Finding the Perfect Ski Boot; No, it’s not impossible
Anyone who has ever skied can tell you that ski boots ain’t no slippers. In fact, pain from ski boots can make people dread a nice day out on the slopes. Often people think the solution to their boot woes is to simply get a larger size; a mistake that often makes things worse. Fear not, we are here to explain six simple tips that will help you in finding the perfect ski boot.
1. Don’t Go A Size Big…
Many people attribute their bruised shins and lost toe nails to their boots being just too small. You may be surprised to find out that pretty much half of the people who walk in our shop are in a boot that is AT LEAST a size too BIG.
We will blame this one on comfy slippers and roomy street shoes: people simply are not used to performance footwear. But you are never using those Crocs to maneuver two long pieces of wood and composite at 40 miles per hour… Your ski boots are meant to handle these intense forces and keep you in control. Extra room is just room for error, it will make skiing properly harder.
Keep in mind that new ski boots are going to pack out 5%-15%, that’s a lot! If it feels roomy now they will surely be too big within a few ski days.
2. Embrace the Tight Fit
When finding the perfect ski boot, the hurdle everyone faces is that they don’t feel all that comfortable. Well, get over it! Okay, lets make an important distinction here, tight, not painful! Like we stated above, these are not your slippers, they should feel snug and secure. Getting over the initial trauma takes just a second, but once you buckle them up (and you should always BUCKLE THE BOOT when trying them on) and bend your knee a few times they should feel much better.
Start with a shell fit to make sure you are in the right size. Grab a friend, pull out the liner and sick your foot in the shell. Wiggle those toes to the front of the boot, so that they are straight and just lightly touching. Now, bend your knee forward and have your friend feel down the back of the boot. They should be able to get about one finger behind your heel (for a performance fit) or a finger and a half (for a comfort fit). Any more room an your are going to have trouble.
3. Wear the Right Socks
Too many times we hear people wearing either thick wool socks, or in their regular ankle socks while skiing. Either way you are gonna have a bad time! As mentioned in #2, you want your boots to fit tight; if you have the proper sized boot, a thick sock will cut off circulation and actually make your feet colder due to reduced blood flow.
On the other hand, wearing normal cotton socks of any height or thickness will cause problems. When cotton becomes wet (with sweat or snow) it loses any warming properties it had. Soon your feet are cold and numb and your ski boot gets all the blame. We recommend a wool synthetic blended sock meant especially for skiing.
4. Try Lots of Boots On
Boots come in all shapes and sizes, just like your feet! Trying on lots of different boots is the only way to find a good match. Ask about the last (width) of a boot and measure the width of your foot. If you have wider feet, a really narrow race boot is going to hurt.
Look also for numbers in the name of the boot, the 130 in these Black Diamond Factor 130 Boots means they have a 130 flex, and that’s pretty high. A stiffer boot like this is going to handle better and by very responsive, but also a lot harder to get into and less comfortable overall.
Take a look at how you ski. Do you need a really narrow, really stiff boot for what you like to do?
5. Take a Lesson
Having your form down is really important if you want to be able to ski everything everywhere, but mastering form is something skiers work on their whole lives. Whether you are just starting or have been skiing for years, everyone can benefit from some instruction, and it can make your boots feel better too.
Yup, you read that correctly, being a good skier will make your boots work so much better for you. If you are prone to getting in “the back seat”, where you put lots of pressure on the tails of your skis, you need to work on your technique. Not only are you losing a lot of control, but you are ramming your toes into the front of your boot. When you ski like this, it doesn’t matter if your boots are too big or too small, you are gonna hurt your toes.
6. Go See a Pro
So after you’ve tried on lots of boots, evaluated your skiing style and technique and ensured you are wearing the proper socks, you are still having foot problems. Well, we are sorry to say this, but maybe you’re gonna need to pay a little more attention to detail.
Some people have special needs that simply aren’t going to be addressed by mass-produced ski boots. Finding a quality boot fitter can change everything for you. We always recommend our customers with more special needs go see Chris O’Conner at his shop, Inkline Foot Science. He can grind, melt and punch your boots in just the right places to accommodate your unique footprint. They also specialize in making custom orthotics footbeds and custom molded or foam injected liners.
“The trick”, Chris says, “is to start with right boot for you, and then make it the perfect boot for you. And remember, you can always make a boot a bit bigger, but its next to impossible to make it any smaller”.
If you want to check them out, Inkline is working by appointment only this winter, here is their info on Yelp.