Fitwell boots shook the splitboard world when it introduced the Backcountry Boot. The handbuilt, highly durable, technical splitboarding boot, became one of the go-to boots for riders who needed a boot they could count on during technical ascents and descents. This season, Fitwell released their latest boot, the Freeride. Designed for riders who wanted the same build quality and durability which Fitwell has been known for, but in a package which would appeal to those who aren’t always performing technical climbs.
With information on the Freeride boot being scarce, we were excited to learn that Leon Butler had been out touring and preparing for the Freeride World Tour Qualifiers in them. Leon, an avid splitboarder who doubles his winter dosage with yearly migrations between France and New Zealand, was excited to share his thoughts in this Freeride boot review.
Are you more into freeriding then hitting the park? Maybe nothing makes you happier then boot packing a couloir, or taking the split board for a thrash. If any of these stand true then theres no doubt you’ve struggled to find a boot that is stiff enough in the right places without feeling like you’re wearing a ski boot.
My trouble has always been no matter how stiff the manufacturers said the boot was, it has always collapsed after hard use. On top of that, kicking in steps with a soft toe is a major pain.
This winter I have been fortunate to have mountaineering brand Fitwell, sponsoring me with a pair of their latest boot, The Freeride. This boot is brand new this winter and comes off the heels of their massively popular split board specific boot, The Backcountry.
The first thing which caught my attention with this boot is the build quality, its second to none. Most snowboard boots look a little bit patched together but this has a real craftsmen feel. The sole is tough and looks like it will cope with most terrain. I usually have a mondo 30 boot but was recommended a 30.5 and once I tried the boot on, I could see why. They feel like they are a true to size fit, but do come slightly on the narrow side, and mixed with the stiff flex I think that the 30.5 is actually a perfect fit.
After testing the boot out, I can backup it’s stiffness, its not for jibbing thats for sure. The Reel Knob lacing system works great. Its nice being able to easily slacken off the laces when in touring mode and then tighten them quickly before the decent. The powerstrap is another highlight, its something that every snowboard boot should have, I don’t understand why its not standard. In my experience I can never get that snug fit around the top of the boot with standard lacing, the power strap just pulls it in and gives your shins something to push against. Its also a great addition when in touring mode, you can adjust the tightness around your shins to match the terrain.
The Davos sole is fantastic, I have tried it on ice, snow and also scrambling up rock. The sole’s compound, which contains glass powder, allowed it to grip fantastically. The toe is nice and solid for kicking in steps which is a massive plus for me. They could probably do with an insole as I’m not sure how forgiving the sole will be for landing heavy drops, it doesn’t seem to have too much cushioning. I have had no problems with the sole fitting into my Spark bindings, or my regular bindings. The boot seems narrower then a lot of boots so there should be no problem there. One of the advantages of having a stiffer sole is the response, it takes very little change in pressure to transition from edge to edge which is what you want when charging down a steep face.
The boot does seem to have a bit more forward lean then most boots which is very noticable to start with. It does have a slight effect on your riding style but as with most things, it just takes some getting used to. Much can be said about the flex, it is a very supportive boot with a good flexing point. This means that my foot felt tight and secure without sacrificing too much movement. The flexible cuff on the back of the boot adds a lot of comfort when walking, I feel the boot may have been too stiff without this. I haven’t tried the ‘Fitwell Backcountry’ boot, but from what I have been told the Freeride boot is a little softer.
The Liner seems to be good quality, and now that iv’e ridden the boot for a few weeks, I can feel that it has shaped to my foot and become very comfortable. The lacing on the liner is great too, it locks down and does not move. Alot of liners will slacken off once they have been ridden hard but not the Freeride, the laces have not moved throughout the day.
Overall this boot is exactly what I have been looking for. A stiff boot that holds your ankle, and offers lateral support. This has been particularly useful when traversing as it gives you increased control over your edges and takes away that awkward ankle pain.
The boots are bit on the heavy side (1250 per boot), so if you are into saving a few grams then it may not be for you. I like knowing that something is going to hold up to the abuse so a little extra weight doesn’t bother me. The main reason I like these boots is I can use them for general Freeriding, as the name suggests, its not just a splitboard boot and will easily cope with whatever you throw at it.
One thing I will say is that the Fitwell’s might take a few days to feel right. It will punish you if you’re not on your game, but once you accept that, be prepared to never go back to regular boots again.
The last test is to see how they cope with a season of heavy use. I have a strong feeling these are going to outlast me!