The BOA Fit System Is Coming For Your Running Gear

Could wrapover uppers and dialed-in laces be the future of trail running shoes? Many running shoe brands believe so. Here's what you need to know about the BOA Fit System.


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What if there was an alternative to, and improvement over, traditional running shoe laces? After all, they can flap around, come undone, stretch, get too tight (or loose) in the wrong places, take too long to do in some badly designed lacing systems… and sometimes simply don’t hold your feet in place as well as you think they should.

As one of the founders and professional running shoe reviewers here at Trail & Kale Running Co, I’ve run in and reviewed hundreds of running shoes, all with different fits and technologies, from the outsole right up to the collar, tongue and lacing system.

These developments have come not just from the running shoe brands themselves, but also the premium ‘component brands’ that create components that may be used in certain aspects of a running shoe. This includes many brands you’ve probably heard of, such as GORE-TEX waterproofing, RECCO Technology, Vibram outsoles, MATRYX uppers, and the component brand featured in this post, BOA Technologies, and their BOA Fit System of innovative dial-based lace closures.

We’ve been tracking the key innovations in running shoe development over the years, and it’s been interesting to witness how BOA is leading the charge when it comes to innovating lace systems to more efficiently optimize fit, and in doing so, performance.

The BOA Fit System Is Coming For Your Running Gear 1 - Trail and Kale | Trail Running & Adventure
The BOA dials and laces on my Altra Mont Blanc BOA trail running shoes | BOA Fit System

We’re seeing an increasing variety of premium, performance-oriented trail running shoes being designed to incorporate BOA’s Fit Technology and wrap into their designs, from brands including New Balance, Merrell, Mammut, La Sportiva, Altra, Adidas Terrex, SCARPA and Speedland… the list is long and growing!

If you’re reading this article, the chances are, you have too, and are curious to learn more about this tech and whether it’s worth getting a pair of running shoes that uses it.

The basic principle behind the BOA Fit System is that if the running shoe fits you better, you’re going to get enhanced performance out of the shoe. That includes improved speed, stability, and responsiveness, as well as comfort when wearing your running shoe for long periods of time, including the most punishing ultra marathons.

In this article I’ll be explaining what you need to know about BOA technologies, how they’re being applied to running shoes, BOA’s extensive research into the performance benefits the BOA Fit Technologies can have for runners, and my take on all this based on my years of experience as a running gear reviewer (and simply, a runner with a passion for learning about new technologies).

About BOA

BOA’s been around since 2001, headquartered out of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with a global team. The company’s origin was in a revolutionary performance fit system that transformed how snowboarders “dialed in” their boots – I remember my first pair of BOA-enabled snowboarding boots very fondly!

Boa fit system on trail running shoes | Trail and Kale Running Co.
Running in a pair of trail running shoes that use the BOA Fit System

This system, the BOA Fit System, as it’s known, is an award-winning, patented system that is being integrated into a wide range of brand partner products – not just in snowsports. You’ll find BOA components on a wide range of gear, from high-performance cycling shoes and helmets for a variety of action sports, to trail running shoes.

About the BOA Fit System

At the heart of the BOA Fit System lies the unique combination of micro-adjustable dials, strong, lightweight laces, and low friction lace guides. This configuration ensures a fit that is not only easy to fine-tune on the go but also robust enough to withstand tough conditions.

Specifically for trail running shoes, BOA has introduced what they call the PerformFit Wrap. Unlike traditional laces that secure the upper at the top of the foot, this system wraps over and conforms to the midfoot, promising a superior heel lock and enhanced connection to the midsole. This means runners can expect a more stable and efficient stride, with significantly reduced energy waste, allowing for sustained physical capability over extended periods.

You may be wondering how BOA makes these claims, which seem pretty compelling! Well, the company has invested significant time and resources into testing and validating them scientifically.

With over 400 hours of elite athlete performance testing annually in their Colorado-based Performance Fit Lab, the PerformFit Wrap has been shown to increase speed by up to 1.5% without additional exertion, reduce ankle rotation velocity by up to 7%, enhance directional change efficiency by up to 9%, and improve midsole and heel connection by up to 3%. These statistics are documented in peer-reviewed white papers, which you can access through BOA’s website.

Now, I don’t know about you but as a trail runner, the stated reduced ankle rotation velocity and improved midsole and heel connection benefits in particular, have caught my attention.

How the BOA Fit System is being used on running shoes

The best way to appreciate how the system works on running shoes is to take a closer look at a pair. If you’re already familiar with BOA systems from other sports such as skiing, cycling or snowboarding, then you’ll have an idea of how this gets applied to a running shoe – although BOA’s PerformFit Wrap, a foot-wrapping technology used in the upper, is quite different on a running shoe.

BOA’s PerformFit Wrap fundamentally changes the design of the running shoe’s upper, so brands are making a significant commitment to redesigning a significant portion of the shoe in order to integrate the BOA Fit System into a particular running shoe model.

A closer look at the BOA PerformFit Wrap on the Altra Mont Blanc trail running shoes.
A closer look at the BOA PerformFit Wrap on the Altra Mont Blanc trail running shoes

Having run in, and tested a variety of BOA-enabled trail running shoes, I can tell you that it undoubtedly offers a quicker and sleeker way to adjust your laces during a run. Not just that, but unlike standard laces, the BOA lace doesn’t flap, and shouldn’t work its way undone like traditional lace systems can do – which is at best inconvenient, and at worse, actually a little risky if you don’t notice until you trip over them.

The PerformFit Wrap is a refreshing design, effectively doing away with the concept of a lace-up shoe with a top opening and a tongue that needs to be held in place. It makes sense to be wrapping your foot in an enclosure, in the same way in which a ski boot is shaped to wrap over your foot and lower leg with multiple layers to secure everything in place, and at the same time, have the added benefit of keeping snow and dirt out.

I’m yet to test a BOA trail running shoe in truly dirty, muddy conditions, and am curious to see how the BOA lacing stands up to that treatment. If you have – let us know in the comments, I’d love to hear about your experiences here.

If you’re into judging your running shoes by looks (it’s ok, most people do… at least a little), then BOA Fit System trail running shoes are likely to get a thumbs up from you for their appearance, too. They’re sleek, and look like they mean business.

Many running brands are currently offering running shoes in a BOA and non-BOA fit style. As an example, take a look at the Altra Mont Blanc trail running shoe in its BOA and standard designs:

I expect this will change going forward, as the BOA Fit System becomes more widely known and adopted, the instances of dual-designing of shoes will probably reduce, with the higher-end racing style shoes being the models that end up adopting BOA components, in a similar way to what we see with many high-end cycling shoes.

BOA is just one of a number of innovative component brands we’re seeing making waves in the world of running shoes and gear, and we’re covering and documenting these developments with great interest here on the Trail & Kale Running Co website. Subscribe to our newsletter to get our weekly digest of new articles, including plenty of running shoe reviews and updates on the latest and greatest running gear.

One of Trail & Kale's co-founders, a mom, and guardian of our resident trail dog, Kepler, Helen can be found trail running with Kepler and enjoying road runs with her mini in a jogging stroller, all while testing out the latest running gear for our readers.


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