We got the following in via email a few days ago. I’ve actually seen this kind of boot damage a few times, so this makes a good blog post that will perhaps help prevent others from making the same mistake.
Boot Eater wrote: “Hi Lou, It’s hard to find info about this, particularly in my neck of the woods. I did however check out a lot of the pictures on WildSnow.com to see if I could see similar wear on Dynafit compatible boots and couldn’t detect any evidence of similar damage. The damage is only on my right boot. My left boot looks relatively normal. I’m wondering now on second glance if I somehow managed to jam the pins into the plastic just aft of the toe fittings. One more thing I know it’s not recommended but I often ski with toe unit locked, could this play into the wear my boots are experiencing?
I’ve seen this happen a few times. Your damage is caused by not taking care while snapping into the toe of the binding, and subsequently skiing with the binding pins jabbed into the plastic behind the boot toe sockets. Problem is, once you’ve done this once you create a divot in the plastic, then each time you enter the binding it’s more and more likely you’ll miss the steel socket and end up with the toe pins stabbed into the wrong place. The damage takes place quickly as you’ve got hardened steel eating into soft plastic. As for locking the toe, not having the pins in the right place would probably cause some play or premature release, so perhaps locking the toe compounds the problem by reducing such signals.
Prevention is easy. Be more careful when getting into the binding (visual check). Perhaps make Sharpie marks on the boot welt just above the toe sockets, so it’s easier see what’s going on. Repair is difficult. Most common adhesives/fillers will not bond well to the boot plastic. Even so, I’d try filling the sad hole with some JB Weld. First, clean around in there a bit with the tip of a sharp clean knife, then clean out with a tiny bit of acetone on the corner of a rag. Don’t overdo it with the solvent, just hit it fast with a minimal amount to avoid damage to the boot plastic. Working at 70 degrees room temperature or above, put the boot on its side and paddle in a bit of JB and let it harden overnight before use.
The $600 question is did you dangerously weaken the boot? Probably not. The Dynafit fittings you see are at the ends of a steel bar that traverses the toe of the boot from left to right, and is molded into the boot. That being said, AT boots have been known to very rarely crack vertically just behind the tech fittings in the toe. If your damage was any worse I’d be concerned, but judging from your photos I wouldn’t worry about it (though I’d keep my eye on it).
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.