Dynafit Official Take – Breaking Heel Lifters

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 14, 2012      

Everyone, while publishing the following in the midst of the Steve Romeo memorials and such feels a bit funny, I thought it good to shoehorn it in. I think Steve himself would have approved as he was a mad-dog himself for this kind of click bait. Yeah Steve, we blog… but I’ll keep the front-page version short.

Following released by Dynafit, March 14 2012:

“Dynafit has seen a recent increase in the number of Radical binding climbing aid breakages reported by our dealers and consumers.  We take these reports very seriously and have looked into it extensively, both in Europe and in America.

(Editor’s note: To be clear, what they’re talking about is a situation where the climbing lifter on the Radical heel unit breaks clean off, taking the top plate of the heel unit with it.)

The good news is the problem does not appear to be a serial or safety issue. At this point, the problem is being seen in a very limited number of cases (0.17% of all Radical bindings sold to date). It is not a safety concern when the climbing aid breaks.  But, we regret every single case and are super sorry as we know how challenging it is to be in the backcountry with broken gear.

In researching the cause, we have determined a small number of the climbing aids are experiencing “hydrogen embrittlement” that causes the metal plate in the climbing aid apparatus to be weaker than designed.  For you engineers out there, here is the definition of hydrogen embrittlement: “The process by which various metals, most importantly high-strength steel, become brittle and fracture following exposure to hydrogen. Hydrogen embrittlement is often the result of unintentional introduction of hydrogen into susceptible metals during forming or finishing operations.” Hydrogen embrittlement cannot be completely excluded from the manufacturing process, but we have improved our production process to further reduce cases of this happening. This production change is in place for all future production.

Dynafit stands behind our products 100%, and we will work with our dealers to replace and repair all affected bindings at no charge to the dealer or consumer.  If you have experienced this problem, please contact Dynafit customer service at 303-444-0446 or service@dynafit.us. We will issue a return authorization to repair any broken climbing aids or send the necessary parts at no cost under warranty.

And rest assured, we will continue to monitor the issue very closely. We appreciate your attention to this matter. And as always, we appreciate your support.”

Lou sezz: I have no reason to doubt this is a problem Dynafit is having with a small number of bindings. Nonetheless, as they allude to in the press release, gear that breaks in the backcountry is a drag. I have a fairly extensive take coming on the Radical binding situation. Till then, I’d offer that if you use the binding fairly hard and have not broken the heel lifter off, you almost certainly have a pair of bindings without the sub-standard part that causes the breakage. In other words, if they do have the defect they break quite easily. At least that’s my take at this time. Testing is ongoing.

In terms of the big picture, one does have to wonder if perhaps the binding should have been designed with stronger parts in the first place (after all the “freeride” hype), so manufacturing defects are less consequential. Doing this of course involves tradeoffs such as cost and weight. But the thought does occur to me.

To be fair to Dynafit and not over-bake this issue, I considered not publishing any photos. But images of this breakage are all over the web now and it seemed ridiculous for me to try and explain all this in text and not illustrate. So see photos below.

Dynafit Radical heel lifter mount, heel unit top plate.

Dynafit Radical heel lifter mount, heel unit top plate. The two vertical tabs hold the heel lifter axle, they're what break off if the steel is defective. When they break, the cosmetic plastic sandwiched over this part breaks off. Burning question is why not eliminate all the plastic and just make this part thicker?

Dynafit Radical heel breakage such as this is said to be rare.

Dynafit Radical heel breakage such as this is said to be rare. Arrows to left indicate where the metal tabs break. Arrows to right indicate where the tabs attach to heel lifter unit. Thanks Jim P. for the photo.


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40 Responses to “Dynafit Official Take – Breaking Heel Lifters”

  1. nick March 14th, 2012 8:59 am

    they should never have changed the heel design. when I bought my last set of dynafits, I had to choose between the old verticals and the new radicals. I chose the verticals primarily because the heel lifter on the radical looked like a flimsy and pointless ‘innovation’ that was never needed.

  2. Scott March 14th, 2012 9:10 am

    I disagree. The new lifters are a elegant design that flip up and down easily and works flawlessly.
    BUT they do seem to be on the flimsy side, as there is a lot of flex in the hinge points when you put a lot of weight on them. So well see how bad the problem gets.

  3. Steve March 14th, 2012 11:05 am

    I’m a fan of the old style heel for sure, simply due to the system I’ve developed for transitions and been using for 10 years:

    1. Stop at top of run.

    2. Insert pole grip between bottom of boot and binding and lever heel piece COUNTER CLOCKWISE into ski mode. Click boots into ski mode using grip while pole is inverted.

    3. Rip skins with skis still on feet from the tail of the ski.

    4. Pack skins and start skiing.

    The new bindings seem great except for the clockwise-only rotation of the heel piece. I’ve been able to lever the new heel pieces clockwise, the long way around, using a pole tip but I always hear the carbon pole tip stressing so have abandoned this. In the meantime, it’s bend over to get into ski mode. Anyone have any tips on how to lock into ski mode keeping the skis on your feet and not breaking pole tips but also not bending over to do it? That’s my crux.

  4. XXX_er March 14th, 2012 12:18 pm

    Between the pin issue and the breaking lifters I think the 2011-2012 radical heel piece will go down in history as “the tri-step toe” of the 201X’s BUT I am confident Dynafit will take care of whomever has problems, the problem as I see it is if all the defective hardware doesn’t get weeded out and someone buys it used down the road

    I was hearing of the 2 problems so I also chose last yrs Verts over this yrs Rads

  5. bg March 14th, 2012 3:27 pm

    My first pair of dynafit bindings was the original tri-steps. I’m still using them. Maybe I got the only good ones.

    I bought my second pair of dynafits this year– radicals, of course. I haven’t used them much, but haven’t had any problems yet, so I’m hoping they are as good as the Tri-steps…

    (or at least that I’m as lucky this time around).

  6. Maki March 14th, 2012 4:23 pm

    Scott, fact is that the old design was a marvel of integration between the different functions and different parts built into a compact and sturdy unit. The new design adds complexity and moving parts: it will never be as robust as the original, especially if you want it light.

  7. AK Jack March 14th, 2012 10:46 pm

    Big Radical fan, here. After a 100,000 ft vert on radicals, I like them a lot more than the predecessor design, TLT vertical in my case. The superior actuation is well worth the complexity and weight. Adapting to the one-way rotation to ski mode is cake if you rotate your foot before rotating the heel piece.

  8. Mark W March 15th, 2012 12:28 am

    I admire attempts to update such an amazing piece of gear. I like my Dynafits a lot. I’ve had one minor breakage myself, with which I was still able to ski with no problems or restrictions. Dynafit customer service handled this situation quite admirably, and I had a replacement heel unit in a few days.

    Lou, you mention cost and weight as being constant pressures on designs such as these bindings, which I understand. Someone had bluntly mentioned, as a “solution” to the aforementioned Dynafit heel pin debacle, that Plum Guide bindings are the answer. I’ve skied them, and they are a fine Dynafit tech binding competitor, but at nearly $700 US dollars a pair, these bindings are extremely expensive. I’m not yet willing, and may never be willing, to spend that kind of money on bindings. I suspect a lot of folks will agree.

  9. Alastair Brunton March 15th, 2012 4:37 am

    Dynafit race heels all the way!

    Only having one riser setting means you dont have to faff around changing riser settings when the terrain changes (learn to live with what you have) and changing to downhill mode takes seconds.

    If you are between 60-75 kg and ski with the toe unlocked they release at a decent lateral value. Would prolly ride with the toe locked in no fall situations tho as they come off a little too easily in some situations.

  10. Lou March 15th, 2012 8:06 am

    Mark, thanks for bringing up the Plum. I agree they are an option. Funny thing though, they had some breakage problems themselves a while back! It’s just hard making something with such tiny parts that holds up to modern skiing forces. But they’ve worked out their bugs, as it sounds like Dynafit will do or has already done.

    I’ve been wanting to review Plum myself, just haven’t gotten around to it and have not been highly motivated because most of the winter I prefer to use bindings with a ski brake.

    Jonathan did an excellent “first look” style review here a while back. Link below:


  11. Brian March 15th, 2012 8:31 am

    I like the new Dynafits and I am excited to get them… one or two iterations from now. I rarely buy something like this when it first comes out. Plus, my newest dynafits are only 3 years old and they have a whole lot more skiing in them.

    Looking forward to getting these when they get the design flaws figured out.

  12. ellen March 15th, 2012 9:19 am

    I too would like to find out if anyone has a technique for twisting the heel into ski mode without having to bend down (ouch) or take the ski off. This is such a critical safety issue for me – there are times when taking your skis off is just not safe.

  13. Juergen March 15th, 2012 9:58 am

    Hi there,

    I’m a bit confused why Dynafit is mentioning metal production issues only in their statement. On an austrian forum I found a broken heel lever plate with plastic durability issues as it can be seen on the pics posted :

    Greetings from Bavaria !

  14. Lou March 15th, 2012 10:15 am

    Juergen, don’t be confused, the plastic is cosmetic, it’s the metal plate underneath that holds the heel lifters. They do show that in their photos, perhaps they don’t make it clear enough. I’ve got one of the plates here, will publish a photo in a moment.

    The greater question is why, instead of that cosmetic plastic, did they not just make a thicker plate? Greater minds than I perhaps have the answers…


  15. Bryan March 15th, 2012 10:44 am

    I’m not a fan of the new heel riser design, but I am a HUGE fan of having these problems in life. I am a very lucky person.

  16. Juergen March 15th, 2012 11:19 am

    Thanks Lou – got it !

  17. Lou March 15th, 2012 11:30 am

    Just added some photos to clarify. Reluctant to do so, as it sounds like this problem didn’t affect a whole lot of bindings, but the clarity is more important than diddling around with deciding what photos to publish or not…

  18. Sox March 16th, 2012 9:44 am

    My wife broke her radical heel lift while stomping a small slope. She forgot she was in tour mode and had the lifts engaged. It’s unclear if this was due to the defect as I would consider this case as user error. Dynafit (boulder office) replaced the lift the next day. Great service on their part.

    Don’t stomp on em!


  19. Lou March 16th, 2012 10:03 am

    Um, actually, one should be able to do something like a Rautsch Block (spelling) with a free heel and a heel lift engaged, just like with the older model bindings. During normal use in touring mode, there are times one comes down pretty hard on the heel lifts. Say, when maneuvering through and icefall on a glacier, that sort of thing. Lou

  20. AK Jack March 18th, 2012 2:24 am

    Ellen, here’s my method for the one-way rotation Radical tour-to-ski mode without bending down or removing skis:
    1. Put risers at 1/2 way position for ease of pole engagement.
    2. Orient your feet in a pigeon-toed position like you’re snow plowing.
    3. Lift your heel and engage the binding with your pole tip.
    4. Rotate your pole and simultaneously rotate the foot of the binding back to a parallel position.
    5. Wa La, your binding will be at the ski position.
    If your rotation is smooth and fluid, the binding will have some angular momentum and do the 270-degree rotation really easily. Rotating your feet from pigeon-toed to parallel reduces the amount of rotation you need with your pole.

  21. Wookie1974 March 19th, 2012 7:09 am

    I love the radicals. No problems yet. While I can understand that those who were good with the Verts don’t see an improvement, I think in general, the Rads will cut down on the number of breakages for most people.
    I never got the hang of twisting my bindings using my pole tips. Broke three pole tips off, and one lifter tower before I finally gave up trying. Have met several on trail who’ve done the same.
    I’ll never be a rando racer, sure, but oh well. I do my switch-overs standing on one ski. Works for me. I have a tiny bit of a snowboard stomp pad behind my bindings to make a nice grippy spot for the foot that is not clicked in while I do it.

    Added benefit: you can pick up attractive hitchhikers. (just kidding.)

  22. Lou March 19th, 2012 7:27 am

    Thanks Wookie, it gets forgotten they have thousands of Radicals out there in the wild, most of which are working for people. Lou

  23. Steve March 19th, 2012 10:44 am

    AK Jack: I have used this technique but find that my BD carbon pole tips endure too much stress in the rotation process and start to creak, leading me to believe they’re about to snap! What poles are you using? Your putting the pole tip in the space on the lifter, right?

  24. Lou March 19th, 2012 11:02 am

    One of the tricks is having pole tips that slide easily into the heel lifter. If the pole tips are too big, struggle results. Amazing how easy it is with the correct size pole. One reason Dynafit went to the flip style lifters is that it’s impossible to get everyone using the correct pole, and many companies never seemed to even care if their poles worked for the most popular touring binding on the market (shame shame). Another thing is the Comfort/Vertical Dynafit models are designed to all work by using the RIGHT HAND pole for BOTH bindings. I got this wrong in my how-to video, actually, even though I knew that and usually do it that way. Goes to show how tough that parameter was as well.

    But, if you have poles with the correct size tip, and only use your right hand ski pole, some of you might be surprised how quick and easy it is to rotate the Dynafit heel. At times, much easier than flipping the Radical heel lifters.


  25. Lou March 19th, 2012 11:07 am

    BG, that’s pretty funny comparing the Radical to the Tri Step. That’s gotta makes some folks at Dynafit cringe. Tri Step might work for a few people, but it was a huge expensive mistake on the whole.

  26. Gentle Sasquatch March 19th, 2012 1:08 pm

    I wonder whether Dynafit’s own poles like the Broad Peak are ideal for the radical flip. OTOH, I just take it easy, remove my ski and twist the heel or ask my son do do it for me 🙂

  27. AK Jack March 20th, 2012 1:02 am

    Steve, I’m using BD aluminum poles with the tip in the lifter hole, lifter in middle or 1/2 way position. I angle the poles at about 45 degrees from vertical.


  28. Steve March 26th, 2012 10:03 am

    AK Jack: thanks for the response. I suspected you weren’t using carbon tipped poles. I’ve got your technique down but the stress is to great on a carbon tip so I’ve backed off on using it.

  29. brian roberts April 18th, 2012 3:15 pm

    hi, just broke my heel risers exactly the same as in the pic above on my Radical ST’s mounted to Stoke 182’s using Spirit 3 28.0 boots. normal sidehill low angle climb in soft snow, downhill ski, with about a dozen days total bc use only. am under 150 lbs so this is definitely a weak link in the system. i’m sure we’ll be seeing quite a few more of the same the longer their in use, hopefully dynafit will address this as it doesn’t give one much confidence for bc multi day tours with out hauling spare parts. awesome website, thanks all for the great info!!

  30. Eric V April 30th, 2012 12:01 pm

    I just experienced the “rare” failure of the heel lifter in my Dynafit TLT Radical ST bindings almost exactly as pictured in the lower photo of this blog post. Situation was climbing Mt. St. Helens, Washington, soft spring snow, steep side hill skinning over boot holes in snow, kicking down on skis to make the skins grab the snow, snapped off the heel lifter. Only the second climbing trip on the bindings. Before this happened I had been appreciating how much easier it is to flip up the heel lifters compared to my old Dynafit TLT bindings that had to be rotated. I am not an engineer, but I note that the new heel lifters are cantilevered out over empty space putting a lot of leverage on the attachment point which tears out. The old lifters attached directly to the metal plate on top of the heel piece. Now looking for a fix so I do not miss out on the rest of the spring climbing season.

  31. Pat May 4th, 2012 8:20 pm

    Add me to the .17% I guess. Shop/dynafit were great about providing a replacement. 200lbs, sidehill climb, stomping for traction. A much lighter friend of mine has now done this twice! I have a hard time believing it’s a rare fab defect, as the metal plate is so small, with the two areas of removed I’ve noticed that it always seems to fail across from the tab at the narrow end, right through the screw hole that holds the top plates onto the heel piece.

    As Lou has said, I’m having a hard time understanding the logic of not making the two top plates (one flimsy metal, one large plastic) into one more substantial metal piece. Surely the weight increase and price increase would be minimal…

  32. brian r May 4th, 2012 8:35 pm

    well the good news is dynafit responded and sent me two complete heel lifter sets…took about ten days from colorado to oregon so missed a few good last storm days waiting. after unscrewing the four top screws that hold the lifter plate…which i noticed the two rear screws were a bit loose, and disassembling that from the lower plastic main binding housing i noticed the rear right hole had something sticking out of it….it was about an inch long plastic ribbon…all the threads that used to occupy that hole. not sure if that happened during the lifter breakage, normal wear, or came that way. there is a quite a bit of load being applied to those two back screws when using those lifters in the climbing mode leveraging that lifter plate with only a couple of small wood type screws going into plastic a quarter inch or so…didn’t realize that till i took it all apart. so the only fix for that is a completely new plastic binding housing that hopefully dynafit will respond to again. a housing with metal threaded inserts is at least what is needed here. if that lifter plate were to fail and lift up enough the heel pins could become detached which would be a much bigger problem depending on were one was. so there goes this weekend with a bit of fresh snow.

  33. Chad Harder December 27th, 2013 9:03 pm

    Thanks for this piece Lou. I know its an old post but it applies to me. I got to Valdez last night for four days of skiing at Thompson Pass. Two hours into our first tour today my heel lifter broke. Its the second Radical lifter I’ve had fail, both in the exact same place as in Lou’s pix. Both times it happened on slippery skinning surfaces (loose snow on crust) that required the plush to be set purposefully, but still within what I’d call a reasonable amount of pressure. They’re my only skis on the trip so I’m pretty bummed, but I’m googling ways to make a DIY lifter tonight…

  34. Lou Dawson December 27th, 2013 9:29 pm

    My guess is there are still defective bindings out in the wild. Sorry to hear you probably had some. Best wishes with your fix, wish I was there to help you. Be sure to contact Dynafit NA, perhaps there is a Fedex solution to the problem. Lou

  35. Chad Harder December 27th, 2013 9:57 pm

    Good call on contacting Dynafit and trying to get one FedExed. That could help this week but being as its failed 2x and an obvious (leveraging) design flaw I’m nervous it could happen again. And nervous about another replacement part.

    I’ll update here if the outcome’s interesting enough. Thanks!

  36. Johnny January 6th, 2014 2:03 pm

    My right heel lifter just broke yesterday – exactly as in the photo. Also worth to note is that the low heel lifter (one molded into the plastic housing) broke off as well. I was not doing anything unreasonable IMO. Skinning up a 35 degree slope with 8″ fresh untracked snow and breaking trail. Luckily it happened last run of the day and near the end of my climb. I’m 150lbs and only about 15 days touring with these bindings. Contacting Dynafit now.

  37. Anthony February 5th, 2014 11:36 pm

    Just broke the heel lifter exactly as in the photo on a tour this past Sunday in oregon. After examining the components, they do seem a bit “dainty” for the torque and weight applied repeatedly.
    I’m 180lbs and there is likely less than 20 days on these bindings so not impressed. This is worrisome since equipment failure in this “sport” can be devastating. When will the next heel lifter go out..?
    Called salewa in Colorado and sent them photos- supposedly they are sending out a replacement at no charge probably due to this thread. Maybe improvements have been made to this part?
    Carry extras!

  38. Lou Dawson February 6th, 2014 6:32 am

    Anthony, yes, there were some defective bindings that had a metallurgical problem with the heel lifter attachment, but from what I heard they broke fairly quickly. To have one break after 20 days concerns me. Best test will be for you to use the replacement and see what happens. If you’re doing anything major (multi-day expedition type stuff), consider carrying a spare heel unit. For example, we brought a complete spare binding with us on Denali. (never used it) Lou

  39. Richard Handler February 11th, 2014 9:35 pm

    Radical allows repeated adjustments to heel lift levels while hardly breaking pace, which I find adds to efficiency when climbing.

  40. Anthony February 23rd, 2014 9:23 pm

    Well, received a replacement in the mail courtesy of Dynafit which was promptly adjusted and mounted. Binding worked as it should. My fear is that the other original heal lifter will go next.
    Unfortunately, while on a quick run on Mt Hood today, I went to adjust the tongue of my TLT5 by pulling up on the loop attached at the top of the tongue- and riiip! The tongue just tears out from where it was sewn. Not happy. These boots were purchased at the same time as the speed bindings and cannot have more than 25 days of typical use.
    I don’t know what to make of Dynafit products at this point. Two completely unrelated failures in 2 weeks. I’m notorious for taking care of my gear- hope to hear something favorable from the Dynafit folks on this.

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