When talking about ski gear, you usually hear people talk about their sick new pair of skis or the bright new jacket they are excited about rocking. It’s definitely not as sexy to talk about your feet in skiing but if I can offer any bit of advice, don’t overlook your ski boots! They aren’t given enough credit because in my eyes, ski boots are the most important piece of equipment you’ll need for the sport. They are what make your skis do what your body wants them to do. Many of you asked for tips for buying ski boots, and while I’m by no means a professional skier, I can certainly give my advice for the leisure athlete who is just as stoked on hitting the slopes as they are apres.
GET A PROPER FITTING
First things first, getting your boots to fit properly is an art and it starts with making sure they fit your foot. Remember, all feet are different! I think a common misconception is that you can just order ski boots online and be good to go and that is just not the smartest, or safest, route. Your feet are unique so make sure to find the right ones for you.
Depending on your skiing ability, you will want your boot to fit a certain way for not only your performance but also for your safety. Your boots should be an extension of your legs so when you turn, your skis fully turn. It gets a little complicated with sizing so the best way to find out your size is to try boots on at an actual ski shop. My guys at Mud Room in Jackson Hole can help you out! Bootfitters are so knowledgeable and will work with you on your preferences to help you find the best pair. Some brands are better for wide feet, some are better for narrow, etc. They also factor in your height, weight, where you plan on skiing, and how many days you will likely ski those boots each year.
If you don’t live in a ski town, look for an outdoor shop that sells ski boots, or make sure you schedule a fitting when you are traveling to a resort. You can always do a fitting then order the correct size online if you are looking for a deal. Trust me, it’s so worth it the time!
Just like skis, the average skier will have their boots for years to come. Investing in a quality pair is really important so you can get the best use out of them. Even if you don’t live in the mountains, I would highly suggest you purchase your own ski boots and travel with them on ski trips. (I carry them on my flights and put them above my seat!) I personally would much rather do this while traveling over bringing my own skis. If I fly to a different ski resort, I use that time to demo new skis, but I always bring my own boots. If you can, avoid renting ski boots. One, that’s gross. And two, it’s not super safe to be skiing in packed out boots.
To be transparent, the total cost of my new Dalbello Chakra ski boots was just over $1000, which included top level performance boots, custom foot beds, and custom liners. For reference, I skied my last pair of boots for 4 years. I’m sure some of you in the ski industry are choking that I wore them that long, but this post is for (as Katie Burrell would put it) the athleisure skier.
Ski boots are expensive so make sure you invest the time and money into finding the best boots for you with a proper fit.
LINERS & FOOTBEDS
Okay so you found boots that fit! Now I know you’re thinking “I don’t need to spend any more money”, but I’m here to peer pressure you into investing in custom footbeds and heat moldable liners. Yes, you DO need them and here’s why. Most boot pain comes from your foot not being totally snug. A customized thermo liner will be heated in a convection oven at a ski shop to totally mold to your foot, giving a complete hug around your foot and ankle. So while they are made just for you, their lightweight technology will keep your feet the warmest and offer the best performance. They also can be remolded up to 3 times, lasting around 100 full ski days, so if you end up getting a new boot in the future, you can reshape your liners to go with you! Great investment in my eyes.
The good news is that brands are now starting to sell boots that come with custom liners so that helps with the cost. My new Dalbello Chakra’s came with the custom liners which bundled brought the cost down a smidge. If the boots you want come with the factory liners, ask the shop to mold liners for you. These you could buy online and have shaped to your foot if you find a deal.
While liners hold everything together, footbeds keep you in the best alignment. Just like a footbed for a shoe, ski footbeds are also molded for your arches and cut to your foot shape to relieve any pressure points. You can find liners and footbeds online and have them customized at a shop.
THEY SHOULD BE UNCOMFORTABLE
That’s right, ski boots are super uncomfortable, especially at first. We call it “New Boot Goofin'” as you test out your new boots on the slopes and it usually sucks pretty bad for a day or two. Don’t fret! Push through the discomfort and know that they will pack out slowly overtime. They should fit snug but not cut off circulation. Once you start skiing with bent knees, your feet will be happier. If there’s any real pain or touch points, Mud Room suggests that on average you will need to come back 2-5 times once you start skiing to get your boots buffed out. My toes are shaped weird, so I had to have them grind out a space for them in the plastic of the boot. It was super minor but made a huge difference to give my toes just an itty bitty smidge of more room. Pay attention once you get your boots and take them in for a free tune up, if needed. Again, this is so worth it!
I always buckle just one boot buckle while walking to the lifts, and make sure to loosen them when I’m riding up. I buckle up at the top of each run fully, then release again when I get to the lift lines. It gives my feet a breather. When temperatures change, so can how your boot fits, so keep that in mind with really cold or warm days. It will take some getting used to but then it will be perfect – I promise!
It seems counterintuitive but your ski socks should be thin! With a good boot and intuition liner, there is plenty of insulation so adding a thicker sock just adds more restriction in the boot making it more uncomfortable. These Smartwool’s are my favorite.
I haven’t ventured into heated boots or heated socks but I’ve heard from all skier types that they are worth the investment. I would suggest going through this process first before tapping into that. I’ve included a few heated products below!
Buying ski boots is a process but trust it! Having them fit properly is so necessary if you want to take your skiing to the next level or just want to protect yourself from potential injuries. I’ve included some links to some ski boot gear below if you’d like to look into them or ask a bootfitter.