ALFA Free Boot comparison

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Stephen
Posts: 737
Joined: Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:49 am
Location: PNW USA
Ski style: Aspirational
Favorite Skis: Gamme (210), Ingstad (205), Objective BC (178)
Favorite boots: Alfa Guard Advance
Occupation: Beyond

ALFA Free Boot comparison

Post by Stephen » Fri Mar 04, 2022 6:00 pm

I've been interested in the Xplore bindings and boots, so decided to order some boots to do a first-hand evaluation.
Not yet ready to make a commitment, but want to know if there is an option that will work for me, in case something comes up on sale or so I can at least buy before next winter.

Background: I have a wide ball of foot and toe box, low volume / high arch foot (see pictures below).
My foot measure 287mm.

I have been skiing the ALFA Guard and really like it.
ALFA lists the Guard as a "Wide" fit, and the Free as a "Normal" width, so I have been concerned that the Free will not work for me (I NEED the wide fit).

I was willing to pay return shipping to get my hands on these, so ordered the ALFA Free and the Fischer Transnordic BCX (NNN BC).
(In the past, the Alpina boots, such as Alaska, have been too narrow for me, so ruled those out.)
I don't think the Fischer Traverse Xplore is available yet, but is in the 2022/23 catalogue.
The current Transnordic and the Traverse Xplore look similar to me, so using the Transnordic as a proxy.

Below are initial impressions, and not as in-depth as some of the other posts related to these boots.

So, in size 47, I tried on and compared a new:
- ALFA Guard
- ALFA Free
- Fischer Transnordic
- And ruled out the Alpina Xplore boot based on past fit experience (and even if the Alpina Alaska XP did fit me better than the Alpina Alaska BC, I think I would still prefer the Free).
Like I said, I have been really happy (9 out of 10 happy) with the Guards.

When I first tried on the Free, my initial impression was that it was too narrow / tight.
However, I cranked up the lace tension to max to at least get an initial mold to my foot, and then loosened the tension a bit and wore them for a while. Also, before putting on the Frees, I transferred the footbed / insole from my current Guards into the Frees (see pics).

After wearing the Free on one foot and the Guard on the other (both new boots), what I noticed was:
- The Free fit more precisely in the heel – it felt good;
- The entire footbed of the Free felt more supportive than the Guard (heel, arch, BoF – it felt really comfortable);
- The entire sole of the Free felt more firm / beefy / stiff (in a good way) than the Guard;
- The sole of the Free also seems thicker / higher;
- End of toes felt maybe a tiny bit roomier (another plus);

As far as possible negatives for the Free:
- Lack of lace customization options (turn the dials is what you get – although I have a theory that, when tightening the dials, putting tension on the wire that I want to be looser may cause that wire to wind up looser that the other wire on that dial);
- The sole being stiffer would probably be a minus for K&G;
- Possible issues with where the toe crease breaks (without my extra insoles in the boot, I felt / saw a potential problem with a sharp crease over my toe knuckle – adding the insoles seemed to fix that problem).

Now comparing the Fischer Transnordic to the Guard:
- The boots are a bit more difficult to put on / take off – not a deal breaker;
- One of the first things I noticed is that the boot felt like it was canted on the outside (I’m sure it’s not, I just felt more pressure under the outside of my foot), I don’t know if I would get used to that or not;
- Next, the heel fit felt very loose, lots of heel lift. That would be a deal breaker. There is a heel strap to adjust this area, but it didn’t really seem to do much, as far as I could tell;
- I had to wear a thinner sock to get this boot on, so less width in the front half of the boot;
- The lacing system is adequate, but a step down from the Guard;
- I had less room in the toes;
- For sole flexibility and K&G, I would rate it between the Guard and the Free;
- And, if the boot fits you, it might be a bit more DH capable than the ALFA Guard.
- Bottom line for me -- I would not buy this boot, no matter the price.

In trying the boots on, one thing I noticed was the difference between the shell-like fit of the Free, vs the more dimensionally flexible fit of the Guard and Transnordic. The Free seemed a bit more like a plastic shell boot than a leather or fabric boot. Wish I could do video to show that.

Bottom line, I was happily impressed with the ALFA Free (happy that it fits me well AND that it would be a nice intermediate step between a leather boot, like the Guard, and a plastic boot, like a T4 or T2 / TX. If leather is a 1 and plastic is a 10, I would say the Free is maybe a 3 or 4 (depending on the plastic boot).

In real life, it may not be necessary, but I wish the Free had some sort independent tensioner across the top of the instep to pull the heel back into the heel pocket, without having to use as much tension on the rest of the lacing system.

I would start out with Xplore on my Voile Objective. Might put the Xplore on the Ingstad, but not sure on that one.
Right now, Varuste seems to have the best pricing on Xplore boots / bindings.

I use these three insoles in my Guards
insoles.JPEG
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Tracing of the insoles from 4 different boots: ALFA Guard, ALFA Free, Fischer Transnordic, and Scarpa TX Pro
(These aren't tracings of the insoles in the above picture, but of insoles from the new boots, the inner tracing is the TX/Pro size modo 30 -- my foot measures 28.7cm, and I’m having #3, 4, 5 toe pressure issues in the TX Pro boots)
tracing.JPEG
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My foot for comparison and the thick Icebreaker socks I usually wear
foot-foot.JPEG
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Foot compared to insole
foot-insole.JPEG
foot-socks.JPEG

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