Choosing ski boots: All you need to know
If you’re investing in ski boots this winter, whether to improve your ski technique or solve painful feet, let the experts from The Boot Lab guide you through the process.
Find a specialist boot fitter
Buying a ski boot is not like buying a pair of trainers; most people don’t know what a correctly fitted ski boot should feel like. This is where the experts come in. Your boot fitter’s job is an essential one: after a thorough assessment of your feet, your skiing experience and skiing goals, they’ll pick an appropriate boot for your needs and your foot shape.
Picking a boot off the shelf because of the style or colour could be a costly mistake, not only financially. Ill-fitting boots could also mean that you’re more likely to sustain an injury.
Check your boot fitter’s credentials – qualifications, experience and customer reviews will ensure that you’ll get a good service.
Make an appointment
Any good boot fitter will provide a one-on-one appointment to ensure they allow plenty of time to give you a complete service. As a recreational skier you’re looking to buy a pair of boots that will last you for the next ten years. So don’t rush this process, an investment of an hour is an hour well spent.
Preparing for the appointment
To get the most from your appointment, bring your old ski boots (if you have them) and your ski socks. Make sure your toenails are well trimmed, and be advised that during the boot fit you’ll need to take off your socks and roll your trousers up, so no skinny jeans!
Your boot fitter will begin the process of getting to know you better. This involves asking you questions about your skiing history, level and goals. Then they’ll start on your feet! A good boot fitter will take lots of accurate measurements, both weighted and unweighted (i.e. stood up/sat down) and will also look at your body alignment in a ski position and whilst standing normally.
After they have collected all the information they will pick one or two suitable boots and do a ‘shell check’. Your boot fitter will remove the liner then place your foot inside the boot shell (the plastic part). What they’ll be checking is the space between your foot and the shell. This is really important as the foam liner will mould to the foot, whereas the plastic shell is rigid and will need to profile the foot correctly.
If the boot fitter is happy with the shell profile they’ll help you to put the boot on. This may well feel a little strange, maybe even a little too tight. That is perfectly normal. It might surprise you to know many people ski in a pair of boots at least one size too big. Over the years we’ve seen skiers in boots up to four sizes too big, we’re not joking! Once in your boots, your boot fitter will ask you to flex forward. This will pull the toes away from the end of the boot.
The next stage is a footbed, or insole, which provides essential support to the foot. These are moulded to your unique foot shape to ensure comfort and performance on the slopes. They are usually made using a process whereby the boot fitter takes a cast of your foot before applying heat to form the footbed. All good boot fitters will block in the underside of the footbed. This involves fitting stabilisation to the underside of the footbed to ensure that your foot is fully supported and that it does not move around. This will take the boot fitter some time to finish. But you don’t need to be there for this process – maybe there’s a coffee shop, or chalet afternoon tea calling!
Completing the boot work
It will take the boot fitter at least an hour to finish off your boot. During this time they will have finished the footbeds and made any necessary adjustments to your boots. This might involve stretching the plastic shell to accommodate the lumps and bumps that many of us are blessed with.
Skiing in your boots
Make sure you wear the socks that your boot fitter has suggested for the most comfortable fit. It is normal for the boot to feel tight on the first use. Your foot will settle into the boot. But if you have any niggles and feel you need adjustments, don’t worry, this is normal and usually easily remedied. Just pop back to the shop where you bought them and they should be happy to make these adjustments for free. To get the most from your ski boots we also recommend booking a lesson with a qualified instructor. They will help you to find your balance in your new boots and you’ll be able to take your skiing to the next level.
Now you’re all set. All you need to do is look after your boots and they’ll do you proud for some time.