Many skiers spend so much time looking for the perfect ski, but neglect researching something that matters just as much, if not more: boots.
This ski boot buying guide will help to ensure that you can choose the best boots for you, considering a number of factors including:
- Compatibility with bindings
Ski boots can make or break a day on the slopes, and you should make sure that you are buying the best boots for you. The fit of a ski boot is a lot more fickle than your standard shoes. Trying on boots is very important, and it is not recommended that you buy boots based solely on your shoe size. Many factors go into what will make a ski boot right for you: flex, sizing, fit, compatibility with different types of bindings, and your skiing ability.
You will want to put a lot of time into making sure these factors all check out, or you will notice it on the mountain.
Flex essentially means how easy or hard it is to push the boot forward.
The flex that you may want in a boot is a very personal decision. Some skiers, no matter what ability level, want a certain flex range: soft, medium, stiff, or very stiff. In general, though, your ability plays a large part in the flex that you should go for in your boot.
Beginners and Low Intermediate skiers will want a soft flexing boot, which is more comfortable and easier to walk around in. Intermediate to advanced skiers will want a medium flex. Advanced to expert skiers should look into stiff boots. Expert skiers, as well as racers, usually have very stiff flex in their boots. Precise ski control increases as you go up in stiffness in the boot. So, a racer who demands perfection in their turns should be skiing with a very stiff boot.
On the other hand, beginners care more about comfort and ease of movement than flawless turns. And a boot too stiff can be unforgiving and hard to ski in for a beginner.
The terrain that you are skiing on also affects which type of flex you should have. Park skiers tend to have a lot of flex in their boots, while all-mountain and big mountain skiers have medium to stiff boots. If you will regularly be racing down hard, fast snow, you will want a very stiff flex.
Your body type also plays a part in the flex decision. If you are a big, tall skier, you will need a stiffer boot. If you are short and lightweight, you will struggle in too-stiff boots.
The size of the boot you choose is very important but is often thought of as just a starting point. Just because you wear a certain shoe size doesn’t necessarily mean you will wear a certain boot size.
Ski boot sizes use something called the Mondopoint scale. Mondopoint size is determined by measuring your foot from the heel to the tip of your longest toe, in centimeters. This eliminates any confusion between the different units of measurement among regions of the world and is a more precise way to size your foot. Once you find your Mondopoint score, you can start fine-tuning your search for the right-size boot.
Beginning skiers to low intermediate skiers should find a boot that is very close to their Mondopoint size, or just a bit longer. The little amount of extra room will aid comfort on the slope, and coupled with the soft flex make it easier to walk around. Intermediate to advanced skiers should aim for their Mondopoint size or even a little smaller. This size, along with the stiffer flex in the boot, will lead to a more responsive ski as skill level increases.
Many professionals in the know recommend that expert skiers go down a half size – or even a full size – below their Mondopoint score. This snug size will help the skier “feel” the ski more through turns.
How a boot fits is very important. When you first try on a boot, it is better to have a snugger fit than too loose of a fit. The lining of ski boots will compress after a few days of skiing, and the boot will feel looser.
You will want to feel the front of the boot with your toes when you first try them on. You also shouldn’t feel any pressure points when you try on the boot, as those will be a problem for the life of the boot.
Finally, you don’t want your heel to rise, as that lift will affect your turning and performance – and comfort.
When you search for your next pair of boots, you will want to know which bindings and skis you are going to be using.
The main issue here is safety. Different bindings have different release settings so that you don’t suffer leg injuries. If you buy boots that are compatible with the bindings you have on your setup, you are ensuring your safety.
If the boots are not compatible, though, they may not release from the bindings properly. Many different standards correspond with different types of bindings, which are determined by the type of ski that they are mounted on. For example, if you buy alpine bindings, you will need to make sure that you have alpine boots. Most other boot soles don’t meet the standards that match with alpine bindings.
You will also want to regularly maintain your bindings, as well as your boots. Regular use can affect the soles of your boots and change the exact fit of the boot in the binding. This can lead to a dangerous change in release points.
Your skiing ability will also determine which ski boots you should purchase.
If you are just starting, you are going to be spending almost all of your time on the bunny slopes or easy groomed runs. Your goal should be maximum comfort. Therefore, you are going to want a boot with soft to medium flex. It also should be around your Mondopoint score, or up to a half size larger than that.
Intermediate and advanced skiers are likely going to be spending their time on a wide mix of terrains. From steeps to moguls to off-trail, you are going to want more control from your boot. A snugger fit will help in the precision of turns, so a closer-fitting boot would fit the criteria. The flex of your boot as an advanced skier should be medium to stiff, depending on the type of terrain and your skiing style.
Advanced to expert skiers are going to be all over the mountain, and into the backcountry. They will need to trust their equipment in very steep and deep conditions. From cliff drops to racing, these skiers need precise boots. Experts will need boots that have stiff to very stiff flex. Many expert skiers will purchase boots that are much shorter than their Mondopoint score – one half to even a full size lower.
Park skiers, no matter the ability level, usually go for soft flex boots or up to medium flex (depending on their style of park riding) with a snug fit.
The decision of which ski boot to buy is very important, and you need to look around for the right one.
Many factors play into the choice you will make. You need to look at the flex of the boot, as well as the size that you are going for. The fit needs to be just right, so try on different boots until you get it correct. For your safety, check your shop’s compatibility charts for bindings. Make sure you are matching up the boot sole type with the category of bindings you have on your skis.
Finally, factor in your ability level to help you decide on the perfect boot. With the right boots, your performance will improve a lot, and your feet will thank you!