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Ski Boot Buying Advice

Written by John   
Wednesday, 20 August 2008


The most difficult ski challenge you'll probably ever face is not the toughest black run in resort, but finding a comfortable fitting boot that also performs well. Remember before you buy your skis, it is important to get the right boots. Ski boots are the first piece of ski equipment that you should buy. It is crucial that your boots are comfortable, warm, and suited to your style of skiing. Unsuitable, ill fitting boots, will severely affect your comfort and ultimately dictate whether you have a great day on the slopes or one spent pining for the chalet. If you're going to spend serious money on any piece of equipment, spend it on your boots. Here is a check list to help make sure your next ski boots are the best ever!

Eleven Steps for a More Comfortable Fit

1. Avoid Bargains - Get the right boot, not the right deal

Uncomfortable ski boots can ruin your expensive ski holiday so don't be persuaded by a bargain. Beginners and intermediates complain more about badly fitting boots than anything else. If you are buying your own boots get professional advice. You can find boots cheaply at discount stores, but it is unlikely that the sales people will have the knowledge required to assist you properly.

2. Take Advice from an Expert - Not a Friend!

Don't be taken in by the latest well-marketed product that may not be suitable for your actual ski needs and goals. Do not take advice from a friend. What suits your best friend may not suit you. You will be skiing in your boot - not your friend!

Boots should match your skill level, as well as complimenting your foot and leg shape. Find a specialist shop where you can take your boots back for minor but critical adjustments. Find a ski shop that offers as many different brands as possible.

3. Take Your Time - Lots of it

Buying ski boots is a time consuming process that too many skiers rush through. You probably spent an hour selecting your last pair of shoes -and they're made from pliable materials! A plastic boot shell will not mould to your foot's subtle nuances, even if you wear it all day, every day, for 25 years, so take your time to make the right choice. Expect the process to take hours, not minutes. You should plan to try a variety of different brands, models and sizes.

4. Shop when Nobody's Around

If buying at home, it is advisable to test the boots out as much as possible before leaving for the slopes. Go to your local dry ski slope or Snowdome, so that if needed you can have them adjusted before leaving.

If buying in resort, research your shop before you buy. Some resort shops use casual/seasonal labour who may not have sufficient expertise. Ask for advice on internet forums, from your ski instructor or the chalet ski hosts. During the ski season resort shops are busiest early in the morning and when the lifts close. Trade skiing time for personal attention and go when everyone else is out skiing. Remember, your feet can swell up to a half-size during skiing, so do not buy a boot that is already too tight fitting. For the best fit, shop in the afternoon or evening, or after physical activity. This is when your feet will be at their maximum size!

5. Good Boots Need Good Socks

Remember a pair of thin sports socks should be worn when buying and wearing your boots. The days of needing thick ski socks has long gone as boots now offer very good insulation. Don't forget to trim your toe nails.

The feet can perspire up to one pint in a day! A good thin ski sock is advisable to move moisture away from the foot and to aid the foot to slide into the boot (avoid friction). The best sock contains the right blend of fine synthetic fibres and high quality merino wool, as well as being very thin around the top of the foot, with a light padding across the rear heel and shin.

Do not wear two pairs of socks. Two pairs of socks are more likely to reduce the foot's warmth by increasing perspiration and creating bunching, thus restricting circulation, whilst thin socks allow a good fit letting your blood flow, and helping to keep your feet warm. For every two degrees that the foot drops in temperature, around twenty percent of control and function is lost - just try writing when your hands are cold!

6. Too Big is a Big Problem

Ski boots that are too large should not be bought. A good fitting boot feels a little tight out of the box and may remain very snug during the first few days of skiing. There's a lot of padding in the boot and it is designed to take on the shape of your foot as you break it in. Relax. Your liner will. A new ski boot liner will compress to as much as 20% over its life, so it is important that a new boot starts off snug and firm. A boot that is too large will result in the foot banging about inside the shell as the liner breaks in. Most boots initially feel short and a little tight but compress to comfortable levels after being skied for only a couple of runs.

Buying a boot that is too big can be painful and cause injuries. In extreme cases, oversized boots can cause ankle sprains and bone breaks. Oversized boots also hinder skiing and promote fatigue. You'll find yourself in the "backseat," clawing your toes and tightening your thigh muscles and hamstrings to maintain stability and control.

7. Boot Flexibility

Another common mistake is to buy a boot that is too advanced for your skill level.

A boot's stiffness or "flex" is a key consideration. How stiff your boots should be depends largely on your skiing ability. Expert skiers have traditionally favoured stiffer boots because they respond to the slightest movement. Beginners, on the other hand, need a softer boot to help prevent movement mistakes transferring to your skis.

Talk to your boot fitter about your experience, your needs, future expectations, plus any previous problems. Be honest about your ability; if you buy a boot above your ski level, it will slow down your learning and hold you back from your next skiing breakthrough. If you are a beginner the last thing you want is a stiff boot that you can't even walk in let alone ski in.

Your weight and strength also determine how stiff a boot should be. When you buckle a boot you should be able to bend your knees without having to lift your heels off the ground. Remember that it's going to be colder on the hill, and the boot will be even stiffer. If you can't make the boot flex in the shop you need a softer boot.

8. Shell Fit is Vital

Ski boots are comprised of 2 basic components: the inner boot, for comfort and control and the shell, for transmission, performance and fit.

Good boot technicians can shim, trim or stretch boots but shell alterations are best avoided or kept to a minimum. To check shell fit, remove the liner and put your longest foot in the shell. Slide the foot forward until your big toe touches the front. The gap between your heel and the back of the boot should be between three quarters of an inch (10mm) and an inch (20mm or about 2 finger tips). This will give a good snug fit when the liner is reinserted, assuming no other parts of your foot are touching the shell. Remember to repeat this process on your other foot as one foot may be longer and narrower. If you feel contact with the shell, these are potential "hot spots" and your boot fitter may suggest another model or customization options.

If a boot passes the above test, you should try the boot with the lining, and buckle it up. Your toes should touch the tip of the boot when you're standing straight up but move back when you squat into a skiing or riding stance.

If the boot is fine everywhere except for one place, on bunions for example, a fitter can tweak the fit by grinding or stretching the shell.

9. Make it an Elimination Tournament

Every brand of boot is likely to fit your foot differently. Nordica, for example, typically makes its boots wider, while Lange has a reputation for an extremely snug fit. Experiment with several brands of boots before you buy. Try different models and different sizes of the same model on your left and right feet. Keep the "winner" on and pit it against newcomers. Remember, though, your feet are probably not identical and may vary in size, so when you find "winners," try on both boots.

When you find a pair you like, carry out the following checks: Are your toes pinched? Try flexing forward (bend your knees). As you flex, your heels should stay down and your toes should be pulled away from the front of the boot. The important thing is that your toes touch the front of your boots when standing straight up, and your toes move back when you flex forward. Is your foot (heel) moving up and down in the boot after everything is buckled up? This should not happen. The boot should hold your foot snugly.

Walk around the shop for 10 or 15 minutes and let your feet decide. Flex repeatedly to seat the foot and start the foams compressing. The boots should feel better after this time, not worse. Does your foot go numb? Sometimes the foot feels the foot bed and not the shell of the boot when trying a boot on. Numbness can be caused by high arches, buckles being too tight, and boots that are really too narrow for your foot.

What is the honest difference in men's and women's boots? Try both on. Many makers out there have both models available. The women's model usually has more room in the calf area. Everything else is the same.

Do you have micro adjusters on all the buckles? These are a really great feature on many upper level boots. If you ski extensively during the season, your calf muscles will get larger. The micro adjusters are there to let you give a little more room to the buckle before going down to the next buckle snap.

10. Buy Ski Specific Footbeds

Almost everyone can benefit from custom footbeds. They will support and stabilize your feet in the correct alignment, dramatically improving the fit. If you already have your own, remember to take them with you so you can try the boots on with them. If you don't have any, consider buying them at the same time as your boots - they will make your feet more efficient in the ski boot and aid in bone alignment. This will translate to better edging movements, and keep your feet from becoming tired throughout the day helping you to improve faster and conserve energy, especially if you have high arches.

Custom footbeds will ensure an equal distribution of pressure under and around the foot - no more hot-spots! They will also help towards proper and effective positioning of the 'steering wheel' (ankle joint) within the ski boot, for more precise pressure, energy transfer and better circulation through the foot.

11. Beware of Marked Sizes

Use the manufacturer's marked size only as a guideline. The sole length and inner cavities of supposedly similarly sized models can vary significantly. Boots marked 27.5 can vary from 305mm to 314mm. It's easy to check the sole length; it's embossed into the outside heel sidewall of nearly every boot. Liner construction and materials also affect size and fit. A manufacturer's Race model liner can feel too tight while the Freeride model in the same collection will feel just right because of the softer foams that are employed.

For your fully catered Tignes skiing holiday stay at with Ski Tignes les Brev. Make our quality chalets your choice for your accommodation in Tignes les Brevieres.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 20 August 2008 )


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