Expert Review: K2 Mindbender 130 LV Ski Boots · 2023Published on 04/19/2023 · 8 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the ski boots, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2022.
A day from my trip in the Chic Choc range in northern Quebec, approaching one of the skiable zones, Patrollers Bowl, on Mont Albert in the Gaspésie National Park. All photos courtesy of Chris Macdonald
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the ski boots, which I purchased with my own money in December of 2022.
The 2023 K2 Mindbender 130 LV is a hybrid ski boot with an excellent out-of-the-box fit. An ideal option for skiers looking for versatility, this boot offers solid performance in both the backcountry and resort. While the Mindbender series offers something for everyone, the 130 LVs (Low Volume) are on the stiffer end of K2’s offerings. In my opinion, they are best suited for advanced to expert skiers who are gentle on their equipment, and are looking for a boot with a more narrow fit.
About the boots I own
- Model: 2023 K2 Mindbender 130 LV
- Size: 26.5
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 160 lbs
- Street shoe size: 9
- Experience: 25 years of skiing
- When I bought these: December 2022
- Days tested: 50
- Skis: Nordica Unleash 108 (alpine) and 4FRNT Hoji (touring)
- Bindings: Marker Jester 16 (alpine) and Marker Kingpin (touring)
- Where I’ve used it: Vermont, Utah, Quebec
- Terrain: Groomers, bumps, powder, park, backcountry
How they perform
What I was looking for
Versatility was important; I was looking for a single boot that I could tackle everything with, and which would click into any ski on any given day. I also wanted a boot that had a great fit and feel out of the box in order to minimize the amount of work I would have to put in to shape them.
Why I chose this gear
First, I noticed how much I really liked the fit of the Mindbender 130 LV. I have narrow ankles and struggle to find boots that hold my heel down. With these boots, my heel feels locked into place, my forefoot has no lateral or vertical play, and my shins don’t feel any uncomfortable pressure.
Besides the fit, these boots offered all the functionality I was looking for, including a walk mode and plenty of range of motion for longer touring days, yet they’re still stiff and progressive enough for hard-charging days at the resort.
I considered a few other comparable boots, including the Tecnica Cochise 130 and the Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 130. I had a chance to ski a pair of the Cochise for a few days, and the fit felt a little too boxy for my foot. While the Atomics fit me well, they were very hard for me to put on.
What I love about them
- Accuracy of Claimed Fit: This specific model is a low volume (LV) fit with a 98mm last. Personally, I find I need a truly lower-volume boot, and sometimes other low-volume boots still feel “boxy” and dont keep my heel down. These boots feel like a true 98mm last, with a narrow heel pocket that keeps my entire foot locked in place.
- Comfort: The comfort on the Mindbender 130 LV is top notch, and does not compromise on fit. I never have to do any work on these boots, which is rare for me. I didn't even have to heat mold them or address any hot spots, because I never had any—even when they were new. Both the shell and liner are customizable to dial in a comfortable fit for any user.
- Weight: Weight is never a huge concern for me, but for its category of boots, the Mindbender 130s are impressively light. While they aren’t an ultralight touring boot, their PowerLight shell strategically employs various plastics to maximize performance while keeping the weight low.
- Ease of use: Another selling point for me, there were a few other boots I tested that I struggled to put on and take off; I knew that wasn’t something I wanted to deal with as a skier who enjoys nearly 100 ski days each season. These boots are very easy to put on. The walk mode and buckle levers are easy to actuate—even with gloves on.
- Resort: When using hybrid boots such as these, I expect a compromise in performance when compared to full-alpine boots. However, I found the Mindbender 130 LVs performed adequately in the resort in terms of stiffness and flex. Though heavier, expert skiers will most likely find this boot too soft.
- Backcountry: These boots aren’t dedicated backcountry boots, so they might not be the lightest or most mobile backcountry option on the market. However, I find their weight is not an issue, and they provide me with plenty of mobility due to their 50° range of motion when in walk-mode. Their tech fittings make them compatible with both alpine bindings, tech bindings, and hybrid bindings like the Salomon Shift or the Marker Duke PT.
- Adjustability: As one would expect with any modern ski boot, the Mindbender 130 LV offers plenty of adjustability options to achieve the perfect fit. The buckles twist for making micro-adjustments, and the buckle ladders on the upper cuff fasten in a few different positions to compensate for larger or narrower calves. Both the shell and the liners can be heat molded to better form to the user's feet, which is also useful for skiers with bone spurs, bunions, or hot spots.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Accuracy of Claimed Stiffness: K2 considers this a 130-flex boot, which is on the stiffer end of the scale. Thorough I feel that this boot is slightly softer than I wanted it. K2 makes the same boot in a “team edition,” which is stiffer for those that need a little more support. As a 155-pound skier, I never felt this boot was too soft for me, but I would have preferred something slightly stiffer.
- Park: This boot actually feels quite solid when hitting jumps and rails, but it does not offer the durability to hold up to big hits and consistent, heavy impacts. This is especially apparent when using the walk mode mechanism. The Mindbender 130 LV can handle the occasional park lap, but I would not recommend it for consistent park skiing.
- Walk mode: The walk mode on this boot is actually quite simple and easy to use—even with a glove on. However, the screws used to mount the mechanism to the shell of the boot are incredibly small in diameter and are prone to shearing off, resulting in the whole walk mode lever falling off the boot. For lighter or less aggressive skiers, this may not be an issue. But for a stiffer, more advanced boot, this mechanism isn’t robust enough for constant abuse.
- Grip: The Mindbender 130 LV is equipped with the commonly used Gripwalk soles, which allow for a more natural stride when walking. Unfortunately, these boots use a harder plastic for the sole material, differing from the softer rubber which other brands use. This results in less grip, especially on harder surfaces like wood or tile.
- Durability: For a boot suited for expert skiers, they don’t hold up well to consistent hard use. I found some of the components were lower quality, resulting in failures in the straps, Powerlock Spyne (walk mode) mechanism, and some premature wear in the liners.
- Hot spots: I only experienced soft hot spots on my heels, where I have some bone spurs, during long days touring with wet feet. Though I never developed blisters on these hot spots.
- Any workarounds? When the power straps failed, I upgraded to a set of booster straps, which not only offer more durability, but greatly improved the liveliness and flex of my boots. I also use a pair of custom foot beds that I use in all my ski boots. Proper footbeds help keep my feet in place, with arch support that helps prevent my feet from splaying, which can cause discomfort.
Favorite moment with this gear
My favorite moment with the Mindbender 130 LVs was during a ski trip out to Alta, UT, and Jackson Hole, WY. During this trip, I put my boots through over a week of consistent use in the backcountry and resort skiing. It’s hard not to have only good memories when you’re in Utah during a record snowfall year and the conditions are pristine, but these boots kept my feet happy and pain free each day. They carried me up to some soft powder turns in the backcountry one day, then hot laps at the resort the next. Not only did I make some of the best turns of my life on this trip, but I looked sleek, too, thanks to my boots.
Value for the money vs. other options
The Mindbender 130 LV is pretty comparable to other similar boots of its kind on the market, such as the Cochise 130 or Atomic Hawx Ultra XTD 13. I think they are worth their price tag based on their design, fit, functionality, and performance. Though due to some durability issues I experienced, I would consider them a bit overpriced.
The K2 Mindbender 130 LV is a stylish and comfortable boot with an amazing fit out of the box and ample options for customization. They are best suited for advanced skiers looking for a versatile boot that can take them anywhere from long tours in the backcountry to hot laps in the resort.