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downsides of more boot flex?

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
What are the downsides of a boot with a softer flex? I really like the Nordica Wave series boots I have tried on, but they have a lot of different flexes available. I am advanced but rather light weight (115 pounds), so I think sales people assume I am not strong enough to flex the boot, and try and sell me a softer one. So what problems are created when skiing in a boot that is too soft? Would boots with a flex index of 70-80 be too stiff? Is 50 to soft? The salesman is trying to sell me a pair with a flex index of 50. I looked on the Nordica web page and the ones with 50 seem to be geared more towards intermediate or advanced intermediate. I am not an intermediate by any means. Also I figure if I did get a boot that was too stiff there are always ways to make it less stiff (certain types of cuts in the plastic I think) but if I get a boot that is too soft than I am stuck with it, I can't afford to make a mistake. Help please.
post #2 of 22
Flex ratings are very inconsistent. Each manufacturer rates their boots differently, as far as I'm aware.
For example, my last boots were Salomons, with a flex of 80. My new ones are Tecnicas, flex 90, doesn't look like a big jump, but I then looked in a catalogued that used a 1-10 ability rating for the boots. My Sallys, according to the catalogue were for skiers in the 3-6 range, their definition of an intermediate. The Tecnicas were rated 8-10. They were rated at the same level as boots with flex values of 100-110.
I wouldn't be too concerned about the number, whether it's a 50, a 70, a 110 or whatever, but that you do have the the ability to flex the boot. Also consider the type of skiing you will be doing. If it is mainly in deep powder or in the terrain park, then a softer flex is probably a better choice. If you stick with hardpack/ice/groomers, then something stiffer would be more appropriate.
Make sure the boots have good lateral stiffness, as this is important with carving skis. Also, check out the forward lean, and the height of the cuff on your calf.
As you say, with stiffer boots, you do have options to increase the flex (and it doesn't always involve a hacksaw!), but you'd be better to buy the right boot rather than having to hack at it to make it softer.

Hope this helps,


P.S. The above post is from memory, so apologies for the odd inaccuracy in figures etc. If you get a chance, read "The Skier's Edge" by Ron LeMaster, which contains excellent information on boots, among other things.
post #3 of 22
I think Nordicas with a flex index of 50 are more appropriate for less aggressive skiers. One rule I have is that if the boot doesn't have a cuff angle adjustment, it's probably not laterally stiff enough for advanced skiers. Just because you are small doesn't mean you need a low end boot. My daughter is about your size and she skis the stiffest woman's Nordica (index 70 or 80?) and she adjusts it to the stiffest setting. Like WTFH said, you will have diffculty holding your edge if the boot is too soft, especially in firm snow.

post #4 of 22
John, that may be true for most rec boots, but some of the high end, really stiff boots often have no cuff adjustment. I believe the new dobermann (stiff version) will not have cuff angle adjustment. I guess they figure they're going to grind the soles any way for cant angle.

It's easier to soften than to stiffen a boot. Seriously, though you should go to a better fitter who will listen to you and give you what's right.

Fit is still the most important thing here though. Find a couple that really fit well first, then think about the flex. Does it fit tight in the ankle, the forefoot, the instep? Also the cuff is critical, you don't want it loose there either. You can make boots bigger but making them smaller sucks- it's endless. Don't forget they'll only get bigger too. Be sure to start off with thin socks.
For me I have to go with a stiff racing boot because I have a narrow low volume foot. Then they get softened.

[ November 08, 2002, 10:47 AM: Message edited by: Tog ]
post #5 of 22
This is a topic that seems to resurface at least once a year. In our archives are some lengthy discussions on the plusses and minuses of boot flex.

I'll offer a viewpoint that that is contrary to some commonly accepted notions. There's a lot of talk currently that today's softer, deeper sidecut skis work better with softer boots. I don't agree! True, today's skis usually perform best when pressured in the center "sweet spot," and do not usually need extreme tip or tail pressure. But just because we don't as often need these things is no reason to give up the heightened control of fore-aft pressure that stiffer boots provide (if properly operated).

Keep in mind that your skis could not care less whether your boots are flexed or not. They do NOT respond to "boot flex" and flexing your boots is NOT important as far as ski performance goes! Skis respond to pressure and torque (twisting forces that steer them and tip them).

The boot is simply a "handle" for your ski. It is what you use to manipulate and control the ski. A flexible handle does not give you as much, or as precise, control--simple! Stiff boots transfer your every movement directly, and completely, to the ski.

On the other hand, a flexible handle does mute any "bad" movements you might transfer to your skis. Stiff boots are unforgiving of errors and inconsistencies in technique. This is one reason softer boots are more user-friendly for beginners.

And stiff boots restrict the range of motion of the ankle, especially fore-and-aft. Ankle flexing is a big part of maintaining fore-aft balance when we bend and straighten our knees, hips, and other joints in everyday life. Stand up in your bare feet and then crouch down low--your knees and hips bend, and your ankles flex ("dorsiflex") and your heels lift, right? With this combination of joints flexing, you are able to keep your balance. But ski bindings hold your heels down, and stiff boots restrict your ability to flex your ankles. So one of the most important skills to learn for skiing is an entirely new combination of movements of the knees, hips, spine, and arms to compensate for the lack of foot and ankle motion when flexing and extending.

Again, for beginners who have not yet learned these ski-specific movements, softer-flexing boots allow a bit more ankle motion that enables them to move more "normally." But the sacrifice in control through this soft "handle" is a poor substitute for learning the right movements and skills of skiing!

Top skiers are able to flex and extend their bodies through a very wide range, with the stiffest of boots (and without trying or needing to "flex" the boots at all). And they are able to control the fore-aft pressure on their skis VERY precisely with their stiff boots, with subtle, minimal movements of their feet and legs, transferred through the stiff, precise "handles" of their stiff boots.

So--if you haven't figured it out yet, I am not a proponent of soft boots, in general. Yes, stiff boots take more learning to be able to handle. Yes, soft boots are more forgiving of the errors that we ALL make. But only stiff boots, combined with refined technique, offer the ultimate degree of control.

That said, boots can still be too stiff, even for experts. While a good skier can absorb the largest of moguls even with the stiffest boots, small washboard-like bumps and vibrations happen too quickly for active absorption movements. A little smooth boot flex dampens the sting of these bumps, and allows the skis to glide more smoothly as well. Boots that are too stiff, even with perfect technique, will slow you down in a race course!

Mogul skiers often prefer somewhat softer boots. While they do sacrifice some control, and in theory they should be able to ski bumps even with concrete boots, one big mistake in moguls will hurt BAD with very stiff boots! And we all make mistakes.

Finally, the stiffer the boot, the more critical its setup becomes. Particularly critical is the amount of forward lean (which is is the combination of the angle of the cuff and the angle of the entire boot as it sits on the bindings). If the boot is too upright, the skier will need to bend forward awkwardly at the waist and reach forward with the arms to balance, and will be unable to bend the knees very far without losing balance to the rear. Too much forward lean requires the skier to have to hold the torso too upright, and prevents him/her from extending to a tall position without pressuring the skis too far forward. So once again, for the average skier who does not expect to have an alignment specialist set up his equpment, a little more flex compensates for improper setup (with the usual sacrifice of some control).

So boot flex is only part of the issue. Proper setup and proper technique are both critical! The better the technique, and given proper setup, the more advantageous stiffer boots become.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ November 08, 2002, 11:45 AM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #6 of 22
Now that's one thorough answer! No one else need reply
post #7 of 22
Hey, "complete" is the only kind of answer you get from the B Man! It's worth a LOT. And get this: On this web site, it's FREE!!
post #8 of 22
I think that what Bob said is that for the 97% of skiers who do not meet those specific criteria, soft boots are better.

But I do have questions: If a skier can transmit enough pressure to the front of the skis with soft boots before they flex significantly, then isn't any additional stiffness useless?
Although I suppose the flipside could be: is any additional available movement (flex) useless?

Also, if softer boots allow for more "natural" movement, isn't that better than trying to make the body unnaturally contort to handle stiff boots? Are the old ways of sinking and rising outdated?
post #9 of 22
Speaking as a shrimp who skied in men's comp boots most of her adult life, the switch to a junior comp boot was profound in my ability to stay centered, work the ski, and feel the snow. There is such a thing as too much boot for the skier.

Someone once told me that when they take a men's comp boot and shrink it down it becomes proportionately stiffer the smaller it gets. I'm not smart enough to know if that's an old wives tale or an empirical finding. Does anyone else know?
post #10 of 22
Confession: I ski in a junior racing boot. Great, close-to-the-foot fit, and it's just perfect in flex, as any more would be too much, and any less isn't nesessary.
post #11 of 22
If the boots are made of the same materials, thickness, etc, then it is highly likely that a smaller boot will be stiffer, or may appear to be stiffer.
Whether this is true or not is a difficult call without seeing the design drawings and technical specifications for the materials used in the manufacturing process.
So, to answer your comment, yes it could be true, but I can't give you a definitive answer on it.

post #12 of 22

What size foot do you have? I'm in a 26.0 Atomic, 307mm I think, and my sense is the boot is too stiff. It's the 10.50 Atomic. I would like to try a softer boot, however, I have not found one that feels better in a shop. I'm 5'10" and weigh 180 lbs.
post #13 of 22
Hey R.G.,

I think you bring up an interesting topic, and Bob Barnes and Nolo have already provided some excellent information.

Whoever indicated that you cannot go by the flex numbers of individual boot manufactureres is right, since it is not standardized, like binding settings.

So how do can you judge what is the appropriate amount of flex for you ? Fortunately, the plastics being use in the new boots don't stiffen nearly as much as they used once they were outside the shop and on the slopes in the cold.

Certainly, if you can't flex the boot in the store you won't be able to on the slopes.

So you need a boot that you can flex easily in the store, but at the same time, when you lean forward it will eventually hold you up. Unless you are involved in some serious racing [i.e. beyond NASTAR ] you don't need a stiff boot. You don't want a noodle either. So go for fit and flex, but fit first, then see if you can flex the boot without much effort, and then use a great deal of effort [ try to max out the flex ] and see if the boot still holds you up, if it does, your on your way.

Unless you have almost perfect feet, don't forget about the custom insoles and getting yourself aligned. Very important for using today's shaped skis.

Additional comment, don't worry about the fact that you are smaller in size and weight. The objective is to get the boot that fits right and is for you. Years ago we used to ski with some friends. She was an excelent skier, but for her petite size and strenght level, she wore a junior competition ski boot. It fit her best and had the apppropriate amount of stiffness.

Final word, concentrate on what works for you, and don't worry about what others think. Max out a couple of runs in thier presence, and your equipment is no longer an issue for them, and it never should be for you, if it functions properly for your needs.

[ November 10, 2002, 01:02 PM: Message edited by: wink ]
post #14 of 22
Rusty Guy, I'm in a 25.5 Rossignol Junior Race 1. I think the sole length is 293 or so. In some junior racers, the sizes go higher.
post #15 of 22
Originally posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado:
Top skiers are able to flex and extend their bodies through a very wide range, with the stiffest of boots (and without trying or needing to "flex" the boots at all).
hmmm... myself, I think "top" skiers need stiffer boots just like performance vehicles need stiffer shocks - as the forces become greater, the need for counteracting them becomes greater. In either case, a good the range-of-motion is crucial... and yet Mr Barnes is advocating that - "boot flex isn't necessarily in order to turn"...? Umm, yeah, I suppose it's possible - just as a car is able to make a turn on a rough, washboardy gravel road without any shock absorbing suspension. But it's neither pretty, nor 'dynamic'.

Take this idea to extremes and picture a "concrete ski boot" perfectly molded to ones foot, shin and calf. Okay, now let's say you want to pressure your ski tips a bit to speed up the initiation of a turn. In REGULAR ski boots one could simply pull their forefoot up against the top of the boot to lever their shins forward against the tongue. The resulting FLEX forward in the cuff would enable the body to shift slightly forward of center enough to create a bit of forward pressure. Easy! In contrast, however, CONCRETE boots would act like a brace, allowing no possible shift forward of the center of mass. It effectively cuts out one of the three active skeletal pivot points, leaving either standing up by straightening your knee, or bending forward at the waist, as the only mechanisms left to increase forward pressure. Both these moves lead to very unbalanced, unaggressive postures.

Whenever you hear a critique from someone who says, "you should be driving your body more agressively into the turn", one of the things that MUST happen in order to allow this is _"boot flex"_. Without it, you're just a clunky, graceless robot.
post #16 of 22
Observation on flex from in the store to on the slopes. I skied The Beast the last part of the season and found that there was a dramatic difference in flex from warm to cold , more so than any other boot.I think that this might have to do to the materials in the trnslucent shells , since last years Banshee with a trnslucent shell felt too soft for the leval of boot it is , but I ran into some one with one at squaw and quized him on it and he said it stiffins up a lot in the cold . Some thing to think about. Also any one else find this the case in the translucent shells?
post #17 of 22
Regarding Donda's comment concerning translucent outer boot shells. I think it would be useful if anyone who reads this thread who also happens to rep. or be employed with a boot manufacturer, should give us the details about "translucent" materials used in makeing boots.

My "guess" is that the quality of being translucent in all likelyhood means that the material is subject to tempeature changes. If anyone remembers the old rear entry Hanson boots, they stiffened significantly in the cold.

Maybe, is it "PhysicsMan," you know the scientist that sometimes involves himself on these threads, perhaps he has some additional knowledge of plastic materials and could enlighten us further.

But based on Donda's post, I think that is sufficient input to perhaps stay away from boots that use translucent materials, unless it can be demonstrated that in fact thier flexibility isn't effected by the cold.

[ November 11, 2002, 06:51 AM: Message edited by: wink ]
post #18 of 22
It isn't just translucent plastics that are significantly affected by cold. I discovered that 15 minutes in the boot (trunk for those across the pond) of the car stiffened up my Technica Icons so much that it took me about the same time again and a fair bit of pain to force my feet into the boots!

post #19 of 22
Which Icon is it?
I've only tried mine on in the warmth of my house, and adjusted them to suit that. I guess I'll need to take all the extra bits with me to Whistler to re-adjust them.

post #20 of 22
That's interesting about the translucent shell. My old translucent banshees definetly stiffened up with the temp. However my new atomic 9.5 rides (skied all last year) with the translucent plastic in the over lap area are some of the easiest on and off of any boot I've ever owned, and they stiffened with cold the least of any boot I've owned. -5, no problem, foot slides right out. They also have the smoothest progresive flex I've ever skied. For me this gives a better range of motion, without sacrificing control. Can you tell I like them?
post #21 of 22
Originally posted by Rusty Guy:

What size foot do you have? I'm in a 26.0 Atomic, 307mm I think, and my sense is the boot is too stiff. It's the 10.50 Atomic. I would like to try a softer boot, however, I have not found one that feels better in a shop. I'm 5'10" and weigh 180 lbs.
I'm in the exact same boat. [boot!] Sometimes (bumps and off-piste) I think they are a little too stiff, but I love the control and general fit. They seem plenty compliant in the BB described ripples and small bumps, though. Apparantly, reading one of the ski mags this year, they are actually one of the stiffer high-performance boots available now. When I bought them I tried the 9.50; seemed far too soft. Wouldn't mind softening them up just a bit though..

[ November 12, 2002, 09:13 AM: Message edited by: Lodro ]
post #22 of 22
I know someone who was once involved in a project to rate ski boot flex. They had a machine to flex the boot and come up with an indicator of how much force it took to flex the boot.
Sounds like it would be a simple matter to just flex all the boots with the machine and then rate them right?

Well, a big problem occurred when they brought in the humans.

Different people would find the exact same boot would feel differently. Some thought it soft, others thought it stiff. Apparently there were too many variables to come up with a definitive statement of flex that would translate to people.
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