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(02 November 2014)


Have you ever had ski boots that were so uncomfortable that you’re sure the only solution is amputation? Before things get that drastic, you should consider seeing a professional… professional boot fitter that is. When it comes to finding the right boot for you, there are a few things to keep in mind. First and foremost, it is important to realize that not only should your ski boots not cause you any pain, but also that the fit can drastically affect your skiing ability. Too many times we encounter skiers that are struggling needlessly to overcome poorly fitting boots. Too large a boot can cause a skier to have limited control over their skis, and can result in toe bang as the foot moves around in the boot, too small a boot can cause cramping and lack of circulation; one of the leading causes of cold feet. In order to help avoid cutting your days short due to pain caused by ill fitting ski boots, we’ve caught up with 22 year veteran boot fitter, Glen Delboscoe, from Excess Backcountry in Whistler, who shed insight into boot fitting and shared a story of an extreme reaction to sore feet.


“What is the advantage of having a boot fit professionally?”

“An experienced boot fitter knows how each brand fits in general. They will be able to eliminate many options that wont work for the shape of your foot, without having to subject you to trying on an endless amount of boots.”

“Alright so what does one need to do to prepare for a boot fitting?”

“Most shops have a 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. 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 does it start?”

“The first thing the 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 boots that wont fit your feet. Once they have decided on a selection of boots that are good options, 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 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 that 1.5 to 2 finger widths will result in a good shell fit.”

“So, the boot fitter has narrowed it down to shells that will fit, the next step is to try the boot on, right?”

“Yes, the next step is to put on the liner and shell 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 the boot is flexed forward the pressure should be relieved from the toe area but you still may 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. A boot fit should feel like a firm handshake – a nice wrap around your foot.”

“How do you know which boots are the ones?”

“Once you have narrowed it down to one or two well fitting 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 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 wont 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 the boot fitter will have you take the boots off and let your feet recover for a few minutes before putting them back on.”

“And putting the 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 after 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 the boots are put back on.”

“What if the fit needs further adjustment?”

“There are a couple of changes that can be done to make your boot 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, 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 resulting in an amputated toe.”

So there you have it – professional boot fitting; a much simpler and less painful way than amputation to get well fitting ski boots. Hopefully this season, we won’t see anyone having to return to the lodge early to rest their sore feet.

The above article is from our partner Northern Escape.  

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