How to Find the Right Ski Boot for Your Foot in 5 Easy Steps
With so many great ski boots out there, the hunt for "the one" can be daunting. A professional bootfitter breaks it down into baby steps.
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Torture devices, slippers from the ice king. Oh, the nicknames we have for our ski boots. Finding the right ski boot can be difficult. Clients care primarily about comfort, while bootfitters want clients not just to be comfortable, but to be in the right ski boot for their foot and skiing ability. I’ve worked as a bootfitter for four years in one of the busiest ski shops in California. I have seen lots of shapes and sizes of feet and there is a boot for everyone, but not every boot fits every foot. Here are five points to consider when shopping for “The One.”
1. Don’t take online reviews too seriously.
Be wary of boots included in review lists like “Top 10 Boots of the Season” or “5 Ski Boots That Should Be On Your Radar”—these writeups are all subjective to the reviewer. That doesn’t mean you should ignore these gear guides all together, though. Online reviews are a good place to determine price range, boot weight (relevant mostly for AT skiers), and features (like walk-modes, buckles, etc.). All ski boots are perfect for someone, but you will be tossing the dice buying ski boots based solely on So-and-So from Wherever’s boot review. Many factors make a ski boot work for you: sole length, instep height, last, flex, liner construction, obtuse, green moose, guava juice … you get the idea. Your foot is not Whatstheirface’s foot, and you don’t ski like them either. Do yourself a favor and walk into a physical boot shop to get yourself sorted.
2. Find a reputable bootfitter/shop.
You know the place: skis crammed into every crevice, a signed poster of some old fart on straight K2s, the glorious waft of P-tex, and the distinct feeling that there’s a case of beer stashed somewhere. Nothing beats a shop professional who lives and breathes ski boots. This expert has seen every shape and size of foot saunter through their door. They will ask questions regarding your skiing ability and the type of skiing you do (or hope to do), then measure foot length and width. Listen to what they say. Remember, certain areas of your foot may not be perfect in any boot without modification (bunions, sixth toes, etc.).
Related: The best bootfitters in North America, according to industry insiders
3. Wear a boot for more than five minutes.
You don’t ski for minutes, you ski for hours! Take this to heart when shopping around: wear the boot, flex it, and get your heel in the heel pocket. If your ski shop offers ski boot demos, take advantage and try them on the mountain. Nothing in the shop can give you enough information on how the boot will feel skiing.
4. Get foot support.
Skiing is all about the transfer of power from the legs to the feet to the boots, thus flexing your skis, allowing you to slash, carve, and jump to your heart’s content. A good footbed will add arch support and a heel cup, helping to manage the foot’s ability to move. With solid containment, your foot will not bump around and the boot will be more responsive. Think of bowling alley bumpers; without the bumpers, the ball (your foot) will inevitably run into the gutter (i.e. the side of your boot), but with the bumpers, the ball stays within the lane. Less movement equals more powerful turns and less pain.
5. Ask the shop about free or discounted boot work.
The difference between the demo pair you loved and the shiny pair you bought is the wear on the liner. If any problems arise in your new boot, see if it fixes itself in a few days of skiing. If not, you may need additional boot work. Ask the shop if they offer discounted or complimentary work on boots. This is becoming a more standard practice in ski shops and should be sufficient to find your perfect fit. If you do need work done, please tip your bootfitter (not just for my sake): thanks are welcome, beer is great, $20 is better.
Congratulations! You’ve run the gauntlet of the ski shop and are now the proud owner of a shiny piece of plastic. Huck your butt up to the resort or skintrack and get after it! See what all your patience and learning has done for your skiing.
Robert Kellett is the assistant boot manager at Footloose Sports in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. When he’s not skiing, tinkering on boots, or writing, you’ll find him on the crag guiding rock climbing trips around Mammoth.
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