Experts agree; your most important investment in ski equipment is your ski boots. Choosing the right ski boots makes the difference between an enjoyable ski holiday and one that’s filled with discomfort or even cut short by injury. Your ski boots are your body’s information pipeline to your skis and to the snow. The stiffness and warmth of your ski boots must blend harmoniously with proper fit to ensure both your comfort and safety.
Where and how you shop and choose ski boots is crucial
- Buy ski boots at a shop that specializes in selling ski equipment and employs a skilled, certified boot fitter. Ask to make an appointment. Choosing the correct ski boots can be a lengthy process. Set aside at least two hours shopping time.
- Wear the same socks you’ll be wearing when you ski. Ski boots are designed to be snug, so, you don’t want to choose your ski boots when wearing heavier socks than you’ll wear on the slopes.
- Forget fashion. When choosing ski boots, you’re looking for fit and comfort, not color and style. Your best choice in ski boots depends on the volume and shape of your foot.
- Be candid with feedback. A good boot fitter can help you choose the right ski boots and make adjustments for your weight, your ability level, and any foot, ankle, or calf problems.
- Try on several pairs of ski boots from several manufacturers before making your final choice.
- Don’t look for bargain ski boots. If you find a bargain, consider it a “bonus”.
What to Look for in a Ski Boot
Before bringing out ski boots for you to try, your boot fitter will measure your bare foot. Along with the length of your foot, a good boot fitter considers the total volume of your foot – the height of your instep and the width of your foot, both heel and toe.
The appropriate stiffness of the ski boot is based on your skill level. The stiffer the ski boots, the more difficult it is to make turns. More advanced skiers need less flex in their ski boots. In addition, while ski boots with thicker liners may be warmer and more comfortable, the greater the volume of your ski boots, the less responsive they will be to your actions.
When standing straight, your toes should lightly rest against the front of the ski boots. Walk around. If you feel any undue pressure, tell your boot fitter and be specific in your feedback.
If the ski boots fit comfortably as you stand and walk, the next step is to bend your knees. Your feet should move backwards, pressing your heels into the heel cups of the ski boots. The fit should feel evenly snug around your feet. As you bend your ankles forward, you should feel even pressure distributed along your shins with no restriction to the movement of your calf muscles.
Ski Boot Types
Prices on ski boots vary according to the type of ski boot and the skill level of the skier and range from under $100.00 for beginner ski boots to near $1,000.00 for expert ski boots with custom cushions and foot beds. When shopping for ski boots, expert skiers and boot fitters recommend you try on ski boots from several manufacturers.
Alpine, or downhill ski boots, are typically stiff boots, designed to hold your foot and ankle snugly in place. Top rated Alpine ski boots:
- Atomic M-Tech 11
- Dalbello Krypton Pro Race
- Head RS 100 Superheat 3
Cross-country ski boots need to support your ankles and heels, while allowing your toes freedom of movement. Top rated cross-country ski boots:
- Dalbello ZX Superspot
- Fisher MX 9
- Head Edge 10.7 Superheat s/L
Telemark ski boots look like downhill ski boots, but have some important differences. A properly fitting telemark ski boot fits snugly to your calf and holds your heel firmly in place, yet affords plenty of toe movement. Taller, stiff ski boots are great for downhill telmarking, while shorter, light ski boots make for easier ascents in back country skiing. Top rated telemark ski boots:
- Atomic M Tech
- Fischer MX Pro
- Head S10
Note: Prices will vary. Although the above ski boots are top rated, each has pluses and minuses. In addition, the top-rated boot may not be what you need for your skiing skill level. Other quality ski boot manufacturers include Nordica, Lange, Salomon, and Tecnica.
Your ski boots are the most important piece of your ski equipment. When you choose ski boots, it’s best to rely on proven brands along with your boot fitter’s advice to be sure to you get the right fit for your foot and your ski level.
Discuss the best and worst boots this season in Talk Ski’s ski forum.