La Sportiva Spitfire Backcountry Skiing Boot — First Look

Post by blogger | November 12, 2012      
The object at hand. Sportiva is of course known for alpine footwear but they're relatively new to the ski boot arena. Overall high marks for their ski boots.

The object at hand. Sportiva is of course known for alpine footwear but they're relatively new to the ski boot arena.

We trade show reported on the La Sportiva Spitfire a while ago, but waited for a production version to give a hard look. The size 28, BSL 307, pair we have here at HQ might be slightly large for me, but I’ll mold the liners today and report back. I’m frequently between sizes in backcountry skiing boots. Correct length (about 28) is often too wide in the heel and lower leg areas, while the next BSL down is almost always too short for me without some punching. The Spitfire lower shell and cuff are both made from the excellent Grilamid plastic so they’re not easy to customize, but it can be done. We’ll see what size I and other testers end up with in the field. Meanwhile, here are the nuts and bolts.

First, let’s talk about how these shoes are purposed. At 44 ounces (1246 gr) per boot, mondo 28, Spitfire is a light ski boot. In terms of feel they’re surprisingly stiff. This probably due to a carbon fiber rib that incorporates the lean lock as well as the prevalent use of Grilamid. Conversely, the shell tongue is articulated with what appears to be a soft urethane hinge that provides virtually no support in alpine mode. In other words, you’re getting all your downhill beef in this boot from the shell cuff. Consequently, we’re not talking progressive flex — but again, result is most probably good control for a boot with this lack of mass. Indeed, considering how light these are and how well the shell articulates, you could call this a race boot that tours, or a touring boot that races?

La Sportiva Spitfire backcountry skiing boot upper buckle.

La Sportiva Spitfire backcountry skiing boot upper buckle is a 'one motion' system that locks the cuff lean when you crank it down. Sportiva's system for this is reminiscent of another major boot maker in that it uses a rear 'tongue,' but places the rear tongue external to the cuff as a vertical carbon fiber rib or strut. This part of the boot is incredibly rigid and essentially controls the flex of the whole shoe.

Sandwiched under the rear carbon fiber rib you'll find the lean lock slot.

Sandwiched under the rear carbon fiber rib you'll find the lean lock slot. Look in the accessory bag, and there you'll find another plate you can swap in to change forward lean; choices are 12, 14 and 16 degrees.

This is the backcountry skiing boot hook that makes it all happen.

Upper buckle operates this hook which locks into the lean slot. If desired you can buckle the cuff _without_ latching this, thus configuring your boot for maximum ankle support combined with walking articulation. When latched it is solid. We doubt icing will be a problem since the mechanism is high on the boot, but you never know until extensive testing.

Check out the tongue articulation.

Check out the tongue articulation due to soft urethane bellows at the instep on the tongue. Obviously, Spitfire does not depend on the tongue for forward support in ski mode! Instead, that carbon strut in the rear better work like it's supposed to. In carpet testing, it does, and the boot even has a bit of progressive flex due to things moving around and the shell bulging.

La Sportiva Spitfire boot, rear view showing the vertical external strut.

La Sportiva Spitfire boot, rear view showing the vertical external strut. The boot ships with power strap in the box, not factory installed. We're ambivalent about power straps so it's nice to see it left aside for a simplified configuration that helps with 'one motion' boot latching.

La Sportiva Spitfire toe area.

La Sportiva Spitfire toe area. Note the strange little protuberance intended for the trigger zone on tech binding toes. Nice idea, but it's not exactly going to last if you do much dirt walking or rock scrambling. Mostly, we're wondering what they call this little thing in the Italian boot factory, or do we really want to know? The tech fittings test out to be perfectly standard, with a nice smooth release and firm hold without excess play. We test fittings on 12 pairs of Dynafit bindings, as well as Plum and Sportiva. Some tech fittings don't work all that well, so this is something we're paying more and more attention to. The older style fittings allow more sole thickness. We're still fans.

Spitfire liner is basic Palau, as it should be in a boot this light.

Spitfire liner is a basic Palau tongue and Strobel construction, as it should be in a boot this light. Lacing is innovative, you just pull it tight through the velcro tab, no knot no fuss. Laces are optional of course. Liner has the requisite hinge in the achilles area. We like the pull tabs at both front and rear. Hey, all liners should have those. Nothing preventing use of an aftermarket liner if that's your thing.

Parts kit is excellent. Includes spoiler and praise God easily swapped forward lean adjusters.

Parts kit is excellent. Includes spoiler and (dance in the streets) easily swapped forward lean adjusters.

Spitfire is innovative, light and easy to operate. Super stiffness/weight ratio, short BSL for a given size (mondo 28 is only 307 mm long, that’s more than a centimeter shorter than some other backcountry skiing boots of the same size). We’re not sure the shorter sole is 100% DIN compatible for frame bindings, but why anyone would use this boot in anything but a tech binding is the question. Shell has a major amount of sole rocker. That makes it easy to walk but can result in a problematic interior fit. Sportiva mitigates this with a fairly flat internal boot board which doubles as an insulating layer. If you’re shopping for a high efficiency ski touring boot, in the modern sense, keep Spitfire on your list.

Shop for La Sportiva Spitfire.

Total weight for one boot, mondo 28 BSL 307: 44 oz, 1246 gr.
Weight for one boot SHELL, same size, 37.2 oz 1054 gr.


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31 Responses to “La Sportiva Spitfire Backcountry Skiing Boot — First Look”

  1. Daniel Dunn November 12th, 2012 9:17 am

    I skied these this past Jan in Winter Park at the outdoor demo day of SIA show. I was generally surprised in how well they skied. I raced in them, skimo sprint race, and they were light and went uphill wonderfully, lots of range of motion, but then I was really surprised how well they handled the down. A little low on the cuff height was one thing I thought limited their usefulness, but I could definitely see how they could turn into a great boot. I was impressed.

  2. TC November 12th, 2012 9:30 am

    Lou, could you clarify: are these 1054g/boot or 1246/boot? You give both numbers…

  3. etto November 12th, 2012 9:50 am

    I hope there will be a full on-snow review of these soon! They seem to be the only real competition to the TLT 5, any thoughts so far on how they compare, apart from the obvious weight/bsl stuff?

    Adjustable ramp angle, no loose tongue and a seemingly less bulky top buckle seems to be pros compared to the TLT 5. I wouldn’t mind if they were a bit warmer and had a somewhat wider last than the Dynafit offering either. Any cons?

  4. Colin Lantz November 12th, 2012 10:12 am

    Lou wrote:
    “La Sportiva Spitfire toe area. Note the strange little protuberance intended for the trigger zone on tech binding toes. Nice idea, but it’s not exactly going to last if you do much dirt walking or rock scramblin. Mostly, we’re wondering what they call this little thing in the Italian boot factory, or do we really want to know?”

    It’s called a “distanziale”. Puntale suola distanziale per centraggio attacco – Sole toe spacer for centering attack.

  5. Lou Dawson November 12th, 2012 10:19 am

    TC, 1246 is the total boot weight, 1054 is the shell weight without liner. I did write “shell” in there but I’ll clarify. Sorry about the confusion.

    Etto, I like that they do _not_ have the articulating metatarsal like the TLT5, and that the tongue is just in there, not coming in and out. But I like the simplicity of the TLT5 cuff latch, it’s much less complex… I like the older style tech fittings that allow more sole thickness…


  6. Rod georgiu November 12th, 2012 1:23 pm

    Hard to believe that the front of the boot sole doesn’t have any rubber.i replace the soles on my bd factors once a season because I do a lot of ridge walking or approaches on dirt, in the sierras.
    Maybe other parts of the country are different, but here if you want the steeps, you walk the dirt.

  7. Charlie November 12th, 2012 1:28 pm

    Does the protuberance interact with crampons?

    How stable is the buckled-but-not-locked configuration? Does it remain unlocked as you stride?

  8. Lou Dawson November 12th, 2012 1:38 pm

    Rod, that’s rubber, just yellow rubber, enlarge the photo by clicking on it. Lou

  9. Andy November 12th, 2012 2:39 pm

    Charlie, I believe “attacco” means binding in this context. On second thought, maybe it is both… 🙂

    I can’t wait to see how these compare with the TLT5s. The attack is on!

  10. Andy November 12th, 2012 2:42 pm

    oops, I meant Colin, not Charlie.

  11. Orangeshark November 12th, 2012 2:56 pm

    These are really great boots

  12. Mark November 12th, 2012 2:58 pm

    The toe “duckbill” appears short enough only to be compatible with tech bindings???? Am I incorrect? Yes, I agree this boot with a plate-style binding would be a mis-match to be sure.

  13. Pieter November 12th, 2012 4:08 pm

    etto and Lou,

    No doubt a noob question, but given the comparison to the TLT 5, where would the Scarpa F1, Alien, or something like the Garmont Masterlite fit in between the two?

  14. etto November 12th, 2012 4:22 pm

    Pieter, the Alien is considerably lighter, I’ve never tried it, but to me it seems more of a pure racing boot. Wildsnow did several posts on it some time back:

    Regarding the Masterlite, our favourite everything backcountry skiing blog has some choice words about that too:

    The F1 is, if I’m not mistaken, the previous generation, more or less replaced by the alien. Wildsnow probably has written about that too, but I’m out of google-fu for today. Some like the bellows, some don’t. I for one hate the shims (or whatever the plates are called) you have to use when in ski-mode, and I don’t really miss the extra flex the bellows give when skinning/walking. A solution in search of a problem 🙂

  15. Lou Dawson November 12th, 2012 4:29 pm

    Thanks Etto.

    Pieter, I think when you get to the Spitfire you’re talking about a hybrid race/touring boot. It’s not going to ski downhill the same as a beefier boot with more progressive flex. For some people it takes some getting used to. Sort of like tech bindings, you need to be smart and a good athlete to use them. They’re not for everybody.

  16. Mark Worley November 12th, 2012 10:03 pm

    Really cool design reminiscent of TLT 5 Dynafit. Lou, do you know the toebox width? I’m guessing this is a fairly narrow, low volume last.

  17. JD November 12th, 2012 10:08 pm

    Hehe, you said protuberance

  18. Lou Dawson November 13th, 2012 6:15 am

    Mark, it seems the heel is average and the width at the toe is a bit narrow, but that’s typical of a Montebelluna shoe. Colin says they rate the last width at 102 mm, meaning that’s the width at the widest part of the forefoot in a size 27 shell. Or at least I assume that’s what they mean. There is no official standard on how last width is measured.

    Here is the link to our OR show look at the La Sportivas, with lots of comments and more info.

  19. Pieter November 13th, 2012 9:40 am

    etto, thanks very much for the detailed links. At various times, I’d read most of those reviews, but missed the Masterlites.

    I guess part of what I was interested in was discovering whether or not the Masterlites and possibly the Scarpas fit in as close comparisons to the TLT 5s and Sportivas, as it seems these two keep getting mentioned in proximity more than the others.

    Really, I’m still getting my head around all this gear, and there are an enormous amount of boots available–and yet, at the end of skiing I’m gravitating towards, it seems the TLT 5 and now Sportiva seem to not have a whole lot of competition. But, again, it’s probably just my perception as a noob.

    I’m also coming at this more from a climbing background than skiing, so my learning curve is fairly steep.

    Lou, again, thanks. Your last link was very useful, and the comments were invaluable. The idea of a boot that can do double duty both for touring/skiing and ice climbing is hugely interesting to me.

  20. Andy November 13th, 2012 10:42 am


    Any more detail on the cuff rivets? As this has been a bit of a weak point for long term durability with TLT-5s, I’m curious if Sportiva has done something more innovative here. I guess I can’t complain too much, as Dynafit happily repressed my cuff rivets for free on warranty (which has completely removed the slop that had developed–they ski like new), but seems like such a critical pivot point should be beefy enough to take more than 100 days of tours without warranty for slop.


  21. Michael Finger November 13th, 2012 5:57 pm

    Regarding sizing, I wear a 26.5 in Titans and Maestrales and went with a 26.5 in the Spitfire. I have skinny wide feet and the fit is spot on for me.

    La Sportiva changes sizes on the full size (i.e. 26 and 26.5 are the same shell). The only difference between a full and half size (i.e. 26 and 26.5) is the insole. I noted with the sculpted toe box that removing the insole dropped my foot down and gave me more length FWIW.

    Hmmmm. Lou’s post got me thinking about moding my boots with a stiffer interchangeable tongue..

  22. Lou Dawson November 13th, 2012 7:02 pm

    Andy, very VERY good point. I should mention something about that, but the grim reality of the same old same old crumby cuff rivets had numbed me to the issue. Yes, they’re the same old same old Montebelluna cuff rivets they’ve been using in ski boots for probably 40 years. Time for a change? I’d say yes and the first company to do it gets a big huge HUGE sales boost from all of us. Anyone in Montebelluna listening?

  23. See November 13th, 2012 7:34 pm

    It looks to me like the part of the cuff that the rivets go through is not carbon on the Sportivas. If so, it seems likely that the cuff joint would wear like most other boots. I thought the TLT-5’s cuffs wore out at the rivets quicker because they were carbon in that area. But I don’t doubt that the design is due for an overhaul, as you say, regardless of cuff material.

    I also wonder how long TLT-5’s with worn cuffs will stay tight if the re-pressed rivets are the same as the old ones. Seems like the problem is that the hole in the cuff has been enlarged by wear, and the slop will return when the rivet loosens up a little.

  24. Lou Dawson November 14th, 2012 7:51 am

    See, indeed, pressing the rivets tighter might expand the hidden part a bit, but it’s not a final solution. A rivet with some sort of pivot bearing bushing system is the solution. The hole in the boot gets “egged” out and that’s that. And yes, the carbon wears faster, but I’ve worn out the pivots on plenty of pebax and urethane boots over the years. It’s a drag. And like I said, just weird to be futzing with 30 or 40 year old design. Pivots with some sort of bushing system would be trivial. Hint, if someone out there wants to make a retrofit bushing pivot for boots such as TLT 5, we’ll help you sell them and I’ll bet you’d do ok. I mean, people are paying nearly $1,000 for these boots, you think they wouldn’t spring for a set of pivots that didn’t wear out in a season? Lou

  25. Michael Finger November 23rd, 2012 12:29 pm

    Got some time on my spitfires yesterday, they skin well, and were more then adequately stiff for the down. Not too shabby.

  26. Colin Lantz December 12th, 2012 11:21 am

    Mark – yes, tech binding compatible only, not ISO Touring (ISO DIN 9523) compatible, i.e., not certified to work with Fritschi, Duke, et al. By eschewing the ISO Touring standard we can put all that rocker into the sole which makes the boots walk like a a hiking boot.

  27. Rob February 17th, 2013 8:27 pm

    Hi Lou, did you get a chance to ski/review the Sportiva Spitfire’s yet this winter? I’m asking as I’ve seen the new Spectre boot coming for 2013/14 and I want to get an idea of whether the La Sportiva system of a flexible tongue and stiff rear strut works. The Spectre looks like it has some interesting features regarding buckles, higher cuff height etc and for the most part uses a similar walk design to the Spitfire. I’ve been using Meastrale’s for 3 seasons now and I’m looking to upgrade to something stiffer like the RS or maybe the Spectres. Early to start thinking about it but hey I’m a gear nerd! Thanks. Rob

  28. David February 17th, 2013 9:35 pm

    A second on any details from your OR chat with La Sportiva re: spectre

  29. Holly March 25th, 2013 11:52 am

    Lou, I demoed some of the Spitfires a couple of weeks ago, in Dynafit bindings, and was very excited about them. I chose to buy the La Sportiva Women’s Starlets mondo size 25. However, when I got my new bindings mounted to my skis at a shop, he failed the boot; having me sign a statement saying that he does not recommend that particular boot with the binding–the reason being safety concerns, given that the boot took quite a bit of force to release, even at the lowest DIN settings. The problem is unclear, although apparently due to the boot, not the binding, as a Dynafit boot trial released smoothly. Could it have to do with increased sole depth? Could it have to do with an inferior mounting? La Sportiva offered to check the boots for defects, which I am considering, but doubtful. They report not having a single issue with the tech-fittings in any of their boots. Have you ever encountered this? I have not skied on the boots yet, in case I decide to return them, which I am hesitant to do.

    The backstory: I bought some relatively narrow skis for Northeast snow (width 78mm), and wanted to get the Dynafit Radical ST bindings, which have a minimum DIN of 4. However, in the US, they are only sold with brakes 100mm and wider (and the brakes cannot easily be replaced). Therefore, I ended up buying the Dynafit Vertical ST bindings, with 92mm brakes, with a minimum DIN of 5. I am a 5’4″ female, ~145lbs, skier type II in the backcountry.

  30. Lou Dawson March 25th, 2013 12:27 pm

    Holly, if one boot releases correctly, and another one doesn’t, it’s safe to assume it’s probably the boot. Tech fittings can be defective, as can the shape of a boot’s sole.

    But one other IMPORTANT thing. Radical series bindings have an AFD under the boot heel, Vertical series bindings do not. The best evaluation of boot fittings and safety release, to narrow things down to cause, is to test without the brakes on the bindings. Some boots have sole shape that might catch on the brake actuator plate and heavily influence release forces, especially at lower RV settings.

    If you discover it’s the brakes causing the problem, you’ll have to either ski without brakes, or change to the Radical binding.

    Kudos to the shop who actually had the guts and skill to do this type of release check.

  31. Colin Lantz March 25th, 2013 12:49 pm

    Holly – Good advice from Lou about brake plate interference with the sole. We’ve seen a few cases over in Italy with this interference issue with the lug pattern on the sole of this boot. If after checking this is the case, I might offer an third alternative to the two Lou suggested, which is to do a small mod on the yellow part of the heel of the outsole. By simply removing the middle lug where the yellow part interfaces with the black part of the sole it seems to alleviate this brake interference problem. We can email you a picture showing which lug to remove. It is a pretty quick and easy mod with a sharp razor blade and does not affect the walking performance of the boot.

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