Gear Review: FXR Tactic BOA Focus Boot
Mountain Sledder | On 19, Feb 2016
There are a lot of different brands and styles of snowmobile specific boots out there. FXR alone offers a mind-numbing variety of boot styles. It can be hard to sift through so many options to find the perfect boot for you, but we chose to test their Tactic BOA Focus Boot for a couple of reasons.
First off, the Tactic line-up is the most pricey of all the FXR boots available, so it must be the best, right? You get what you pay for! Looking beyond the price tag, the dual BOA closure system is a major draw for those that want a super snug fit and are tired of the time-consuming ordeal of lacing up, then re-tightening lace boots throughout the day. And finally, the Tactic BOA Focus is super-stylish and it looks tough enough to survive ground zero of a nuclear blast.
The Tactic BOA Focus offers big list of features, the most obvious of which is in the name—BOA. For those not familiar with this system, it is made up of a thin steel cable that replaces traditional laces, and which is tightened by a ratchet-style mechanical reel. It works by turning the knob to tighten in the cable through nylon guides, which snugs the boot evenly and firmly. To release simply pull up on the knob, which allows the lace to spool back out. It’s super easy and super fast to use. I like.
The Tactic BOA Focus Boot uses dual BOAs so that you can tighten the foot area and the cuff independently, which is great for total customization of fit. Fresh out of the box the boot is quite upright and stiff, and it took a couple of days to break-in. During that time I snugged the lower boot zone tight but left a little bit of slack in the upper zone, which allowed me to get some extra needed fore-aft movement through the ankle. After two days the boot began to feel a little more pliable, and I could snug up the top as well for a good fit. Without the dual BOA system, I might have struggled with the initial stiffness for a few days.
The inner liner is closed with a speed lace system. Simply pull up on the ends of the lace and push down the retaining mechanism. It’s really simple and makes quick work of snugging up the plush liner.
FXR claims that the Tactic BOA Focus offers a “molded ultra low profile toe box”, but I have to disagree with the low-profile claim. The toe area is thicker than it looks, which is probably a combination of the size of my boot (twelve) and the plentiful insulation inside. In any case, I found that the toe of the boot would sometimes jam and become lodged between the running boards and toe hooks on a pre-Axys Polaris Pro-RMK, which is not a reassuring feeling. This was not a problem with any other models I have ridden while wearing the boots, but something the Pro-RMK crowd should be aware of. Good thing I don’t ride that sled often (because it’s always in the shop—ya, I said it. Go ahead, leave your comments at the bottom), because that would be a deal breaker for me.
Otherwise, the toe area is bomber. The rubber cap does a great job of protecting both the toe area and your toes inside when kicking snow and ice from your running boards, and a combination of heavy-duty stitching and glue has held up perfectly so far.
The sole of the boot is tough as hell, too. The rubber tread is soft enough to be grippy in wet conditions, but it’s so tough that the soles still look brand new after half a season.
A mountaineering-style rubber rand does an awesome job of protecting the outside of the boot. The material is super tough and stiff, giving good foot protection from sharp running boards and plenty of support. I really think the rubber is going to help give the boot a long life, and keep it looking fresh in the meantime.
The Tactic BOA Focus Boot is, of course, waterproof. Intensely waterproof in fact. Having ridden the boot in very wet, sloppy snow and having walked through a shallow creek to refill my water bottle (and maybe even a little waterskipping), I have yet to experience wet feet in conditions that I know would have soaked boots that I’ve owned otherwise (whose identities will remain anonymous here). A rubberized outsole and solid contruction are key elements that have this boot sealed up tighter than a drum.
The boot goes beyond the call of duty for warmth as well. It features 1100 grams equivalent of insulation, with a rating of -70°C. Yes, you read that right. -70°C. I can imagine dying of hypothermia in the backcountry and being found a week later, blue and stiff as a board but with warm feet still. In any case, I hope to never truly test the warmth capability of these boots. My feet have not been cold in them yet, and I doubt they ever will. Even whipping down a shady, valley bottom trail at close to -30°C for 28km at top speed did nothing to chill the insides of the boots off. Having said that, there is so much insulation packed into these things that they are considerably more bulky than I would like, and for mainly mountain riding where the temperatures are usually considerably warmer and the riding is more active, I would probably recommend one of FXR’s other mountain-specific boots such as the Elevation Lite BOA Focus Boot, which shares similar features but is less insulated.
In terms of fit, the boot feels large. There is plenty of room side-to-side for wide feet, and the boots feel long as well. It would be worth it to try before you buy, as I suspect a lot of people could get away with sizing down if they prefer a snug fit. And, as a mountain rider you should. Consider that your feet make up 50% of your points of control of your sled, and any sloppy movement inside your boots is going to translate to delayed response of your machine.
And this is what happens when you have delayed response:
Okay, so all that sounds pretty good. Here’s what I don’t like about the boots.
1) The cuff on the boot is very straight up-and-down. Maybe it’s my hockey-playing background, but I prefer a cuff that has a little more forward lean, which I feel puts me in a more athletic stance with knees flexed. For the first couple of days, I felt that the boots were forcing my legs to be too straight, and I found myself falling back on my heels a few times, which does not make for a well-balanced body position. Backing off the upper BOA closure helped this, and once the boots were broken-in this became less of an issue, but I would prefer a more forward-leaning cuff straight out of the box for mountain riding.
2) The boots are really big, like astronaut boots big. Part of that is my fault for choosing the super-insulated (aka thicker) model. If your priority is a super-duper cosy, warm and dry boot, then the Tactic BOA Focus can’t be beat. But if you’re anything like me—constantly hopping and flailing about in a desperate attempt to out-ride your own modest ability—you might prefer a lower-profile boot that feels less cumbersome.
With so many snowmobile-specific boots out on the market today, making a purchase decision can be difficult. Without the ability to field test your options, looks and fit are the only real qualities that be inspected firsthand in a retail store. It’s nice to be able to draw from the experience of others to help make your decision. For that purpose, here is my experience with FXR’s Tactic BOA Focus Boot.
The FXR Tactic BOA Focus Boot is super comfy, warm and dry. It looks incredibly durable; and so far—halfway through a season—has proven to be just that. The dual BOA closure systems is easy to use, fast and allows upper and lower customization of fit. It’s got all the features you would expect a mountain riding boot to have, and the construction is top-notch.
My only complaints are that the cuff could have more forward-lean, and that the boots are bulky. If the size is an issue, you can try out some of FXR’s many other styles, or try to size down.
Overall, it is a great boot that will keep your feet happy for a long time.