Boot Maintenance of the Tech (Dynafit) Kind — Heel Fittings

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

We receive regular reports about failed boot heel tech fittings. Thus, this post needs to be better indexed and known so we brought it to the top today, with edits and additions so it indexes better.

Regarding boot heel fittings for tech bindings, they are indeed sometimes too weak for aggressive skiing with big boots and skis. On the other hand, don’t panic, the vast majority of backcountry skiers do fine with existing versions of boot heel tech fittings. Nonetheless, overall what we really need is tech 2.0 or at least something like the tech fitting that Dynafit will be providing with their Beast binding (The Beast fitting will work with any tech binding with some attention to clearance during release and possibly a slight modification. I worked on this a bit yesterday with our Beast test fittings and they looked good when paired with Dynafit Vertical and Radical heels.)

In the meantime (before you can acquire Beast fittings) you have a few options.

1.) If the tech fittings on your boots are removable do the process outlined below to possibly strengthen them. Or at the least, check the tighteness of the attachment screws once or twice a season.

2.) If you are a hyper agro skier with huge boots and skis, consider acquiring boots with beefed rear tech fittings that are molded in rather than being attached with a screw, such as Black Diamond’s used to be (we’re not sure many boots have this type of fitting, but it’s worth looking for). Another option is to modify and through-bolt the fitting to the boot if the design of the boots allows it. When you think about it, it’s ridiculous that given big bindings and boots, you depend on one #8 wood screw to hold you in your bindings!

Again, at the least, if you’ve got many days on your tech compatible boots paired with tech bindings, check and make sure your heel fitting screws are tight. Loose heel fitting screws will eventually sheer or pull out and cause catastrophic failure of your binding system.

Give the screws a firm but careful (don’t strip!) twist with a screw driver to evaluate. If loose, simply tightening them may be all you need.

In my case (the screws were slightly loose), I figured it wouldn’t hurt to remove my fittings and bed in epoxy. To do so, I simply backed out the screw, popped the fitting off, cleaned the parts with wire brush and some rubbing alcohol, then re-installed the fitting with a SMALL amount of JB Weld on all mating surfaces. Do this in warm temperatures so the glue flows well. Don’t use too much glue, as the bit that oozes is difficult to clean out of the slots in the boot. Once the fitting is on, tap with a plastic hammer or block of wood to seat it. Be sure the rubbing alcohol is totally dried out of small holes before applying epoxy. Epoxy won’t stick well to the boot plastic, but it fills up space and in theory keeps the fitting from making micro movements that might loosen or weaken the screw. If you find your screws to be quite loose, chances are they’ve become fatigued and may snap. In that case, order new screws from customer service and replace.

When tightening screws remember you’ve essentially got cutting threads in soft plastic, so don’t over-tighten and strip. If you do strip the screw you’ve essentially made your boots unusable in tech bindings (though with many boots this can be repaired by through bolting the tech fitting).

Dynafit backcountry skiing.
Any excuse for some tool time between backcountry skiing trips. ZZero Dynafit boots get some attention.

Come to think of it, any time you get your boots onto your bench is a good time to again check the clearance between your boot heel and binding, as well as your DIN settings. While doing so, rotate the heel unit with your hand and make sure it doesn’t feel catchy or grabby. If so, back out the spring barrel, pull out the spring and thimble bushing (check bushing for wear)and lubricate with binding grease available from G3 or your friendly shop rat.

Instructions here.

Also see this page for instructions.

WARNING: It’s all too easy to cross-thread the spring barrel when assembling the Dynafit binding heel unit — that can get expensive. With this in mind, take care if you do lubrication and wear check; don’t bother unless the binding feels like it needs lubrication. More, if you know a good Dynafit mechanic consider turning the job over to the guru.

Comments

30 Responses to “Boot Maintenance of the Tech (Dynafit) Kind — Heel Fittings”

  1. Nick Lewis April 30th, 2008 3:55 pm

    Hey Lou,

    Thought you’d be interested to hear the following. This winter I have witnessed two cases of the metal heel fitting of Dynafit-compatible boots failing. The first was in the Tetons where the heelplate on a friend’s Garmont Mega-lite simply unscrewed and fell out. Luckily we found the pieces in the snow a few yards behind and were able to screw it all back in before making a quick descent to the valley. These Megalites were 3 seasons old and probably had the best part of 200 days on them. After this I was careful to check my own Mega-Rides and discovered that one heelplate needed to be tightened up ever so slightly. Since then I have checked them regularly and had no problems.

    Last week’s occurrence was a bit more serious. A bunch of us were up at the Balu Pass above Rogers Pass when someone tried clicking in and discovered that the heelplate on his 4 year old Lasers had gone. This time however, searching around in the snow produced nothing. So he stepped in hoping the plastic heel cutout would be enough….. Despite locking down the toe, the dust-on-breakable-crust soon meant he kept on popping out :o (

    So we screwed down his TLTs to the smallest possible boot-heel gap and wrapped a 4-foot long 1-inch wide cam strap around the underside of the binding heelpiece and passed it around his instep. Tightening the strap made it totally solid and we were able to make a swift exit down the Connaught drainage back to the road with no problem, but obviously there was no release capability. These Lasers had as much time on them as the Garmonts but with descents of Muztagh Ata and Logan as well. Back in Revelstoke, the very helpful ski-tech pointed out that whereas after a long hard life the screws eventually come undone on the heelplate of Garmonts, on Scarpas the screw usually just snaps. This was the case with the Lasers where he had to drill out the remains before inserting a new screw and heelplate.

    As scary as it could have been (we were meant to be in the midst of the Yoho Traverse and had only baled the day before due to bad weather), this second episode did reinforce for us how extraordinarily field-usable Dynafits are – if a heelpiece broke on Fritschis, Naxos or Silvrettas, it would be a completely different ballgame. But one thing we wondered is why the heelplate isn’t molded into the boot like the toe-piece? Why do boot manufacturers rely on screws here? Any ideas? Most people I have spoken to have never seen or heard of this failure but after two episodes in one winter I am sure to check my heelplates. I’ll also carry some spares in future for sure. I’ve carried a camstrap in my repair kit for many years and here was yet another example of it baling us out of trouble.

    Many thanks for an excellent website, it’s an extraordinary resource.

    Cheers

    Nick

  2. Lou April 30th, 2008 4:04 pm

    Thanks for posting that Nick. Everyone, please note that the boots Nick describes had large numbers of days on them! The point of this post is to give you all a heads up on keeping those heel-plate screws tight. A few minutes of maintenance now = no headache later for you or the warranty department.

    As for why the fittings are screwed in and not molded? I’ll check on that. Might have something to do with what works best in the manufacturing process.

  3. Carol Evenchick May 1st, 2008 3:13 pm

    Hi Lou:
    I have a problem with one of the dynafit metal heel inserts on one of my boots. The tip of one of the little wings that sticks out to the side has broken off. I’m missing about 2 or 3 mm of the tip. I brought the boot to one of the better shops in town to see if they could fix it, but they said that they are not allowed to. A safety/liability issue I guess. They called Garmont in Italy, and the Garmont folks said to send the boot to them, and they would decide whether or not they will fix it. It would take a month minimum. The boots are Garmont Mega Ride (Ladies), 2 and a
    half years old.
    Oh, last detail after reading the previous Nicks posting. I have only used the boots in dynafit bindings about 20 ski days.

    So, I have a few questions.
    1) have you heard of this problem before?
    2) do you know how boot companies deal with it?
    3) I have managed to find an old boot with a heel part that hasn’t been used, so could do the exchange myself… do you see any major problems with this??
    4) any recommendations???

    many thanks,
    Carol

    ps, in case you are wondering, I suspect it broke while I was walking down a metal grate stair case, but I’m not certain.

  4. Lou May 1st, 2008 3:23 pm

    Carol, anything can break. I’ve seen almost all backcountry ski gear break in one way or another. For gear to be light and efficient it can’t be totally bomb proof. That applies to all gear, not just Dynafit. I’ve seen boots break in many ways.

    You can put the part in you got from the donor boot. Doing so is trivial. Put a bit of epoxy steel on the screw and on the mating surfaces when you do. Tighten firmly but take care not to strip the threads. It’s really not a big deal, but if you’re uncomfortable with the work just take it to a ski shop that has a mechanic with a good reputation (and helpful attitude).

  5. Seth March 27th, 2009 12:30 pm

    Haven’t seen much mention of this on the site, but I just discovered that the plastic of my Zzero PX 4 buckle boots failed at the metal toepiece insert- the plastic underneath/behind the fitting failed the same way at all four points.

    I’ve skied them for just under 1 year. I’ve heard through the grapevine that this happened to a few of these early generation boots.

    Local ski shop took care of me with some loaner boots and is dealing with warranty…(Pays to shop local I guess)

    Anyone have any perspective on this issue?

  6. Toby Wheeler January 28th, 2010 6:00 am

    Lou’s advice re the heel inserts in the boots is great. I wish I had read it a week ago as I am living in Kyrgyzstan on and off and lost one of the heel inserts last week. There was lot of wet snow around and a lot of icing up and I suspect that hastened the process of losing it. Undoubtedly is was loose but I never checked it. Getting another one here is a bit challenging. I may just get a couple from Boulder and have someone bring it over for me (but that is a month away); meanwhile I am going to have a machine shop here manufacture one for me. Thanks for the site and to all those who contribute.
    Toby

  7. Don Gisselbeck March 31st, 2011 5:26 pm

    Is anyone else seeing screw breakage on the heelpeice? I have now seen 2 on the same boot within a few weeks.

  8. JWCarey February 5th, 2013 6:29 pm

    Just now found this useful posting; alas too late for me. I am now looking for a replacement heel plate as mine was lost during a descent through deep snow. The screw is sheared off and so I expect the repair will be somewhat tricky. Has anyone tried to extract the screw (would require a very small extraction jig) or should I just drill out the piece?

    No shops locally (New Mexico, southern Colorado) have a replacement heel plate. Haven’t contacted Dynafit/Salewa yet, but does anyone know if they sell them? If not, does anyone know where I might get hold of one of these plates?

    Thanks,
    JW

  9. Lou Dawson February 5th, 2013 6:42 pm

    JW, you’ll need another pair of boots. ‘best, Lou

  10. JWCarey February 5th, 2013 7:08 pm

    Lou, Thanks. I do have a lot of miles on them, but sorry to see them go….

  11. Dave Field April 10th, 2013 9:26 am

    JW, Provided you can get the broken screw shaft out of your boot, I’d think you could manage a repair with a new steel heel fitting and salvage your boots (from a used boot if you can’t source new). I don’t think you’d have to toss the boots. I’ve often wondered why the dynafit heel fitting is held in place with a wood screw into plastic as opposed to using a through bolt such as a hradened machine screw with an aircraft nut recessed into the inside of the heel pocket. Probably simpler and cheaper to manufacture and effective for most light users.
    Lou, are you aware of anybody fixing a stripped heel fitting screw with a through bolt?

  12. Lou Dawson April 10th, 2013 10:24 am

    Dave,. I’ve never figured out a way to get the broken screw out of the boot heel. Usual methods don’t work because of soft and heat sensitive plastic.

    As for through bolting, could work as in many boots you could drill a hole that would go to daylight on the inside of the shell, in the area the inside heel pad fills up. Problem with through bolting is again if a screw is broken, getting the scrap metal out of there would be first step and could be difficult.

    As alluded to above, the common wood-screw attachment method seems to work for most people, but the failures are notable. Lou

  13. John April 10th, 2013 1:43 pm

    Using a left handed drill bit worked like a charm for a buddy. Blew it out at a ski area and we were lucky to find the tech fitting, limped back to the base and a ski tech had the screw out in about 5 minutes and was easily able to replace it.

  14. Lou Dawson April 10th, 2013 1:57 pm

    John, pretty cool that worked!

  15. Charlie April 10th, 2013 7:16 pm

    I had limited luck with a broken screw in a pair of ZZero4 PX. A tiny carbide end mill did an okay job of attacking the screw, ’till it broke. I couldn’t find a screw extractor small enough. A left-handed drill bit, if small enough, would have been perfect.

    Dynafit ultimately warrantied the boots (I’d taken photos before setting to work), and I’ve been a very happy camper since.

    The un-extractable screw is a design flaw, but it’s one of very few with the tech system. Someday, it’ll get rectified by a bootmaker, and everyone else will follow suit.

  16. See April 10th, 2013 7:39 pm

    The soles on my favorite bc boots have worn to the point where I can hear the metal heel fitting striking the ground with every step on a hard surface. It seems to me that it won’t be long before this will cause the fitting to loosen.

    Maybe it’s boot sole wear that leads to a lot of these failures?

  17. Lou Dawson April 10th, 2013 7:52 pm

    See, the main failure mode is the screw gets loose, after that the breakage is inevitable. But bashing on rocks and stuff could contribute. I’ve heard a few stories of people having the fitting break off during rock scrambles.

    As for you, what you describe sounds like it will lead to certain failure.

    Lou

  18. See April 10th, 2013 8:55 pm

    That’s pretty much what I figured. Luckily I’ve been stockpiling replacement boots in anticipation, and finally got around to punching the shells and baking the liners last month. Now, I need to build my new wheels.

  19. Shaun April 10th, 2013 9:01 pm

    What about the tech toe piece failing? I’ve had my skis release a few times now for no reason and I just noticed that one of my boots has a gouge in one of the toe indentations. Is there a way to pull this out and replace it, or are the boots done?

  20. Jason April 11th, 2013 12:54 am

    Lou, coincidental timing of the post as I’ve had a related issue come up recently I was meaning to inquire about.

    I recently noticed some vertical slop in the heel interface on my dynafit tlt speeds, and to a lesser extent my vertical sts. the slop is a visible and audible vertical play in the heel interface (ie the boot heel can move up and down noticeably – and to clarify, the heel pins are NOT moving up and down (probllem is in pin/plate interface), though I’ve had that issue and addressed it on another pair of bindings).
    – The heel spacing is correct.
    – The heel plate is secure.
    – I have also dis- and re- assembled the heel unit suspecting something blocking the pins from coming as far to center as they should.
    -I thought perhaps there was wear on the heel plate, and swapped them for unused heel plates from another pair of boots. This seems to reduce the play minimally.
    – There is not visible wear on the pins, and they are not very high mileage bindings.

    Have you ever seen / heard of this before? I’d be happy to send a video to further illustrate (it’s like the pins are too small in diameter) – I’m stumped

  21. Lou Dawson April 11th, 2013 7:19 am

    Jason, yes, I’ve heard of this and had it happen. It doesn’t seem to affect binding performance, more a psychological thing, like play in an alpine binding that you notice on the workbench but is normal during skiing. Sometimes it’s caused by how far apart the heel pins are.

    For diagnostics, you’d of course want to try different boots in the same binding, then different bindings with the same boot.

    From the sound of it, it’s something to do with your bindings not the boot fittings, since you tried different fittings…

    Best guess is there is some manufacturing variation in the bindings, and some go into retail that have this play. But if the play develops after use, then something is going on with hidden wear.

    We run about 15 pair of Dynafit bindings, and I’ve not noticed this with any of them, though it could exist and I just haven’t bothered to pay enough attention.

    Just thinking outloud.

    Lou

  22. Jason April 11th, 2013 10:36 am

    Thanks Lou,

    Would this then be something to contact Dynafit / Salewa about? I don’t know if it’s a new/old problem, as what brought it into light was the first time riding a lift wih them (skis were flopping a bit at heels – initially thought it was the vertical pin slop I’ve had on my vertical sts (Steve Romeo helped me out with that one – used duct tape as a shim within the binding)).

    Intuition leads me to think this isn’t a wear issue, as I only use the tlt speeds in the spring…

  23. Lou April 11th, 2013 3:17 pm

    Jason, sorry, but I’d have to look at the bindings in person to develop an opinion about that.

    I’ll keep an eye on ours and see if any develop an obvious problem.

    I do recall having this happen a few times over the years, only noticeable while riding ski lift without foot support. Didn’t bother me.

    Lou

  24. Charlie April 11th, 2013 10:01 pm

    Some of my bindings (maybe two of three pair (06/07, 07/08, 08/09) ) click a little; noticeable only when riding lifts.

    If it’s <0.5 mm slop, if it's at the boot/pin interface, and if everything seems tight, it might be totally normal.

  25. Craig Steury April 11th, 2013 11:38 pm

    JW – I had the same thing happen (sheared screw on Megaride rear plate). I called the Dynafit rep from the Bozeman coop (extended xmas trip from SLC to Spokane and back). After sending him a picture to verify the issue he sent a replacement part to my parents house in Spokane in about 2 days.

    I broke 3 screw-extractor bits (including a carbide bit) trying to get it out. Finally the drill bit slipped and it went in diagonally. I decided to go with it and its still working 3-4 years later. I did consider it a wake-up call to get a new pair of boots!

  26. Blair November 12th, 2013 7:54 pm

    So, I take it that to use the beast, you must modify your heel in such a way that – at least for the moment – you could not use it with another binding; with the caveat that if I was to undertake such a modification, in turn, the modification would prevent its use in the beast. The long and short: I can’t have two sets of skis, one with a beast, one with an FT-12, and one boot.

  27. Lou Dawson November 13th, 2013 6:32 am

    Blair, YES, once the Beast fitting is on your boot, the boot can ony be used with BEAST. We feel the Beast fitting could be modified to work with other tech bindings, but that’s really the dark side of modding… without full binding safety testing equipment.

    You saw our “Week of the Beast” series?

    http://www.wildsnow.com/10627/ramp-angles-dynafit-beast-binding/

    Lou

  28. Peter Valchev April 4th, 2014 6:58 pm

    I broke the heel screw shaft / head off on my Dynafit Zzeus boots this week (as well as one of the pins on the binding, I think the pin broke first, then riding with a single pin caused the heel piece screw to break). The shop told me the boots are essentially toast because extracting the screw is next to impossible… well I got home and got stubborn, it turns out you can remove the heel piece if the head of the screw is broken off – I used a hammer to force it to slide off (the Zzeus has removable/replacable toe and heel pieces).

    Result: once the heel piece was out, I could see an exposed chunk of the broken screw, and easily removed it with some pliers. Then I put everything back together with a new screw and ta-daaaaaaa – now my boots are operational again :)

    Since I found this with a Google search, I figured I would post the Zzeus-specific beta in case others end up in the same shoes. (The bolt / drill-through solution doesn’t work on these boots)

  29. Rory April 7th, 2014 5:29 pm

    ^^Ditto – only with Scarpa Maestrale RS boots. Does anyone have any experience to share on drilling out a broken screw, or on the chances of getting a repair/replacement with a warranty claim at Scarpa? They have been used 50 days at the most and are less than two years old. The through-bolt method is unfortunately not an option with these boots. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  30. Lou Dawson April 7th, 2014 5:45 pm

    Peter, thanks. Rory, with patience and lots of water for cooling you might be able to drill a hole in the screw with a tiny drill bit, then gradually enlarge it to the point where you could insert an easy-out and back the screw out. That’s all I can think of. Anyone else?

    If you want to send the boots here we could attempt an extraction for a blog post. No guarantees!

    Lou

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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