a new industry standard for ski boots…
GripWalk. Get familiar with this term. It is the future of ski boot soles.
With the big uptick in interest in ski touring and backcountry access, ski boot manufacturers have been getting creative in resolving the issue of boot sole compatibility for backcountry and on piste activities. Backcountry boots need greater griping power because backcountry skiers are hiking in them. Skiers staying on the trails of ski resorts don’t really need that extra grip to get from lodge to lift and back again. At times though, such a feature is very handy, if not welcomed. In other words, having better gripping soles on ski boots isn’t such a bad thing.
It was clear that there needed to be better compatibility between boots and bindings such that skiers could readily step into bindings for backcountry one day, and for on resort trails the next.
A New Ski Industry Standard
Enter GripWalk. Because Avie’s Ski / Sports sells Tecnica, Dalbello, Roxa, and Nordica ski boots, as well as Marker ski bindings, all of which use GripWalk, I will refer to this trend and the new boot sole involved simply as GripWalk.
The big deal with GripWalk, which was developed by Marker, a major manufacturer of ski bindings, is that equipped boots have rocker (e.g., a slight “u-shape”) along the sole so that walking is more natural, and therefore easier. There are also rubber pads on the boot sole, providing for greater traction and less unexpected slipping and sliding. The other big deal with GripWalk is that the boot can be used in both backcountry and alpine ski bindings, provided they are clicked into GripWalk equipped bindings.
But a GripWalk equipped ski boot will not fit into all bindings. They work in fact, only with alpine bindings that have been manufactured to accept the GripWalk boot sole.
Confusion Can Arise
Confusing? Yeah, a bit. At least right for the moment as we continue to move through the crossover time as non-GripWalk bindings are still on skis and new bindings and new system skis coming from manufacturers are built to accept GripWalk. As you make your way through this crossover period, be aware of this change as you purchase new ski boots or new ski bindings.
Today, almost every ski binding you purchase will be GripWalk compatible. If you are picking up new ski boots, check to see if they have GripWalk coming out of the box, but you can pretty much plan on them being GripWalk compatible.
While almost every new boot will be GripWalk compatible, some will come with a standard alpine sole in the box. Avie’s can install the standard soles if your new boots will be mated with older (but still indemnified) non-GripWalk bindings. However, more and more manufacturers are not providing the option for backward compatibility, a trend that will accelerate in the near future making GripWalk the only option in the next 3 to 5 years. The near future may require a binding upgrade when new boots are purchased. Check compatibility before purchasing. This is when it pays high dividends to buy at a brick-and-mortar ski shop—the staff will know what works and what won’t.
GripWalk Boot-to-non-GripWalk Binding
You can’t put a GripWalk equipped boot into a non-GripWalk equipped ski binding. Why? Because the GripWalk soles make the toe shape and height different enough that they will not fit a non-GripWalk equipped ski binding.
You have 2 choices—replace the GripWalk sole on the boots with a standard sole IF available OR replace the ski binding with a GripWalk equipped binding.
non-GripWalk Boot-to-GripWalk Binding
No problem. All GripWalk equipped bindings will accept ski boots with standard soles installed. There are a few specific limitations, but in general terms there is no problem. The ski tech setting up the bindings will make the proper adjustments.
non-GripWalk Boot-to-non-GripWalk Binding
Yeah, you guessed it, no problem here. But it may be time to consider an upgrade in your ski gear.
The boot sole has improved grip, so you will be less likely to slip and slide around, whether in the lodge or on the way to-and-from. This means increased safety. Traditional alpine ski boot soles are quite slick, especially on tile floors. GripWalk boot soles also have a bit of rounding (e.g., have rocker) from toe-to-heel, making it easier to walk using a more natural gait. This reduces the tendency to do the “Frankenstein Walk” while wearing ski boots.
Final Word of Caution
GripWalk is the future and the future is here—NOW. For those buying used skis or boots, beware. The matching you are attempting with that bargain gear may not work out as you expect unless you are pairing old-to-old. Even then you need, especially, to consider if those older bindings are indemnified.
How old is old? Any binding less than 5 years old could be GripWalk compatible, but not definitively so. Some, during early change over years were labeled GripWalk, but not all. The same for boots, they may or may not be labeled as GripWalk. It is best to be a bit cautious and if you are not sure what you are buying used, then maybe you shouldn’t. Most used sales do not come with a return option.
[updated October 2022]