Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
We’ve seen it time and time again: Skiers take advantage of off-season pricing to upgrade their ski boots, and end up buying a new pair of boots online—without even trying them on in person, and without consulting a pro about how appropriate that boot may be for their skiing ability and style.
We’re all for scoring good deals, so we’re not saying don’t shop around for a bargain. We just want you to know and understand some important things about finding the right boot for you before pulling the trigger on that killer deal online.
1. Do you really need new boots, or do you just need new liners?
If your ski boots are more than four or five years old and you’ve put in more than 200 ski days in them, chances are your ski boots no longer fit or perform as they should. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to ditch the shells and buy a brand-new pair. You may just need a new pair of aftermarket liners to replace liners that have become packed out over seasons of use.
On the other hand, if you notice significant wear and tear in the plastic of your boot shells, it may be time to ditch the whole kit and caboodle and upgrade. Signs of wear and tear include cracks in the plastic, worn heel and toe pieces, or discoloration of the plastic. Or, if you’ve made significant gains in your skiing technique over the last few seasons, it may be time to upgrade to ski boots that are more performance-oriented than your last pair.
2. If you have narrow feet, look for a low-volume boot.
Skiers with narrow feet should begin their boot search by considering low-volume ski boots (often shortened to LV in the ski boot model name). A low-volume ski boot generally has a 98mm or lower last measurement.
While boots advertising low volume are a good place to start, skiers with narrow feet should also consider other measurements like instep height. This measurement gives you an idea of how much space you need from floor to ceiling in the midfoot of the ski boot. If your foot is narrow and your instep measurement is also small, you may need to size down in ski boots just to get a good fit through the midfoot.
3. Cabrio-style boots may be a good option for some, but they’re not for everyone.
Skiers with high instep measurements and wider feet who struggle to find boots that don’t pinch the top of their midfoot may want to consider a cabrio-style boot. Three-piece boots like Dalbello and Full Tilt are typically more accommodating of high insteps because of their shell design.
Another pro of cabrio ski boots? Their flex profile is often a little softer, making them easier to get on and more forgiving when it comes to performance. For this reason, they can be great options for skiers with limited foot mobility or skiers who chase moguls all day long.
That said, because these type of boots generally have more volume in the midfoot, they’re not ideal for skiers with lower-volume feet or skiers who mostly ski on groomed runs and prefer more precise edging control from their boots.
4. Boot flex impacts your skiing ability.
Before buying the ski boot that won rave reviews online or in gear guides, make sure you understand ski boot flex and how it impacts your skiing ability.
Boot flex refers to how easily you can distort the ski boot—how much force it takes to drive your shin forward. Ski boots come in a variety of flex points, from 60 to 130, where 60 is considered soft and 130 is considered very stiff.
Beginners need a softer flex boot, something that will allow them to flex their ankles and teach them to steer a ski from the ankles up. More advanced and expert skiers who have mastered this skill and ski with a more aggressive, forward stance generally prefer a stiffer boot that will hold up under the skier’s pressure.
Along with boot fit, flex is the single most important consideration when choosing a new ski boot. You don’t want to be overbooted, that is, be in a ski boot that is too stiff for your ability or physical stature; you also don’t want to be in a boot that’s too soft, since this will prevent you from controlling your skis as you’d like.
5. Ski boot sizing involves more than just your sole length.
You may be able to guess your correct ski boot size by measuring your own sole length or going off your last pair of boots, but there are so many other measurements and considerations that go into finding a boot with the perfect fit for your foot.
Before buying new ski boots, you not only need to know your sole length, but the width of your foot, the height of your instep, the shapeliness of your calf, and your ankle range of motion. These measurements are all key in finding a boot that not only fits your foot well, but a boot that will help you get the most out of your skis on the slopes.