Fitting & Skiing La Sportiva Spectre – Part One

Post by blogger | November 11, 2013      

It is a hard life, reviewing ski boots.

Perhaps you’re blessed with feet matching the gnomes of Montebelluna upon who’s archtypical foot shape most modern ski boot molds are based. But I doubt it. And that’s certainly not me. Unless I size my boots like a claw-foot bathtub filled with foam packing peanuts, they usually hurt in stock form.

You can’t “test” something that makes your feet feel like they’re caught in the door of your pickup truck. And skiing with bathtubs on our feet is not exactly conducive to an honest opinion. So the first step with boot testing here at WildSnow is to pound, heat, press, grind and otherwise abuse our shoes until we can spend more than a few hours in them without creating foot problems so severe they actually become part of the family genome and pass up through the generations (perhaps that’s what happened in Montebelluna?).

Follow the fit tricks we used on La Sportiva Spectre.

The beautifully thick, heat mold liner of the Spectre ski boot probably takes care of  most fit issues.

The beautifully thick, heat mold liner of the Spectre ski boot will take care of most fit issues for most people. But the shell is unusually low over the instep and has a smaller 'throat' opening than normal. I've got high and sensitive insteps so I found the shoe not only hard to enter but somewhat painful in stock form. Luckily, an instep 'lift' is one of the easier ski boot fitting shell mods. Oh, and yes I did remove the lower fourth buckle, as I do with most 4-buckle boots. More about that when we get into ski performance. (Click images to enlarge)

First, we cut away the water dam, then marked the material we'd grind out to widen the throat.

First, we cut away the water dam, then marked the material we'd grind out to widen the throat. Amount of cutting was estimated by comparing throat size to other shoes in our stable. If I was doing this project for a boot fit client, I'd have compared the shape of the Spectre shell to another shell that was known to be comfortable.

After grinding the throat larger, next step was some heat molding.

After grinding the throat larger, next step was the heat molding. In some cases this would be better done BEFORE grinding, as it may be enough. But I knew from past experience that I needed the opening to be larger as well. Using a paint can as a shaper expander results in somewhat of a lift but also simply molds the opening wider. For a real lift, stuffing lacrosse balls under the opening tends to put more upward mold force than the paint can (though it's nice how the paint can immediately cools the heated plastic). Incidentally, the Grilamid type plastic used for Spectre is incredibly easy to heat mold. What a joy over the old days of elastic Pebax. If you're clever and wear good gloves, you can actually shape heated Grilamid with your hands.

Original boot to left, modified to right showing the quite larger throat.

Original boot to left, modified to right showing the quite larger throat. This was all I needed to make my insteps comfortable. If that hadn't been the case, I would have done a higher lift combined with removing some material from the liner tongue where it pressed down on my instep.

Only other shell mod I needed was to punch out the ankle 'bump' area for my left foot.

Only other shell mod I needed was to punch out the ankle 'bump' area for my left foot using our boot press. I did this with the cuff still attached, which is tricky. Again, the type of plastic La Sportiva uses is easy to heat mold--too easy sometimes, as I almost had a melt-down from over heating.

After the shell mods, I shaped a drop-in footbed from EZ-FIT and heat molded the liners. Then I went skiing. More coming.

Find the La Sportiva Spectre here.


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38 Responses to “Fitting & Skiing La Sportiva Spectre – Part One”

  1. George November 11th, 2013 3:31 pm

    Where are you skiing?

  2. FreshyMap November 11th, 2013 3:41 pm

    After losing several toe nails in hard shell snowboard boots, I almost don’t envy your position! Thanks for the info!

  3. Lou Dawson November 11th, 2013 4:06 pm

    George, just skinning here and there. Nothing special.

  4. billy g November 11th, 2013 4:10 pm

    I think anyone who puts that boot on will have pain in the instep getting it on/off at minimum. I couldn’t believe how much the plastic actually curled in and down there. The boot also needs to come with several tongue stiffness options and totally eliminate the rubber accordian at the flex point. It does have amazing ankle flexion in the walk mode but that comes at the serious expense of downhill performance. Interested to hear your take on this one…

  5. Mark November 11th, 2013 7:20 pm

    Nice boots, and ones I have considered. I am, though, almost ready to pull the trigger on Dynafit TLT 6.

  6. Joe H November 11th, 2013 7:28 pm

    Did you actually use a spray paint can as a mold for a job that included a heat gun? I hope it was a very low power heat gun.

  7. Lou Dawson November 11th, 2013 7:53 pm

    He he, I was wondering when someone would ask that question! It’s a mostly empty can, and the heat gun was turned off and away from the project before the can was inserted. Even so, good point — and perhaps I _should_ move all those paint cans out of the boot fitting area! Lou!

  8. Bob Perlmutter November 11th, 2013 11:05 pm

    Hi Lou, back in the 80’s working as a bootfitter in the alpine ski shop realm, we used an empty Corona bottle to open and widen the throat of a ski boot. I guess a spray paint can will do in a pinch. Did you mention something about skiing?

  9. Dan November 11th, 2013 11:42 pm

    Billy – Gotta say I didn’t find the flex bad at all when skiing the Spectre. It does feel soft when testing it inside, but once I start skiing it, I thought it skied way stiffer than it felt inside. About the same as a Maestrale. Drove the new Katana V-Works carbon ski no problem. Than again, I don’t gravitate towards super stiff boots in the first place. My $.02.

  10. Wookie November 12th, 2013 2:04 am

    Hey Lou – side note – “It’s a mostly empty can….” this is the WORST way it could possibly be. If something were to ignite – it would be the vapor in the can first – not any liquid remaining.
    I really only mention this because it goes for base cleaner, snowmobile and car tanks, and just about anything else as well containing flammable liquids.
    If you can’t completely drain them and cycle air through them – storage is best done FULL.

    The things you learn when you blow up a boat.

  11. Lou Dawson November 12th, 2013 5:23 am

    Ok, I stand corrected. I’ll be more careful with the paint cans!

  12. Lou Dawson November 12th, 2013 5:26 am

    Bob, I would have used a beer bottle, but I wanted something with more diameter… at Masterfit they use a couple of lacrosse balls stuffed underneath for a more specific lift. Main thing here is to note the plastics being used in these boots now are super easy to mold compared to Pebax.

  13. Jack November 12th, 2013 7:49 am

    I’m sold on boot fitting. My TLT5’s seem fine, but I’m soon looking for a new alpine boot that doesn’t crush my instep and leave me in agony by mid-day. Goal is a performance alpine boot that leaves my feet reasonably happy after a very full day.
    The radical amount of boot modding that you do, Lou, is eye opening.

    Plan is to hire a boot fitter first, then follow their reccomendations.

  14. Lou Dawson November 12th, 2013 8:28 am

    Hi Jack, you get it! One of the reasons I do so many boot fitting posts is to try and communicate how important it can be. But remember that first step is to pick the shell that gives you the best fit, don’t get hung up on a particular brand/model. (We go overboard here because we try to test a variety of boots. Otherwise I’d fit one or two pair a year.)

    The guys at Masterfit told me that their number one problem is the “boot wall, ” meaning the customer first looks at the shop display and picks a boot, then the problems begin, when if they’d evaluated the foot and fit and _then_ picked the boot, most problems wouldn’t even have happened. Same for mail order, the “virtual boot wall.”

  15. Ian November 12th, 2013 7:51 pm

    The shop fitting my Spectres said “pick the correct size shell that fits your needs and we’ll make it fit your foot”. If I went with the boots that fit my foot without modification I’d be sledding.

  16. Craig November 13th, 2013 1:13 am


    Great post. I also have high and sensitive insteps and often find an out the box fit doesn’ t work for me. No surprise there!

    Some questions:
    – Comparing TLT6 and Spectre, which has more volume to cater for a high instep? Did you need to make the same mod to the TLT6 before it worked for you?

    – I’ve tried the Mercury which fitted the heel and forefoot nicely but was painful over the instep. How does the Mercury compare to the Spectre and TLT6.

    To try on these boots I need to make a 400ml round trip hence the questions before making the journey. Cheers!

  17. Lou Dawson November 13th, 2013 6:28 am

    Hi Craig, since I’ve never had to mess around with instep fit with TLT6 or TLT5, I think it’s safe to say that the TLT caters more to a high instep than Spectre. Not sure about Mercury.

    BUT overall, you might have such a high instep that _any_ boot will require fitting in that area.

    Ian, beware the person who claims they can make any boot fit your foot. That’s possible to an extent and is of course the strategy we use when boot testing, but it’s not the ideal way to go. What I seem to have to keep shouting is that FIT is the most important thing, beyond how the buckles work, or what color the boot is, or what type of lean lock, or weight. Sure, you might find a couple of shells (rather than one in particular) that have reasonable fit for your feet, those are the ones you should start picking from, not just anything your fancy dictates.

  18. Phil Miller November 13th, 2013 4:33 pm

    I go to my bootfitter. He shows me what’s his best option. I usually agree. I do this in August so that 1. the prices are low, and 2. he has all the time in the world to work with me; no rushing. I pay with the card that has the highest balance. Hopefully it goes through.

    When I get home and am sitting down in a private place, I look at the receipt.

    In the LONG term, it always works out.

    My wife’s empathy of this – she doesn’t ski – merits sainthood all by itself.

  19. Chris November 14th, 2013 5:50 pm

    Hi Lou

    So what was that about removing the lower buckle?

  20. Vito November 16th, 2013 12:43 pm

    After removing the forth buckle, what is best for filling and waterproofing the empty rivet/screw holes?

  21. Lou November 16th, 2013 1:31 pm

    Vito, I usually place some duct tape from the inside, then a bit of silicon caulk in the hole. There are no easily used or available glues that bond well to Grilamid or Pebax so don’t bother playing around with actual glue. Lou

  22. EasTim November 18th, 2013 10:34 am

    Hey Lou – Very interesting fix. Can I get your opinion? I think I’m going to try the same fix to the opposite problem… My boots’ lowers close almost until the throat closes, and the round parts above your red circled regions get clamped in to my shin just above the foot. Having looked at your photos above, I’m thinking about opening up the throat and cutting those lobes back. My boots are Spirit 3s if that helps.

  23. Lou Dawson November 18th, 2013 11:50 am

    Just go for it in small increments, or, boot fitter? Remember that I’m a certified boot fitter with a fully equipped shop…

  24. Ian November 19th, 2013 4:16 pm

    My Spectres were punched in the sixth toe and lifted in the instep. The liners are fairly thick before baking. The fit is great now.

  25. John December 6th, 2013 8:26 am

    was forming the instep done to ease getting your foot in or relieve pressure when buckled and if you removed material from the liner which side and how would you do it, thanks for the great info!

  26. Lou Dawson December 6th, 2013 8:31 am

    Hi John, the answer is “both,” but the fitting was more about easing pressure rather than getting the boots on and off. I didn’t take any material from the liner, as I knew from past experience that a shell mod was necessary. If I removed liner material I would have used my “speed” method that involves just hacking on it with a sanding disk on a disk grinder, than slapping some Gorilla Tape over the wound. Boot fitters sometimes will peel up some of the liner exterior cover, skive out foam underneath, then glue the cover material back down so as to not freak out the owner of the boots.

    As for location of liner mods, that’s decided by sticking your foot in the boot and locating pressure points.


  27. Fra January 12th, 2014 12:15 pm

    Can you explain how to change inclination? I can’t understand from the user’s manual

  28. Fra January 13th, 2014 6:42 am

    How to change forward lean??

  29. Andy M February 20th, 2014 9:59 pm

    Anyone with flat feet try these on and/or have these fitted?

    My feet have almost no arches, 27 cm on the dot, 4.25″ at the widest part but stay 4″ basically until right before the ankle. I think my instep is surprisingly high for how flat my feet are (~3.5″ just in front of the ankle). I have a pair of Maestrale RS right now that I mostly like, but have issues with my feet sliding around and giving blisters when I loosen them enough to have good range of motion skinning, or tight enough not to slide around but pinchy in various points. I’ve had the liners molded and midfoot widened… love the Intuition liners but they’re not enough on their own to make the boot perfect for me.

    I’d try the Spectres on in person, except neither of the 2 ski shops here carry them (San Francisco). I’d consider TLT6s also, but from what I understand, they’re very narrow.

  30. Paul February 22nd, 2014 1:05 pm

    Hi Lou

    thanks for all the infos you already provided, I need to bootfit and modify my spectres myself (no good bootfitters in my area), I am experienced with heat fitting dynafit boots (pebax and PU shells as well as liners) but never worked with grillamid

    So I have 2 questions: which heat setting (air temp of the heatgun) did work best for the spectre’s grillamid for widening the instep ?

    And which temp setting is recommended for molding the liners (couldn find any info on la sportivas webiste, the usual 10 min at 100 to 110 degree airtemp of the heatgun for heating them up from the inside while the liners are in the shell?)

    Many thks in advace for your help !


  31. Lou Dawson February 22nd, 2014 7:01 pm

    Paul, sorry, but my heatgun does not have accurate air temperature settings. I usually just put it on a high setting and do the boot shell heating by feel or with infrared thermometer. Grilamid heat molds very easily. Try heating the instep area minimally at first, then just go hotter if the molding doesn’t take. I’m not going to mention specific temperatures since plastic formulations vary, and I don’t want to mislead anyone. As for the liner molding, do it just like you would a Scarpa or Palu. Lou

  32. Paul February 23rd, 2014 12:18 pm

    thks lou, i always use an infrared thermometer if possible aiming on the inside of the shell when heat molding shells, whithout one its just to easy to get impatient and overheat the surface while the inside is still too cool:

    thks 4 the hint with the liner molding, i guessed so, but better safe then sorry ,-)

    just for info: the swiss brand steinel makes very nice fully temperature AND airflow controlled heat guns, perfect for working on ski boots.

    one tip: the previous model with the same features is the HG 3002 LCD and can be found in the EU as cheap as 59€ incl. taxes at the moment (not sure if sold in the us that cheap)

  33. Curtis December 7th, 2014 7:59 am

    Hi Lou,

    What’s the best shop in NH/VT to have this done?


  34. Lou Dawson 2 December 7th, 2014 8:03 am

    Hi Curtis, check out this blog post and comments, you can probably find what’s good in NH/VT.

    ‘best, Lou

  35. Peter January 6th, 2015 2:07 pm

    Hi Lou,

    I have a pair these and love ever aspect, but one fit issue. I’m hoping you have a fix. I been out several times and just did an 8 mile hike/ski in my Spectres. What I’m running into is that the inner (Tibia) Ball on both feet is sore after usage. This is the high ball part of the bone. The skin doesn’t blister or bruise, the bone is just sensitive to touch. After wearing them the pain goes away, but returns after the outing.
    I tried to widen the opening area using heat and press; that helped quite a bit. But, I am still picking up pressure at that point.
    What would be your next step for trying to lessen the pressure on the ankle bones wearing these boots? Any insight would be helpful. PR

  36. Lou Dawson 2 January 7th, 2015 12:29 am

    Hi Peter, I’d work with a boot fitter on some liner modifications. General procedure would be surgical. Lou

  37. Peter January 7th, 2015 3:17 pm

    Cool. Thanks. I picturing the liner mod as thinning out the liner (at the point where my ankle bone protrudes out) and then taping over the thinned area. Are those the liner modes you see as appropriate for this situation?

    FYI – The point where the contact is happening, is right where the shell tongue rubs the low ankle area of the main shell (inside of the foot).

  38. Bjørnar February 26th, 2015 7:22 am

    Hi! Now my Spectre boot is broken after a small jump. Used it for ca 40 days, and suddenly the plastic around the ski/walk mode just broke. Via my Norwegian dealer La Sportiva says its my fault and wont give me a new one/pair.

    Anyone else had problem with this boot?

    I am very disappointed, cause I thought it was a boot with good performance both uphill and downhill.

    Nice if anyone also had a trick to convince La Sportiva they should give me a new.

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