Fad? Evolution? Revolution? Progression? Whatever you want to call it, we are seeing more light (as in 1500-1800g) boots on the boot wall. And not just for hiking: these boots don't have tech fittings or walk modes, they are honest-to-goodness alpine ski boots with liners that are not a compromise for the sake of weight. Light boots are not new: we saw a run back in the 1970s and 1980s with the Scott Superlite/Superhot and Garmont Ultralite, but they were short-lived and had either performance or quality/durability limitations. With the advent of new plastics such as Grilamid, Triax, and other proprietary materials along with the inclusion of carbon frames, these boots perform to a standard that even top-level skiers expect. No, we haven't seen plug or full-bore race boots, but even if you are a racer, don't dismiss these boots just yet.

We are not really in the business of reviewing boots at Pugski; we still believe that you don’t pick the boot, the boot picks you. But we do share our experiences and describe what we feel works and who it will work best for. So, if your bootfitter pulls one of these boots off the wall, don’t turn up your nose at it. What is most impressive with these boots is their ability to adapt and mold to the foot. The new plastics can be heated and made narrower by a millimeter or two; they can also be widened more than a traditional polyurethane (PU) shell. We can adjust them for fore and aft stance and minimize (but not eliminate) the need for undersole canting. Yes, they are pretty impressive in their ability to make you forget any preconceived notions about what a certain brand of boot fits like.

Are these new space-age plastics the end all? No. There will always be PU shells for race boots, but to reference Colin Chapman, adding lightness is adding performance. In the past eight years or so, I have skied in traditional shells (like the Tecnica Inferno/Machs, Nordica Patron Pro, Lange RS 140, Head Raptor 140) as well as light boots (the K2 Recon 120 MV, K2 Recon 130 LV, Salomon S/Max 130). Honestly, in the sense of performance, all have their pluses and none really have negatives. The only real negative I ever found with traditional boots is taking them off when it is cold; sometimes I have to heat up the shell or at least let it warm up. This is not an issue I have experienced with the lighter options; I can peel off the shell no matter how cold it is. For some, that is a major consideration, so read this thread.

Again, these new plastics will not replace the PU shells, but they will become more prevalent. We have talked about changes such as GripWalk possibly becoming the norm for soles; in the future, we could see race/PU boots turning into even more of a specialty item than they are now.
  • Who are they for? Those who have trouble getting boots on and off. Now you can keep the performance you are accustomed to while making things a whole lot easier on yourself. If you have special-needs feet, although most of these boots are too thin to grind, their ability to be molded makes them a strong consideration.
  • Who are they not for? Simple: if you own a speed suit, stick with your plugs and PU 130+ flex boots.
  • Insider tip 1: As a bootfitter, I really like these thin-wall plastics because they are easy to work on. While they are tough to grind, it is amazingly straightforward to fit, punch, and make stance adjustments with the proper technique, tools, and heating devices. When you go to your fitter, go in with an open mind; if the fit isn’t perfect out of the box and the fitter says, “Let's play with it," trust them. The results might be very enlightening.
  • Insider tip 2/Who are they not for 2: This might be 2% of the skiers out there. If you have a leg-length discrepancy of more than 5 mm, you still need to look to a solid-lugged -- ie, plug or race -- boot. I have disassembled quite a few of these boots, from many manufacturers, and almost every pair had hollowed-out lugs in the name of saving 20 g of weight. This design ... uhhhm ... oversight limits an aspect of the boot that IMHO could have been avoided.