Ski boots are among the most essential pieces of gear in your ski kit. They link your feet to your skis allowing for energy and control transfer from your body to the skis. A comfortable and well-fitting pair, therefore, will keep you going all day long, insulate and protect your feet, and ensure proper performance in the snow.
But ski boots come in different shapes and constructs, so it is worth setting some time aside to go through the different styles and varieties in the market today to land the perfect fit. Here are some pointers on how to choose ski boots that are right for your feet and ski gear.
Your Ski Level
To find ski boots that best suit your feet, you need to know your skiing level. There are different flex indexes designated for different skiing levels. This index applies to both ski and snowboarding boots and the higher the index the more rigid your boots will be. And obviously, the stiffer the boots, the more power they will transfer to the inside of your skis’ edges.
The amount of flex offered by your boots should match your skiing ability. Here is the general guideline:
1. Soft Flex
If you are a beginner who likes cruising on a groomed terrain or one who is still learning how to ski, look for softer or medium flexing boots. They should have a fit that keeps you comfortable during the ride. Men and women at this level should go for the flex of 60-70 and 50-70 respectively.
Soft flexing ski boots are usually warm and comfortable. If you are still wet behind the ears, these will be your best bet. But soft flexing boots will make it a little difficult to control your skis, so go for a higher index if you expect to learn the ropes quickly.
2. Medium Flex
Intermediate skiers or those who enjoy speed and steeper terrain will require a pair that can allow for more defined steering and control. Medium flexing boots will be a great option here, as most of these come with a fit precise enough to provide adequate control in various terrain conditions. The flex for intermediate level skiing is 80-110 for men and 80-90 for women.
A medium flex boot is reserved for those who are transitioning from beginner to the intermediate level and are more responsive to speed and rough trails. If you are ready to tackle ungroomed snow, moguls, and steeper terrains, then a pair will give you the comfort and control you need to glide through these terrains.
3. Stiff Flex
Boots with a stiff flex are designed for expert skiers. They are highly responsive and allow these individuals to glide through aggressive and steep terrains fast and confidently. Some stiff flex boots even come with a shock absorption feature for slamming bumps and landing jumps. Very stiff boots will be uncomfortable for beginner and intermediate skiing.
Advanced skiers and anyone who can confidently cruise in all conditions should buy ski boots with a very stiff flex and very precise fitting. These will help them to easily transition from groomed terrains to off-piste in various snow conditions including crud, moguls, ice, and deep powder. Men skiers in this category often go for the flex of between 120 and 150 and women looking for something between 100 and 110.
Different manufacturers will have different flex ratings for their ski boots. So if you are choosing between two or more brands, make sure to put the boots on your feet so you can get the right index for your experience level.
You may want to have your hiking socks on while you fit the boots, as this will help you to get even a much better fitting. Also, note that ski boots will have a much softer flex at room temperature than when out in the snow.
How to choose ski boots will also depend on the material used in the liners. Even though you will be wearing your hiking gaiters and probably a pair of waterproof socks to keep water out of your boots, you still need to keep your feet warm, and this is where your boot liners come in.
There are three main types of liners that you can choose from i.e. non-moldable, thermoformable, and custom moldable.
Non-moldable liners will provide your feet with generic padding and more stability. With continued use, however, the pressure exerted by your body will probably cause the foot section of the liner to conform to the shape of the foot stepping on that section.
Thermoformable liners will use the heat generated by your foot to achieve the required fit. Most will break in after a few days of skiing.
Custom moldable liners utilize an artificial source of heat to assume a custom fit. You can DIY your own mold liners at home or have them done at your local ski shop by a boot fitting expert.
Whichever, lining you choose for your ski boots, make sure it keeps your feet comfortable on the trail and provides the best insulation against cold.
- Power straps: These will be found at the top of your ski boots’ cuffs – some boots have to cinch buckle instead. Tightening the power strap will reduce the gap between the boot and the foot, increase energy transmission, and give you more control.
- Several buckles: The more buckles you have, the more stable you will be, right? Wrong! If your boots fit snuggly, the number of buckles should not be that major of a concern. A design with more buckles, however, may provide more options for tightening or loosening.
- Cuff alignment: Most ski boots today will allow you to adjust the angle of the upper cuff to match that of the leg. You may need such a feature if your natural body and feet alignment causes your weight to fall either inside or outside the ski edges unevenly. You can align your cuffs by adjusting the rivets that connect the cuff to the shell using an Allen wrench.
- Ski/hike mode: Looking to transform your ski boots into butt-kicking hiking shoes? Then look for a pair with a ‘ski/hike mode’ feature. Such boots give you the ability to shift from a ski mode to a hike mode with a greater range of maneuverability. The feature is particularly popular on boots designed for alpine skiing and touring.
- Interchangeable soles: Some boots will give you the option to swap soles, for instance, from an alpine touring sole to an alpine sole and vice versa. Be careful with interchangeable soles, however, because they may affect how you mount and adjust your ski bindings. Ask your shop about the compatibility of your soles and bindings if you are having any doubts.
- Footboards: These are the removable platforms on which your liners sit inside the shell. Stiff boot boards offer the most effective energy transfer to your skis. Some are made of rubber or have a thick pad to soften rough landings. If you are an expert skier or will be taking part in more aggressive rides, it would be wise to buy ski boots with footboards.
Globo Surf Overview
Ski boots that fit snuggly can mean the difference between a memorable ski day and one full of regrets. If you think you have found a pair that has the flex and fit you want, put it on for a few minutes before returning it to the ski boot bag.
Buckle the boots as you would when skiing, and feel your legs. You should be able to stand comfortably for at least fifteen minutes without experiencing any pain at the toe or bony area.
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- Downhill Skiing: How To Choose Boots, skimium.co.uk