Ski Touring part 3: shoes
Ski boots are the most important part of your ski equipment. This is even more the case with ski touring. Not only do they have to sit even better because you cannot rest for a moment after each descent in the ski lift; they also have to be able to do more than with ‘normal’ skiing. You have to be able to descend of course, but also walk well.
In theory you can tour in any ski boot. A ski with a frame binding can really get you up the mountain in your heavy racing shoes. But that is not comfortable. The forward position of the shaft makes that you move every step very inefficiently, with a lot of energy loss and often really pain as a result. Being able to lift the forward position of the shaft is therefore a must for every tour for which it is worth piling.
This function is called the “walking position”. Literally: the position of the ski boot in which you can walk properly. The forward position of the shaft is canceled by lifting the blockage of the heel. The shaft can then tilt upright or even backwards. That is a lot more efficient. This walking position and its mobility is expressed as “range of motion” and in degrees.
Even though you can recognize a ski touring shoe by that walking position – choices can also be made here. There are shoes that are just as sturdy (and almost as heavy) as regular ski boots. These also have more or less the same stability, fit and power transmission as normal ski boots. Think of models like the Tecnica Cochise, K2 Mindbender, Lange XT Free, Rossignol Alltrack, Nordica Strider, etc. These “freetour” shoes are really ordinary alpine shoes in basic design, but with a walking position and sometimes lighter materials. These can usually also be used in normal alpine bindings (they also do not always have tech inserts).
The other extreme is the specific touring shoe. It fits exclusively in pin bindings and is especially lightweight. The stability and power transmission during skiing is really considerably less. It shows that these shoes really have the goal of walking, descending is a side issue. These shoes are fully arranged in shape and function on efficient sheets. Brands such as Dynafit and Scarpa really focus on this segment. Most mainstream brands also have specific touring models.
The third category is – just like with the skis and with the bindings actually – the category in between. Not as heavy and much better skinable than the free-touring shoe, but not as one-sided as the specific touring shoe. So actually the best of both worlds: the stability and power transfer before descending; somewhat lighter in weight, tech inserts and a larger range of motion. Examples are most shoes from Scott, the Fischer Ranger Free Walk DYN, a number of models from La Sportiva and Dalbello.
Something to pay attention to nowadays is the compatibility of these shoes with different binding standards. There are three binding standards in circulation. The normal alpine binding has the DIN standard (ISO 5355). Most touring shoes do not fit in because of the often rocked rubber sole that cannot fall out in the event of a fall. This is very dangerous.
The standard of the pure touring shoe – which every pin binding actually meets – is the DYNAFIT standard (ISO 9523). Shoes that are only compatible with this do not fit in normal bindings and vice versa. For example, normal DIN (ISO 5355) shoes have no tech inserts, so by definition, pin bindings will not be used.
Here too there is a hybrid form, two even. GripWalk and Walk To Ride (WTR). These are standards that you must keep a close eye on. Your binding standard must match the standard of the shoe. Only if that matches well, your shoe can secure in the binding. Both for the fixation, but especially for the mechanism that your binding opens and your foot comes off when you fall for example. Check with the expert with whom you choose a shoe that fits in all your bindings (if you want to do everything with one shoe). It is therefore useful if you know exactly which model binding is on your skis.
Fit above everything
The requirements for the fit of a touring shoe are actually no different than with an alpine shoe. It must be good on, but without pinching. When walking you use a little more space at the toe, but that often does not result in a larger shoe size. You will automatically feel if you have enough room to keep it up for a whole day and on foot if you put the shoe on the walking position in the store.
Touring shoes are often a bit wider in the last than alpine shoes. The fact that you have to move more in it than in an alpine shoe (walking) and the fact that your feet don’t get a ski lift rest is the reason for that. But you still have to be careful not to take a shoe that is too spacious. Sliding in your shoe is never good. This causes cramping while skiing and possibly scuffing or blistering while walking.
Just like with the selection and fitting of any other ski boot, get expert advice from good people. Specialty shops in the Netherlands where you can go for touring shoes and all related questions include Snowcountry, MK Skiservice and Outdoor XL.