Skier: 6’2”, 205 lbs., athletic, technically proficient, fast and fluid skier.
Foot: Size 10.5/11 street shoe (278mm actual length); C+ width (105mm width, weighted); high instep; low-volume heel, ankle, and lower calf.
Size of Liner tested: 27.5
Weight of liner: 610 g (stock Lange liner 555 g)
My regular ski boots: 27.5 Lange RX LV; 26.5 Tecnica Cochise Pro Light
Duration of test: ~35 days.
I have been skiing the ZipFit GARA liners just about every inbounds day this season, and on a couple of touring missions as well.
I selected the GARA liner because it is the lowest-volume liner that ZipFit builds. My initial intention was to review the liner in my pair of Head Raptor RD 95mm plug boots, which are very low volume, to say the least.
Unfortunately, a bone spur has really started to act up, which will now require surgery over the off-season. I cannot punch any more space in the Raptor to relieve the pain, and thus have gone to the far more relaxed-fitting Lange RX LV boot.
This switch into the much higher-volume boot has meant that, off the shelf, I am in the wrong liner. The GARA liner is lower volume than I need in the Lange RX LVs, most notably in the ankle pocket and tongue—an issue I easily addressed and explain below. If I had it to do all over and knew I would be skiing the Lange RXs, I would likely have selected the ZipFit World Cup (20% more OMFit padding) or Grand Prix (30% more OMFit padding) liner.
OMFit Liner Padding
The “OneMinuteFit,” or “OMFit,” padding is basically a suspension of cork in some soft viscous gunk. This is, for lack of a better description, a more fluid version of a Birkenstock Sandal. OMFit material can be warmed up to slightly above room temperature (say, 85 degrees Fahrenheit) at which point the material becomes easy to flow and readily contours to your foot and shell. Once the OMFit cork cools to room temperature or below, the padding firms and retains its shape.
To fit the liner, you need to get it warm (about 30 seconds in the microwave) and wear your boots (walk around your house for a while). Then just warm up the liner with the floorboard heater of your vehicle on the way to the mountain, and the liners break in and mold very effectively. I would say about 15 hours of ski time was all my pair took to fully break in.
The OMFit padding provides a nice blend of firmness for high-performance responsiveness, but offers enough cushioning to keep your feet from getting bruised. I have nothing but compliments to extend in this regard.
One of the most ingenious things about the ZipFit liners is that you can easily add and remove the OMFit padding to customize the liner’s volume to whatever boot you might next be in. So in my case, I shot a couple sticks of OMFit into my liners around the ankles and tongue to take up a bit more volume, and bang—good to go in the higher-volume boot.
The ZipFit liner is built around the traditional “inner boot” concept, meaning the liner is designed to be put on first, laced tight, and then inserted into the shell.
All true “plug” race boots still spec a “lace-up” liner, but modern consumer-level boots have gone away from the lace-up liner with a consolation of convenience and easier off-the-shelf fitting, but with performance, sadly, being the cost.
I find the “lace-up” method to be much more effective and easy to get into low-volume ski boots than the more traditional “slide your foot into the liner that’s already inside the shell” program. This applies equally to all lace-up liners I have used in the past (Head Raptor leather lace-ups, Intuition Pro-Tour & Dreamliner, Nordica Dobermann, etc.).
The ZipFit liner itself does not require using it as an inner-boot—you can easily remove the laces, slide the ZipFit into your boot, and go ski it like a normal liner—but there is performance and comfort to be gained from the inner-boot concept, so I would suggest to at least try it as such prior to abandoning the idea.
I did, however, elect to remove the stock laces and the included lace slide-lock mechanism from the GARA in favor of more traditional laces from an old pair of hiking boots. I found the slide-lock put some additional pressure on my shin, so I went ahead and removed it. The stock laces didn’t tie and hold quite as well as normal laces since they are coated and a little more slippery, so I just swapped them out.
Once the liner is laced tight, it functions somewhat like an ankle brace in that the liner pulls even support across your ankle and lower leg, and serves to support the joint. This means you are more inclined to buckle the boot only tight enough to pull closure around the liner, rather than to the point of pulling compression and locking your ankle into place.
Having the liner laced up tight also adds a small level of stiffness to the boot. I would estimate that the ZipFit liner adds about 10 points of stiffness compared to a stock plastic reinforced liner (such as the stock Lange liner), and about 20 points of stiffness compared to an Intuition tongue-style liner that is only foam. By closing the liner with the laces, you are removing free-play in the system, and it shows on-slope: you will see more snap and response out of your skis.