Side-by-side comparo of the Hoji Pro and Free
“Twins; God’s way of saying one of you is a rough draft.” I’m not sure the human twins I know would appreciate that little meme, or perhaps it is “twin humor” I don’t quite get? In any case, I thought it applied nicely to gear with similar names and designs, and our constant struggle to parse out the differences. In this case Hoji Pro and Hoji Free ski touring boots. Is there a rough draft in the pair? Read on.
First, if there is any endless issue with ski boots, it’s “last width,” that ethereal non-standard way of explicating a boot’s roominess on your foot. Free is noticeably lower volume, both in width and height. In fact, Free has an entire refrigerator less volume, much less than the numbers would indicate. It’s specified as a 102 mm last (verified by Skialper magazine Buyer Guide 2020), while the Pro is listed as either 103 or 103.5 (depending on your source, and measured as 103.5 by Skialper). Let’s be generous, and say the difference is a Godzilla sized 1.5 millimeters, or the width of 15 sheets of average printer paper (yes Virginia, I measured). Or more practically pictured as a boot fitting project: 4 layers of Gorilla tape.
As I’ve said before, much to the revilement of those who I’ll call “lasting fanatics,” any competent boot fitter can make 1.5 mm of extra width go away. With a caveat. “Smallifiying” a boot is much more easily done when you’re not dealing with scads of overall volume. In this case, the Pro is downright tumescent compared to the Free. Conclusions: You’re not going to easily create a roomy fit in the Free, and conversely, you’re making the Pro fit like the Free would be too much work for all but the most committed fit modders. Oh, and yes I did measure the outside width dimensions. Doing so was difficult, due to the decorative moldings on the sides of the scaffo. Best I could get was a difference of 3 millimeters. So lasting fanatics, you will get a lower volume boot with the Free.
On to the less visible differences:
The liners might illustrate the height difference best. Free is about a centimeter taller at the rear cuff, including a small riveted spoiler. My impression is the front of the shell cuff is higher as well, but I found that difficult to verify due to the different shape of the scaffos. The liners are markedly different. Free uses a Sidi branded liner that’s noticably denser, and has a velcro attached adjustable tongue. One could of course swap in a softer liner if the boot is too stiff. That’s a nice option to keep in mind. In any case, a slightly taller boot can feel surprisingly more powerful, that little centimeter translating to a significant percentage increase in leverage.
Easy tactile evaluation reveals the Free to be obviously stiffer than the Pro. It appears to use stiffer and perhaps thicker plastic in the scaffo, and the cuff flexes stiffer as well. Where does the Free end up in Lou’s soon to be adopted industry wide flex rating system? “Frickin Stiff.”
– Free lacks the annoying tab on the end of the power strap, that catches when you totally unbuckle the strap. I’m wondering if Dynafit will change this with the Pro, we be watching.
– Free has sole lugs at the toe area that’ll interact correctly with the AFD of hybrid bindings such as Atomic/Salomon Shift. As the Pro won’t work in those bindings, no basis for comparison here.
– Neither boot has adjustable forward lean. (There is confusion about this, see comments, we will update if/when more information is verified.)
– The Free spoiler will in many cases yield a few degrees more forward lean (depending on the shape of your leg, liner molding, etc. It could be removed for the same 11 degree lean as the Pro, but doing so involves demolishing permanent and substantial steel rivets and re-attaching the power strap.
– Both boots sport thermo mold liners. We would expect nothing less.
Boots such as the Hoji Free are heavy, and you’re not going to get the uphill mobility of a full-on dedicated “skimo heritage” touring shoe. But then, nobody is fooling themselves. If your ego can live with only three buckles, this is a “freeride” boot on par with anything else out there. And perhaps it comes out at the top due to the flex of the Hoji Lock.
Lastly, are they twins? Dizygotic, yes. And neither is a rough draft.
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.