A new era in touring boots?

Magic Boots – the 2010 Dynafit TLT5 Performance TF

We backcountry folk are living in a time of unprecedented plenty. The advancements in product design in the last 5 years is remarkable. Better boots, skis, bindings, avy gear…all of it making alpine touring easier, more comfortable and safer. No where have the advancements been as significant in these last few years as in the boots that are now available to us. They are lighter, more comfortable, ski like alpine boots should, but go uphill with an efficiency unknown previously. Dynafit has been a brand at the forefront of these product developments and their new boots are arguably the state of the art. Prepare to be impressed.

You need these…


When we saw the Dynafit DNA race boot launched this year, it promised a new era in touring boot design with several completely new features and design ideas. The extraordinary cuff design allowing unprecedented support with range of touring. The sculpted anatomical shape, the simple Ultra-Lock down mechanism for minimal transition time and hassle, and the Acti-Flex forefoot flex design that provides amazing comfort and energy for every step. These were features that hopefully, logically would trickle down to a less expensive, more versatile range of products for non-racers. Dynafit has a new category they are calling Speed Touring. Basically products for people doing big one day traverses, big vertical. Equipment that places a premium on lightweight, on efficiency. This is what the new TLT series represents, formula one race tech for the rest of us. But the Dynafit designers have gone one better and added a couple of other features that make these boots much more than a piece of trick gear for weight freaks.

We have now had several days of skiing and touring on these remarkable tools in all kinds of conditions with a variety of ski types. The TLT series takes the best of the stripped down DNA boot and adds more power, greater durability and comfort with only a few grams of added weight. They have added a full vibram style sole thru the instep with harder durometer wear pads at the toe and heel. Added a removable tongue for more power, a redesigned liner that is more comfortable and a power strap.

Superb extension with 5mm Active-flex zone in toe.

Where is the magic? Walk Mode. The other unique feature is the Ultra-Lock mechanism. In our experience we have had problems with EVERY lock down mechanism on the market at one time or another, although arguably the Garmont version now is the best because it is easier to fix with all the parts located on the outside of the boot. The best locking mechanisms need to be positive with no play, maintenance free and simple to use. The magnesium Ultra-Lock mechanism is so simple and so effective that it makes all the others seem unnecessarily complicated and heavy. The top buckle has a patented toothed tab that inserts into a slot when closed that locks the upper cuff to the lower cuff assembly. Positive, simple, maintenance free. Plus the added benefit of one step to tour mode because when you loosen the top buckle you automatically activate your tour mode. It was a great feature for racers and an even better feature for ski tourers who hate fiddling around with multiple buckles, powerstraps, ski/walk mechanisms at every transition. You do this several times a day in a tour and the simpler and easier it is to do the better.

Perhaps this is the most distinguishing feature of this boot series is the 60 Degrees of cuff rotation. Unprecedented in a boot that skis this well. What this gives you is a more natural stride with greater efficiency and a longer stride length. This is especially apparent on lower angle terrain where you can really open up and travel quickly with less effort. On steeper terrain, it allows your quads and hip flexors to relax almost like the rest/step technique for mountaineering. Coupled with the Acti-Flex of the forefoot, you can get a kick at the end of every stride. Normally with a locked or rigid boot, no flex at the ball of your foot means you can’t push off like your foot and leg anatomy were meant to function. You can’t get that last kick of momentum and energy….it is lost and so your muscles in your feet, ankles and legs have to compensate for this constraint in efficiency and mechanics. It is like riding your mountain bike without being able to bend your knee, partially locked, you can still ride but it is just not as efficient or comfortable.

Simple, lightweight, positive and maintenance free

To further increase the efficiency of your stride, you can remove the tongue (Downhill booster) and have a virtually resistance free walk mode. We found we only did this if we were facing a long climb since the walk mode with the tongue is still very, very smooth and comfortable. But the removal and installation of the tongue is very easy and very quick. A great idea that is well executed. Lastly the detail of the Flex zone in the liner that allows the liner to flex backwards under pressure. Just one more nod to efficiency in stride. This in itself provides a extra measure of comfort and smooth walking movement. Note the new Intuition Pro Tour liner has the same feature.

Goes in or out easily and adds lots of power

Presto Changeo – How does it ski? We knew going in that the DNA skied awfully well for a super lightweight. With the additions for better skiing performance on the TLT series, we expected more downhill fun. The fact that it skis better than the DNA is not surprising, what was surprising however was that for a boot that only weighs 1050gr, it can power pretty much ANY size of ski with fairly solid precision. The carbon cuff has a lot to do with that as it has extraordinary torsional stiffness. But even with this stiffness, there was absolutely no shin bang or abrupt stiffening of the flex curve. Rather the flex is smooth all the way thru, linear but with solid support throughout. When you need to really drive the ski edge and put some power down, the boot doesn’t give up on you. While it is NOT a Titan in power, it is as good or better than most typical touring boots in the 1800 gram range. We skied on Movement Goliaths, the new Dynafit Stoked, Manaslus, G3 Zen Oxides, G3 Tonics, BD Justice as well as some lightwt speed touring setups like Movement Randoms and Dynafit Seven Summits SLs. We skied these combinations on ice, powder, spring-like corn, slow speed and ripping groomers. With the bigger skis, pushing the speeds on hardpack would eventually challenge the TLT’s, but most AT boots are challenged at this level. In every combination to a lesser or greater degree the boots were very comfortable with excellent power transfer. The only area that they have a “different” feel is with the Activ-Flex. This 5 mm of flex in the forefoot, makes the boot almost feel like it has a damper installed in the feedback loop from ski edge to the soles of your feet. The Scarpa F1 series with a bellows are particularly vague in this feel and sensitivity. The TLT has a much more positive feel underfoot, but this is an area where it differs from a pure rigid sole AT setup. Some people may not like that feel and not want to make the compromise. But given the extra efficiency gained in stride, personally, we feel it is totally worth the small amount of desensitizing because the power is still there.

A neat and effective idea

Flexzone in liner

The dark art – Fit. The radically shaped shell at first look seemed perhaps an area of concern because it is made of Grilamid which is a plastic that is not necessarily easy to mold or modify. Plus it is thin to save weight. This was a concern to me in particular because although I don’t have a high volume wide foot overall, it is widish in the midfoot (D+/E width) and very sensitive due to decades of footwear abuse in climbing shoes and ski boots. So even a couple of mm’s of space is the difference between extreme pain or total comfort. And I have never had a touring boot or ski boot where I did not have to blow out the shell for width and for other various bone spurs. However, all I had to do with these boots is to mold the liners and PRESTO!!! Pure comfort, snug with toe room, no hot spots, blisters, no hint of discomfort even after hours and hours of touring and skiing, walking on roads…you name it. In short, this is the most comfortable ski boot I have ever skied or toured in. Period. I am inspired to want to do mega long tours, point to point, giant packs…whatever, these boots will be pure comfort the whole way. This clearly comes from the remarkable shape of the last and it will be interesting to see how this last works with a variety of foot types. Our experience with the DNA however is that this last works on a large variety of foot volumes and shapes but the DNA is on a limited number of feet at this time = small range of foot samples. But the initial results are promising.

Italian craftsmanship…

The Finale. In short, this series of boots has likely reset the bar in touring boot performance. The innovative ideas, the simplicity of design, the extraordinary light weight would be enough to satisfy that remark. But when you add in the phenomenal skiing performance, there really is nothing to compare. (Note – we have tested or worn most of the new boots from other manufacturers for next season). Over the last 4 years I personally have skied Scarpa Tornados F1s and Skookums, Garmont Adrenalin and Radiums, Dynafit Titans and Zeus as well as other power AT setups. My favourite to date is the Titans for power/tour/weight combo but I have been using Radiums as my longer distance tour boot. The TLT5 Performance TF has a lot to offer the backcountry skier that is more than the sum of its parts. It is much more than a super light boot, it is more than mid-power AT boot. What it is not, is a boot to do battle with Titans or other heavier power AT ski boots. But it is so good as a general AT boot, a proper ski mountaineering boot, with so many advantages over the power boots, you have to wonder….perhaps? It is so much lighter, so much more efficient with only minor compromises in downhill performance…it really challenges the majority of the boots out there with AT labels.

These boots are as significant a design and performance improvement in AT equipment as the Dynafit/Tech binding was to touring or fat skis and early rise tips are to powder skis. Only, because your boots are the most important piece of gear you can own, these boots are even more important in making touring more fun, more efficient, and simply, better. Congratulations Dynafit, you have accomplished a remarkable trick.

The Specs
Materials – Grilamid, Carbon and Pebax
Forward lean – 15 degrees
Cuff Rotation – 60 degrees
Weight – (27.5) 1050 grams, 1115 with downhill booster tongue
Price: 995$ MSRP

Available at Escape Route in Canada.

12 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Thanks for the excellent review, Jayson. I like your photographs and writing style. This was a very thorough and thought provoking review. While I am thrilled you say, “In short, this is the most comfortable ski boot I have ever skied or toured in. Period.” I am even more eager to try them when you say, “I am inspired to want to do mega long tours, point to point, giant packs…whatever, these boots will be pure comfort the whole way.”

    Grilamid can be manipulated with care by expert boot fitters. I know a guy with a 29 foot skiing well and racing in a modified 27.5 DNA boot shell.

    Have a great Winter/Spring season on those boots. Please post again and tell us how durable they are after you have more days on them. It would also be good to know how wide underfoot a ski you are using with this rig.

    Cheers,
    Flax

  2. You are absolutely correct. We sold 3 pair of the Dynafit Dy.N.A. boots this season through our store. They were pricey ($1550) but amazing. Only 30 pair shipped to the US market and we were fortunate to get 3. After skiing the reviews were rave. Great fit, great performance, and amazingly light. Our backcountry folk are thrilled. The expansion of the line by Dynafit next year will place these phenomenal boots in the hands of many backcountry skiers. We have worked on these boots and found it takes great care to manipulate the materials.
    Excellent article and great pictures, we agree.

  3. Flax
    Thanks for the comments. I was pushing both a Mvmt Goliath (190cm, 108mm under foot) and also a Manaslu. I also tried them on a Zen Oxide (105mm) and a pair of G3 Tonics (100mm). The boots had enough power for all these skis in soft snow. They had to work a lot harder on the Goliaths once the speed picked up on harder snow. A little more vague feeling to as you ratchet up the power requirements on bigger skis at higher speeds. But still very impressive.

  4. How do the the TLT 5 compare to the Zzero 4C for lateral and forward flex?

  5. Thanks!, very nice review and perfect understanding of the boot concept!. Your interpretation is exactly what we wanted to reach with this boot and your super positive comments are telling us we did it right.
    It’s great to read and see that also in noth america people can understand and appreciate these kind of products. Most of the time we ear only make it stiffer, higher, heavier wider fitting while now we see a huge amount of people appreciating the new TLT5 line.
    Just that you know the final production will have a lot of improvement compared the proto you tested. New cuff buckle with steel reinforced locking pin, full aluminum insert on the hole of the rear spoiler to increase durability and locking precision, improved lower tongue design, and a few degrees of more forward inclination to improve centrality in downhill mode.
    Ciao

    • Hi Federico!
      I am an austrian student, working on my master thesis to finish my studies. The thesis is about Brand Communities, respectively Dynafit´s brand community and its impact on the innovation dimension.
      Austrian and German mountaineering athlethes recommended to contact you to ask if you were willing to answer some interview questions for the purpose of my thesis.
      It´d be a pleasure for me to get support of you,
      I´m open for any help, you can also contact me via email – wickybisanz@gmail.com

    • Hey Federico….nice work on the boots. Maybe you shouldn’t increase the degree of inclination though. Racers like the Dyna B/c it allows a more straight up “recovery position”. F1’s lock you into that fwd. position and it really burns the legs. I liked the Dynafit pro race for that reason. I’m planning on using these for racing (and touring).

      ciao

      • Ciao Steve, a few mm more will not really be really burning your legs but will help a little with the centrality during the descent.
        Ciao

  6. Hi – great review, I am even more keen to get some now. I live in Australia and the chance to try them on here is next to nil. NO matter – I am currently skiing Dynafit Zzero 4s in a 28, and I presume the fit is reasonably similar. I do have one question about boot fit, though – like you mention for yourself, width is a problem for me in many boots and a couple of mm does matter. The Zerros fit well, but have only just enough width for me (and Garmonts in same size not quite enough). I was concerned that with a lower volume and thinner liner, the TLT5 might not have enough width for me. Yout article goes some way to reassuring me on this, but I would like to specifically ask you – can I be confident in ordering TLT5s in the same size as Zzeros that I will have enough width for my forefoot?

    • Graeme
      Sorry to be late in getting back to you. You should be fine with the same size as your Zeros. I can say for me, I had the 27.5 Zero and the same in the TLTs and I found the width the same…just. Like you, my Zeros did not need to be punched but they were just wide enough. Ideally a couple of more mils would have been even better. Same with the TLTs…so this year I might put a small punch in them…we’ll see. They were generally very good.

  7. Hi there. I’ve had my Dynafit boots for 20 years and used that one boot for ski-touring, snowboarding, ice climbing and even climbing Aconcagua!

    As they are now held together with Gaffa tape, I am contemplating getting a new pair.

    My question to you Jayson or any other that might be reading this: how well do you think this boot will perform on the other sports – particularly ice climbing. Over the years ice climbing has also developed ultra-specialised equipment, and ideally you have special boot for each sport. Problem is to bring all the boots for the sports you might do that weekend or on that trip, as well as the cost.

    Do you think it’ll be a good alround boot? Is it suitable for steep water iceclimbing? I climb in my Dynafit with Rambo Monopoints and have done some fairly gnarly stuff. (example: http://willerup.com/ice/caturgeas.html ).

    Cheers
    Mathias

    • Hi Mathias
      I too for many years tried to use one boot for everything, recognizing it was a compromise, it was one I was prepared to make. Typically a good ski boot is a totally lousy ice climbing boot since there is little or no ankle articulation. This is a bad thing for modern ice climbing technique. Mind you if you spend most of your ice time on straight up vertical ice standing on your front points, it can sort of work out. Typically as you know, more ankle articulation makes for worse skiing performance.

      The very soft and lower cut AT boots of old were actually OK ice boots, but still limited. Specifically the TLT series would be a better all around than your old Dynafit AT boots. No question. Lighter, colder, more versatile. The one problem I can see is that standing on monopoints on sustained vertical ice, you might get a lot of heel lift. But you might be able to work around that.

      So recognizing that they are still a compromise when compared to the modern ice and mountaineering boots, if you are set on having one boot for everything I don’t think you can do better than the TLT series.

      Jayson

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