Trail Runner’s Shoe Review: BOA® Fit System

Sarah Barber reviews BOA® Fit System La Sportiva Jackal II Trail Shoes, taking them out for test runs near her home in Boise, Idaho. The shoes were provided at no charge for the review by ATRA corporate member BOA® Fit System.

All shoes should be designed with the BOA® Fit System. Period. The end.

I don’t have all day for this, and neither do you, but if that sounds like a bold statement and a very short gear review, hear me out for the rest of the story. While I am certainly making a case for traditional shoelaces to join the dinosaurs in permanent repose, I’m also making a case for a perfect fit every time you slip on your sneakers and head out for some trail time.

Understanding the system

First, understand what the BOA® Fit System is. Anyone claiming to be a cyclist or a skier likely has experience with this brilliant device that secures the shoe to the foot. The BOA® Fit System uses a low-friction textile lace that tightens with a clockwise twist on a couple of dials sitting on the lateral aspect of the top of the shoe. To loosen the lace, simply pull out on the dial, activating the quick release. Depending on the number of dials on the shoe, it’s possible to have differing levels of snugness in the toe box and forefoot compared to the midfoot and ankle. The obvious result is a more precise and micro-adjustable fit.

Much to my delight, the BOA® Fit System has found its way into the trail running world, and I was fortunate to test a sample that was attached to a lovely pair of La Sportiva Jackal II trail shoes. Due to unfortunate things like pronation, narrow feet, and picky toes, I’ll have to continue to gravitate toward my favorite familiar brand of kicks. But if those elements were no factor, I’d pick a shoe with the BOA® Fit System every time.

Why? For starters, I can effectively “tie” my shoes with one hand, leaving my other hand free to hold my coffee mug, steer my vehicle toward the trailhead, or keep my Weimaraner from sprinting away before I’m ready to star jogging.

Fine-tuned fit

Second, I can fine-tune my fit on the fly. Ordinarily, I’m one of those people who unties and reties my shoes several times on race morning—or sometimes before a long run—because I want them to feel perfect. With the BOA® Fit System, this time-consuming process is reduced by an entire order of magnitude. Spin the dial forward. Too much? Pull up on the dial to release the tension and back it off. It’s practically instantaneous!

On one occasion during my first test drive, I noticed a little slop in my right forefoot after transitioning from a consistent climb to a steep downhill. I paused for a millisecond to cinch down the lace with a quick twist of the dial, and I was back on my way, no time lost.

I can trot, sprint and scramble with confidence, knowing that my shoes will not—because they cannot—come untied. Yes, I might trip on a chunk of granite, but I no longer fear that tragic-comic effect of tripping on a shoelace.

Sarah Barber dials in the fit.

Added stability

Finally, a flawless fit eliminates any wasted energy through inefficiency, as all of the power of each foot strike is translated into forward motion. Added stability reduces the risk of rolled ankles, and a firm connection to the sole of the shoe improves propulsion off the ground. I can only think of one reason why the BOA® Fit System might not be all unicorns and rainbows: if the lace somehow happened to break mid-run, it might mean a long slog back to civilization because I can’t imagine how I’d repair it. But the chances of that happening are probably right up there with getting struck by…. Uh, I’ll stay away from that one.

Kudos R & D department

BOA has done their homework in the R & D department, too, ensuring that products have been tested on biomechanical models, as well as against environmental conditions. Trail shoes get abused by everything from stream crossings, to mud pits, to ledges and scree, but I’d trust every component (laces, dials, and guides) with my next race result—and every mile before and after. If they figure out how to equip strappy sandals and dressy heels with the BOA® Fit System, I don’t care what brand they are—I’ll buy them!

Editor’s Note: Enjoy more articles about BOA® Fit System here.