A Very Deep Dive on Ski Boots, Part 5: Heel Pockets, Tongue Volume, & Atomic’s new Hawx Ultra & “Professional” Liners & Dual Strap (Ep.132)

Atomic Ski Boot Product Manager, Matt Manser, goes on Blister's GEAR:30 podcast to discuss Atomic new's Professional series of Hawx boots and Mimic liners, Atomic's new Dual Strap, ski boot heel pockets, ski boot liner tongues, why plug boots are not a thing, and more
Atomic Hawx Ultra Professional


Product Manager of Atomic Ski Boots, Matt Manser, is back to talk about heel pockets and tongue volume and Luke Koppa’s feet and how plug boots are not a thing and Atomic’s new Hawx Ultra and their new “Professional” Series of Liners and Dual Straps.

TOPICS & TIMES:

  • Whiskey & Jonathan being late (4:63)
  • Atomic’s new 21/22 Hawx Ultra (8:23)
  • Atomic’s new Professional Series (34:08)
  • Mimic Professional Liner (41:31)
  • Tongue Volume (59:56)
  • Professional Dual Strap (1:11:41)
  • Heel Pockets (1:21:35)
  • Plug Boots are Not a Thing (1:29:05)
  • What We’re Celebrating This Week (1:41:05)

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61 comments on “A Very Deep Dive on Ski Boots, Part 5: Heel Pockets, Tongue Volume, & Atomic’s new Hawx Ultra & “Professional” Liners & Dual Strap (Ep.132)”

  1. I think Max G. Force needs to be wearing the Hawx Ultra 130 Professional to achieve an even higher level of steeze. Just one guys opinion…

    • Also , I’ve never been called a “Gold star trooper before”. So thanks for that! I will return your toast later with my own Whistle Pig 10 year later.

  2. Really interesting podcast – great work. The professional system sounds great. The Zen gong moment had me laugh out loud – pure class!

    any idea about pricing on the liner alone? This liner in a XTD 130 shell + a touring specific liner should make for travel ski setup perfection

    • Glad you are liking the direction we are headed in! Complete boot will be $1050, Mimic Professional liners are $300, and Professional Dual Straps are $80. Adding a Mimic Professional liner to an Ultra/Prime XTD will definitely give you an added performance boost for resort days.

      • Thanks for the reply Matt. To be perfectly honest – I am continually impressed by both the product you guys push out and your ability to engage with the skiing community with the express aim of giving us the best possible knowledge base to base out decisions on, not just push product. Especially your ability to do the latter is really second to none. Keep it up man, it is very appreciated!

      • Hi Mike, glad you are stoked on this. Release date is set for late Summer/early Fall ’21. Covid is just making things too difficult to realistically get anything done sooner.

  3. hi,

    I have a question in regards of the tools needed for fitting the boots. I saw online that the liner mimic (not professional) needs a sock over it for heating and I was wondering what purpose it serves? If it is mandatory, where could I find something similar?

    Thanks

  4. Jonathan,

    Matt missed his opportunity when you asked him to predict how the new mimic professional liner will feel. ” It will meet your needs”

    A serious question, can you buy the professional shell only? An a la carte ski boot menu?

    Lastly, the new hawx is stiffer, I assume the 130 will actually flex the same as current 130 but ramp up to a stiffer point with minimal shell flex??? The whiskey was talking and it wasn’t clear, a better explanation would be nice.

    • Hey Scott, There isn’t a shell-only program- just liners and straps are available separately. Your description of the flex is accurate- the boot feels similar during the initial portion of its flex pattern and as you flex deeper into the boot, the extra stability in the lower shell (and cuff) greatly resists collapsing, which causes the stiffness to ramp up/become progressively stiffer. I was trying to resist saying the boot is “stiffer” because it’s not stiffer in all regards, such as the boot’s initial suppleness. Hopefully that’s a little more precise. Cheers, Matt

  5. Thanks a bunch for the niche content; I really enjoyed. The professional series sounds great; when will they be available for review/purchase?

    • Hey shredd, glad you are digging the content! The boots and components will be available in late summer/early fall ’21. Trying to get anything out this winter is too difficult due to Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions around the globe.

    • Hi pholz, the foam surrounds the heel, ankle, and mid-foot but does not extend passed the forefoot area. As long as you are in the right size and shape boot for your foot, the foot is completely locked in and still allows toe room to exist. Combine that with our V3 Tongue System where you can get thicker tongues, your foot isn’t going anywhere.

    • Hi Curtis, The boots and components will be available in late summer/early fall ’21. Trying to get anything out this winter is too difficult due to Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions around the globe.

  6. Too bad, Atomic is not modifying the plastic on Ultra Hawx 130 and even more important the plastic on the Ultra Hawx 130 overlap. Taking the boot of after touring in the parking lot (cold boot) is super difficult and painful. That said, the boots provide an outstanding fit with great progressive flex. FYI, I have a narrow foot and ankle. For what it’s worth, with chicken calves, I use a booster staps with both boots. As a boot fitter, fitting Atomic boots,,many accomplished skiers do not want to deal with the pain putting the boots on and off, even with the best fit.

    • Hi Charlie, we didn’t get too deep into that because I didn’t want to bore anyone too much haha, but the overlap has been extended by 7mm (the most that can happen given how molds open and close). Tongues no longer slide through the overlap when exiting, so the lives of insteps are saved. And the boots are more easy to put on. The 130s aren’t what I would call easy, but they are inline with other 130 boots from the usual suspects. The rest of the range is easier to put on vs. current models. For example, the new 100 is easier than current 100.

  7. Is the xtd version also getting the updates?

    My 120s cracked on the inside part, like 4 mm away from the energy backbone…
    Bummer :(

    • Sorry to hear about your XTD 120. Take it to your Atomic dealer and see if can be warrantied.

      No mold updates to the Ultra XTD range for next year. Prime XTD does see some updates, but not to the 130 or 115 W.

  8. Can this mimic professional liner be used in any shell? Can it be remolded for other shells? Kinda comparing to Zipfit here.

    • Hi Patrick, you definitely can put a Mimic Professional liner into another brand’s shell- just pick the most appropriate starting point/analogous model. Once it is formed to that that shell, it will be perfect for that shell. Moving to a different shell might prove to be difficult, but it depends on the boot. Race boot to race boot might be easier since those are always grinding missions to make it fit you.

  9. Which retailers will be equipped to manage the new professional liner system? Are we going to be able to go to our usual boot fitter? Just wait to find out….?

    • Hey Bam, it’s too early to know for sure but we’re thinking the Atomic dealers who specialize in custom boot-fitting will be the first ones to jump on board. When in doubt, tell your local Atomic dealer you are interested in the Professional Series and let them know.

  10. Guys,

    Thank-you , I loved the banter and stayed until the end.

    For Matt, I had many foam boots with various liners over the years. I was that guy always in pursuit of “the perfect fit”. The old school foam liners were agony during the fitting and break-in time.

    And then I was shipped one of the older white&red plug boots (Hard cuff, Med bottom). My local boot fitter did his magic with the lipstick and dremel tools and they were perfect. I could ski them and the liners were really thin, like two pairs of thick socks.

    It seemed like without the pressure of the foam injection, in the plug/race boot, it was better.

    Is the new Mimic Professional done with a less pressure system.

    • Hi John, your experience with foam liners is definitely true of older designs- the foam was very hard and it entered the liner with incredible force (usually at the detriment of the fit and liner itself). Our process uses a lower-pressure system and a softer foam than what you experienced in the past (yet still firmer than most any normal liner). The result is a liner that has legit foot hold but is also comfortable to ski immediately, provided you are in the correct shell/have the shell work done prior to foaming.

    • Matt,

      Are the mimic professional liners/boots going to be available in the magma (102 last) version?

      I have a very wide foot. I am touching the sides of the boot on a 20/21 Salomon S/Pro HV 130 without liner out of the box.

      If not, what would be my best option? I am currently in 19/20 Salmon S/Pro 120 that has been stretched to the limit and it still doesn’t fit well?

      Thank you in advance.

      • Hi Dimitriy – For the first year, there will not be a Mimic Professional liner for the Hawx Magna. But who knows what the future will bring.

  11. Matt – could you comment on why leaving the footbeds out of this equation? It seems like atomic is interested in controlling much of the process, but clearly feels comfortable leaving the custom footbed process to the shop to make suggestions etc.

    I ask because I think it’s safe to safe that not all footbeds are created equally. Having said that – do you have a personal preference in this arena?

    Thanks in advance.

    Cheers on another great podcast!

    • Hi Harmor, even though we don’t make/supply custom footbeds, we believe that they are essential to ensuring a proper fit. They are literally the foundation for having a correct interface between the flexible foot and rigid shell in order to provide the optimum in fit, comfort, and performance. It’s hard for us to recommend a footbed brand because there are different options in North America vs Europe vs Asia but even then I’m more a fan of searching out a good footbed maker rather than finding the right footbed brand. You can get two wildly different results with the same custom footbed from two different people. So, I would search out the best person rather than the best footbed.

  12. Thank you Matt for the patience to keep at this series of podcasts. They have been worthwhile.

    Hawx Prime 130s are used here. They have very good attention to detail but they have their issues.

    Talking heel pockets is timely as that is what’s being worked on right now. There is a paradox here. The boots are literally a pain to put on and take off. They have been stretched across the instep to the point where when the boot is buckled all of the water seal is visible at the cuff end. Lower shell has had material cut out and about a 6 cm long L shaped cut made on the medial side of the shell flap hidden by the cuff to allow getting into the boot. There is still major stress on ankle ligaments when getting in and if you have a sprain for any reason it will be worse after putting the boot on. Removing the boots is easier but you have to be careful. No blood has been drawn yet as has happened with other boots but it is sometimes close. Orange plastic shavings are seen with the tongue jambed in the shell opening but this is a good thing as you can get the boots off unscathed. Some kind of overmold or approach that doesn’t violate Lange’s patent for co-injection is needed here. The paradox is after the boot is on there is no heel hold down.

    Next season’s boot offers a lot of solutions so good job seeing the updates through.

    • Thanks for the feedback, JSL and glad you like where we are headed. If we can make a legitimate 130-flex boot that is “easy” to put on that also fits like a top-end boot should, it will be a pretty big achievement. Let’s see how things evolve there. Cheers, Matt

  13. Hey Matt,

    One thing I was left wondering after the episode is what is the thinking between using foam vs. cork in the liner materials? While I haven’t tried a custom foam liner, I really like my Nordica cork liners and others (like Zipfit) seem to have very strong opinions in favor of cork vs. foam which make intuitive sense to me.

    • Hey Tom, we used to use a viscous cork-oil in our World Cup racing liners back around 2010-2012, but we weren’t really fans of it to be honest. Our athletes and most users didn’t want to keep re-adjusting their liners every time they went skiing (or especially at the start of the season once the cork oil settled after sitting around for 2 months over the summer) and foam injection has been the go-to solution since then. You get exactly the fit you need and it stays that way.

  14. Good podcast, thanx guys!
    Matt, for how long can you use mimic professional liner before it packs out? and can you add more foam to it after – potentially increasing its life, making product sustainable.

    Also could someone use one pro liner for both hawks ultra xtd (for days with really short sidecountry) and new regular hawx ultra (for purely resort days without any walking)?

    • Hi Alex, it’s hard to say at this point since no one has been able to log 500+ days of skiing since the pandemic hit, but I’ve got World Cup racers still in the same prototype that are now two seasons old. Those guys have logged lots of hard days in their boots and they are still going strong. Combine that with our lab data that shows the new Professional foam resists compression 2-3 times better than what is in a normal liner and we think it’s safe to say that the Professional liners will outlast a set of shells. Once the liner is made, there isn’t a way to add more foam into it. In that way, it’s normal for foam injection liners. But, on the sustainability side, the liner is PVC-free unlike many other custom options on the market currently.

      The Hawx Ultra and Hawx Ultra XTD share the same last, so you can make a Mimic Professional for one and it will fit seamlessly into the other. This would be a great way to up the resort performance of an Ultra XTD (or Prime XTD) boot.

  15. Loved this episode.
    I’d like to work for atomic, such a dream job!
    Atomic is right on point with the profesional series! I actually fitted my hawk ultra XTDs with the red redster strap to get that thightness over the liner and it is exellent!
    Really looking forward to the new liner since mimic arleady is insanely good. I hope they make a foam mimic with a touring ”cut” and make sure to sew the heel with leather to protect it from the screws for the walk-mode.
    Stepping in and out is really painful but I wouldn’t trade that for less performance.
    Also I think the outer bottom plastic that goes in the binding could be made in a more sturdy material, right now it seems to be the same plastic (girdlamide?) as in the parts that needs to be easy to manipulate and it would be great for durability if it was possible to have another type of plastic there..
    For the record I think the Atomic hawk ultra XTD is the best boot on the market right now!

  16. The Professional liner sounds awesome, if I am the type of person with skinny ankles to the point where the Hawx Ultra S 130 is still a bit loose around the ankle (but apart from that I love the boot), is this going to put enough extra volume of material in to give me that super snug fit without having to over crank the buckles?

    • Hey Brett, Mimic Professional will definitely solve this issue for you. The combination of Mimic material and our World Cup foam technology around the heel, ankle and mid foot, you’ll be locked in with exactly your ankle shape in the liner. In all of our testers’ experience, you don’t need to crank the buckles down to hold your foot in place (although you definitely can if you want).

  17. Great discussion. I was looking at replacing my current boots with the Hawks Ultra 120, but now I’m thinking I should wait until the fall. I’m squarely in the “always searching for the perfect fit“ group. I have a very thin lower leg and ankle; currently in an Xmax 120 (98 mm last) and still have a couple of layers of J bars around the ankle for heel hold. Also a layer of foam on the tongue/instep. However I have a EEE width forefoot. So I need to have the forefoot stretched out to the point that the bootfitter feels he’s going to damage the boat if he goes any further. Then take it to someone else to go further.

    I’m thinking in my case maybe I can start with a Hawx Prime and the foam injection will be able to take up all the extra space in the lower leg and ankle?
    Thanks.

    • Hi Joey, If you are currently in an X/Max, then I would suggest to start with your boot-fitter and a Hawx Ultra and examine how the shell looks with your foot in it. A Hawx Prime is medium volume boot and will have a higher instep, wider heel, and wider ankle area so that might not be the best starting point. Hard to say without being able to see your foot in the shell, but my guess would be to start by examining your foot inside an Ultra and seeing how feasible it would be to make that forefoot work for you. If that is not feasible/realistic, then a Hawx Prime with a Mimic Professional liner & our Low Volume tongue option might be the ticket for you. There’s definitely a Mimic Professional solution for you, just depends on finding you the right shell for your foot.

  18. Does Atomic have a “preferred” list of bootfitters? Not just the dots on the map that sell Atomic products but the shops where it’s like “these guys really know their shit”, they get all the latest training, people rave about their work, and they’ll get you into the exact boot for your foot. If you’re spending > $1000 for boots it’s worth spending a couple hundred bucks to fly to a shop that does the best job.

    • We don’t have that yet, but it is something that we are seriously trying to figure out how to implement. It’s harder than it sounds…

  19. Hey Matt,
    Thanks for the really interesting podcast and R&D. I’m in a downsized Krypton 98 (the only boot I could find with a narrow-for-recreational-skiing, and a lot of space over the instep. After a bunch of years of failed attempts to get overlap boots to work for my lean/otherwise easily compressible but super high instep foot, I’m wary about starting the whole process over again with a new shell. Do you think the mimic pro liner could… sorry, mimic professional haha, could work with a cabrio style boot? As far as filling the liners goes, is this a task you would try to only have a very experienced boot fitter (who in my case is fairly far away) attempt, or is it foolproof enough that a less experienced (and much closer) fitter should very reliably be able to do it? Thanks very much!

    • Hey Aray, I have not personally done this, but I don’t see a reason why it wouldn’t work. It’s all about how the volume of the Krypton compares to the Hawx series of liner and it should work fine. As for which shop can do it, they will absolutely need to have the proper tools and training. Without them, they just won’t be able to do it.

  20. I disagree that liner sizing is irrelevant. You ALWAYS tell someone when they are in the liner alone the toe will feel short and that is normal! Explain the instep and ramp plus flexing pushes you back, just like you would when someone tries on a boot…blah, blah. Trying on a liner alone allows you to inspect the closure of the tongue spacing(wide gaps on either side is too tight or forward or way too much overlap too roomy); apex of ankle placement (being too far forward towards the tongue(indicates too small, potential ankle bash or a future stretch); instep sizing (if the tongue is kicking back towards you indicates a tight instep or calf is too big pushing it forward or too much overlap of instep around the tongue is too much room) and 1st and 5th pressure. (if both are super tight, then the shell is too narrow or needs stretching) We are talking about the average fit not race. So, why try on the liner? Liner fitting tells a good story of things to come and has its place in determining the right boot. Just sayin.

    • Great podcast guys. I laughed at your comments about three people listening… I’m a saddlemaker and it made me wonder if any of the other two people left listening were drinking gin and working on a saddle at 3am while listening to a podcast about ski boots? Anyway, was going to buy a pair of Hawx Ultra 130s for my messed up feet (one foot is a full inch longer than the other) and gazankles ( had a boot fitter announce to everyone in the store that I have ankles like a gazelle). I’m wondering if the Professional Hawx Ultra130 shell is different than the non professional? Trying to decide if I should wait until the Professional series is available or buy now and get the liners and straps when they are available?

      • Hi Saddleman, for the 21/22 season we are making an all-new Hawx Ultra (different shell, different cuff, same fit) and the Hawx Ultra 130 Professional lives within that new construction. If you buy a 20/21 Hawx Ultra, you will have the first generation shell & cuff construction but the new 21/22 Mimic Professional liner and Professional Dual Strap will be compatible.

    • Hi Beales, I don’t usually like to speak in absolutes when it comes to boot-fitting, so I will blame saying “never try a liner without the shell” on the scotch. There are of course times when a trained boot-fitter will do this, especially when trying to figure out if an aftermarket liner is going to work with someone’s body and the existing shell the liner most likely wasn’t originally made for. So in these instances, for example, I am on board with assessing a liner fit. But what I was speaking about was when skiers (not boot-fitters) take the liner out of the shell and put the liner on their foot to assess the length of their boot. This was fresh in my head during the podcast because someone was recently complaining online that the shop sold him the wrong size because his toes come into contact with the end of the liner when he wears it outside of the shell. Skiers should almost never judge the fit of their own boots by assessing how the liner out of the shell feels. I think on those points we can definitely find some common ground.

  21. Thanks for the info Matt. Some great deals on boots at this time of year… is there anything in the professional shell worth waiting for… 50 (+) year old, expert skier… spend 90% of my 35 plus ski days a year skiing deep soft stuff in British Columbia. The professional boots aside, I recently listened to the Blister boot summit that you took part in and a question about women’s boots… Looking for some backcounty boots for my wife who is a middle of the road intermediate skier who needs a softer flex. You mentioned during the summit that you don’t like to get too caught up in the women specific generalizations that apply to boots. The problem I’m having is I’d like to get her some Hawx Ultra XTD boots and the women specific boot is available in a “95 Flex” which is the lowest available for the XTD boots. She is however 6′ tall, 150lbs with long skinny calves which may be more suitable to a higher men’s cuff but at “100 flex”. She is already borderline too stiff at 95 given her skiing abilities and getting mixed messages from local shops… Is there a direction you’d prefer seeing her going… softer flex, lower cuff in the women’s or slightly higher flex, higher cuff in the men’s boots… or am I splitting hairs and just buy whatever has better graphics or on sale? Thanks again!

  22. Hi Saddleman, The new 21/22 Hawx Ultra is 25% more stable than the current generation on sale. This doesn’t necessarily mean “stiffer” or “harder to ski”, but it does mean that when the going gets rough, the boot retains its integrity and resists collapsing under load. You would appreciate this stability on the days following the storm when things are choppy and less than smooth.

    As for your wife, has she tried on the 95 W boot yet? The men’s 100 will be stiffer, but probably a better fit in the cuff given your description of her leg shape. It’s really hard to say on the internet, but I would start by assessing how she flexes the 95 and the fit in the cuff of the 95 and go from there.

  23. Hi Matt,

    I picked up the Hawx 130 Ultra XTD for touring this year and am loving the out of the box fit.

    I’ve mounted a couple of 50/50 skis with Salomon Shift bindings so that I can use them both with the XTD’s touring and with my plug boots (sorry couldn’t resist! ;-) when riding the lifts. However, it turns out adjusting the shifts between the XTD sole and the standard alpine sole is fiddly (especially after IPA!) So, I was considering adding a Hawx Ultra Professional to use on resort with my 50/50 skis. So, to my question. Can I expect the sole depth and length to make a 26 Professional pop in and out of the same bindings as I have setup for the XTDs with minimal or no adjustment? It’s not so much length/fwd pressure adjustment with the Shift as adjusting the AFD gap between different sole types.

    Any and all comments welcome!

    Last but not least, awesome podcast and keep up the great work. It’s rare to find manufacturers that engage with those out in the field the way you do.

    All the very best,
    Cheers!

    Mike

    • Hi Mike, glad you are liking the podcasts and the boots! Switching from one boot with GripWalk to another boot with GripWalk should minimize the amount of AFD adjustment you are doing. I doubt it will be zero adjustment, but it should definitely be a lot less.

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