Going backcountry skiing means setting off into the wilderness or in an uncontrolled environment, and it is crucial that you find the proper gear to take with you to be able to feel more comfortable w [...]
How to Make Your Ski Boots Fit Better
Published: Dec 15, 2020
The best way to make your ski boots fit better and be more comfortable is to spend time wearing them, even if you are just in the comfort of your own home. Ski boots are an essential piece of equipment that links your body to your skis. That is why it is important that you customize them to your liking, so that they are comfortable and can perform better on the slopes.
Having a pair of ski boots that fits properly shouldn't be underestimated. If your boots are too loose, your skiing will suffer, and you may hurt yourself. On the other hand, if your ski boots are too tight, you will experience a lot of painful days on the mountain.
A good fitting boot should always feel snug, and not sloppy. You should be able to freely wiggle your toes, and not have heel slippage or movement from front to back, or side to side. Ski boots come in different widths, from 95 to 106mm. For skiers with a wide foot, it is best to choose a pair with a width between 103 and 106mm. For a normal sized foot, choose a pair between 100 and 104mm. Finally, for skiers with narrow feet, a width of 98 to 102mm will better suit you.
To make your ski boots fit better, you should first wear them at home, put them on while standing, and flex them to allow your feet to adjust to the boots. This will also help you make the needed adjustments, and will give you more time to bring them to a bootfitter if necessary.
To help you make your ski boots fit better, we have written down some of the things you can do at home, and some of the tasks your bootfitter can do, so you can customize your boots and make them as comfortable and snug as possible.
Things you can do at home
For tight boots
Your ski boots may feel a bit tight, especially when they are new. However, the liners of your ski boots will eventually compress and pack out over time.
It is normal to feel a slight level of discomfort in the first couple of days of skiing, but this will likely subside over time. However, note that your ski boots should never be painfully tight. If they are, you may also want to think about what socks you are wearing. It is best to wear thin ski socks, because they are actually warmer and will give you some extra room. If your boots feel tight or painful in specific areas, you'll need to see a bootfitter to get them worked on.
For loose boots
If you feel like there is too much room in your ski boots, they are probably too big for you. While there are things that can be done to make ski boots larger, like punching and grinding the boot's shell, it is difficult to make them smaller. So, it is best to try out a smaller pair of ski boots, because short-term solutions, like wearing multiple layers of socks, will probably just lead to other issues, like blisters, for example.
Trouble buckling boots
If the upper cuff of the boot seems too tight, you will have a hard time closing it. The best thing to do in this case is to move the buckle ladder, or the part with the teeth that holds the wire bale. Move it using an allen wrench (that is usually provided in your boot box), or a Phillips head screwdriver.
For ski buckles that are too tight or too loose
A lot of boots have micro-adjustable buckles that will enable you to twist the buckles clockwise to shorten or tighten, and twist them counter-clockwise to lengthen or loosen them. If done correctly, this will help you find the perfect level of tightness.
For tight cuff
A lot of ski boots have a wedge or spoiler between the liner and the shell that is directly behind the calf. These are either screwed on, or attached by Velcro. To create more room in the upper cuff, you can simply remove the spoiler. If even the loosest buckle setting still feels a bit too snug, you can move the adjustable plate or ladder for the top buckle straps to provide a new looser range of notches. Although, some ladders may require that you undo a screw to move them, so you'll need a screwdriver or Allen wrench for that. Some can simply be twisted, or have some kind of a release that will allow them to move.
For better arch support
Some footbeds that are provided by manufacturers do not offer much support, and most likely, they will not match the shape of your foot either. You can always choose to replace the footbed if you have a high arch, or need better support underfoot. You can choose to use an aftermarket trim-to-fit footbed. These are fairly inexpensive footbeds that will enable you to cut and match the shape of the stock footbeds. Do this by laying the stock footbed over the aftermarket one, then trace its outline, and trim the new one to match. But for even better performance and comfort, it is best to have a custom footbed made by a trained bootfitter.
Things your bootfitter can do
While there are a lot of things you can do at home to customize your ski boots fit, it's sometimes best to seek out a professional's help. Ski shops with trained bootfitters can perform extensive modifications to your boots, because they are equipped with the proper tools and knowledge to help you find the best possible fit. They can customize footbeds to stabilize and balance the foot, and it will fit your foot perfectly. Bootfitters can also modify the shell with heat, or by grinding it to allow it to match the shape of your foot and eliminate pressure points.
Regardless of their ability or experience level, every skier can benefit from having a custom footbed made for them. These custom footbeds are configured to your foot by taking an impression of it, then placing the heated footbed in the mold with your foot on top. The process of molding a custom footbed takes between 30 and 60 minutes. This footbed will be unique, and will support your entire foot evenly. A supported foot will be more stable, strong, balanced and relaxed, while an unsupported foot is weak, unbalanced, and easily fatigued. Much of the discomfort you will most likely experience is a result of an unsupported foot. That is why proper footbeds are important for an effective fit.
Once a proper fitting footbed is selected, the next step is to inspect the alignment of the upper cuff. It is best that you are able to stand in a natural posture, and have the base of both of your skis flat on the snow. Some skiers may not require cuff alignment, and most boots do not offer a cuff adjustment feature, so it is best to ask a bootfitter if you feel that the normal alignment of your legs is putting uneven pressure on either edges of your inside or outside ski.
This is sometimes confused with cuff alignment, but canting refers to tilting or angling the entire ski boot laterally in order to achieve a neutral stance. This is done by installing wedges under the bindings when the ski is mounted, or by planning the sole of the boot. Note that this is a process that cannot be precisely done at home, so canting should be left to a qualified bootfitter, or a ski shop with the right equipment.
Boot punches and shell modifications
You may have some problems when the ski boots hard plastic shell is causing pressure to your bones. This is where shell modification becomes an option. Boot shell modification is performed so that your boot will match the shape of your foot. This can be done by grinding the plastic away, or by heating and reshaping the plastic shell with an assortment of specialized tools. This process is also referred to as “punching the boot.” Bunions, bone spurs, hardware, or tender spots from surgery, and downsizing for the sake of performance are some of the common situations that call for modifying the boot shell. It is best to swing by your local ski shop, and have an expert bootfitter help you out.
Why are my ski boots so painful?
Pain in the ball of the foot is a common discomfort that is often experienced when wearing ski boots. A burning sensation, any numbness, or even just general aches and pains can all take the enjoyment away from a day of skiing.
The forefoot is more likely to suffer than the mid and rear foot. One of the reasons for that is the forefoot's lack of mobility and of resistance to compression from above and the sides. When walking, our foot is developed to adjust to the changing terrains and provide shock absorption. This means that our forefoot bones are very mobile and constantly have to adapt.
Tight-fitting dimensions are the most common cause of pain from wearing ski boots. This is either due to a new liner requiring breaking-in, or to the shell being slightly too tight. This can be easily checked if you remove the liner, and check its length, width, height, and general fit around the cuff and ankle.
This can be solved by having a supportive footbed, which can prevent collapsing of the arches, thus causing the foot to get wider and longer. Using a low-volume sock or having the shell modified can create a wider fitting boot around the problem areas.
Excessive pressure to the sole of the forefoot is also one of the causes of pain. This one is common on high arched feet, or those with limited ankle flex. Poor pressure distribution may cause a burning sensation under the ball of the foot, and can take as little as 5-10min to start. If the boots are not removed then, you may experience bruising and soreness. The solution for this problem, in the case of a high arch, is to provide efficient arch support, which will spread the load. If limited ankle flex seems to be the cause, the forward lean needs to be eased off. This is done by removing spoilers from behind the calf muscle. Different adjustments may be available depending on the type of ski boot you have.
It is best to speak with a qualified ski bootfitter if you are experiencing any foot pain when wearing your ski boot, to be able to precisely alleviate any discomfort you have.
How do I know if my ski boots are too stiff?
Stiffness, in terms of ski boots, is also referred to as the “flex.” Each boot has its own flex rating, and it may vary from one manufacturer to another. A ski boot's flex rating tells how much flexibility the boot has in the ankle area. A lower rating means it is a more flexible boot, while a higher number implies a stiffer one. This stiffness correlates with ability, just as tightness does. Beginners skiers usually prefer a lower flex rating, because it is more forgiving and requires minimal effort to be able to control your skis. Advanced skiers, on the other hand, usually choose a higher flex or a stiffer boot for more precise power and control.
If you experience any pain or discomfort while wearing ski boots, this may indicate that they are too stiff. For new boots, there is always a break-in period, so that they can form around your feet. The discomfort you feel while breaking them is natural during the process, but if it continues longer, then your boots are probably too tight.
If your ski boots are too stiff, it can change your form. An easy way to know this is to have a friend watch you make turns. If you are sitting back and your knees are not engaged when skiing, then this means your boots are too stiff. Notice if there is any slight lean towards your rear. This form is usually called “skiing in the back seat,” and is usually a common case with beginners, which slows down their progress. If you are an experienced skier and notice that you are skiing in the back seat, then there is a good chance that your boots are too stiff.
Your ski boot's stiffness has an important role in your ability to control your skis properly. However, if your boots are too stiff, you may experience a lot of pain, which may cause you to ski with a bad form, and could then lead to long-term issues that can hinder your progress.
Some boots will become less stiff eventually, as you begin to break them in. If you're skiing in the back seat on the first day of owning new ski boots, you can give it another day and see if it improves.
Other boots will allow you to adjust the flex as you ride. This may not correct a boot that is far too stiff, but it will allow for minor adjustments that leads closer to an ideal flex.
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