Image:: Elle Cook
Words | Tess Cook
Ski boots, they have to be the single most important important piece of ski equipment. Bad boots are a sure fire recipe for a bad day and I for one only want good days on the slopes, so I’m having my new boots expertly fitted, as all skiers should, so I’ll never loose snow time to sore feet.
My first boot fitting faux pas – skinny leg jeans. Ben, my boot fitter at Buller Sports in Mt Buller, shakes his head. He gets this a lot.
“Tip number one,” he says, “track pants are great for boot fitting.”
Fortunately my jeans are stretch denim, so with cuffs pulled up and ski socks on – Ben recommends a thin sock – I’m ready to begin. The wall of ski boots in Buller Sports is awaits – from the selection, each one designed for a different foot and different skier, we will find and fit my perfect boot.
The wall of boots at Buller Sports. Image:: Elle Cook
Ski boots have two main points of difference:
Flex: how easy it is to bend from the ankle in the boot. The harder a boot is to flex the better it will perform for high speed, aggressive skiers, but the harder it will be for intermediate skiers to move properly in the turn.
Fit: apart from men’s and ladies fits, boots come in different widths and new technology also makes it easy to mould the plastic outer shell to fit any foot shape, so every foot can be fitted. High performance skiers will want a tighter fitting boot – ski racers wear their boots cripplingly small, Ben says, occasional skiers want something comfortable, everyone else falls somewhere in between.
Ben shows me the Dalbello Kryptons. Image:: Elle Cook
The perfect fit:
Chat with the bootfitter: Ben says he likes to have a chat with customers about how they ski, to make sure he selects a boot with the right kind of performance for them.
Find the right shape: My narrow feet mean I need a boot with a narrow ‘last’ – the width of the front of the boot. It’s easier to make a small boot wider, by softening and moulding the outer shell, than it is to fill space on a boot that’s too wide, Ben says.
For me, we select a pair of Dalbello Kryptons – the ladies version. Like many Dalbello boots, they sport a patented three-buckle design that is forgiving on the shins and a central tongue-piece, which I’m told helps the boots retain their performance when flexed. I’m won over by the comfort factor immediately, but the Kryptons are still a high performance boot, with a 80-120 flex and a narrow 98mm last. These boots are ideal, I want to ski well and ski hard, but I’m not willing to suffer for the sake of a bit of extra boot performance.
Fit the boots: Ben puts the liners – the soft inside part – on his boot warming machine and checks the size is right by having me insert my foot into the empty shell – the plastic outside – and move my feet around a bit. Can I wriggle my toes? Move my foot from side to side a bit? Then he warms the shell and I put the whole boot on, the heat helps the boot fit to the contours of my foot.
Replacing the stock footbeds is the best way to get a great fit. Image:: Elle Cook
Custom the fit: “Replacing the factory footbeds is the biggest thing any customer can do,” Ben says, pulling the footbeds from the liners. “Replace them with a pre-moulded one, or in fact, what’s even better, a custom one.”
The main difference between footbeds and orthotics, Ben explains, is orthotics are designed to correct poor feet, footbeds just support what’s there. Ben looks at my pronating ankles – pronation is when the ankles roll inwards – I really do need custom footbeds.
“In 18 years of bootfitting, there is no such thing as a normal foot, it does not exist,” Ben says. For the best fit, everyone needs a custom footbed.
- Stabilise the ankle joint
- Support arches
- Improve ski boot performance by 40 – 60 per cent (Ben estimates)
Having heated my footbeds to make them mailable, Ben places them in the mould we’ve already shaped to my foot and has me stand on them in my ‘skiing stance.’ For five minutes I’m in a quad muscle engaging crouch, luckily I have a pair of poles for support, and then I’m done – the footbeds are the exact shape of my feet and they’re ready to go in my boots.
Standing on the mould to shape the footbeds. Image:: Elle Cook
New Innovation: I don’t need any work done to my boot shells but the good news for people with ‘difficult’ feet is it’s easier than ever to reshape boots. “The biggest change (in ski boots) that’s happened in four to five years is the material that has gone into the liners, now most boots are heat mouldable.”
He then shows me a pair of Salomon boots with a heat mouldable plastic outer shell – you just put them in boiling water to soften then module them to your foot shape – genius!
Extras Skiing the next day I notice some heel lift and a pressure point at my left ankle. Heel lift is bad, if your feet move inside your boots, instead of moving your boots, you won’t be moving your skis. Luckily it’s easily fixed with a bit of extra padding around the ankles – this is where having boots fitted in the resort comes into its own, I can go back and have Ben make adjustments straight away.
After a few days of skiing the initial discomfort and pins and needles have subsided and I’m loving the new boots.
Ben’s boot tips:
Thanks to Ben at Buller Sports – www.mtbuller.com.au
For more about Dalbello boots visit www.dalbello.it