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Soft Boots -- Longer Term Evalation

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
has the "jury" come back with a verdict on soft boots? For anyone who took the plunge, how have they held up after a number of seasons? I recall that they were supposed to be the future of skiing. Did they not catch fire because of a lack of marketing? performance? consumer resistance to novelty? only for recreational use?

I noticed that Nordica isn't selling (discontinued?) the Smartech series this year, altho some deals can be had on the older stuff (especially considering what the original list prices were).

-SkiGator
post #2 of 50
The jury has come back in that the industry has stopped making soft boots. While I have not tested them, I suspect that the problem with runs much deeper than a lack of marketing or consumer resistance to novelty.

I'd steer clear of them if I were you.
post #3 of 50
I personally love my Rossignol soft boots. I think that there is a perception that somehow these boots "cannot take it" -- which is not my experience at all. Innovation is a tough thing in a sport that has deep roots. Personally I think the problem lies in what they cost. They were simply too expensive compared to well established (and frankly much better looking boots). My Rossignols listed for $520 (I got them for maybe a third of that) and when compared to the upper reaches of very well known and tried boots for $400-450 I think they couldnt compete. Also having looked at the Nordica ones before buying the Rossignols, I felt the weird pull cord system of the Nordica did not inspire confidence. My Rossignols have clasps just like a regular boot does.

Finally, I think there is a misconception about their so-called softness. It's not like a snowboard boot at all, it seems to me that the softness is more about flexing. They are hardly any more soft "feeling" on the inside, but when I've compared them to hard boots I've worn it feels like it has more give which for me works. Good or bad is a matter of personal experience and with so few soft boots and not many years of experience in the market its hard to say if they should/would make it as a product.

I suspect that the boot makers will rethink the concept and come back with new ones that can be priced competitively and have physical aspects that improve their chances for success.

I will go look for another pair of Rossignols for back up


Quote:
Originally Posted by Redsox Racer
The jury has come back in that the industry has stopped making soft boots. While I have not tested them, I suspect that the problem with runs much deeper than a lack of marketing or consumer resistance to novelty.

I'd steer clear of them if I were you.
post #4 of 50
In the spirit of generating more intelligent discussion, I’ll go beyond what was (admittedly) a quick dismissal of soft boots and go a little further into the reasons that the soft boots have not caught on.

I’m not sure that there is a misconception at all about their “softness.” As skidad55 correctly observes, the softness everyone is talking about concerns boot flex, not the actual material on the outside of the boot. Generally, on this forum and elsewhere, when someone says that a boot is “soft” or “stiff” they are referring to how much pressure must be put on the tongue of the boot to make it bend under your weight. If this can be done easily, then the boot is considered “soft,” and vice versa. To make a turn, you must flex the ski under your boot, and apply pressure to your edges. Practically, this can not be done until the skier has pressured the tongue of their boot to the point that instead of flexing farther forward, the boot transfers the pressure to the ski. Racers want their boots very stiff, because the boots do not flex much under their shins so the transfer of pressure from the boot to the ski is very fast allowing very quick turns. The problem with a boot that is that stiff, is that it transfers every pressure to the ski immediately, which is not desirable for skiers who are still learning as they need time to learn how to properly pressure their boots and skis and to develop the feel needed to precisely and consistently apply this pressure. If a learning skier had very stiff boots, their mistakes would be transferred to the skis as quickly as their correct motions, which will result in more falls. This is what people are talking about when they say that a boot is more or less “forgiving.” However, more forgiving is not always better; if a skier has a boot that is too soft, the delay between when they pressure the boot and flex the ski will be so long that it is difficult to make turns properly. Ideally all skiers would be in boots with a flex that is in accordance with their ability level.

The problem with the “soft boots” like the Rossi Soft and others, is that their flex too soft, which made them appropriate only for a very small segment of skiers. The flex of the soft boots is really only commensurate with the ability level of real beginners. By the time a skier can ski comfortably down blue square terrain, they will have already outgrown the flex of the soft boot and require equipment that is more responsive to their input. Skidad55, when you mentioned the cost of the boots, you hit one of the big problems right on the head. Beginner skiers are not going to pay $500 for boots that they will outgrow by the end of the season. You may like those soft boots, and they can certainly be skied adequately in the hands of a skier who has progressed beyond the beginner level, however that would not be ideal, and if someone is looking for new boots, they should not be spending their money on something that is less than ideal. If soft boots were very inexpensive, they would make a lot of sense, as a beginner skier could purchase their own pair to learn on, instead of renting every trip to the mountain. Since boots are the single most important piece of skiing equipment, having their own pair would facilitate a beginner’s learning curve, however, the cost would have to be very low to be practical. By the time a skier has skied enough so that it makes financial sense to purchase ski equipment rather than rent it, they have probably skied enough to have progressed past the point of the soft boot.

I apologize for the essay, but I thought it was necessary to give an adequate explanation of why the soft boots didn’t catch on, and why you don’t see them around much anymore.
post #5 of 50
I humbly disagree that soft boots did not catch on because one cannot make their turns properly.

Our race school director, and ski school director have softened their own boots considerably. The ski school director has removed all bolts except the hinge. The race director has done that AND has had his boot cut.

Both are excellent skiers that could certainly handle the stiffest of boots. IMO, they disprove the notion that soft boots are appropriate for only a small segment of skiers. They do not "require equipment that is more responsive to their input", and are quite vocal proponents of boot softening.

IMO, the reason that soft boots did not make it is that they were obviously different from normal boots. If you could buy a soft Lange Comp 50, that was half as stiff as the comp 100, but had styleing identical to that of the 130, the hills would be filled with the boot.

Instead, the soft boot skier is seen in some sort of "special" non-racing boot, obviously meant to fill their "special" non-racing needs. In short, the soft boot skier sucks and the soft boot is the proverbial "kick me" sign on their back.

I understand that Salomon is rectifying this with a soft pro model next year that is indistinguishable from their stiff offering. I'll bet the soft pro model sells out quickly.
post #6 of 50
I'm a level 7.whatever that loves his Rossi softs. I disagree with the "beginner" boot rap...

I think the misconception about what "soft" means is the issue entirely. I get attitude about my boots from "serious" skiers and the whiff of predjudice I pick up on is that "soft" equals "boots for a wimp" who values comfort over performance. As has been said, the softness of these boots has to do with forward flex, not comfort.

These boots are laterally stiff and I believe the operating princaple is that shorter skis with exagerated sidecuts are skied by tipping them on edge more than by pressuring a mile of shovel forward.
post #7 of 50
This quote from this post is interesting:

http://forums.epicski.com/showpost.p...6&postcount=89

"And for carving turns, boots should be stiff at the sides to increase edging power from the knee action, while giving forward action at the ankle."

Written in 1970!
post #8 of 50
BigE,

I completely agree with your post, specifically that most skiers should be in boots that are softer than their racing counterparts.

I am also aware that even racing boots are getting softer, however this is relative to racing boots of the present vs racing boots of the past. I assure you, if you are stepping up from any production ski boot, even a pair of 1980s Cabers, into a boot like the Lange RL1 in the ZC/ZI flex, it will be STIFF by comparison. I used the racing boot illustration just to present the other extreme from the soft boot, to highlight the impact of boot flex on everyday skiing. I didn’t mean to suggest that racing boots are “real” boots and others are not, or that racing boots are correct for everyone. What I was trying to say is that there is an appropriate flex for a given skier ability/style, and that “soft boots” (meaning the 2001-2003 vintage boots with a cloth exterior shell as opposed to hard plastic shell) generally have a forward flex that is even softer than the softest of plastic shelled boots, and this is just too soft for most skiers. This is distinguished from the salomon pro in a soft flex or your proposal for a lange comp 50, both of which sound like good ideas. The key is that boots can be too soft, just like they can be too stiff.

Jstraw,

I can’t really speak to the attitude that you get from other skiers, one of the major problems with our sport is the elitism that is so prevalent. Too bad not everyone remembers that we were all beginners once, and that there is always someone better than you. However, I do disagree with the notion that new ski technology eliminates the need for longitudinal rigidity. To properly turn a ski, a skier must be able to distribute appropriate pressure across the length of the ski as needed in addition to tipping the ski on edge and applying pressure laterally. With the Rossi Softs, you can do one half of the equation fine, but they are lacking in the other part. As I mentioned before, if you like the fit, you can certainly make them work, but for a level 7 skier they are less than ideal.

If you like ‘em, I guess will just have to agree to disagree. However, your bad surefoot experience not withstanding, perhaps a good bootfitter can mate you up to a boot that will bring your skiing to an even higher level.
post #9 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redsox Racer
However, I do disagree with the notion that new ski technology eliminates the need for longitudinal rigidity.
I don't think it's eliminated but I do think it's de-emphasized. It's a question of leverage. If you have 15-20 cm less shovel to keep on the snow, you don't need as much leverage to accomplish this.
post #10 of 50
Instead of maximum pressure, you need to be more precise
post #11 of 50
For the record while I don't know exactly what "level" I am, I do ski all the blues and most of the blacks at Sunapee with my soft boots. I don't find them too soft nor do I feel in any way constrained by them. Could I go faster and perhaps carve deeper in something else, I don't know. I'm sure I will add a pair of stiffer boots at some point for comparison.

I think like so many innovations that confront traditions and perceptions of whats correct, soft boots may have just arrived too soon for the mass market and at a price point that didnt find buyers. Like any technology, they needed to find early adopters willing to try and buy, and as the price curve turned downward pull the average consumer along with them.

I never thought of them as beginner boots, nor as a solid intermediate skier do I think of them as not being able to cross the next level boundary with me. I thought of them as comfortable boots that combined with my C7 skis and a bunch of lessons and a desire to learn made me a good skier in short order.

post #12 of 50
With a desire to learn, you could probably learn how to ski with sneakers and 2 by 4s!





Wait for it....


Obviously I'm kidding. I'm not trying to attack the soft boot trend, SkiGator asked why they hadn't caught on, and what the drawbacks were, and I pretty much gave him the party line response. If you like the soft boots, stick with em.

By the way, I added a link to your post about your son's skis.
post #13 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by BigE
the soft boot skier is seen in some sort of "special" non-racing boot, obviously meant to fill their "special" non-racing needs. In short, the soft boot skier sucks and the soft boot is the proverbial "kick me" sign on their back.
Ah! Like "shaped" skis!?
post #14 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by jstraw
I don't think it's eliminated but I do think it's de-emphasized. It's a question of leverage. If you have 15-20 cm less shovel to keep on the snow, you don't need as much leverage to accomplish this.
I have free heels (= zero leverage) and can carve quite nice turns on short slalom shaped skis. You do not need to load the shovel to get shaped skis to bend, they will bend when you tip them on edge, more tipping (higher edge angle) and they will bend more and carve shorter radius.
post #15 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by telerod15
I have free heels (= zero leverage) and can carve quite nice turns on short slalom shaped skis. You do not need to load the shovel to get shaped skis to bend, they will bend when you tip them on edge, more tipping (higher edge angle) and they will bend more and carve shorter radius.
Thank you for reinforcing my point!
post #16 of 50
You're welcome! Check out Hermann Maier, he is using Atomic VIP instead of Racetec boots. He is huge and super strong! I think the VIP must be too stiff for all normal people if he uses it.
post #17 of 50
thanks, great thread!
now i feel more comfortable about my "beginners boot"
post #18 of 50
Ok, now the discussion has gone into the realm of the absurd. Please do not use any World Cup Racer's equipment to justify the performance of a product like a Soft Boot. First, while there is a thread on this website which suggests that Hermann Maier is using a boot named the Atomic VIP, it is impossible to tell what world cup racers are actually on, as they are usually given special equipment that is merely overlaid with production graphics. Second, your information about the Atomic VIP is inaccurate. The VIP was Atomic's "Plug" racing boot prior to the Race T.E.C. and was a specialized boot that low point racers can obtain and specify which flex they desire. Third, you are correct that Hermann Maier's boot is too stiff for all "normal" people to use, however I did not think that I was ever advocating such a statement; if I mis-typed, please forgive me.

I am sure that there are telemarkers that can carve railroad tracks, but I have never seen one. Telerod, if you can do this, then your are A) one of the best skiers I have ever encountered, and B) carving your turns in spite of your equipment, not because of it.

The fact of the matter is that the front of the ski must be pressured to initiate turns without skidding, and the tail of the ski must be pressured to finish the turn. The stiffer the boot is, the more finely you can control these fore and aft pressures, which is one of many necessary components involved in controlling your turns.

If you want to defend fabric shelled boots, there are many legitimate reasons to do so, including comfort, forgiveness, etc., but there is absolutely no grounds to support a claim that they are stiff enough to perform for skiers who have achieved proficiency to the point that they are ready to shell out a couple of hundred dollars on equipment.

jstraw, as a level 7, your progression has probably already been limited by the soft boots, however without any comparison how would you know? Perhaps now is the time to re-evaluate what you are looking for in a boot. My comments are not meant to advocate race boots for everyone, as obviously that is absurd, but as a skier's ability changes, they should be evaluating whether their equipment is still up to the task. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the level of flex needed for your strength, weight and ability.
post #19 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redsox Racer
The fact of the matter is that the front of the ski must be pressured to initiate turns without skidding.
Is this the consensus of opinion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Redsox Racer
jstraw, as a level 7, your progression has probably already been limited by the soft boots, however without any comparison how would you know?
I definately want to explore this issue. I won't be happy with being limited in my progression by a poor boot choice. Perhaps now that I have PROPER footbeds, I should give that pair of Langes another shot...
post #20 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by jstraw
Is this the consensus of opinion?
I would say that it is pretty difficult to initiate and a hold clean carve without pressuring the tips.
post #21 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Redsox Racer
Telerod, if you can do this, then your are A) one of the best skiers I have ever encountered, and B) carving your turns in spite of your equipment, not because of it.
Thanks, but I can't do it on steep or icy slopes. Most freeheelers don't carve piste but it is not difficult with short shaped skis. Easy to carve with snowboard also but you don't see many snowboarders who want to do it!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Redsox Racer
The fact of the matter is that the front of the ski must be pressured to initiate turns without skidding, and the tail of the ski must be pressured to finish the turn.
False
post #22 of 50
Now we're getting somewhere!

jstraw, you bring up an important point, that flex is only one of many important considerations in selecting a boot. Fit, as you already know is probably the most important consideration. You shouldn't have to compromise on one to find the other, a good bootfitter will be able to find a boot that fits well and has the appropriate level of stiffness/softness.

While I can speak about boot fit, performance and design generally, I don't have any particular familiarity with the Lange boot line, but I bet if you post your height and weight as well as the boot model, some others on this forum can give you a broad idea as to whether that is an appropriate flex. However, only you will know if the boot fits well, which should probably be your first step.
post #23 of 50
I can tell you why I didn't buy soft boots. I wanted more control. The soft boot did not give me the immediate response I was looking for in a boot. I have skied many different boots, leather boots, mushy rental boots, ankly-high fibre-glass plated leather boots, super-stiff race boots; the only boots I missed were the knee-high boots. I prefer to have my every intent transmitted to my skis immediately. When I say jump, I don't want my ski's asking me "How high?" I suspect that most people who take up skiing also enjoy the feeling of control. Skiing with a soft boot takes away some of that immediate sense of control or rather that sense of immediate control.

To me skiing with soft boots is like driving a car while only connected to the steering wheel with rubber bands. Or driving a car with soft springs and shocks compared to one with stiff shocks and springs and tight-ratio steering, the Grisswald wally-wagon (National Lampoon's vacation) versus the camaro. A skilled (notice I didn't say good) driver in the wally-wagon can beat a two-bit driver in a porsche down a twisty road, but I'm sure he would do better in the porsche with a little practice.

P.S. if you can balance on a ski on edge you can carve a turn on any ski with any equipment. That doesn't mean that you won't have a better feeling of control with better equipment.
post #24 of 50
Well put Ghost. You put this into layman's terms much better than I could.
post #25 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by telerod15
I have free heels (= zero leverage) and can carve quite nice turns on short slalom shaped skis. You do not need to load the shovel to get shaped skis to bend, they will bend when you tip them on edge, more tipping (higher edge angle) and they will bend more and carve shorter radius.
The problem with this argument is that many very good tele skiers on hard snow use ridiculously stiff cartridges so that they can generate the leverage you claim is not needed.
post #26 of 50
Why does the expert alpine skier need the stiffest boot? In telemark and snowboard, the better you are the less boot you need.
post #27 of 50
The expert alpine skier needs a different boot depending on what he or she likes and works well with.

The above comments about good skiers removing rivets/bolts etc are telling of a large problem though. While a soft flexing boot may be a good thing, a stiff boot softened in that way rarely is. Those skiers may be good, but they'd be better if they had bought appropriate boots to begin with.
post #28 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiingman
The problem with this argument is that many very good tele skiers on hard snow use ridiculously stiff cartridges so that they can generate the leverage you claim is not needed.
I use ridiculously stiff teleboots and 3pins no cables but you can't put significant pressure on the front of the ski with free heel bindings.
post #29 of 50
Skigator --

To add to your Soft Boot survey, here's a report from my sister-in-law, an excellent skier, who lives in Jackson Hole. She bought Rossi soft boots this season:

"My boots started to wear out after about 10 wearings....all four contact points with the tongue wore through and were torn. They looked like someone had skied 100 days! I think they are NOT for good skiers."

She called Rossignol and they took the boots back, no questions asked and
told her to pick out anything she wanted in a "regular" pair.
post #30 of 50
I regret that "soft" boots have not fared better and hope that the industry will revisit the concept. A lot of would be skiers get turned off to the sport because of painful rental boot experiences or "upsizing" which may relieve the pain but leaves their feet swimming in the boots with little ability to control their skis.

The folks at the rental shop often don't have the time to get things right and it is not reasonable to expect someone just trying the sport to invest hundreds of dollars in buying their own boots to deal with discomfort issues. It's easier for them to just walk (or hobble) away.

Only about 15% of first time skiers stick with the sport. IMHO, painful or ill fitting boots are a big part of the problem.
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