Expert Review: K2 Recon 120 MV Gripwalk Ski Boots · 2022
This review is my honest opinion of the boots which I purchased with my own money in January of 2021.
About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the boots which I purchased with my own money in January of 2021.
The K2 Recon 120 MV Gripwalk ski boots are geared toward advanced and expert skiers, or just skiers on the larger size, looking for a durable and reliable ski boot with a healthy combination of both performance and comfort.
About the gear
- Model: K2 Recon 120 MV Gripwalk 2021
- Size: 28.5
- Height: 6’2”
- Weight: 200 lbs
- Street shoe size: Mens 12
- Experience: 25+ years
- When I bought these: January 2021
- Days tested: 50+
- Skis: K2 Mindbender 108Ti
- Bindings: Tyrolia Attack 14 Gw
- Where I’ve used it: Park City, UT and Jackson Hole, WY
- Terrain: Groomers, moguls, trees, steeps, and powder
How they perform
What I was looking for
From my teenage years in racing to my days skiing in big mountain skiing competitions, I have always been attracted to tight, overly aggressive ski boots that prioritize performance over comfort. But after suffering the loss of multiple toenails for seven years in a row and facing the prospect of more and more ski days chasing my growing toddler, I decided to face the music and look for a boot that would also prioritize the health of my feet. I was looking, in short, for a ‘Dad Boot’.
Why I chose this gear
Due to my extensive background in racing, I was initially drawn to highly aggressive boots such as the Tecnica Mach1 120 LV or the Lange RX 120, but then reminded myself that I was trying to step away from such boots into something more comfort oriented. More importantly, the Tecnicas and Langes tend to have much narrower toe boxes, which do not accommodate my slightly wider feet. I also tried on the K2 Recon Pro, but also found it very tight around my mid foot region. Ultimately, I settled on the K2 Recon 120 MV because it provided a stout flex but a roomier feel within the boot itself.
What I love about them
- Accuracy of Claimed Stiffness: Unfortunately, there is no regulatory body within the ski industry that monitors each manufacturer's claimed stiffness in their boots. As it has been explained to me, it most likely involves a lone man tucked away in a warehouse somewhere, simply trying on boots, flexing the forward cuff, and spitting out a number. “Yea, that’s about a 120 flex!” he casually announces. At least, I hope dearly this is how it works—that would be fantastic. Regardless, the 120 flex on the Recon measures up to other boots I have skied in the past. It does not quite reach the lofty ranks of race boots I have skied in the past, but it’s no slouch either: the shell stands up admirably to my large frame on any terrain, at any speed.
- Accuracy of Claimed Fit: I purchased the Recon in a 28.5, which is still an aggressive sizing meant for performance. But here’s the thing: the Recon never feels like I’ve sized down. And the toebox, listed at a 100 mm last, feels wider as well. For the first time in my life, I can wiggle my toes in my ski boots. If anything, this boot feels bigger and wider than K2 claims, which in this case is a very good thing.
- Comfort: It’s hard for me to put into words how blown away I am by the comfort of these boots. Like I stated above, the toe box is roomy and wide, yet I have never come close to banging my toes in the front of the boot. Further, I have absolutely zero pressure points in this boot, and that’s the first time in my long career of skiing that I’ve been able to say that. But where the Recon really shines is in the Ultralon heat-moldable foam liner. I had my liner baked and molded to my feet and they now fit like a dream. The foam in the liner is extremely plush for a ski boot and holds my foot securely and comfortably. Slipping my feet into those cushy and supple liners is what I imagine slipping into the driver's seat of a Porsche might feel like (someday; a guy can dream!).
- Flex: With the Recon, K2 did away with rear rivets on the cuff of the boot, using instead their trademarked Energy Interlock technology to integrate the cuff and the shell of the boot. Coupled with the carbon Powerfuse Spyne that exists to support the Energy Interlock, K2 has succeeded in producing a very smooth and progressive flex. When pressing into the cuff of my boot at high speeds, the Recon produces a very consistent flex throughout its entire range of motion, so I never have to question when I’m going to hit its wall or when the flex might stop dead. It allows me to flex my ski fluidly and dynamically. Lastly, the Powerfuse Spyne helps to strengthen the torsional stiffness of the cuff as well, so my ankles feel extremely secure.
- Weight: K2 went all in on producing a lightweight boot that skis at an elite level by developing the Powerlite shell, and it seems to have paid off. The Recon weighs in at 1650 grams per boot in a 26.5, which is quite extraordinary for how well it skis. It’s certainly not as light as my dedicated backcountry boots, but then, that was never the point. I can spend all day riding lifts in them and my legs never feel sore.
- Resort: This boot is made for the resort. With a torsionally stiff cuff and a stout 120 flex, I love skiing at mach speeds on the Recon. It drives my skis effortlessly, which is no small feat, because my skis are stiff! They prove to be a bit more to manage in tighter terrain, such as moguls and trees, where I can’t quite reach the extent of the flex in time on such short turns. But other than that, these boots thrive in the resort.
- Adjustability: The Recons have your usual accoutrement of adjustable options: the buckles have three different options for wider or narrower calves, the clasps can be adjusted by simply twisting them one way or the other to tighten or expand, and the cuff alignment index is easy to adjust on the side of the boot. The only drawback here would be the lack of rivets that can be removed in order to lessen the stiffness of the boot. However, I am a big fan of the stability that the Powerfuse Spyne brings to the boot overall, so I think of it as a win.
- Grip: The K2 Recon Gw comes with Gripwalk soles that I have found to be much more grippy and practical than old school alpine soles. They make walking around an asphalt base area nearly enjoyable (nearly!). Gone are the days of slipping on ice in the gondola maze and ending up on my bum. I also like that I can easily swap out the Gripwalk soles if they become too worn in the future.
- Durability: I’ve had no issues with durability in my Recons. In fact, they look nearly as good as the first day I bought them, despite numerous days skiing them hard. And maybe it doesn’t matter, but I really like how good these boots look.
Issues I’ve encountered
- Ease of use: If there is one drawback I can find in the Recon’s performance, it is the process of getting them on and off my feet. While they feel great once my feet are actually in them, the act of getting my feet in can prove to be painful. K2 markets their boots as having a so-called FastFit entry which makes them easy to take on and off, but I must confess, I am yet to discover where they’ve hidden this quality in the boot. The stiff shell is a bear to separate and squeezes my feet painfully on both entry and exit. As a former ski racer, this really doesn’t bother me much because I’m used to it, but it could prove troublesome for more recreational skiers. If you prioritize a boot that is easy and painless to take on and off, I’d suggest a three-piece boot like the Dalbello Krypton 110 ID. One point worth making, though: the power strap has a quick release mechanism that I highly enjoy, making that part of the boot very easy and effective.
- Park: While I have skied my Recons into the park as I attempt to corral my child, they aren’t really designed for the bang-bang of park skiing. It is the one area of the mountain where I find the overly wide toe box to be a hindrance as my toes get shifted around on every hard landing.
- Backcountry: The K2 Recon 120 has no walk mode, so it would be terribly frustrating in the backcountry. There are plenty of other stiff, resort-like boots with a walk mode, such as the K2 Mindbender 130.
- Walk mode: Nope. No walk mode on this boot.
Favorite moment with this gear
One of my most memorable moments on these boots was a weekend at Park City Mountain Resort skiing with an old racing friend. We skied at incredible speeds on every groomer we could find, weaving in and out of traffic and over every terrain feature we could find. My K2 Recons allowed me to confidently and aggressively drive my skis in big, arcing GS-style turns and I never once felt out of control. We came to a stop at the bottom of every run utterly giddy and breathless.
Value for the money vs. other options
The K2 Recon 120 is very good value for a top-tier boot. It certainly isn’t the cheapest boot on the market, but when it comes to ski boots, you absolutely get what you pay for, and the Recon is still more affordable than similar themed boots, such as the Lange RX 120.
The K2 Recon 120 Gw ski boots does a phenomenal job of mixing maximum performance with ultimate comfort in a very affordable and approachable boot. Whether you are a hard charging freeskier or a bigger man looking for a comfy yet aggressive ‘Dad Boot’, the K2 Recon provides.