Oct 22 2012

Review: A closer look at Lange’s XT

It was love at first kiss and the way the Lange XT held my feet I couldn’t help wonder what a longer term relationship might produce. I still haven’t had the pleasure of even a single day tour with a pair but I’ve had a chance to look a lot closer at the design. Aside from not having tech inserts, the Lange XT still looks like an excellent passport boot, ready to cross boundaries on a whim and keep you smiling on both sides of the ridge.

This photo doesn’t reveal the details that help make it fit so well like a cuniform cutout when the tongue attaches to the lower liner, or pre-molded heel pads for the medial and distal sides of the ankle.

There is little doubt that half my initial reaction to the Lange was the liner, which practically caressed my feet compared to a common first embrace with heat moldable liners. The heat moldable variety feel stiff and uncomfortable until they are molded and worn for a bit. Langes are built for long days at a resort, which includes a lot of firm snow and fast speeds. It is closer to a race liner than a backcountry liner, including a spoiler wedge that velcros on the rear to give another three degrees of forward lean.

There are a few other details that add to out-of-the-box comfort. Where the tongue mates to the top of the foot it splits like a wishbone so it doesn’t add excess pressure to the top of your foot, yet ties in securely to the base of the liner. In addition the pads around the heel are premolded for the inside and outside of your ankle, and can be custom molded with some heat. It also offers the option to lace it, along with a durable rubber sole for walking in the liners alone, maybe to get some wood for the fireplace before tucking in for the night at a hut.

Shell wise the XT has a lot of options to chose from; normal (100mm) to low (97mm) width at the first metatarsal zone, shell stiffnesses of 130 or 120 for men, 100 or 90 for women, and short cuffs for women. Compared to many other brands, the Langes are generous with their measurements, with the LV version still giving an ample 97+mm width for a mondo 26.5 shell. The standard width is more like 101+mm. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can make a huge difference in terms of comfort. Likewise the lower volume version has a lower instep height, easily holding the heel of medium and low instep feet in place.

If you didn’t know better you might mistake the XT for an RX. Downhill performance is nearly identical, but the color scheme is inverted.

Another factor in the fit of Langes is their insistence on single injection molding for smooth, progressive flex whether pressing the cuff with your leg in a turn, or simply applying pressure from the buckles around the liner and your foot, in either case it makes for a supple feel. Many backcountry specific boots use multiple injections to add stiffness while subtracting weight, but their flex is rarely as smooth and progressive as a Lange.

In terms of downhill power no one is claiming that the XT has race caliber flex performance. It may be rated 130, but the cuff is only anchored to the lower shell at the pivots and compressional friction between the cuff and lower sole. This is not as stiff as race boots riveted to a rear post, but it does provide a better than average coupling thanks in part to the V-Lock touring mechanism filling the gap on the lower boot when it is under compression. This also provides more surface area to couple to, making the flex of the cuff stiff, but not rigid. In Lange terms, the XT has the same downhill performance as their RX series.

Depending on how you measure it, up to 10 degrees rear cuff movement – or at least vertical for you lower leg.

The V-Lock itself is ingenious in its simplicity. It’s a wedge cut out of the achilles region of the lower boot, that flops backwards when not under pressure. The sides mate so it bonds well to the rest of the boot when the cuff is locked forward and tightened. It allows easy movement of the cuff since it doesn’t need to ride up or down on a metal post, and the open wedge behind the Achilles tendon allows your foot to easily stretch backward. In practice it is the ease of rotation that creates much of the sensation of how big the cuff range of motion feels. By the numbers it doesn’t sound all that great – only 10° backward, depending on how much the cuff is loosened. On its own the cuff can go much further, but not with a foot in the boot. With so little cuff resistance, rear motion is largely determined by how flexible the liner is. If there is an area for improvement with this boot for touring, it would be the touring contribution of the liner.

The rest of the boot is largely what you would expect. All the buckles are micro-adjustable and the two on the cuff have a touring tooth that slides to allow it to open up with the buckles closed. The power strap is a healthy width and there is grippy rubber on the sole, even in the arch zone for solid purchase when scrambling over rocks or just clambering around on stuff.

Weight wise the Lange XT isn’t winning any awards for lightness, but who’s worried about weight for a quick lap or two? If you’re looking for a good all round downhill performance ski boot with a high probability of a good fit out of the box and excellent touring comfort, you would be foolish to avoid trying a pair on. Even if you don’t venture out of bounds with ‘em, you will surely appreciate the touring comfort while walking or just standing around.

XT 130
MSRP: $800
Weight/boot: 4 lbs., 11 oz. (2.12 kg) (mondo 26.5)
Sizes Available: Mens: 24.5 — 30.5 (mondo)

© 2012