La Sportiva Spitfire Ski Boot – Not a George Foreman Grill

Post by blogger | April 15, 2013      

Most of the money and plastic in the AT boot industry goes for war material in the battle of the beef boot. Sometimes cast concrete is appropriate for your feet, but I’ll come out and say it: Helmet cams and TGR fantasies aside, most of the backcountry skiing done around the world requires nothing more than a good quality lightweight-class AT ski boot. If you need otherwise, you know who you are. In that case just laugh at my bias (or groan). Otherwise, read on — Sportiva Spitfire might be a boot option for you.

My Spitfire testers.

My Spitfire testers. Small appendage on lower tongue is my add-on attachment for safety strap done by drilling a hole through tongue. Ignore.

(First, rather than publishing a bunch of redundant photos, please see our first-look for photos of Spitfire features. Then read on.)

Thing is, while backcountry capable ski boots have become the George Foreman Grill of the snow sports industry, look for a one-motion mode change boot at around 1,200 grams each and you’ll only find a few offerings out there. Indeed, that’s part of the reason you see one brand/model of ski boot dominating the market in places where folks put a premium on comfort, distance, and vertical.

Why we don’t we see more boot brands producing in the highly engineered 1,200 gram class? My guess is that it’s actually a lot easier to design and make a basic overlap cuff or tongue boot with three or four buckles and a steel rod walk-mode cuff latch. Yeah, models available in those backcountry skiing boots have nice engineering — but so do Foreman Grills — and most of such products are about the same today as they were twenty years ago. In comparison, The 1,200 gram ski boots with innovative cuff latches, short BSLs and amazingly low volume shells are newborns.

I’ve skied the Spitfire quite a few times now. While they suffer the lack of progressive flex endemic to boots that depend on achieving stiffness by strapping your tibia to a backbone spoiler, Spitfire are, yes, stiff. Surprisingly so. If you’re used to the feel and style required by this sort of ergonomics you’ll have no trouble with Spitfire, but if you come from a bigger shoe that flexes smoother be ready for a transition. Key is to think about achieving the most powerful neutral position possible. Adjust things like boot/binding ramp angle and cuff lean to achieve that, as with this sort of boot it’s tougher to just drive your knees forward and adjust your position on the fly. (In terms of factory cuff lean angle, yes, this IS adjustable by swapping a small metal plate on the inside spoiler.)

Boot fit is not usually a big issue for us in reviews. In fact, I usually advise our guest bloggers to be aware that all feet are different, and to not focus their writing on the fit they personally got from a boot (which is sometimes the easiest most experiential thing to write about, but the least likely to transfer to other people.)

Nonetheless, a few things about the Spitfire fit deserve mention. Mainly, this could be the lowest volume boot I’ve ever worked with. That means a tight and responsive fit are a given; you may find yourself with mandatory punching and tweaking to get a fit. If you’re mail ordering, be sure to do a thorough carpet fit and shell sizing evaluation before you toss the shipping box — if in doubt consult a boot fitter. Better, buy retail at a brick-and-mortar where you can fit multiple sizes and spend some time walking around (again, be sure an in-house boot fitter is available to help evaluate).

Hook indicated by arrows catches slot in spoiler, is retracted and released by moving the buckle as indicated, which pulls the cable. Quite ingenious and works reliably.

Hook indicated by arrows catches slot in spoiler, is retracted and released by moving the buckle as indicated, which pulls the cable. Quite ingenious and works reliably.

The other big deal with Spitfire is the one-motion cuff lock. Rather than a simple (yet effective) tang inserting into a hole as the other brand uses, Spitfire has an ingenious hook-like device that catches a hole in the rear spoiler to lock for downhill mode. This being somewhat more mechanically complex than other methods I paid particular attention to its reliability. Pass on that. The latch engaged every time as required, never caught accidentally, and supplied a solid feeling on the downhill. (Note that cuff lean is adjustable by swapping the metal plate on the rear spoiler; parts included in the retail box.)

As alluded to above, Spitfire (Palau manufactured) liner is thin. It is really little more than a foam sock. In a good way. No extra weight here, and a nice compact lacing system that involves pre-adjusting your lace length then simply sticking a velcro tab when you’re putting your boots on. Super smart, and the lacing system is totally removable if you prefer.

What else? Weight of Spitfire is feather category: My size 27.5 with aftermarket footbed and power strap removed weigh in at 43.4 ounces (1228 g) each. And check out the BSL: only 297 millimeters! A shorter boot is easier to dirt hike or alpine scramble in, and a bit more efficient for uphilling on skins. I noticed, especially while walking sans skis.

Conclusion: If you can get a fit in the Spitfire, its performance easily equals or surpasses other lightweight “one motion latching” boots on the market.

Give them a look if you’re shopping.


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31 Responses to “La Sportiva Spitfire Ski Boot – Not a George Foreman Grill”

  1. Mike Marolt April 15th, 2013 8:42 am

    I agree with Lou. When world cup slalom racers are cutting their boots to make them softer for more forward lean, in the BC, most people are skiing boots that are way too stiff in general. Stiff backwards, yes, but none of the AT boots lack there. I barely buckle my boots and ski fairly aggressively with 180 lbs. and most of my bc skiing is on hard snow. For powder, most climbing boots will work well enough. Try it. You will like it. Soft is better……

  2. Pablo April 15th, 2013 8:43 am

    My friend Ruben skied some Spitfires and did this video about these boots last spring:

    Hope you enjoy it!

  3. Dan April 15th, 2013 9:29 am

    Thanks Lou. How do the cuff rivets mounting compare to the TLT5s?

    @Pablo: Thanks for that link…funny. What is next for Ruben? Dancing with the Stars?

  4. Tim K April 15th, 2013 10:14 am

    yur buddy plays better b-ball in ski shoes than Obama does in sneakers….. LOL

  5. Ryan Jennings April 15th, 2013 10:23 am

    I switched to these boots this season after spending two years of discomfort in the skinny TLT5s. While the fit is better for me and they ski well I am surprised at the lack of information out there regarding the bottom buckles incredibly bad location and design. Beware if you take this boot out of the ski and want to do some alpine scrambling! If you end up post holing or knocking the lower buckle on even the smallest rock it’s sure to break the rivet and render the buckle useless or missing all together. I’ve broken both sides now and I’ve had to resort to duck taping around the boot and over the buckle to ensure the buckle stays put while scrambling. Bad design there for sure. Anyone know of a better fix for this?

  6. Lou Dawson April 15th, 2013 10:33 am

    Ryan, I am so tired of these poorly located buckles I could scream. Your point is valid and a good contribution to the review. I should have mentioned it, I guess I’m just worn down… fix is of course to put something on aftermarket, but how lame is that?

    Dan, the rivets will probably hold up the same as those of the TLT5 as they are exactly the same configuration, it’s the TLT 5 P that has the problem due to carbon cuff and rivets not being set into a pocket on the cuff. Spitfire does not have a carbon fiber cuff. The exterior rear spoiler is stiff plastic with a thin layer of woven fiber on the exterior that could be cosmetic but might add some rigidity.


  7. Jason April 15th, 2013 12:26 pm

    A great review, and I think right on. I am constantly amazed at how well they ski considering the weight. The only area I miss my skimo race boots for day-to-day skiing is usually in the one motion cuff lock but not with these boots. I also have had not reliability issues.

    If you like these, just wait ’til you try the Spectres. Slightly heavier but ski as well as any 4 buckle out there imo.

  8. Scooter April 15th, 2013 12:31 pm

    As Lou mentioned it all comes down to the skier. Like most gear in our skiing world demand controls what gear is built and what is left for further “tweaking” (read consumer demand) on the drawing board. For many, boots like the spitfire and others fill the small but growing ski mo market. The explosion over the last two years in AT/walk mode boots from mainstream alpine brands shows what can and will happen when users demand more choices. The ski mo category is going to be fun to watch over the next few years, as some of the design work needed to make minimalist boots built for the uphill, ski well downhill is real ingenuity.
    I’m not so sure about Mike’s comment concerning race boots though. Rule changes have racers skiing stiffer boots in GS and DH to drive bigger skis, and SL racers want more upright neutral angles so they can react quicker to movement changes.

  9. MVA April 15th, 2013 12:39 pm

    do you know if these run wide or thin? i’m in TLT’s right now cuz of my B foot… albeit sz14 B foot. :-\

  10. DaveC April 15th, 2013 12:59 pm

    I’ve been skiing the Siderals all winter. They’re just a well made boot. My only complaint is the bottom buckle, as mentioned above, and its tendency to flip open while booting. If it were lower profile and/or flipped up to close that would be very nice.

    I’m surprised at your low volume comment. My other complaint is that the thin liner didn’t puff up enough during molding, leaving my mid width but vertically skinny foot swimming a bit. I have a 3/8″ insole of dense foam under the liner to help with this. They certainly seem to have more volume in this respect than the TLT5.

  11. Mike April 15th, 2013 1:19 pm

    I would like to compliment Sportiva for making these boots in size 31.0. Hopefully Dynafit and Scarpa will begin to make their light weight boots in sizes beyond 30.0. Unfortunately these were too tight across my instep and I will be sticking with my Maestrales until somebody makes a large boot in this catagory that fits.

  12. Ryan Jennings April 15th, 2013 1:23 pm

    MVA, I had the TLT 5 P and found the fit extremely tight for my, I guess, wide feet. The Spitfires are much more comfortable but still I find them a bit tight width wise. I still wish they ran a little wider:( I wear a 30 (12.5US?).

  13. Lou Dawson April 15th, 2013 2:26 pm

    The TLT 6 will be wider. The Spitfire is incredibly easy to punch for width. I did mine in about ten minutes including prep time and cooling. TLT 6 will be easy to punch as well, since it won’t have a metatarsal flex zone to worry about. Lou

  14. Tom Gos April 15th, 2013 5:28 pm

    Well, I’m in the groan camp. At 193 lbs and spending my resort days in Dobermann WC 150s I have a hard time adjusting back and forth with squishy and boxy rando/skimo boots. So happily I’ll stick with my beefy AT boots. But, I really like the cuff lock mechanism on this boot (and the Dynafit boots), I’m not sure why the beef boot designers are making such complicated (and walk restrictive) cuff lock mechanisms ala Lange and Salomon.

  15. Nick April 15th, 2013 7:00 pm

    Some of us (and our feet) would welcome a light boot without an ‘amazingly low volume shell’

  16. JCoates April 16th, 2013 3:52 am


    How did you punch these? Heat gun, boiling water, or something else?



  17. Lou Dawson April 16th, 2013 7:17 am

    J, with a ring press and heat gun:

    Tom, indeed, Dynafit Vulcan etc use that simple and incredibly solid system… too bad it’s patented! The Dynafit system concept was originated by skimo racers over the years… Shows how important racing can be to product development.


  18. DG April 18th, 2013 12:36 am

    Really enjoying my spitfires, whether driving my bd drifts or mustagh atas. Only concern I’ve had so far is that I seem to have less edge control over my downhill ski on firmer ascending traverses. I leave the upper buckle’s velcro strap in position for optimal downhill mode fit, which makes it pretty loose in uphill mode. Wondering if I’ll need to tighten the velcro straps for spring traverses when in uphill mode. Interested in others’ experience with this. It’s my first lightweight AT boot, so wasn’t sure if this was a known trade-off or maybe there’s a trick I’m missing.

  19. Rohan Roy April 19th, 2013 6:34 am

    A couple of minor additions: These boots have a little rubber nubbin on the sole that is intended to help line up the boot with the tech fitting pins. This broke off of one of my boots after a short amount of booting, and the other one looks ready to break off as well. I haven’t noticed much difference in getting into bindings with or without the nubbin – doesn’t seem to be a very useful feature to me.
    Also, I was having trouble with the overlap on the cuff shifting into overlapping the wrong way so that the one-throw buckle system wasn’t working. This might have to do with the tightness of the Velcro strap I was using. But once I started buckling the boots up when I wasn’t using them, the cuff overlap took a more curved shape and the system works perfectly now. Other than those details, I’ve found them to be a great all around boot, and have been pleasantly surprised with their warmth, which I think is helped by the EVA foam on the inside of the boot under the liner.

  20. Lou Dawson April 19th, 2013 7:40 am

    Rohon, thanks. I covered the “nubbin” in our previous first-look reviews, it’s not very important and can easily be removed (or removes itself). Ditto on the cuff. With mine, I heated it up in the boot fitting shop and curved it better so it was easier to buckle. In stock form I had trouble buckling due to the cuff not being pre-curved around my lower leg. I didn’t mention this in review because it didn’t seem like a big deal, and is probably different for each person. Lou

  21. Jim December 15th, 2013 10:40 am

    For the bottom buckle La Sportiva could use the same type of low profile buckle that they use on the Spectre and avoid the problem DaveC mentioned with the damage during scrambling.

  22. Booker January 6th, 2014 12:12 pm

    Do you know the shell break on the sizing for these boots? (i.e. 25.5 and 26 are same shell or ?) Also list of BSL for the various sizes?


  23. Jim March 22nd, 2014 1:45 pm

    Spitfires don’t have a cant adjustment?

  24. stephan August 6th, 2014 4:24 pm

    everybody check out this damn cool video:

    a little bit old, i know, but funny though and whoever hasnt seen it yet should watch it… i like the last sequence best when the guy starts playing basketball in his spitfires (and hes pretty good, too) =)

  25. David Newstead September 1st, 2014 12:05 am

    This is a couple of questions with wider implications that just Spitfires but as they’re the boots I’m interested in I’ll post in this thread:

    I’m primarily a climber and use ski gear to approach climbs more easily. Based in New Zealand so lots of glacier travel and carrying gear up valleys.

    So, first question; size – should I fit closer to my walking boot size in a light boot such as the Spitfires. euro 44.5 in Trangos, so a 28.5 in mondo point? Dane Burns of Coldthistle did a well reasoned post about just this point.

    Second question; buying boots over the internet: A big no-no according to most pundits, but there’s not a lot of choice here in NZ, particularly in a boot like this.

    So, given that I’m looking for comfort and weight over performance should I take the chance and buy big online?

  26. Rohan Roy September 1st, 2014 9:22 am

    David, a couple thoughts about your purposes for the Spitfire.
    1. I’ve found the rubber soles to be very flimsy. My first pair delaminated in two weeks with minimal hiking on dry ground. After returning them twice to be reglued, they finally replaced them. After one two week expedition with some scrambling on rocks with the new pair, the soles are almost shot – some delamination at the toes, and chunks of rubber coming off all over. For comparison, my wife did the same expedition in her decade-old Scarpa Magic boots, and the soles still look like new. In other words I would consider these to be primarily a ski boot, watch out for walking over dirt and rocks with them.
    2. The placement of the lower buckle, as mentioned before, is no joke. Any postholing, walking through talus, etc. and they will open and/or break constantly. I’ve broken both boots a number of times and am now messing around with other buckle options (like the Spectre buckles – which don’t quite fit, and Voile straps – so far my best choice). I’ll be trying some old Scarpa buckles I have lying around too. Again, if using them for climbing in, be prepared for this part.
    These are a great boot for their primary purpose: efficient ski touring. It’s tempting to hike in them (or play basketball), because they’re so comfy – but durability is a serious consideration (especially when you’re spending up to $900 for them!).

  27. David Newstead September 2nd, 2014 4:00 am

    Thanks Rohan. Excellent feedback.

  28. Jim February 5th, 2016 1:02 pm

    It would be super helpful in the boot reviews to give the last measurement width (or if possible interior shell length). . Its a key to boot fitting and often the retailers nor manufacturers provide it.

  29. Herb Jones October 24th, 2016 12:28 pm

    Just a few comments on the Spitfire as I just picked up a pair of nice demos at my local bc shop, The Outdoor Gear Exchange otherwise known as The fit is narrower in the ankle than the TLT5/6 and quite a bit more roomy vertically in the instep. The ball of foot width is wider as I had only minor snugness with my Intuition Pro Tour liners from the TLT5’s which have been stretched. I anticipate some stretching will be needed. For the instep fit, I will add padding to the tongue and or minor shimming under the foot to keep my foot in the ankle pocket and, of course, remold the liners.
    On the skinning mode traversing issue it looks like you could use a power strap to tighten up the cuff without locking it into ski mode. You would have full cuff support, if you wrap around and catch the strap retaining hook on the cuff or you could just wrap the spine and tongue together. More hassle than just flipping a buckle but light and simple.

  30. Kamil Hlavna March 2nd, 2017 6:57 am

    I have these boots (1.0) and I really enjoy the ski touring in the Austrian Alps with them BUT I have probably wrong binding. I had (till today) Dynafit Low Tech binding, not Race just usual model. I had problems to come out of it. The second problem was that the heel part of the boots moved a little bit (1-2 mm) in the binding in the ski mode. Does anyone have the same experience? I sold the binding and I looking for new one. Does anyone have the combination Spitfire 1.0 and ATK Race binding? If yes, how is your experience? Thx in advance.

  31. Herb Jones April 11th, 2017 10:27 pm

    Kamil- I had some slight vertical movement in the metal heel insert, but not that much. I replaced the inserts with a set from an old Dynafit boot I had, a perfect fit and no more movement. Perhaps you could find a pair at a shop, they sometimes have parts boots…? The toe fittings are more difficult to engage and vary more in width than the Dynafit’s, noticeable when locking the toe into tour mode, mine barely lock with extra effort. There is a good reason to use the compatible proprietary inserts. I wish every bootmaker would. Some of the major boot brands have realized this and just buy them from Dynafit.
    It would be nice if ATK marketed their bindings in the US as they have some nice features like a nearly flat ramp angle with the same heel release system as the Dyna’s and some of the RT Race models have adjustable toe tension. However, the heel lacks fore/aft adjustability and would require the purchase of extra plates and a loss of the flat ramp angle, but still much less angle than a release adjustable Dynafit. I have not heard anything regarding quality and durability of the ATK’s.
    Good luck!

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