When K2 waltzed into the boot market nearly a decade ago, part of the story heralding its arrival was that its team required only 18 months to create a better boot line. There was a whiff of hubris to the claim, as if the marketing juggernaut was predestined to seize a sizeable share of the arguably already over-served boot market.
K2 soon learned that no matter how attractive a marketing package it presented – the launch was accompanied by a whimsical ad campaign, a pledge of no Internet sales, and an appealing product story about its new shells and not-quite-as new liners – if you consistently lose the point-of-sale cage match against a competitor’s product, your success is going to be more limited than your expectations. In other words, what really matters happens in the first ten seconds of skier/boot contact.
K2 proved it got the message when it debuted its BFC collection of 4-buckle models that put an unabashed premium on first fit impressions. Its flexible shell and cushy liner allowed for “hands-free” entry and exit, without the writhing and acrobatics associated with high performance boots. The BFC’s won the instant-comfort face-off and sales ensued.
The lessons learned about positive first impressions carried over into the development of K2’s next performance series, Recon, and its feminized companion, née Luv, since rechristened as Anthem. While Recon and Anthem were in development, two other market forces commanded K2’s attention: the global trend to lighter weight, and the ski-market-specific demand for heat customization of both liner and shell at the time of sale.
The key to the Recon/Anthem “resort” series and the Mindbender Alpine/BC hybrids lies in the Powerlite shell’s material and how it’s molded. Four different densities of TPU (all PU used in ski boots is thermoplastic, but never mind) form shell walls of varying thicknesses, opting for thinner/lighter wherever possible. At only 1650g in a 26.5 Recon 130, the Powerlite construction is in the welterweight class of backcountry boots but it also works for the all-terrain, in-resort skier.
As it’s made from TPU, the Powerlite shell is eminently heat-moldable except in its most rigid zones in the spine and sole. The Ultralon liners are meant to be molded, but don’t need to be in order to impart an initial sensation of “ahhh” instead of “ow.”
K2 teamed with Thermic to create the heated Recon 120 Heat, the Anthem 100 MV Heat, BFC 100 Heat and BFC W 90 Heat. For folks with chronically cold feet, having the heat option integrated into the boot design improves ease of operation and eliminates the pain of installation.
The Mindbenders are the extension of the Recon concept into the white-hot backcountry genre. The Powerlite chassis assures that the Mindbenders will be as light as chiffon, with a hike mode that delivers 50 degrees range of motion for climbing. All the MB’s – 3 for men, 2 for women – come with Gripwalk soles pre-installed. The Mindbender 130 and 120 use a low-volume last (98mm), while the MB 100 uses a generous, medium (100mm) last.
Last season K2 introduced two new standard-bearers for the brand, the Recon Pro for men and Anthem Pro for women. The Recon Pro boasts a burly 140 flex index, and while one can argue whether the Recon Pro is a “true” race boot, it’s definitely a cut above the rest of the Recon clan. Similarly, the Anthem Pro sports a 120 flex, on par with the stiffest boots made for recreational women and the firmest flex in K2’s female fit firmament.
For 2022, all the Anthems except the Pro have been given a facelift, and two fresh faces join the Pro at the top of the series: Anthem 115, in both LV and MV iterations, and Anthem 105 Heat in a medium (100mm) last with a built-in Therm-ic liner. While adding more performance options (i.e., stiffer flexes) for women is always welcome, the new Anthems probably aren’t as important to K2’s fortunes as its thoroughly updated BFC collection.
The new BFC family looks much sleeker than the original series, but it hasn’t messed with the main features that made the BFC’s so popular: its generous 103mm last and stunningly easy entry. The shells are heat-moldable, of course, and the new Cushfit Pro liner on the BFC 120 (and BFC W 105) feels more sculpted than the first generation. The aptly named “Après Mode” that relaxes the cuff’s fixed forward lean for easier walking has been upgraded across the line, and all the new BFC soles feature Gripwalk. The 2022 BFC Women’s collection has two new models sitting atop the line, the BFC W 105, and BFC W 90 Heat.