind if you are purchasing new boots and bindings. When not wearing my AT boots, I simply use slip on gripped rubber soles. $20 or less. I punched holes in them so I can look them up on the ski rack at the bottom of the gondola.
Like Cat Tracks? Did you make your own? Thx
 
No - they are just cat tracks. I punched holes in them so I can lock them up on the ski racks at the bottom of the hill.

They also have the bonus effect of making me 1 inch taller.
 
Love GripWalk. I didn't realize such a little thing could make such a big qualitative difference in my overall skiing experience. Especially as Phil points out on long treks from the parking lot or just around the resort (sometimes with the kiddo's in tow) these make my meandering much more comfortable and secure. I no longer feel the need to get immediately out of my boots and into pedestrian footwear after a day of skiing. Now if I could just drive in the damn things...
 
Haven't tried GripWalk however I have always used SkiSkooty Claws with retractable cleats and I am very pleased. They are durable and adjust to fit most size boots.
 
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Honestly, I think this is a great move forward and most people on this site especially could care less about easy walking. The main benefit, in my opinion, is more traction while walking and that is great from everything from a slippery lodge floor to hiking in the backcountry. The alpine norm ISO 5355 allows for very minimal tread pattern- think of it as a bike tire for road use. Sure it has some grooves/tread but it's very minimal and very smooth overall. GripWalk is not held to the same restrictions and as such the tread pattern can be more open & deeper. In this regard, it's more akin to a proper mountain bike tire rather than a road tire. I have seen some brands launch GripWalk pads that still look very similar to an ISO 5355 pad in terms of tread design, which I think is a missed opportunity (especially given how expensive these molds are). There really won't be a big difference here. But the ones that we (Atomic) have created are quite different from our standard ISO 5355 pad design and you will notice the difference. I can definitely attest to this after getting used to GripWalk soles and switching back to my lifted Redster boots only to end up on my butt in the middle of a cafeteria. Luckily I hadn't gotten my food yet, or that would have been even more embarrassing.
 
Chiming in here as well. Grip walk is pretty slick. Do you have the same connection to the ski as your plug-boots in a high-DIN racing binding? No. But for nearly everything else the positives outweigh the negatives.

@onenerdykid I see that you guys are shipping GW in the XTD series--and the 70 Flex boots. (Optional purchase for other boots?) What are your thoughts on alpine performance boots (115-130) using GW soles?
 
Chiming in here as well. Grip walk is pretty slick. Do you have the same connection to the ski as your plug-boots in a high-DIN racing binding? No. But for nearly everything else the positives outweigh the negatives.

@onenerdykid I see that you guys are shipping GW in the XTD series--and the 70 Flex boots. (Optional purchase for other boots?) What are your thoughts on alpine performance boots (115-130) using GW soles?

In terms of the connection to your ski, GripWalk is no different than current dual-density ISO 5355 grip pads that are on 99% of ski boots. In both GripWalk & ISO 5355, the binding engages the boot through the hard plastic AFDs in the toe & heel. Sure, the binding has a bit more contact with the soft component of the grip pad, but bindings have more movement in it than the compression that exists between the soft component and the heel piece. We should view GripWalk & dual-density ISO 5355 pads as equals in terms of power transfer.

Because many skiers don't own GripWalk-compatible bindings, all boot brands are slowly rolling out their GripWalk equipped boots. In the future, you will see GripWalk on all performance boots that have replaceable soles.
 
In terms of the connection to your ski, GripWalk is no different than current dual-density ISO 5355 grip pads that are on 99% of ski boots. In both GripWalk & ISO 5355, the binding engages the boot through the hard plastic AFDs in the toe & heel. Sure, the binding has a bit more contact with the soft component of the grip pad, but bindings have more movement in it than the compression that exists between the soft component and the heel piece. We should view GripWalk & dual-density ISO 5355 pads as equals in terms of power transfer.

Because many skiers don't own GripWalk-compatible bindings, all boot brands are slowly rolling out their GripWalk equipped boots. In the future, you will see GripWalk on all performance boots that have replaceable soles.

Thanks for your explanation. I am skiing some high-performance boots and chose to embrace the GW option last year—and some peers and shop workers gave me a hard time. (48 year-old recovering racer, finally decided to ski some all-mountain boots instead of the standard 130 narrow consumer race boots)
 
Thanks for your explanation. I am skiing some high-performance boots and chose to embrace the GW option last year—and some peers and shop workers gave me a hard time. (48 year-old recovering racer, finally decided to ski some all-mountain boots instead of the standard 130 narrow consumer race boots)

As long as someone has a GripWalk compatible binding, I see no reason (outside of racing) why someone would continue with ISO 5355 soles.

When Marker launched GripWalk, they definitely oversold the "easy walking" component of it, which caused a lot of eyes to roll. If you ignore their marketing and judge it on its other benefits, then I think it makes a lot of sense.
 
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As long as someone has a GripWalk compatible binding, I see no reason (outside of racing) why someone would continue with ISO 5355 soles.
Where these were the exception, pretty soon race soles will become exception out there.

As an industry, skier education will be an ongoing process. All you have to do is stand in any liftline and see the older non indemnified bindings out on the hill to know that there will be an incompatibility issue with GripWalk soles in bindings that are not certified.
 
As long as someone has a GripWalk compatible binding, I see no reason (outside of racing) why someone would continue with ISO 5355 soles.

If you have one pair of skis with a recent GW binding on them sure. Not so much if you have a quiver of skis or some older ones you like to get on occasionally. As late as last season though some stores were still knocking out now obsolete WTR binding. Try telling someone with some late model Look bindings that their gear is no good.

Skier education is absolutely necessary - if you're a boot fitter with that sexy new GW boot you need to be reminding people to buy the DIN sole as well or be prepared to upgrade their existing bindings, indemnifaction or not.
 
While it's definitely a bit of a headache during the transition period, I guess we can be thankful that at least we aren't the bike industry where standards change every two years and render otherwise really nice bikes as truly outdated.
 
If you have one pair of skis with a recent GW binding on them sure. Not so much if you have a quiver of skis or some older ones you like to get on occasionally. As late as last season though some stores were still knocking out now obsolete WTR binding. Try telling someone with some late model Look bindings that their gear is no good.

Skier education is absolutely necessary - if you're a boot fitter with that sexy new GW boot you need to be reminding people to buy the DIN sole as well or be prepared to upgrade their existing bindings, indemnifaction or not.
Gripwalk compatibility is something I bring up very early in the fit process, I don't like surprises. My finding of fault is when someone has a 4-5 year old thousand dollar system ski that has no option of a GW compatible binding.
 
While it's definitely a bit of a headache during the transition period, I guess we can be thankful that at least we aren't the bike industry where standards change every two years and render otherwise really nice bikes as truly outdated.
This is going to be an on going trasition period. You cannot go a day on the slopes and not see a Marker M31 or Salomon Quad 7 and how long have they been off the market? The scary thing is people would be safer off being in an 15 year non indemnifide binding than to be in a Gripwalk boot in a non Gropwalk binding.

I have mentioned incompatibility issues to more than one person at the resort that their Gripwalk boot and their bindingwere incompatable. My responses are usually "What are you talking about?" followed by "They seem to work fine" or "Mind your own business". OK.
 
Not being rhetorical here at all, but other than ease of walking, what exactly are the benefits of GW over the old standard?
 
I like the SkiTrax by YakTrax better than Cat Traks. But they are getting hard to find.
 

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