Hard Boot Manufacturers
There are 3 major hard boot manufacturers for the US/Europe: DeeLuxe, Head, and UPZ/Virus. In addition, G-Style makes boots for Japan.
DeeLuxe is the brand name that continues the Raichle line of hard
boots (pronounced RIGH-Clee).
The Raichle AF700 (DeeLuxe indy)
The Raichle SB423 (DeeLuxe Le Mans)
Previous to '04, the boots were sold under
the Raichle name in the US, but under the DeeLuxe name everywhere else. Starting
in '04, the line is sold under the DeeLuxe name worldwide. There was no difference
between the DeeLuxe and Raichle boots, but the model names were different:
Raichle AF600 = DeeLuxe Suzuka
Raichle AF700 = DeeLuxe Indy
Raichle SB series = DeeLuxe Le Mans
|New for 2007: DeeLuxe produced the Track line of boots, which have real buckles instead of the zip-tie plastic buckles. The toe buckle is reversed, to prevent if from opening while in a leaned-over carve. The boots are available as the Track 325 and Track 225, which reverts back to the old Raichle numbering system. In order to get the Track buckles to fit on older Raichle boots, you need to follow instructions from Starikashka. Some carvers have replaced all 4 buckles on older Raichle boots with the new Track buckles.
- Raichle boots come with three options for the lean/flex mechanism: a 3-position
lean adjuster, a 5-position lean adjuster, and a spring-loaded RAB mechanism.
The lean/flex mechanisms on Raichle boots are interchangeable (except for the older Raichle SB121/Concordia), and you can
swap the RAB mechanism with the 5-position mechanism by knocking out the two
pins that hold the mechanism in place. Each pin has a ridge on one end to
hold it in place. You don't want to do this operation too often, because it
will wear down the plastic ridge in the boot that mates with the pin ridge.
When you put the pins back in, reinsert them in the opposite direction to
use the ridge in the other hole. Some people swap out
the 5-position lean of the AF600 and replace it with the RAB mechanism, and
there are also people who do the reverse with the AF700. Bomber sells both
- If you want to buy Raichle/DeeLuxe boots, get them used. The general consensus: because of problems with the buckles, the lean adjuster, and the cant adjuster, they are not worth their full retail price.
- Each boot model has a different stiffness: the Le Mans are the softest,
followed by the Suzuka, followed by the Indy, which is stiffest. The Indy
is also a bit stiffer than the Head boots.
- If you use Raichle boots, do not walk on concrete with them, since
the toe/heel pieces are very soft and will get torn up: cat tracks are mandatory
- get size small, since snowboard boots have a shorter sole base than ski
boots. If they get worn down, the boot/binding interface can loosen, and you
will need to tighten your bindings.
Raichle boots should really be sold with a few pairs of replacement toe/heel pieces.
Happily, Bomberonline.com is selling replacement Raichle toe/heel pads, using the same urethane as on the medium stiffness TD2 (purple).
- The soft toe/heel pieces contribute more flex to the boot/binding interface.
However, if you get step-in bindings, you will be able to replace the soft
Raichle heels with much stiffer heels that come with the bindings.
- Raichle offers a race kit for the AF700, which has a stiffer tongue.
- The race kits for the SB series are no longer sold since the introduction
of the stiffer AF line. Some of the older SB boots came with two sets of tongues
- one set for freecarving and one set for racing. The stiffer tongues were
often (but not always) red. Raichle previously offered stiffer race heels
but those are no longer sold.
- Raichle boots come with three different options for liners: a standard liner,
a Thermofit liner, or a more expensive Thermoflex liner. The standard liners
do not have any heat-moldable parts. The Thermofit liners have small areas
in the heel and tongue that conform to the shape of your foot through body
heat, or by using heat hoses. Both the standard and Thermofit liner have a
Velcro strap. In contrast, the Thermoflex liner can be entirely heat-molded
using a convection oven for a better fit, and they are also warmer, but do
not have a Velcro strap. However, the standard/Thermofit liners are more rigid
and offer better power transmission, and are preferred by racers.
- If you need to heat-mold Thermoflex liners, you can either get a bootfitter to do it, or try doing it yourself - see the bootfitting section.
The Raichle Thermoflex liners usually mold perfectly to your feet, and the
shell usually does not need to be modified or punched out.
- There are two types of Thermoflex liners available for Raichle boots
CPD Thermoflex liner for the SB series: It is less stiff, and has red cuffs.
- The HPD Thermoflex liner for the AF series.
The HPD liner is larger and thicker, and gray in color.
- Some Raichle boots do not come with a top power strap, which means the stiffness can be significantly increased with a booster strap.
- The cuff cant adjusters on the Raichle SB-series boots are notorious for
breaking. Be sure the cant screws are kept tight, because loose cant adjusters
are more prone to breakage. The cant adjusters are more likely to break from added stress if you lock the lean adjusters and use lower binding angles. When they break, you must drill them out and replace
them with rivets or bolts. People often fix them by permanently gluing them
in the middle cant position. Happily, if you buy the boots from Bomber, they
will send you free cant adjusters if your existing ones break. Step-by-step
instructions for fixing broken Raichle cant adjusters can be found here.
The cuff cant adjusters on the AF-series boots (Indy/Suzuka) are less prone to breakage, and have only two positions.
|Shown here are the Raichle SB223. The SB series is designed for freecarving and has a lot of flex in the shell
The AF series is stiffer, has more volume, and a wider fit than the SB series.
- Raichle boots used to be sold in half-sizes, but changed to whole sizes
a few years ago.
- Some of the older Raichle boots cannot accept Intec heels.
- Raichle boots that are Intec compatible can also work with the Burton Race Physics step-in system, but
you must use the wire toe bail instead of the Race Physics speed hook.
- Raichle has sold Limited edition boots during the Olympics. These include
the Salt Lake City Edition (AF700) and the Nagano Edition (SB225).
- The buckles on the new Track series of boots are well-designed, but the buckles on other models have a few "issues":
- The buckles use a fine-toothed zip-tie system that makes it
difficult to achieve a consistent boot tightness. Other brands use ratchet
systems for better consistency.
- The buckles tend to pop open on their own, because they don't have enough
fulcrum leverage in the closed position. You can reduce the problem somewhat
by tightening all buckles by the exact same amount, but that doesn't always
solve the problem. Another solution is to add more fulcrum leverage by
placing plastic spacers under the buckles, just in front of the T-nut.
- The buckles are susceptible to icing up, making them difficult to unbuckle.
- When unbuckling the boots on the lift, it's easy to accidentally loosen
the buckle tightness setting.
- For these reasons, Raichle boots are often regarded as lacking "real
- On the SB boots, it is possible to shorten or lengthen the plastic zip-tie
part of the two lower buckles (instep and toe), to allow the buckles to close tighter. The zip-tie buckle has a loop, which loops around posts underneath a plastic cover. You can unscrew
and pop off this cover, then loop the cable around different posts. The instep
buckle has three posts and the toe buckle has two. But, it can be a pain to get
the covers back on, so follow these steps to get the cover back in place:
- With the cover removed, loop the cable around the post in the cover that you want to use
- Place the top ridge of the cover (the part closest to the top of the boot) into the corresponding ledge of the boot
- Tighten the screw: The bottom part of the cover probably won't click into place yet.
- Put the zip-tie end into its buckle, and while pushing on the bottom part of the cover, close the buckle. For more leverage, you can place the boot on a table, with the cover side down, and exert downward force while you close the buckle.
- On the SB boots that come with 3 buckles and a Velcro strap, it is possible
to replace the Velcro strap with a buckle by drilling out the rivets that
hold the Velcro, and using the new holes for buckle T-nuts. Bomber sells the
- The 3 mm hex wrench key chain is used to adjust the cants and buckle covers.
The 3mm hex sockets strip really easily.
- In '01, Raichle sold one of their SB models under the "Line Boot"
brand (DIN sole, 4-buckle + strap). It was marketed as a "skiboard boot",
but was identical to the SB model.
You can also swap out tongues to make it stiffer or looser.
- DeeLuxe previously sold the women-specific Spa Lady boot (3-buckle), as well as a Thermoflex
liner for women.
- The older SB121 boots (also called the Concordia) have a Vibram sole, and are great for AT touring on
a splitboard. They are also good for stiffer freeride boards and swallowtail
boards. However, their wide sole means they do not always fit into all plate bindings.
- You will find a lot of older Raichle SB-series boots on eBay. Raichle started with the 100 series, followed in later years by the
200, 300, 400, and then the Le Mans. Lower-cuff models have only 2 or 3
buckles. higher-cuff models can have either 4 buckles, or 3 buckles and
a Velcro strap. The same model was often available in a low-cuff version
for smaller sizes (<= 26.5) and a high-cuff version for larger sizes (>=27.0). The low-cuff version often had fewer buckles. Even for a beginner,
it is highly desirable to get a 4-buckle boot for maximum adjustability.
- The ancestry:
|Raichle boot models
||SB213 3, 3+
||SB313 3, 3+, 4
||SB413 3, 3+, 4
||Spa 4, Spa Lady 3
|Jr. boot 2
|Snowboarder 2, 2+, 3
||SB223 3, 3+, 4
||Le Mans 4
||SB133 3, 3+
|Key: 3 = 3 buckle, 4 = 4 buckle, 3+ = 3 buckle + Velcro
strap (goes around shell)
Head bought out Blax, and starting in '01, the Head boots are a continuation
of the Blax line.
The Head Stratos Pro and Head S-LTD are the high end race boots. These are basically
the same with the exception of a few very minor differences. The Head boots are slightly softer
than the DeeLuxe Indy, but stiffer than the Burton Wind.
The cuff on Head boots is not as tall as the cuff on either Burton or Raichle
boots. However, the high end Head boots have adjustment "wings" that
extend some of the cuff plastic up by an inch.
The lower cuff on the Head boots makes them a candidate for a women's fit.
Head claims constant stiffness plastic over a wide temperature range.
Several carvers have experienced major hassles and delays trying to replace broken Head Stratos Pro boots under warranty. To begin with, all Head boots sell out by January, and Head does not keep extra boots around for warranty replacements. So if you break the boots in February, there are no replacements; you have to wait for the next production run in December (that is, if Head decides to continue production). In all cases, it seems that Head sends a pair of softboots as the "replacement" for the broken hard boots. Of course, that's not going to work. Typically, Head eventually replaces the boots, after major hassles. However, in one case, Head provided a replacement consisting of new old stock Head Vega boots, which are low-end hard boots, and not comparable to the Stratos Pro. When you buy Head boots from a retailer, try to get some kind of instant-replacement guaranty directly from the retailer, so that if your boots break, you can somehow get a replacement pair immediately, in case Head is uncooperative.
- Head makes half-size boots (like 27.5), but the only difference between
a whole size and the next half-size up is the thickness of the footbed. Since
you will want to use your own custom footbed, there is no difference in size
between a 27 and a 27.5.
- The liners are generally considered to be warm and comfy. The area around
the heel of the liner can be heat-molded with a hose, but most people
rely on the liners to self-mold over time.
For some model years, the screws holding the buckles on the S-LTD tend to come loose. You will
need a jeweler's screwdriver (#0 Phillips) to tighten them.
come with a set of race heels/tongues.
- If you are using Head boots with the Bomber trench diggers, you probably
need a longer set screw on the TD toe clip. You will need to apply some vibra-tite or paint
to the threads to keep the screw from coming loose from vibration.
When using Head boots with some Intec step-in bindings, the Intec heel pieces
can dig into the boot plastic along the sides of the boots, but it's not a
|With Head boots, the heels are held using inferior inserts (the ones shown on the left), because the inserts have no spikes. The inserts resemble oblong barrels, which sit in recessed oblong holes in the boot plastic. As you might imagine, it doesn't take a lot of force to cause those inserts to wear down the plastic and start spinning. In a typical (and worst-case) scenario, you will be unable to tighten the heel bolts, because the inserts will start to spin before you can get the bolts sufficiently tight. Yet, when you try to unscrew the heel bolts, the insert has enough friction with the bolt to spin with the bolt as you try to unscrew it. In order to unscrew the bolt, you need to press a left-hand screw extractor into the insert from the inside of the boot, then unscrew the bolt from the outside. Then, knock out the inserts and put in new ones with retaining spikes (shown the the right).
- The older Blax lineup includes:
- Blax Ingemars, 4-buckle + strap: Top of the line race boot.
- Blax Stratos Pro, 4-buckle + strap: Top of the line race boot, with
race heels/tongues, independent flex and forward lean adjustment.
- Blax Stratos, 4-buckle + strap: Carving, no race heels/tongues. Has
a spring adjuster for flex / lean.
- Blax Franz, 4-buckle + strap: Freecarve/race, with micro-adjust buckles.
- Blax Toni, 4-buckle + strap, softer, for freecarving.
- Blax Heidi, 4-buickle + strap
- Blax Rosi, 4-buickle + strap
- Blax Vector, 4-buckle + strap (high end)
- Blax Vega, 4-buckle + strap (low end)
- Blax Cirrus, 4-buckle + strap (very low end)
Virus has their own private-label version of the UPZ boots.
UPS Boots changed their name to UPZ starting in '05. UPZ produces one
model, the 5 buckle RSV Superlight, constructed from Polyamide 12 Nylon-Plastic.
They are 30% lighter than previous boots and maintain a constant stiffness across
a wide temperature range. They include liners with separate heat-moldable areas
that self-mold to your foot. The boots come with F.A.S.T. heels, and are specifically
designed for Snowpro bindings, which means the boot-to-binding interface for
this combination is rock solid. They can also be fitted with Intec heels. Some
- Virus Snowboards sells their own private label version of UPZ boots.
- The UPZ boots have proven popular with racers. The boots have good responsiveness, and have a shorter sole base that allows lower binding angles for more leverage/maneuverability through ruts.
- The asymmetric shell is supposed to provide a better fit.
- The UPZ RSV Superlight has a stiffness somewhere between the AF600 and AF700.
- The UPZ boot has a lean mechanism with springs for both forward flex and reverse flex, which is able to provide a reasonably constant flex over a large span of lean positions.
It can be locked into one of 4 lean positions.
- Some older models of the UPS boots do not have a buckle located high up
on the cuff and do not have a power strap, which means that a booster strap is recommended.
For the older models, the 5-buckle UPS RSV Machs have more adjustability than
the 4-buckle models.
- The sole base is shorter than most other boots, which allows lower binding
- The boots have a wide toe box, which fits wide feet well.
- Previous UPS boots have softer toe pieces, which are held in by screws that
are only slightly countersunk. As the toe pieces develop wear, the screws
become exposed, which scratches the bindings and wears down the screw heads,
making removal difficult.
Later models of UPZ boots have no toe pads at all, which can sometimes cause you to slip when walking through the parking lot.
Some people replace the screws with tee nuts.
- UPZ/.UPS boots are advertised as hybrid ski/snowboard boots, since they come with
optional DIN toe and heel pieces that allow them to be used with ski bindings.
However, they do not have sufficient stiffness to work well as ski boots,
with one exception - ski patrollers like the softness when working on the
hill (that's what you call a specialty within a sub-niche)
- When surfing powder with the lean adjuster in walk mode, the adjuster is
prone to getting flipped up into the locked position. Use duct tape or a leash to keep the lever down.
- You might want to consider Thermoflex liners for the boots. For the regular
DeeLuxe liners, use a liner that is the same size as the boot.
- Some carvers have reported buckle breakage.
However, the buckles are nice in that they have the micro-adjustment, like the Head and Burton boots.
- Some of the older UPS Mach boots are not Intec compatible
- The boots have a very tight fit with TD1 (regular) bindings, and may need
dremelling. Some older UPS boots, and the larger sizes of the UPZ boots, are also not compatible with the TD1
step-ins because of the boot geometry. But there are no problems with Catek.
- Older models:
- The RSV Mach, RX Mach, and Mach X boots do not have a buckle high up
on the cuff, and do not have a power strap. So, you really need to add
a power strap for these boots:
- UPS RSV Mach (race), 5-buckles, no strap. One cuff cant adjuster
on the outside.
- UPS RX Mach (freecarve), 4-buckles, no strap.
- UPS Mach X (freecarve), 4-buckle, no strap.
- The Mach 1, Mach 2, and Mach Z boots are identifiable by the reinforcing
scaffold spine that goes down the back of the boots:
- UPS Mach 1, 4-buckle + strap
- UPS Mach 2, 4-buckle + strap
- UPS Mach Z, 4-buckle + strap
- UPS Alpina, 4-buckle + strap
- UPS Alp X, 3-buckle, no strap. Smaller sizes have a very low cuff, and
cannot be used with a power strap.
- The UPS Asymmetrical and UPS Alp Free are innovative because they have
a buckle on the back of the cuff:
- UPS Asymmetrical: 3 buckles in front, and one on the back of the
cuff, plus a Velcro strap that spans only the front of the shell.
- UPS Alp Free: 2 buckles in front, and one on the back of the cuff,
plus a Velcro strap that spans only the front of the shell.
||Shown here are Burton Wind boots, with Intuition liners. '02 was the last year that Burton manufactured hard shell boots.
As a result, Burton will not be able to replace parts that break or crack. If
you buy Burton boots, consider getting a second pair to use for spare parts.
Burton boots made with translucent plastic were most susceptible to cracking. But other than the cracking problem, the Burton Fire and Burton Wind hard boots
Some notes about Burton hard boots:
- Burton boots generally have a longer sole base, which makes them less versatile
than other brands.
- Burton boots come narrow. If you have wide feet, you will definitely need
to get them punched out by a bootfitter - do not be surprised if you need to get them punched
out 3 or 4 times in the same place.
- The seams on Burton liners can get torn apart by the boot shell plastic
if you shove them into the boot. You might want to reinforce the seams with
Shoe-Goo, and/or protect the liner seams with your fingers as you shove the
liner into the shell.
- Burton liners are not warm. Raichle Thermoflex liners are recommended
for Burton boots, since you will get a significantly better fit, and they
will be warmer. For the regular Thermoflex liners, use the same size as the
boot. For the HPD Thermoflex liners, you may need to get a liner that is one size smaller.
- It is not possible to replace the tongue on the plastic shell with a stiffer tongue, without a huge amount of customization.
- The tongue on the Burton liners is a separate piece, as opposed to the wrap-around, overlapping tongues of other boot models. As a result, the tongue tends to slide to the left or right, which can be annoying.
- Burton boots tend to be heavier.
- Burton made several Intec compatible boots that are recommended:
- Burton Wind, 4-buckle + strap. Also, a women's version was made ('99), using a different last, designed for a lower calf position.
- Burton Fire, 4-buckle + strap. Stiffer then the Wind, with a slightly taller cuff.
- Burton Ice ('00), 3-buckle + strap, designed for women.
- Older Burton boots do not have a removable heel, and therefore do not accept
step-in heels. However, their one-piece design makes them extra stiff, which
is why they are favored by some racers, like Chris Klug. Two of these boots are recommended:
- Burton Reactor, 4-buckle + strap
- Burton Furnace, 4-buckle + strap
- The stiffness of some older Burton boots is more sensitive to temperature.
- The later step-in-compatible models have two positions for each toe and
heel piece: they can ether extend past the shell of the boot to provide a
ledge for use with bail bindings, or they can both be retracted. When using
a toe bail with an Intec system, the toe piece must provide a ledge.
However, when used with the Race Physics, both toe and heel ledges can be retracted.
- Some Burton boots come with V-shaped stickers. The stickers are used to
keep the liner heel from lifting up in the shell: put them on the back of
the liner heel, with the V upside-down.
- Burton boots were sold in half-sizes - boots of a given size fit that size,
up to the next 1/2 size. If your foot is mondo point 25.4, you would go with
a size 25, not 25.5
- Older Burton boots, none of which are Intec compatible:
- Burton Earth, 3-buckle + strap. For freeriding. ('99, '00)
- Burton Freecarve, 3-buckle + strap. very soft. The cant adjuster moves freely and cannot
be locked, so avoid this one.
- Burton Shadow, 3-buckle + strap. For freeriding.
- Burton Boiler, 3-buckle + strap. For freeriding.
- Burton Raptor, 4-buckle + strap. For racing.
- Burton MGX (MegaFlex), This model cam either with 3-buckle+strap, or 3-buckle with no strap. Very old, and not compatible with most plate
bindings. Some very old Burton MGX boots had only 2 buckles.
The G-Style line of hard snowboard boots
in Japan. They seem to be expanding their product line, so alpine must be growing.
They offer several models:
- VG-Works Ltd
- VG-Works Hard
- VG-Works Medium
- Vorgue Carve
Discontinued hard boots
No longer sold, but plentiful on eBay.
- Oxygen Spectrum, 3-buckle + strap
- Oxygen Proton, 4-buckle + strap. Favored by some of the PureBoarding guys.
- Oxygen Krypton, 3-buckle + strap, Also 4-buckle + strap
- Oxygen All-around, 3-buckle + strap. On some older models, the buckles just
above and below the instep on the upper and lower boot can collide when the
boot flexes, and therefore a lot of people wound up relocating the buckles.
- Voodoo Fire, 4-buckle + strap
- Voodoo Free, 4-buckle + strap
- Voodoo Spirit, 4-buckle + strap
- Proflex RX70, 3-buckle + strap
- Proflex RX90, 4-buckle
DSM: Same as Head.
- D.33 Freecarve
- D.62 race
- D.57 race
Northwave: The .900 and .950 models (4-buckle + strap) were last manufactured for the 1999 model year. Other models included the .850 and .350. They are preferred
by the ExtremeCarving people because they have the perfect progressive flex
for ExtremeCarving, and they have a short sole base. However, they are not Intec compatible. Unfortunately, the Northwave people threw away the molds, so there is basically no hope that these will be brought back to market. Northwave also made the Nexus model.
Dalbello: Dalbello previously manufactured the DSM brand in Italy but
did not import them into the US. Dalbello is the OEM for Head, Burton, and Voodoo.
Koflach: Made in the late 80s, these fluorescent yellow boots
featured built-in pink gators, along with Vibram soles that make them great for AT riding. 2-buckle + strap. They came in the Valuga and Albona models. Favored by Damien Sanders.
Kastinger: They made boots in many different models, ranging
from Vibram-sole boots with no buckles (lace-up) to 4-buckle race boots.
Crazy Creek: OEM from Kastinger
Nordica Made several snowboard boots with fully lugged soles.
They look quite a bit like the older Raichle 121. These boots are still great
for AT touring:
- Nordica SBH, 3-buckle + strap
- Nordica FunDrive, 3-buckle + strap
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