First and foremost, ski boots must be comfortable, as you will be wearing them for 7-8 hours at a time. Secondly, the boot must hold your foot firmly in place. Technology has also progressed to match the technique used with shaped skis. Since lateral forces are needed to roll the ski, boots are more rigid laterally using liner and shell reinforcements and provide more flex in the forward direction (to a much lesser extent with racing boots) to lessen the abuse your shins take. Make sure there is even pressure on your shin as you flex forward with no uncomfortable pressure points. Advancements in liner, plastic and shell design also help boots better fit the foot, with easy entry and exit. Higher line models also have thermally moldable liners that mold to the shape of your foot. To increase comfort, most shops will also provide custom foot beds to match the shape of your foot. In addition, it is important that your boots fit snugly (but no pressure points) in the shop because they will expand after the first few runs and days of skiing (very tip of your big toe may slightly touch the front of the boots). Your boot specialist will explain this in further detail. Keep in mind that no boot will fit absolutely perfect but your boot specialist has many tools to work out these little nuances. Ensure that this support comes free with the purchase of the boot in the form of a guarantee. Last but not least, if your ankle’s forward flexure is limited (i.e. your ability to lean forward bending at the ankle – picture a ski jumper), you may want to consider heel lifts to minimize pressure on the arches of your feet. Your boot fit specialist can measure this flexure and make a recommendation.
The most comprehensive site on boot fitting is America’s Best Bootfitters. Before you buy, it is strongly recommended that you visit this site, read the reviews and then purchase your boots from a shop certified America’s Best Bootfitters. As you will read, the boot specialists at these shops are trained at MasterFit University and the knowledge they receive makes all the difference in helping you find the most comfortable boots. I have also used boot shops that consult with foot doctors which have been excellent. Furthermore, I have listed boot manufacturers below for reference so you can get familiar with offerings. Just google website as links frequently change.
Alpina | Atomic | Dalbello | Daleboot | Dolomite | Fischer
Head | Lange | Nordica | Rossignol | Salomon | Tecnica
Once you purchase your boots, there are a few tips to maximize comfort.
- The only piece of clothing in the boot should be your sock. It is best to keep all other clothing such as long underwear, pants, etc. out of the boot.
- Do not leave your boots in an unheated area overnight, as it will cause the boots to become significantly stiffer and more difficult to put on. This also means your feet will take longer to warm up. Furthermore, try to keep the boots in the cabin of the car on your ride to the mountain if more than a few minutes away.
- Make sure your socks are not bunched up.
If you haven’t already done so, purchase a bootstrap or bag to carry your boots with. This makes a huge difference when lugging your equipment from the car to the slopes.
Personal Experience …
Shortly after I purchased a new pair of boots, I began having severe pain in my foot arches and less severe pain in my shins. I went to several places over the course of two years to have the problem resolved but no one was able to solve it. After the recommendation from a friend, I tried Northern Ski Works at Killington, Vermont. To my surprise, their boot specialist identified the problem causing the pain in my arches within 1-minute … heel lifts were required to compensate for the limited flexure in my ankles. This is no joke! The boot specialist then began working on the pain in my shins. However, before he got too far I decided to try on some new boots because I began realize all the advancements made in the technology (from the boots I owned) from people trying boots on around me. After I explained to the boot specialist my skill level and the terrain I liked to ski, he measured my foot and selected a pair of boots for me to try. Sure enough, they fit like a glove (really a night and day difference from my previous boots). Just to be sure, I tried on several other models (mostly higher end) and found the first pair was the best. To date, this has been my most comfortable pair of boots and the only thing I am considering is getting a custom foot bed to maximize comfort.