The two most common things I hear when people talk about their ski boots are, they felt great when I tried them on at the store but now they really hurt my feet, and, these 10 year old boots are perfect, with all the well placed duct tape, why would I need a new pair?
I’m going to touch on some misconceptions and some key points to consider when purchasing new boots.
Boots are the most important component in your setup. If you’re wearing properly fit boots, even a crappy ski will turn for you. But if your boots make your feet hurt, fall asleep and freeze, you’ll be in the lodge fireside sipping on a beverage by 10 am.
Unfortunately, boots can be one of the most confusing pieces of the ski gear puzzle.
With some proper guidance and a pocket full of questions to ask, your next boot fit will go super smooth and your feet will be oh so happy.
The starting point is where should I go? Look for a ski shop with actual boot fitters who have the time to spend on you. Fitting boots isn’t rocket science but a proper boot fitter will be able to help you from day one and onward. The onward part of this is very important as a reputable shop will have a plan in place to continually augment your boots as needed for years to come.
Whether you have normal looking feet or some crazy chicken looking things you’d rather hide, your ski shop will have a boot for you. Different boots fit different feet and there are many methods to tweak a boot to get it in your comfort zone.
Some of the things a proper boot fitter will do and ask during your time together.
They should begin with getting to know you and the type of skiing you like to do, your ability, and the number of times per year you plan on skiing. They will look at your feet, ankles and calves to see which boots might be best. Your stature, ability, aggressiveness and athleticism also come into the decision making process. They will talk to you about the flex of the boot and how stiff you want to go. Here is one of the slightly confusing parts.
Ski boots all have a flex number. Don’t get bogged down with this number at all. These numbers are not standard in the industry. One brands 100 flex may be the same stiffness and another’s 120. The higher the number the more stiff the boot is. Trying on a few different boots will give you an idea of what feels the best.
Now they will get into sizing both of your feet, and have you put a pair of real ski socks on. A seldom thought of part of the cold feet problem, at times, is the socks. Ski socks are made specifically for ski boots. They are made of special moisture wicking fabric, and should be void of seams.
Now that your boot fitter has returned with a few options to try on, their job has just started. They should take the liners out of the shell to do a shell fit. Having you step into the shell of a boot without the liner gives them a good sense of the boot being the correct length and width. They should also have you stand on the footbed from the liner. This is also a way of checking for correct size. If these steps are not taken from the start then you are not with a reputable boot fitter.
Once back together and on your feet you should spend some time, at least 10 to 15 minutes in these boots. Walking around is good, as is standing but sitting while trying on boots is not beneficial. Stand like you would be when skiing, knees bent in an athletic position. This puts your feet in the correct spot inside the boot. Your toes should just touch the end when standing but when flexed forward they might just creep back off the end. This is a good thing.
Many people come in to see us and say their boots just don’t fit. “My toes hurt after a couple runs so the boots must be to small.”
Most of the time, after taking the liner out of the shell and putting their foot inside the shell, it’s almost always a size to big. When a boot is to big your foot moves all over the place inside and without that contact you loose a vital connection to the ski and end up sitting back.
This causes your toes to jam into the end and get very sore. The obvious next step is you then crank down the buckles to tighten your foot in. This causes your foot to fall asleep and freeze.
This problem also shows up when someone is holding onto an old pair of boots for to long. The liners can only last so long depending on the number of days you ski. They get packed out and its time for new boots.
Now back to your boot fit. While you’re walking around in your boots we will also talk to you about foot beds. About 90 percent of boots sold at a dedicated ski shop are sold with foot beds.
These can be either custom or a more generic Superfeet type, but if you are serious about foot comfort and proper ski boot performance, foot beds are a no brainer.
Now if you are one of the lucky ones, your boot fitting session is coming to an end. You’ve picked the best fitting boot and wow they are even a cool colour. It is recommend that if everything is feeling good not to do any boot alteration until after you have skied in them for around 3 to 5 days. There is a breaking in period and this can only be done on a ski hill. Putting them on in the house is a no no. Skiing is the only thing that will break in ski boots!
If you’re not one of the lucky ones and you need some boot alterations, know you’re in good hands with a boot fitter. They can grind, punch, stretch, lift and do almost anything to a boot. It may take a few times but as talked about before. If they are worth their weight they will include all the visits needed to get those boots fitting great.
Now go show off your properly fitted boots, and tell all your friends…