Black Diamond Swift Ski Boots Review

Post by blogger | May 8, 2013      

Being a law student sometimes pressed for sanity and always pressed for time, I occasionally find myself approaching time off with a bizarre sense of efficiency. When I arrived in Carbondale in December, I hurried to get acclimated and go skiing. While I didn’t fare so well with the former, the Black Diamond Swift ski boot got me out in the mountains quickly and painlessly.

Enjoying the Colorado sunshine in Black Diamond dancing shoes.

Enjoying the Colorado sunshine in Black Diamond dancing shoes.

I should preface this by saying I have a deep appreciation for these boots after uphilling in my alpine boots during the 2011-2012 season. The memory of my battered feet and labored breathing as my skinning partner chatted away in a new lightweight boot was fresh in my mind.

The official weigh-in was 1604 grams; BD has the Swift at 1.52 kg, or 3 lbs 5 oz, per boot.

The official weigh-in was 1604 grams; BD has the Swift at 1.52 kg, or 3 lbs 5 oz, per boot.

Coming off a fall of marathon training, I was confident in my conditioning if not the state of my feet. The Black Diamond Swift assuaged by concerns as it quickly became clear we could easily break each other in. I experienced minimal heel lift and the threat of only one blister after four days of hiking. I have narrow, high-volume feet and the Swift 102mm forefoot and 73mm heel last fit relatively well. It’s hard to say, without putting more time in these boots, whether the heel lift would require some after-market tweaking.

Usually fickle with my shoe sizing, I wore a 27 in these boots (I’ve traditionally worn a 27.5). We punched out the toe-box of the thermo moldable Efficient Fit AT Liner Light with a few semi-painful moments in toe caps until the fit was nigh perfect.

The Swift have 40 degrees of motion (-20 degrees to +20 degrees) and adjustable forward lean, ranging from 14-22 degrees. Black lines indicate full range of motion without Intuition liner.

The Swift have 40 degrees of motion (-20 degrees to +20 degrees) and adjustable forward lean, ranging from 14-22 degrees. Black lines indicate full range of motion without Intuition liner.

Black Diamond’s Efficient Fit AT Liners Light feature the Boa Lacing System, which makes for a snug and comfortable fit.  The Boa System was incredibly functional, even when adjusting with gloves and chilly fingers.

Black Diamond’s Efficient Fit AT Liners Light feature the Boa Lacing System, which makes for a snug and comfortable fit. The Boa System was incredibly functional, even when adjusting with gloves and chilly fingers.

By far the highlight of the Black Diamond Swift was their performance. These full-on backcountry skiing boots feature a Triax Pivot frame and overlap construction that allow the cuff to pivot smoothly and comfortably while ascending. The articulated liner meant, at the very least, that I didn’t notice any incompatibility with the movement of the shell. The Swift were responsive and stable on the descent, both on trail and in the backcountry, and I found myself forgetting I was in AT boots at all (except of course when I forgot to turn the walk feature off…).

The walk-mode switch was easy to use and with a flick of my wrist or pole I was ready to go.

The walk-mode switch was easy to use and with a flick of my wrist or pole I was ready to go.

Aside from minor heel slippage, I had some issues with toes falling asleep while hiking, though the cause of that problem evaded me. Also, while the Swift three buckles and power strap held their own on the downhill, I had some trouble with stuck buckles when attempting to make adjustments. Particularly, I struggled with the catches meant to secure a semi-open buckle—maybe that means they were just doing their job!

Overall, the Swift were an excellent union of mobility and performance. Most importantly, the Swift got me out in the backcountry snow without a messy or painful transition, making it a great boot for the girl whose heart (if not always her body) is out in the mountains.

Shop for Black Diamond’s Swift:

( guest blogger Jess Portmess is weeks away from finishing law school. Having grown up in New York and Vermont, she’ll soon be chasing snow covered peaks, endless trails, and a legal career in the West.)


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15 Responses to “Black Diamond Swift Ski Boots Review”

  1. Jimmi May 8th, 2013 11:00 am

    Having used the BD Slant (which I believe is the male version of this boot minus the BOA liner) I can attest to very comfy ROM and the quick transitions. The boot shell itself feels softer than some of the more expensive boots, not necessarily a bad thing. The only negative was the significant heel lift I had in ski mode which may say something about my foot as much as the boot.

  2. Maciej May 8th, 2013 11:19 am


    Sounds like you just need some minor fit tweaks. Some foam around the back of the ankle should cure the heel lift. A metatarsal button should clear up your numb toe problems.

    BD boot shells fit me really well, but I’ve never found a boot that didn’t require at least a little more work than a heat mold.

  3. Jess May 8th, 2013 11:51 am

    Metatarsal buttons — that sounds like it could be a fix for my numb toes. I’m assuming that would respond to my foot collapsing within the boots as I hike? I’ve gone back and forth about using a footbed in ski boots for some time now. I didn’t use them in these boots but I wonder if they would have alleviated my toe issues. Thanks for the tips, Maciej.

  4. Hans May 8th, 2013 1:16 pm

    If you have a narrow foot you’ll be experiencing a lot more than a little heel slippage when those liners pack out because that boot is one of the widest buckets ever made.

  5. MtnPavlas (Pavel) May 8th, 2013 4:00 pm

    I concur with Hans re boot volume. Not necessarily a bad thing, rather something for potential buyers to be aware of. For example, I would strongly suggest not baking these and let them pack out on their own… made the mistake of baking them and then they packed out some more and then… I had to sell them as I was swimming in them even in thick socks, even though the shell length was spot on (confirmed by an experienced boot fitter).
    Another con for me was the lack of motion range. But then again, these boots are reasonably light and did a great job for the price.

  6. Lou Dawson May 8th, 2013 4:44 pm

    Metatarsal buttons are cute alien creatures from a 1981 Star Trek episode, though they disliked Spock.

  7. Lou Dawson May 8th, 2013 7:55 pm

    Comment deleted. Be nice. Not every review has to be a 2,000 word techno for gear obsessed guys.

    I know it’s tough for some of you guys to actually deal with a girl backcountry skiing blogger. Try.


  8. David B May 8th, 2013 7:57 pm

    Jess, re footbeds.

    Every skier should invest in custom footbeds. They support the foundation and balance for your entire body while skiing and ascending. They remove pressure spots on the sole by dustributing your weight evenly over the length and breadth of your foot. They also allow you to feel your edges and drive the ski more positively..

    Get them and you will feel the difference.

  9. Jess May 8th, 2013 8:44 pm

    All this insight is helpful. This certainly isn’t my first rodeo with boot fits, footbeds, or even metatarsal buttons. After 3 years selling gear in a ski shop in my college days, countless ski boot clinics, a few seasons on both Superfeet and ALINE footbeds, and 3 stress fractures in my feet, I wanted to give these boots a chance with minimal tweaks. I’d certainly make some other adjustments before I put in some serious days in these boots.

    All in all, I had a great time in these boots. In researching this review, it was hard not to notice the relatively scant number of reviews for women’s gear out there. In my ski shop days, a lot of the girls I knew avoided women’s specific gear as much for the flowery graphics as for the sense that women’s gear just wasn’t expected to handle as much strength and torque as the guy’s gear. I’m happy that Black Diamond, and companies like it, are changing that. And I’m happy to help move that forward in any way that I can, uber-technical or otherwise.

  10. Lou Dawson May 8th, 2013 9:17 pm

    Jess, just keep doing what you’re doing, let the tech fanboys like myself take care of the techno babble (grin). Besides, you can always cover things in the comments as well. Like, exactly how many microns thick is the plastic 4 centimeters above the zeppa in the forward part of the scaffo? Lou

  11. See May 9th, 2013 1:01 am

    Metatarsal buttons seem to be the standard recommendation for numb toes, but I wonder why I only occasionally have this problem with certain (cycling) shoes. Most of my footwear don’t make my toes go numb, even without buttons. I don’t doubt that numb toes can be caused by lack of metatarsal support, but I suspect that good orthotics will prevent this problem without having to putting a tribble in your boot.

  12. See May 9th, 2013 1:12 am

    Also, I think there are other factors (like temperature) involved.

  13. Harry May 9th, 2013 12:36 pm


    After reading your first comment about going back and forth on footbeds in ski boots, I said to myself, “self, I bet she has been using superfeet”. (ALINE falls in the same category for customization, posting, and ridgidity)

    Rigid footbeds in a rigid plastic shell, plus overposting sometimes equals discomfort and stress fractures. Often a very flexible arch needs to be allowed its range of motion as you pronate inside the boot. A footbed that returns you to neutralish while unweighted but supports and travels with your foot as you either hike or flex forward will feel great.

    I love Superfeet and ALINE products, just no so much for ski boots, and no so much for certain foot types, which you may have.

    If you have a chance, try something with a more flexible arch, be carful of overposting around the first met head. DFP, among many other companies, makes nice stuff that is hard for even an inexperienced fitter to screw up.

    Don’t worry about techy nerdy stuff. I have been bootfitting for over 10 years in three distinct ski regions and have never heard of a metatarsal button, had to look it up because we always called them neuroma pads or morton’s foot thingies. Not only can people be geeky, there isn’t a universaly accepted vocabulary for this stuff within the industry. Bindings, Binders, snowlerblades, how to describe edge bevels (from the 0 or the 90), bootboard, zeppa, scaffo….blech. Inside anklebone, medial malleolus…

    Also I loved the review and appreciated your perspective as someone coming out of touring in regular alpine gear. So many people are making the transition and hearing from you and reviewers like you is fantastic.

  14. Fra December 9th, 2013 3:07 am

    Hi Lou.
    Do you know weight of BD Prime in 27.5?

  15. Lou Dawson December 9th, 2013 6:57 am

    Fra, sorry, don’t have it. Lou

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