What to Look for When Buying A Ski Boot - Epic Mountain Sports
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What to Look for When Buying A Ski Boot

November 30, 2021

Whether you've skied since you could walk or are just now getting into it, we can all agree that a good fitting ski boot can make or break your experience. What we might not know right off the bat is what exactly you should look for when your shopping for a ski boot?  That question is more common than you think & hey we're here to help you answer it.  We sent a few of our finest to Boot Fitting Academy this last fall.  They got real familiar with feet & came on back eager to share their new found boot fitting knowledge.  One take away - buying a ski boot is an incredibly important decision that at the very least requires some trial & error before finding the golden slipper, bottom line a ski boot is likely not something that you should blindly buy without trying on.   Read on for

Ask yourself, what type of skiing do you do?

Knowing where you spend the majority of your ski days will be a big factor in deciding what to look for in a boot.  Are you a casual resort skier?  Spend time in the back country? Come from a ski racing background?  Jib rails in the park all day?  What type of skiing you prefer will largely determine what features you're after in a boot.  For instance, a boot built for use in the back country will have a much lighter weight construction & include hike to walk features to assist you when skinning uphill.  A race boot on the other hand will have a thinner liner & stiffer flex to maximize performance.

Need to Know Numbers on Your Ski Boot:

  • Boot Last: The last is the width of the ski boot.  This number generally ranges from about 98-102 on an adult boot, the narrower your foot is the smaller the number of the last.  A boot fitter will measure your last for you when you go to try on ski boots.
  • Boot Flex: The flex is an indicator of the stiffness of the ski boot.  In general a lower flex will be softer boot lending to a more casual recreational skier while a stiffer flex keeps you forward in your boot & propels performance.
  • Boot Size: Ski boots are sized using Mondo sizing which is a slightly more precise measurement than traditional shoe sizing.  When you get measured for a ski boot you should aim to stay as close as possible to the actual measurement & avoid sizing up.   Say you measure at a size 27, ideally you should be wearing a size 27 boot (some racers or high performance skiers opt to go even smaller),  the largest size you should be in would be a 27.5.  While it's tempting to go with a larger size that feels cozy in the store you'll discover your first day out that bigger isn't always better.  If you go with too big a boot your foot moves around in the boot which causes pain, injury & also sacrifices control over your skis.
  • Sole Length: This is the little millimeter measurement that's usually etched along the side of your boot.  This number is important when it comes time to determine your DIN setting & forward pressure value, basically it tells a ski tech how to set your binding in the event of a fall.

What to Expect During The Ski Boot Fitting Process

Shell Fitting

  • We'll have you step into the shell of the boot (without a liner) this gives us an idea of the amount of space that the liner should take up if you're looking for a higher performance boot the shell will fit tighter with less room energy transfer from skier to ski. If you're looking for a more recreational boot you'll be allowed a little more room for the liner which will add comfort & warmth but sacrifice some performance.

Allow Time to Try on Different Models

  • It's one of the great mysteries of the ski industry but all things being equal (size, last, flex) each brand fits slightly differently than the other.  You really do need to come prepared to try on a few different styles even if you read in some best of gear guide that the boot is the best women's ski boot of the year you need to try it on.
  • Don't rush yourself - or feel rushed by a sales person, take your time flex into the boot, walk around for a bit & spend a good while getting a feel for the boot & listen to your body if you're starting to notice numbness, pain or find that you have a lot of room to wiggle.
  • After you've tried on a few options decide which boot fits the best right out of the box, this will give you the best starting point to build a perfect fit.

Add A Foot Bed

  • Even if you purchase the highest end boot, foot beds are not included.  The stock foot bed that comes with the boot is generally just padded foam intended for trying on but not for real time use. A foot bed is an invaluable asset to your comfort & performance on the hill  & no matter what your foot looks like a foot bed can reduce: cramping in calves, sore legs, heel pressure, & can even mitigate hip & back pain.  Each foot bed is meant to fit to a certain foot profile & alleviate specific issues, we can help you decide on which foot bed would be the best match for your foot.

Move On to More Customization

  • Custom Cork or Intuition Liners: heat up liner until it's malleable then insert foot bed and stand in your boot in a balanced ski stance while the liner molds to your foot & ankle. Correct form fitting boot
  • Shell Molding: You guessed it, shell molding is where we heat the shell instead of the liner.  Molding the shell allows the boot fitter to make room for abnormalities in the foot 6th toe or bunions push out the shell plastic in these areas while maintaining performance of boot.

Have Your Boot Fit to Your Skis BEFORE You Head to The Mountain

We've all made this mistake, learn from our ruined ski days & remember that any time you purchase a new boot you need to have your binding checked by a certified ski tech. Most often all that's required is a quick binding test (our ski shop can often do this while you wait) to make sure the forward pressure is set correctly & the DIN is valid for the sole length on your new boot.   Occasionally if you are making a big enough jump in size you will need to have your bindings remounted to allow proper space for your boot.  Another thing to check for- if you've purchased an AT boot be sure your binding is compatible with that sole structure.



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