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Features Every Ski Boot Should Have

Let's start with a piece of history to whet your appetite for this ever-so-interesting topic. On July 10, 1962, the US Patent Office issued Patent No. 3043625 to Nils Bohlin, a Swedish engineer, for a three-point safety belt designed for use in road cars. Instead of sitting on the patent and licensing it for a big ole chunk o' change, Volvo opened it up so that any automaker could incorporate it into vehicles. The automotive industry took the idea and ran with it, and it proved so safe and popular that derivatives of Bohlin's original design are still in use.

A few ski boots out there today have features that won't exactly save lives but are so simple and functional that the brands that own their rights should not only put them on every boot they produce, but also offer them to every manufacturer in order to improve the lives of all skiers.

Going to trade shows, talking to manufacturers, seeing the occasional prototype, and spending hours at the boot bench, I have played with almost every boot out there. A few features really stand out, for their ingenious simplicity of design as well as the fact that they just make things a lot easier without one bit of cost in performance.
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First up is Head and its Double Power Lever. This buckle design has been around for well over a decade; it started out on (and just seems to continue with) the premium versions of their recreational boots. We all can agree that the top two buckles are the most important of the four as far as performance; they are the buckles that control the drive of the boot, the energy brought to the ski. We also know that they are the most difficult to close because of the pressure needed as well as the awkward angle they are positioned at. Some brands have added slight cams in the buckle, but no design is as efficient as Head’s Double Power Lever. Its simple spring-loaded flip-open lever gives all skiers the leverage to close the top buckle. Head claims that it reduces the effort by 50%; after using the buckle off and on and even retrofitting it on some boots, I would say that number is conservative.

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Tecnica’s Lift Lock Buckle is a simple little nub on the base of the buckle plate that attaches to the boot. This feature actually started on its backcountry and hike boots and has migrated to a good portion of the rest of the its line. All of us have fumbled with buckles while getting in and out of our ski boots. We can twist and turn them, but from time to time the buckle catches on the ladder and we have to remove it. Tecnica’s LLB eliminates that issue. The nub is designed to catch the buckle and hold it up while entering and exiting the boot. This catch-free design also works well when in walk mode not only for backcountry hikes but also for the long trudge to the lift after booting up in the parking lot.

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K2 has been hitting its stride with a new generation of boots. One of its keen recent features also started on the backcountry Mindbender boots and expanded to its inbound boot collection: the Ripcord Power Strap. Like the other two features, the beauty of the RPS is that it just makes everything simpler without harming performance. Higher-level skiers know that the power strap is as important as any buckle on the boot; some go so far as to replace their power straps with aftermarket versions. While other brands have tried to reinvent the power strap, falling short by overcomplicating them with clasps and clips, K2's Ripcord strap is one of the best designs, again, because of its simplicity: pull the cord, and the strap releases. Voilà.

These are three designs that caught my attention. Please add your comments below and add any boot features that have made your boot-wearing experience noticeably better.
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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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I think cam straps in general should be universal the only not that I've had in the last 10 years that didn't end up with a Booster almost immediately is the Hoji, and that has a cam on it from the factory.
 
Two I like are (1) Cabrio boot design and (2) an adjustable ramp angle. Dalbello and Scarpa's cabrio boot shell is much easier to get on and off because of the hingeable tongue piece. Older Dalbello boots have a hex nut in the side of the boot sole. This allowes the skier to adjust her heel height (ramp angle). Every boot should have this feature.
 
You forgot to mention the screwed/bolted hardware (K2, Tecnica, and others) .... rivets are a pain.
I don't disagree with you but screws/rivets aren't really features.
 
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Oh man good stuff on here. The Head Double Power Lever is great, I agree. The Vector Evo had a ton of nice bells and whistles out of the box. In addition to the lever, you got a buckle ladder with articulated vertebrae. The boot also had a built-in velcro Booster Strap that I think was a one-of-a-kind. Three really neat features, I loved selling this boot.

I think Intuition foam is really a killer feature.

I actually agree that screwed / bolted hardware is really handy. At least make it easy to swap the stock strap for a booster.

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Oh, I'll also make the argument that those Technica dimples (nominally for easier boot work) are a bug, not a feature. I get more uneven heating as a result, and I bet that there's a meaningful structural compromise to boot. HEYYYYYYYY.
 
Replaceable heel/toe pieces - and so allowing easier boot canting like these (and replacement when worn out... because those Cat track jobbies are another PITA to fit and remove)?

Those Head double power levers look good - but I don't need them as i've got Zipfit liners, so no need to crank down on those top two boot clips anymore ;) - so maybe an option to upgrade to Zipfit on purchase/fitting and reduce waste of those discarded OEM liners.
 
Replaceable heel/toe pieces - and so allowing easier boot canting like these (and replacement when worn out... because those Cat track jobbies are another PITA to fit and remove)?
Not just replacable soles but replacable soles that can be canted. There are many replacable soles that cannot be canted.
Screen Shot 2020-10-24 at 9.51.11 AM.png

Top ones can be canted, the bottom ones cannot be canted.​
 
Foam injected liners. But I do realize it is not possible to make ALL boots this way.

Something that recently caught my attention and I believe will be HUGE improvement over the current power straps:

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This design will surely save tons of time as you would not have to unbuckle the strap all the way to get in/out of the boot.
 
Not just replacable soles but replacable soles that can be canted. There are many replacable soles that cannot be canted.
View attachment 118157
Top ones can be canted, the bottom ones cannot be canted.​

Lordy... I didn't even bother to imagine some ideal world where all boot OEMs used the same sole piece designs for interchangeability... but for ONE manufacturer to go out of their way and produce two different styles of heel/toe pieces like Nordica above seems crazy (to put it politely).
 
Ooh, another thought.

Lace-up Liners.

I've had the usual non lace-up heat mouldable liners (including Intuition) and a non-lace-up foam liner (Surefoot aka Sorefoot :doh: )... and the benefit of a lace-up Zipfit seems enormous to me - and I've heard boot doc foamed liners are lace-up too, and that Pro racers seem to use lace up liners too - is this true?

May seem at first a bit of a faff, but once on they're easier to slip the foot into the shell and also easier to get out fo the shell and leave the shell/liner to dry out overnight fully along with the better and more even foot hold.
 
Lordy... I didn't even bother to imagine some ideal world where all boot OEMs used the same sole piece designs for interchangeability... but for ONE manufacturer to go out of their way and produce two different styles of heel/toe pieces like Nordica above seems crazy (to put it politely).
It's not just Nordica, it is almost every brand...all in the name of aesthetics.
 
Head claims that it reduces the effort by 50%; after using the buckle off and on and even retrofitting it on some boots, I would say that number is conservative.
Exactly. Look at the proportion of the distance from the first pair of pins that mount the lever assembly to the boot to the second pin that attaches the plain aluminum link, and the distance from the second pin to the third pin that attaches the operating lever. The 2-3 distance is greater giving more leverage. From the photo it looks like a171.42857% advantage instead of a 100% advantage (50% reduction). Maybe only a 167.7857% advantage?

All these clever design innovations could be cheaply licensed to other makers, or at least used on the sister brands like K2/Dalbello and Tecnica/Nordica. In the same vein, the boot makers could license Cantology's technology and produce their own canting plates. Everybody makes money, and all skiers win.

What I'd really like to see would be a catalog of electronic scans of boot interiors that can be paired with the Sidas or Bootdoc electronic scans of the feet. The boots that most closely fit your feet would be identified for much more accurate selection of new ski boots. Scan for fit, determine other factors like price and flex range with a good fitter's help, and we're closer to getting just-right boots.
 
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What I'd really like to see would be a catalog of electronic scans of boot interiors that can be paired with the Sidas or Bootdoc electronic scans of the feet. The boots that most closely fit your feet would be identified for much more accurate selection of new ski boots. Scan for fit, determine other factors like price and flex range with a good fitter's help, and we're closer to getting just-right boots.
The limitations of electronic scans is that they cannot measure the density of the liner materials nor the bone/muscle/tissue of the foot, the two biggest variables to if a boot fits or not.
 
My favorite is the Head double booster strap. I never understood why EVERY boot manufacturer doesn't implement this into their boot design. It's soooooo much more effective for getting a good connection to the boot tongue.

Bill
 
Every boot beyond a beginner or rental boot needs to have dual cuff alignment. Additionally a better system than the current rotate the cuff bolt needs to be implemented. Possibly something like a ladder system that provides more range of adjustment.
 
No hook and loop on power straps .

I switched for Boosterstraps, partly to try out the elastic, but mostly because I noticed the inside of my pants getting completely chewed up by the hook side of the stock strap.

I guess the feature would be a qr like the K2 cam buckle, combined with a hook like the Scarpa
 
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