With the influx of lightweight race gear on the market, some stuff stands out, other stuff is still following old trends. A great example of this is liners with walk modes, usually a neoprene cutout on the back that allows the liner to flex backwards, allowing the user to fully engage the large range of motion most race walk modes provide. Boots without this feature, race boots or even freeride, have dropped the ball and in my eyes reduce proper and efficient skinning technique.
Enter the Palau Bikini Liner (pictured above), an ultralight racing liner that takes the neoprene cutout, and blows it out of the water. Palau Liners have designed this liner specifically for the Pierre Gignoux XP444, the Bikini Liner is actually a two piece liner, which allows the full and unrestricted movement of the ankle inside the boot. It is designed for absolutely the most natural and freeing walking characteristics without taking the shell out of the equation. Weighing in at 120g, opposed to the regular XP444 liner at 140g, it weighs practically nothing and shaves a fraction more weight.
The skinning performance is unreal. Imagine skinning with a cross country boot, rather than a plastic ski mountaineering boot, the change in feel and experience is exceptional. The cuff is far more free to move back than with a regular liner, and really allows the user to extend the foot farther forward gaining more range of motion, which translates over to more speed over a race course or speed traverse.
Although designed for the XP444, I managed to give it a shot in my Dynafit Dy.N.A's as well, to see about translate it's benefit's over to one of my ski mountaineering setups. Because the Dy.N.A's shell last is narrower than the XP444, the bikini liner is definitely a tad bit tight, but with the right foot and/or bootfitting skill set it could work. I would expect it to work really well with a Scarpa F1 (Race, or Carbon as well).
With such an interesting piece of equipment, more testing will be conducted, so expect an update later this winter, and expect some boot fitting adjustments to Dy.N.A's and other boots. Check them out on the Pierre Gignoux site if you want a pair, here.