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Taking Boot Development To The Next Level

February 2, 2024

In 2022, Madshus moved the entire research and development boot department to Italy and put some of the world’s best boot builders to work. This is what happened. 

As of October 2022, Madshus ski boots are designed and made by the famous Dalbello factory in Asolo, Italy. In only 1 year and 3 months, boot developers Vasja Rupnik and Alan Gallina have already made several revolutionary changes to the construction of the flagship Redline models, and there is more to come for the entire Madshus boot line. 

The Dalbello factory is situated in the beautiful Asolo village, nestled deep in the mountains of the Veneto region in Northern Italy, an area known for innovation, incredible craftmanship and a tradition for shoemaking that goes back for centuries. 

Madshus sat down with lead developer Vasja Rupnik to hear more about some of the most recent innovations to the Madshus ski boots, and the process that brought them about. 

“First of all, we are so lucky to be situated here in Asolo. There are so many other shoe and footwear manufacturers in this area, making everything from cycling shoes, climbing shoes, trekking boots and so on. There is lots of cooperation between everyone, which is great for innovation,” Rupnik says. 

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When you first started working with Madshus in the Fall of 2022, what were the most important areas you wanted to address with the boot line?  
“We wanted to change the whole shape of the boot and make it feel more like a sneaker, but still provide the same support, precision and ski control.”

Specifically, how do you achieve that?  
“We had to change the carbon base and the entire last construction, which determines the shape of the boot, updating it to better fit a vast variety of feet. We also sourced new materials for other parts of the boots, such as uppers and inner liners.”

Do you always start with developing the most advanced models?  
“Yes. Once we have those, we can start adapting the features and technologies for the other boot models specific to the needs of each level of skier.” 

Rupnik points out that the top-of-the-line boot may not be right for everyone, but that the technologies and principles still apply. 

For instance, recreational skiers and backcountry skiers still want great fit and support, but they typically prefer a warmer boot, a little more room in the toe box and a somewhat less rigid boot overall, even if it adds a few grams to the weight of the boot. 

This is where Madshus’ “Trickle Down Technology” comes into play. 

“When we design the other ski boot models, we base the boot construction on the same last and technologies as our pinnacle Redline models, but we alter the shape just slightly to address the needs of the intended users, and we might use different materials. If we swap out some of the carbon in the boot construction with composite or plastic, you still get the same function and features, but the boot will feel slightly more forgiving and comfortable,” Rupnik explains.  

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So, what actually goes into making world-class cross-country ski boots?  
“It is an incredibly complex project. You need to combine optimal fit and comfort with functionality and performance, while keeping everything super lightweight. It’s easy to make a super comfortable boot, but it’s not easy to make that comfortable boot super lightweight,” he says, and continues: 

“We are always looking at trying new materials, thinking about new ways to design the boot that will improve the fit and comfort while providing the stability and support to deliver the best power transfer, control and precision that the top racers in the world need.”

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How important are the World Cup racers in the R&D process?  
“They are absolutely irreplaceable. They tell us what they need in a boot, which features and functionality they like and what they are missing. Being located where we are, we are fortunate that we are close to the athletes and many of their competitions. Based on their feedback, we can often make them a new boot to test in a week or two.”

That said, Rupnik points out that the overall development process for a boot model still takes time. The process starts with basic ideas and concepts and then moves through investigating, testing and sourcing materials. Finally, prototypes are produced for athlete feedback and testing before the final product hits retailers and ultimately the end user.

“Once we have prototyped and tested the boots, we have a quick turnaround. The boots that we develop in the fall are tested throughout the season, but they were not designed entirely from scratch,” says Rupnik, explaining that most R&D cycles take about two years. 

“We are always developing and as we start to finalize boots that our athletes currently use, we are also working intensively on future models.”

Related coverage: Department 19: Where great gear happens 

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From the World Cup to the Backcountry 

For the backcountry segment, Asolo has also made some huge changes to the Panorama models. Even though these rugged boots are designed for all-day and multiple-day adventures in ungroomed terrain, many of the features and construction are still based on Redline technology. 

“We are moving away from a trekking base and implementing technology from the Redline models. Backcountry skiers seek stability, a secure heel hold inside the boot, and a snug-fitting overall boot system that supports your feet for many hours,” Vasja Rupnik says.

“After all, backcountry skiing is still walking on skis, and by using race boot technology, we can make backcountry boots much slimmer, sleeker, lighter and more functional.”