As I sat in the chair in front of the Superfeet technician, my foot shrink-wrapped and burning somewhat uncomfortably, I admit to thinking, "I could be drinking margaritas right now."
But I soon realized that an hour out of your life (along with a hundred bucks or so) is well worth the benefits custom footbeds can bring to your skiing. It took a couple runs to get used to having real support under my feet, but once I did, my feet were happier than they'd ever been in ski boots.
"Stock footbeds don't conform to your feet, so you have no solid foundation underfoot," explains Steve Cohen, director of sales and marketing for Masterfit University, a company that trains boot fitters. So with generic insoles, you need to flex a lot of extra muscles to transfer any power to your skis, which adds to quad burn and fatigue -- and makes it a lot harder to control where your skis are turning. Since they conform to your feet, custom footbeds support your foot in your natural stance and reduce unnecessary, tiring movements in your foot. They also eliminate many of the pressure points that can lead to sore spots, bunions, and bone spurs.
Most specialty shops have technicians trained in making one brand of custom footbeds, and they'll tell you that their brand is superior to all others. And there's plenty of healthy debate among manufacturers about just what is best for your feet -- whether the impression is best made with your foot in a weight-bearing or unweighted position (there are pros and cons to each); what material is most suitable for the interface with your sock; how much "snow feel" is appropriate. But there is agreement on one thing for sure: Any custom footbed is better than the insole that came in your boots.
Custom-footbed makers (prices range from about $80 to $150, plus the fitter's charges):
SUPERFEET: 800-634-6618; superfeet.com
ARCHCRAFTERS: 877-356-0010; archcrafters.com
INSTAPRINT: 914-944-9038; bootfitters.com
CONFORM'ABLE: 800-225-6850; salomonsports.com
CLEER-SKI/BIO-SKI: 800-621-1657; spirakut.com
If you're in a pinch for cash or time, drop-in footbeds are an inexpensive improvement over stock insoles:
TRIM-TO-FIT BY SUPERFEET: 800-634-6618; superfeet.com