Lange Ski Boots
No other brand has remained as faithful to its roots, and with as much sustained success, as has Lange. The brand was dedicated from the outset to enhancing energy transmission between athlete and ski. Lange designers have never strayed from a basic, four-buckle architecture, and neither have they rested on their considerable laurels. (Lange’s absurd lead in accumulated World Cup points speaks to their decades of dominance.)
A few seasons ago, Lange finally found a way to convert the medal count on the racecourse into coin at the retail register. They de-tuned their competition-class RS series by softening the flex, pushing the forefoot width out to a less confining 100mm and, critically, bumping up the instep height. Virtually overnight, Lange’s light green “race” boot led a brand renaissance that pulled the rest of the line after it.
While Lange’s resurgence was being led from the front by making the classic race boot roomier, at the lower price points where most mortals buy boots, Lange improved its position by offering lower-volume alternatives. Women with narrow feet, largely abandoned in a market shift to wider women’s boots, found the Lange “L.V.” suffix meant they’d found a boot made for them. Along with Lange’s already established following in the race community, the popularity of the lightweight, close-fitting women’s line and the near-universal appeal of the new flag ship RX 130, meant Lange was finally earning euros at the same pace as their race boots racked up World Cup points.
As evidenced both by its long history and current collection, Lange management doesn’t care to deviate from what they correctly feel is their heritage and their strength. When rear-entry boots were ubiquitous, Lange made a feeble stab at the concept as if to prove what an abomination all such silly boots were.
The current craze is the alpine hiking boot, a trend that at first caught Lange flatfooted. But Lange quickly caught up, producing first-rate exemplars of the budding genre by not corrupting their alpine structure much beyond adding a walk-ski latch to the rear spoiler. This year they’ve committed to the genre by making new, more hike-friendly molds for the top HM model, the XT, in both narrow and medium widths. The new XT even comes with a set of Walk to Ride (WTR) soles.
Lange isn’t in thrall to fads and doesn’t chase every possible way of building a boot. If you’re serious about technical skiing, remember that Lange didn’t just invent the prototypes for their own wildly successful race boots, they essentially created the most imitated archetype of the modern ski boot, period.
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narrow medium wide
Flexes: 140*, 130, 110
Since the creation of the plastic ski boot, no single brand and design has proven as enduring as the four-buckle overlap Lange race boot. Of course there has been considerable evolution over 50 years, but the essentials have remained much the same: get the basic stance angles correct and cut out all frills. Today’s incarnation is the RS 130, the “true 130,” the blue boot that represents the gold standard in race performance.
The RS 130 is a burly boot whether you opt for the narrow 97mm last or the medium (which Lange calls Wide) 100mm geometry. You don’t have to be racer to appreciate these shells, but it helps. If you’re a real beast – and you better be wearing a bib – you can try deflecting the RS 140; if you’re lighter or just need a softer flex without altering anything else, the RS 110 also comes in 97mm and 100mm versions.
♀ RS SC
Flexes: 120W, 110W, 90W
The “SC” stands for Short Cuff, meaning Lange lowered the cuff height on its SC series to suit the shorter length of a woman’s tibia. All other changes to their classic race boot design can be quickly summarized: zero. Okay, the shell material is PU instead of polyether, but that’s more a nod to reality than an act of condescension.
These are not shoes for the faint of heart or weak of leg. Their 97mm forefoot will probably limit their appeal not only to women with narrow feet, but to those narrow-footed females who are very, very good skiers. The RS SC shell comes in 120, 110 and 90 flexes.
Flexes: 130, 120*, 100
* narrow na
Oh, the difference a couple of silly millimeters make. Several seasons back, Lange increased the instep height on their classic race boot and instantly earned thousands of new adherents who wouldn’t have worn a blue Lange race boot on a bet. The new green machine, the RX 130, took another clever tack, purloining a page from the women’s dress market. Men who didn’t really belong in a race boot could rock the RX 130, boosting their ability and their self-esteem in one blow.
Befitting its runaway popularity, the RX 130 heads a large family of spin-offs. The flagship model is available in both the standard, medium 100mm last and a low-volume (LV) 97mm alternative. The same range of choices is found in the softer-flexing RX 100.
While the RX 130 doesn’t deliver the undiluted precision of its RS brother, it’s still a single-piece, polyether lower shell and a PU cuff assembled with exactly the same stance angles that has made the RS the most imitated design in skiing.
For 2016 the RX family received a new liner incorporating a Custom Tongue that’s hollowed out over the instep to create a protective dome over the bones and blood paths of the mid-foot. The new RX’s are so comfortable right out of the box you won’t believe you’re in a Lange.
♀ RX W
Flexes: 110W, 90W*, 80W
* narrow na
The RX line for women doesn’t try to tilt women forward or fluff up the inner boot or otherwise patronize the female customer. Its only significant adaptation for a woman’s anatomy is a short upper cuff. The same improvements that were bestowed on the new RX inner boots for men also apply to the women’s RX’s. This is particularly noteworthy as the new Custom Tongue accommodates a high instep - a fit zone that is often a hot spot for women - better than previous iterations.
Most of the features that make the RX 110W a great boot for very good skiers are still present in the RX 80W. This makes the exceptionally supportive RX 80W and RX 80W LV excellent game improvement footwear for the average skier.
Flexes: 120, 100, 90
One has to admire Lange’s uncompromising standards. Many boots made for big, wide feet surrender any number of performance attributes to achieve a more immediately accommodating fit. Lange knows that for wide boots to ski like Langes, it has to be built with the same stance and inner boot technology as their other models. This commitment to making technical products for all skiers makes the SX 120 a standout shoe for any fellow with a big hoof.
One of the secrets to the SX’s success is the shell allows for easier entry/exit without giving up the energy transmission of a mono-injected, polyether lower. Softer plastic flaps over the instep allow the wider foot to slide in and out without being sawed in twain by the rigid shell material. The skilled skier in search of a wide-lasted boot should put the SX on his shopping list.
♀ SX W
Flexes: 90W, 80W, 70W
In the world of alpine boots, skiers with the widest feet get the narrowest number of options. At least at Lange, you know the limited wide-body selection will still retain the essential stance angles that deliver steering accuracy and reduce fatigue by helping the skier retain a more neutral, upright stance. The SX 90W and its softer sisters, the SX 80W and SX 70W, won’t sacrifice ski control on the altar of pillow-lined comfort. These are still at heart technical boots, albeit wider and inherently softer than the high performance models from which they are declined.
Flexes: 130, 120*, 100
* narrow na
This season marks the debut of the first, built-from-scratch XT, with its own mold and a new V-Lock Hike-Ski system that boosts the hike mode ROM to 20o. The new XT’s off-piste chops can be readily raised by switching to the extra tread of WTR rocker soles, which Lange thoughtfully includes. Like XT 1.0, the new shoe comes in both the regular, medium width and a low volume (LV) version for narrow feet.
While the new XT’s make more concessions to the requirements of uphill self-propulsion, Lange would rather commit corporate seppuku than build a boot that violates their basic principles. The XT retains all the essential elements that make a Lange ski, well, like a Lange. Already one of the most powerful hike mode (HM) boots on the market, the 2016 XT uses a metal-to-metal locking mechanism on the spine so rear support is even more secure.
♀ XT W
Flexes: 110W, 90W*, 80W
* narrow na
As goes the RX W series, so goes its HM clones, the XT W’s. So when the top shoe in the women’s RX line was beefed up to a 110 flex index, the XT line was bound to follow. But not in lock step. The XT 110 W only comes in the narrow, 97mm width, making it one of the more bad-ass climbing boots for the woman who can hardly wait until it’s time to head downhill.
The XT line got all new shells and liners this year, meaning that women, too, are recipients of more comfortable, more hike-able XT models. The addition of WTR soles as a more hike-intensive option should appeal to the ladies who plan to spend less time at the resort and more time in the backcountry.
Women with narrow feet who want a precise fit but a little help when it comes to tromping around on foot should put an XT women’s model on their try-on list.
Flexes: 120, 100, 80
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the XC story: it’s the SX family of 102mm lasts with the XT’s hike mode switch on the spine and the option of WTR soles in the box. Most hikers are a fairly lean lot and unlikely to need the XC’s extra-roomy interior, but another fit alternative for the high-volume foot is always welcome, even if the only “hike” the skier sets out on is from the lodge to the lift.
It’s worth mentioning that a hike mode has other virtues aside from facilitating an uphill stride. Relaxing the forward tilt of the spine can be a relief in the liftline or once on the lift, and certainly feels more comfortable at lunch or après ski. An unlatched upper cuff is also easier to slip into and out of, a point that ought not be lost on the skier with a magnificent pedal extremity.
The best thing about the XC is that the convenience aspects of its hike-ski switch don’t detract from its downhill comportment. The XC is, at heart, a race boot in a fat suit, and all it needs for its pedigree to be apparent is to set it in motion.
♀ XC W
Flexes: 90W, 80W, 70W
The new XC W series gives women with high-volume feet another chance to excel, whether they deign to hike higher than the last lift tower or not. The mavens of Lange R&D probably already regard wide boots and walk-mode latches as forms of surrender. They draw the line at betraying their fundamental beliefs.
Therefore, the foundation of any Lange remains unadulterated, despite the occasional accommodation for fat feet and/or uphill travel. The XC W boots still put the skier in a neutral stance laterally and don’t overdo the forward lean angle. If you own a Lange boot, you may think it’s adapting to you over time, but most likely it’s the boot instructing you. Better to get your lessons from a Lange.