Full Tilt has a habit of re-purposing existing components to create new models. It applied this method to cock up the Drop Kick out of a Classic shell and spiral liner, and went to the same playbook two years ago year with the B&E Pro, mixing a Descendant 6 shell and Pro liner. The Tom Wallisch Pro uses the same shell as the First Chair 6, with treaded walking soles.
So when last season Full Tilt decided to take its act to the backcountry, it anointed the Evolution shell (also used for Descendant and Plush models) as its choice to retrofit with a “walk mode” borrowed from buddy brand Dalbello (where it’s boots are now made) and tech inserts sanctioned by Dynafit. The rubber on the cleverly named Ascendant’s sole comes from Michelin, where they know a thing or two about traction. This year both the Ascendant and similarly equipped Descendant 8 are both tricked out with GripWalk soles.
Continuing the tradition of mix-and-match model creation, for 2020 Full Tilt collection mates a Pro liner (spiral wrap) with the Drop Kick shell and voilà, you have the Drop Kick Pro. The Drop Kick S is another new twist on the Original shell, with a shorter and softer cuff. The new Classic Pro swaps its old Classic liner for a fresh Pro model and bumps the tongue flex from a 6 (90) to an 8 (100).
Because of its 3-piece shell design, any Full Tilt can be turned into a hiking boot via the same route pioneered by the Ascendant and replicated on the Descendant 8. The spine of all FT models rests on a shelf carved into the lower shell; the latch is simply a block that rests on the ledge in ski position and is pulled off its perch to create roughly 40 degrees ROM for hiking. We wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a First Chair with “Walk Mech” in the near future.
To the nostalgic with a Proustian urge to revisit the past, Full Tilt represents Raichle resurrected; to today’s high-flying Pipe & Park population, they’re dope. Kids who cavort and contort in the halfpipe or on rails feel about their Full Tilts the way Charleton Heston felt about his rifle, although it’s actually pretty easy to slide out of any of their 3-piece shell models whether your feet are dead or alive. The external tongue rocks completely out of the way, and the open-throat shell likewise poses no obstacle for exit or entry.
The irony of what was once Raichle’s World Cup race boot now serving a generation that intentionally aims backward down the hill – while lining up for a launch pad – is immaterial to the daredevils who have embraced Full Tilt as their preferred footwear. Landing big airs in switch position asks a boot certain questions to which Full Tilts know the answer: have an elastic range no 4-buckle boot can match – ergo less likely to trigger an inadvertent heel release in switch position – supple at the top of its movement and consistently resilient thereafter.
The biggest influence on a Full Tilt’s behavior and a key differentiator among their models is the flex resistance of the external tongue, indicated by a flex number that works on a logical 10-point scale, with 10 being the stiffest. (FT estimates its “10” tongue equates roughly to a 120 flex on a 2-piece shell.) Should the standard issue be too firm or flimsy, any model can be retrofitted with a softer or stiffer tongue. What won’t change much is the fixed volume in the forefoot area, so be sure the Full Tilt you fancy is a good match for your foot’s widest point.
As Raichle did before them, Full Tilt has infiltrated Intuition™ heat-moldable liners throughout their line. The Pro and Performer use Intuition’s distinctive, multi-density wrap liner; the Classic is a more traditional, tongued liner with its own recipe of soft and firm foams.
Aside from their exceptional range of forward flexibility, another prized attribute of Full Tilt shoes is their weight, or rather, the lack thereof. Their lightest models feel like they don’t weigh more than a baguette, a feature you value if you have to spin your feet three times around your head before you land.
You have to give Full Tilt credit for focus: every boot in their line is built on the same principle and aimed at essentially the same audience. Some are wider, some are stiffer, some are lighter, some can suck up a little more shock; but all use the same fundamental architecture with a shared bundle of benefits. If you take to the air a lot, you’re bound to land one day in a pair of Full Tilts.