Happy ski feet – finding the right boot fitter

SnowsBest asked Australia’s leading boot fitters and podiatrists their advice on getting a pain free ski boot.

Who knew boot fitting was such a polarising topic?

If you want to see industry in-fighting akin to question time in parliament then just ask a boot fitter for his/her favourite boot fitter or not. Let’s just say my inbox has overheated since asking our Facebook followers for their recommended boot pros.

One thing we all agree on is that skiing or boarding with sore feet can ruin a snow trip.

Trust me, I’ve had my fare share of experience on this one. I had toe bang that turned my big toe nails black – they eventually fell off  while soaking in a hot tub at a swanky hotel in Melbourne, ewww, lost forever in the whirlpool, double ewwww.

I have been in such extreme pain I couldn’t finish a backcountry ski tour day and ended up in the foetal position at my guide’s feet. A guide who clearly thought I was faking it until I removed boots and he saw said bound Geisha style tootsies.

But I have also had my share of good boot fitters including Andy Burford from Jindabyne Sports who adjusted my boots so I felt I was skiing on a cloud and the guy at the base of Sun Valley Idaho in the Grateful Dead t-shirt with a pet pig called Priscilla who saved me from a world of hell – the guy, not the pig.

But like most people in search of ski boot Nirvana I have also had my fair share of bad including the young pup who didn’t listen to me when I described my skiing style preference and gave me a comfort fit almost two sizes too big (clearly thought the only powder I liked was in sugar form poured into my latte).

Sigh, then sigh again.

In the interest of you my dear readers, I thought I would throw the boot fitting dilemma out there to five respected boot fitters and podiatrists in Australia – TJ Balon, Andy Filer, Paul Oberin, Ned Buckley and Katrina Bennett.

This is the result.

May it help not hinder you in your quest for a pain free ski or snowboard trip.

Be warned. They talk a lot which makes this one of the most comprehensive boot fitting guides around.


 

TJ Balon – Ski and Snowboard Surrey in Melbourne

TJ Balon

I think that the bootfitter should be aware of a few things about the customer. What type of riding do they do?  Freeride/All Mountain or Freestyle.

What is their height/weight?  Tall guys, whether a beginner or not, will always put more strain on a boot due to leverage. Small guys/girls will suffer if they are in something too stiff for their skill level and you must find the happy medium for both.

Most top end Freeriders will be in very stiff boots to give them the quick performance on steep and deep slopes. Most Freestylers are in soft skatey type boots

The budget of the customer is obviously important – but it is not always a reality to match.

“Buying boots? Then buy local, we’re a die-ing breed” says TJ.

What makes a good boot fitter?

Someone who informs without demeaning. Someone who asks ALL the right questions. Someone who doesn’t rush the process just to move onto the next customer.

Experience is essential, there are a lot of very unqualified people out there with no one checking their work.

You need patience and you need to be a great problem solver.

Someone who doesn’t bag out their competition, or other boot fitters. I always say let your work, and the happiness of your customers speak for you.

What questions should I ask when purchasing a ski boot?

Besides the experience of the fitter – The number one question to me would be selection, do they have a big selection as so few feet are the same. For some shops they only do this as a seasonal gig, where the core shops should have a good selection , most of the year round.

When do you know it is time to get new boots?

Manufacturers generally say a boot is good for about five years at about forty five days a season. Since we don’t usually get those sorts of numbers in Australia I would say if your boots are older than six or seven years old (technology changes) or are feeling sloppy and gumboot like its time

Why do toes go black from ski boots?

People usually think it’s because their boots are too small, but most of the time its because there is movement (or too big), some of us call it shotgunning, every time you apply force into your boot your foot “shotguns” right up to the front of the boot slamming your big toe into plastic over and over again.

Stabilize the foot with a custom footbed and it should alleviate it, but sometimes unfortunately, when you put a footbed into a boot that wasnt fit with one in the first place, it can actually cause your boots to get even bigger than they were, exposing the truth that your boots really are too big for you.

Tired pain is ok, to me that means you have had a good hard day on the slopes, but pressure points, black toenails, poor circulation, and general numbness are things that you should see your local boot fitter for.

US Army Ski Boots from 1941 - made of leather
US Army Ski Boots from 1941 – made of leather and looking damn painful

 

Katrina Bennett (nee Harris) podiatrist at All Round Foot Care

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Before getting a new boot what do you need to know?

Number one thing – are you currently carrying an injury in your feet, legs or lower back? If it’s a temporary injury that is expected to heal up quickly, now isn’t the time to get an accurate fit or postural assessment.

Previous injuries, chronic injuries and especially previous issues with ski boots are also a must keep in the memory bank when looking into new ski boots.

For women, being pregnant and breastfeeding (and yes it is possible to ski when pregnant) keep in mind your feet may have changed or are currently changing so not necessarily a great time to buy but possibly a fabulous time to get your existing boots adjusted to accommodate any changes.

For kids and teenagers, are the feet still growing, when was the last growth spurt, how much did they grow? I could go on and on but you get the point.

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How badly do your feet feel the cold? Different materials will be warmer; layering of your socks, using feet warmers etc will all play a part.

My personal favorite, know your left foot from your right! Nothing better than making all these adjustments to the left orthotic and left boot on your patients say so from last season and it all going pear shape as soon as they carve their first turns and they remember it was, in fact, their right foot that caused the problems.

What makes a good boot fitter?

Someone who asks all the relevant above questions! Plus how often do you ski, what’s your budget, what is your ability? Does a beginner/low intermediate really need a $1000 boot for their one weekend away a year?

It makes a massive difference if you can make an appointment so you can get the time you need for the right job to be done, nothing better than turning upon a Friday night before a supposed epic weekend and 30 other ski boot buyers turn up as well for the party.

They must be someone who skis themselves – and is passionate. They know firsthand just how bad, bad fitting boots are and how oh so good, good fitting boots are.

You want someone who listens, adjusts, readjusts, adjusts again and has the follow-up service of readjusting if necessary after you’ve actually skied in them.

We are humans and different people will want and need different support, different materials or sometimes they just want the latest, supposed greatest and by far the most expensive.

A good fitter will work out what type of boot is right for you, and it may not be the one you proudly show them on your iphone, as if they have never seen such a wonder in boot technology before. They will work out if you need support, can they make a footbed themselves or do think a trip to the podiatrist for orthotics or further advice is required.

How can you tell your boots are on the way out?

Most commonly, when they just don’t feel comfy anymore! Liners will pack out, conform to poor wearing patterns, you have to keep adjusting buckles and/or you can feel your foot moving around when initiating turns. Maybe you’ve developed new pressure areas or old ones are worsening.

Your skiing ability or preference has changed and you need something more appropriate to what runs you are now skiing, hitting the park more or taken up racing.

Other reasons may be post pregnancy or a large weight gain/loss. These affect your foot posture and shape.

Or you’re a kid, you grow, and as such are expensive creatures.

Should you be in pain when skiing from your boots?

No, never, not even in the shop..ok maybe in the shop whilst they are getting tinkered with but do not walk out the door with them if they don’t feel perfect. Then there are the unlucky few that genuinely need to ski in them to get all the information the skier and boot fitter needs.

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Who needs orthotics and what do they do?

Foot orthotics are shoe inserts designed to support, align, or improve the function of the foot. They should fit comfortably inside your everyday shoes, sports shoes but not your killer 16 inch heels.

People of all ages (from walking age to dying age), with a variety of foot or lower leg problems wear orthotics. Sportspeople are often prescribed orthoses by their podiatrist to help maximise their performance, as well as to address mechanical problems.

Anyone suffering from a chronic foot or lower limb condition, which is limiting their mobility or independence, may benefit from wearing orthotics.

Orthotics provide valuable long-term solutions in the treatment and prevention of corns, callous and blisters by redistributing the pressure of the body’s weight on the feet.

Orthotics also help with rehabilitation of acute and chronic foot conditions such as tendonitis, recurrent ankle sprain and stress fractures, by providing consistent postural control.

Orthotics vs Footbeds

Orthotics are for everyday dynamic movement like walking and running. Footbeds are support in your ski boots for static movement.

Orthotics are generally used in the ski boot if the client skies infrequently, they are a growing child and the orthotic fits and is comfortable; or they need more support than a custom footbed can give them.

For someone who skis a lot and the footbeds provide the appropriate support than a footbed can still be used even if you wear orthotics in day to day life. I for one, have worn orthotics for over 20 years, but prefer my footbeds in my ski boots, why? Because it works best for me!

Who do you think does boot fitting well in Victoria?

Bootfitters I personally recommend for boot fitting (keeping in mind I am a humble Melbournite from the eastern suburbs) are Robbie and Olly at Ajays in Heathmont; Doug at EMC in Deepdene and TJ Balon at Ski and Board Surrey in Surrey Hills.


 

Paul Oberin – bootfitter at Pauls Ski Shop Wodonga

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Boots have undergone some significant changes in recent years, so you need a boot fitter who keeps up with developments in boot technology. Look for boot fitters who are certified by specialist associations which require boot fitters to undertake ongoing professional development.

And whatever you do, make an appointment. Boot fitting, properly done, takes time and good boot fitters can give a customer their complete attention when they have made an appointment. Really good boot fitters are not likely to just be sitting around waiting for a casual customer off the street.

Making an appointment also ensures that you get the boot fitter you seek; some shops don’t like seeing a customer walk away so some customers without an appointment may end up with another, less qualified, person doing the boot fit.

Ignore your friend’s advice when it comes to what boots you need, just because they have great fitting boots doesn’t mean that same brand and model will work for you.

Make sure the boot fitter removes the boot liner and shell sizes you. If they don’t do this, then walk out and find a shop that does – this is a basic first step in fitting a boot well.

Even the best boot fitter doesn’t get the boots 100% right every time, if your new boots are not right after a day or two of use, call up the fitter and make an appointment to go back for some minor work.

Dos and don’ts

Do make sure the shop has a decent range of boot brands. Typically, some brands fit a particular foot shape or morphology. A good shop will have a decent range of boot brands to fit all common foot shapes. A shop with a limited range may not have the right kind of boots for your particular foot shape.

We've come a long way since rear entry of 1976
We’ve come a long way since rear entry of 1976

Do be prepared to invest some time and give feedback to get a good fit. A boot fitter relies on feedback. Whilst good boot fitters will do a specific foot assessment, and really good boot fitters will know, by experience, what boots are likely to fit best, nothing beats the feedback the customer gives the fitter.

Don’t go into a shop with a specific brand or model in mind. If the shop has a decent range let the fitter know what you would like, and if what you like also suits your foot shape the fitter will try to get that result.

What makes a good boot fitter?

A good boot fitter will have the experience and the skills as well as the tools to assess the foot shape and modify the boots as required.The fitter must have the equipment to measure and adjust stance alignment, be able to grind and stretch the shell of a boot, and be able to make a custom footbed.

A good fitter will know his boots very well and should be able to tell within one or two models of boot what the customer will find fits best. A customer shouldn’t have to try on more than 2 -3 boots, although sometimes customers prefer to do this.

A good fitter will be persistent and very patient, even for a very difficult fit that may take a lot of time.

A good boot fitter needs to know what type and level of skier they are serving; they need to ask if the customer has had any issues with boots worn in the past.

There can be other issues that can affect how the boot will fit; for instance a person who has diabetes will be more sensitive to a firm fitting boot, but a foot assessment won’t tell me that.

To footbed or not to footbed?

Footbeds can be a controversial topic, but I think that everyone should have a set.

A footbed will often give you a more comfortable boot, but apart from that they stop a lot of movement within the boot. They align the foot within the boot and they also give great feedback as to how the ski or board is performing, as you have far better contact between the foot and the ski or board edges with a footbed.

Foam filled liners are a good option for some customers as it takes away any space between the foot and the inside of the shell, and is able to give a very firm high performance fit. The drawback is that the liner can only be used by the initial user and in the shell they were made for, and without the possibility of re-moulding.

For most, a better option in my opinion is the Zipfit liner which uses a filler material called Omfit. The Omfit will flow when heated to move away from any tight spot to another part of the liner where it may be loose. The Zipfit liner can be topped up at any time with more Omfit during the life of the liner.

ZipFitStockOriginal

As the Zipfit liner is good for around 400+ days it can be used in several shells during its life. It will conform to the shape of the new shell within minutes and will also conform to the shape of another foot if the boots change hands, even if for just a day.

The Intuition liner offers pretty well the same benefits as the Zipfit liner at a lower price, but has less flexibility for re-moulding and a lesser lifespan.

Remember

Doing the buckles up is very important .The buckles over the top of the foot should only be tight enough to stop snow entering the boot at the join in the boot at the instep, the buckles that tighten over the leg are the most important, they should be as tight as your comfort level allows.

Most boots have a “power strap” that is above the top buckle, this strap is the most misunderstood part on a ski boot, it is designed to be tightened before the top buckles and goes under the plastic on a well-designed boot, not over the plastic, if used correctly the tongue of the boot is very firm against your shin, eliminating shin bang and giving excellent performance.


 

Edward ‘Ned’ Buckley – podiatrist and founder of Boot Solutions Niseko & Hakuba

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Boot fitters need to be able to wear many hats. They need to have good personal skills and be able to communicate with people and relate to them on a very personal level.

They must have good product knowledge. There are hundreds of models and multiple brands and often boot shops will carry many models so that they can fit the different foot types and skier types. A good bootfitter needs to know each model intimately.

They must also be good technicians, as boot fitting requires specific manual skills.

They must be creative as everyone is different and so the bootfitter is often required to think laterally, or outside the box when coming up with solutions for individual problems.

They must have a thorough understanding of the human foot and lower limb from both an anatomical but also biomechanical perspective specific to skiing/snowboarding, so that they can identify the cause of certain problems that different people face in ski and snowboarding.

They must be good diagnosticians.

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What questions should the customer ask a boot fitter?

Do you provide a custom fitting service? Although there are many models out there to suit the different foot types and skier levels, in many occasions the boots will need further modifications to make them customised to the skiers needs.

Does your service include moulding of liners and shells? Many boot models have customisable liners and shells which may be adjusted at the initial fitting to ensure maximum comfort.

Do you make custom innersoles? Most good Bootfitting shops will have the option of providing custom innersoles. Custom innersoles help to align the foot and ankle in the boot as well as to help evenly distribute pressure on the foot which equates to a positive effect on the level of comfort and performance.

What level of after-purchase support will I receive? Most good boot shops will have policy that includes some level of after purchase support. This ranges from a basic returns-due-to-fault policy through to a full fit guarantee where extra work is provided as part of the original price.

It is very common for small modifications to be needed after a couple days skiing so it is best to understand what level of service the shop provides for this kind of thing.

What questions should the boot fitter ask the customer?

If buying a new pair, the boot fitter should be firstly asking questions aimed at understanding what kind of skier the buyer is and their intentions/expectations so that they may most appropriately match the options for the clients needs.

How often does the person go skiing? How long have they been skiing for? Where do they like to go skiing? What terrain do they like most? Are they aggressive or just cruisers? Are the primary objectives for the skier comfort? or performance? or a bit of both?

The boot fitter should also ask a few questions relating to previous experience with boots: Have they owned boots before? If so what models? Did they have any issues with comfort or performance in previous boot models? If so the boot fitter want to elucidate some information about the previous experiences as it will help them to better understand the clinets needs

What do you think creates black bruised big toe nails?

Ski boots are too big in length or width: the foot slides in the boot and the toes are repetitively traumatised or the boots are too small and the toes are jammed at the front of the boot causing repetitive trauma.

The wrong socks are being worn: too thick and the sock will crowd the forefoot and add the toes will sustain trauma.

Skiing Powder can cause black toes. People lean back when skiing powder as they are trying to keep their tips up. This causes the toes to be pushed forward in the boots and resulting trauma causes the toes to go black.

If you sit too far back when skiing powder you can end up with black toes. Photo credit: Park City Powder Cats
If you sit too far back when skiing powder you can end up with black toes. This guy has nothing to worry about. Photo credit: Park City Powder Cats

Falling backwards: one decent fall where the person has landed on the back of their heels can cause the foot to slide forward forcefully causing a black toe.

Very rarely toes can go black from frostbite which is a serious condition.

The pros and cons of footbeds and liners

FOOTBEDS

No matter what the foot shape is, or what the particular individual mechanics of the foot are like, foot beds can help to stabilise the foot in the boot in a way that makes the skier more confortable and at the same time ensuring that energy is transferred evenly and efficiently. Foot beds are recommended for most skiers in most boot and liners types.

Footbeds fall in to two categories:

Off the shelf premade types. There are plenty of brands and models out there offering different levels of support from different materials. These do an OK job for the most part, and some types are better than others.

Fully customised. These come in the form of an innersole that starts out from a flat blank material and which is then moulded to the skier’s foot. Often a reinforcement called a posting material is added to the heelcup and arch areas and then made to fit the contour of the boot in a way that ensures the foot is in a position of maximum stability for skiing.

There are multiple systems and various brands for making custom footbeds. Qualified health professionals such as sports physicians and podiatrists also make devices similar to custom foot beds, called orthoses. Custom footbeds are completely personalised devices that fit the skier’s foot perfectly and so these have the potential to provide maximum support.

Custom footbed making is a highly technical process that requires the bootfitter to have sound knowledge in identifying different foot types and understanding foot mechanics as well as technical skills for producing a good mould and manufacture of an accurate device.

LINERS

Most ski boots come with a liner that the manufacturer has made for that shell. Depending on model, the liners than come with the boot can be highly mouldable. In many cases the fit is very good with the liner that the boot was made for, and so in many instances skiers are extremely happy with this set up.

When looking for a liner for the ski boots, having a high capacity to mould to the foot is a desirable thing. Different after-market liners exist that are designed to replace the liners in ski boot shells, usually with the intention to provide a more moulded and hence better fit.

The most common types of liners include fully injected foam liners (Sidas, Bootdoc, Surefoot), preinjected cork and oil based (Svenfit, Zipfit) and heat mouldable foam types (intuition, Sidas). Having an aftermarket liner inserted into the pre-existing shell is not always better, however, may be a good option if the skier is looking for higher level of precision in the fit.

Usually a foot bed accompanies a moulded liner and the bootfitter will recommend foot beds to be made in conjunction with the liner moulding. There are many pros and cons for the different types of liners out there.

Fully injected foam liners provide the most accurate moulding, and hence ensure that the fit is closest to the foot shape, however, they tend to be cold and hard on the feet. The injection process is quite technical and so requires an experienced fitter to ensure that mistakes are not made in the process.

Mistakes are difficult to fix once injected as the foam sets hard. Injected liners can be expensive to have fitted and sbadly moulded foam injected liners can be a costly mistake.

Injected liners often take quite a bit of skiing in before full comfort is appreciated and so are generally not recommended for the recreational and occasional skier. Some ski shops just specialise in this type of boot/liner combo.

The guys that do a lot of them generally do a good job, however, when things don’t work out, it is often very tricky to fix and the best option is to start again. Some people who regularly ski in this type of liner swear by them. Others simply cannot tolerate that level of precision in the fit. Some people are better off in this type of liner due to particular issues with their feet.

Heat moulded foam liners such as the Intuition liners are the warmest and most general in fit. The impression that the liners take of the foot is good, but not as accurate as the injected type.

As the materials are soft, there is less chance of having major problems if the right model has been chosen for the boot. These liners come in varying densities, thickness, and shape and so it is important to have the bootfitter recommend the right model for the skier’s foot and boot model.

This type of liner takes the least amount of time to ski-in and can be very comfortable after only a short while skiing. These liners do well for people who don’t ski a lot, or whose objective is general comfort and warmth.

This type of liner is also a good option for people who like to do a bit of hiking, as they are usually seamless in design, ensuring that friction is minimised. The fitting process for this type of liner is less technical than for foam liners, however, it is best to have an experienced fitter do the job as there are multiple errors that can be made which can result in less than optimum performance and comfort.

A downside to this type of liner is that they generally  ‘pack out’ more quickly than other types. Each time the person skis, the structure of the foam is put under pressure, which leads to eventual breakdown.

The upside is that this type of liner is less costly than the other types and so changing the liners out more often is not such big deal. Many manufacturers are using this type of liner as the standard liner that comes with the shell and so a customised option is available without have the expense of buying an extra product.

The cork and oil based reinjected liners are great option for people wanting a more accurate fit without the problems associated with foam injected liners. These liners tend to have most of the moldable material based around the mid-to-rear foot and on the shins, resulting in a good tight fit in the places where it is best to have maximum support whilst leaving the forefoot and toes free to spread out.

These liners are the least technical to fit and usually fully remoldable, meaning that if a mistake has been made, then the process can be repeated multiple times to get it right. This type of liner can be a little cold to ski in however and newer models are using highly insulating materials to combat this problem.

These liners have a long life-span if well cared for. More material can be added for a tighter fit and conversely it can be removed to make more space. One complaint that has surfaced with fitting these liners is that the density and amount of materials that have been preinjected is not always accurate and so the fit can vary from liner to liner.

The density of the material in these liners is also susceptible to variations in temperatue and so tends to feel softer when it is warmer.


 

 Andy Filer – Bootfitter at The Boot Lab at Aussieskier.com

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Don’t waste your time trying on lots of boots at lots of shops. Do your research and preferably choose a shop that a friend has had a good experience at or one that has a good reputation.

Spend the time needed to start and finish in the one sitting, this includes choosing your boots, making your footbeds and any shell adjustments needed. Two hours is usually enough time to do this but sometimes more time is needed or you may have to return to the shop if extensive work is needed to make it the perfect fit. Remember skiing is fun get out there and enjoy it.

Working with your boot fitter

Work together with your bootfitter to choose the best option for your feet and skiing ability. You should always be given at least two or three options to try on. This will give you a better understanding of what they feel like from different boot shapes and styles.

The correct flex that matches your bio-mechanics, width that suits your foot shape, and what you want to do with your skiing are very important key points that any good bootfitter with knowledge and understanding of what they are doing should look at in great detail.

Choosing a boot fitter

Choose a boot fitter who has had years of experience, as only someone who has put a lot of feet into ski boots knows all the little tricks that to make your next boots the best ones you have ever had on your feet.

Anyone can fit a pair of boots, and there is a lot more to it than just the length of your foot to consider. You would hope that they ski regularly and they understand the forces that the body goes through when skiing, looking at the whole picture.

A good fifteen minute talk and assessment about what you plan to do with your skiing, looking at everything from length of your foot, to your individual bio-mechanics like dorsiflexion in your ankle, and flexibility with your lower limbs is a great start to help understand more about each person’s needs for skiing before trying on a ski boot at all.

A good boot fitter knows everything there is to know about the boots, but his challenge is getting to know the customer and what their needs are to help make the correct choice so they can enjoy their skiing for many years to come.

How do you ski?

Have you ever owned your own pair of boots before?

How often do you ski?

What issues if any, have ski boots caused to your feet and skiing in the past?

Do you have any injuries that should be considered or that might affect you when skiing?

These are all questions you should expect to be asked.

Comfort versus performance

Comfort is performance! When everything comes together and you can ski with a tight yet comfortable fit on your feet your performance on the mountain will improve dramatically.

I will never forget a pair of boots a good friend gave me back in the nineties when I secured a full time position at Mt Buller ski school. I was skiing in a pair of rear entry ski boots and had no idea what a boot was meant to fit like.

Sure they were comfortable, but the boots he gave me were tighter and stiffer compared to my old ones, feeling connected, like a part of my body. Suddenly I found that there was much less delay and the response time was instantaneous when I wanted to make a turn. My skiing was taken to new heights.

This type of fit is what most people are looking for and will have you skiing longer and with less fatigue as your body doesn’t need to use as much strength to perform a turn on your skis.

Skiers put their bodies through enormous physical strains when skiing and we should all remember that fitness along with fit plays a big factor when we go skiing in the mountains. So giving your body a chance to get its ski legs or being in a good physical condition is important to be able to ski with less fatigue and discomfort when skiing.

Improve your skiing to improve your boots

Simply having a bad technique or leaning back can cause excessive pressure on your muscles and skeletal system so much, it won’t matter how good your boot fitter is or your boots, and may be time to take a lesson to improve your style.

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A good boot fitter should be putting you in a shell that has room for adjustment if any fit issues occur, allowing them to elevate any pain or discomfort that may come up after you have left the store with your new boots.

It is worth noting that, unfortunately, sometimes the wrong choice can be made with a boot, as all boot fitters are human after all. This is not the end of the world and there is no need to rush of to your nearest blog site and bag out the shop to everyone.

Most good boot fitters will replace your boot with a brand new boot that may be a better option after having the chance to learn more from the problem faced with the first choice, thankfully this is only in a very rare case. Importantly if these problems do happen you must go back to your boot fitter and work with them until a solution is found.

What do you think of footbeds?

Footbeds are certainly a very important part of a well fitted ski boot and personally I don’t guarantee the fit without one. The human foot goes through huge amounts of strain and motion when skiing and it is important to align and support our feet so we can be comfortable when skiing.

When we ski our feet are in a static straight foot stance, unlike when we are walking and performing a gait motion that involves the foot striking its heel on the ground and pushing off your center of gravity to propel yourself forward. In a ski boot you don’t do this, and most of our weight and pressure is going through the forefoot as we ski on an incline or downhill, so to offer the feet support through this area is just common sense.

By making the surface area larger under the foot and supporting the pressures that we exert through them, gives the foot relief on its points of contact from the heel through to the forefoot. This also greatly helps the feeling in your feet, so you feel more through your boots to the snow and you send a clearer message to your brain. The result is that you ski better, with better circulation and warmer feet.

Aftermarket liners like foam injected ones are becoming less and less popular these days, as most higher end ski boots have fantastic light and custom mouldable liners straight out of the box, but there are still times where these are necessary to help fit people with particular issues.

Happy Feet
Happy toes are happy feet, may your toes forever be smiling

Phew! That’s a lot of boot fitting wisdom right there! Have you had a good experience with boot fitting you would like to share?

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Rachael Oakes-Ash is the name behind @misssnowitall and the founder of SnowsBest.com. A long time travel and lifestyle journalist and ski writer, she's been published in ESPN, TIME, Wallpaper*, Action Asia, Inside Sport, Australian Financial Review, Emirates Open Skies, Conde Nast Traveler and more. She was the Fairfax snow blogger from 2007 to 2017 and the Southern Hemisphere editor for OnTheSnow. Rachael is also a documentary producer, author, radio announcer and humorist.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I was sold boots that were too big. I skied in them and kept tripping over myself. I felt like I had two left feet. I was self doubting myself and ability and wondered if I was just making excuses for my poor skiing. When I got home I pulled out my old boots and compared the shell size. Sure enough they were one size smaller. I felt a bit responsible for not having taken the old boots with me when I got fitted. Surely I should have known my size? In any case I took the new boots back to the shop together with my old boots and explained the problems. To their credit they exchanged my boots no questions asked. I’m really happy with the shop and the service and feel it was just an honest mistake. It must be really hard to determine whether to fit for ‘comfort’ or performance? Just because someone says they are expert doesn’t necessarily mean they are!

  2. A fit for comfort and a fit for performance is a matter of about 10mm at the most, shell sizing is critical and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, adding padding later on to take up space in a boot that is one size too big just shouldn’t happen these days.

    Paul Oberin.

  3. You write “elevate”, but you mean “alleviate”. (Under section called improve your skiing to improve your boots. Alleviate pain, not elevate pain!

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