I'm cutting to the chase here, but a lot of background info is at the bottom of the post, if you need it.
Finally found a boot that really feels like it's made for my particular feet and needs. It's the Head Raptor RS 90. The 24.0 is the one that put the huge grin on my face because it really holds onto my foot without the big void over my upper instep (between the 2nd and 3rd buckle) in a way that almost no other boots have been able to do, and which historically causes me to want to crank down unproductively on the 2nd buckle from the top. Meanwhile, I also tried on the 25.0. This boot also felt good, but not in the same special "my ankle and heel area is totally immobilized, but also totally comfy" way as the 24. So what's the problem? The problem is that 1) Only the 25 was really long enough for my left big toe. I took the insole out entirely, and, even then, trying on the liner ... it's just too short. AND 2) the 25 was WAY stiffer than the 24, in a good way. The stiffness on the 25 felt about like the Lange SC 90 I tried. The 24 was more like my current boot, which is too soft. It seems clear that the 25 shell is a completely different animal from the 24 shell, flex-wise (and also costs $100 more). What's with that?
Anyway, looking for advice about how to resolve this conundrum. Basically it feels like I need the 25 liner, the flex of the 25 shell, but the overall size of the 24 shell. Ideas?
+++++++ background info below this line ++++++++++
Me: 49yo, 135lbs, 5'7", level 8, ski about 30 days / year, mostly east. Beer leaguer, but also love soft bumps and trees when available.
Current boot: Falcon 100 Jr. Race, size 24.5, 2008 model year (I think), skied three full seasons plus. I run custom ski orthotics in these (and different ones in my street shoes).
Why looking for a new boot (in order): Current boots are softening and bottoming out unless very cold ("100" flex is purely nominal, based on testing against other boots), occasional but persistent 6th toe problems despite punching, soles becoming worn,. Need something with a bit more oomph.
Misc key info: My feet are medium in front to narrow at heel. I have moderate bunions with the commonly associated upturning big toes. My perennial challenge with boots is that I need a firm, close fit in a small size with moderate flex. Women's boots tend to be too squishy and/or too Barbie. Men's boots tend not to be available in my size, and when they do are either too stiff (race boots) or too roomy ("recreational" boots) or both.
So, I've been to my favorite shop a couple times trying on boots. Mostly these have been Jr. race boots around a "90" flex (Atomic Redster, Technica Inferno, Dalbello Scorpion), but I've also tried on the Full Tilt classic (too big in the smallest size made) and a couple others. Crossed all those off the list as not working ... typically the main issue is way too much room over the upper instep, between the 2nd and 3rd buckle. The Lange SC 90 fits me reasonably well and is a plausible candidate, but doesn't make me feel like "this is definitely the one."