Gone are the days when skiers have to sacrifice their big toes for optimal ski boot performance. Ski-boot fitting has evolved to such an art that graduates of MasterFit University, the Harvard of ski-boot fitting, can make practically any boot perform while feeling like a slipper. Education Director of MasterFit, Mark Elling, just returned from Austria where he taught instructors and techs from around the world the secrets to a better boot fit. He shares them here.
“Work with a specialty boot fitter. Some gear you can buy online, but a ski boot is not one of them. This is one piece of gear that needs to be a collaborative effort between the boot fitter and the customer athlete.”
“The focus should be on a shape match with the foot and the lower leg. Don’t focus on a brand or a particular price point. Let your feet and legs do the talking. Barring the genius guru bootfitter, utilize other information to get you in the ballpark, like a boot review that you find in Ski or Skiing magazine.”
A: Right size, right shape. Find a boot that matches the shape of your foot and lower leg.
B: Foot and Foot Bed: Different feet have different needs, most people will do better for comfort and balance if they have an upgraded insole, whether that’s a prefab or drop-in like EZ-Fit or a full custom depends a lot on foot type. Next thing: work with somebody who has different options. For a lot of people the less expensive option is going to work great.
C: Balance and Range of Motion. The big thing we find is that the ankle joint affects balance and comfort. It’s usually not a problem, but some people are limited in their range of motion. These are all things we’ll discuss if a customer comes to one of our workshops.
“Find a shop that knows about working on liners and shells. Intuition-style liners come in a typical ski boot and are made of certain moldable foams, but there’s a movement toward liners that have EVA construction, so a lot of liners now require a savvy boot fitter.”
“Everybody has a different level of tolerance for compression. Some people really, really like a close, snug fit. Other people don’t. Two general rules of thumb: The closer you get the shell shape and volume to the foot the better you’re going to ski because little movements transfer to the ski. Nobody skis well if cold, numb, and in pain. The tradeoff you’re always trying to achieve is to be as snug as you can be comfortable with, to maximize both.”
“Price range is based on how stiff a boot an athlete needs. The most expensive boots will have the highest-performing material. A big, aggressive, expert skier is going to be spending the most money. A lightweight intermediate will get into a cheaper boot. Serious skiers spend $400 to $700. There’s a big range.”
“The boot should grab your foot and leg in a way that feels like a firm handshake on every contour, with the caveat that from the shin down to where the shin meets the foot, that should always feel really comfortable and even. The shin and instep should really feel good.”