Forums DIY and Mods Vibram Snowboard Boots – Then and Now
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  • #568088
    bcrider
    4149 Posts

    So my new (old) Oxygen boots came last week along with my new Burton Driver X boots the week before that both feature a Vibram sole (something I’ve always wanted in a snowboard boot for the bc) so I thought I’d do a little side by side comparison. 🙂

    :thatrocks: Special thanks to bcd for his public service announcement about seeing the boots on ebay! Turns out they were my exact size and going for $45. It was just too good to be true so I had to pick them up.

    The Oxygen boots are from the early 90’s and feature a plastic lower shell, Vibram sole, and very soft plastic upper cuff. They barely look like they’ve ever been used and are in immaculate shape for being around 15 years old. The design provides the best of both worlds in my opinion, the benefits of a hardboot (plastic lower shell for foot protection, small footprint for climbing) with the benefits of a softboot (soft lateral flex, traditional feel, and can be used with strap bindings). So stoked.

    Side profile

    The Burton Driver X boots are from 06/07 and feature a ton of cool features like a stiff (pseudo leather) outer shell, speed zone lacing, vibram sole, improved toe box protection, gel cushing, thermo liner, Outlast, etc. They’re guchi.

    Side profile

    The sole width of the Oxygen boots are narrower that the Drivers and are much more akin to the sole of an AT boot. One of the drawbacks to regular snowboard boots in terms of backcountry and mountaineering use is the extra width of the sole. It can make foot placement more critical in sketchy situations and makes the boot have more surface are on the soles which can lead to loss of traction. The Oxygen boots also have a pointier toe which will improve climbing as well.

    Sole comparison

    Front profile comparison

    The overall height of the boots are very similar but the Oxygen upper cuff is considerably lower. This would make more since if the cuff was really stiff like you’d expect in a plastic boot but it’s actually very soft, even softer than the Driver (softboot).

    Side profile comparison

    The Oxygen cuff

    It’s obvious that the Oxygen’s aren’t perfect but they do have some really great attributes and I’m excited to try them. I may play with a cuff mod and morph a cuff from an old pair off soft boots on them to add some height and stiffness. They needed a modern liner as well so I promptly got rid of the retro ski boot liner and replaced them with the Driver liner. I also added a better lace.

    Side profile

    Front profile

    Next was to compare how crampons fit on the boots. I don’t own any step-in crampons but since the Oxygen boots will accept them I’m sure I’ll get a pair. I threw some Kahtoola strapies on them for now.

    Side Crampon view

    Sole view

    Driver X

    Sole view

    Next was to see how the Oxygen boots fit in a modern snowboard binding. Surprisingly, they fit very well. The sole sat flat and the Burton cap-style toes straps fit great over them.

    Side profile

    Front profile

    In terms of weight differences:

    The Oxygen (with updated liner) weighs 2lbs 9oz
    The Driver X with liner weights 2lbs 11oz (US mens 8.5)
    For kicks the Burton binding (medium) weighs 1 lbs 15 oz (with center disc but without screws)

    My plan is to use the boots depending on location, conditions, and distance. I’ll be sure to report back with my findings. 8)

    Thanks again bcd!

    #590877
    karma surf
    191 Posts

    Nice detailed report BCR. I own the Driver X, the C60’s and while they are a great setup, the added girth is a real drawback. I believe on days that I’m doing 6-7k of vert that I could add an extra k with a narrower boot/binding combo. The extra width adds up to moving a lot of additional snow, which is just more work. The Driver X Vibram offers the best traction of any sole I’ve ever used though, quite impressive.

    Another benefit of running the Oxygen’s (or any PMB) is that the sole is so firm, you no longer need a toe ramp on the strap bindings. This adds up to less weight and easier access to the slider pin for quicker tranny’s.

    Using the narrower profile PMB also generally means you can get away with a smaller (narrower profile, less weight) strap binding as well. Pull off the toe ramps (no longer needed), and don’t use the angle discs (you get your board angles from the pucks on a split), just drill straight thru the baseplate of the binding for mounting to the slider track.

    The drawback for me is that the soft boot offers so much “feel”, while the stiff soled PMB’s give me a very different ride. I really love the spongier feeling of the softer soles for descents in all conditions.

    #590878
    jimw
    1421 Posts

    Thanks for the report. A couple questions:

    – Can you show a photo of the inside of the Driver X shell? I’m wondering if they improved the situation with that cuff that holds the liner in place. It was kind of a pain to remove/reinsert the liners in last year’s model.

    – How does the stiffness of the sole in the Oxygen compare to the Driver X? Seems like that would be one area where a PMB would be much nicer than a softboot – nice stiff solid platform (combined with the narrower profile) when kicking steps up a steep chute.

    Seems like you’d lose the advantage of having a narrower boot profile in the Oxygen by using it with normal strap bindings, at least when skinning. I’d love to see someone come out with a commercial boot like the Oxygen, and bindings like BDC’s mod.

    #590879
    bcd
    232 Posts

    Once you go Koflach, you’ll never go back.

    or something like that.

    Climb an icy slope in the spring (with or without crampons) and you’ll never wear your Drivers again. As shown in the photo, the one drawback is the length of the boot. Comparing the same sizes, the Koflachs stick out a bit higher than the Drivers, which can create a toe drag issue past size 10 or so.

    With enough interest in something like this, perhaps Koflach or another manufacturer would bring these things back to life.

    #590880
    bcrider
    4149 Posts

    Karma,
    I wouldn’t say the Drivers and C60s are any wider than any other soft boot/strap binding set up so if the user is already committed to using that option there isn’t any additional drawback (other than the ones they’ve already accepted by using that option). Cool to hear that you liked the traction of the Driver sole. It’s definitely the most aggressive sole I’ve ever seen on a snowboard boot. I’m excited to use it.

    Re the toe ramp. I’ll probably leave mine in. They weigh maybe an ounce each and don’t slow down my trannys.

    Re the binding mod. I’ll probably play with it a little since I have a bunch of spare parts but I doubt I’ll drill into the baseplate of the C60. With a non aluminum baseplate most of the structural integrity comes from the pressure the center disc provides. I’ll have to figure something out to make a lighter binding now that I’ve shaved 5ozs off each foot…I’d love to hit that 10k goal with you when I come out. 8)

    Jimw,
    As I stated in previous posts, yes they addressed the ankle support issue to allow the liner be removed easier. Its not worth taking a picture of but if you really want me to I will.

    Re stiffness of the soles. The Oxygen boot sole is very stiff and doesn’t flex, The Driver is pretty stiff but still provides a little flex. “Life is a series of compromisesâ€Â

    #590881
    Ecobrad
    2068 Posts

    to define “enough interest” in more detail.

    I’d buy a pair…is that enought interest? 😀

    #590882
    SanFrantastico
    1514 Posts

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    #590883
    jimw
    1421 Posts

    @bcrider wrote:

    Re the binding mod. I’ll probably play with it a little since I have a bunch of spare parts but I doubt I’ll drill into the baseplate of the C60. With a non aluminum baseplate most of the structural integrity comes from the pressure the center disc provides.

    SF did something similar here:

    http://talk.splitboard.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=2180

    Another advantage of this is that it apparently stiffens the binding/interface/board connection. That’s one thing I don’t like about the Voile interface – with the same bindings, there is more lateral flex vs. Burton.

    Jimw,
    As I stated in previous posts, yes they addressed the ankle support issue to allow the liner be removed easier. Its not worth taking a picture of but if you really want me to I will.

    Well, yeah, that’s why I asked. 🙂 I can’t find them in any of the shops around here. I know you said they addressed the cuff issue in previous posts, but have you actually compared it to last year’s model or is that just what they told you? ‘Cuz we all know what they say and what is reality aren’t always one and the same…

    #590884
    bcrider
    4149 Posts

    @jimw wrote:

    I know you said they addressed the cuff issue in previous posts, but have you actually compared it to last year’s model or is that just what they told you? ‘Cuz we all know what they say and what is reality aren’t always one and the same…

    I have this year’s improved model and I have last year’s model. So yes, I have see and tested the improvement first hand. 🙂 It’s easier to get the liner out the shell for sure but still a little tricky due to the ankle support. It would be much easier if the ankle support wasn’t there at all but I think the tradeoff is well worth it. The ankle support really sucks your heal into the liner well.

    #590885
    wavy
    198 Posts

    I really like the Driver X boots. Super comfy and I think the stiffness is almost perfect for riding variable terrain.
    One quirk I noticed:
    You have to hit a ‘sweet spot’ when tightening the upper and lower portions of the boot. Too loose and they feel sloppy, to tight and they tend to spring load when doing hard, toe-side turns – I’ve found that if I hit some chatter while turning hard on my toe-side, the heel will flex and as soon as the pressure lets up at all the heel ‘pops’ loose and sends my edge an inch or two backwards, which can be a little unnerving (has anyone else noticed this?). I’ve found that keeping the lower portion tight and the upper a little loose will usually help avoid this.
    But, as was mentioned, they still aren’t ideal for climbing, but closer than any other snowboard boot I’ve seen. My toes start to scream after kicking steps for an extended period and their width is a prob for traction. I would LOVE to have a narrower Driver X with some sort of metal shank you could insert in the sole for climbing… ya, that’d be nice.
    Thanks for the side by side BC… Damn, those Oxygen’s are my size, let me know if you decide you don’t want ’em 😀 Nice score!

    #590886
    Rico in AZ
    559 Posts

    Bcrider, sorry to bring up the distant past, but I know you used to ride the K2 step in set up. I still do, but the boots are about shot, and I simply can not find replacements. So I am reluctantly embracing the future, and starting to look at boot/binding set ups. Two questions: 1st- What is the weight difference between the old step in boot/bindings vs. the new high end Burton boots/bindings? 2nd- Is the lace lock on the Driver X bomber? They look a little suspect to me. I’m kinda old school, when it comes to reliability, less parts is better, which is hard to say with all the parts involved on our boards!
    Thanks!

    #590887
    bcrider
    4149 Posts

    Hi ricorides,

    The Driver X US mens 8.5 = 2 lbs 11 oz and the C60 binding (medium) = 1 lbs 15 oz. From memory (don’t quote me), the Clicker T1 US mens 9 with upgraded thermo liner = 3 lbs 3 oz and the Clicker HB Pro m/l = ? but I want to say 1 lbs 8-12 oz. In terms of weight they are pretty close. In terms of comfort I’d say the modern boots/bindings win hands down. In terms of performance I’d say they are pretty close with the modern boots/binding having a slight advantage. In terms of convenience the Clickers are really nice in certain conditions but can be slower in others, lets call that one even. In terms of price, the Clickers are less expensive (if you can find them). In terms of availability the modern boots are everywhere and the Clickers are a bit of a treasure hunt.

    Re the SpeedZone lacing. It rocks man for real. So quick and the ability to tighten the lower portion independently from the upper (and vise versa) is great. In terms of durability. I had over 40 days in mine last year with zero durability problems. There really aren’t any moving parts. The only thing that moves is the lace, through internal guides and the upper lock. Apparently they did refine the upper lock this year to be less exposed and protruding. I guess the sled crowd would break theirs from riding on the sled.

    Hope that answers your questions. 🙂

    There are some threads on the Burton forum too about them.

    #590888
    Spencer
    128 Posts

    Hey All,
    I had a pair of the koflach/oxygen boots a few years ago. They were great for hiking. I have some Koflach Degres now and they are great except for the sole length.

    I beleive that Atomic and Koflach are part of the same cconglomerate. Also Luke Edgars left K2 and specifically K2 SB/BC to go to Atomic sb.

    Seems like an opportunity to perhaps get a snowboard oriented PMB designed.

    Yes, Iknow that the market is small and the costs of tooling are high, and that AT boots are the “,only real, serious, and intelligent choice” but I’d be interested in a pair.

    Just a thought.

    #590889
    cowboy
    35 Posts

    Hello friends,

    For those who know me, you know this is a subject that I’m interested in.

    BC Rider: your boot choice evolution reminds me of my own a number of years ago. The tendency toward a hard boot is the most logical choice.

    Cons: You don’t get that soft, surfy feel with a hard boot. Also, many people have comfort issues. Post hole-ing is excentuated with the smaller sole but that’s why we’re on splitboards to begin with-NO MORE POST HOLE-ING!

    Pros: The use of plate bindings both on the snowboards and crampons is superior to soft bindings. MUCH less weight, way lower “fiddle” factor, less bulk, etc.

    I’ve finally found a hardboot (semi-hardboot?) that gives me the soft flex but allows plate bindings: (mine are on the left)

    The only problem is I have to build them myself. My wife has the Oxygens with an external highback that we riveted on, but only on her front foot.

    The Oxygen soles are actually almost too soft to use with plate bindings. She can get away with it because of the small size and she doesn’t weight much. The Oxygen will tend to buckle with the bigger sizes when you put them in a plate binding. I know a few guys who use them but I wouldn’t trust them farther then gentle powder riding.

    My boot is an old Scarpa. This has a VERY stiff sole. I made the leather upper and stitched it on and also added the instep strap. This boot is way too soft for most people.

    Wally (Voile owner) and I have talked for a while about building a boot. The concept would be a highbrid between these two in the photo: Stiff plastic sole, soft plastic upper, instep strap, adjustable external highback, thermofit liner. I don’t see it happening very soon unfortunately. Wally has taken on the task of building his own cores for the boards and skis. This was a huge effort. Maybe the boots will be next.

    By the way, Wally has a pair of stock Oxygens as well as a pair of Koflach Superpipes that he uses.

    #590890
    mtnrider
    740 Posts

    @bcrider wrote:

    Apparently they did refine the upper lock this year to be less exposed and protruding. I guess the sled crowd would break theirs from riding on the sled.

    I’ve been waiting for the stores to get some of these boots to check out.
    I have to get some new boot to wear this year.

    If they really did redesign for sledding, which I doubt. Its more because the protruding style lace around may rip your seat cover, or get caught on something. When you’re boondocking into the pow you don’t sit on the seat much. You’re jumping from side to side to steer the sled in the deep pow. HMK is a company that makes snowmobiling boots and the guy that started the company comes from working in the snowboard industry. All his boots are very similar to boarding boots but w/ eye holes in the boots for the laces. He also has a couple BOA options too.

    #590891
    SanFrantastico
    1514 Posts

    @cowboy wrote:

    Wally (Voile owner) and I have talked for a while about building a boot. The concept would be a highbrid between these two in the photo: Stiff plastic sole, soft plastic upper, instep strap, adjustable external highback, thermofit liner. I don’t see it happening very soon unfortunately. Wally has taken on the task of building his own cores for the boards and skis. This was a huge effort. Maybe the boots will be next.

    Please do!! It would be huge. Have you seen this design of a hybrid plate binding with highback & instep strap? It seems like a great solution & BCD has used it for some ballsy descents.

    Maybe it would be easy to just contract with Koflach or Scarpa to make some boots to spec with a high cuff, stiff tongue, and Voile label.

    *edit* PS – Here are the modified Oxygens that BCD used in his setup.

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

    #590892
    jive stick
    110 Posts

    I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting.
    Bolt a clicker on the bottom for safety, while yer at it cantcha?

    🙄

    wowasatch.com

    #590893
    Scooby2
    619 Posts

    ricorides–If you are lamenting the disappearance of the clicker HB, not the clicker flat, the HB is alive and well and “lighter.” google shimano & snowboard. you have to buy them from Australia this year

    #590894
    SanFrantastico
    1514 Posts

    Cowboy – not to flog a dead horse, but I’ll be wearing Periwinkle boots with neon orange accents this season. Not because I like those colors, but because no one has made snowboard mountaineering boots since 1992!!!

    And here is a compendium of Frankenboots created by snowboard mountaineers turned cobblers because no one has made snowboard mountaineering boots since 1992!!!

    BCD:

    powder_tracker

    Benoit Labrosse

    iw

    Stefan

    Cowboy & Wife

    BCR

    I’m sure you know a lot more stats about the growth of backcountry snowboarding than I do. Is the sport big enough and growing fast enough to accomodate a specialized boot? I guess the Driver X / Malamutes go in that direction, but they aren’t mountaineering boots. It seems like there is a market waiting for this product and that the first mover will grab it. Thanks.

    Putting the poo in swimming pool since 1968.

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