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Before embarking on a two-week road trip on British Columbia’s Powder Highway, my friend Cooper asked for my advice about two particular ski boots he had his eye on, mostly because he read our reviews and could likely get them for a discount online. My answer? Go to a bootfitter and ask which boot is best for you. Don’t get boots because of the price, get them as an investment in your skiing.
Boots are, unquestionably, your most important piece of equipment, and the cause of many skiers’ complaints. We cram our sensitive, oddly shaped feet into plastic shells that are uncomfortably snug to help with “energy transfer,” “edge-to-edge responsiveness,” and “bunions.” It’s no secret that many a skier’s favorite part of the day is the moment his or her foot comes out of a ski boot.
That being said, the last thing you should ever do is buy a boot online, jam your foot in, and go skiing. Spend some time with a bootfitter and you’ll find out that if you’re in a properly fit boot, the best part of the day is putting your ski boot on—and everything that happens afterwards, of course.
Ski boots are easier to fit than ever. Brands such as K2 and Salomon are making heat-moldable shells and liners that form around your foot when they cool. Others, including Nordica and Tecnica, have special plastics in the usual problem areas that are easy to punch to accommodate wide feet and bone spurs. Those with narrow feet and ankles have better-than-ever fit options, too. Head’s LiquidFit liner injects a type of wax into the liner, perfectly custom-fitting the boot to the shape of your lower leg and ankle. These advancements give consumers an advantage in the boot-fitting process, making it easier to get in and out of a shop with perfectly fit boots.
Read more: Gear Guide 2019 Trends Report
You can have basic liners molded for about $10 at most shops and have basic shell modifications done for about $25 a pop. Those with especially unique feet might have to pay a rate of $60 an hour for specific modifications. If nothing else, every skier should consider investing in a custom footbed. We really like the SOLE Performance Thin footbed, which is heat-moldable and made with 100-percent recycled cork.
After Cooper returned from B.C., I spent a day skiing with him. He was excited about his new Nordicas, a brand he was not even considering before his bootfitter recommend a pair to match his feet. Because he bought the boots from the fitter, the customizations were included and made his Canada trip even more enjoyable (the powder helped, too). His properly fit boots also made him happy to stay out on his local hill longer, improved his confidence, and, quite simply, helped him enjoy skiing more. If that’s not worth the price of a custom fitting, then we don’t know what is.