The importance of having a ski boot that fits properly cannot be underestimated. The purpose of a ski boot is to create as direct a connection from your knee to the ski without any unnecessary slippage or movement. If your boot is too loose, your skiing will suffer – and you could hurt yourself. And if your boot is too tight, you’re promising yourself plenty of painful days.
The most common mistake people make is wearing boots that are too big. There are several reasons for this, starting with the fact that folks are used to a loose, comfortable fit in their shoes. As such their initial reaction when the right size ski boot is put on their feet is that it’s too tight. Another reason is that the foam in a ski boot can compress as the day goes and even break down over longer periods of time. And lastly, many skiers don’t realize that as the day goes on, blood begins to partially leave the feet when the boot is buckled tight.
A good fitting boot should be comfortably snug and not sloppy. You should be able to wiggle your toes but not have heel slippage or movement from side to side or forward to back. Be aware that boots come in widths from 95-106mm wide. If you have a wide foot, you probably want to be between 102-106mm; a normal sized foot is in the 100-104mm range; and most narrow feet fit a 98-102mm width. Higher performance boots tend to be narrower with a snugger fit. Before ordering boots, pick a size that matches your foot width as well as length.
Here are my key tips and techniques to ensure a great ski boot fit.
Before trying a boot on, remove the liner from the shell by unbuckling the boot fully and pulling on the back cuff of the liner until it pops out. Then put your foot in the boot’s shell and push your toes up until they touch the front of the boot. Now look at how much space is between your heel and the back of the boot. You’re looking for 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch space, and even less if you are a racer or very high performance skier who likes a very tight fit. If you have more than that, you probably have a boot that is too large.
Slip on the liner while it’s still out of the shell. Your toe should just feather the front of the liner. (This assumes that your foot has stopped growing; a little growing room for kids is fine.) Next look at how the liner is shaped compared to your foot. If any part of your foot is pushing hard or stretching out the sides of the liner you may have a boot that is too narrow. If the liner fits properly, put the boot back together. This can be a little tricky, but it helps if you put the boot shell on a hard surface. Insert one hand into the liner (making a fist), while using your other hand to spread the shell as you push down hard with the liner.
Putting Your Boots on Properly
Now it’s time to put on your boot. Open all the buckles and pull the tongue up slightly. Then spread the sides of the boot while you slide in your foot – you may need to wiggle the tongue to get your foot to feel right. Next, kick your heel down hard on the floor to properly seat your heel in the boot’s heel pocket.
Now start buckling up, starting with the lower buckle on the upper cuff – this helps to lock your heel before tightening the other buckles. Next move to the lower buckles, but don’t buckle them very hard. They should only require a small amount of pressure to buckle and unbuckle. If you have to buckle these hard to get a snug fit, you probably have the wrong size or model of boot. The upper buckles are the ones that really hold your foot in place in the boot. You may need to go back and forth between the 2 upper buckles to get them snug.
Determining a Proper Fit
Now that you have the boot on and snuggly buckled, stand up. This is the part that confuses new skiers the most; your toes should be touching the front the boot. 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.
Still leaning forward, bend your knees and push your shins hard against the front of the boot. 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.
If everything is good so far, walk around in the boots for 10 minutes. This should help determine if the overall fit is right and that you don’t have any severe pressure points. Too really determine if the boots fits, I like to wear them around the house for a couple hours just to be sure they fit. Remember that boots are made of plastic not leather so they don’t really break in much.
If the boots really hurt after wearing them around for a while, they are almost certainly too narrow. And if there are any pressure points squeezing down hard on areas like your heel, instep or arch, then the boot probably isn’t for you as well.
With that said, more advance skiers usually want a very snug fit and most high-end boots will need some custom boot fitting to get them to fit properly. I recommend having that done at the ski hill so that you can ski the boot immediately and then bring it back to the shop for additional minor adjustments. Most major resorts have ski shops that specialize in custom boot fitting.
Good boot fitting is not a mystery if you use these techniques. Skiing is so much more fun when you have a snug, comfortable fitting boot.
Good luck and happy skiing.