They’re your most important piece of ski equipment, yet for many people, ski boots are a mystery. Because your footwear has so much to do with performance (the pressure your booted foot exerts controls the skis), it’s important to choose ski boots that fits properly — and be committed to a refinement process so they fit perfectly.
Here are some tips from Kevin Jordan, Snowmass Children’s and Teen Coordinator and a seasoned bootfitting pro.
What to Know Before You Buy Or Rent
First of all, manage your expectations. Ski boots are not designed to be as comfortable as bedroom slippers. For proper performance, ski boots should feel tight.
Airplane travel produces swollen feet, so wait until the next day to hit the rental shop. If that’s not possible, consider one size smaller, or better yet, get fitted at your local ski shop before your trip.
How To Fit a Boot
Figuring out the correct size boot is called shell sizing. Take out the liner and step into the shell so your toes are just touching the plastic. Have someone else insert two fingers behind your heel. A two-finger width is just right — one finger is too tight; three means the boot is too loose.
Reinsert the shell, and buckle up. Jordan recommends a “top-down” approach — secure the power strap first, then the top buckle, and so on down. The buckles should be tight, but not cut off circulation. For most people, the buckles will clip somewhere in the middle — adjust for thin calves or wide feet.
You should be able to wiggle your toes but not lift your heel. In a four-buckle boot, the two middle buckles are the most important for holding your foot in the proper position.
Once out in the cold, you will probably need to tighten the buckles. At the top of the first lift, rebuckle, this time from the bottom up.
Understand that a properly fitted boot is a process, and a ski shop or custom bootfitter can help. “The mold is for the average person, but almost no one’s foot is average,” says Jordan.
Hot spots due to the natural shape of your feet (high arches or “sixth toes,” for example) can be resolved by punching out the shell in those areas.
Custom footbeds help properly position the foot in the boot, improving performance.
If you’re bowlegged or knock-kneed (most people are, to some extent), you might have trouble getting your skis on edge. Canting — adjusting the boots to achieve a neutral stance — will help.
If you’re renting, know that Four Mountain Sports invests in the highest quality ski boots, and will swap out your boots until they feel just right.
But if there’s one piece of equipment to invest in, it’s ski boots. Even if you ski just one week per season, properly fitting boots will last many, many years, notes Jordan.
“Having the right fit from the get-go is the right thing to do, and will serve you in the long run,” he says.