Southern Ski's mission is to provide the best custom bootfitting service available in the Carolina's and the South East.
What do I look for when I am buying ski boots
and searching for the best Master Bootfitter?
More than any other piece of equipment, a properly sized and fitted ski boot can improve one's comfort, control and ability on the mountain. You can always rent high performance skis, it is nearly impossible to rent a properly fitted pair of high quality boots. Technology and new innovations over the past few years have drastically improved the comfort and performance of ski boots. If you haven't treated yourself to a new pair of boots recently, or if you are just getting into (or back into) the sport, this is a great time to be shopping for a new pair. However, being properly fitted is not a quick or always easy task. Plan on spending 1-2 hours with a professional fitter and make sure to take the entire process one step at a time. Listed below are some good guidelines to follow:
The bootfitter should carefully examine and measure both feet and lower legs, as well as ask you many questions concerning your skiing habits. From the information gained, they should make recommendations and be able to suggest appropriate steps in obtaining the best fit and most appropriate gear.
In about 95% of the cases, the fitter will recommend making a custom footbed to support the foot correctly in the ski boot. If you do nothing else, even if you decide to keep your old boots for another year, buy some. Similar to an orthotic made by a podiatrist or doctor, the custom footbed will align and stabilize the foot and leg correctly in the boot, helping to eliminate potential hot spots in the boot while balancing the skier in a more optimal position on their skis. Have the orthotics made before you even try on any boots (it can drastically alter the way the boot fits). Expect to pay between $90 and $180 for a good footbed made by an experienced fitter. For more information on the benefits of footbeds ask a bootfitter.
Once you have a good pair of custom footbeds, you are ready to try on new boots. by discussing the options with your fitter and then combining that information with past experience, your ability and body type, you will determine what category of boots will work best. If you are a strong skier, expect to pay a bit more to obtain the performance that you need from a stiffer quality boot. If you are less aggressive, or just starting out, make sure that you purchase a boot that is still full-featured and adjustable (micro-adjustable metal buckles and cuff alignment devices are crucial for proper leg alignment, fit and durability), but softer flexing. Good entry level boots start around $250 and top of the line boots top out over $600. This may sound pricey at first, however, if you ski an average of 10 days a year, you should get up to fifteen years of use out of your boots before you wear your liners out. That is as little as $15 a year--well under what you would pay to even rent boots for those ten days of skiing. Not much of a price to pay for something that effects your enjoyment of the sport as much as a good fitting ski boot does.
Ask your fitter for advice and spend some time trying on boots. A good fitter will have years of knowledge about how different brands fit and perform and can save you a lot of trouble down the road. Some simple fitting rules to follow are:
Shell fitting is a good way to guarantee you buy the correct size. Remove the liner from the shell of the boot; place your foot inside the shell and move it forward until the tips of your toes just rub the end of the shell's toe-box. Drive your knee forward and see how many fingers you can squeeze between your hell and the back of the boot shell. You want only 1/2 to 1 inch (under two average adult male fingers) of space behind the heel. The more performance oriented the fit, the less space you want inside. Do not upsize to gain more volume or get a wider fit. Ski boots are only made in full sizes and the length is measured by an international standard called mondo-sizing; once you have your size, that is your size in all ski boots. If something feels way too narrow or low volume, it may be the wrong boot for you or it may require modifications by a technician.
Remove the stock insole from the liner and place your custom footbed inside.. Always try the boot on with all personal fit devices inside. Also, make sure that you are using a thin, ski specific sock made of wicking and drying materials. Make sure the sock does not have any ribbing and that all wrinkles are removed before putting a boot on. A good pair of clean ski specific socks at the start of the day can go a long way towards making a boot more comfortable and warmer.
A boot should feel very snug when you first put it on, often to the point where many people think that they need a larger size. Before passing any judgements, buckle the the boot up securely, but not restrictively, and make sure your heel has settled into the heel pocket of the boot. The foam in boots is designed to conform to the foot over time an needs to be broken in. You will feel the process begin to take place during the first ten minutes, but the boot really needs to be skied on for a week or two before the process occurs fully. In a correctly sized boot, you should feel the end of the liner with your toes and the rest of the boot should wrap around the foot firmly and consistently, much like a good custom made leather driving glove would fit the hand.
Ski boots were made for skiing---not walking. Imitating skiing motions is a better way to get a realistic idea of how the boot will feel when on the slopes than just walking in them. If you have not purchased new boots in a long time, or have never owned a pair of correctly sized and fitted boots, the sensation you get can be quite alien. Be patient and listen to how your fitter describes the proper fit. The key at this point is to to give the boot time to get used to you while giving yourself time to get used to the boot.
After spending a reasonable amount of time in the boots, pull the boots off and then remove your socks. Look at your feel for any unusually red areas (potential "hot spots") and tell your fitter if you are feeling any pain or distinct discomfort anywhere on the foot or leg. Do not worry if you go through the process and you still haven;t found a boot that feels perfect right out of the box. This is where a good fitter can save the day. Boot modification techniques are ubiquitous and a good fitter armed with the correct tools can solve virtually any problem.
Another thing to consider is the amount of dorsiflexion you ankle joint has. Dorsiflexion is the amount of upward flexibility the foot has within the ankle joint. It determines to what degree the skier can flex the boot and how far the skier can drive the tip of the ski, both are very crucial elements in successful and strong skiing. Optimally, a skier will have around 20 degrees of upward flex in the ankle. Have a technician measure your flexibility and make any internal adjustments necessary to your boots to help guarantee that you are positioned correctly in the boot for the amount of flexibility you have in your ankle.
Cuff alignment is the process of placing the curvature and stance of the lower leg in to a centralized and aligned position in the upper cuff of the ski boot. Most high quality performance boots offer between 2 and 7 degrees of cuff alignment. The procedure is done with the liner out of the shell, but with all other devices, like footbeds, in the shell. If the cuff has not been aligned to your leg yet, ask your fitter if it should be done. This is a procedure that can benefit many people, it is integral in the boot's design and only takes minutes.
It is likely that you will have to adjust or even remount your binding depending upon the sole length of your new boots. Because the bindings need to be worked on anyhow, this is a perfect time to spend another few minutes with a technician an have your stance aligned. This procedure is the final step in the fitting process and should only be done once all other steps listed above have been completed. Stance alignment is the act of making a precision measurement of skeletal structure in relationship to the plane below it, in this case, a pair of skis. Optimally, most skiers want to have the angle on their lower leg be 1-1.5 degrees inside of center form the ski's perpendicular plane. This position gives the skier excellent balance capability, while also allowing them to initiate turns and set an edge with greater precision and power. For many people, more so than buying the latest and greatest new shaped ski, stance alignment can be the most beneficial performance enhancing technology has to offer. The footbed is a huge step towards proper alignment, however, using cant strips under the binding or integrated into the boot sole is often the only way to fully align the skeletal structure and place the body into its optimal skiing position. The results often include more efficient use of energy (less effort needed to control the skis), less strain on joints and muscles, as well as potentially drastic improvements in edging, carving and turning ability. Expect to pay anywhere from $60 to $150 for the analysis and parts.
CONGRATULATIONS! If you followed these steps, you should have an excellent fitting and performing pair of boots. Remember to always store your boots buckled (so the liners and shells maintain their shape) in an air conditioned room, and consider buying a boot dryer that circulates sub-100 degree air into the boot to keep them dry and warm day in and day out. Now that you are fully equipped, go skiing and have fun! Isn't that what it's all about? If you develop discomfort or other problems while skiing in your new boots, a good shop is going to stand behinds its work by guarranteeing your fit. Boot fitting is part art and part science, neither of which are exact. If you think of any questions or have any problems, set up a refit appointment with your fitter and let them work their magic.