By Steve Kopitz
Before we jump into picking the perfect womens ski boots, it is important to understand the difference between men and womens ski boots. Womens ski boots are designed specifically for women’s foot and leg shape. They are typically narrower in the forefoot and heel. Additional, the cuff of the boot is lower and wider to accommodate the fact that women’s calves are typically wider and come lower on the leg than men’s calves do. They are typically softer as well, but this is not always the case. 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.
Womens ski boots can typically be classified into one of three categories: Free-style, racing, and general. Typically, if a womens ski boot is not specifically labeled as a free style or racing boot, it falls into the general womens ski boots category.
Unless a womens ski boot is specifically labeled a freestyle boot, it most likely falls into the general women’s category. Womens ski boots come in a wide range of widths and flex but as a general rule, womens ski boots are narrower, softer, and have a lower cuff then men’s boots.
Sometimes referred to as free-ride boots, freestyle boots tend be softer in the forward flex and have cushioning under the heel. This is because freestyle boots are designed for skiers who spend most of their time in the terrain park, moguls, or jumping cliffs out of bounds. The softer flex and cushion help to soften the blows from skiing in this type of terrain.
Racing boots are much stiffer and narrower than traditional boots. This is because they are designed to fit and be extra tight for faster response. They are designed purely for performance, not comfort. Therefore, if you don’t already know you want or need a racing boot, stay away from them!
Womens 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 womens ski boots is very important. If a ski boot is too small, it will create pressure points on your feet, making you extremely uncomfortable. However, 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. Most 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.
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. Womens ski boots are much like a pair of high heeled wedges; in that the bottom of a womens ski boot isn't flat. When you slide your feet into womens 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 womens 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.
Additionally, womens 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 5 to 10 minutes before determining if they are too tight. Also, be sure to walk around in them. This will also help to loosen them up. The perfect boot will feel snug and slightly tight after leaving it on your foot for those 5 to 10 minutes. The liners will break in giving you about an additional 1/2 size in your womens ski boots.
All womens ski boots are sized in a system called Mondo point. Mondo point sizing is only used in sizing ski boots, so it is important to convert from your shoe size. Determining your Mondo point size is quite simple. Simply add the first and second digits together for the US men’s equivalent. For example, if a ski boot is a size 25, that converts to a men’s 7 (2+5=7). If the Mondo point ends in a .5 (like 25.5), that counts as half a size. So, a 25.5 would convert to a men’s size 7.5. To find the women’s equivalent, take the converted men’s size and simply add one. So a boot with a size 25.5 is actually a women’s 8.5 (2+5+.5+1=8.5). To work backwards to convert a boot to a women’s shoe size, simply do the opposite. If you are a women looking for a size 7 womens ski boots, you need to find a size 6 in the men’s converted Mondo point. Therefore, you would need a size 24.
For more help on Mondo point sizing, please see our Size Chart for Womens Ski Boots.
Womens 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, and are willing to give up some comfort for that ability. Boot widths range from 98mm to 105mm. In general, beginner-to-intermediate boots have a width from 102mm to 105mm. 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 or racing boots typically have a width of less than 100mm.
When someone refers to the flex of womens ski boots, they are referring to how much forward pressure it takes for the boot to bend. In other words, they are referring to the boots stiffness. The general rule of thumb, the better the skier, the stiffer the boot. This is because a stiffer boot will control a ski more precisely, but requires more power and technique to control. Be sure to select a boot with a flex that is within your ability. Just like when selecting skis, selecting a boot that is either too stiff or too soft will greatly hinder your ability to control your skis and improve at the sport. If you select a boot that is too soft, you won’t get the support or control you need. As a result, you will end up finding it very difficult to turn your skis. If you select a boot that is too stiff, you will not be able to flex the boot properly. As a result, you will not be able to turn for skis because it will feel like you are standing in cement blocks. So think honestly about your ability when choosing the flex of your new boots.
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 womens 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 70 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, 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.
Shell & Liner Fitting
When testing womens 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.
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 and then forcing it back into the shell (it helps if the shell is on a hard flat surface).
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 and 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.
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 is locked down before buckling the other buckles. Next, buckle the lower two buckles. They should not need to be very tight. Their main purpose is mainly to keep the foot in place. If you find yourself needing to crank these down all the way, the boot is probably too big. Finally, buckle the top buckle so that the cuff of the boot wraps snugly around your leg. Now go back and tighten any other buckles of they have become loose. If the boot has a Velcro power strap at the top, put this on last.
If both the toe and heel test seem good, stand around in the boots for about 10 minutes. This will give the boots foam lining a chance to pack out and form to your feet. After you have had the boots on for about 10 minutes, check to see if there are any pressure points. If they still feel good, keep them on for about and hour. Remember, womens ski boots will break in about a 1/2 size. However, if they hurt unbearably now, they will hurt on the slopes. If, after an hour the boots still feel good, then you have found the perfect pair of ski boots.
Womens ski boot 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 womens ski boots feel much more comfortable.
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.
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 skies. 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 skiers legs. 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. Most 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.
This is usually found on beginner or intermediate womens ski boots. The ski/hike feature 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. However, many 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 sidecountry skiing.
The high end womens 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 womens 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 encorporate the plush fabric as it doesn't help transfer energy efficiently. However, womens liners are typically considerably warmer than mens liners. Some models have heat moldable liners, which allow for a custom shaped liner and a better fit.
This is probably the most popular features for womens ski boots. Womens ski boots prewired for boot heaters have little heating pads pre-wired under the foot bed of the boot. All you need to do is attach a battery pack to the cord and you can warm toasty feet all day. If you boots do not come pre-wired with boot heaters, they are very easy to add. If the model of womens ski boots you select doesn't come pre-wired for heaters, they can be purchased seperately and are simple to add on.
No two women’s feet are exactly alike. Unfortunately, all womens 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 hill. 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. So if you know you 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.