Ski Boot Fitting: How Are Boots Supposed to Fit

Posted November 30, 2015 @ 1:48pm | by George Michaelsen

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Well, you are either a loyal reader of our blog or you just typed something into Google asking a question along the lines of; 'Are my ski boots the correct size?' or 'How should ski boots fit?'.

You are probably asking yourself and Google that question because of at least one of the following questions:

• 'Should my toes go all the way to the front of the boot and feel pressured/kinda curled when I first put the boot on?'

Yes! When you first put a ski boot on your foot will go all the way to the front and it'll feel tight in the toes.  This is especially true with ski boots that are really easy to get on.  Don't worry once you get your heel seated in the pocket it'll feel much better.

Give your heel a little kick on the ground (Don't do this on your Mom's nice hardwood floors) buckle the top buckles, then stand up flex forward then proceed to buckle up the bottom ones and then the power strap at the top.  When you're flexed forward in the boot with some pressure on your shins you'll be able to move your toes a little bit - nothing crazy like when you're in a shoe, the shoe will move too.

'When I flex forward in the boots like I'm in a Ski position, I feel my heel slide back and I can move my toes more, that's good right?'

That's great!  You don't want to be swimming in there though.  When you're standing up tall in the ski boots feeling the upper cuff on the back of your calves, your toes should touch the front.  

'When I stand up tall in the boots my toes don't touch the front and when I'm flexed forward I feel like I'm swimming, are my boots too big?'

If you feel like your swimming in a pair of ski boots than yes, they are too big.  Swimming isn't a word you want to use when describing a good fit.  

'I think my ski boots are the right size, but not sure.  How do I shell fit my ski boots?'

Shell fitting is done to make sure that a boot is not too big or too small.  To shell fit, take the liners out of the ski boots.  Put your feet in the boots with a ski sock on, and put your toes all the way to the front so they are just touching.  What we want to measure is the space behind your heel and the shell.  If you have more than 2cm (a little less than an inch) behind your heel your ski boots are too big.  If you have 1.5 - 2cm of space behind your heel it's the right size.  (Everyones fingers are different sizes, never been a fan of the '1 finger/2 finger fit rule.') 

Generally speaking.. The less space you have between your foot and the shell the more performance you will get and the less comfort you will have.  However the snugger the shell the less you'll have to worry about liners packing out which makes sense for skiers that ski often and aggressively that want their ski boots to last a while.  Most ski boots in the $399 - $599 range will last about 80 – 100 days or so of skiing before starting to feel too loose. (Depending of course on how much abuse you've given them, storage and general care.)

*Note: Some skiers like me prefer a shell fit with 1 cm of space or less behind the heel.  I like a really snug fit in my boots, I also have feet that are 106mm wide and am in Non-stretched 100mm lasted boots. I am of the small percentage of skiers that prefer this.  

• 'I can lift my heel when I'm buckled down is that ok?'

Yes, you're going to be able to lift your heel if you try to stand on your toes in the boots.  The reason you're able to lift your heel is because your foot is more flexible than the ski boot.  If you can't lift your heel that's not a bad thing, it's more likely that you are sized down in your boots or you have a less flexible foot.

If you are flexing forward in the boot and your heel lifts - that is most likely due to having less range of motion in your ankle.  That doesn't mean that it's the wrong boot you just need more ramp angle in the ski boot, if you're in boston we can fix that for you at our store.

'When I'm out on the mountain skiing I get an awful cramping and burning under the arches of my foot, is it the boots?'

Are you skiing with aftermarket or custom footbeds in your ski boots? If the answer to that question is 'No' than you should get some.  If your ski boots fit really pretty well when you tried them on and then started to have fit/pain problems out on the hill then you should definitely invest in some good footbeds.  

Good footbeds especially custom one's will solve almost all fit issues that you may be having including: toes jamming, aching arches, ankle pain, cold feet and shin bang.  

If you do have a pair of custom footbeds in your current boots and are still getting that pain underneath your arches.  Start wearing footbeds in your everyday shoes and/or wear a decent pair of shoes with good support like a running or athletic shoe.  Getting used to support will help you out greatly and your feet won't be as cramped when it's time to get on the slopes.

Most ski boot fitting issues can be remedied by being in the correct size ski boot with 1.5 - 2cm shell fit and a good aftermarket footbed.  The footbeds job is to get your foot to sit properly in the ski boot by supporting your foot where it needs it.  Stock footbeds that come with your ski boots don't provide this.  Not only will footbeds help you feel more comfortable they will help your performance on the hill as well.

So if you're having some fit issues with your ski boots check size and footbeds first, if you've exhausted those 2 options you may have a footbed that is too rigid or flexible for your foot.  Flexible arches need more rigid foot beds, rigid arches need more flexible footbeds that act more like a suspension.   If the footbed flexiblity doesn't line up with the flexiblity of your feet your feet are probably in pain - we can fix that.   

If you are still getting that pain, it would be a good idea to ‘roll out’ your arches before going skiing.  Put a ball (lacrosse ball preferred) on the floor and roll it back and forth underneath your foot while standing – one foot at a time, 2 – 3 minutes each foot will help a ton .  It’s honestly not a bad idea to regardless of having pain or not, having your feet more ‘warmed up’ before skiing is always good.

*Note: Footbeds are interchangeable between different ski boots.  However, they will most likely need to re-shaped to your new ski boots.  There can be an issue if you are going from a performance/race fit to a more comfortable fit since the foot bed will most likely be too small.  You can really only make a footbed smaller not bigger, get it?

'How do I find a good bootfitter?'

Give us a call, if your not local to us in Boston, we'll point you to some great shops in your area that can make you happier in your ski boots.

• 'My friends an expert, I'll bring em', he or she will help me pick out ski boots.'

Is your friend a bootfitter?  If the answer is 'No' than he or she doesn't know as much about ski boots as the Boot Fitter you are going to see and talk to.  After you've found a reputable shop, listen to the bootfitter.  More often than not your friend just wants to justify their own ski boot purchase by having you get in a similar pair.

Bottom line: Make sure your ski boots are the right size and when in doubt get a pair of footbeds that makes sense for your arch height, length and flexibility/rigidity of your foot.

Ski Boot Sizing Chart

Ski Boot Technology Explained ← Must read for Ski Boot Geeks.

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