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Exclusive: The Disappearance of the 21.5 Adult Ski Boot

There is a segment of skiers who are being dismissed by the ski industry, the Lilliputian skiers, the adult skiers with tiny feet, who need a 21.5 boot. These skiers need to stand up and be noticed. Sorry, you are standing up. In recent years boot brands have stopped producing 21.5 adult boots leaving only the masculine mono-colored race boots which fall under the category of “Junior Race.”

Over the past few years as brands have been redesigning and evolving their boot collections, the model that has not moved forward were the smallest of shells, the 21.5. As recent as a few years ago, brands like Dalbello, Nordica, and Lange had boot models in an adult 21.5 shell for women. These and other brands offer junior boots in this size, but the difference is the lug. A junior boot lug is different than an adult lug, making it incompatible with many adult bindings that are not AC (Adult/Child compatible). The junior race boots have become the only option with adult-compatible lugs.

Right now the only true 21.5 boots available are from brands that offer them in their junior race collections. I say “true” 21.5’s because in some cases, manufacturers will save costs by sharing the lowers of two shells (the clog), meaning they might use a 22.5 shell and put a smaller liner in it. The true 21.5 shells will have a shell smaller than 265mm. I would not be surprised if the boots that are available disappear when the model is due for redesign. Some brands don’t even offer certain women’s boots in a 22.5 shell.

While women, compared to most men, prefer function over form, there are many who are unwilling to ski in a perceived “race” boot. But it has gotten to the point where these boots might be their only option, and even that option seems to be dwindling. There are just a few brands now that offer their race boots in a true 21.5:
  • Atomic
    • Redster 110CS
    • Redster 70CL
  • Dalbello
    • DRS 75
  • Fischer
    • Podium LT 70
    • Podium LT 90
    • (Late additions from Fischer)
  • Lange/Rossignol (same boot, different colors)
    • RS/Hero 110SC
    • RS/Hero 90SC
    • RS/Hero 70SC
One manufacturer indicates cost is playing a huge part in the disappearance of an adult 21.5. Even the 22.5 is on the table. This is truly disconcerting, but we will cross that bridge if and when it happens. But already, we are not seeing all models from all brands available in that size.

Ever since the introduction of the true 21.5 with a 262-263 mm adult boot sole length, it has been a game changer for the petite-footed adult female skier. No longer did they have to accept a junior race boot that was never designed for their adult frame or skill level. 21.5's sell out faster than nearly any other size of ski boot we stock, and demand is due to the complete transition to mondopoint sizing which lost the size US 3, which is closer to a 21.5, than it is to 22.5. These disenfranchised skiers were saved and brought back to the performance-oriented flock with the availability of these small boots. The fact that 21.5's seem to be on the verge of extinction again, does not reflect well on an industry that claims to strive for maximum participation retention. --Brent Amsbury, Owner, Park City Boot LLC

Most of the 22.5 boots are in the 265-270mm shell. If we look as the Lange RS as an example, that series based on 10mm increments, meaning the 24.5 is 286mm, 23.5 is 276mm and the 22.5 is 266mm. That means the 21.5 should be 256mm, but it is actually 261mm. There is a method to that madness. Most adult system bindings only go down to 260mm. But we are seeing a change: Tyrolia's SLR system goes down to 258mm and the Salomon Strive demo/system goes to a tiny 253mm, making it compatible with a true 21.5 shell size. Ironically neither of these companies offer adult lug boots in a 21.5. I am learning from my discussions that boot designers would like to find a way to keep the 21.5 in the collections, but it is the bean counters that have the final say. No surprise there.

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When brands started to discontinue these 21.5 offerings, better bootfitting shops started to clear out what little stock that was available. In a recent search on America’s clearing house, Ebay, there were just 5 pairs of adult-lugged alpine ski boots in 21.5 (along with 3 pair of touring boots). Three of these were “distressed” New Old Stock (NOS) meaning that some boots were 10-15 years old. A Nordica Aggressor 150 was one of these boots. Yes, a 150 flex boot for a tiny foot, a boot that only a handful of the best women skiers in the world could flex.

It was an important boot in my market. It's disappointing that many brands will build a 31.5 mondo but not a 21.5. The 21.5 is a more common need for me. If you build it they will come! --Greg Whitehouse, Owner, California Ski Company.


If the 21.5’s are in demand, why are they not still produced? Because they are actually not in as high demand as most other sizes. The segment of the market that needs this boot is very small, while the cost to produce this additional shell size is extremely expensive. When these are sold in the low hundreds worldwide, it is tough for a brand to see a return on the investment (ROI).

Who is the vast majority of the 21.5 market? Women. And what are some of these women? Moms. The person who controls the finances of the family. We need the moms to ski, because if mom doesn’t ski, the rest of the family might not. Sometimes everything is not about the bottom line. We need the women out there skiing and we need them skiing in the right size boots, so they can experience the fun and performance that larger-footed skiers enjoy.
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.

Replies

I'm torn on this b/c despite being a tween hobbit, I have huge honkin feet (23-23.5, street shoe 7-7.5), I've long since accepted at my size (5'1" and 95 lbs) few adult gear will meet my needs. I feel for small footed women, but why aren't jr race boots enough? Sure it would be great if there was more for me and them, but economics of scale.
 
In my humble experience, we'd order a half dozen or so pairs of 21.5 Lange RS,s... 4 90's, and 2-3 pairs or 110's. They represented a fraction of overall tearly sales, but it was rare if they didn't sell out by mid-late November.

Only one customer that I can recall complained about the blue. Everyone else was just happy to have a boot that fit. If more had been for sale, more could have been sold. Many folks don't know it's even an option. Thanks for bringing this up, Phil! It's a valid discussion.

It'd be interesting to talk to Tracy at MDV... she has a small foot and is very sympathetic to the needs of women. I'm also wondering if Rexxam makes a 21.5.. it's hard to believe there's not a market in Japan.
 
In my humble experience, we'd order a half dozen or so pairs of 21.5 Lange RS,s... 4 90's, and 2-3 pairs or 110's. They represented a fraction of overall tearly sales, but it was rare if they didn't sell out by mid-late November.
If you consistantly sold out by mid November, why were the orders not increased? Would having a leftover pair or two be the worst thing in the world?
Only one customer that I can recall complained about the blue. Everyone else was just happy to have a boot that fit. If more had been for sale, more could have been sold. Many folks don't know it's even an option. Thanks for bringing this up, Phil! It's a valid discussion.
You are welcome
It'd be interesting to talk to Tracy at MDV... she has a small foot and is very sympathetic to the needs of women. I'm also wondering if Rexxam makes a 21.5.. it's hard to believe there's not a market in Japan.
I might be seeing her tomorrow, I will.
 
If there are people that are 21.5 they should produce it. Profits > over people= bad business
I'm a male that measures 25.5 and I ski a 24.5 for performance reasons. Some brands don't even make a men's 24.5 in All Mountain Boot's such as Head's Men's All Mountain boots.
 
It'd be interesting to talk to Tracy at MDV... she has a small foot and is very sympathetic to the needs of women. I'm also wondering if Rexxam makes a 21.5.. it's hard to believe there's not a market in Japan.
Every time I'm in Sapporo, I get recruited to visit a boot shop with family friends. Ample small and short-cuffed boots I saw in January. I recall a college female friend of Japanese-American descent who had a shoe size of 4.5, now I'm curious to learn how small the boot sizes are available, will definitely check them out on the next trip.

Thanks for bringing this subject to light, Phil. In this era of heightened diversity, equity, and inclusion, it seems foolish to not manufacture 22.5 and 21.5 sized adult ski boots.
 
I've been in a Lange 21.5 for years. It's really been my only option.
They are cold but great performance.
 
If there are people that are 21.5 they should produce it. Profits > over people= bad business
I'm a male that measures 25.5 and I ski a 24.5 for performance reasons. Some brands don't even make a men's 24.5 in All Mountain Boot's such as Head's Men's All Mountain boots.
I’m a male that measures 24.5. When I bought my first pair of boots, I was surprised how hard it was to find men’s / unisex boots 24.5s. A lot of stores don’t seem them in 24.5, even if the manufacture offers the boot in 24.5.
 
FYI , Kaestle - remember them -makes the K -120 p in a size 22. I believe they make a 130 in a 22.5. But their 150 starts at 24.5 . No idea if they are available in N.A.
 

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