WORDS: Alex Showerman
PHOTOS: JP Van Swae
From tram laps in Jackson Hole to skin tracks across Icelandic fjords and springtime corn on the East Coast, testers put these boots through the wringer in all conditions imaginable. This year's selection continues to push the progression of boots that combine ultra-responsive performance with plush comfort to keep you charging all day long.
ThirtyTwo Tm-Two XLT – $350
The best boots are like a favorite pair of skate shoes: Put them on, then don't think about them the rest of the day. That's why testers picked the TM-Two as a top pick last year. Now, with the introduction of the TM-Two XLT, it's obvious ThirtyTwo is continuously improving their boot lineup. They took all the things that testers loved about last year's boot--the ultra-cush heat-moldable Intuition liners, the mid-stiff flex with a playful side, and the no-frills traditional laces--and added a badass Vibram sole.
The new sole took care of the biggest complaint we heard last year, which was that for riders who like to boot pack to uncrowded lines, the soles just didn't cut it. They lacked grip and were quick to get chewed up. With the new Vibram sole, these boots have bombproof durability and will simplify billy-goating out to score fresh lines at your favorite pow stash. The TM-Two XLT is the ultimate all-mountain boot that crushes 3,000-foot vertical tram laps and steep couloir boot packs, and welcomes all-mountain destroyers with open arms. It'll even give aggressive freestylers something to write home about. It's now quite clear why this is Jeremy Jones' signature boot on inbounds days.
DC Travis Rice – $450
Even without any major updates, the DC Travis Rice once again found its way into our testers' top picks, a testament to what an awesome boot it is. Once again testers loved how the out-the-box feel reminded them of a comfortable pair of Sorels or other plush winter boots but still rode like a big-mountain charger, daring them to boost off of hips, side hits, rocks, and rollers more than any other boot. While articulated construction, which allows the upper cuff of the boot to flex independently, is nothing new, DC's take on it, as displayed in the Travis Rice, truly keeps the bar set high for competitors. Testers enjoyed the natural, effortless flex that let them show their true styles, yet provided much-needed support and stability for managing bumpy terrain and straight-lining down the mountain.
These DCs are so confidence inspiring that, sure, you may feel like T. Rice when you're lacing up, but please check yourself before dropping into gnarly lines or foreign AK spines. Just because they might inspire confidence doesn't mean they'll make you a better rider. One note, this year DC added traction beads to the footbed, under the heel, and the ball of the foot. When they first went on it felt like the feet might be pleasantly massaged, but as time passed some testers said they just couldn't get used to the bumps.
Vans Infuse – $360
Customization is the name of this game. With the Infuse, Pat Moore's do-it-all boot, Vans puts on a clinic of snowboard boot technology. A combination of Boa lacing, traditional lacing, and power straps offers ultimate control over boot fit and performance. The Infuse is secure in all the right places and roomy where the feet need a little wiggle room. Testers' favorite specific feature was Boa lacing that only covered the ankle, but as the dial turned, they said they felt the boot further engulf their ankles, and while riding their heels remained on lockdown.
It wouldn't be right to review the Infuse without mentioning the (optional) Flex Control System, which incorporates two stiff, plastic inserts that slide into the tongue of the boot. Without them the boot falls close to the middle of the flex scale, perfect for tricking through the park. Insert the tongue stiffeners and rigidity greatly increases, ready to drop into steep couloirs, like Corbet's at Jackson Hole, where testers took them for multiple laps. Recap: With four different ways to customize support levels in the Infuse, it's happy to spin park laps one day, then charge steep lines in no-fall zones the next.
RIDE The 92 – $420
Heels felt superglued down with RIDE's Tongue Tied Boa system that runs cable through the tongue, then over and around the ankle. As testers cranked down on the Boa reel on the side of the boot, they felt their heels being sucked backward into a snug and secure place. Once tight, this was one of the few boots with which testers experienced no heel lift whatsoever and were left wishing this system were on every boot tested. With this unique lacing system, one can significantly change the feel of the boot based on how tight the outer Boa is cranked. Leave it loose to create a playful feel for freestyle maneuvers and have you wanting to throw a tweaked out method off of ever side it you can find, or crank the dial all the way down for an ultra-stiff boot that'll lay down the deepest of Euro carves.
Testers reported excellent traction in boot-pack tracks, crediting the road-ready rubber with superb tread gained from RIDE's partnership with Michelin Tires. Tie all of this together with a comfortable fit and spacious toe box that testers with wide feet praised--no one wants their toes to go numb mid-shred--and the result is a versatile boot to serve any riding style from first chair to last.
adidas Tactical ADV – $350
Hands down the most comfortable boot of the test, the Tactical offers super-cush support that had feet feeling like they were still in a cozy bed, not waiting in line for first chair on a powder day. The engine behind the boot's comfort is the heat-moldable Ultralon foam liner, which offers a luxurious touch and a wide toe box. Testers with wide feet appreciated the roomy fit for keeping blood flowing fluidly all day¬--from morning hot laps to end-of-day parking-lot beers. Unfortunately, that same roomy fit was a double-edge sword as some testers noted a bit of unsettling slop in technical terrain, where superior support and rapid response time is most necessary. This would be the perfect boot for riders who value comfort above all, but are looking for a ride that is a little more aggressive than found in most freestyle boots.