Ever feel worn out before you even start skiing? While convenience isn’t something we talk about much in the ski industry, the fact is that modern skiing requires a lot more walking than a few decades ago. Enter Grip Walk, the ski industry’s newest attempt to improve your skiing experience. While previous industry attempts have arguably fallen short in either convenience or industry adoption (WTR/ Walk To Ride, AT boots, rear entry boots), Grip Walk is proving to be both a major improvement that all boot and binding manufactures are accepting.
What is it? Grip Walk is a new standard for rounded (sometimes called rocker) soles and compatable bindings. Unlike past attempts (like the Walk To Ride/ WTR system), the dimensions at key points (the sole, toe and heel lugs) are essentially the same as the older flat boot standard. The real difference is sole is no longer flat, it has a “hump” at just behind where your boot stands on the toe piece. The hump has two effects, places you more upright when walking and allows the boot to move more easily through gait - much like a rocking chair can be moved easily.
Another factor is that most Grip Walk soles feature rubberized traction components for significantly better grip - hence the name, Grip Walk. The combination of the rockered surface and better traction means much more pleasant to walking in ski boots. In fact, most of my testers find the improvement more significant than using their walk mode (featured on some models, and nearly every AT boot, which allows the upper cuff to move freely when opened).
Who does Grip Walk help? Actually, just about everyone - and you may not have a choice. As said, Grip Walk is now so common, it is hard to buy boots that do not have them. The only exception being race boots (solid, flat soles) and some of the low end boots including rental boots.
Who doesn’t Grip Walk help? Two groups mainly. First, if you use (real) races skis, Grip Walk soles may not fit in your bindings. This will likely be fixed in the next few years, as race coaches really benefit from the Grip Walk soles but also tend to prefer race skis. The second (and bigger) group, people who want to keep using older skis. Unfortunately, your older bindings may not be compatible with Grip Walk soles. In many cases, you may need to buy new bindings - or even new skis if their binding are integrated and cannot simply be replaced. How about old boots? Actually, many more recently made boots can have Grip Walk soles added to them. You would just need to find out from the company what their options are. Are Grip Walk soles worth it? In a word, yes! Most of my clients tell me they love their new Grip Walk soles and never want to go back to flat soles. Try walking in a set and you will immediately feel the difference.