Today we call it “tour” mode. We used to call it “walk” (or “bar”) mode, and anyone who wanted to flip a switch in order to stand more comfortably upright signed on for decreased performance. Light plastics (because comfort was king) only made things worse. Not so with today’s tour-ready sidecountry boots, boasting snug fits, stiff plastics, and sturdy cuff-release mechanisms. Testers admired Lange’s new XT line for its accurate fit (97 or 100 mm) and stout flex (up to 130 for men, 100 for women). Tecnica’s Cochise line of lightweight three-buckle freeriders comes with optional tech-compatible soles in last widths as snug as 98 mm and flexes up to 130. Nordica uses Triax plastic to further lighten its three-buckle, 100-mm Hell & Back collection. And Atomic’s greatly improved Tracker (98-mm last, 90 to 130 flexes) features a more solid and upright shell. Some companies are even repositioning sidecountry boots as light “all-mountain” boots that happen to have releasable cuffs for touring. Or hanging in the bar. Tour modes still rock for that. —M.E.