Ski Boot Fitting Guide: How to Try on Your New Ski Boots
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Whether you have just received your brand new ski boots in the mail or are heading to your local shop to check out boots, you will need to try them on to make sure they fit properly.
What Socks to Wear
We recommend wearing a single pair of thin ski socks. One pair is enough, really. Multiple socks or too thick a sock puts pressure on the tops of your feet, reducing circulation and resulting in cold and numb feet. Thick socks also give you less control over your skis – top racers often ski only in nylons or no socks at all! Choose socks made of wool or a wicking synthetic material, and avoid cotton socks - cotton absorbs sweat but keeps it close to your skin rather than moving it away.
How to Get Your Foot InYour Boot
- Unbuckle the boot completely, including the power strap, and make sure none of the buckles are catching. You may be able to rotate the buckles slightly to avoid them from catching. Reach in the boot and be sure to remove any paper stuffed in the toe of the liner, then sit with the boots in front of you.
- Most boots have a loop on the tongue to help you pull it up and forward. It’s usually easiest to keep the boot flat on the ground and step into it as you stand up. Grab the tongue loop, point your toe straight into the boot, and in one deliberate motion pull the tongue up and out as you stand and step into the boot. With very stiff performance boots, it sometimes helps to grasp the medial (inside) cuff by the buckle straps with one hand and the tongue loop with the other and pull the two sides apart as you slide your foot in – this will spread the stiff plastic in the instep area and give you more room to slide your foot in.
- Make sure to center the tongue on top of your foot and check that it’s positioned inside the leading edges of the liner. Don’t make an assessment about the fit yet, as the boot isn’t buckled and your foot isn’t settled.
- Don’t be alarmed if your boot feels tight and your toes brush the end of the boot when you first put it on. At this point, your foot hasn’t warmed up the liner foam or started to push excess air out. Also, your foot isn’t in the “ski position” yet, because you haven’t buckled the boot.
- Start by buckling the top two buckles lightly to seat the tongue on the instep of the foot. After fastening the Velcro power strap, flex the boot forward (hard) a few times with bottom buckles still unbuckled. This will pull your toes away from the front of the boot and push your heel deep in the heel pocket. Now fasten all the buckles snugly, but don’t over-tighten them to the point of discomfort. Keep in mind that your boots, at this point, are the tightest they will ever be.
- Now that you’re buckled up, spend some time standing with your feet parallel in a ski stance while simulating ski motions. Flex the boot forward by driving your knee over your toe. The upper cuff should hinge at the ankle. If you are only able to hinge at the hips and can’t move the upper cuff forward with your lower leg, the boot may be too stiff for you. Remember too that your living room is probably around 70 degrees F. and the boot will get stiffer when it’s cold. While flexing the boot, roll the boots side to side as if rolling the skis from edge to edge. If possible, do this in front of an audience – another skier can often tell if you’re flexing the boot properly or if the boot is overpowering you.
To make sure you’re in the right size boot, do a “shell fit.” Liners will compress with use and the overall fit will get looser, but the shell size won’t change.
- To do a shell fit, first remove the liner from the shell. Start with the boot completely unbuckled and on the floor with the toe facing away from you while you sit or kneel behind it. With your dominant hand firmly grab the top of the liner. With your other hand grab the top of the shell with your fingers between the shell and the liner. With one swift motion push the liner forward and away from you. Voilà! The liner is now out of the boot.
- Step into the shell and slide your foot forward until your toes just touch the front of the boot. Now check the space between your heel and the back of the shell. Most skiers should be able to fit 1 to 2 fingers in this space – this translates to roughly 15 to 30 millimeters. This is a general rule of thumb - high level racers and freeriders often prefer a tighter fit, with only about 10 millimeters of space or less. A shell fit that is larger than 2 fingers/30 millimeters will normally prove to be too loose once the liner compresses from skiing.
- Now center your foot side to side in the shell and see if you can fit a finger between the shell and both sides of your ankle. If your ankle bone is actually contacting the shell you may need to try a different boot or have a boot fitter modify the shell.
After determining that you’re in the right size shell, spend some time wearing the boots around your house. Standing in the boots and going through the motions of skiing while watching a movie is a good way to start the process of making the liner foam conform to your foot, as well as acclimating your feet to the feel of ski boots. If you’re new to skiing, remember that no ski boot will feel as comfortable as your street shoes, but stick with it – your street shoes won’t cut it for sliding down the mountain.
As you wear the boots, they’ll begin to conform to your feet. You can fine tune the fit in a number of ways using adjustments that most buckle systems have – twisting the wire bale of most buckles clockwise will shorten the length and increase the tightness slightly, so you can achieve a tension in between notches on the strap. If the cuff of the boot is too tight around your ankles or shins, most buckle ladders (the notched metal plates the buckles fit in) have two or three available positions. Some ladder tracks can be moved simply by twisting or unfastening a latch, others require a screwdriver or allen wrench. Very occasionally you will have to drill a new hole in the plastic strap of the boot.
Many boots have a removable spoiler attached to the shell in between the liner and rear of the boot – if the boot hits you in the calf, you can try removing this piece, which is normally attached with Velcro or a screw.
One more thing - make sure your boots stay warm on the way to the mountain by keeping them in the passenger compartment of your car or using a heated boot bag - boots that travel in the trunk of your car start the day cold and are hard to put on when you get to the ski area.
Shop Ski Boots
Learn more with our other Ski Guides:
Skis – How to Choose & Size Chart
Skis – Kids' Size Chart
Skis – Rocker Technology
Alpine Touring Skis – How to Choose
Skis – Weight Chart
Ski Boots – How to Choose & Fit Guide
Ski Boots – Size Chart
Ski Boots – How to Make Your Boots Fit Better
Alpine Touring Ski Boots – How to Choose
Ski Boots – Weight Chart
Ski Boots – Boot Sole Length Chart
Ski Bindings – How to Choose & DIN Setting Chart
Alpine Touring Ski Bindings – How to Choose
Ski Bindings – Weight Chart
Ski Poles – Size Chart
Skiing – How to Get in Shape
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