Considerations When You Buy New Ski Boots
Every year thousands of skiers go to ski shops and buy new boots. Ski magazines and web sites hype the new products and make them sound better than the previous batch. In many cases skiers didn’t have a good relationship with their boots to begin with, so they are ready to toss the old ones that are in the closet. After all, you eked out 4 years in the boots that never really fit and didn’t make you ski any better, so it’s time for a change.
What does boot fitting include?
I can only speak for myself and what we do at Harb Ski Systems. Here is what helps you get a good result..
Just about every season there will be a new line of boots, perhaps a new brand, and small or large modifications to existing boot lines. Regardless of what the advertising says, if we recommend boots we have to know how they ski. We test numerous boots from different companies before we buy them for our store, and we observe how they fit and work for a variety of our skiing customers. In this way we already know the strengths and characteristics of the models and brands.
|Knowing what a ski boot does to your skiing is super important before you buy. They are all different and they will perform differently.|
At the very minimum, the boot fitter needs to measure both of your feet for length and width. A discussion of your boot-wearing experience is in order - have you owned or rented boots; aspects you have liked; aspects you have not liked; and so on. We give the customer, our client, the opportunity to tell us what they are looking for in a ski boot. It helps us to know where they ski, how they like to ski, and what is important to them in how their boots fit and ski.
A good foot fitter brings out two, if not three models of boots to test the initial fit and response from a customer. [There are some situations where this won’t be the case. If your feet are extra-narrow, extra-wide, extra-big, extra-small, or extra-anything, even a good shop with a large boot selection may only have one boot that is a valid candidate for you.]
The fitter removes the liner and has the customer put on the boot shells alone to test pure foot room or space inside the shell. Just going by shoe size and boot markings is not accurate enough. Showing the customer how much room their feet have in the shell reassures the customer that the boot can be made comfortable, even when the initial try-on seems tight in length. Every good boot fitter has a try-on and foot insertion protocol. This protocol can make all the difference in the world, not only for the initial experience, but also for long term comfort.
The customer then buckles the boots, stands and walks around for at least 5 minutes and then gives the boot fitter a fit evaluation. The boot fitter asks about how tight or loose the boot is in all areas around the foot and ankle. Knee and ankle bending and boot flexing are also tested at this time.
Leg alignment and footbeds:
This is the next big step and it’s more involved than trying on the boots. In our shop we measure over 20 foot, ankle and knee functions before the boot is even on the customer’s foot. From these measurements we can determine if the foot will ski well without extra support or whether a footbed will help with comfort and performance. Comfort, support, and foot and ankle function can all point toward either an off-the-rack footbed or a custom footbed.
Well make custom footbeds, support and flexibility are determined by individual ankle and foot mobility..
If a footbed is in order, then it is made and integrated into the boot prior to any other alignment measurements and to any modifications to the boot to increase comfort. Next, the “in boot” alignment can be measured, modified, and optimized. This process may also include balancing on a slant board to dial in cuff alignment.
Every angle and movement function of the body, all the way up to the hips is evaluated before the final product is finalized.
Because we run ski instruction camps all season we have hands-on experience, with skiers and boots. Every week we see the correlation between boots, indoor measurements, and on-snow performance for multiple skiers of all ability levels. We can come very close to optimal alignment right from the shop. When we work with racers, their coaches see immediate improvement after they return to the race courses from alignment sessions. We often ask our customers for video of their skiing before and after boot fitting, as this gives us more knowledge about how and what to do for the best setup, right out of the shop.
Even with our years of experience in ski coaching and boot work is not an easy process. You must stay current with your coaching and observation of skiers so that you can optimize every aspect of the foot, boot, and ski interface.
Some advice to boot buyers, : be patient. Don’t take the first self proclaimed boot fitter and think you are getting a slam dunk fitting experience. It may not end up they way you expected. Get references from other skiers and do the research - it will definitely be worthwhile afterward on the slopes.