Ski boots are designed to conform to your feet, so if you decide to rent boots, you can expect them to be uncomfortable from all the differently-shaped feet that have stood in them. If it’s possible, you should always buy your own boots to ensure the right fit. Finding the right fit will be an important part of the process. Ski boots aren’t something that you just buy off the shelf after a quick trip to the store. The process of fitting ski boots does require preparation, and you may even want to get help with the process.
Table of Contents
- How to Fit Ski Boots
- Why You Need Ski Boots
- The Importance of Finding the Right Fit
- The First Steps of a Proper Fit
- Tips for Getting the Best Fit
- Adjusting to Your New Boots
Why You Need Ski Boots
Ski boots are one of the most important parts of your equipment, along with the ski bindings you strap them into. Not only are they functional, but also the boots affect your comfort more than any other part of your ski equipment. If your boots are uncomfortable, then it won’t matter if the rest of your equipment is the perfect fit for you, because you won’t enjoy your day skiing.
Ski boots are designed to transfer the movements into your skis and support and protect your ankles, feet, and lower legs. In order for the boot to transfer movements, they have to be stiff and restrict the movement in your ankles. Since ski boots are tightly restrained, this means that badly fitted ski boots are uncomfortable.
The Importance of Finding the Right Fit
Having the right fit is crucial. The purpose of a ski boot is to create a direct connection from your knee to the ski without any unnecessary movement or slippage. If the boot is too loose, then not only will your skiing suffer, but you could also hurt yourself. And if your boot is too tight, you will be in pain while skiing. A common mistake is wearing a boot that is too big. This is because most people are used to a comfortable, loosely-fitting shoe. Another reason for a too-large boot is the foam in a ski boot compresses as the day goes on. To get a good fit, the boot should be snug enough that you can’t move your entire foot wihtin the boot and with enough room that you can wiggle your toes.
Types of Fits
When fitting ski boots, there are three fits you should be aware of depending on what your ultimate goals are when you are skiing. No matter the fit, always keep in mind that your boots are stiffer when you are outside on the snow and in the cold.
When you stand up and have your legs straight, the toes should just touch the front of the shell, not the liner. When you bend your knees and flex the ankles, you should then feel the toes pull back from the front. A comfort fit requires a larger boot than other fits, but it would be the largest recommended boot size for you. Remember, boots get larger with use due to the compression from your weight.
If you want a performance fit, you don’t want to sacrifice your comfort or the boots’ performance. If your legs are straight and you are standing up, your toes should be touching the shell front. When you bend your knees and flex the ankles, your toes should hardly be touching the shell front.
High Performance Fit
Skiers that can sacrifice some comfort in exchange for better performance will want to buy a ski boot a full size smaller than what they would normally wear. With the legs straight and standing up, the toes should feel like they are being tucked into the front of your boot. When you bend your knees and flex the ankles, all the toes, including your baby and big toes, should touch the front of the boot. With a high performance fit, your boots are only going to feel comfortable when you ski in them. When you aren’t skiing, you may want to unbuckle the lower two buckles. It will depend on how often you ski, but sometimes it can take 30 days before the feet are settled into your new boots and liners with this fit.
The First Steps of a Proper Fit
The right fit starts by matching the shape and size of your calves and feet along with your abilities, needs, and budget for both the shell and ski boot liner.
Without the shell, the liner feels like a second sock with some padding and a stiff back and tongue. It should hug your foot but leave your toes with just a little room for them to wiggle.
The shell is a solid layer of the ski boot. It’s made of two parts: the lower shell and the cuff. The lower shell is where the foot is contained, and the cuff goes around the lower leg and shin. The shell is made of polymer plastics. It can also be common for the shell to be made of two or three different types of plastic so the different areas of the shell can be optimized for the best stiffness, flex, strength, and comfort. The shell is the outer exoskeleton of the ski boot and its job is to hold everything together. It attaches to the ski binding and gives you both stiffness and strength.
Before you try the boot on, remove the liner from the boot shell by unbuckling the boot and pull the back cuff of the liner until it comes right out. Then put the shell on and push your toes until they touch the front. Now see how much space is between the back of the boot and your heel.
Ideally, you want only one-half to three-quarters of an inch of space and even less if you are looking for a high performance fit. If you have more space than this then the boot is too large. The next step is to center your foot side to side in the shell and see if you are able to fit a finger between the shell and your ankle. If your anklebone is touching the shell, you need a different one.
The Upper Cuff
The upper cuff should feel just like two hands that are holding your lower leg and shin while two more hands hold your foot. When you put on the boot and buckle it up, it should feel like all hands are locked together, keeping your foot and your heel in place.
When the reassembled boot is unbuckled, the boot should feel somewhere between tight and very snug. Your foot shouldn’t have any room to move sideways, backward, or forward. The ankle should be in line with the heel cup. Once you are buckled in and the strap is closed, your feed should feel snug but comfortably encased in the boot. You shouldn’t feel any pressure points or hot spots, and you definitely shouldn’t able to lift your heel out of the pocket.
Tips for Getting the Best Fit
When getting the best fit, you need to put the boots on. If you have ski boots already, bring those with you. By studying the old boots, a boot fitter can learn more about your stance, how hard you ski and how often, and what you liked and didn’t like about the boots.
Advanced skiers who want the ultimate performance may want to consider buying a custom foot bed. These match the precise contours and shapes of your feet and also give extra stability and support. A custom foot bed can also give your foot a narrower and shorter profile so you are able to fit into a smaller sized boot for a more precise fit.
Work With a Boot Fitter
Working with a boot fitter can make the whole process much easier, and it’s even better if the boot fitter is local. As time goes on, you may need some adjustments, so a relationship with your local shop can come in handy. The process can’t be rushed and sometimes it even takes about two to three hours to do it right. Consider getting your boots at a slow time of day in the off-season or during the week so you have the boot fitter’s undivided attention. It’s helpful if you understand the fitting process so that you can play an active role.
When working with a fitter, the fitter will first want to know your level of expertise when skiing. You should be honest about this in order to make sure you are matched with the right boot. The next step is a foot measurement with the width and length of your foot. The fitter can also look at imbalances or other traits that can have an impact on the fit. Based on the questions answered and measurements, the fitter gives you several boots to try on.
Wear Thin Socks When Trying On Boots
When trying on boots, it’s recommended that you wear the socks you intend to ski in to get the best fit. Wearing socks that are thicker or thinner than normal can influence how the boot fits around your foot. Keep in mind when choosing socks that thicker socks also affect the control you have over your skis, so the thinner the better. The top racers actually ski in nylons or no socks at all.
Choose socks that are made of a wicking synthetic material, such as wool. Stay away from cotton because it absorbs sweat and keeps it closer to your skin instead of moving it away. When finding the perfect fit for your boot, you want to make sure that you are trying them on with the socks you plan on wearing skiing. In addition to bringing the right socks for your fitting, you should also wear baggy pants or shorts so your boot fitter is able to study your lower legs, knees, feet, and stance. If you plan on wearing ski shin guards while skiing, you should bring those as well.
Opt for Smaller Boots
If you are in between two sizes then always choose the snugger and smaller size. As you wear your ski boots, they will naturally get bigger due to the padding being compressed and the strain against the material. If the boot is just a tad too snug, it isn’t a problem. Boot fitters can increase the size for the perfect fit. However, there isn’t anyone alive who can make a larger boot smaller.
Adjusting to Your New Boots
As a general rule of thumb, it will take about five to six days of skiing for the foot and the liner to settle into your shell. During this time, the boots can feel extremely tight, especially in the early morning when your feet are still swollen from a good night’s rest. During this setting-in period, you may want to ski with the two buckles at the bottom undone until you can ski with them at their loosest setting. This applies to whatever fit you choose.
You may also want to take the boots off at lunchtime to give your feet a break. By the end of the adjustment period, your boots will be perfectly shaped and almost feel like just an extension of your lower legs and feet. Your skis will turn on command and you have better control.
Remember, no boot is going to feel as comfortable as street shoes. However, in order to get more adjusted to your boots, there are some things you can do. Putting on your boots and going through skiing motions or doing skiing exercises can be a good way to adjust to your new boots—plus, it’s also good exercise that acts as ski training. You can also fine-tune your boots in different ways like twisting the wire bale on the buckles to adjust their length, thereby changing the tightness of the boot.
If the cuff of the boot is too tight around your shin or ankles, many buckle ladders have two of three available positions. Twisting or unscrewing can move some, while others require you to have an Allen wrench or screwdriver. It’s rare, but you may even have to drill a new hole in the plastic strap of the boot. Finally, make sure your boots are staying warm on the way to the mountain. Keep them in a heated boot bag or in the passenger compartment of the car instead of the trunk. When you keep the boots in the trunk, they start off cold and can be harder to put on and adjust to.
While the boot fitting process may seem complicated, it’s absolutely necessary in order for you to enjoy your time out on the slopes. Don’t rush the process—the right fit is worth the time to prevent injuries and give you better performance. First, choose the type of fit based on your experience and then make sure that each piece of the boot, including the liner, shell, and upper cuff, works for you. Adjusting to your new boots can take some time since ski boots aren’t meant to feel like any other type of footwear you own. Once you’re ready, you can grab your ski poles and ski helmet and hit the slopes.