Ski boots for the upcoming ski season will see refined or evolved boot models that are already in the market. The refinements consist mostly of last shape, liner improvements, shell customization and walk/ski devices on alpine ski boots that perform at a very high level.
The advances that make contemporary ski boots lighter (somewhat), completely moldable, more or less flexible, easier to get in or out of (again…somewhat), easier to fit and to tailor functionally have also been noted ad-infinitum…still worthy of comment however.
Over the last decade or so ramp angle and forward lean have decreased so the skier stands flatter on the skis and straighter up. Ramp angle relates to the bottom inside of the ski boots-the “zeppa” or bootboard that the liner sits on. Forward lean has to do with the upper cuff and how far forward it is fixed.
Because modern skis need far less force to engage, the skier doesn’t need to be forced into a more forward position over the front of the skis. It is more practical to stand more upright, bearing your weight through the skeleton rather than the muscles. Virtually all boot manufacturers have arrived at more or less the same conclusion regarding ramp and lean.
For several ski seasons we’ve recognized the vastly improved biomechanical traits integrated into ski boot shell designs. The subject may perhaps be wearisome and redundant but from the bootfitters perspective it is noteworthy because we have better, more reliable product with which we can achieve quicker, better solutions for skiers at all levels.
For the skier it ensures the array of product o0fferings will provide better comfort, efficiency and value so every ski trip will be more trouble free-at least where their feet are concerned.
As you go through the boot reviews you may find the same thing being said about a number of ski boots. While probably true, the fact is the quality and level of performance in any ski boot above a certain price point have converged.
The differences between one boot and another in a given category (i.e. 97mm boots, 100mm boots) generally are subtle and will be in certain fit areas, liner and shell materials, small stuff like buckles or power straps.
Differences in shell construction as in the 2-piece, 4-buckle overlap vs. the cabrio design are important because they are functionally different. That is strictly a discussion on the mechanics of the two. We’ll talk about that as the subject becomes pertinent with the relevant manufacturer.
As has been discussed ad infinitum, the basis for ski boot design must include biomechanics and a complete understanding of skiing dynamics. Given that, a ski boot manufacturer cannot diverge from proven, practically applied science as a design foundation.
Besides, the thesaurus only has so many synonyms!
There is a movement afoot (2/3’s of a pun…intended), in the last 4-5 years really, in wide, high performance ski boots.
Boot makers have come to recognize that not all feet fit into narrow boots. There also is a growing awareness that not all wide feet are wide everywhere…bootfitters have known this for some time.
To sell more ski boots they must be made to fit more feet.
The prevalent category for the last few ski seasons in ski boot sales is in the 100mm width.
This is because these wider lasted ski boots are constructed with the appropriate support in both shell configuration and ankle flex. They exhibit the well-buttressed mid-foot and contoured heel of their narrower, racier counterparts with the width, volume and girth from ankle to forefoot to accommodate wide, high volume feet.
Until recently most wide ski boots were not only wide everywhere but were also oriented toward strictly recreational skiers with respect to any meaningful performance. Stronger, more technically proficient skiers with wide feet will certainly benefit from a boot with, say, a 120 flex or more. It is more common than not to have a body type and mass commensurate to the width of the feet that carry it around throughout life.
A 250 pound guy that has EEE width feet will likely need a ski boot that will not only fit those EEE feet but that will also hold his body up!
There are boots with wider lasts up to 102mm and 104mm with the appropriate internal volume and very high performance qualities.
This does not necessarily mean that boots in this category will solve all the ills of those wide footed skiers who’ve suffered endless fit sessions or who’ve had to compromise by being in boots too big or who have quit skiing altogether because nothing was available. It does mean that current ski boots in this “wide” category gives us a far greater likelihood of finding boots that fit well off-the-shelf with far fewer visits to the bootfitter and provide a suitable performance level.
The term “performance” needn’t scare you. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary “performance” is defined as: “the execution of an action”. Also: “working effectiveness”. Both apply to ski boot function.
Performance is not meant to evoke anything more than the necessary requirements for the ski boots to control the skis. Ski boots must do certain things to accomplish that-they must perform certain functions. The more efficiently they perform the functions they are designed for, the more you benefit.
Something else to call attention to: for those who measure the width of their feet in order to determine the ski boot width they should be in, the number you come up with is not necessarily meaningful when it comes to last width. True it provides some guidance; wide feet are, after all, wide.
In bootfitting we refer to “soft tissue compression”. For ski boots to fit and perform properly, the feet must be well contained. Any slop inside ski boots translates to a sacrifice of control. A bit of wiggle room for the toes is necessary, but the rest of the foot needs to feel as if it is enveloped in a good firm handshake with nice even pressure from the ball of the feet to the top of the boots.
Feet can tolerate a certain amount of compression-some more, some less. Being evenly squeezed-compressed-in ski boots is an absolute necessity (even compression of the feet is also one of the best reasons to get a Superfeet Kork). The key here is “evenly”. Quite often the bony prominences of the feet need accommodation but once that is taken care of the ski boot should feel like a second skin.
For those that do not have wide feet there are plenty of options, as always, so we’ll be discussing them as well…so you know.
As a matter of education: the last measurements given by manufacturers for their ski boots are for a size 26.5. That means that a 27.5 will be a couple millimeters wider and a 25.5 a couple millimeters narrower...etc. This is true for most if not all boot makers.
For further edification, “last” is defined as: “a shoemakers model for shaping a shoe or boot” (New Oxford American Dictionary).
Even further…“wide” does not always mean “high volume”. Volume is defined as: “the amount of space that a substance or object occupies, or that is enclosed within a container.”
There are plenty of wide feet that would not be considered high volume. Wide feet but flat, no instep, bony, skinny heels and sinewy flipper-like appendages will still need the width but not the volume that fleshier, beefier feet need.
There are boots with the same width but not the same internal volume.
TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
Try Before You Buy is the byline for the boot demo program, an idea Footloose pioneered in the early eighties.
All the boots we carry-with the exception of full race and kids boots-are available for demo. If the situation requires it, we will alter demo boots so you may ski them comfortably. All our demo boots have Superfeet Trim-To-Fit Green footbeds if you don’t have your own.
Demoing ski boots on your own skis, at your pace and on the terrain you prefer is a perfect opportunity to find the pair that fits and performs as you desire. There is no better way to buy a pair of ski boots.
We charge a flat rate per day. It is possible for you to ski in more than one pair during a day (though we do not let you take more than one pair at a time-inconvenient perhaps but fair to someone else if they want to demo a boot you would consider as a second demo). Two days of demo fee will apply toward the purchase of a pair of ski boots.
We must charge a one-time binding adjustment fee to set demo boots up on your skis. The bindings will be fully function tested by certified technicians and once passed no further binding adjustment charge will be incurred. A dated sticker will be put onto your ski that is good for the rest of the season.
This is a truly win-win deal…if you are in the market for a pair of ski boots, take the opportunity to Try Before You Buy.
Footloose and Superfeet have a long association.
Sven Coomer founded Footloose in the late 70’s to develop and market Superfeet custom footbeds for skiing. The effectiveness of the original Superfeet Insta-Ski-Thotic was the impetus for the development of a full line of products for skating, running, hiking, cycling...indeed for all walks of life.
Sven was responsible for some of the most iconic ski boot designs early in the era of injection molded plastic ski boots. He continues developing products for the ski industry.
While working on ski boots, Sven encountered persistent fitting problems at all levels of skiing that lead to understanding the necessity of biomechanics-at the time a fledgling science as it related to skiing-and its importance as a foundation for proper shell design and a vital tool for bootfitting. He eventually partnered with Chris Smith DPM; Professor Emeritus of Podiatric Medicine, and Dennis Brown; owner of Northwest Podiatric Lab in Washington State. They became Superfeet In Shoe Systems and are currently Superfeet Worldwide. The rest is history.
Footloose is proud of our long association with Superfeet.
The original Insta-Ski Thotic has evolved into the Superfeet Kork…still the best ski specific footbed in this galaxy.
If you are considering the purchase of a Superfeet Kork, do so before you try on, demo and/or buy ski boots. The Superfeet Kork fits into any ski boot and eliminates a plethora of common fit maladies. This streamlines the demo process giving you-the skier-the best possible information with which to make a critical choice.