All the major backcountry blogs have already weighed in on this boot. But I typically feel like the guys doing these reviews are super-studs who spend all of their time out skiing sick lines, hucking huge cliffs, ruining perfect powder fields, and more or less doing incredibly impressive things that us mere mortals can only dream of doing. I could be wrong. Maybe these guys actually spend very little time skiing and are more likely to be found sitting in front of a computer fighting for your attention. Regardless… I thought you might enjoy hearing from an average, everyday Joe who tries to get out as much as possible, but is far from achieving super-studdery.
So, who is this guy?
My name is Greg and I work here at the Catamount Trail Association. I’ve only been skiing for a couple of years and originally switched over from snowboarding to skiing for the increased mobility it offers while doing all those other things you do that don’t include sliding downhill. Anyway, I’m not an amazing skier. I’m not terrible, but the word Schralp would not be the first word that comes to mind if you came across me in the woods. I really do like skiing and I’m happy to slide on snow whether or not there is “enough”. The winter season started off pretty well here in Vermont. It’s currently late December and I’ve already logged 9 days in my Spectres including 1 day at the resort. What I’d like to share with you is my impression of the La Sportiva Spectres based on these those days. I’ve been skiing these on a pair of 180 Rossignol Soul 7’s mounted up with Marker Barons.
First… Some Specs
Weight: 1445 g or 3.18 lbs per boot (for a size 27.5)
Shell Material: Shell – Grilamid, Cuff – Carbon Reinforced Grilamid, Tongue – Pebax
Liner: EZ Thermo (Thermo=Thermo-moldable)
Forward Lean: 10-14-18 degrees
Range of Motion: 60 Degrees of Cuff Articulation
Boot Sole: Vibram
Buckles: 4 Buckles
Binding Compatibility: All Tech Fit & Alpine Touring… sorta
What do you want to know about how much these weigh? Do you want to know that they’re 50 grams lighter than the next guy? Do you care? Maybe you do, but then this probably isn’t the review for you… sorry. What I noticed about the weight is that they’re f’ing light! This is my first pair of real AT boots and I’m coming from a pair of Tecnica Bushwackers. I don’t know how much the Bushwackers weigh, but it’s quite a bit more. The Spectres feel as light as my old ice climbing boots and compared to my Tecnicas are seriously more enjoyable on the uphill.
This is an area that’s super subjective. No two feet are the same and everyone has different ideas of what’s considered comfortable and how much discomfort their willing to endure over the course of a day. The one thing that I think everyone will agree on is the fact that the La Sportiva Spectre has a very low instep height. This is no joke… it’s very low. Personally, this design feature? flaw? is the thing that excited me the most about these boots.
You see, I have a very low instep. I typically wear a size 11.0 in my Brooks, Nike, Hoka, or Newton running shoes. However, my instep is so low that in my old alpine boots I had to size down to a 26.5 shell to get a snug enough fit volume-wise. I then had the toe area punched out, and after all of that still had to put a heel wedge under the liner to take up a bit more space. So when I slid my foot into the Spectre in a 27.0 the lack of volume was music to my feet! My foot was held securely in place and there was even a little wiggle room for my toes.
Now, all of the other reviewers have gone out of their way to caution people about the low volume and I want to caution you as well. Even though these fit better than any boot I’ve ever had… my right foot is almost too tight in the area over the instep. I have to be very careful how tight I buckle the instep buckle as it is very easy to over-tighten in. The boots feel awesome when loosened for hiking and I will most likely have some boot work done eventually, but I want to spend some more time in them before I head down that path.
Other thoughts on fit…
The heel area is pretty secure although not super aggressive. I’ve had no signs of blistering after spending quite a few back to back days hiking in them. The toe-box seems of average width. At first I thought they were going to be a bit narrow, but as the liner has broken in they are feeling better. Again, I think I’ll probably have right boot punched slightly to give a little more width across the ball of the foot, but the left feels perfect. I would consider my feet of average width.
I was kind of blown away by how comfortable and easy to walk in the Spectres are. I thought my Tecnica’s were a amazing compared to regular alpine boots, but these are in a totally different league. Is 60 degrees more than you need? I don’t know, but It seems pretty darn good from where I stand. In conjunction with the rockered sole I can literally run in my Spectres, and often do run laps around the parking lot to warm up while waiting for my ski buddies to pull their acts together. The cuff articulation, the flexible tongue, the flex zone in the liner… it all comes together to make for a very smooth and comfortable experience on the way up.
Thoughts On The Pegasus Buckles
When I first pulled the Spectre off the wall at my local shop to try it on the first thing I noticed about the boot were it’s unique buckles. I have to admit, the first thought I had was that these look complicated and unnecessary. However, they really aren’t that bad, and they might actually be amazing! If you take a look, the buckle is made of of a short cable attached to a piece of metal with holes in it. You put the round peg in the round hole and there’s a small spring clip which keeps everything from falling apart. They’re a little fiddly to put on, but you get better at it and they’re actually pretty easy to use even with gloves on. I found some of my spring clips to be a little tight, but with a little persuasion you can tweak them so that they’re easy to use.
Once on the buckles are awesome. Opening the buckles provides plenty of slack to make hiking and skinning super comfortable. Regardless of whether they’re open or closed the buckles are up away from the sides of the boots where they are protected and out of the way of rocks and other nuisances. The micro adjust is exactly that… micro! If a full turn is too much you can do a 1/4 turn or even a 1/32 of a turn… anything you want. I really like this system as it’s super easy to dial in the fit with our without gloves on. I can see these possibly icing up, but the reality is I don’t mess with mine much now that they’re adjusted, so some icing most likely wouldn’t be a problem. I do wish there was a little slot in the part the adjustment barrel threads into. It could be more like the barrel adjusters on a bike and would allow tool free replacement of the cabled bits. It seems like the cable is going to be the weak link in this system and it would be nice is you didn’t have to replace/carry the entire buckle.
Bottom line… I think these buckles are sweet! I still curse them occasionally when it’s cold and I’m sitting in the parking lot trying to get one of the the clasps on. But, once they’re on I totally forget about them and they just work.
Now please keep in mind that I’m not an amazing skier. I’m also 6’1″ and a touch over 150lbs so even when I’m crushing it… I’m not really CRUSHING it. One of the things that always worried me about a lightweight touring boot was the thought of having to sacrifice downhill performance. I still remember moving up to a stiffer boot and being astounded by how much more control I had and how much more confident I felt. That’s something I didn’t want to give up. Fortunately, I’m happy to report that–in my opinion–the La Sportiva Spectres don’t come up short in the performance department when compared to my Tecnicas which are flex rated at 110. La Sportiva calls the Spectre a 110 flex and I wouldn’t argue with that based on my experience. Considering my ability level… the Spectres aren’t holding me back. The upper cuff and tongue fit very close and with no slop and I think that helps immensely. I have skinny lower legs and being able to achieve such a close fit has been great. This season I’ve been skiing on a pair of 180 cm Rossignol Soul 7’s. These skis are 106 underfoot and I haven’t had any issues pushing them around regardless of whether I encountered ice, calf deep pow, or 2 inches of crust with 3-4 inch whips. It’s hard to imagine needing much more boot than this.
The La Sportiva website states that the Spectres are compatible with all tech-style and AT bindings. I have no doubts that these boots will work with all tech style bindings. However, I’ve never used a pair so I can’t comment on this aspect. The tech inserts at the toe are not the quick-step type, but there are white arrows on top indicating where the inserts are. I assume this is to help line up the inserts with the pins on a tech binding and maybe they help, but again I can’t comment. What I can comment on is the boots compatibility with the Marker and Fritschi bindings. The Fritchi toe has an incredible amount of height adjustment to it and these boots will definitely work with their binding models. The Marker Tour, Baron and Duke are another story. Even with the toe height set at it’s maximum height these boots will most likely not pass a function test and definitely don’t pass the card test Marker recommends when setting the toe height.
So, what are you options? Well, I suppose you could grind off some of the sole material to buy some extra height. That could work. Or, you could do what I did and just live with it. When you insert the boot into the binding I don’t feel there is that much extra pressure on the AFD that it would significantly effect the release values, but I haven’t tested it. So, I don’t know if this is safe, and I definitely cannot recommend using the La Sportiva Spectres with any of the Marker AT bindings.
The liner seems very well made. It molded up really well. It feels relatively thick and supportive. It’s seems plenty warm. Yeah… I haven’t had any issues with it and I’m not looking to swap it out anytime soon.
These boots have it. I haven’t played with it. I suppose if you’re someone who finds they need to adjust the canting you’ll be happy to have it.
Honestly I’m not sure what this is for or what it’s supposed to do. It changes the way the tongue interacts with your instep and shin. I’ve played around with it a little, but haven’t been able to tell much of a difference. Maybe it’s awesome maybe it’s not… I haven’t had any problems with it so I suppose it’s nice to have the option. Maybe???
What About The Competition
Honestly, I can’t tell you anything about the competition. I know that these fit my feet better than the Scarpa Maestrale RS or the Dynafit TLT 6. I tried the TLT6 on in a 27.5 and the length felt great, but it was way to narrow and painful in the toe/ball of the foot. I don’t remember the Maestrale fitting too terribly, but it was not nearly as secure as the Spectre. The low volume fit of the Spectre really won me over. Also you really should consider the price. $599 for a super adjustable, lightweight, high-performance boot that is tech and AT binding compatible. That’s not a bad place to be. Also, it sounds like the grilamid plastic used in the Spectre is very easy to work with. I’d rather start with a boot that’s too tight and do some work to fix a couple of issues, than start too loose and have to take up space.
So, since I’m not the worlds biggest authority on backcountry skiing and backcountry ski equipment I figured we should also share with you some of the other reviews out there written by people who are. These guys go into a lot more depth than I do and have additional experience in other products and are better prepared to comment on how the Spectres compare to other similar boots on the market.
If you are in the market for a new pair of boots, let me make one suggestion… Go down to your local shop and try a pair on. If you don’t live near a shop that sells decent BC equipment then order it online from a reputable dealer who will let you return it for free if it doesn’t work. Either way… put your foot in the boot before you pass judgement for yourself.
Comments & Questions
So, I imagine there might be some questions or comments regarding this post. We don’t have the comments turned on for various reasons, but mostly because there are too many trolls out there and we don’t have the time or resources to sort through it all. But, if you have a question or comment please feel free to tweet at us and use the hashtag #catamountcomments. We will be watching and will be happy to answer any questions.