Scarpa Freedom SL Boot Review

Post by blogger | March 27, 2014      
Riding the Scarpa Freedom's in Nelson, BC this winter.

Riding the Scarpa Freedom's in Nelson, BC this winter.

It is undeniable that overlap shell ski boots flex better and ski better than almost all boots with tongue (cabrio) construction. There’s a reason that they are used for most alpine ski boots (e.g., with the exception of three piece boots such as the venerable Raichle Flexon, which have their diehard fans). Thus, overlap boots still have an important place in the world of AT ski touring boots.

The Scarpa Freedom SL is a lightweight overlap boot that focuses on balancing skiing well with being usable for long backcountry ski tours. I’ve been testing out the boot since the beginning of this year’s ski season. The Freedom comes in two versions: the SL, made from lightweight Pebax plastic, and a heavier, stiffer version made out of polyurethane. I’ve been using the SL, so I’ll focus on that in this review. However, the PU version is very similar, while simply being stiffer, heavier, and with a slightly less flexible walk mode.

Scarpa Freedom SL is surprisingly light for an overlap boot, weighing in at 1978 grams in size 28. It has four buckles and a standard power strap. The lean lock is a new design from Scarpa meant to be simple, robust, and have a solid connection in ski mode.

Overlap construction and still plenty of cuff mobility for the uphill. Excellent combo.

Foremost with any boot: the fit. It’s been a while since I skied in any Scarpa boot but the Maestrale series, so it was a bit of a surprise when I first stepped into the roomy Freedom. Scarpa’s fit has traditionally been ultra-roomy in the toebox, which got toned down a bit for the Maestrale, but at least in the case of how my feet are shaped, volume returns in the Freedom. Personally, I find the Maestrale boots to fit better, but a little heat molding and foam-cutting fine tuned the fit in the Freedom. In some ways, more volume helps the boot fit a larger variety of feet, since the volume can simply be taken up by the heat-moldable liner, while customizing for various foot shapes. Also, the volume makes the boots super toasty warm. However, a boot shell that’s close to your foot shape will always provide the highest performance due to less foam squishing between you and the actual “control surface.”

I’ve been using the Freedom for all sorts of skiing, from long ski mountaineering days to short powder laps. The boot is stiff, but not as stiff as some of the stiffer AT boots I’ve been in. The overlap construction indeed makes it ski quite well, even though it is a slightly soft boot for my taste. For reference, I’ve previously found the stiffness of the Dynafit Vulcan to be perfect, and on the ski area I ski a Full-Tilt boot with the stiffest (10) tongue which makes it a fairly stiff boot. The progressive flex of the overlap Freedom is very nice. The walk mode of the boot is incredible, far and above any other overlap boot out there that I’ve tried. To get full use of the walk mode I find it necessary to unbuckle the buckles and loosen the power strap, albeit that’s something I do on all AT boots.

Bottom line: An excellent choice if you’re looking for a moderately stiff backcountry skiing boot that still walks well and has the sweet flex only an overlap boot can provide.

Also, check out our first look review here, for some more information and photos of the Scarpa Freedom.

Shop for Scarpa AT boots here.


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40 Responses to “Scarpa Freedom SL Boot Review”

  1. AndyC March 27th, 2014 8:40 am

    The PU sounds a bit like my Zzeus; I like it that my Zzeus are not so gaudy! LOL

  2. Pascal March 27th, 2014 11:34 am

    Hello nice blog, I’m reading for years. I’d like ton insist on the word cabrio instead of cabrillo. Cabrio stays for cabriolet which means an open top car. I’d be glad to drive one to Cabrillo monument CA. 😉
    Have fun on ski.

  3. Lou Dawson March 27th, 2014 11:54 am

    Pascal, you are correct, but common use does use cabrillo for shoes so I tend to fall back to that by mistake. “Cabrio” is much better. Thanks, Lou

  4. stevenjo March 27th, 2014 12:25 pm

    Can you get tech compatiable soles with the PU version – or are those limited to the SL?


  5. Lisa March 27th, 2014 12:44 pm

    Looks like you’re giving them a good test in the opening photo. Beautiful shot!

  6. Kelly March 27th, 2014 1:56 pm

    Louie – how does the Freedom SL compare to the Maestrale RS in terms of stiffness/flex on the down and weight, tour-ability on the up? Which boot would you prefer for the type of skiing/touring that you do?

  7. Hayden Beck March 27th, 2014 3:05 pm

    I didn’t find the Freedom SL to be a very roomy boot at all, even when I went up half a size… Of course this was just from me trying them on at the shop. I went with the BD quadrant instead and couldn’t be much happier

    Maybe I have massive feet:lol:

  8. MtnMama March 27th, 2014 6:27 pm

    louie, could you give us a run down on the freedom sl vs vulcan?

  9. Lou Dawson March 27th, 2014 6:36 pm

    Hayden, I did see marketing talk that said Freedom had _less_ volume. But our reviewers are hopefully speaking from personal experience, and if that’s what was for one guy, than that’s what was. In your case, not so. Probably has to do with foot shape indeed! Lou

  10. mark borland March 27th, 2014 6:53 pm

    Hi, thanks for the review. I’ve been using the SL for 3 weeks in all conditions and the lateral stiffness, uphill and downhill is excellent, much better than any AT boot used before. But the fit is a real issue. These boots come up longer than expected from the mondopoint sizing. With a 26.5 foot and the correct boot size, after 3 weeks, i’m floating around in these boots. So I’d really suggest sizing down. I now have a long discussion with my boot shop in front of me and need to find a 26. Has anyone else had similar issues?

  11. Dave J. March 27th, 2014 7:53 pm

    Agree, Louie. I’ve got the SL’s and had only a few days on them (dry Sierra’s) before spending a week at Valhalla Mountain Touring in mid-March. Wow. Best fitting AT boot I’ve ever owned, and I go back to the old days skiing with your dad in the 70’s. Not a trace of a blister in 7 days. I put my custom footbed in and that was it. The walk/ski mode is awesome, so easy with a great range of motion. They ski much better than my old Green Machine’s, all the stiffness I need to drive a pair of BD Convert’s. Highly recommended if Scarpa suits your foot.

  12. Daniel March 28th, 2014 6:42 am

    Looking for comparo w/ Zzero4.

    Last shape?
    Walk mode?
    Stiffness comopared to the zzero4c?

    Thanks in advance!

  13. Michael March 28th, 2014 7:57 am

    Mark, one issue may be that Scarpa boots break on the half size. So a 26.5 is the same shell size as a 27 (as opposed to most companies where the 26 and 26.5 share a shell size). Anyways, hope you find the boot that fits

  14. Louie March 28th, 2014 10:40 am

    The freedoms definitely felt roomy compared to other boots out there. More volume than dynafit boots, or my scarpa maestrale. I took up the volume by taping a 1/4 in thick piece of foam to the top of the liner, then they felt great.

  15. Daniel March 28th, 2014 10:51 am

    Wow. How do they ski and walk compared to a Zzero?

  16. Louie March 28th, 2014 10:56 am

    As far as comparisons to other boots: the Freedom sl actually feels very similar to the maestrale rs, both on the up and the down. I’ve been skiing the maestrale rs this year as well quite a bit. The freedom skis a bit better, and the maestrale is lighter, but they are surprisingly similar. The fit is another big differentiation between the two boots.

    As for the Vulcan, they definitely less stiff than the Vulcan, and also heavier. The cost is much different too. A better comparison might be the mercury.

  17. Louie March 28th, 2014 11:00 am

    It’s been a while since I skied zeros. The freedoms ski better than a zzero, and walk very similarly, however I think the freedoms are heavier.

  18. Oli C March 28th, 2014 1:19 pm

    I actually bought a pair of these yesterday after dreaming about them since I first saw early athlete release versions of them last winter.

    And today, my first ski?
    After a typical sunny day’s long que at the Aiguille du Midi we eventually got going. Skinning they seemed really comfortable as we headed up to towards the Italian boarder. We followed a track up something steeper and they gripped nicely on the boot back. Time to lock and load! Soft steep powder felt great, put even my old boot would have in this perfect snow. As the slope became more gentle they skiied like a downhill, i jumped off little sections of windpacked snow and made little turns, and big turns. I headed through a bit of changeable snow, still great, responsive and comfortable!

    We joined back up with the Vallee Blanche which was mogulled and choppy. horrendous basically. In my old boots this would be a nightmare, but I was able to power through stuff like i was in downhill boots.

    Fit wise I have extremely wide feet, aswell as a high arch. I did suffer today with pressure points, but will be returning to the boot fitter in Cham to get the shells blown out slightly where my foot is tight. Otherwise the heel is very spacious, but there is no heel lift. The toe box area is also very spacious, perhaps too much on my left foot. Today I didn’t ski with the boots very tight and they felt secure and comfortable!


  19. rangerjake March 28th, 2014 1:31 pm

    The weights of the SL vs. regular Freedom are mainly different due to the heavier non-moldable liner in the Freedom. Plug an Intuition in there and the weight goes down considerably. Also the touring ROM is the same between the two boots. All components are the same excepting liners, plastic in shells, and what sole block comes stock.

  20. John Gloor March 28th, 2014 8:01 pm

    I keep hearing the cheaper PU version is stiffer than the Freedom SL, but the Scarpa site lists the Freedom SL at a 120 flex and the Freedom at 110. Whats up with this discrepancy. Is Scarpa wrong?

  21. Verbier61 March 29th, 2014 4:47 pm

    I skied with a pebax SL freedom on one foot and a PU on the other one. This is imho the definitive test. The pebax SL, like the vulcan I skied before, is a bit more more stiff than the PU, but definitely less smooth and progressive. For the way I ski, I prefer the PU, exactly like (in another two boots on two feet test) I liked the mercury a bit over the vulcan

  22. Chris April 1st, 2014 9:06 am

    Hi John Gloor and others,
    The PU version is not stiffer in the standard sense of the word, but the FEEL of the boot is more rigid due to the properties of the PU material. I ski the PU boot with a hard injected foam liner and it feels almost like a race boot. I use the Pebax boot with the custom Intuition liner it comes with for light weight and super comfort. So really it is a question of how the different materials feel rather than a marketing number, 110 or 120, which as you all know is based on nothing but the American consumer’s desire to have some number to base their choices on.

    As for the sole blocks- yes, the Freedom SL comes with the Vibram Tech sole and the regular PU Freedom comes with the Mountain Piste sole- and you can buy the former or the latter as a $45 accessory if you like from your shop.

    I’m in Italy right now and just spent two days working on the next gen of Freedom at the factory. Cool things coming down the pipe in the future.


  23. Gabe November 14th, 2014 6:27 pm

    has anyone skied both this boot and the La Sportiva Spectre? I have had my foot in the Freedom and I like it, but i am tempted by the ~900 less grams for the Spectre.


  24. Sam December 23rd, 2014 1:52 pm

    After a 20 year hiatus from skiing I recently revisited it and am making the switch back. It’s just too easy not having to strap into a snowboard or reassemble a split board each time (I’m getting older and the sore hips and wet butt are starting to get to me). I typically ski on piste and plan on making 2-3 back country day trips a year. After some research I found the Scarpa Freedom SL and think it might be, “The One” to meet my frequent resort run requirements with infrequent back country trips. My foot dimensions while standing are L: 277m long, 99mm wide R: 280mm long, 108mm wide. My thoughts are with a 101mm last it should fit my left foot perfectly and I’ll have a boot fitter punch out the right one to fit my foot. Now my fear is I’ve drank too much of the cool-aid and want someone to see if they can talk me out of it to make sure this is the right choice. Thanks!

  25. Lou Dawson 2 December 23rd, 2014 6:16 pm

    Go for it Sam! You can’t go wrong with Scarpa!

  26. nekaj January 3rd, 2015 9:13 am

    Hi @mark borland how did you solve your size issue. I’m in similar position. between 25.5 and 25 (different shell sizes) – 25.5 seems unusually comfortable already after testing at home at room temperature (but 25 is a little too tight/short)

    Is sizing down normal with Freedom SL?

    is it better to buy small and punch out some toe room? Even as this are intended for hiking/skiing combination and some additional comfort is not too bad?

  27. Lew January 8th, 2015 2:56 pm

    I love my Scarpa Maestrale RS boots in a 29.5. Any thoughts on whether I should stay with the same size for the Freedom SL boot to be used primarily for inbounds and occasional side or bc trips. If 29.5 is unavailable, would it be any better to go with a 29 or up to 30. I heard the shells are the same for 29.5 and 30?

  28. Jeff January 8th, 2015 10:04 pm

    On size, fwiw, I went with the 29 although I am a 12 (or occasionally 11.5) in any other footwear. Feels pretty good in the toe box after heat molding, but uncomfortable (perhaps fatally so…time will tell) over the instep (I think my arches are on the high side). 29.5 was definitely too much based on a shell fit.

  29. Lewis November 24th, 2015 1:34 pm

    So just bought Freedom SLs as well as the DIN soles and was disappointed to see that the tech heel fitting needs to be removed when the DIN soles are installed. Has anyone tried to mod the DIN soles so that the tech fitting can be left in place; that screw just goes into plastic and I don’t want to take it on and off too many times for fear of compromising the hole. I specifically bought these to be able to switch back and forth between soles and this seems to be a weakness in the plan. I wonder if the AT heels could be run with the DIN toes in an alpine binder?

  30. Nate Porter November 24th, 2015 8:12 pm

    Lewis, there is some plastic that can be cut away from the DIN soles to make it so that you don’t have to remove the tech heel fitting.

  31. Nekaj November 29th, 2015 12:41 pm


    @Jeff did you find instep height over arches ok at the end.

    I have similar problem – boot ok, but totally unacceptable over instep – arches too high. I’ve tried to shave of some material form the insole but did not help. I’ll try to get rid of the insoles and only install something in the heel. Maybe also tray to expand just over insole (by heating it) ..

    Anyone with any good advice or experience over such problem?

  32. Jeff November 29th, 2015 1:12 pm

    Nakej, yes, after 4 or 5 days they broke in nicely. I am using the thinnest Sole brand insole. About 90 days in, I am really happy with the boots. Will need to do new liners eventually, but they should be good to go for a couple more years at least.

  33. Nekaj November 29th, 2015 1:19 pm

    @Jeff thanks for fast reply. I’ll tray broking in also …

  34. Jamie Lieberman January 17th, 2016 5:54 pm

    Ahhh, the dang WEIGHT of things. I’m replacing my old Dynafit ZZeus’s – they have been leaking snow like a sieve. Got talked into the Scarpa Freedom SL. All seems good, and I skied them today. I’m about a 28-28.5, but apparently Scarpa measures on the odd half size, so my old Dynafit 28.0 translates to a Scarpa 29.0. Nice liners though, which were nicely baked to my feet. But I got home and put them on the scale – 🙁 Over 2kg for one boot, compared with 1.5kg for my old Dynafit’s. Today I did a short tour, with my K2 Coombacks. I LOVE how those skis go downhill. But uphill? The combination of all this, I felt like I had cement shoes!! So I’m writing here to see if anyone else out there has a perspective. Honestly, I ski about 75-80% in bounds, so the setup should be great. But for climbing, weight is HUGE!! (Of course go too light, and my feet WILL freeze). It’s tough to take these boots back to my local Ketchum store, but I could. I did try on the Dynafit Khion, but maybe not that much lighter (10oz/boot claimed). The SL DOES allow you to swap out the sole to run with alpine bindings, but many folks do this even with touring soles anyway. And honestly, I’m kind of a 1-ski quiver guy. Just wish I could flip a switch and have the Freedom SL be lighter weight, and my Coomback’s drop a few lb’s. Weight, I mean wait, perhaps I should drop a few lb’s. Am I crazy?

  35. Lou Dawson 2 January 17th, 2016 10:42 pm

    Hi Jamie, a lot of guys ski the Scarpa Maestrale RS combined with a stronger tech binding such as G3 ION to get the kind of boot/binding system you’re looking for. As for skis, the Coomback skis terrific but it’s not known for shaving grams. To solve that, you need to get back to that shop and start doing some ski demos of lighter planks. Khion skis well in my opinion and could be an option, but make sure the difficulty of getting into the boot is not an issue for you. Let us know what kinds of things you begin considering.

    Another thing to remember is that you can go MUCH lighter weight by going over to the “light” side of real 100% ski touring gear, for example by using a Dynafit TLT6 paired with a light weight tech binding without brakes. Skiing that kind of gear is incredibly popular around the world, but if you’re used to a full-on alpine setup with big skis and beef boots such as Freedom you do have to adjust your technique and expectations if you make the switch. A plus of the switch to “real” touring gear is a lot of people discover that once they have the really light efficient gear, they lose interest in mechanized skiing. I’ve seen that trend all over the world, quite interesting to watch. Could happen to you, so beware (grin).


  36. Simon February 16th, 2016 5:43 am

    Is the AT heel piece on these compatible with the Kingpin?

    I have been skiing K2 Pinnacles, but they are just too heavy for a whole day touring.

  37. Lou Dawson 2 February 16th, 2016 6:37 am

    Simon, I’m not sure what you mean, but if you’re asking if the AT sole heel block of the Freedom is compatible with Kingpin the answer is Yes, but have a ski shop help you test release function. I have a pair of Freedom here and the AT heel appears to need an easy tune for Kingpin by belt sanding a few mm of thickness off the bottom rubber. Sole thickness is critical for Kingpin, as unlike most tech bindings it uses the standard DIN touring and alpine boot sole shape for proper function. Again, key is to do release checks on the workbench. That is if you want a binding that might protect you from leg injury. If you’re planning on just cranking it up to 11 and going skiing, don’t worry about it. It’s not going to release anyway. Lou

  38. Simon February 16th, 2016 7:10 am

    Thanks Lou, that’s exactly what I needed to know.

    I definitely like my binding to release occasionally!

  39. Lou Dawson 2 February 16th, 2016 7:34 am

    Well, Freedom is a beautiful boot, you can easily check on the bench and tune release if necessary. They do use the Dynafit certified tech fittings so smooth action at the toe is usually not an issue, but be sure to check. Lou

  40. Geewilligers March 19th, 2018 7:00 am

    The time has come to replace the liners on these bad boys.

    (Foam packing + stank)/years = product of a ton of good times.

    Scarpa sells the stock liner on their site, but I wondering if there are any other options I should be considering. Any and all suggestions are appreciated.

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