The popularity and attendant quality of touring boots has exploded in the last three years; virtually every manufacturer is offering a touring-specific boot these days, and they all claim to be the most comfortable, most versatile, and best to ski. We can't say for sure who's right, but we can say that Salomon's been at the forefront of this movement from day one, beginning with its backcountry-capable Quest lineup.The new MTN Exlore Boot is a different animal than the Quest, though. It's designed primarily for real backcountry use, not short expeditions out of bounds, and has a lightweight, highly mobile construction to reflect that. The shell is made from lightweight Grilamid and the cuff from flexible Touring polypropylene, and the two are joined together using Salomon's oversized pivot, which provides a stable connection that's ideal for driving wider skis without slop or unnecessary flex.When you're touring, though, it's the front-to-back movement that's most essential. The Explore has a flex rating of 100--stiff but not crazy--and a Surelock ski/walk switch with Motion Flex technology, which gives the cuff a killer 63 degrees of rotation, so you can skin and bootpack like you're wearing a pair of hiking boots. When you lock the switch into ski mode, a carbon fiber spine forms a bomproof connection between the shell and the cuff, so you can use every millimeter of flex without worrying about slop or lack of precision. The power strap lets you cinch things down tight for a highly responsive fit, and the reversed instep buckle pulls your heel back into the pocket and pushes your foot down into the bootboard for top-shelf control. Heat-moldable liners are standard these days, and the Explore's Ultralight CF 3D liner doesn't disapppoint. It conforms easily to the lumps and bumps of your feet, has a flex zone around the ankle and Achilles for smooth striding, and features several loops that are great if you're a lace-up kind of guy. Salomon also designed shell a...
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