Ski Boot Fitting Guide
BOOT FITTING AIDS
Eighty-five-percent of boot fitting is simple cause and effect...problem solving which can be accomplished with well made footbeds and/or basic boot fit aids. The remaining 15% may require some special tools, fit aids, or diagnostic skills (such as recognizing the cause of the problem to be a railed ski, mismounted ski binding, or other cause not actually involving the boot or foot).
Boot fit aids should be viewed as tools. Don't be afraid to modify them or use them in areas that they weren't specifically designed for.
- Heel lifts raise the foot which changes the fit in several places...including the ankle bones, instep, arch, and the calf at the top of the boot. They can also help move a skier's weight forward into a more aggressive stance. Heel lifts should be placed between the boot liner and the footboard of the boot shell.
- Heel wedges are usually used for pronation under the heel, positioned thick side to the inside. It can also be used under the big toe and first metatarsal head to take up slack there for better edging.
- Tongue pads come in various sizes, from small pads to take care of localized problems like bone spurs, to full-length pads which take up volume and help eliminate shin bang.
- Insole shims are place between the boot liner and the footboard of the boot shell, they are a great way to reduce volume in boots that are too big or that have packed out over time. Sold in a couple thicknesses and various sizes. Size up if unsure because you can easily trim them down.
- Insoles or footbeds cushion hot spots on the bottom of the feet, support arches, keep feet in a neutral position and insulate from the cold. Always be sure to use quality insoles or footbeds to avoid compression and provide dependable support. One of the best things you can do to improve the fit of your boots is to replace the stock insole with a quality off-the-shelf insole or a custom footbed.
- Side pads such as narrowing pads, C-pads, L-pads, modified heel wraps, etc., are used to take up slack and support the foot in cases of narrow heels, pronation, etc. They can be customized (with sanding, etc.) to give space to ankle bones, naviculars, etc. If only one per foot is used, place it on the inside of the foot. Taper the edge, and stick it in position to the outside of the boot liner.
- Instep pads can be fashioned from foam sheets and are used to hold the foot down and back. They will help take pressure off of the surf bump, shin, and toes. After they have been tested, build them into the tongue if possible.
Most foam boot fitting pads have an adhesive back, that is pretty darn sticky. You can increase the initial stickiness by heating the back of the pad and your boot liner with a hair dryer or heat gun prior to applying. If you feel you need to glue them in place, use quality boot fitting cement, like Barge. Clean both faces, apply cement, let dry, put pieces together, and hammer or squeeze securely.
Pronation -The Biggest Culprit
The most common boot fitting problem is pronation of the foot. Being able to recognize and handle pronation will resolve 80% of fit problems. Although pronation appears to be a simple problem of a flat foot...where the foot rolls to the inside and the instep nearly disappears...there is, in reality, much more going on. First, the bottom of the foot tries to turn to the outside while the front of the foot moves to the outside and up. These motions rotate the lower legs to the inside and put additional lateral stress on the knees. You are now confronted with a foot that is both misaligned and misshaped...and this creates misfunction. Some pain may appear behind the small toe. The long toe can also hurt , because pronation makes a foot not only wider, but longer as well, and the long toe may jam against the end of the boot. Three bones on the inside of the foot...the ankle, navicular, and talus, can be a problem- the latter only sticking out during pronation. The arch may cramp, irritation at the back of the heel is common, there can also be shin bite because of the leg rotation, and cold feet are not uncommon due to pinched vessels.
When confronted with a pronated foot, the boot you purchase becomes more critical. You want a boot that holds the foot snug and in alignment. If the boot lacks some containment, it can be augmented with side pads (narrowing pads, C-pads, etc.) on the inside of the foot, and heel wedges placed under the heel and metatarsal heads, positioned thick side to the inside under the insole. The ultimate aid is a well-built orthotic or custom insole.
At the opposite end of this spectrum is the foot that has rolled to the outside. Unlike the loose pronated foot, it is locked and rigid. It can't be reshaped, to the boot has to be reshaped instead. Start with the foot-bed to redistribute pressure, then reshape the tongue to accommodate the high instep. This is one of the toughest problems to take care of. Fortunately, however, it is much more uncommon and not encountered nearly as frequently as a pronated foot.
GOOD BOOT FIT
Some good questions to ask when fitting ski boots are...
"Starting at the front of the boot and moving to the rear, you should have the following sensations: Your toes should be free to move, your midfoot should be comfortably supported, and the heel and ankle area should be securely supported with a very precise fit." If any of these criteria are not met, you should try another boot model and then, if necessary, proceed with fit alterations.
-Bruce B., Nordica USA
FINDING A GOOD BOOT-FITTER
Check out the following website for a list of shops with boot-fitters who have recently undergone professional training. MasterFit
Are you looking for a certified bootfitter in your local area? Go to www.bootfitters.com/index.html and click on "Find a Certified Shop".
FOOTBED & FLEX TIPS
"Before installing a footbed in a boot, lay it inside the boot shell after removing the inner boot. When centered in the well of the boot shell, the footbed should sit at least 1/4" away from the shell on all sides. Trim the footbed until that margin is achieved, or the boot will deform the footbed. A skier should be able to flex their ankles (and therefore their shins) forward at least 10-12° from vertical when in a buckled ski boot. If you can't, try using a heel lift to increase forward lean position. Another reason is a very stiff boot...but this can be stretched at a good shop to allow more forward flex."
-Bob G., Taos, NM
"Getting a little extra ankle bone or bone spur room in ski boots can sometimes be done inexpensively. Use a small 2" or 3" c-clamp and screw it down gently but firmly in the ankle bone area of your inner boot. It'll move or flatten the flow foam out of that area and may give you the needed space."
-Ron K., Snowbird, UT.
"Anyone who's struggled to remove footbeds from alpine ski boots knows how difficult it can be...screwdrivers don't work well and can damage the boot liner. An old bicycle spoke (14 gauge works well) can be fashioned into an ideal footbed removing tool. It costs about a dime and takes 5 minutes to bend into shape with pliers. After bending, file any rough ends smooth. Slide the hook end down under the arch of the footbed, then turn the hook end inward and slide it back under the footbed heel. Slip a finger through the tool loop and pull the footbed out...simple."
-Norman H., Northville, MI
"For inner ski boot liner build-ups and repairs I use silicone caulk. It sticks anywhere, remains flexible, can be trimmed with a sharp knife, and is even available in basic black for that professional look. It makes good heel lifts, too, with a hand-made mold while providing a little cushion in the bumps."
-Harvey W., Haslett, MI
BOOT STRETCHING & GRINDING
These are operations that require special tools usually found only in pro ski shops. Work with a shop that specializes in custom boot-fitting whenever possible...it may cost a little more, but good workmanship is worth it.
HEEL LIFTING VS. LOWERING?
We hear from some boot gurus that some World Cup alpine racers strive to lower...rather than raise...the ramp angle in their ski boots. In other words, they want to ski in boots where the heel is not raised, but at the same level or lower than their toes. Where this idea is going to end up we don't know yet...but if you have input, we'd like to hear...call or drop us a line.
"It has been my experience that, to understand something almost imperceptible, it sometimes helps to exaggerate the situation. If you raise your toes and balls of the feet up, the body's natural compensation is to ease forward. The opposite is also true...raise the heels, and the compensation is to ease back. Where would you wish your body to naturally, automatically and without conscious thought or intention to go if you were barrelling down a race course at mach 3? These racers, no doubt, want their heels down, so they'll naturally put more shin against the tongue, more pressure on the ski tip."
-Randy V., IA
BUNION BOOT FIT REMEDY
"I have a bunion on my foot near my big toe, and pressure on it in my ski boot was causing pain. I removed the boot liner and, with my foot in it, marked the area with a felt-tip pen. Using an exacto razor knife, I cut around the marked area on the outside of the liner, being careful not to penetrate the liner interior material. This cutout formed a circular pocket for my bunion to ‘sit’ in. I covered the outside of the boot liner in this area with duct tape to keep moisture out.
I still needed some additional room, however, so I marked the outside of the boot shell in this area, warmed it with a heat gun, and was able to bulge out the softened shell by pressing out with a rounded object from inside the shell. I held this until the shell cooled and was left with a slight bump on the shell. Now the fit is perfect. [A ski shop can do this for you, too, of course if you have concerns about overheating the boot shell - ed.]
After finding my ankle bones were hurting, I also did cutouts in my liner, but filled these with a very soft foam (actually, make-up sponges from a drug store) and covered the outside of the liner in this area with duct tape again. Now I have custom soft-formed pockets to gently cradle my ankle bones, which also help lock the liner around my ankles for a snugger fit as well."
- Michael M., Long Island, NY
Here's a tip to help those who suffer from cold feet:
1) Apply hand lotion to your feet before putting on ski boots. Make sure to apply it between your toes too. This will help keep your body heat in that area stable.
2) Next, apply liberal amounts of baby powder to your feet...and between your toes. This will help keep the feet dry if they get sweaty.
3) After putting your socks on, apply baby powder to the insides of your boots. This is added protection against wetness.
Remember...warm feet means more time on the slopes to enjoy the great tuning job you. ve done on your gear!
-Dan N., Brighton, MI
To avoid wet feet due to perspiration I spray them lightly with anti-perspirant...then wait for them to dry before putting on my socks.
-Marty S., Arvada, CO
A BONNIE BOOT DRYER
I came across my wife's old bonnet-type hair dryer sitting in the basement. I built a wood box to hold the dryer unit, connected the dryer hose to two pieces of PVC pipe that project about 8" straight up out of the box, and now have my own ski boot and glove dryer. The dryer has good air flow and multiple heat settings...use a low one for safest drying.
-Eric A., Fairview, PA
BOOT HEATER TIP
Attach the battery pack for your ski boot heater to a warm place on your body...on your belt, in a parka pocket, etc. The batteries will last longer during the day.
-Harvey W., Haslett, MI
HOME BOOT DRYER
An inexpensive but effective ski boot and glove dryer is the exhaust vent on most canister type vacuum cleaners. Attach the hose to this vent and direct room temperature air inside the boot or glove. It makes some noise, but only takes a few minutes and doesn't hurt the vacuum cleaner or your ski equipment.
-Dirk S., Highland Park, IL
WARM FEET & HANDS
If your hands or feet get cold because of perspiration, apply a little anti-perspirant or baby powder to them beforehand. If they get cold because of poor circulation (not caused by tight boot or glove fit), sprinkle on just a little cayenne powder...available at grocery or health food stores. Be careful not to use too much, though, and wash it off after skiing or boarding...otherwise the heated feeling may persist for a few days.
-Glen L., Travis AFB, CA
FISHY BOOT DRYER
I use an aquarium tank air pump (about $20 from a pet shop) with extended plastic tubing as a boot dryer. It pumps room temperature air into wet boots and runs quietly.
-Alan S., St. Louis, MO
For warmer feet, I custom cut an insole from a small square of 1/8”-thick “radiant infloor heating pad”...which is a bubble pad sandwiched by silver thermal wrap. I place it between my boot insole and the plastic boot sole. It provides insulation plus helps reflect heat that my foot would otherwise lose. It’s thin enough to not affect my boot fit and is very inexpensive.
-Mike M., Fredericton, NB, Canada
CRACKED BOOT REPAIR
I have a ski boot that’s developed a crack in the hard shell. It’s not in a major structural part of the boot, but it’s in a place where flexing occurs, and the crack has gotten longer.
I’m thinking of drilling a small hole at the end of the crack to help stop it, then use some sort of adhesive to try to close the crack itself, or use some sort of fiber tape that could then be glued over the crack. The crack is fairly clean, so there isn’t much of a gap to fill. What do you think?
- Dave B.
Drilling a small hole at the end of the crack is the best remedy we’re aware of. This will often stop the crack from getting longer in newer boots...altho boot shells that are older (usually more brittle) can be problematic. Gluing the crack will probably not stop it from getting longer, but may help seal out water. Epoxy is too brittle, and cyanoacrylate (superglue) may have a damaging reaction with the shell material. You could try urethane glue and see if this stays put, or silicone caulking to help keep water out. As for a fiber tape, we don’t know since we’ve never tried this approach. A standard filament tape from the hardware store might help seal out water, as would duct tape...at least temporarily. Any other kind of tape (especially stiffer) would probably be difficult to keep in a creased area, and could also interfere with the present flex of your boot...so you may not have success with this.
Lastly, if your boots are still under warranty, the manufacturer might replace either the shell, or even both boot shells. If they aren’t under warranty, then perhaps they would let you purchase a replacement shell. It might be worth a try...
SKI BOOT BUYING TIPS
A) Don't be in a hurry. Try on at least several boot models. When you narrow your choice down to two models, wear one model on one foot and the other model on your other foot. Stand and walk around in 'em for 15-20 minutes to see if the boots loosen up or pressure points develop.
B) Since feet tend to spread during the day, try boots on in the afternoon when they are largest. Don't try boots on after skiing that same day in your old boots because your feet may be sore and give you incorrect pressure point feedback.
C) To make sure you get the right size, pull out the inner boot and stand in the boot shell...this provides more accurate sizing than any foot-measuring device. Shell sizes do not usually get smaller with every shoe size, only the inner boot does...so see if you can fit comfortably in the next smaller shell size.
D) Wear your regular ski socks, long underwear, and ski pants when trying on new boots.
E) To help determine if you should get custom insoles or footbeds, remove the inner boot, slip the new boot footbed in the shell and stand on it. If you have a hard time balancing on one foot in the boot shell, you're a good candidate for custom insoles. Remember, bootfitting is the art of marrying a soft, flexible foot to a hard rigid shell...the footbed plays a critical part in helping to make a foot more rigid in a supportive, comfortable way.
F) If possible, demo the boots before you buy. Cold temperatures can make a boot much stiffer and therefore feel different. On-snow testing is always the truest test.
To determine if a new ski boot is the right size for you, remove the inner boot from the hard shell, then slide your bare foot into the hard, empty and probably cold shell. If the size is right, you won't be able to fit more than two fingers behind the heel when your toes are touching the end of the boot. If you can fit three fingers, move down a half size...if you can't fit one finger, move up a half size.
Boot sizing can be real confusing since there's so danged many standards...US, European, mondopoint, etc. Mondopoint's the international metric sizing system used by most boot manufacturers. But, despite even this standardization, finding the right fit is still a bit of a crap shoot. This is affected by different 'interpretations' of the same size by different manufacturers, or even the density of the foam in boot liners. So use these figures as just a starting point to begin your hunt for the right boot, and go from there. Remember, it' s best to work with a good boot fitter to find boots that fit snugly without causing pain, regardless of the size marked on the boot shell.
men women mondo- europe u.k.
(usa & canada) point
4 5 22 35 3
5 6 23 36.5 4
6 7 24 38 5
7 8 25 39 6
8 9 26 40.5 7
9 10 27 42 8
10 11 28 43 9
11 12 29 44.5 10
12 13 30 45.5 11
13 31 47 12
14 32 48 13
15 33 49 14
BOOT SIZING TIPS
When fitting alpine ski boots, your heel should be held down and back when your knees flex forward...even if you can get heel lift pushing up from the ball of your foot. Also, your foot should feel snug without tightening buckles all the way down.
If you feel tingling, numbness, or hot spots in your feet, check for wrinkles in your socks...or try switching to a better quality insole to reposition your foot in the boot.
Your toes should have room to wiggle in a ski boot. It's OK if they touch the end of the boot when you stand upright, just be sure they pull back when the boot is buckled and your knees are flexed forward.
RACE BOOT FACTS
Alpine racers use a smaller boot than the average skier to obtain the most snug and powerful fit. As a result, they usually need boot shells ground or stretched more frequently. Also, boot shell and liner height should match the tibia bone length of a racer. Tommy Moe's boot shell and liner top are actually lower than what comes on a stock boot.
On the average, World Cup alpine racers need their boots refit about every 20 days of skiing due to boot wear and degradation.
-Kelly T., Lange Race Bootfitter
Alpine ski boot shells invariably become stiffer as temperatures drop. If you want to simulate how stiff your boots will feel in freezing conditions without waiting for winter, try this at the ski shop or home. Slip 'em on and check how easily (or not) they flex at room temperature. Then blast 'em with a CO2 fire extinguisher...it'll chill the shells big time (this technique also works great for cooling beer bottles). Now check the flex again and see if it suits your skiing needs. Oh yeah, don't forget to wash off your boots afterwards, otherwise they'll look a bit strange in the lift line. And no, this won't hurt plastic shell material. Or...you could just chuck them in the freezer for awhile, not quite as dramatic but it does the trick too.
Many moons ago, canting was an operation commonly performed for bow-legged or knock-kneed skiers in specialty shops to get their skis to sit flat (instead of on an inside or outside edge) in the snow. Back then, few ski boots were made with upper cuffs that adjusted side-to-side...this often resulted in skiers who, when standing on their skis in snow, had more pressure on the inside or outside edge instead of equal pressure on both. To correct this, technicians measured skiers on special teeter-totter devices that indicated how much correction was necessary, and then cut and installed cant strips (stiff plastic wedges) under their ski bindings to compensate, and achieve a flat stance.
Nowadays, the upper cuffs on most ski boots can be adjusted somewhat to the inside or outside to compensate for knock-kneed and bow-legged skiers... and better orthotics are available to alleviate many pronation and supination problems. Together, these corrective measures have resolved many alignment problems to the point where canting has slipped into relative obscurity.
In their book 'The Athletic Skier', authors Warren Witherell and David Evrard have again taken a hard look at canting, and raised some questions in the process. But before going deeper into it, let's take a moment to summarize the steps necessary to achieve optimal boot fit and stance alignment...
1. First, have your feet checked by a trained bootfitter or a board-certified pedorthist (preferably one who skis). They can advise and provide footbeds to correct for pronation, supination or other conditions. This might range from an off-the-shelf model to custom orthotics. Well-made, supportive footbeds are always an added expense when buying boots (unless you already own a set), but the returns are commensurate with the additional comfort and control they provide.
2. When purchasing boots, remove the inner liner and stand barefoot atop your footbeds inside the boot. Have the bootfitter check the upper boot cuff position relative to your calf and lower leg while standing in a balanced skiing position. The bootfitter should adjust the upper cuff as necessary to center your lower leg in relation to the upper cuff. These two steps will often take care of many stance alignment and minor canting needs.
3. If further correction is required, cant strips are usually installed under the bindings (or, in rare situations, boot soles are ground to achieve the same results...but be extremely wary since this can seriously hamper safe binding operation as well as reduce boot life).
I'm a disabled skier and it's especially hard for me to clean snow off my boot sole before stepping in my bindings. I spray silicone on my boot sole bottoms every few days of skiing which causes snow and ice to fall off easily...and boy, is it worth it! (ed. note, silicone can affect the release of your bindings, it can make the boots release easier than you want).
-Klaudia B., San Marcos, CA
SNOW UNDER YOUR BOOTS?
I'm looking for something to clean snow off the bottom of my K2 snowboard boots so I don't have to bend over and clean it off by hand...otherwise it's tough to get in my step-in bindings. Got any ideas?
Well, Paul, we've seen some boot sole scrapers you can glue on your board, but they looked a little cheesy and wouldn't dig out snow packed up underfoot. So we recommend spraying both your boot soles and snowboard bindings with silicone...this'll help as much as anything to keep snow from sticking in the first place.
Telemark and nordic skiers sometimes find ice builds up under the ball of their boots. To prevent this, I spray some PAM (cooking oil in a spray can) on the boot sole and ski top and binding here. It's better than many silicone or solvent sprays since it won't harm the boots or environment.
-Annie W., Salt Lake City, UT
Sharp edges on snowboards can cut through your soft snowboard boots when you rest the board over your free boot while riding a chairlift. Apply a strip of duct tape over your laces to protect the boot and laces from this.
When I get dressed in race or locker rooms at ski lodges, the floors are often wet (or soaked) from people coming and going. My tip is to get a plastic food tray from the cafeteria to stand on while getting dressed. It may save you from wet feet and a soggy spandex race suit.
EASIER BOOT ENTRY
Getting your foot into a ski boot can often be a real tugging match. If it’s warm and dry, it makes it easier...but if the boot is cold or wet, it’s almost impossible. To make this easier, here’s a little tip. I took a very thin and slippery nylon fabric (the lining of one of my mother’s discarded skirts) and cut out a pear-shaped piece about 8" (20cm) across at the wide end, and 14" (36mm) long.
When I’m ready to put on my boots, I stand on this piece of nylon. I have the wide part of it positioned under the middle of my foot, with the narrow end running under my heel and up the back of my ankle. If it’s long enough, you can even tuck the very end of the narrow part into your ski sock. Then I wrap the wide part around my foot and simply (and nearly effortlessly!) slide into my ski boot.
Before buckling up, I just pull out this nylon piece by the narrow end that was tucked in the back of my sock...then fold it up and tuck it in my pocket.
I hope this helps...just remember to ask your mom first before you start cutting up her skirts!
-Johan W., Sweden