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Boot Fitting Part 2: Fighting Fit

Updated: Apr 10

PART 2 – TRYING ON, FINISHING, AND MODIFYING

I this long awaited (I assume, I could be wrong) second part to my first article on boot fitting, I explore what to expect to feel from a well fitting pair of boots? What if they fit well but there are a couple of minor points that need to be sorted? All this is now involved in the trying on phase of boot fitting.


 

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You should expect a well fitting ski boot to sit firmly in place across the whole of the foot. In particular, your heel will be held in place, and the midfoot and over the instep will be nestled nicely into the boot – held in place but never tight and never ever uncomfortable. In the shop it is nice and warm, and as a result this is the softest these boots will ever feel; if they are uncomfortable now, its only going to be worse out in the cold on snow.


Your toes should be just about touching the end of the boot, pulling away when you flex forward into your skiing position. If they remain touching the end in this position by a teeny tiny amount then this is generally fine, too – the liner of the boot, which is what the toes are touching against, will bed down overtime and create more space in the boot. This is both a reason why you want your foot to be held really well in place in the shop, but also why you’ll be fine with just a bit of toe touching the end.


Spend about 15 minutes walking around the shop in your boots, flexing in and out of your skiing position as you go. This is generally enough time for any major errors or flaws in the fit of the boot to bring themselves to light. You can very quickly see why it takes some time to find the right boot, if you have to get into and out of every boot and spend 15 minutes chilling in them!


As you flex, consider how easy or difficult it is to bend the boot back and forth. Ski boots have varying flexes over the same model of boot, to accommodate bigger or smaller skiers as well as more aggressive or less aggressive styles. There is no set industry standard for boot flexes, meaning one brands 100 flex boot will be softer than another’s, which will be stiffer than another’s. Generally boots will range from 60 to 160 flex, but for most commercially available considerations you should look at anywhere from 80 to 130.


If you are more petite and ski gently, a lower flex will be right for you. If you are bulkier and/or ski more aggressively, a higher flex is more appropriate. Fundamentally, again it’s a case of trying on boots and flexes to see what works. You should be able to flex the boot comfortably but without falling out the front of the boot. Again, this is the softest the boots will ever be in the warmth of the shop, so if you are struggling to flex in this environment, consider who much more difficult it is going to be on the hill!


 



 

Try on several different pairs with all this in mind, and select the pair of boots that generally fit your feet the best. I emphasise the “generally” here as you may find small niggles in the fit here and there, perhaps a particularly annoying ankle bone or bunion causing some issues as you go. Individual spots like this can be ironed out really easily, but first you need to make sure the boot is the right fit in all the other areas.


Now you can start modifying the boot. The first step is always, always to get a proper footbed made – I expounded on this more in a dedicated pair of articles on the subject, so I’ll add a brief interlude here whilst I go and make a cup of tea, and you can read more on why footbeds are so vital.



Oh, you’re back? Excellent, let’s crack on.


 

After the footbed is made, there are a couple of easy steps that can be done. First of all, your fitter will bung your liners into an over for about five minutes, then make you hop back into the boots. By heating the liners like this, you force them to begin to bed down, creating the same effect as about two weeks skiing does to the liners. You may find that the combination of footbed and bedding in the liners is enough.


If not, and there are still specific issues, then it’s time to crack out the big guns. The boot shells can be heated all over, then re-worn with piling added to particular pressure points. This pushes the shell of the boot out in these areas to create a better fit at critical areas. A word of caution – this will be an uncomfortable experience if required, but well worth it to sort out difficult niggles. Finally, a heat gun and clamp can be used, for extreme examples, as well as cutting holes in the liner.


You can also replace the liner with any number of after-market liners, such as zipfit or, for particularly difficult feet, foam injection moulding. These are liners that are effectively empty bags you put on your feet in the boots, which are then pumped full of foam to form perfectly around the shape of the foot, warts and all (sometimes literally). They provide perfect fit but are very stiff and come with a cost, so are generally reserved for folks with really difficult feet. They are also technically demanding, meaning they tend to only be favoured by experienced fitters who are confident in performing foam injections.



 


 

If you follow all these steps, there's no reason why you shouldn't be walking out of the shop with a really god pair of boots that fit you well and will ski with you for maybe the next decade, if well looked after.


I tend not to advise buying boots online only because the fitting process is so key to getting the right boot; remember, boots are like Harry Potter wands - often they will choose the owner, rather than the other way around. I confess to having bought boots online before, but only after trying on boots in the shop and knowing exactly what I want, and that I don't need any mods performing on the boot.


Don't get too drawn into sales, either. Again, a boot being cheaper than ti was before won't make it magically fit your foot better, and if the fit isn't right then you are setting yourself up for agony on the slopes. Spend the money, get a full price boot, get a full price foot bed, and experience full price skiing.

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