How To Select Ski Boots

By Rick Pasturczak at Alpine Accessories

The ski boot is your most important component of your ski equipment. Most people think that boots are the most important component because of comfort. While your boots must be comfortable, it’s your boots that relays feedback on snow conditions from your skis so you can react properly. And it’s the boot’s flex (stiffness) that keeps you balanced from tip to tail on the ski for ease of turning, control, and response. Wrong fit = lack of response and comfort. Wrong flex = lack of control.

It’s estimated over 50% of ski boots are too big. The reason is due to the forward lean of the boot. When you first put your foot in a boot, the forward lean does not allow your heel to fall into the heel pocket which allows your toes to touch the front making you think the boots are too small. So they go larger before giving the boot a chance to fit properly. Keep in mind, a boot gets about ½ size larger as it breaks in.

How do you select a ski boot?

  1. You start with shell shape sizing Boot hard shells come in different widths, heights, and shapes. Your overall foot length, arch (heel to ball of foot), instep, and width should be measured and be matched to the proper shell shape. Example; a wider foot should be in a wider shell. Even though you may have the same length as someone else, your foot shape will probably be different. Ever hear someone say I love my boots? It’s usually due to the fact their foot is shaped according to the shape of the shell.
  2. Don’t go too big Many people think bigger is more comfortable. When in fact, too big allows your foot to move around in the boot creating discomfort and a loss of control. And boots have a midsole point which line up with the balance point on your skis. If you’re boots are too big, your foot will be farther back in the boot making you behind the skis balance point making your skis more difficult to turn.
  3. Flex or Stiffness While sizing is important to comfort, flex is important to control. Boots range in flex, or stiffness, from 40 to 150 flex. It’s the flex that help you keep your weight balanced from tip to tail on your skis. Too soft of boot and you’ll get too far forward allowing your tails to wash out and not getting you back in position making control more difficult. Too stiff of boot stops you from getting your weight forward, making your skis more difficult to turn. Make sure to get a flex where your knee moves indoors about 5 inches forward. More than 5 inches, go stiffer. Less than 5 inches, go softer.
    TIP: Keep in mind a 90 flex is softer than a 110 flex in the same manufacture. But flex can vary from one manufacture to another. In other words, a 90 flex from Tecnica may be different than a 90 flex from Salomon. So make sure to try them on and flex.
  4. Personalized fitting Even though some people have the same length of foot, not all feet are shaped the same. For this reason, boot liners should be heated to 150 degrees so they soften and take an impression of your foot for a better fit. And now, many boot shells must be heated to take an impression of your foot and to adjust the shaft alignment.
  5. Shaft alighnment (or canting) Some people are bow legged, some knock kneed. This effects how your skis lay flat from edge to edge on the snow. It’s important to have this checked or you could be riding on the outside or inside edge making turning, and control more difficult.
  6. Custom insoles / orthotics The majority of us are pronated which means your lower leg is slightly aligned to the inside of your foot. Then when you flex forward, (as you do in skiing) your arch can collapse which allows your foot to roll to the inside. Many times this movement causes pain, but even if the pronation is not causing pain, this rolling creates a lack of response. A custom insole, or orthotic, is designed to fit under your foot and support the heel and arch from rolling giving you more comfort and control.
To achieve the best boot for yourself, you must visit a shop with a qualified, experienced boot fitter to be measured properly and find your flex. Once you have the proper shell shape and flex, then the boot liners, and sometimes the shell, must be heated to be shaped to the shape of your foot for the best fit. Once you have properly fitted boots, and the correct flex, you’ll enjoy skiing more.