Been over a year since my first post on these boots - Sorry for the long wait but finally got approval of my arthroscopic surgery on my knee in December of last year and the surgery was a success. A nice xmas present but kind of put a damper on the skiing a bit. MC-X model
I consider this to be a carving boot and I love the GS characteristics. The hard part is there is no place to be lazy but backwards. I have flashes of an old picture of a French racer looking like he’s sitting in a chair while skiing. Oh where are my cheetah stix? On my older boots I would set forward lean so that I was pushing slightly into the boot to get to the balance point over the ski. When I was cruising a flat section I could rest a bit and not be on my tips. Don’t get me wrong there is a point that the Apex has progressive resistance. But at that point where I am supported I am tip heavy. As it is designed, the frame puts me right in the sweet spot of my skis [Rossi 88]. So my lower ham’s do more work now. To some extent I can say it is as advertized as this is an advanced all maintain boot. For me it demands an aggressive approach to skiing a hill as any timidness [or laziness] puts me in the back seat. I’ll be stronger this year. I never found this boot to be cold but did not get into below 10 degrees Celsius temps last season.
Pluses --- Big toe box, no need to stretch a shell, easy entry and exit, can drive in soft boot and walking from the parking lot is great as the vibrum sole is very stable on ice [neat when you can put the skeleton on in the gondola]. Love how this system handles GS turns yet is very quick edge to edge.
Minuses --- Best to have the liner professionally heated rather than trying to do it yourself with a hair dryer. No real way of knowing your tightening the boa to the same tension other than by feel. Weight; consider that this is a snowboard boot with a very dense plastic skeleton around it, it is longer than your used too and weighs more overall [but your not walking in all of it all the time, just at lunch for me]. But for me the most troubling issues is with extending the upper straps on the skeleton [more following].
Lessons learned: You have to pay attention to how the layers come together when you tighten on the foot. Don’t over think the BOA system, simply immobilize the heal without cutting off circulation. When you do cut off circulation open the BOA most likely related to the issue but do not let it go. Control the unwinding so that a ½ turn is released and reset the keeper and flex to see if it resolves the issue.
My issues with the exoskeleton – Two situations arise when you extend the upper strap to accommodate a large calf and that is a void is created between you and the exo at the top in a critical area on the inside of the leg. This results in all the pressure being on the hardest spot; the rivet the strap hinges on. I became painfully aware of it on the second day of skiing them. The solution for me was to use some very dense fitting foam thick enough to be just higher than the rivet is when filling the void [80’s boot fitting pads with sticky backs]. Then duct tape with a couple of strips of electrician’s rubber tape on top for cushioning and some regular electrical tape to try and keep the "keeper " in place. Without the added padding I did get a nice black and blue square and a smile on one calf from getting slapped by the cuff when the ski edge hit some uneven ice before adding spacing pads.
The second issue is also related to extending the strap length and is when I get out of the skeleton the upper strap bounces a lot and the strap rocks open and the “keeper” pops open letting the strap fall off the nut. My only resolution is to put a shower curtain metal hook on the bail and around the skeleton near where it would normally latch while carrying. They are light, inexpensive and easy to carry in a pocket and make me feel more reassured about not losing a strap. This has already saved me once from losing a strap.
Fact or Myth -- Two things worried me going in and they related to reviews I had read about skiing the system.
One had complained about shock to the ball of the foot. While it seems to be a valid claim compared to my Technica’s of old, which do seem to absorb more vibration at that point, it does not seem to be excessive and should feel better with a shock absorbing footbed. During my recovery it came to light that my right foots main metatarsal head has very little cushion left so from a general standpoint I would think they are really no more or less abusive on the ball of the foot than anything else. Believe me I am really sensitive there and in just about any shoe I want more comfort in that spot.
The other item was the forward lean [no adjustability] or the lack of extreme resistance at the shin? I find with this boot I am in a balanced position when I am neutral within the skeleton. Hence no uneven pressure points and the link to the ski is firm. Since there is none of this hard plastic in the shin and instep area anymore to offer resistance I don’t feel shock here and my shins are much more comfortable. I am even growing some hair on them! Lol. Maybe that is why the one reviewer felt that the soles were taking more shock than usual. It may be the only real place you feel much shock consistently.
Unfortunately this leaves me leaning back at times as I am subconsciously looking for someplace to rest the muscles on the flats. This can lead to some tricky situations. It also can get me into trouble in the lift line if I start leaning forward on them [so embarrassing]. I realize that this is an aggressive boot by design but wonder about how other boots in the line feel in this regard and if the stiffening bars could be changed out to create different angles would that change any dynamics here or is it the nature of the boot system?
Unforeseen Utility – Works ok as a walking “cast” when rehabbing a sprained ankle. And of course it’s my right ankle.
Since coming out of the OR my inflammation in my right leg is gone. I had recovered enough to finally fit the boots in late January and ski [about 40 days after the surgery]. Let me explain that I have wide feet [left 9E½ right 9.5E½], I am 5’9” with large calf’s, a short right leg and a right ankle/fibula connection that is a bit messed up [auto accident] along with a high Norwegian instep. On top of that I am over weight but working on it now that the knee pain is gone.
When I did the pre-purchase measuring my right toe was right at the limit and if I had done a professional heat job on them I might have kept them. But I did send them back for the next size up because I could not get the liner to cover my whole right foot when the soft boot was fully closed [pre surgery]. For my left foot out of the box either size was fine. The flexibility of fit is amazing really. Besides looking like it is inflamed [it isn’t] the outside of my right ankle is hypersensitive to pressure and the routing pipe for the instep BOA runs across a spot just above the ankle. This is not uncommon for me. With any conventional boots I can have cuff and/or rivet placement issues as well in that area because of where my fibula rests on my ankle now. Initially my solution for these was the same as my Technica’s that preceded them which is to use an older Superfeet insole and on the right foot a 1/8” heel lift and an anterior ¼” heel wedge adds some correction for the pressure point and length of leg. I also adjusted the cuff cant to the inside slightly. Ultimately I removed the adjustments and just left the footbeds after the pro molding and things are fine.
I first tried using a hair dryer and heating pad to raise the temp of the liners to mold them myself. But I am going to spare you the story. If you have an issue with fit. Go to a shop that has some air boot liner heaters and mold them. For the molding process I used an ultra thin sock and a thick wool sock then got in and clamped the soft shell down as much as I could after heating and got in the skeleton and tightened that down too. This gave me a very good overall fit. [fyi – I don’t ski in socks.]
One thing that interested me about the system was the updated skeleton does not cover the sides of the foot, so no plastic to heat and stretch here. My wide feet fit perfectly and I have the biggest toe box I ever had in a ski boot. I skied about 10 times last season and I do not think I ever found myself with the toes clinched or cramped. [Well maybe the first day but that was sort of a disaster; new knee, boots and skis –oops, but I did run into a very old friend]. Highly recommend that you take the cant adjustment wrench with you the first time you ski so that you can dial it in based on how edge response feels!
Two things they don’t really mention in the specs is weight and length. Because this is an adaptation of a snowboard boot concept with an exoskeleton linkage to the ski the length of the exo will be relatively large compared to a conventional boot. My Technica’s are 315mm and these are 341mm but the Apex has a 1” higher effective boot top. The original boot I got would have been 335 I think. [I am not a physicist but I think that means more leverage on the ski.] While the soft boot section is much lighter than a conventional boot when paired with the exoskeleton it is fairly heavy and suggests a very high density plastic. Never kept my Solomon SX91 boots but due to their HIP measurement system I think I was skiing in a 340-45mm length with those back in the mid 80’s.
The hardest thing is developing a feel for tensioning the double boa system. First it is advantages to have the soft boot on for at least 30 minutes before getting serious about fitting so it warms up a bit. To get in the boot I take the cuff loop in one hand and the tongue loop in the other and holding it in front of me I slip the foot right in with the boas unlocked. Pay close attention to the layering and positioning of the tongues when tensioning. Start by tightening the instep to just holding the instep. Then tighten the shin area to a similar feel. Let it warm up [I drive to the mountain in them, 2 hours]. For on mountain use the best advice I have is tension the BOAs so that the heel does not rise off the footbed and do it by balancing the tension between the two areas but start with the instep. Too loose and you have a potential for a blister, too tight and... well you know it’s a ski boot. Even with the whole idea of comfort they are not sheepskin slippers [which is what I drive home in]. You can feel the tension in the wheel in between clicks of the boa ratchet which doesn’t help much with gloves on. Don’t get too fussy you will adjust more probably after you put the skeleton on. Once you think you have the BOAS set entering the skeleton is easiest when seated on the end of a bench or chair so that you can hold the upper strap out of the way. Once the toe of the soft boot is in then step on the heel making sure the keepers for the straps are in place. Tighten the skeleton straps to the same kind of tension you would normally feel with any ski boot [snappy but not overly tight]. If it creates a void around the foot so the heal can move then tighten the BOAS lightly and recheck buckle tension. I have found myself skiing with only one buckle attached and did not have a control issue, and it did not matter which buckle was loose. Getting out of the skeleton at the end of the day is simple; release the straps and bend leg forward. The heel will raise out of the exo and if the skis are still on you should be able to lift up and the ski should drop easily. Keep in mind the brakes are worthless in this situation and you need to be on flat ground. If your out of the ski then after bending forward raise the foot so you can push the top of the back of the skeleton down with your hand till it releases.
What I would really like to see from this company in the future is the ability to design a skeleton from pieces. As innovation comes along one could upgrade a part of the system or replace damaged pieces without having to buy a whole new boot. Possibly even forward lean adjustment replacement flex bars Also it would be nice to have some pre-cut pads to fill the void for those needing to extend the strap and some kind of keeper that does not automatically pop open such as a retention screw for the last notch of the keeper?
One question that keeps coming up from people is “can I use this boot to hike into the outback” and then reinsert into the skeleton? Yes but I think it could get dicey depending on conditions. Standing and entering the skeleton is a bit more difficult and the potential for snow to pack into it makes me cautious as you need to make sure it is clear. The walking boot sole is not very deep a tread at all and a bit narrow at the heel. The sole warps up the heel and toe. I can see some minor wear at the back of the heal on the sole that may be due to an entry failure with the skeleton one time. Possibly with some practice this can be done but challenges will occur with different snow types and being able to apply enough heel force so that the skeleton can be mounted by the soft boot.
So overall I see some great benefits to this type of hybrid system in terms of easy of entry and exit for the foot. I do not have to pull, contort my body while holding the shell open to get in a boot. Nor straining to get my foot out at the end of the day... At no point in the day do I feel encumbered by my boots. Far easier to fit and use than any ski boot [conventional or rear entry] I have tried on and the dozen or so I have skied in my life with one possible exception [and that boot never made it on the market due to price back in the 80's - Kastinger Porsche]. I think I can live with this through the last quarter of my life much better than anything else on the market today. The convenience factor is very high as is comfort. They certainly control the skis just fine for what I have encountered from 0 to 50. This may not be the perfect link between body and ski but it is a step in the right direction IMO.