10 years ago, effectively all downhill Ski Boots went into all downhill Ski Bindings safely. Fast forward to now, there are a couple of incredible performance based upgrades that make a boot and binding compatibility a bit challenging.
New boot norms seem like they are coming out every season, hence this section will get a little complicated and likely will be outdated as soon as it is posted. Thankfully it doesn’t apply to the vast majority of us. Only those who have touring boots with specific soles have to worry.
Standards & Why They Matter
Currently, there are two standards for Ski Boots to conform too and a couple of concepts that fit in between.
- ISO 5355 that outlines the specifications for Standard Alpine Soles, the majority of the market use, and will use, these boots for all of the skiing they do.
- ISO 9523 is the Standard for Rockered Alpine Touring Soles, most boots in this category have tech binding compatibility and are associated with long backcountry missions.
These standards ensure that boots of all brands conform with bindings and safely release when needed. It would be simple if that was all there was to it. However, the range of boots that fall under ISO 9523 and their individual niche properties are where it gets complicated.
Walk to Ride & Grip Walk
The developments in boot technology aim at improving grip when walking around the carpark or hiking up the hill whilst maintaining safety with bindings. All boots with one of these technologies are classified as ISO 9523, allowing for differences in sole height and material.
Walk to Ride (WTR) is found on a handful of boots from Salomon, Atomic, Lange, Rossignol & more. Their aim is to combine the best aspects of both types of boots, rockered soles with large rubber tread for grip when walking and the hard smooth plate for interaction with AFD plates of bindings to allow for consistent and reliable release.
Grip Walk (GW) is a similar concept developed in conjunction with Tecnica & Nordica. Many boots nowadays can have their soles replaced with GW soles for increased grip. Grip Walk bindings are fairly common in newer bindings. But trying to pair GW soles with older bindings is difficult.
The great thing about this development in the industry is that bindings seem to be progressing at the same rate as boots. There is a range of newer bindings that will fit the vast majority of boots. As long as the bindings are adjusted correctly they will release as normal.
However, there are a couple of boots that don’t conform to either norm and don’t safely fit into traditional bindings. For example, the Atomic Backland Carbon Boots have heel heights that don’t fit into traditional bindings regardless of type and hence are only compatible with tech bindings. When buying these type of boots, ensure that bindings you are pairing them are compatible and never just assume!
Bindings have Norms (ISO 9462 and 13992) in a similar manner to Boots, however, in terms of compatibility, these norms are less distinguishable and less important to overall understanding. Essentially there are a couple styles of bindings with differing functions.
Most traditional bindings fall under the category of Alpine Bindings and are only compatible with ISO 5355 Traditional Alpine Soles. There has been a range of bindings that have come out recently that are compatible with various ISO 9523 soles. In general, all older bindings (over ~5 years old), won’t safely release a WTR, GW or ISO 9523 Touring boot, even if the bindings have adjustable toe height.
Marker bindings sporting their Sole I.D. technology are compatible with all ISO 5355/9523 boots, similar to Salomon/Atomic MNC Bindings (Multi-Norm Compatible). These bindings take the guesswork out of boot compatibility and are deemed safe, assuming the toe height is correctly set.
Certain new bindings specify compatibility, ie Salomon STH2 13 WTR bindings are compatible with WTR boots as well as all normal ISO 5355 boots. Many newer bindings produced by Marker and Tyrolia are Gripwalk compatible and will be labelled as such. Bindings from Look/Rossignol that are marked Dual WTR are compatible with both GW and WTR however have some trouble with full rockered rubber soles.
Tech Bindings (Pin bindings, Dynafits etc.) make the matter even more confusing. However, you are generally pretty deep into Alpine Touring when you stumble across these. Some ISO 9523 Boots come with special ‘Dynafit Compatible Inserts’ drilled into the toe and heel. These are widely compatible with the vast majority of full tech bindings; that is pin toes and heels. Attempting to MacGyver these inserts at home is dangerous and strongly not recommended.
Marker Kingpin and similar bindings (Dynafit Beast, Fritschi Tecton etc) that have slightly different heel retention have some compatibility issues with tech compatible boots that don’t conform to ISO 9523 (as mentioned above with the Atomic Backland Carbon). Parts may be available to modify these boots to work with certain bindings.
All in all, the new developments in boot soles make boot and binding compatibility a bit of a nightmare. If this has made you even more confused and you just want to know if your boots are compatible with a certain binding, or vice versa, get in touch and we should be able to help out.