Testing the Luigino Challenge speed skating boots
The Luigino Challenge speed skating boots have sober colors, essentially black with slight touches of green and white, with an aesthetically pleasing shiny material, a micrometric buckle on the instep and a velcro strap at the toes. It is a light model, the scale indicates 387 grams. With its Barefoot Technology anatomical shape, the boot fits closely to your toes and to the width of your foot. It is very much like a molded boot. Moreover the asymmetry of the malleoli is clearly marked on the outside and on the inside foam as for the prominence of the outside malleolus. The printings on the boot indicate all the brand's patents pending. The front of the boot is covered with a strip of leather, glued and overstitched, aesthetically enhancing the whole design, which may also prove efficient in case of a fall.
The bottom of the boot has two distinctive features: at the front, there are two parallel fixing slots for the frame. The arch of the foot has been thickened in the shape of a V, probably to rigidify inside and outside edging and weight bearing.
The carbon netting is tight but shows a few areas of overlaying or squashing that leaves a feeling of average finishing.
The ankle is efficiently padded and the tongue at the instep is lined with shape memory foam. The inside is in one piece (no detachable insole) and the thickness of the foam padding is impressive. the Achilles tendon is wedged with 2 big foam pads. All those details make the boot really comfortable.
I mounted 4x105 mm EOSkates S2 frames with used 105 mm roll'X Dual-1 wheels on the boots. I encountered problems with new wheels that would not fit in. Did Luigino optimize their boots for a 3x110/1x100 set-up?
Carbon is a rigid material, and slipping the foot in is hard. Loosen the laces and open the tongue. The toes have room enough and the heel is comfortably wedged with the foam overlay. In my case, my malleoli remained loose even in tightening the waxed laces to the max.
At first try I couldn't find the right bearings while taking edges. I readjusted the lacing, tightened the instep strap - which resulted in squeezing the arch of my foot rather than wedging my heel or supporting my ankle. It didn't feel like my feet were held well. The boots have to be heat molded!
After a first classic heat molding
I thus proceeded to the heat molding of the boots with the plastic bag provided by Luigino. You protect the boot to be heated with it, and put it into a container filled with boiling water.
Indeed, when tightening the laces to the max, you gain a little adjustment.
For indoor use, the sensations were better but I was not reassured when speeding up in bends. There was a delay of reaction due to the lack of support at the malleoli. However, the boot was really comfy at the instep and at the toes, the foam absorbed the weight bearing spots due to edge pushing, typical to indoor practice.
I went for a 30 km skate on road. Comfort and comfort again, quite obvious with that model. The rolling was good on false flat portions and uphill starts. No heating to be noticed at the heel or toes. Of course as soon as I had to push more frankly using edges, I felt less at ease, but there was no uneasiness at the joints, there was still comfort even in imprecision. Even better: no tiredness to be felt at the ankles. You can probably spend the whole day in those boots without pain.
Second heat molding with clamps
Since the results of classic heat molding were not conclusive enough, I decided to level up and use consequent equipment: clamps, thick cardboard, oven at 80°C.
Cardboard cut in a triangle shape has the advantage of being easier to use than plaster shaped according to the boot: it holds, protects and enables to tighten hard. I used 2 clamps placed in opposite diagonals, at the front and at the back of the malleoli, in order to keep the asymmetry of those bones.
The materials used by Luigino are of such quality that 6 min in the oven thermostat 5 were enough to soften the carbon to the consistence of a leather shoe.
It's hot but no pain, no gain. I turned the clamps until it was really uncomfortable and waited for 15 min. Then I took off the boots and placed a clamp on top of the malleolus, just to hold lightly and avoid the carbon to get wider again in cooling down.
The change was obvious as soon as I put my foot into the boot the next day. Slipping it in was hard (good sign), the ankles were well wedged, at last. If I rolled my ankle from the inside to the outside edge, the boot would follow.
I made the most of a green skate in Camargue, France to try out the skates on a green lane between Vauvert and Gallician. The boots were good. The ankle was perfectly supported, the toes had room to breathe and I could alternate inside and outside edges without reaction delay.
Standing still for a long time wasn't a problem for the feet during breaks. They were comfortably settled down with the foam padding. The heel was wedged and couldn't be lifted even when I push off with my toes.
In total: 70 km including 25 km behind bikes at a good speed. Apart from a little sensitivity of the malleoli at the end of the day, I had nothing to complain about on the Luigino Challenge.
I really appreciated the comfort of the Luigino Challenge speed skating boots. Still I had to take the time to heat mold them to enjoy their precision to the max. They offer a good rigidity so that they can be pushed for good. However, opt for a 3x110/1x100mm or a 4x110mm set-up.
Strong points and points to be improved
+ Quality of the materials
+ Easy heat molding
- Average finishing of the carbon
Shell: Carbon, heatmoldable (AquaTech)
Liner: Foam, anatomical high density insole
Upper: Synthetic leather and microfibers
Tightening: Nano micrometric buckle, waxed laces, velcro strap
Mounting: Vertical with sliding fixing slots
Sizes: 35 to 47
Use: Leisure and competition speed skating
Useful linksBy Thierry Feutrier
Translation: Chloe Seyres
Photos: Alfathor and Thierry Feutrier