OR Jan 2019: Footwear

Footwear — mountaineering and climbing footwear, anyway — was a pretty quiet category at OR, except at the Scarpa booth where not only did the Phantom Tech see a major update but we also saw significant updates to other key boots in the lineup, as well as a couple new introductions.

We already the covered the new Scarpa Phantom Tech, so for details on how it manages to lose 100-grams per boot as well as drop over 10% in price, head on over to the Highlights post linked here. Read on for the remaining Footwear news.

The other most impressive boot is the La Sportiva Olympus Mons. It gets a massive redesign and has the distinction of being the first-ever boot to feature ski tech bindings in the toe. Designed solely for ski approaches, there isn’t a heel insert so you can’t really ski in these but it is really cool to see a tech binding on a mountaineering boot. Those two little bits of metal in the toe eliminate that extra pair of boots you’d otherwise need to bring for approaches and glacier travel, which is pretty cool and a massive weight and space savings overall during expeditions.

Making the boot tech binding compatible required a much thicker sole that aligns the divots with the tech pins, so these look — and feel — a bit ungainly. I’m curious how these will work with crampons. I’m sure Sportiva have tested this endlessly, but my experience with manufacturer-tested gear is that they always miss a few of the variables (read: competitors’ products) involved and inevitably some combination of crampon-to-boot falls through the cracks. I have no need for an 8000-metre boot but am looking forward to reading others’ experiences with this one.

While the sole is the most obvious design change, and possibly the most eye-catching — other than the ridiculously garish new logo graphic on the side of the boot — the boot undergoes a complete upgrade elsewhere as well. Weights drops about 30% – an EU 42 goes from 1413-grams for the current model to just 1050-grams. That’s barely more than Sportiva’s 6000-meter boot, the G2 SM, which weighs in at 1024-grams in EU 42. Price goes up a bit, but given these are already expensive, it’s not a huge impact: $1199 USD retail (vs $999 for the current boot). Given the massive weight savings and addition of toe tech fitting, I think the extra $200 is easily justifiable — and honestly I’m surprised it’s not more!

The inner boot doesn’t change too much in outward appearance (and in the midst of OR-busyness we somehow forgot to grab photos of the inner boot) but it gains more insulation in the form of two separate layers of PE combined with EVA single density foam, one at 6mm and the other 4mm, as well as Cordura reinforcements in flex areas. It fits snugly around the heel and ankle but felt quite roomy in the toes, even in a too-small size for me. The bootie lost a bit of toe wiggle room once I wedged my foot into the outer boot, but was still more roomy than I would have expected.

The outer boot/shell sees the most changes. The new zipper slides easily, while the dual Boa-closure keeps your foot secure and makes for quick and easy tension adjustments, even with gloves on. (I do wish more boots started using Boa closures!) The upper is now a Stretch Cordura with “Ultrasonic Welding & Heat Sealing” along with layers of high tenacity nylon, dual-density PE and a Thermo Reflective Aluminum Lining. It all adds up to a boot that heated up almost immediately when I put my foot in: I could feel the heat coming back into my foot, and even the upper gaiter around my calf seemed to radiate heat back at me. Pretty damn impressive.

Underfoot, the sole, as mentioned, is now tech-binding compatible at the toe (Skitrab Tech-AT inserts) and is, of course, fully-automatic crampon compatible. It’s not your typical rubber sole but is instead a Vibram Litebase and Vibram MorFlex expanded EVA — I wouldn’t be doing much scree-walking in these! The insole retains its Carbon Tech honeycomb construction (now 3mm) but gains an additional layer of 3mm Primaloft Gold Insulation Aerogel. This adds up to a lot of significant changes and worthwhile upgrades for the Oly Mons!

Somewhat surprisingly, the Oly Mons wasn’t the only new 8000-meter boot at OR. Scarpa’s Phantom 8000 also sees a massive redesign with an all-new 18-layer construction promising more warmth and even better climbing performance.

The all-new bootie is much more streamlined, with fewer seams and new side-zipper access. The outer fabric is water-repellent and all the outer seams are protected with a reflective, waterproof, tape. Inside, layers of EVA, insulating felt, reflective aluminum film, Primaloft 600 and numerous Aerogel inserts combine to increase warmth and comfort. The sole has an anti-slip hexagonal pattern and is structured with additional Primaloft Silver insulation and a 4mm layer of EVA for all-day comfort.

The outer boot is completely redesigned as well. The outer gaiter is an S-Tech fabric with a new, fully-laminated, HDry membrane to guarantee waterproofness. Underneath the membrane is a layer of Primaloft 200, and additional Micropile lining to maximize breathability. There is also a new Flexseal waterproof zipper, which feels more flexible than the previous version which has resulted in the zipper returning to a more conventional side-configuration as opposed to the wrap-around of the previous boot.

The inner-outer boot is composed of layers of EVA, 5mm cork, aluminum film, insulating felt and water-resistant micro-fibre and micro-tech. About the only thing that appears unchanged is the sole: Vibram Zero Gravity Lite with a Mont-compound toe zone for climbing traction and durability (it’s the same compound as that used on Scarpa’s Mont Blanc Pro mountaineering boots) and NewFlex for the remainder of the sole to minimize weight.

Weight goes down slightly, but isn’t as dramatic a weight-loss as the Oly Mons: 1325-grams for the new boot, vs 1458-grams for the previous gen (in an EU 42). Price, remarkably, drops a tad to $1199 USD retail (vs $1250 for the current model). Canadians are getting a deal on these, as they’ll go for $1299 Canadian when they come to the market in September 2019.

Scarpa fans are getting a lot of new boots for FW19, with the popular Mont Blanc Pro also seeing some slight tweaks. The most obvious change is around the gaiter, which drops the button-up front closure in favour of a lower profile interior cuff design. The material also changes slightly, with the outer reinforcements now made of PU instead of leather. It feels a bit more flexible around the ankle, and more comfortable.

The other big change is the sole. The PU midsole has been redesigned for better cushioning, and the new tread design looks like it will clear small rocks and mud a bit better. The durable Mont compound remains, but the sole gets a new name: Vibram Essential AC. The last remains the same, as well, and the Mont Blanc Pro Women’s also receives the full update. Weight drops incrementally, from 910-grams for the current boot to 900-grams for the new model, but the price goes up, from $525 USD for the current model to $579 USD for the new ones. Canadian retail price is set to be $649.

New in the Scarpa lineup is the Ribelle HD. (The previous version of this boot, the Ribelle OD, is currently available in Europe.) The Ribelle is to the Ribelle Tech as the Mont Blanc Pro is to the Phantom Tech: the more rugged, somewhat heavier but more durable, mostly-leather instead of all-synthetic, and usually cheaper, brother.

The Ribelle HD has a 2.6mm Suede Perwanger leather upper, with synthetic Microtech at the cuff and over the tongue. There’s minimal insulation — given that these are three-season, aka summer mountaineering — boots, but they do sport the new HDry laminated waterproof membrane which is matched to a 37.5 lining for moisture management, weather resistance and breathability.

The sole design is shared with the Ribelle Tech and the new Phantom Tech. It’s called the Vibram Precision Tech Roll and is designed to enhance walking comfort and minimize energy expenditure. The compound is Scarpa’s exclusive Mont for long-term durability without compromising climbing traction. The Ribelle has a heel-welt for semi-automatic crampons.

The Ribelle will come in both Men’s and Women’s versions. Weight for the Men’s is quoted at 690-grams (EU 42, as compared to the Ribelle Tech at 550-grams) while the Women’s EU 38 comes in at 580-grams. Price will be $359 USD or $399 Canadian — if these feel and perform anything like the Ribelle Tech, that’s a bargain price for an exceptional boot.

La Sportiva’s G5 doesn’t change much but I did notice that there’s a new material at the cuff: it swaps from the current black fabric to a lighter-feeling, grey, fabric. There isn’t a change noted in the workbook so I’m not sure if the fabric actually changes or if it’s just a different colourway, but it does feel different. Additionally, the G5 gets a rubberized-feeling patch on the gaiter over where the Boa closure knob presses against it. I haven’t heard of any issues with the gaiter rubbing through, but it’s nice to see Sportiva adding in improvements.

Mammut’s ultralight Taiss three-season boots are barely out for this season, but there’s already a slight change coming for FW19: they’re actually getting some colour! Gone are the all-Black and all-White versions and instead we’re getting mostly-white semi-black with some pops of colour. There are highlights in Orange for the Men’s and Magenta for the Women’s. These colours are officially called “Black-Cheddar” for the Men’s, and “Highway-Dragonfruit” for the Women’s: I shit you not, these are the actual names in the workbook. I have no clue what colour ‘Highway’ is actually supposed to be!

Blurring the lines between three-season mountaineering boot and foul-weather running shoe, La Sportiva’s TX Top GTX is a stiff-soled ankle-height semi-approach shoe that looks perfect for the type of light-and-fast mission that would have previously taken days but is now commonly done in a few hours. The aggressively-lugged sole has a climbing section at the toe and massive lugs for effective mud-shedding and ample snow traction. The upper is a stretchy woven mesh with a Gore-Tex Extended Comfort membrane for warmth and waterproofness. There are no welts for crampons but a pair of ultralight aluminum strap-on mountaineering crampons seems like the perfect pairing, anyway. Weight comes in at 500-grams in EU 42, and they’ll retail for just $199 USD.

Rock shoes were few and far between at the Snow Show, however Scarpa were showing a new version of the Fuira S: the Furia Air. The Air’s claim to fame is that it’s the world’s lightest rock shoe (I didn’t know this was a thing — I mean, who weighs rock shoes?!) at just 150-grams in EU 40. Based on the Furia platform, the Air has the same 3.5mm Vibram XS Grip 2 rubber on the sole and M50 rubber on the toe for hooking. The shoes also share the same last and 1.0mm Flexan misole, but where they differ is the upper material: the Air has a perforated microsuede upper for a glove-like feel and exceptional breathability. While the whole ‘lightest shoe’ thing seems like a gimmick, the Furia Air does feel noticeably lighter in hand than any other rock shoe. $199 USD and $215 Canadian.

Heading in a slightly different direction, Black Diamond introduced a vegan version of their Momentum rock shoes — the Momentum Vegan Men’s and Women’s. Apparently there is a demand for rock shoes made without any animal products, and thus the Vegan was born, er, grown. No design changes from the normal Momentum, and they’ll cost the same, too.

Finally, SOLE, maker of orthopaedic insoles, introduces a full line of cork-based footwear. All the shoes will feature recycled-cork midsoles, made from re-used wine corks, paired with natural rubber outsoles (so keep drinking that wine, and other cork-closed beverages — you’re doing your part for the planet! Kinda.). The coolest of the styles (I think) is the Pemberton Wool Eco Slip-On, which has an upper made from Australian merino wool for breathability, natural moisture-wicking, built-in odour-control, and a soft and durable feel, both with and without socks. These look like they’ll make the ideal cragging shoe — put them on, heel-up, for the approach, then fold the heel down for a comfortable slip-on shoe for belaying and lounging at the crag without worrying about smelling up your shoes thanks to the merino upper’s natural odour control (just think of all your merino wool socks — somehow, after years of use, mine still don’t smell!). Prices starting around $129 USD for what is bound to be the best shoe on the market for those late-autumn rock climbing days. Can’t wait!

Missed our other Outdoor Retailer January 2019 coverage?

Check out Highlights here, and Climbing Gear here.

One thought on “OR Jan 2019: Footwear

  1. travis says:

    Those Oly Mons look like something from the future! No plans to climb anything that high, but sure is cool to see somebody try something different.

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