Product: Sidas 'Black Project' Customizable Boot System (boot/liner/footbed)
Boot: Sidas/Salomon Impact
Liner: Sidas injectable (not the version that also has an injectable tongue, but can be upgraded)
Shell Size Tested: 26.5 (performance fit - I wear an 11 street shoe)
Flex rating: 120+ (removable backbone, base flex is 120)
Ski tested with: Kastle LX82
Footbed: Full Custom - Sidas Conformable
Modifications done to boot: None
Environment of Conditions:
Location of review: Winter Park
*Runs Taken: ~20 days
Conditions: Full season spread (Colorado)
*Demo or Own: Own
(inc. Strengths & Weaknesses):
Three Word Conclusion: The Velvet Vice
Background: I started skiing at age 40 two seasons ago. My initial goals were modest - to be able to ski with my family. My wife grew up skiing in Europe and is a solid L8 despite a 17 year absence from the sport, and I have four kids who all started at the same time I did, my oldest at age 12 and youngest age 5 at the time.
After a brief stint in rental boots in 2010 Spring Break before we got serious, I bought a set of 27.5 Salomon Impact GT (REI specific boot) in a 90 flex. It was a decent general fit (I was fitted at the store), but I had a huge problem with the the ankle/calf feeling loose and I was cranking them so hard that I was losing circulation and had a serious cold feet problem. I ended up taking them back to REI and buying Atomic Hawx 80 in a 26.5 at Colorado Ski & Golf. The 26.5 length was better as a performance fit, but I found the boot flex to be soft as I was progressing, and the ankle/cuff fit problems were not materially improved...more crank and freeze. I was having some pretty bad twinging problems in my left forefoot as well unless everything was cranked to the hilt.
At the start of last season, and with the buzz of of the Fischer Vacuum, I found a local fitter who carried the Fischer's and made an appointment (The Custom Foot - Lee Kinney). Lee took his time with me at the consultation and thought the Hawx were a decent boot in shell length and focused on foot mechanics first. I have a high arch and moderate pronation, and Lee was able to diagnose skiing issues I was aware of just by evaluating my feet. I was sold on the fitter, not the boot, at this point. We started with the Sidas Conformable custom orthotic as a first step. I didn't want to change more than one variable at time and used them in the Hawx 80's - huge improvement in stability at feel, no more painful twinges...but then back to the looseness in the ankle and cuff. We tried tongue padding, which mostly had the effect of changing lean of the boot. Time to fix it right.
So I went back to Lee, no longer on the hunt for the Fischer as I didn't want to put that much money into a product where I felt I would also have to replace the liner and after already having dropped $250 on custom beds. I was thinking of the Salomon X3 with its moldable liner in a 100 flex, and in expressing that I had goals to become an advanced skier, they took a better look at my ankles and said "You will never get a thermo moldable liner to fill in the space around your ankle bones and if you are looking for maximum retention, have you thought about injection liners?". Only $100 more...let's take a look. OK, I need 'one and done', let's roll.
On to the review: The injection process allows you to deal with specific spots and issues. I have sizable veins that run over my outer ankle bones and these were covered with padding just over the veins themselves to give them post injection room, along with some other places that could be hot spots - I have bony feet and the Sidas liners plus footbeds provide even compression everywhere without any uncomfortable pressure points. These two components (liner/bed) are a true integrated system.
I had two liner choices and took the base model that only injects around the ankle and back half of the foot, but has a static tongue. I did still find myself applying some shell buckling pressure to deal with my chicken calves, and I should have spent the money up front on the injectable tongue, but I will probably do it this year as the tongue only is upgradeable, which is why I felt comfortable trying the non-injectable tongue first. I tried lacing the liners, and that really addressed upper calf fit - I spent the rest of the season with the preferred 'two finger' buckle pressure. At 100mm I didn't need any shell adjustments, although the Impact shell does have the Salomon forefoot expandability and the buckles are bolted in rather than riveted, so your fitter can redrill buckle mounts if needed.
The shell itself is a rebranded Salomon Impact 120. It has a metal backbone that allows flex adjustment, but the base boot is a 120 and the adjustments add rigidity. The X3 option from last year was even stiffer at 130, so there really wasn't an intermediate flex option (the Sidas website says there are Head shells also available now). Out of the gate, this was too stiff for me as a second year intermediate skier. I am 6'2" and I think it is easier for a taller guy to flex a boot, but they kicked my ass. I was committed to the fitness and development to ski higher end gear and I like speed, so this was ultimately a good choice as I really got my legs under me by mid-season. Part of the terrible snow season last year was good for me as a developing L7 skier as the snow conditions really forced repetition for much of the season.
Anyway, I was a different skier from the first run - my wife noticed immediately and commented to that effect. I think that my feet are not hard to fit, but my ankles are, and I have no heel lift at all with this setup. My cold feet problem is improved with the customized fit of the entire system, although I have cold feet sitting here right now and heaters are probably in my future, which can be added to my existing foot beds.
A downside, if this matters to you, is that injectable foam adds weight - for my lift served usage I haven't felt any major issue. There are a limited number of shells available, and for me Salomon seem to be a good base choice so that wasn't a major issue, but it could be for others. Now you could just pick shell and liner separately, but this is a $400 liner and cost would probably go up $200 over the system price, which would eliminate the real value proposition, especially if one of the reasons you won't look at the Fischer is having to upgrade the liner.
For the cost, this has been a great solution that seems to have little awareness in the U.S. Some pictures (sorry, they don't want to seem to rotate properly):
The Sidas liner:
You can see the injection mold in the liner here:
And here is my ankle...rotated a bit so I could get a picture of it. Lot's of room above the heel.
The Impact shell:
Height/Weight: 6'2" 170lbs
Average days on snow: 11-25
Years Skiing: 0-5
Skis in your Quiver: Kastle LX82 180cm
Foot issues (Pronation ect): High arch, moderate pronation, bony ankles, chicken calves
Preferred Terrain backside on-piste (mixed condition named trails, bowls)
Edited by NayBreak - 8/1/13 at 1:50pm