There is not a ton of review info on this boot so I wanted to throw something out there in the event others were interested.
I have the '13 - '14 model (bought new, this season at Ski Center in D.C.).
15+ years skiing
SL / GS background
Foot: Very wide (108mm+), high instep - about the worst foot to fit in a plug boot
Previous boots: Head RS 120 (5 seasons, all day free ski boot) Head RD 150 (race boot, early morning boot)
Injury: Coming back from my second ACL tear within one year (8 months post op)
Skis ridden with boot: Atomic GS (18m), Rossi Soul
First of all, all I can say is wow. My previous two boots have been seasons worth of punching and grinding to fit. The vacuum fit process at Ski Center took about an hour from the time I put the boot on to the time the boot was fit. Leaving the store I couldn't give them my plastic fast enough because the fit was so good. In summary here are my findings about the fit process:
- The entire boot does mold to the width of your foot and accommodate shims and pads as placed (much more than the advertised mm)
- The boot is very soft for days after the molding process. I'm not sure what's recommended but I would probably not ski the boot +3 or 4 days post mold.
- The boot absolutely hardens, and in my opinion shrinks a week or two after molding. I noticed shrinking and stiffening of the plastic for about two weeks after fit.
- I required two extra visits to get my 5th mets right but now the boots are what I call perfect
Skiing the boot:
If anything, I'd say the molding process has made the boots to wide for me. All my trouble spots with the exception of the 5th met on both boots were addressed via the mold process when I went out to ski for the first time. It's important to note, I know my trouble spots pretty well and was able to advise accordingly. I do have to run the buckles a bit tighter than I've ever ran on my Heads hence the "wide" comment but I'm sure many would say the Heads were just unreasonably tight and stupid for a weekend freeskier. In fact, the boots molded so wide that I had to rob my Heads of some parts to also close the boot properly. Once I sorted the hardware and tightened the boots with WC Booster straps the boots ski perfect. My foot stays planted in the boot and would meet every definition of a race fit.
Edge to edge I would call the boots a hair slower than my Head RD 150. Drive, power, edge hold is all similar to the 150. This boot does blow away the 120 RS in every way, no question. I don't find the flex to be as soft as some others have noted. Flex is inline with the 150 - a hair less but using the Head 150 RD as a reference it feels 90% as stiff at an outdoor temp of 28 degrees. When I get the courage to run my WC Stockli SLs that'll be a real treat I'm sure.
I think my conclusion is going to be similar to the threads that exist but I also want to make a few notes about my individual findings which my contradict the vacuum fit threads that are on Epic Ski as well. If you are free skiing, beer league racing, or even masters racing this is a great boot for a hard to fit foot. I will probably never see gates again so I can't speak to the seconds won or lost with the boot, but with this fit I can now run the boot hours longer than I could have ever skied my Head 150 RD. No question. More SL and GS turns for this guy! With that said, there are some closing notes:
- Too much padding / pressure could mean to wide. If I decided to tinker, I could see myself remolding trying to get a slightly tighter fit (but then again, why mess with something that's damn good.)
- The boots are cold. I can put up with cold feet pretty well (I cut all the foam and insulating material out of my RS liners for space and never had cold feet) but in 25 - 28 degrees I noticed cool feet right away. I was never bothered by the cool factor but its noticeable and its there
- In my opinion, this plastic is still temperature sensitive. The boots are easy to put on when warm and take some effort to get off when cold (more effort than my Head RS 120, less than the Head RD 150). I'm sure the boot is not as stiff as the RD sub 20 degrees but there is some stiffening for sure
- Molding gets you 90% of the way there, but I needed 2 visits, 3 punches to get them perfect
- I noticed better results from booster straps, than the stock strap
Hope this helps some folks thinking about vacuum boots. If you got a good fitting boot, I don't know that I'd run this way. If you are like me and have the worst fitting foot in the world, this has hands down been the best boot for my application. I'd absolutely buy it again. Only time will tell durability but fingers crossed there!