Ok I got all the boots in and they're all pretty different from each other. Like I mentioned previously, these aren't available at any of my LBS, so I'm playing the order and return game. I also learned some things about myself in this process. 1) My last boots were probably a little too big to begin with (size 13) 2) I've always had a wider foot which made shoe shopping difficult, but turns out what I actually have is a wide toe box, not a wide foot.
Important distinction there.
I really loved the Salmon boots. Never have I owned a boot easier to slip in and out of, and when people say it's like a pillow for your foot inside, now I understand. Super comfy right out of the box.
Nike Zoom DK (size 12: Mondo 30)
- These looked great out of the box. Clearly made well and a nice color scheme. When I put my foot in, they felt pretty snug. I'm not a fan of the liner lace system at all - it didn't feel stable or really intuitive and took more effort than I was expecting. Once laced up, the boots felt around a 6 or 7 on the stiffness scale. I wore them around for about an hour and they really started to hurt my feet. I actually felt the pads on my feet scrunching together, which was annoying - come to find out this was because Nike's boot is so narrow. It's troubling because the boot was physically the correct size, but because Nike puts so much goddamn padding inside their boots, it actually ended up fitting smaller than its size. Definitely size up if you plan on rocking these. Overall nice boot but I can't wear it.
Verdict: Way too narrow for my foot but otherwise well constructed and stiff.
Salomon F2.0 (size 12: Mondo 30)
- Wow is this boot comfortable. Same size as the Nike, but a MUCH better fit. As soon as I put it on I liked it. Durable and well made, plus it looks great. And the foot shrinking tech really works. I got the 2013 version that includes white accents and it's sharp. Wearing it around the house and on a board for about 2 hours and my feet felt great. Warm too. The stiffness felt about as advertised right around a 5 or 6. Definitely a mid-stiff boot for someone trying to do it all. I've always ridden a stiff boot (previously owned Burton Ion) so it might be a tad too soft for me. But I'm getting more into all-mtn freestyle now so that could be a good change. The only tangible negative I could find was that I didn't feel the heel cup held my heel down quite enough. That could be because the boot is softer than I'm used to, but it didn't feel anything like Burton or Nike's heel suction. Food for thought...
Verdict: I loved this boot. Lightweight and comfortable. Maybe a bit soft.
Salomon Synapse (size 12.5: Mondo 30.5)
- The Synapse looks much better in person than in pics. Sleek and stiff. This is an 8 on Salmon's scale, and it definitely felt like it. No fused liner on these babies - they are definitely bulkier than the F2.0s, specifically in the top of foot/ankle area. The stiffness was very supportive and heel hold was quite good as well. I find it pretty interesting that this boot has a removable liner and a better heel hold than the F2.0 - maybe the fused liners make it harder for Salomon to pack in a good heel suction? Does anyone own these and know how much they will pack out? Turns out this was about a half size too big for me, so I couldn't get a full feel for things, but I still really liked the boot. Regardless, this boot felt great and I'm going to try it in a Mondo 30 and see if I like it any better.
Verdict: Felt great and wicked supportive, just a bit too big and bulky
So, right now it looks like it's going to be either of the Salomons. I just wish I could try them on snow!