(Editor’s Note – This original blog post from November 2014 has been updated to reflect current ski boot fitting practices.)
How tight should a ski boot fit and how important is a custom ski boot fitting?
Have you ever had a ski boot fit so uncomfortable that you’re sure the only solution is amputation? Before things get that drastic you should consider asking for professional ski boot fitting advice.
When it comes to finding the right ski boot fit, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Ski Boots Should Not Be Painful
First and foremost it is important to realize that not only should your ski boots not cause you pain, but also the ski boot fit (or ill-fit) can drastically affect your skiing ability.
Too many times have we encountered skiers that are struggling needlessly to overcome poor fitting ski boots.
- Ski boots too big can cause a skier to have limited control over their skis and can result in toe bang as your foot moves around in the boot.
- Ski boots too small can cause cramping and lack of circulation; one of the leading causes of cold feet.
In order to help you avoid having to cut your heli skiing days short due to pain caused by ill fitting ski boots this season, our Northern Escape Heli Skiing staff caught up with 25-year veteran ski boot fitter Glen Delboscoe, who laid out a ski boot fitting guide and shared a story of an extreme reaction to sore feet.
What is the advantage of having a professional ski boot fitting?
“An experienced boot fitter knows how each brand fits in general. They will be able to eliminate many options that won’t work for the shape of your foot without having to subject you to trying on an endless amount of boots.”
All right, so what does one need to do to prepare for a proper ski boot fitting?
“Most shops have a ski boot fitter on staff and unless its super busy, they should be able to fit you in without making a prior appointment. Keep in mind that the process will take at least an hour of your time. Wear the socks that you are going to be skiing in, and make sure that you are able to roll up your pant legs to above your calves; this means no skinny jeans!”
Ok, so how do we start?
“The first thing the ski boot fitter will do is ask you to stand normally in your stocking feet. At this point they are assessing the shape of your foot and mentally ruling out ski boots that won’t fit your feet. Once they have decided which boots are good options for fit, they will gather them for you to try on. First, they will remove the liners from the boots and do what is called a ‘shell fit’. They will have you stand in the shell without the liner, with your toes just touching the front. With your knees bent, the ski boot fitter will put their hand down the back of the boot and assess the space between your heel and the shell. A general rule of thumb is 1 and a half to 2 finger widths to result in a good ski boot shell fit.”
So we have narrowed it down to shells that will fit, now do I get to try the boot on?
“Yes, the next step is to put the liner and shell on together. When standing up straight with the boots done up you should be able to feel your toe touching the front of the liner. As you flex the boot forward, pressure should be relieved from your toes but you still might be able to make out the liner. If you try to lift your heel you will be able to, but your heel should feel stable in the boot otherwise. The fit should feel like a firm handshake – a nice wrap around your foot.”
How do I know which ski boots will be the right fit?
“Once you have narrowed it down to one or two good fitting ski boots, the boot fitter will get you to walk around the shop for about 10 minutes, flexing the boots and moving your feet around as much as possible. While you flex the boot, the ski boot fitter is watching to see whether the stiffness is right for you, if it is too soft you can distort the shell, if it is too stiff you won’t be able to flex it at all, which doesn’t allow you to ski properly. During this time your feet will heat the liner and begin to shape it to your feet. Your feet might go numb or get some tingling sensations – that’s perfectly normal. After 10 minutes we have the customer take the boots off and let their feet recover for a few minutes before putting them back on.”
And putting the ski boots back on is key?
“Yes, it is amazing how differently the boot fits the second time. This fit is much more similar to how the boot will fit when you have worn it skiing a few times. Even if the boot doesn’t seem to fit at all the first time, many people are shocked at the different feel when they put the boots back on.”
What if the ski boot fit needs to be adjusted more?
“There are a couple of things that can be done to make your ski boots fit a little more comfortably. Many liners these days come with heat moldable options, starting with a simple thermo fit to accelerate the break-in period all the way to full custom heat moldable liners. Some people add different foot beds or foam, or even have the shell punched to a slightly different shape. Before doing anything too drastic though it is recommended that you ski a few days in the boots to get used to them.”
Is it true you actually had a customer who amputated a toe?
“Yes, he was a podiatrist and he had, according to him, notoriously bad feet, and had gone so far as to misdiagnose his own foot problem and have a toe amputated.”
So there you have it, the simplest and least painful way to get the best heli ski boot fitting. Hopefully, we won’t see any of our guests have to return to the ski lodge early to rest their sore feet. For additional helpful tips when planning your trip for heli skiing in Canada this year, check out our Northern Escape Heli Skiing international guests page.
Northern Escape offers small group heli skiing packages with cat skiing backup in one of the largest heli ski terrains in beautiful British Columbia, Canada. With 250 alpine runs, 11 ski zones and over 5,500 square kilometers of deep powder, we welcome new and returning guests from all around the world!
You can reach us at 1-250-615-3184 or send us an email.