So I got fed up with the snowboard stores in my area never carrying my size (12) in the boots I'm interested in, and only having one or two options at each store to try on when they did. So I took matters into my own hands and ordered all of the models I wanted to try from 2 online stores. That way I can compare them all at the same time, and return the ones that don't make the cut. Both orders shipped for free; I can return most of them to the store locally and a few will only cost 6.99 total to ship back.
I am posting this from my phone so I'll upload images later. For now I want to get my notes uploaded here. (It's possible to get the images up from the phone but it's a bit of a process, so I'll do it later.)
Note: my feet are on the flat side, quite bony, and normal width. I have heel spurs on both feet from years of ice hockey skates as a kid, and a pretty good amount of angle from my big to to my little toe - in other words my toes aren't flat across but angle down towards the outside. I have bony ankles and high, lean calves.
Also, all boots are Double Boa unless otherwise noted. I'm looking for freeride support with a comfortable feel - I ride steeps, trees and powder, and don't go in the park.
Here we go!
- DC Judge:
These are the boots I'm coming off of, and they've changed a ton. My old ones were single boa and a totally different shape. I was wearing a 13 before which were too big, especially once they packed out. These new ones in 12 are just barely too small. Very tight in the toes - too tight. Quite comfortable otherwise. Not nearly as stiff as expected. No heel lift.
- Thirtytwo Focus Boa:
Stiff! Feels light. Lots of pressure points on ankles. Gets less and less comfortable over time. No heel lift. Feels tall.
- Nike Zoom Force Boa:
I couldn't figure out the liner lace system; pretty much goes back in the box because of this. Comfy. Minor heel lift, probably due to not being able to tighten the liner. Tight in the outside toes, but good fit in the big toe. Medium flex at most. Fancy finish that would probably wear off quickly.
- K2 Thraxis:
Triple boa! No laces at all! Is there a specific way the Velcro between the liner and tongue is supposed to be used? Very comfortable. Lower on the calf than most. Not a fan of the fur on the liner but I've heard it holds up to wear. Very easy entry/exit. High-medium-stiff flex.
- K2 UFO:
Less stiff than the Thraxis. Boa Conda = no liner laces, but only single boa for the outside. No power strap like the Thraxis, Velcro on the liner. VERY comfortable.
- 32 TM-2:
The only lace boot in the lineup. I tried them on previously and liked them, and wanted to try again. Surprised how tight I can get them with the laces vs. boa. Still, not sure I'd go with lace in the long run. Has that same "empty"(?) feel that the Focus has; relatively tall as well - this is basically the Focus with laces or vice-versa. High-Medium-stiff. A touch tight in the toes. I have the same problem with multiple pressure points on the ankle and shin as with the Focus. I really like look of the green laces.
- Ride Insano:
A little big/loose in the forefoot - instep blows out a little when flexing forward. Impossible to get my foot in; however, it feels "big" inside once I do. Too much room/space in the shin. These would be hella stiff if they fit.
- Flow Talon:
HOLY STIFF. Too big, though. Interesting liner closure; uses a speed-lace style pull on the medial (inside). I don't trust the "teeth" lace locks though. They come out too easily when you don't want them to and don't when you do. This is my issue with all speed lace system, except the 32 Fast Track which has a flip-closure that appears more trustworthy. The power strap loop is thin and appears flimsy. Did I mention how stiff these are?
- Vans Cirro:
Burly boas - different style than the others. Hard to open the tongue. Very stiff, up there with the Insano and Talon. Can really feel my heel lock down when tightening the lower zone boa. Pressure point on my heel when flexing forward. Not all that comfortable mostly due to the heel pressure issue.
My thumbs are sore from all this boa'ing!
After all this, I narrowed it down to the Thraxis and the Focus Boa, and I am heavily leaning Thraxis. The 32 is a notch stiffer than the Thraxis, possibly due to being taller, but the Thraxis is more comfortable and I like their flex. I want to like the 32's more but they have pressure points on my ankles and shin. I posted this question on another thread:
does it make more sense to go with the boot that feels more comfortable out of the box, like the Thraxis, or to hope that the liner in the 32 will pack/mold out to be more comfortable over time - or heat mold it? The answer seems obvious - go with the boot that feels most comfortable without any modifications, but perhaps it's not. So I ask.
I should note that I went into my try-ons without thinking about how much each boot cost. Obviously, I ordered them, and know approximately each price without looking at the invoice, but I wanted my opinions to not be colored by the price - only by the fit. Naturally it turns out that the boot I'm probably going to choose is the most expensive by a good margin; that's just be way it turned out. The triple boa is the likely cause of the high price. In the end though, it's gotta be about the fit, and that's what my feet were telling me.
I made a note on the side of my notepad about how this is similar to music, or wine, food, or any subjective matter - you can analyze as much as you want to, but it's also largely about that first moment's impression, the "YES/NO" your brain says right away, that is often the right call.
I'm giving it another day or two to make a final call. I'll post pics soon as well. Thanks for reading.