5 Tips to Get the Best Fitting Ski Boots
A Boatload About Ski Boots
Torture boxes, dancing shoes, foot binders, call them what you will. We all know that your ski boots are the critical link between your feet and your skis. Any movement your body makes is transmitted to your skis through your ski boots. The best boot fitters use a combination of experience, science, and voodoo to come up with the ultimate connection between the skier and ski. Once the boot is chosen the work continues as the fit is tweaked with padding, cutting, grinding, “blowing out”, and canting. All to create a precise, supportive, flexible, interface that matches your unique foot shape and leg geometry.
Let’s begin with some basics:
A simple 4 buckle race boot is what we’re looking for. Even for younger athletes.
2. Shell Size
A race fit is one to two fingers. For younger athletes who are growing, perhaps a little more, but this is critical. Last width and cuff height matter too. This is where the experience of a boot fitter will help identify the type of foot the athlete has and recommend the brand shell that is most likely to fit. It pays to go to a shop with a good selection so your fitter has some options.
Another critical factor, dependant on the athlete’s height, weight, strength and skill. The boot must be stiff enough to support the energy and forces of skiing fast and racing AND… still be flexible. An athlete must be able to flex the plastic of the boot in the shop, not just move the hinge. If the plastic does not move, ankle movement is lost. If you make a mistake in boot buying make it too soft! Never too stiff. I’ve taken many athletes to championship races with boots that may be a bit on the soft side, I’ve never taken one with boots that are too stiff.
In a perfect world the plastic of the boot shell matches the contours of the athlete’s foot. Sure, boot manufacturers try to create a shell that matches their idea of the average foot, but who among us is average? It is the rare athlete that does not need or benefit from custom boot work. Race boots are build to accommodate some grinding or stretching of the shell, to make room for the oddities of our feet. The goal is to make the smallest shell possible, as comfortable as possible. My race boots are quite small for my foot size, but with some grinding and stretching they are quite comfy.
5. Stance Alignment (Sometimes known as canting)
The best boot fitters can get you close in the shop, but to get your alignment correct, it has to be done on the hill. On the hill we start with duct tape under your boot to act as a shim. Once the correction is determined, it can be finalized in a shop by grinding or adding shims to the boot sole.
For younger athletes, focus on finding a boot that fits correctly, gives support and allows flex. Customizing becomes more common as athletes get older and their feet stop growing. Stance alignment is typically done at U16 and up, although I’ve had a few younger athletes who were so far out that we worked on them at the U14 age.
As always, your best resources are your coaches and trusted shop personnel. Will Tole at Sunday River Sports is very knowledgeable and in tune with Gould’s fit preferences. Contact him here, or send me a question!