We Know: How to Buy Ski Boots


Why is having the Right Ski Boots so Important?

More than most sports, skiing requires footgear that fit perfectly for you, for your physical quirks and habits, and for the sport of skiing. Most people have boots custom-fitted. This is how to have it done.


What Should Ski Boots Be Like?

Ski boots have a stiff (or at least firm) outer shell for support and a good connection to your ski, and a soft padded inner boot liner to cushion your foot.

Rear entry boots (slide foot in from behind, fasten two buckles) are easier to put on, but don't give the best support. Top entry boots (slide foot in from top, fasten several buckles) are considerably harder to put on properly, but give better support. Mid-entry boots that have both rear and top entry fall somewhere in between.

For expert skiers, foot comfort and alignment are critical to a balanced stance, and thus to perfect performance.

Why Be So Picky About The Boots?

In skiing, it's all about the turn, and the turn always starts at the feet. If your boots don't fit right, your turns will be awkward, and you'll never master the basic moves of skiing.

For expert skiers, foot comfort and alignment are critical to a balanced stance, and thus to perfect performance.

First Step: Know What You Need

You need to have stability for your feet in order to ski expertly. A strong and stable foot placement with proper balance eliminates little flaws that divide an average skier from a great one. A really good boot fitter can assess your body and your stance and help you find the perfect boot.

First, stand before a mirror and slowly bring your legs together. Do your knees touch before your ankles, or your ankles before your knees? Ideally, you want your knees to touch slightly before your ankles for skiing. Too much is not good, though. You'll want to discuss any problems with your fitter.

Next test is the knee tracking test. Find a partner who can help measure first, then stand with your feet about six to eight inches apart. Measure this distance. Flex the knees forward, keeping your heels on the ground, and measure the distance again. The distance should be about the same both times; if not, you need to tell your fitter the beginning and ending measurements so he or she can adjust your foot bed for proper support.

Now look at how far your knees go beyond the base of your big toe. If they stop at the instep or go well past the toe, you need your boots flex-tuned. Make a note of this as well.

Second Step: Find a Good Fitter

With the information you've gathered and ski socks you'll be wearing with your boots, go to a good ski shop -- one with trained and experienced ski boot fitters on staff. You'll find this in most ski resort towns and larger cities. If you can't find one in your town, don't settle for the sporting goods shop!

You should be ready to spend three to four hours for a proper fit, but this will be a pair of boots that will last you for as long as the next decade.

Look for a boot you can buckle in the morning and rarely need to adjust during the day. There should be absolutely no pain or pinching. The boots should never be tight, there should be no pressure points, and your feet should stay comfortable, not numb or cold. They should be so comfortable you don't mind wearing them when you take a break from skiing. Ideally, they should feel like an extension of your foot, and you should have such a close connection between the boot and the ski that a slight roll of your foot gets an instantaneous response.

The boots should fit comfortably with your skiing socks. And your toes should just touch the tip of the boot when you stand up straight, but scoot back slightly with your heel touching the back of the boot when you flex your knees slightly.

Make sure your boot fitter also shows you all the adjustments associated with the boot: the power strap, flex and forward lean adjustments, lateral upper-cuff adjustment, ramp angle adjustment, and ski-walk adjustment.

If you pay well for boots like this and they fail to satisfy you in any way, don't be afraid to go back to the ski shop and have them readjusted. The staff should take care of this for free.


Ski Boot Trends

Shaped skis have encouraged ski boot designers to build natural flex into the designs of boots. This means boots today are softer and more comfortable, but also enable you to handle skiing more deftly.

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