I figured out problem... as we all (hopefully) know, the "98 mm" last designation only applies to size 26 shells. I knew this, but mistakenly thought that each shell size maybe added a millimeter. I was browsing threads about black toe and I came across a boot guy's post that said the 27 shell is 4 mm wider than the 26 shell!!!
My 27 boots in a "98 last" (probably actually 102) were just about the perfect last (rode the fine line between decent edge response, comfort, and not-quite-painful)... they were actually a touch too wide after pack-out (but still needing punching in painful areas). Current boots, 26 in a "98 last" elicit excruciating pain. Me squeezing into the 98mm shell was probably like a person with average-width feet squeezing into a 92mm Lange plug! I vaguely remember reading somewhere that ski boots that are too narrow can theoretically cause anatomical damage over time (i.e. the foot wasn't designed to be crammed into a tight space and used to support weight). True, I've actually had more issues with my rock climbing shoes (if climbing shoes don't hurt, you have too big of a size) but I can see the same thing happening with ski boots. My right toe is still recovering from a nasty time in the new Lange RX's over a month ago. It didn't help that I spent the next several days in uncomfortable "fancy" shoes which hurt almost as much as the ski boots by the end.
I hope that 100mm boots will work, still feel snug/responsive, but give enough room in toebox to prevent pain (perhaps I'll still need multiple punches and a toe grind). Which is why you should still look for a high performance boot that will give you room to grind.
I'm keeping the HEAD Raptors for racing (which only lasts 2-3 hrs a day at most), but I just don't think they can ever be "all day" boots for me (this last vacation was a brutal battle with the boots).
Now what I hope is that I can find a boot with the same BSL so I won't have to mess with the bindings each time I race. What's your current BS? The other way to prevent this issue is to buy some more skis, some for racing and some for free skiing