May marks 12 months of skiing my Tecnica Zero G Tour Scout touring boots, so I thought it was time that I share some notes. I love and hate touring boot reviews. The right boot is so personal to your anatomy and body mechanics. On the other hand, it’s a good way to educate about boots, the shopping process, and considerations you’ll want to make to add the right boot to your setup.
Before diving into the boot, a bit about my foot shape and boot needs: I have an extremely low volume instep and heel, which is the most important aspect for boot fitting and the hardest for fitters to adjust. My forefoot is slightly narrower than average. My calves are narrower, and the muscle sits pretty high vs extending down towards my ankle. When it comes to tall casual boots, mine are a combination of narrow calf and average calf sizing. I was looking for a boot that was good for all-around touring, from shorter, mid-winter pow laps to multi-day, gear-heavy trips with long carries and lots of vert.
Here’s how they stacked up:
- Sample from: bought personally for $385 from Sporting Life in Burnaby, BC.
- MSRP: $799.95, which puts it on par with competitor boots like the Dynafit Hoji Pro W and Scarpa Gea RS. It’s $100 over somewhat similar boots, like the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 115 and La Sportiva Vega.
- Weight: 1271g (with stock liners and custom footbeds), making them heavier than the Hoji Pro, Gea RS, and Vega, but by mere grams. They come in lighter than the Hawx Ultra XTD 115.
- Material: Grilamid shell and polyester cuff. Grilamid is a special type of plastic made my EMS Grivory that stands out for being light, yet strong. It has a progressive flex pattern, and it’s less affected by temperature (so warm spring touring days don’t soften the boot into a noodle). The Hoji Pro W, Gea RS, and Vega all use predominately Grilamid (which explains why they’re all pretty pricey boots), while the Hawx Ultra ditched the branded plastic for Atomic’s own Prolite starting in 2021.
- Soles: ISO 9523, which is the “alpine touring” industry standard. This sole is compatible with frame and Shift bindings, as well as a few specialized inbound bindings. The sole is rockered under the ball of the foot to make walking in the boots more ergonomic. The Vega and Gea RS share the same sole. The Hoji Pro W is not built on an industry standard, and the Hawx Ultra XTD uses GripWalk, which is flatter underfoot and compatible with more inbound options.
- Forward Lean: 12 or 13 degrees. This generally measures whether the boot puts you in a more upright or forward position. Competitor boots range from 11 to 16 degrees, which makes the Zero Gs somewhat upright.
- Stated flex: 115. Note that touring boot flex isn’t rated the same as inbound boots. I ski a 105 flex inbound boot and it’s stiffer than the Zero Gs, even though they’re both made by Tecnica. The materials, weight, and number of buckles are better indicators of boot stiffness and downhill performance when it comes to touring boots.
- Cuff rotation: 55 degrees. Cuff rotation dictates whether you’ve got the range of motion in the boot to make long, efficient strides, or if your strides are cut short due to the boot’s mobility. Think of low cuff rotation like running in a pencil skirt – your body can’t move as efficiently as it could due to constricting things you’re wearing. Standards for this boot class range from 55-60 degrees, but as we’ll cover, numbers don’t tell the full story.
- Alternative versions: The women’s line includes the Zero G Tour. The main difference between these two boots is weight and price. They skip the Grilamid for some unbranded, more affordable plastics, which adds 140g per foot in the 26.5 (or 0.6lbs for the pair). The stated flex is a 105, and they swap in a standard Velcro powerstrap. The men’s 130 flex Zero G Tour Pro also comes down to a 23.5.
Fit: Overall, the Zero Gs are some of the lowest volume boots on the market, but I still had to make a few concessions for them to work for me. I sought them out since I had great luck with the Tecnica Mach1s, where double downsizing from my measured mondo keeps everything locked in place but fit comfortably all day. I have the same size (23.5) in the Zero Gs, but they feel noticeably shorter. My first fitter argued they were too small for me (hence why I drove to Canada; I can’t let mansplainers have the satisfaction of completing a sale). And while I definitely cried on my first few tours, the liners have packed out enough where I can tolerate them for a full trip as long as I’m not doing a bunch of downhill skinning or backseat skiing where my toes are jammed into the front of the boot.
The cuff is also slightly narrow, and down the entire length of the boot, I have 1-2 spots on the buckle ladder left.
Getting them off and on is a total struggle. The plastic over the instep is incredibly stiff and not designed in a way where it separates easily. I’ve had tours where I’ve needed to pre-heat my boots with the car footwell heater in order to get them on, and my touring partners have told me that I sound like I’m straining to poop when I put them on. It can get really painful if your foot gets stuck as you’re “rounding the corner” getting your foot past the instep. I thought this was happening to me since I downsized aggressively, but my friend Ali has the same issue getting her foot out of the boot. Sometimes, the entire liner comes out with her foot and there’s reliably a long string of obscenities that come out of her mouth since the process is really painful. Fitters told her to separate the two sides of the clog with her hands, but that leaves zero hands left to actually tug the boot off and on.
I tried on the discontinued LaSportiva Sparkle at the same fitting appointment and the fit was lower volume. I could get away with a 24.5, and it offered both a secure heel pocket and a little wiggle room for my toes. They likely would’ve been my choice if I didn’t hate the Sparkle buckles so much. I also got my foot in the Hawx Ultra XTD, but fell between sizes where a 24.5 had too much room over the instep, but the 23.5 would’ve needed some punching in the toe box to un-scrunch my toes.
Uphill: I bought the Zero Gs as a replacement for a pair of 2014 Dynafit Mercury boots. Dynafit has a long history of making efficient uphill travel boots, and only started focusing on downhill performance that rivals inbound boots within the past decade. The opposite is true for Tecnica. Their expertise is in downhill boots and got into touring boots in the past decade. I could notice these core competencies while using the boots. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve taken me anywhere I want to go, but I find their uphill capabilities tolerable, while their downhill chops are wicked impressive.
As I mentioned earlier, they have 55 degrees of cuff rotation, but cuff rotation is more than a number. It also has orientation. You can get forward range of motion, which is on the front or shin side of the boot and lets you push your knee out past your toes. It can also be rearward, where the ROM is on the back or calf side of the boot and lets you kick your foot forward where your knee is behind your ankle. When a boot has forward ROM, it makes dorsiflexion possible, and rearward ROM facilitates plantarflexion.
My Mercury boots only had 60 degrees of cuff rotation, but it was distributed between forward and rearward ROM. When I skin, I like to make long, slow strides and to be able to kick my ski out far in front of me. I have good strength and mobility, but not great cardio endurance, so this style lets me cover a lot of ground while keeping stride turnover to a minimum. I can stand up straight, keep my hips open, shoulders back, and chest open, which is a great position for sucking wind.
The Zero Gs really only have ROM on the front side of the boot. In ski mode, I can stand up straight and lock my knees out, but even then, there’s resistance and I can feel the boot pushing my calves forward. And pushing my ankle out in front of my knee is a total no-go. You can definitely tell that I’m being pushed forward because I’m awkwardly doubled over in all of them. My chest is collapsed and I’ve got a fold at the hips. It’s a good thing I’ve gotten much better as a skier because cute skinning pictures are definitely off the table.
The right amount of cuff rotation and orientation really depend on your ankle mobility and biomechanics, so people who are pleased with the Zero G’s cuff rotation aren’t wrong, but it’s definitely my biggest pet peeve with the boots.
The pivot point between the shell and cuff is also noticeably higher on the Zero Gs than some of its competitors, especially ones with a 3 piece design. With the lower bolts, you have more leverage to rotate the cuff and it feels easier to move the cuff as you skin.
And lastly, I get a little worse traction with the Zero Gs than I did with my old Dynafits. In the Mercuries, the sole under my toes and the toe welt felt very secure while bootpacking, but with the ZeroGs, I have to be intentional about getting the ball of my foot in contact with the snow in order to keep from sliding.
Downhill: These are good. Too good. They’ve actually ruined my old faithful touring skis. My Pandora 95s want to flick and swish down the mountain with a relaxed, casual style, but the boots want to be driven. They’re a bit softer than my inbound boots, but I ski more conservatively while touring and find them plenty stiff for my uses. They don’t mute out chunder like a heavier boot with a thicker liner would, but they’re stiff and secure enough to maintain composure. It’s a good thing that most tours end on the downhill since the ride is good enough to make me forget about this boot’s bullshit on the ascent. I picked up a dedicated powder touring ski that’s a little burlier and more directional than my Pandoras, and I finally feel like I’m fully utilizing the Zero G’s capabilities and I’m really tempted to make some similar adjustments on the narrower side of my quiver.
The downhill is where I appreciate their overlap design. 3 piece boots with a tongue provide a really stiff forward flex under the tongue, but rearward and lateral flex are softer. The lateral flex makes me feel more secure if I’m laying my skis over, and the rearward flex keeps me from shifting into the backseat as easily and encourages me to keep better form.
A few friends have either considered or used the Zero G as a 50/50 boot with MNC inbound bindings. I’d personally never consider it since lightweight gear is never the most durable, and I like a little more height in the cuff, but it’s certainly an option and the boot delivers a level of control and responsiveness where it’s reasonable.
Durability: I’ve gotten 20-25 days on these boots and there aren’t noticeable signs of wear other than some superficial knicks and scratches. One of the strings on the walk mode lever pulled out on my 3rd tour, which definitely made me nervous about the other components, but I got used to transitioning them without it by finagling the metal hook components themselves. None of the wire buckles look bent out of shape from the tension and all of the components are still firmly attached to the boot. The soles also look brand new, which is exciting, since they were the quickest-failing part of my Mercuries. I’m hoping the worse traction I’m noticing with the Vibram soles comes with a trade off of better durability.
Are they my sole mates? I’m pretty pleased with the Zero Gs, but Tecnica will likely release a 3rd generation of their touring line in 1-2 years, and I’m very eager to see if they continue making upgrades to their uphill performance.
I’m also eager to get my foot in a Hoji Free 110 or La Sportiva Vega. In the store, the Sparkle’s walk mode seemed to be a much better fit for my body, and the new line finally gets rid of those finicky, breakable buckles. I can tell it would come at a cost of some downhill performance, but I’m curious if it would be worth it. Likewise, the Hoji Free 110 is a softer, smaller take on the super popular Hoji Free 130, but I’m skeptical about how well its unisex fit actually works for women.