Tecnica R9.8 130
Size Tested: 27.5, 98mm last
Reviewer’s Foot Size: 278mm long, 105mm width
Skier: 6’2’’ 200 lbs.
Location Tested: Alta and Snowbird, Utah
Days Tested: ~50 days
I’d started this past season on the Lange RX LV (low volume) boot. They skied well and were comfortable in the shop, but I consistently noticed a strange phenomenon: while skiing with speed through chopped up snow, I’d feel the tip of my unweighted ski pivot laterally out from under me as I crossed the fall line.
The more time I spent in the RX LV boots, the more I realized this wasn’t a ski-style or a ski tuning issue. Rather, the boot wasn’t providing enough compression around my ankle to lock my foot in place.
I did everything I could to fix the problem—from L pads to injecting more foam into my liners— but if the boot’s too large, it’s almost impossible to take up that extra space. (It is very easy to push a boot out for more space, however.) Eventually, I threw in the towel and retired the RX LVs.
That’s when I got the Tecnica R9.8 130.
I should start by saying that, now, these boots fit my feet wonderfully—they lock down my heel and ankle very well.
But to achieve this wonderful fit, I had to take the boots into the shop three times to get punches and grinds before I could comfortably ski them for a full day. The toebox is actually 98mm wide, and I have a 105mm wide forefoot. So yeah, do the math…
You know what they say: You date your skis, but you marry your boots.
In the end, the R9.8 required some significant work in order to accommodate my fat feet (across the metatarsal heads). But the point is that these issues (e.g. creating more volume) are easy to remedy with a little patience and a good relationship with a skilled boot fitter.
And this is why we want to make clear that dialing in an excellent fit with a ski boot is almost always a process. It takes time. It’s why good boot fitters are absolutely crucial to the sport of skiing. Go to them. Support them.
After three days of testing the boot on snow to figure out where it needed these punches … I’m stoked. The R9.8 does an exceptional job locking down my heel and keeping my ankle from moving within the shell—and that’s not compared to just the Lange RX LV boots, but also most top-end race boots I’ve skied. This includes the Tecnica TNT, the Salomon Course, X-Lab, and X-2, and the Nordica Jah-Love.
The Head Raptor 95 and the Nordica Dobermann 98 gave me similar ankle retention, but they also required much more work to keep my foot from being crushed. (I think I have something like 14 punches per boot on the Raptors.)
By the Numbers
I wanted to provide some numbers to show how differently the R9.8 130 fits across the ankle from the Lange RX. I should also note that the Salomon X-Max 130 is as wide, if not wider, than the Lange RX LV.
All boots listed below are size 27.5, and all have a ~3.5mm wall thickness to the plastic. I draped my calipers across the width of the ankle at the fold and measured the width where the calipers bottomed out, so these numbers are not an absolute value and are somewhat rough. But they’ll at least provide comparative data between these boots.
They also underscore the on-snow issues I had with the RX, and show why the R9.8 is such a pleasure to ski.
You need some compression in the liner’s foam to prevent your foot from sliding around. The width of my liner with my foot in it is 78mm. Combined with the wall of the boot (7mm) and you get an 85mm width.
In the R9.8, I get about 5mm of compression in the liner. The liner is about 20mm thick here, so the shell compresses the liner foam about 25%. I’m very happy with how this translates to on-snow performance—it’s firm and responsive and it keeps my foot from sliding around, but it doesn’t completely sacrifice comfort.
With the Lange RX LV, the shell is actually a bit wider than my foot when it’s in the liner—this is bad news. While the RX LV boots ski well in consistent snow, they lack precision in variable snow.
I included the Scarpa Freedom to illustrate how wide boots can get. I would still need to make a small punch to the Freedom to get my forefoot in it comfortably, but it’s way too wide in the ankle for me to ski. The Freedom “fits” the most comfortably right out of the box if I was looking for a boot I could put on and jog to the grocery store in, but it would be challenging for me to ski anywhere other than pristine powder conditions, since the ankle is so wide.
So How Does the Tecnica R9.8 Ski?
Let me start by saying that I have never skied the old orange Inferno 98. Rather, I have the 13/14 black R9.8, which Tecnica claims offers some favorable skiing benefits for WC ski racers.
I can say, however, that the R9.8 has perhaps the most progressive and smooth flex pattern I’ve ever felt in an overlap alpine boot. It skis like an amazing combination of a Raichle Flexon and a four buckle race boot. Initially, the R9.8 has a very controlled yet supple flex, and the deeper you flex into the plastic, the more firm support you get.
The progressive flex of the boot offered great suspension in heavy, chopped snow, but was very responsive when I really needed to drive the tip of the ski. I never felt like I was pushing through the boot, nor did I feel that I was slamming my shin into a brick. Simply put, it was very intuitive to ski.
This was especially nice since I was coming off a boot with a linear flex pattern. The Lange RX LV is firmer initially than the R9.8, but it offers less support deeper into the flex.
The R9.8 is called a 130-flex boot, but it’s an absolutely rad all-mountain freeride boot both because it’s less punishing on the shins compared to many other 130 flex boots out there, and because of how much precision it gives you.
I am a tinkerer, and I generally hate it when boots are all riveted together because it can be a hassle to replace broken buckles and power straps, and it is generally more difficult to screw around with the boots. Other than the ankle hardware, the R9.8 is completely riveted together, which was something of a bummer. Granted, there is also nothing I wish to change about the boot, so I suppose I ought to quit complaining…
Since I haven’t skied with the stock liner, I can’t really comment on them. I’ll just say that they’re thin, low-volume, race-style liners. My ZipFit liners slid right into these boots, so I didn’t think there was a reason to mess around with fitting and molding new liners.
Power Strap / Buckles
The power strap is a cam-lock style, and it works very well. It pulls tight and holds its tension, and helps bend the boot at the spine. I did not feel there was a need to add a booster strap, which I normally add to almost all my boots.
The buckles on the R9.8 are made of plate-steel rather than cast aluminum, so while it’s possible to rip a buckle off, it’s also extremely unlikely that the buckle will shatter if you smash it into a rock.
I normally rant about all the things I had to do to get a boot to work properly. A million liners, a million straps, tons of labor and effort. Not so with the R9.8.
This is a super dialed boot with a flex pattern that is unlike any overlap boot I have ever skied in. It is very precise and very powerful, but the progressive flex offers a bit more forgiveness than other 130 flex boots.
While there are certainly feet that won’t mesh well with the R9.8, if I was a boot-fitter in a shop, I would be inclined to start everyone with a medium-volume ankle and heel in the R9.8. (If you have a low-volume ankle or very slender foot overall, then consider the 93 or 95 plug versions. If you have a fat forefoot, then just punch out the R9.8’s width.)
I would really only recommend the Lange RX/RS boot or the Salomon X Max 130 to those with high-volume ankles. If your ankle fits into an R9.8 ankle pocket, I don’t know why you wouldn’t ski this boot.
My never-ending desire to find the perfect alpine boots may be over. I will more than happily ski another 100 days in the R9.8, and retire them for wear, and then likely replace them with the exact same punches. In the meantime, I am confident that these are the best ski boots I’ve ever put on my feet.
Tecnica, pretty please, make a “Cochise” style AT boot based on the R9.8 last. You would have a true winner.