Hoji Wins Battle of the Bulge

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 29, 2018      

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The dreaded boot bulge is nearly ubiquitous to ski touring — ugly as the squeamish profile of an under-inflated tire and just as detrimental to performance. The problem is basic. In downhill mode you anchor the the boot’s upper cuff at one point with the lean lock, creating a triangle of force that tends to spread the cuff at the pivot points when you flex forward, this happening at the exact time in the ski turn you want the boot tighter, not looser.

Try to fix this with reinforcements, you might get less bulge but end up with little to no “progressive flex” (as well as increased weight). If “anti-bulge” stiffened reinforcements are taken to the limit, it feels like you’re skiing with steel bands on your legs. In the name of lighter weight “cabrillo” boot you get somewhat used to this sort of feel, “somewhat” being the operative word. Overlap type boot shells can mitigate the bulging syndrome as well, but introduce other problems for ski touring.

Hoji combines sweet flex with the lighter an easily entered cabrillo type shell. Despite our emphasis on the one-motion “pants down always” touring latch system, we are here to tell you it skis downhill quite well — and does NOT bulge in any fashion compared to conventional touring boots. The reasons for that are fairly simple, yet not entirely obvious at first glance. A few photos of what was explained to us by the boot’s eponymous master.

First key to the 'Hoji Flex'

First key to the ‘Hoji Flex’ is not anchoring the cuff flex stop at lower rear. In the case of Hoji, as pictured here, the cuff stop only functions to block rearward travel, it allows forward cuff flex. This is key to feeling a sweeter progressive flex. Boots with cuff locks that anchor both directions give a more rigid and “blocked” feel for obvious reasons.

TLT 6, line of flex anchor resistance goes from single point

TLT 6, line of flex anchor resistance goes from single point down to cuff pivots, forming a triangle as viewed from rear.

Cuff force-resistance lines as viewed from rear.

Cuff force-resistance lines as viewed from rear. The Hoji lines are vertical, anchored at the top by right and left cuff stops. Not the first boot to have this,
difference with Hoji is how carefully this is designed and tuned to give the requisite flex without the boot folding up.

Hoji lines of resistance-force are vertical, right and left.

Hoji lines of resistance-force are vertical, right and left. You don’t get a bulge inducing triangle as viewed from rear.

Cuff stop in Hoji boot moves up and down.

Cuff stop in Hoji boot moves up and down, exists on both sides thus creating vertical lines of force-resistance when you flex the cuff. In turn, this does not tend to push bulge the cuff out at the pivot points. Hoji boasts a few other fine points in terms of tuning the flex, but what we’re describing here is the main difference between Hoji and most other cabrillo ski touring boots.

Downsides of this? Fairly complex to design and manufacture, with possibility of problems if the cuff flex stops don’t align. A bit heavier than some of the simpler systems out there. Can’t think of anything else.

All this can be observed during a carpet test. Have at it!

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Bonus shot.

Bonus shot.


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16 Responses to “Hoji Wins Battle of the Bulge”

  1. swissiphic January 29th, 2018 6:41 pm

    hmmm; seems like a guy could cobble together a diy jobbie for the Vulcan, no? Too much modding, not enough time!

  2. See January 29th, 2018 7:59 pm

    How critical is cuff cable tension to ensuring that the cuff stops align in ski mode?

  3. Pablo January 30th, 2018 3:27 am

    So, It seems that it is crucial that the boot cuff (best say cuff stops) and shell are perfectly closed so that the cuff stops are perfectly aligned.

    I’m worried about progressive disalignement with use.
    I think that, maybe, the shell can bend a little inwards and go out of the cuff stop “cannel” if touring if cuff bucle is not so well closed as i use to ski with…

    What about bootfitting or liner change? can this kind of mod affect the system

  4. Lou 2 January 30th, 2018 8:00 am

    Pablo, indeed, I’m pretty sure the Hoji liner needs a smooth face against the cuff stops so they can easily rise up and down, as well as not catching on a worn or molded liner face. I’d imagine if a boot fitter was aware of this they could do custom liners without a problem, but it’s something to consider. As for things getting out of alignment, sure, that could happen. The pre-retail boots have had some good testing, but as always there is no substitute for consumer use of the retail version. Have at it early adopters, and stay in touch! Lou

  5. Jason January 31st, 2018 10:36 am

    I’ve been modding my AT boots like this for years. I’ve drilled out the walk mode to allow free forward flex, and actually ground off the bump stops too, relying solely on a kyrpton tongue for forward resistance in ski mode. I love the way my boots ski so much I haven’t been able to find something to upgrade to even though my boots have been nearing the end for quite some time. Added bonus was fantastic touring ROM from tongueless travel. Downside if course is fiddle factor w/ tongues.

    So, aside from not haven’t even been able to try on for fit, these are the first boots I’ve seen in a while that may be looking like replacements… Except for the shark nose…

    Lou, I know this has been brought up before, but do you know why dynafit would put so much in to a boot that lacks automatic crampon compatibility?

  6. Lou Dawson 2 January 31st, 2018 11:02 am

    Jason, the back room convos of a brand are something we’re not privy to, but insiders do tell me that the main point of the Speed Nose is apparently an effort to set the Dynafit boots apart from other brands, as the market is becoming homogenized and everything looks pretty similar to consumers. I’m also told that some of the high end athletes do appreciate the slightly better pivot ergonomics, which I agree is valid but in my opinion is a non issue for most of us, and is indeed superseded by crampon and binding compatibility. Personally, I’d like to see a non DIN toe that still accepted normal automatic crampons, example being the toe on the original TLT boot, which was a sort of chopped off duckbill that was excellent though did not have the DIN standard shape for bindings with alpine-like toe wings. Fact of the matter is no product is perfect for everyone, but the consumer landscape for touring boots is incredible, so as I always say, no binding or boot or ski is for everyone. Lou

  7. SteveR January 31st, 2018 4:24 pm

    I turned up on a guided tour once, and noticed that one of the other clients was using Atomic Backland boots with frame bindings. I pointed it out to the (UIAGM) guide, who proceeded to phone his friend to check if it was okay. When the answer came back, the guide took the client to a shop to hire skis with tech bindings. The guy in the hire shop hired him the skis, but told him that there was no issue with using Backlands in frame bindings. The above story makes me think that there is a valid reason to put a shark nose on boots that do not meet the DIN 9523 standard.

  8. Slim February 1st, 2018 11:09 am

    Steve R,
    But it’s not just frame/alpine bindings, if I understand correctly, it’s also not compatible with Fritschi Vipec/Tecton bindings.

  9. Marc February 1st, 2018 1:10 pm

    Slim/SteveR, nor is it compatible with the Marker Kingpin, (and the coming Atomic/Salomon Shift). It’s a boot positioned in the freeride tour market yet is not compatible with a number of the popular bindings that occupy this same space. It’s an odd one to me. It looks like an absolutely fantastic boot from every other perspective, and I’m almost frothing to buy them, however the speed nose/non kingpin compatible heal is a deal breaker for me. I live in Revelstoke and I’d absolutely love to have this boot married with a burlier tech binding. I know Hoji skis on dynafit bindings, but I’m a mere mortal, and I personally much prefer a binding that locks the heal down like an alpine binding. It seems like a boot aimed at me – I’ll take a weight penalty to ski the way I want to on the ski down. If this boot was compatible with the kingpin/shift/CAST system it would be a game changer. Unfortunately I’ll just be looking longingly at the boot thinking of what might have been…

  10. See February 1st, 2018 7:50 pm

    Seems to me like this boot/binding compatibility issue strongly resembles the Volkl/Marker H-pattern ski/binding compatibility issue.

  11. Karl February 2nd, 2018 3:56 am

    Looks like a great boot! Kingpin/Shift non-compatibility is not a dealbreaker to me, as I’m more in to full-tech bindings. The new approach on the lean-lock is actually genious. I wonder how is the bulging issue with the new Scott boot that has the lean lock up front? Has anyone had a chance to try it?

  12. Ivar February 2nd, 2018 8:18 am

    Just got my Hoji Pros from Backcountry and Dynafit Crampon Adapter from Skimo. Tried them with my trusty BD Sabertooth crampons. After removing the original crampon bale, attaching the new adapter, and doing a fair bit of fiddling, got a pretty much OK fit. You have to bend the adapter around the boot, and while the boot front sides make firm contact with the adapter, it’s not at all flush with the boot front. Also, it’s a really tight fit that won’t be an easy slip on in the field. It required firm jamming to make sure the crampon was firmly flush against the boot bottom (hope it doesn’t pop), and this also scratches the boot front a bit as the adapter and it’s wire bail attachment nuts mash up against the boot. Further expansion of the crampon makes it too loose by the way. Overall, I think it will work OK though.

    My bigger worry is that the crampon adapter is attached to the crampon by 4 screws/nuts rather than the bullet proof, screwless attachment method of the original crampon bale. In the field, bashing around on rocks with your crampons, I’m worried about screws and nuts coming loose and falling off (even with blue loctite), in which case you would be, well…screwed.

    Also, I’ve always liked the way the rear crampon strap threads through the front bale ring to secure the whole thing tight. The adapter’s front wire bale does hold it tight against the boot, but if your heel lock comes loose (it happens), the crampon would fall off without the now useless strap. I could still just wrap the strap around the boot ankle, but it’s too long for that now so it has to be gathered and tied off (fiddly and prone to come loose, flop around, catch on crampon points and trip you, etc). Fitting it around the new wire bale would probably just rub and we’re the strap fabric until it breaks. Cutting it to fit the now shorter needed length to wrap around boot ankle would mean I can’t go back to the original bale and still use these crampons on my climbing boots anymore. So I’d have to buy another set of crampons for that…Sigh. Gonna try and see if I can’t get the metal strap attachment ring off my original bale and fit it onto the new adapter bale to thread the strap through. Would give peace of mind to have the extra security of the strap running through both front and back like it should.

    Haven’t seen the new Salewa Cramp-In that’s coming for this boot, but aluminum crampons suck. Thought it was supposed to attach through a hole in the boot sole, but these boot soles have no such slot? Wouldn’t be super stoked anyway to try to attach that way with a bunch of ice and gunk on the sole.

    Overall upshot of first impressions prior to skiing with it: I think it’s going to be an awesome boot. Fit was really good right out of the box, and will only need minor modding for my wide front/narrow heel feet. Liner seems kinda thin, but OK. Boot functionality is awesome! Great walk mode flexibility, and the Hoji Lock is a brilliant design. BUT… if you’re going to use it with crampons, get a different boot. They need to drop the Speed Nose.

  13. Lou Dawson 2 February 2nd, 2018 9:55 am

    Thanks Iver, really appreciate you going for it! Looking forward to your continued impressions. Lou

  14. Ben G February 2nd, 2018 9:57 pm

    Got to play with a pair of these for a few hours. I used to ski in Mercuries and have been in F1s the last season and a half. Both of those boots where a little too soft but skied ok and toured well. I needed a far bit of width punching in both of these boots too. All of these boots are 27.5
    The Hojis sounded great but now that I’ve played with them I’ve lost my excitement.

    I never skied these but spent a while fitting different liners and extra foam to try to figure out fit. Also spent some time clipped in to skis with a Hoji on one foot and various other boots on the other foot to try and get a feel for them.
    The good:
    Definitely wide in the forefoot, my 110mm feet would not need a punch.
    The speed nose is much more squared off so if your toes aren’t getting bunched together in the front.
    The hoji lever works nicely. For boot packing and short little tours it loosens things up nicely.
    In tour mode the forward flex is great.
    In ski mode stiffness to the side and especially the rear feels rock solid
    In ski mood there is no slop between back seat and driving the tongue.
    The instep strap is divorced from the upper cuff so cranking it down doesn’t add any extra friction to tour mode.

    What I don’t like:
    The liner looks nice but is really thin. Thinner than the liner in my F1s
    The whole boot is really wide I pulled the old liner out of my Mercuries and had to add foam all the way around the ankles to keep them down.
    At least at room tempt the boot is actually on the soft side. My old Mercuries without tongues actually felt stiffer. Even with the same liner.
    The hoji lever works OK but touring mode is definitely better if you actually loosen the upper buckle and power strap. For longer uphills I’d definitely pull my pants up and adjust them.
    I tried fitting hybrid crampons form Petzl, Grivel and BD and none of them give a fit I would trust. The tech fittings are to wide to fit inside of the metal side posts. You might be able to bend the Grivel ones but the others seemed like even bigger
    Measuring the heel it didn’t seem that far of of DIN so even though I knew touring wouldn’t work I clipped them into my Tectons to see if maybe I could at least ski them inbounds. The fit looked ok but when levering on it there is definitely more play then I see with the other boots. I’d have to assume that the Kingpin would also be a no go.
    Also tried them in a pair of Vipec Blacks and even in these the speednose would severely limit your stride while touring.

  15. josh February 26th, 2018 8:07 am

    great writeup.

    But more importantly how do I get the ‘Will ski for strudel’ bumper sticker?!?!! I’ll PAY!

  16. Lisa Dawson February 26th, 2018 9:08 am

    Josh, send us your mailing address via the WildSnow “Contact” tab and we’ll send you a sticker. Thanks!

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