OR Day 3 – Slay Me With Boots – Sportiva

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 21, 2012      

The explosion in available haute design AT boots this year is a phenomenon. But really? How many new plastic foot buckets will we all acquire in a year? Apparently, quite a lot.

La Sportiva backcountry skiing boots.

La Sportiva backcountry skiing boots, Sideral model on the carpet, looks good.

The marketing magic (literally creating demand) is in great part driven by AT boot categories being refined and defined, as the Pebax purveyors are constantly cooking up new ways of grabbing customers from the boring alpine skiing market and extracting consumer treasure in return for “backcountry” or “sidecountry” capable ski footwear. More, fitness uphilling and super-light “race style” touring are seducing folks who formerly just alpine skied and ran or hiked for fitness.

Thus, what’s helped the companies stay in business, and helped us, the backcountry shoppers (by creating variety and hopefully bettering value vs price), is explosive growth at both ends of the boot spectrum. On the “beef” side, formerly trad alpine companies such as Tecnica have players in the shoe mix that compete with beautiful big boots from old reliables such as Garmont. On the skinny side, low-fat consumers have become addicted to feeling fleet of feet, and companies are responding hugely to that as well. Latest, La Sportiva.

Sportiva has of course been a boot and shoe company for millennia. About a year ago they entered the ski touring market with a ski line in addition to the full carbon ultimate race boot they’d been selling for a couple of seasons. Last winter I saw some ski boots they were working on, which in truth were a bit of a yawner me-too effort.

We’ll, I’m here to tell you that La Sportiva’s new line of backcountry skiing boots is now innovative, lightweight, comfortable and functional. Yes, another shoe for shoppers to consider.

This coming season’s new Sportiva ski boots will be available in three models, same mold and features, different materials. Additionally, they’ll continue with their full-carbon Stratos model which at around $3000 is rather ethereal, though perhaps we could have fun reviewing a boot some day that costs in the realm of a decent used automobile. Sorry, I digress.

The new Sportivas: Sideral ($699 MSRP) and Spitfire ($899 MSRP), with women’s model Starlet being virtually the same thing as the Sideral, only with a different shaped cuff.

All three models include:
– One motion closure/lean-lock via upper buckle that moves a rather innovative mechanical system. While not as elegant as other, simpler solutions on the market for one-motion boot closure, during carpet testing I was impressed by the positive “snap” of the metal hook this system employs. It also seemed quite fiddle proof (works every time), but field testing will of course have to prove that out.

– Nearly everyone is on the Grilamid plastic program these days, and all the La Sportiva plastic boots use it for their lowers. This stiff nylon makes for lighter and nicely responsive boot parts (now that injection molders have figured out how to make ski boots out of the stuff). Word I got from experts is not only is Grilamid difficult to squeeze through a mold, but due to its stiffness it is difficult to pull the boot off the mold after injection. To solve the removal problem, Grilamid boot lowers tend to have a longer opening, which is why you see various “covering pieces” of plastic down there on the toe area of Grilamid boots from various companies.

– The Sportiva boots will ship with lean-lock plates you can easily change out in the cuff; 12,14,16 degrees. Super nice feature.

– Shell has an insulating layer over the zeppa (footboard), this can be removed or modded for fit.

– To reduce weight, the shell is compact, with a BSL of 297 for size 27.5.

– Sportiva’s “Easy Flex” tongue has a rubber insert at the break point, yielding a super comfy touring flex (and of course sacrificing a bit of stiffness on the down).

– Sole has an odd but possibly effective little bump on it that’s intended to index your toe entry into a tech binding. We’ll see how that works…

– Fit: In carpet testing the un-molded liner and shell felt neutral, with lots of room for customization. Not much in the way of progressive flex, which is the norm for a lightweight tongue boot, but they felt adequately stiff.

La Sportiva backcountry skiing boots.

I got some photos on the show floor, but this catalog page show the boot 'look' is fairly conventional. Ribbed area on tongue is for touring flex. Next thing we'd like to see from all the boot innovators is some means of ditching the power straps yet still receiving power strap performance, as their use kind of flies in the face of 'one motion' closure.

Spitfire is the higher end model, mainly differentiated by the use of carbon reinforced plastic for the cuff. Catalog weight size 27 for all models is 1165 grams. Real-world weight will probably be close to that.

I’m never big on endless descriptions of liners that many of you will swap out anyway. But. La Sportiva’s “Skimo” thermo mold liner by Palau is quite nice, main niceness being an innovative lace system (from their alpine climbing boots) that simply tightens with a pull then wraps around liner cuff and fastens to a velcro tab. One handed operation, no knots to tie, no windlass to add weight and fiddling. Excellent.

In all, I see the La Sportiva boots as a worthy player. Perhaps most importantly, they’re one of only several brands/models with true one-motion mode change. Take my word for it, once you’ve experienced the reduced fiddle factor of simply slapping your upper buckle closed for downhill mode — and flipping it open to tour — you won’t go back.


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26 Responses to “OR Day 3 – Slay Me With Boots – Sportiva”

  1. TG January 21st, 2012 11:19 am

    Do you know if La Sportiva uses the licensed/approved/legit dynafit inserts? Which brands other than Scarpa are using the real inserts?

  2. Philip Maynard January 21st, 2012 12:00 pm

    Lou, thanks for the info!

    I hope multiple lean-lock settings become standard. I’ve never been a fan of the traditional style built into the walk mechanism, but the ability to set it once and forget about it is great.

    Like I always ask – any first impressions on the last? Is it a very anatomical fit like the TLT-5, and does it seem different enough from both that and the Scarpa Alien to cater to more people’s feet?

  3. Karl K January 21st, 2012 5:49 pm

    Is is wrong if I want to climb ice in them?

  4. Lou January 21st, 2012 6:53 pm

    Philip, I’d say it’ll cater to a broader range of feet, out of the box. But by the same token is not quite as anatomical as some other brands, provided the ghost last of the anatomical boots somewhat match your foot.

    As for ice climbing, hey, another segment for AT boots to rob market share from? I say the more power to them.


  5. Philip Maynard January 21st, 2012 7:23 pm

    Lou – thanks, that’s probably good news for lots of people.

    I climb quite a bit of ice in my TLT-5s. They perform admirably. Way better than Invernos, and about as warm as a lighter single boot.

    I don’t like to belay in them if it’s particularly cold out, but after a day that never got above 0F, I can say they are warm enough for some pretty nasty days. I got cold toes belaying the first pitch, but warmed right up as we simul-climbed then soloed the rest of the route.

    And of course, the ski down was WAY better than any ice boot buckled into Silvrettas.

  6. Zoran January 21st, 2012 7:27 pm

    Is “broader range of feet” means wide feet?
    Wider than Dynafit … Thanks Lou.

  7. Tyler January 21st, 2012 8:30 pm

    You sure are right Lou. There is an astounding number of boots being offered and the companies are creating larger and larger markets. Holding these more race oriented boots just makes you want to consider racing or fitness skiing. Just a few years ago it was hard to want to “race” in most boots because they just have a feeling of heft and clumsiness with the buckling and strapping that was required. Like you say, today its a matter of racing up in a near-sneaker. Who wouldnt want to?

    Having said that, these new Sportiva boots sure were impressive. The weight is incredible esp at that price point. I too liked the liner with the one pull lace system that actually extends down onto the forefoot and locks down your foot inside the liner. Many laced liners stop just above the ankle. Further, the shell lends itself to modifications needed for all kinds of foot issues (i.e. wide feet) and that plastic is supposed to be quite good to work with in that it holds its deformation when heated.

    As far as wow factor I think Sportiva out did Dynafit this year. The Dynafit line is downright confusing.

    All the boots being made ought to help the price and I suspect that the new air bag packs will be more affordable esp with the likes of TNF being involved now.

    This is good news.

  8. Lou January 21st, 2012 8:40 pm

    Zoran, perhaps a Sportiva person can chime in with info about their last. My impression is they chose to provide a “shop fit” that feels wider than Dynafit, but that’s just a decision on how the boot should feel before molding and fitting. Whether it’s actually wider or narrower is a different story. If this becomes a big issue, I can use my last measuring method and do a comparo between TLT5 and Sportiva, but that project turned out to be too much work for the results, so it’s on hold till needed. Lou

  9. Jack January 23rd, 2012 8:27 am

    Re: ice climbing. A well-known guide here in the East has said that he ice climbs in his AT boots sometimes, just to be able to enjoy a ski out at the end of the day.
    Maybe a hybrid: ski, climb, ice climb boot is needed with a collection of screw on gadgets?

  10. Phil M January 23rd, 2012 8:57 am

    The TLT-5 is nearly a hybrid ice/ski boot. These LaSportiva boots look very similar in that regard.

    Key features:

    1) Short, highly rockered, grippy rubber sole (not AT compatible)
    2) Extreme ankle flexibility
    3) Close, anatomical fit for precision

    To make it better:

    1) Provide sideways ankle freedom with the cuff unlocked. A cuff that came off completely would work well, although just having one of the rivets slide up and down in a track would be less fiddly. This is nice on hard ice, but the biggest deal for me would be the ability to French-technique up easy snow and ice.

    2) Move the lower buckle back a little bit, so it locks the heel down better.

    3) Make it warmer. Right now it’s fine for near-freezing temps, but when it gets into the single-digits (F), it’s much too cold to belay in. This requires giving a few mm back in BSL, partially negating (1) above. Perhaps the new One boot has the right comprimise? The Masetrale seems to be very close – it is certainly warm enough, and if they had trimmed the sole on the Rush (eliminating the AT compatibility), that boot might have been perfect. Sizing up TLT-5s and running standard-thickness liners accomplishes the same thing, but that trend might die with the new Dynafit boots being available.

    The climbing community has taken notice. I consider myself a climber first, and a huge part of the reason I went TLT-5 was to use it as a climbing boot. I used to use Silvretta 500s with my ice boots, but now I enjoy the ski approach and descents so much more. My partners and sevreral other Daks climbers I know have done the same, ditching their approach setups completely in favor of climbing in these new AT boots. Some have eliminated XC setups as well, since weight of some of these setups is about the same as NN-BC boots and bindings!

    I’m sure many of you have seen this, but for those coming from the ski side of things, this is a good read. Dane is, in some senses, the WildSnow of the ice world. He provides some of the more objective gear reviews out there.




    I’m not a fan of extra pieces and fasteners. Yet, the populatity of the Petzl Lynx and Quark show that many (most?) people love modular ice gear. Check out MountainProject and similar sites for discussions on skiing in Spantiks and similar boots – some people want Dynafit fittings and a modular cuff on that warm, light, technical boot. There’s a revolution in climbing boots underway with texile double and single+gaier boots like the Spantik, Batura, and Phantom series, which somehwat parallels the current rando-racish ski boots. Maybe in a few years the gap between ice and ski boots will end up being a blurry line, with an array of modular choices based on both hard-shell ski boots and textile double climbing boots?

  11. Mark W January 23rd, 2012 9:26 am

    Intriguing trend in boots with the light and fast, but still skis well. I’m ready to start demoing.

  12. Lou January 23rd, 2012 9:59 am

    Phil, good info, thanks. Warmth is probably the hardest issue, for hybrid boots. At the ice park, you just head in for a beer when your feet get cold, but two days into a winter wall climb, different story…

  13. Colin Lantz January 23rd, 2012 11:48 am

    Colin Lantz here from La Sportiva. Thought I’d chime in and try to answer some of your questions and straighten out a few things from the review. Thanks to Lou for the enthusiastic review. Here goes:

    Tech Fittings – Our tech fittings are made by Gi.Di. Mechanica, the same supplier in Italy that produces the Garmont fittings. We’ve been very attentive to product quality for our fittings and keep a close eye on the QC.

    Adjustable Forward Lean: Boots come with the 14 degree plate installed. One set of additional plates is included in the box. You can install this extra set in two different configurations to get 12 or 16 degree forward lean. Their is also an optional spoiler in the box. When installed the spoiler gives another few degrees of forward lean.

    Weight: Lou quoted weights from our workbook. These were listed wrong from an old spec and we didn’t catch it before going to print with our workbook for the Outdoor Retailer Show. The actual weights are 1165 grams for the Spitfire, Sideral and Starlet at size 27.5. Our apologies, the 950 gram spec for the Spitfire came from an earlier prototype that use a vacuum molded carbon fiber cuff. While this provided great weight savings the cost of the cuff materials would have made the Spitfire price be around $1500. We didn’t feel this is what the market was looking for so we re-tooled the cuff and used a Carbon Reinforced Polymer that provided a stiffer flex than the Pebax cuff used in the Sideral and Starlet but was more reasonably priced. So the only difference between the Spitfire and the Sideral/Starlet is the stiffer flex on the Spitfire. BTW – we’re calling the Spitfire 100 Flex and the Sideral/Starlet 90.

    Last Shape: The last width is 102mm. No way to explain shape. Only way to check is is to try it on and see if it matches your foot shape. FYI – the Grilamid used in the lower shell is a nylon polymer (aka Polyamide or PA) and can be heated and pushed out/manipulated. Lou mentioned the PU zeppa or innersole. This can be removed and manipulated/ground for further custom fitting options. FYI – this PU zeppa makes a huge difference in the overall warmth of the boot.

  14. Lou January 23rd, 2012 11:51 am

    Typical (grin), I forgo “real world” weights and get it wrong. Lesson learned!

    Thanks Colin for chiming in. I’ll correct that info.

  15. Lou January 23rd, 2012 12:02 pm

    Colin, since you’re on the hook: Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t last width measured at the ball of the foot, and isn’t 102 considered to be fairly roomy? Also, for future reference, is the last width that’s usually stated from the sample size, and larger or smaller sizes actually have a different last width?

  16. RyanB January 23rd, 2012 3:58 pm

    Colin, Are those weights with liners? What do the liners themselves weigh?

    Can anyone say where a stiffness of 90 or 100 put them vs the various tlt5 and maestrali models available? Will the women’s model come in a 23?

    Any chance of availability by spring?

  17. Dane January 25th, 2012 1:03 pm

    Just a word on warmth. Any of these boots with a foam liner that can be molded like the TLT P version have proven to be warm enough in winter on even on the biggest mixed routes in the Alps. Never even seen a picture of a pair used in an ice park. No skiing there…why would you?

    The best alpine ice climbing in the Alps these days is done in winter and early spring. Having boots you can climb hard technically in and actually ski in/out easily is a big deal. Bravo to La Sportiva and Dynafit for making gear that will do both. I’ll be even more impressed when La Sportiva finally mixes the mtn boot technology with the ski boot technology for the specific purpose “alpine” boot 🙂

  18. Scott January 25th, 2012 2:57 pm

    Colin, can I get some dynafit inserts in my Spantiks, please??

  19. Colin Lantz January 25th, 2012 7:19 pm

    OK, here’s some answers to recent questions:
    RyanB – smallest women’s size will be 24. 24-31.5 is the size range for all three models. There will be a limited quantity available this spring (beginning March) in a few select shops for an early spring. Which shops I don’t know. You can call sportiva hq in Boulder at 303-443-8710. Flex ratings are subjective. Can’t comment on where it stands in relation to other brands.
    Lou – yes, last width is measured at the ball of the foot, the widest part. 102 is considered to be fairly roomy. I know, I know, I was just as skeptical as you, but I’ve confirmed the 102mm measurement myself with my own calipers on a production model and it is 102mm at the widest part. Consider though that lasts are 3D. I think the last is narrower and lower volume in other places in comparison to say an alpine boot with a 102mm last. As for the last width being stated in the sample size (27.5 for us), yes, this is the case. Are larger and smaller sizes proportionately graded in both length and width? Yes, but width differences are minute in this case.
    Scott – We and lots of other boot manufacturers have played with this. The problem is that mountaineering boot midsole/outsole units cannot handle the stresses that are extorted on them when a tech fitting is embedded. Add sufficient structure, i.e. a plastic midsole, to handle the stresses and the boot losses it’s flex and hence it’s climbability. It’s a design conundrum that we’d love to solve but we’re not there yet.

  20. Zoran October 26th, 2012 5:50 pm

    Thank you in advance for your time.
    I have a quick question.

    Wire which goes over the boot arch to tighten the boot and close buckles, is too short for my feet. I mean, I can close buckle on the lowest notch, but is pressing my arch very hard.

    I was wondering could this wire be removed by me and replaced with the
    little longer wire. Other option is to drill and move buckle on the shell but I am afraid to do it on my boots.

    Lou do you have solution for me? I put thinner Intuition liner in my boots, but still not able to make it nice. Option to replace wire with longer one, will be fantastic. Is that possible?

  21. Ben October 30th, 2012 3:23 am

    Are these going to be at all compatible with my Silvretta 500s?

  22. Lou Dawson October 30th, 2012 7:30 am

    Hi Ben, thanks for asking! We’ve actually got our La Sportiva test boots present in the quiver now, and they do look nice! And yes, they’ve got a sole shape that’s pretty standard AT boot spec. So, I grabbed a few Silvrettas from the WildSnow Binding Collection and they all fit just fine. Lou

  23. DaveC November 5th, 2012 7:43 pm

    Just got my Siderals, and they look good. 37 oz a shell, 6.7 oz a liner in mondo 28.

    I have a question on the liners. The manual say to not use an oven, just a blower stack to cook them. Provided I control for folds and wrinkles getting them back into the shell (as I’ve done with intuitions before) any reason to not heat them in the oven like any other liner?

  24. Lou Dawson November 6th, 2012 6:04 am

    Dave, I have Spitfire here, they are beautiful. I’m sure you could oven mold the Palu liner if you know what you’re doing. The blower stack is so much easier and more mistake proof… The blower stack did kind of out a damper on home molding, but there really is a reason for it. I’ve got both the stack and a dedicated convection oven, and the oven doesn’t get used much anymore. Lou

  25. DaveC November 6th, 2012 7:28 am

    Thanks Lou.

  26. cameron fraser October 2nd, 2013 9:15 am

    Look forward to hearing how it is in the field. And especially how the “EZ flex” tongue compares to the Scarpa F1 toe bellows for the uphill gait.

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