How to Choose Downhill Ski Boots When shopping for ski boots, focus first on fit and performance. Style and color can seem important, but they are ultimately secondary considerations. Ski boots are the main link between your body and your skis, so finding boots well-matched to the unique size and shape of your feet is your top priority. Know Your Skier Profile Honestly evaluate your skill level; don't inflate or underestimate your ability. If you're not sure, think about the other sports or activities you enjoy. How challenging are they? How far do you usually progress? What is the slope of your learning curve? Recreational You're new to the sport and looking to improve, or you've been at it for a while but enjoy skiing leisurely on groomed green and blue runs. Recreational boots are typically soft flexing, comfortable and warm. They're made for skiers with basic skills who want to improve their technique. Even beginners should take care not to buy a boot that is so soft that it doesn't allow them to control the ski. Go a step up if you plan to progress quickly. Intermediate You've spent a few seasons taking lessons and honing your ski skills, you have good control over your speed and you can comfortably ski blues and easier black runs. You're ready to beef up your skills and tackle steeper terrain, moguls and ungroomed snow. Intermediate boots deliver increased responsiveness to improve carving skills and handle higher speeds. Advanced You're at the top of your ski game. You ski with confidence, speed and aggressiveness on the steepest and most challenging terrain. You fly from high-speed groomers to steep powder fields to the backcountry. You'll ski double-blacks or unmarked trails at the resort and might be planning a heli- or cat-skiing trip. Advanced boots are the most responsive boots you can buy. They offer precision control for the most aggressive skiers. They are the stiffest boots around and some models can be too stiff for all-mountain skiing. Boots in this category offer targeted features like shock absorption (via absorbent rubber in the sole) for landing air or slamming bumps. Ski Boot Styles and Features Ski boots consist of a hard outer shell for support and soft liner for cushioning and warmth. Most adult boots are "front-entry overlap" designs, meaning that they open in the front like hiking boots and are secured by 3 or 4 buckles. Some kids' boots are "rear-entry" style. These models open in the back, which makes them more comfortable and user-friendly for beginners. Outer Shell The hard plastic outer shell varies in stiffness from boot to boot. Softer plastics flex easily and are more forgiving. Stiff plastics are more rigid but offer greater response and precision. The more rigid your boot, the more power transfers to your ski's inside edge. Most advanced-level boots combine multi-density materials to make boots stiff in critical areas of energy transfer, but softer in other areas. Soft and moderate shells are designed for comfort. They are forgiving and great for beginners and intermediates. Stiff shells are firm, but not tree-trunk quad, World Cup-racer firm. They're ideal for intermediate and advanced skiers. Very stiff boots are built for racers and other expert-level skiers for maximum edge hold and turning precision. They can be uncomfortably rigid for general use. Manufacturers rate boots on a flex index. On product pages, you can find this listed under the Specs tab of each boot. Flex Index indicates how resistant the boot is to flexing. The higher the number, the stiffer the boot. The ratings are only comparable within a manufacturer's line, so the best way to compare is to put a boot on each foot, lean forward and flex it. Remember, boots will have a softer flex at a warmer, indoor temperature than out on the hill. Liners The majority of boots come with some amount of heat-moldable material in the liners. Typically, the more expensive the boots, the more heat-moldable material it has. Some liners have down-filled toe boxes for added warmth. There are several liner types to consider. Thermal-formable foam uses your foot’s heat to achieve a custom fit. They break in after a day or so of skiing. Custom thermal-formable foam uses an artificial heat source to achieve a custom fit. Though best done at REI or other ski shops with boot-fitting expertise, it is possible to do this at home with your oven or a hot-air blower. Molded foam liners are made by molding liner tongues and foot sections individually, then sewing them together for a precise fit. These are not heat-moldable. Flex Adjustment Many boots have an adjustment so you can adjust the boots' stiffness to match a particular type of skiing, like powder, groomers or bumps. It is usually located on the back of the boot, around ankle height. Ski/Hike Position This term is actually used to describe 2 different boot features: On entry-level boots, it usually means the boot has a ski/walk lever that expands the boot cuff for more comfortable walking from your car to the lift. On intermediate and advanced boots, it generally means the boot features a traction outsole for easier hiking in the backcountry or away from lift areas. When in ski mode, these boots offer a highly responsive power transfer. Boot Sizing and Fitting Mondo Sizing Downhill ski boots use mondo sizing, which refers to the boot’s inner sole length in centimeters. Sizes can vary from one brand to another and even from one model to another. Try on several boots to gauge what feels best to you, and have the boot “shell fit” by the boot salesperson. It’s generally best to size down from the conversion chart since linings eventually compress (“pack out”) over time. Mondo Ski Boot Sizes to US Sizes Mondo 21.5 22 22.5 23 23.5 24 24.5 25 25.5 26 Women's US 5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 8.5 9 9.5 Men's US NA NA NA 5 5.5 6 6.5 7 7.5 8 Mondo 26.5 27 27.5 28 28.5 29 29.5 30 30.5 Women's US 10 10.5 11 11.5 12 NA NA NA NA Men's US 8.5 9 9.5 10 10.5 11 11.5 12 13 Boot Sizes Vary by Manufacturer and by Model It used to be that ski makers crafted all the boots in their line from one mold or "last". Because of this, boot brands tended to fit a single type of foot (narrow, wide, low- or high-volume, etc.). Recently, manufacturers have started to make different lasts for different models in their line, so the stereotypes aren't as accurate anymore. Fitting a Boot As you ski, your feet compress the liners of your boots, gradually loosening the fit. Unless you start out with snug boots, they may loosen enough to compromise control. Don't buy your boots too big! Here are some try-on tips: Wear thin, synthetic ski socks when trying on boots. No thick hiking socks, no cotton. Feet tend to swell slightly over the course of the day. Try on in the afternoon or evening when your feet are at their largest. When standing straight up, your toes should brush the end of the boots, but they shouldn't be crammed or turned under. When in a ski-tuck position, your toes should just barely pull away from brushing the front of the boot. The fit should not be painful. When flexing your knees, your heels should stay down. Walk around and stand in the boots for at least 20 minutes. After selecting your boots, they will likely need some modification. In particular, custom insoles (footbeds) can help you get the best possible fit. Also, your two feet may not be the same size, so your boots may need to be adjusted to fit them. In this case, buy for the smaller foot and expand the boot to fit the larger one. Boots can be adapted in several ways: Use a heat gun to soften and mold the shell for more toe space. Use a board or heel wedge to lift the heel. Add foam pads under the heel. Stretch or grind the liners. Add custom footbeds to fit your feet. Special Fit Features Women's boots: Women's calves are usually shaped differently from men's—the calf muscles are shorter, larger and lower on the leg—and women's heels tend to be narrower. Women's boots accommodate these differences. Custom insoles: Adding custom footbeds improves fit and support. A well-fitting boot offers a firm, even stance that helps control the ski. For a little extra support, chose a cut-to-fit footbed from the store. For the best fit, get a custom-molded cork footbed. The footbed is heated, vacuum molded and massaged to fit your foot—a 25-minute process. Many REI stores make custom-molded Superfeet insoles. Contact your local store to check. If you have known foot issues, choose a physician-made orthotic. Canted cuffs: A good calf fit means no painful pressure. Boot cuffs should fit snugly when the buckles are latched to the middle rungs. Buckles that are too tight can bend the plastic shell and alter the flex of the boot. Your shoulders should be centered over your hips and heels and your knees centered over your arches. Otherwise, your boot cuffs need to be adjusted. To adjust, loosen the knob or lever on the back or side of the boot, above the ankle. Step into the boots and stand so that you have equal room on both sides, then tighten it up. You may be one of the more than 75% of skiers who are knock-kneed or bowlegged. A cuff cant can help balance your stance. To check, stand with your feet aligned under your shoulders and look in a mirror. Bring your feet toward one another slowly. Bowlegged: Your feet touch first. Knock kneed: Your ankles touch first. Cuff canting aligns the boot cuff with bowed or knock-kneed skiers. Any adjustments with the cuff should complement your stance, not alter it. When to Buy New Ski Boots Skiing can be as hard on your boots as it is on your skis. Ski boot life expectancy varies. If you ski regularly and you’re hard on your boots, you may need to replace them every few seasons. Don’t wait too long; boot liners eventually tend to “pack out” which can compromise fit and performance. You also don’t want to miss out on technological advancements.

News from Social