Philpug

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Boot Numbers 2.png

Oh boy, these are some of the most “missed” numbers: mis-understood, mis-represented, and mis-referenced. We see flex ranges from 50 to 150 for adult boots. Why and how are these numbers set? You might as well try to figure out airline pricing models or the calculation of your credit score. I almost wonder if some manufacturers have a big “Price Is Right” wheel in the product room; they spin it, and whatever number it lands on will be the flex. No, that isn’t what happens, but what makes one boot a 120 and one a 130? Very good question. It tends not to be a difference in the plastic of the shell; it usually it comes down to MSRP (manufacturer's suggested retail price) or MAP (minimum advertised price). Yes, boot flex is based as much on price as on actual stiffness.

Look at any boot wall: start at the bottom and work your way up. As you do this, the numbers go up, too, both in flex and in price. Is a 120-flex boot a $100 better boot than a 110 flex, which is $100 more than a 100 flex? In many cases, no. The difference is because every $50 price point must be represented; each brand needs to offer a boot at $399 to $799 (MAP) and all of the $X49.00 and $X99.00 price points in between.

No this isn't a bad thing, you aren't being taken advantage of -- but look past the number and see the boot and what you are getting for your money. As you spend more money, usually you get higher quality. Look at the buckles: as a boot gets more expensive, the buckles will be screwed on rather than riveted, making the boot easier to work on. The cuff will be bolted on instead of riveted. The most important level of quality is a better liner. The difference between a 100- and a 120-flex boot might just be the liner, and in most cases, a better liner is well worth that step up.

All 110-flex boots are not created equal. There is no standardized rating for flex, no independent lab that tests boots and gives them a stamp of approval. This is why you hear that a boot is a stiff 110 or soft 130. You might also notice that a women’s boot is a 95 or 105 while the men's version is 100 or 110. Is there really a measurable difference of 5? Well, some feel there has to be a marketing difference because [sarcasm hat on] no woman can flex a 110 boot; a 105 is as stiff as she can handle, plus it sounds much better [/sarcasm hat off]. I use the 105/110 flexes as an example, but pick almost any manufacturer and you will see differences between men's and women's ratings.

What do all of these numbers actually mean to you? Nothing more than a point of reference. It will still come down to fit and how you flex the boot to actuate the ski to turn. Not all beginners need a soft 50-flex boot, and not all experts need an I-beam-stiff race boot, but all skiers need a boot that fits their foot and that will transfer their energy to the ski.

Link to: The Numbers Game Boots, Part 1.

Artwork: @Dave Petersen
 
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Philpug

Philpug

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Here is Part 2 in our series explaining the boot numbers.
 
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Lee

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Sometimes numbers are not even consistent across product lines - see Lange RS vs RX

Thought you might talk about width and bsl numbers too
 

NorSki

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If the numbers are all over the map regarding meaning (or lack of meaning) would anyone be interested in discussing target boot flex and how to determine when a candidate boot has the 'proper flex' for any individual? ScotsSkier noted that a good number of weekend racers are in boots too stiff. I presume that a boot too stiff limits the ankle flexion range of motion, thereby turning pressure changes toward the front of the ski into an on/off switch rather than a more desirable progressive modulation. My interest here is to take a next step and pursue how to determine a proper flex (since the boot flex numbers don't appear to help). Ankle flexion range comes to mind. Does anyone have an idea about how much range of ankle flexion should be available in a boot with proper flex?
 

KingGrump

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Often a too stiff boot will put a skier in the back seat.
Think low profile tires.
 

Jed Peters

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I firmly believe that if the customer lets the boot pick them, they will be in a better product.

I got put into a Lange boot for this year, considerably stiffer than I've used in 10 years. The boot chose me. The fitter took a look at some skiing videos of me, my stance, alignment, mobility, and strength, and basically "chose" the boot for me for 2016-17.

I hope that boot will be good this year!
 

Jed Peters

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If the numbers are all over the map regarding meaning (or lack of meaning) would anyone be interested in discussing target boot flex and how to determine when a candidate boot has the 'proper flex' for any individual? ScotsSkier noted that a good number of weekend racers are in boots too stiff. I presume that a boot too stiff limits the ankle flexion range of motion, thereby turning pressure changes toward the front of the ski into an on/off switch rather than a more desirable progressive modulation. My interest here is to take a next step and pursue how to determine a proper flex (since the boot flex numbers don't appear to help). Ankle flexion range comes to mind. Does anyone have an idea about how much range of ankle flexion should be available in a boot with proper flex?
@NorSki the stiffness of the boot (fore-aft) has to do with multiple factors, but I'll sum it up with this, as I understand it.

1. Ability/terrain needs (race=stiffer, park=softer)
2. Dorsiflexion (more=softer, less=stiffer)
3. Strength/weight/body composition (short and stout and powerful in lower legs=stiffer boot, taller and lanker=softer boot)
4. Skier preference.
 

Mendieta

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Lovely article/OP. It gave me even more insight into my boot problem. So, the other day I had my books quickly examined by a real bootfitter. They only have 20 days of use. But they are :
  • Between 1/2 and 1 size too large.
  • Too bulky for my flat feet
  • Too tall, perhaps
We didn't have time to talk about flex, etc. because they were completely booked. Let alone trying to do something about it. But, having wasted 550 bucks last year, throwing them away and starting all over seems crazy. But I want to keep improving my technique this season, and my boots are inadequate, and probably too stiff (to @KingGrump 's point above).

So, would it be crazy to go to a boot place, and propose to exchange my used boots for similarly used boots (mostly for the shells), and get some custom linings and/or footbeds? Or would I look like a cheap [email protected]? I swear I'm not cheap, I'm just bleeding money since I started skiing :D
 
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Philpug

Philpug

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@Mendieta, there is not much more expensive than the wrong boot. And really the right boot will not cost you much more than the used shell and customer liners, footbeds are the same either way. But boots will be more of a limiting factor than any ski and infact I would question taking any serious lessons or clinics before you get the boots dialed. This is where a @bud heishman is a good place to start, bud is a helluva bootfitter and instructor and it will be one stop shopping for you.
 

Mendieta

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@Mendieta, there is not much more expensive than the wrong boot. And really the right boot will not cost you much more than the used shell and customer liners, footbeds are the same either way. But boots will be more of a limiting factor than any ski and infact I would question taking any serious lessons or clinics before you get the boots dialed. .
Right. I did know this from day one (my first instructor mentioned just that), so the first thing I bought was boots. But I got them at the wrong place, so it was a waste. The first thing I noticed is that my shinny boots were easier to strap on, but not any easier to ski with. Oh well.

I'll contact Bud and see what can be done. Very many thanks, Phil!
 
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Philpug

Philpug

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Right. I did know this from day one (my first instructor mentioned just that), so the first thing I bought was boots. But I got them at the wrong place, so it was a waste. The first thing I noticed is that my shinny boots were easier to strap on, but not any easier to ski with. Oh well.

I'll contact Bud and see what can be done. Very many thanks, Phil!
It's what we do around here. More of :hug:(and :beercheer:) and less of:snowball:
 

ScotsSkier

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Yes, that is what it is for me. Too stiff a boot feels like an On/Off switch whereas with the correct flex I can be more progressive with the tip pressure and make micro adjustments more easily in the gates. What I see with a lot of athletes in too stiff a boot is just getting thrown in the back seat and not able to properly drive the from t of the ski and as a result getting further back.
 

Jed Peters

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Lovely article/OP. It gave me even more insight into my boot problem. So, the other day I had my books quickly examined by a real bootfitter. They only have 20 days of use. But they are :
  • Between 1/2 and 1 size too large.
  • Too bulky for my flat feet
  • Too tall, perhaps
We didn't have time to talk about flex, etc. because they were completely booked. Let alone trying to do something about it. But, having wasted 550 bucks last year, throwing them away and starting all over seems crazy. But I want to keep improving my technique this season, and my boots are inadequate, and probably too stiff (to @KingGrump 's point above).

So, would it be crazy to go to a boot place, and propose to exchange my used boots for similarly used boots (mostly for the shells), and get some custom linings and/or footbeds? Or would I look like a cheap [email protected]? I swear I'm not cheap, I'm just bleeding money since I started skiing :D

You need new boots. Budget the 1000 bucks, and go and do it. Your skiing will progress, your feet will thank you, etc.

You cannot save money, and the shop will not want your old boots. Do it ONCE and do it RIGHT.

If you ski on the North side of tahoe, go to one of the awesome boot fitters right there. If you're on the south side, go into Powderhouse Boot center at the base of heavenly.
 

Ron

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I am always interested to read the differing opinions about boot stiffness. (different from flex, a component really) I was waiting to see if @Chris Geib would chime in. I think that a consistent, even flex is as important as stiffness. When going to the BD liner, my boots are much softer but I have more control over the boot because of a very even and predictable flex pattern. I am enjoying @ScotsSkier 's comments and sitting here nodding my head and saying "yes". :thumb:
 
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skibob

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@NorSki
2. Dorsiflexion (more=softer, less=stiffer)
@Jed Peters I just want to double check that you wrote this correctly. I'd always had it the other way around in my head. I don't doubt you are right, I just don't want to totally change my way of thinking if you inadvertently inverted them! I have very mobile ankles and feel I am in too stiff a boot right now (Fischer Progressor 13). Not by a lot, but a little too stiff. I am a big guy, but very mobile ankles, so what you are saying would fit that . . .
 

Jed Peters

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@Jed Peters I just want to double check that you wrote this correctly. I'd always had it the other way around in my head. I don't doubt you are right, I just don't want to totally change my way of thinking if you inadvertently inverted them! I have very mobile ankles and feel I am in too stiff a boot right now (Fischer Progressor 13). Not by a lot, but a little too stiff. I am a big guy, but very mobile ankles, so what you are saying would fit that . . .
What I'm saying is a general rule of thumb. Your mileage may vary. You can compensate for ankle mobility (like I will be doing in my new boots) by using an upright stance boot (lange is in the plug boots is more upright, head plug boots are not, for instance) with a heel lift. This opens up the heel and allows the ankle more mobility by setting it a bit "forward" in the stance. The upright boot ensures that I can actually flex it and not just be at the end range of the boot bottoming out.

My point of reference:

I had my skiing analyzed by my boot fitter using video as well as an in person diagnosis of my mobility, strength, and size.

I know at 5'10", 225, I would KILL a standard fischer "130" flex. I can over-flex a one piece soled XMax 130 enough to pop the middle two buckles off already...and that is a stiffer "130" than your Fischer! NOTE this is the case where I'm in too much forward lean on my boot already, combining with the heel lift.

If I were 40 pounds lighter, I would probably use a standard, off the shelf Lange RS140 or Head Raptor 140, but right now, if I lost 15 pounds of fat and kept my SAME amount of muscle I'd be at about 8% body fat....so while I'm a bit overweight, I wouldn't say I'm obese.
 
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