I liked the Struktura as soon as I put it on – once I got it on. My pair inexplicably shipped with a super low-tech non-standard liner, with no assist loop at the back, a low cuff, soft ankle support, and finger-slicing narrow laces. I try not to swear in this blog, but these things were a B*TCH to get on. No loop in the back? On an A/T or downhill liner? What the….
Out of curiosity, I scoured stores both online and off, and it seems that the Struktura is supposed to come with a better liner with a higher cuff, stiffer ankle, softer, thicker laces, and an ASSIST LOOP AT THE BACK (see photo – see the loop?). I called Lowa to basically give them a chance to say “whoops, our bad, here’s a better liner” but no luck. The first customer service agent I spoke to was sweet, but clueless – didn’t really understand the concept of an assist loop. She transferred me to a tech guy, who told me politely but firmly that I probably just got a “sample pair” with an incorrect liner, and that it was just too bad because there was nothing he could or would do. Why Lowa ships boots with crappy “sample” liners, I’ll never know, and it probably doesn’t matter because the tech guy also told me that Lowa is getting out of the A/T market here in the US.
So, although the boot pictured above shows the correct liner with assist loop and all, the boots shipped to me do not have that liner. Since Lowa couldn’t provide the “real” liner, I am forced – forced! – to review the boot I got, crappy liners and all. So here we go. I tested the Struktura in a backcountry setting the first day, and at the resort the second.
I can barely get these boots on my feet, for starters. The liner, like I said, has no assist loop and is soft at the ankle, so when I tried to grip the sides and force my foot in, the ankle just collapsed and my foot got repeatedly stuck halfway into the liner. After breaking a sweat and saying many bad words, I got the liners on, and tried to tighten the laces on the liners. The laces are meant to hold the liner onto your foot instead of onto the shell, eliminating the blisters that just seem to come with skinning up thousands of feet. It’s a good idea, but these laces were about .5mm thick and not burly enough to grab with my bare hands and tighten, especially in 15 degree weather at the trailhead. My ski partner had to squeeze the sides of the liners once I got them on my feet so I could tighten the laces with thickly gloved hands (to avoid being cut by the knifelike laces) just to make them remotely fitted. To add insult to insult, the laces wouldn’t even stay tied. Bah! Once the liners were on, the shells were easy, and off we went.
I have notoriously difficult feet, especially in ski boots, so to wear these boots two days in a row for over 5 hours at a time without having to remove them to regain circulation in my feet was a dream come true. Skinnng up with the buckles either undone or very loose was quite comfortable and much like wearing a stiff hiking boot. No pins and needles or pressure points on these boots. The boots weren’t broken in at that point, so after tightening the buckles for the downhill portion, ski mode was a little too stiff, so I skied in walk mode, which was pleasantly adequate for the fluffy powder of the day. Once I got the skis pointed downhill, I forgot all about my quibbles with the boots; they skied well. Might have something to do with the amazing powder, but I’ll let Lowa have this one. For the comfort in climbing and the responsiveness while skiing, thumbs up.
I had some problems with the buckles coming undone; something Lowa promised to have addressed with their new buckle retention system. The buckle retention devices, meant to keep buckles closed while skiing, didn’t seem to function worth anything as evident from the number of times I had to stop and rebuckle the boots, until I tried to get the boots off that night. The third buckle on the right boot just would not let go. My partner had to hammer at the clasp to get it off. I wouldn’t complain about this if that buckle hadn’t come loose a dozen times while I was skiing. As it was, it’s rather exasperating.
The next day I put these boots to work at the resort. I had similar problems with buckles not staying closed, and still wasn’t able to ski comfortably in ski mode for too long, but bear in mind the boots aren’t broken in and the liner issue was significant. Unfortunately for Lowa, I suspect these boots would ski a lot better with the higher, stiffer liner they’re supposed to have, but the short, flabby one my pair came with was ineffective and frustrating. However, I skied annoying, icy, choppy runs (all that was open that day) and the boots performed surprisingly well for being in walk mode AND having crappy liners. I felt like I had to choose between two evils; though – if I cranked the buckles down so that they would stay closed, I had too much pressure on the top of my foot, but if I buckled them firm-but-comfortably, the buckles would come undone. In ski mode this seemed to be less of a problem.
All in all, this is a backcountry boot most at home in the backcountry. The pair I tried was just not burly enough for hard charging at the resort, making me think that it’s not the boot for super extreme backcountry runs either. In two feet of perfect powder, they were amazing even in walk mode – I forgot I was wearing new ski boots on that run. For mellow bumps, powder, and perfect groomers, they were fine. For ice, hard bumps, and chop on anything steep, they were tough to control and were too flexible. That’s actually fine by me, as they are in fact a backcountry boot and not meant for the resort. There are backcountry skiers who find chop, bumps, and ice in the backcountry, but I’m not one of them. I ski the powder, and that’s what these boots seem to be made for. With a better liner – maybe I’d have a different opinion.