Stiffest Boot Ever
ThirtyTwo Jones MTB Splitboard Boot
ThirtyTwo has been working with splitboarding legend Jeremy Jones for the last few years to design the ultimate splitboard boot. Did they succeed with ThirtyTwo Jones MTB boot? In this review, I will be going over some of the features of the new boot. I also asked everyone I know, who use these boots, for their opinions. This, hopefully, gives you a fair and balanced insight into the boots and if they may be the right splitboard boots for you. Grab a coffee and enjoy this deep dive into the splitboarding boots. Featuring reviews from Russell Cunningham of Karakoram Splitboard bindings and Rafael Pease of Connections Movement.
I have tested the Jones MTB boot since the first year they came out (see the last review for 2016 model). Each version improved on the last. From improving the BOA system to footbeds, there is a lot going on with them. In the video below, James Kim (the designer) goes over the tech in the 2018-2019 MTB.
Updates to the MTB Boot
There are several updates to the MTB Boot over the last 2 years. I will summarize them as best as possible. The Elite Liner is a nice upgrade (though it does add weight). The Recoil Flex stays are hard plastic rods that offer additional support (removable). The Elite Footbeds are nice and include a few sets of arch support options. Lots of little details too. Like a rubberized zipper pull and reinforced toe cap.
Elite Fit Liner
The Elite liner is the top of the line liner from ThirtyTwo. Completely heat moldable with Intuition foam. These are meant to keep their shape for a LONG time. They also have ankle donut pockets to keep your heels locked down. They include 2 sets of 2 different density donuts (orange – 3mm and black – 5mm) so you can dial in your foot perfectly.
Russel Cunningham – The man, the myth, the legend
I reached out to my good friend Russman for his take on the boots. He has been using them for years and understands the biomechanics and engineering better than anyone I know. Russell is an accomplished splitboard athlete (check out some of his pics!) and extremely intelligent person. Below is his detailed insights into the ThirtyTwo Jones MTB Boots.
- Flex: Jeremy really does know what he’s doing when it comes to high performance freeride products. Not only are his board shapes absolutely dialed in, so too is his understanding of snowboarding biomechanics. The MTB has the best forward ankle flexion out of any boot I’ve used, demoed, owned, tried on you name it. Out of the box, the boot has what I would call an 8 out of 10 stiff flex, but after heat molding the liners and putting in 2 solid tours, they “settle in” to this sweet spot that is absolutely mind-blowingly good. Its supportive, natural, and basically offers a “suspension system” for your ankle joint. As you go into the flex of the boot, the resistance ramps up as if you were riding a tuned fork on your mountain bike. You have a supple and sensitive upper flex that gives tremendous fine bump sensitivity, but as you start to carve and lean into the boot is progressive ramps up. And just as if you were on an EVIL Mountain Bike, you never feel the bottom out. In other words, the MTB has the most dynamic and fine-tuned flex that quite literally turns your ankle joints into a highly dynamic, yet regulated suspension system for high-speed charging. Further, if you look at how Jeremy rides on very high angle terrain, you realize that he uses his lower extremity differently than most snowboarders. He actually pivots inside his boots and bindings, and I feel that the flex of the MTB is tuned into really promote that high precision turning and edging that Jeremy Jones is so famous for.
- Support: The MTB utilizes ThrityTwo’s proprietary internal ankle harness, and it’s fantastic. You can crank it down for big scary descents, or you can leave it loose for tour mode. Personally, I’ve been extremely impressed with the MTB’s ability to offer my “all day support” and comfort. I very rarely find myself stopping to re-tie my boots. The same lace up I do in the morning seems to last all day.
- Boot to Binding Interface: One thing that is really impressive with the MTB, is how the external gator changes the way your ankle straps interact with the boots. It eliminates any big seams and thus creates a very smooth and continuous “wrap” as your ankle strap tightens down. With the Karakoram AirForm Ankle Straps, I find that the rubberized material grips this gator material extremely well, and I can, therefore, run my ankle strap a bit looser than I historically have. This leads to less foot fatigue, as well as more ankle mobility, and therefore helps with technical descents. Also, you’ll notice the rubber rand material around the middle of the boot, this offers more friction and durability where the Karakoram PrimeX heel cups touch the sidewall of the boot.
- Until the MTB, I have never used a splitboard boot that offers a walk mode. And I’ll tell ya, its game-changing. The dramatic increase in efficiency with being able to achieve a full-length stride is incredible. It also allows you to save a surprising amount of energy throughout the day. My only complaint with the walk mode is that it decreases your sidehilling performance in tour mode, but this is where the Karakoram FlexLock kicks in, and that problem is 100% solved. Also, as the rear of the boot opens right up, you can sometimes get powder snow to enter the boot if your pant gator is not covering the boot. On the flip side, I have found this “opening” in the rear of the boot a VERY nice ventilation system on very hot spring touring days on the volcanos.
- The “walk mode” also helps with, well you know, walking! I find that just day to day cruising around in the MTB is a real pleasure, as I’m not doing the classic skier “heel-toe KLUNK” as I walk across hard surfaces.
- Sole Design: This is a specific area that probably most snowboarders may not have been exposed to. But how a “mountain boot” behaves when you’re climbing sustained steep snow, sustained ice, rock pitches, knifed edge ridge lines etc. is extremely important. The sole of the MTB is possibly the best Vibram sole I have ever used. It’s a mountaineering tread that has been specifically redesigned to excel in snowboarding. Unlike other splitboard boots out there, the MTB offers a true “flat footprint”, meaning your heel is not an inch taller than the ball of your foot. Surprisingly I have found that this offers more precision in climbing on technical terrain.
- Toe Box: Jones added a true “hard boot” toe to his year’s MTB, and it’s game-changing. Us snowboarders can FINALLY kick our toes into hard snow and actually penetrate the damn surface. Other boots just feel like glorified skateboard shoes, and we all know how a skate shoe behaves when you’re to kick the toes into hard snow and ice.
- Crampon Compatibility: The MTB has a very well designed rear crampon welt that allows the use of a semi-auto crampon. This too is game-changing and opens the door to using the industry’s best, high-end crampons. Further, this year for the first time ever, a snowboard mountaineering boot has a SHANK!! A shank is a rigid or semi-rigid piece of material between the sole rubber and the last of the boot. This may sound silly to many, but having this sole rigidity makes this boot infinitely more capable in real, large-scale terrain mountaineering. The ability to properly front point with your crampons means that you are:
- Safer! Your crampons won’t disengage from the slope or flex off your boots.
- Less Tired! Because you can rely on the architecture and structure of the boot, you don’t have to burn out your calf muscles.
- Double Boot: If you think about it, high-end snowboard boots are the same thing as high altitude mountaineering boots: They have a shell and liner construction. This offers tremendous warmth for big expeditions, and I would be fully confident taking these boots up Denali some spring and not worry about losing toes.
- Areas of Improvement:
- The boot is too damn heavy. My Men’s 9.5US MTB’s weigh in at 1,500 grams per boot. This is about 300 grams heavier per foot than they should be. This feedback has been sent to 32, and I think they are working on putting the boot on a diet. For comparison, the Fitwell in the same size weighs 1,200 grams, a far more competitive weight.
- Walk mode needs to be closed up. As much as I like the open air on my calf for hot spring touring, I do find it drafty on freezing cold winter tours.
- Materials could be better. Compared to the latest mountaineering boots from La Sportiva, Scarpa etc., I do still feel that the materials and build quality could be made to match those companies. On that note, they should just make this boot in the USA, make it lighter and with higher-end materials, and just charge a thousand bucks for them. But hell, we take what we can get!
Real World opinion from professional splitboarder Rafael Pease
Rafael has been using the MTB boot for the last few years while filming his movie Yugen. He is one of my favorite people and a fascinating human. I had a chance to pick his brain regarding the splitboarding boots. As he has spent hundreds of days in them, often in remote parts of the world, he can attest to the pros and cons of the boots.
Rafael has 600 days on the Jones MTB boots (over 3 years and 3 versions of them). From the Yukon to Patagonia, Japan to Kyrgyzstan – Rafael has put the MTB through the wringer. Initially, he was a big fan. The articulation and durability came in handy on long tours and winter camping.
A few years in…
However, he noticed foot pain from pressure points and felt that the break-in time was too long. After recently touring with Eric Layton and others in the PNW, he noticed how much lighter and quicker the other splitboarders were, using hard boot setups. He also noticed how much less foot pain they were experiencing. His conclusion was to either 1) go hard boot for bigger tours or 2) go softer boot for quick laps. Rafa is not one to compromise his integrity and stands by his word. So there you have it from Mr. Pease. He may be a little harder on gear than some of us riders, as he spends weeks at a time using them in remote areas.
If Spinal Tap made boots, these would be it. Meaning, they are an 11 on a scale of 1-10. Personally, I cry when I put them on. I also have arthritis in both feet, so they don’t bend. I thought this was a unique suffering that only I experience. Turns out Rafael feels that the boots are too stiff and painful as well. I believe the theory on the stiffness is to replicate (as close as possible) hard boots. Therefore transferring energy more efficiently and allowing for better use with strap crampons. They are very stiff. I usually spend several days breaking them in at home before they even see the skin track. The most recent versions of these boots (2018-2019 model) are so stiff that I could barely get my right foot in the boots.
The boots are very durable. They will last years of use and abuse. That is great from an investment point of view. The problem I see is that they take a long time to break in. If you are putting 100+ days a year on these, then they are a good value. If you are hoping to break them in immediately, you are in for some frustration. I have joked with some splitboard manufacturers that we should hire interns to break the boots in. In fact, I tracked down a used pair of 2016 MTB on purpose. My feet thanked me! Rafael confirms this, saying that around day 80 they feel ideal to him. My 2016 MTB feel the way I want to feel now. After putting 50+ days on them (and them being used who knows how much). So, I would estimate that it will take 3-20 days for the average rider to feel like the boots have “broken in”.
These are heavy duty boots, and with that, comes heavy duty weight. The moment you pick up the MTB boot, you can feel it. I measured 1600 grams for my size 11.5. That is over 3.5 lbs. Per boot! The 2016 model was slightly lighter at 1434 grams. I am going out on a limb here and guessing that the increase in weight is due to the more advanced liner (Elite Fit liner). For comparison, the Burton Tourist are only 1196 grams.
Summary of the ThirtyTwo MTB Jeremy Jones Boot
As you can tell from the varying opinions above, this is a boot that people really love. Or, it is a boot that can be a bit of a pain (in the foot) to use. I appreciate most of the features on the boots and find that they allow for good edge hold on tours, good stride while touring and good grip on sketchy snow and ice. I do not like how much they hurt my feet to put on. Nor do I like how heavy they are. I find myself using the Burton Tourist most of the time now. Though, to be completely fair, I am often riding more mellow terrain and have little to no need for crampon use.
So, with all that said and all the detailed info from some of the best in the splitboard business, I hope you have enough intel to make a well-informed decision. These boots are stiff and offer many of the benefits of the Fitwell boots, but also some other useful features. They are not hard boots, nor are they soft boots, they are their own beast. They will do the job asked of them and last a long time. MSRP $599 and available for Woman as well $599