Buying Guide for Women's Ski Boots
By Steve Kopitz
Picking out ski boots online is an easy process with the filtering and sorting options available on Skis.com. With the information available in this buying guide and on sizing chart narrowing one of the largest selections of ski boots on the web down to the perfect pair is no problem.
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When shopping for ski boots many women may notice that there is overlap in the sizing chart between the genders when it comes to ski boots. Depending on what size women’s ski boots you are looking for you may see kid’s or men’s boots in the same size too. At Skis.com our boot fitters strongly suggest that women purchase women’s specific ski gear.
Differences between Men’s and Women’s Ski Boots:
Before we jump into picking the perfect women’s ski boots, it is important to understand the difference between men’s and women’s ski boots. Men and women are anatomically different so the ski boot companies have designed women’s specific models to fit differently than men’s boots. The major differences are in the cuff height, heel and ankle fit, and in the liners.
Women’s ski boots are designed specifically for women’s foot and leg shape. The common misconception is that women with large calves will have a more comfortable fit in a men’s boot – thinking that it will be wider. Since most men have longer lower legs than women their calf muscle generally is able to sit above the cuff of the ski boot. However since many women have a shorter lower leg, more of the calf muscle will likely have to fit inside the cuff of the boot. To make buckling the cuff easier and more comfortable the plastic cuff on women’s specific ski boots is shorter than the comparable boot for a man. Some women’s ski boots have wider cuffs and adjustments to extend the cuff buckles for women who have issues with the cuff.
Plenty of women have wide feet; therefore some models of women’s ski boots are available in widths up to 106mm wide, which is the same width available in men’s ski boots. The difference is that women generally have a narrower heel and ankle than men do. The actual shape of women’s boots tends to taper in closer around the heel. Also, many of the women’s specific models have additional padding in the ankle area to help provide a better fit. In addition to the liner having more padding in the ankle, it is often made of warmer, thicker materials to help combat the cold.
Lastly, to help flex their boots more efficiently so they can initiate each turn easier the flex is softer at each skill level and the stance is slightly different inside the boot. The stance is most affected by the ramp angle of the boot board. What that technical jargon actually means is that the inside of the boot isn’t perfectly flat. The bottom of the boot is actually ramped slightly (like a wedge shoe). Since the average woman’s center of gravity is closer to the tail bone as opposed to a man’s which is closer to the belly button, women’s ski boots have more ramp angle or a taller wedge inside the boot to help her get her body weight forward. Between the softer flex and the different boot design women who ski a women’s ski boot can get their center of gravity located closer to the tips of the skis making it easier to start each turn.
As a result, all women, unless they are racing, should make sure they are purchasing a women’s specific ski boot. Not only will they be more comfortable, but they can enhance your ability as well by fitting better and performing better.
Differences between Kids and Women’s ski boots:
Since there is a kids ski boot the same size as every women’s ski boot produced, women often ask our boot experts if they can purchase kids boots instead to save money. Unless you weigh less than 100 pounds it really isn’t a good idea.
First, kid’s boots are designed for kids. The foot shape is narrower, the cuff is much shorter, and the flex is generally much softer to accommodate kids who are still developing the size and physical strength that it takes to properly flex a pair of men’s or women’s ski boots. When adults attempt to use kid’s equipment they end up over flexing the ski boot which makes your leg muscles over used and tired. Tired legs often result in injuries as it becomes more difficult to control your skis.
To keep the cost down kids boots don’t offer most of the fit options that are available on men’s or women’s ski boots. The fine tune fit adjustments like micro adjustable buckles, removable spoilers, upgraded liners and ski/walk/hike features help make boots more comfortable.
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Ski boots are sized using a system called Mondo Point. Mondo point is a measurement in centimeters. Many manufacturers produce shells and liners that are stamped with a range from the whole to the half size, i.e. 24.0 - 24.5. Inside the liner is a stock footbed or insole. That insole may be available in a thick and thin version to create the illusion of a "whole" size. The stock insoles do not offer much arch support and are recommended by both the boot manufacturers and Skis.com to be replaced with an aftermarket pre-formed or custom insole to give you better support.
Since the custom fit adjustments are much better than they used to be, many manufacturers have decided that producing both half and whole sizes isn't critical anymore. For this reason many of the ski boots available on Skis.com will only be available in sizes ending with .5. The refinement in the left navigation will show the sizes in ranges such as 24.0 - 24.5, and will return results for with sizes 24.0 and 24.5. For information on aftermarket footbeds or insoles to make the whole and half size boots fit the same please consult the Buying Guide for Footbeds and Insoles.
Women’s ski boots are designed create a connection for energy transfer from your knee to the ski. The less slippage or movement in this energy transfer, the faster and more accurately the ski will respond. Therefore, picking the proper size women’s ski boots is important. Many women buy their ski boots to large because they figure it will be warmer or more comfortable. We promise you, boots that are too big can often be more painful than boots that are too small. If a boot is too big, your foot will slip around, causing it difficult to control your skis. As a result, your feet can easily blister or cramp from the extra stress of attempting to control your skis.
Click Here to view the Size Chart for Womens Ski Boots to see what size ski boots you need.
If you want to measure your feet to be sure that you are getting the right size, watch the video below. You will need a large piece of paper or cardboard, a pen or marker, a tape measure and a calculator to get your correct measurements.
Video Tutorial: How to Select the Correct Size Ski Boot
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Women’s ski boots come in a number of different widths (also called lasts). Each brand makes boots in various widths: narrow, medium and wide. In general though, the more advanced the boot, the narrower it will be. This is because more advance skiers want and need a tighter fit in order to control their skis more precisely. Boot widths range from 98mm to 106mm. In general, beginner-to-intermediate boots have a width from 102mm to 106mm. This is because most entry level skiers want maximum comfort from their boots. Intermediate to advanced boots typically have a width of 100mm to 102mm. Expert level boots and racing boots typically have a width of less than 100mm. Although some expert level models are available in high volume lasts (HVL) for a wider out of the box fit.
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Refining the selection of women’s ski boots by your ability level can really simplify the buying process. For the most part the ability level that each boot is designed for directly corresponds to the fit, flex and features that are most appropriate for a skier of that ability.
Beginner and Intermediate boots are designed with a soft to medium flex and a comfortable medium to wide fit. A soft or medium flex is appropriate for a beginner to intermediate skier because the softer flexing boots are more forgiving to technical errors that newer skiers might make. There are also considerations taken with the design to make the boots easier to get on and off. Some models have replaced the four small buckles on traditional boots with two or three large buckles to make things more convenient.
As a skier advances they begin to need more responsiveness from their boot for better control in situations where they need to turn on a dime. A stiffer flex and a narrower fit allows the boots to respond to smaller movements inside the boots which strong skiers use to adapt to varying snow conditions for example.
As you move up in ability level there are generally more features available on the ski boots to help you dial in the fit for the additional time you will likely spend on the snow each year.
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There are several different disciplines of skiing and the ski boots designed for each use have features to help make them more suitable for those conditions.
Downhill boots are any boots for downhill skiing. Whether you are looking for beginner or expert boots downhill covers them all.
Side Country boots are downhill boots that have extra elements for the more adventurous skier. They will typically have a ski/hike feature and well as rubber sole inserts to make hiking easier.
Freestyle boots add a relaxed and playful feel to standard downhill boots. Often equipped with shock absorbing features and an upright stance, these boots are ideal for anyone looking to jump and jib all over the mountain.
Race boots are the specialty boots in the downhill boot category. These are designed for performance and feature an aggressive stance, dense liners, incredible response, and are always narrow in fit.
Alpine Touring boots are built to climb as well as they descend. Focused on lightweight construction and long stride ski/hike mechanisms for skinning and climbing, these boots are only compatible with AT bindings.
On Skis.com if the women’s filter is selected in the gender option you may not see all of the types of ski boots listed. Race boots are technically unisex. Alpine Touring is a growing trend amongst skiers, but is quite demanding both physically and technically. So far we haven’t had enough requests from our female customers to stock a full collection of Women’s Alpine Touring Ski Boots, so they may be sold out.
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When someone refers to the flex of women’s ski boots, they are referring to how much forward pressure it takes for the boot to bend. The general rule of thumb, the better the skier, the stiffer the boot. This is because a stiffer boot will react quicker to smaller movements made by the skier thus controlling a ski more precisely. The reason that stiff boots aren’t recommended for beginners is that they require more power and technique to flex. An inability to flex the boots will result in an inability to control the skis. On the other hand, ski boots that are too soft are easy to over flex. Over flexing your boots will not only fatigue your muscles sooner, but it will end up leaving you feeling like your skis are non-responsive or slow to turn. So think honestly about your ability when choosing the flex of your new boots.
On Skis.com the flex is broken down into the rankings Soft, Medium, Stiff, and Very Stiff in the refinements on the left hand side of the ski boots page. Each pair of women’s ski boots also has a numeric flex rating which is listed in the specifications on the product page.
Understanding ski boot flex ratings is very simple. The higher the flex, the stiffer the boot is. Ski boots range in flex from 30 to 150, but most women’s ski boots have a flex from 50 to 100. If you are a beginner skier, look for a ski boot with a soft flex between 50 and 60. If you are an intermediate skier, look for a ski boot with a medium flex between 60 and 80. If you are an advanced to expert skier, look for a ski boot with a stiff flex between 80 and 100.
There are some adjustments that you may want to make to this flex scale. If you are on the heavier side or very tall, you can apply additional leverage to flex the ski boots easier, therefore go up a little in stiffness. This will add some extra support. If you are on the lighter side, or have knee problems, go a little softer. This will make the ski boot easier to flex.
||Men's Flex Rating
||Women's Flex Rating
||Kids's Flex Rating
||Medium or Stiff
||Stiff or Very Stiff
||100 - 130
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Women’s ski boots can come with many different features. Most features are designed to improve fit, comfort, performance, or all three. Just because a boot is on the expensive side, doesn’t mean it is exclusively for experts. Many have extra features designed to make your new women’s ski boots feel much more comfortable.
Most adult ski boots are designed with 4 buckles for closure. However some companies are starting to introduce ski boots two or three buckles instead. Some boots are featuring one large higher quality micro adjustable buckle instead of having two small buckles made out of lesser quality materials. Some companies like Nordica, Dalbello, and Full Tilt use three buckles with the middle buckle crossing the instep at roughly a 45 degree angle. This allows them to offer customers the same heel hold while reducing the weight of the boot and making them quicker and easier to put on and buckle.
Micro Adjustable Buckles
If you have ever worn a ski boot before, then you have probably had the experience of one notch being too tight and the other being too loose. Micro-adjustable allow you to spin the latch portion of the buckle to makes its reach longer or shorter. By having micro-adjustable buckles, you can ensure the perfect tightness on all of your buckles.
In addition, some of the women’s ski boots available with micro adjustable buckles also have a cuff buckles that extend to provide more room in the cuff if necessary.
Most peoples legs are not perfectly straight, the either bow in (knock-kneed) or out (bowlegged) slightly. If a skier is bowlegged, they will end up riding on the outside edges of their skis. If they are knock-kneed, the will end up riding on the inside edge of their skis. Ideally, you want to be riding your skis flat. This is where cuff alignment is such a nice feature. It adjusts the cuff of the boot to match the shape of the skier’s legs, making the fit more comfortable and improving the on hill performance for the skier.
To use cuff alignment, loosen the screws that can be found on the ankle of the boot. Once these are loose, get into a natural stance on a flat surface and flex back and forth a few times. Then, have a friend tighten the screws back up. This will lock the adjusted cuffs into place.
Some boots allow you to make them softer or stiffer. These models of ski boots either have a screw or a lever in the back which can be moved to change the flex. If it is a screw, removing the screw will soften the boot, while leaving it in will make it stiffer. If it is a lever, it will say which direct is for soft or stiff. Adjusting this type of control is as simple as flipping the lever.
The Ski/Walk/Hike feature is available on all levels of ski boots. However, should really be described as a Ski/Walk or a Ski/Hike feature. For beginner or intermediate women’s ski boots the feature is designed as a Ski/Walk feature which allows for the cuff of the boot to unlock and float, making walking in ski boots much more comfortable. The lever or switch to lock and unlock the cuff is usually found on the back of the cuff.
As the interest in side country and back country skiing increases, companies are starting to make advanced ski boots with a Ski/Hike Feature on them too for the skiers who are looking to do more hike up the mountain and ski down. These boots are generally quite light weight to make hiking easier. The Ski/Hike mechanisms have also been improved over the last few seasons to offer a better ski experience on the descent.
The high end women’s ski boots all come with better liners than entry level models. The liners are key to keeping your feet warm as they are the only thing providing insulating properties in the ski boots. Many of the intermediate and advanced women’s ski boots will come with liners featuring some sort of plush faux fur material. The plush fabric traps more heat, helping to keep your feet warmer. The expert level ski boots don't necessarily incorporate the plush fabric as it doesn't help transfer energy efficiently. However, women’s liners are typically considerably warmer than men’s liners. Some models have heat moldable liners, which allow for a custom shaped liner and a better fit.
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Proper Fit - Shell & Liner Fitting
Shell - When testing women’s ski boots for size, you should try both the shell and the liner separately before trying them together. First, try the shell on for size. To do this, remove the liner from the shell buy unbuckling all the buckles and pulling up on the back cuff of the liner. This should allow the liner to easily slide out. Then, slide your foot into the shell and all the way to the front so that your toes are touching. Then, you want to check to see how much space is between your heel and the back of the shell. Ideally, you will have between ½ to ¾ of an inch (less if you are an expert skier or racer). This is about 2 finger widths of room. Any more than that and the boot is probably too large.
Liner - Next you will want to try on the liner. After removing the liner from the boot (see above in shell fitting on how to do this easily), slip it on your foot. Ideally, your toes should just brush the front of the liner (a little more room is ok if your foot is still growing). If the length seems to be right, then look at your foot in the liner. Are there any spots where your foot is pushing hard or stretching the liner out? If so, the boot may be too narrow. If all this looks good, slip the liner back into the boot by placing your hand inside the liner making a fist. Use the other hand to pinch the back of the liner where the Achilles would be. Then force it back into the shell mostly with the fist inside the liner (it helps if the shell is on a hard flat surface).
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Putting Them On
Now that you have determined that both the shell and the liner seem to fit properly, its time to try the ski boots on with both parts together. Again, make sure all the buckles are unbuckled and open, and any power straps are undone. Next, pull up on the tongue of the liner, push it as far forward as you can and then towards the outside of the boot where the pinkie toe would go. Then slide your foot in. You may need to move or wiggle the tongue around to make sure it sits properly on top of your foot. Once you foot is in, sit in a chair and kick the heel of the boot against the floor a few times. This ensures that the heel of your foot is inside the heel pocket of the boot.
Remember, when you first try on a pair of ski boots, they will often feel too tight. Make sure to buckle the boots up and flex forward in the boots several times to get your heels to slide all the way to the back of the ski boots. Women’s ski boots are much like a pair of high heeled wedges; in that the bottom of a women’s ski boot isn't flat. When you slide your feet into women’s ski boots your toes cram to the front much like they do when you put on a pair of wedges or heels. By flexing forward in the women’s ski boots your feet will slide back into the heel pockets, much like the toe scrunching/ heel wiggling maneuver you do when you first put on heels.
Now it’s time to start buckling up. If your boot has four buckles (which most will), start with the lower buckle on the upper cuff. This will ensure your foot all the way back into the heel pocket before it is locked down. Work your way up the cuff and do the power strap at the top. Next, buckle the lower two buckles. They should not need to be very tight. If you find yourself needing to crank these down all the way, the boot is probably too big. Once the entire boot is buckled up, you may need to go back and tighten up the buckles on the upper cuff.
Testing for Fit
This is the part that confuses female skiers the most: your toes should be touching the front the boots. Women’s ski boots will feel tighter the first time you put them on because the foam in the liners of the boots have not compressed to fit your feet. Be sure to leave them on your feet for 20 to 30 minutes before determining if they are too tight.
Once you have the ski boots all buckled up, stand up. Lean slightly forward and bend your knees. Your toes should pull back from the front of the boot. It’s ok if they are still feathering the front but they should not be pushing hard. Many better quality boots have a neoprene toe that is made for the toes to be right up against the front of the liner, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are contacting the front of the shell. While still leaning forward, bend your knees and push your shins hard against the front of the boot, like you are skiing. Your feet should slide further back in the boots giving you more room in the toes. Your heels should hold in the heel pocket of the boot without lifting. Note that you’re not trying to force your heels up, but testing if they come up when you flex the boot.
The perfect boot will feel snug and slightly tight after leaving it on your foot for those 20 to 30 minutes. Once you ski in them a few times the liners will break in giving you about an additional 1/2 size in your women’s ski boots. Remember, women’s ski boots will break in about a 1/2 size. However, if they hurt unbearably now, they will hurt on the slopes.
If, after some time the boots still feel good, then you have found the perfect pair of ski boots. We do suggest wearing your new pair of women’s ski boots for several hours over the course of a few days to break them in before hitting the slopes.
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Custom Fit Boots
No two women’s feet are exactly alike. Unfortunately, all women’s ski boots come out of a mold. Therefore, if you have taken all the proper steps to ensure your boot fits properly, but there are still some pressure points or discomfort, custom fitting may be the next step. Custom fitting involves stretching, heating, or grinding a boot to give it a more custom fit for your foot. The best way to do custom fitting is to find a boot shop at the ski resort. That way, as adjustment are made to your boots, you can ski on them immediately and make additional adjustments as needed, as you may need to bring them in a few times to get all the pressure points out.
The removable sole inside the liner of a ski boot is called the foot bed. Most footbeds are pretty flimsy. Even if you don’t have foot problems, it may be wise to invest in a better store bought or custom made footbed (also called orthotics). This can often not only make your feet far more comfortable, but also lead to better performance by reducing the amount of wasted energy transfer from your knees to your skis.
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