The wonders of modern ski boot fitting

Boot-Solutions-collage-2Powderlife magazine editor and snowboarder Kristian Lund discovered ski boot fitting technology has come a long way since he last pulled on a pair more than 30 years ago. Here he tells us about his experience getting custom fitted with a pair of ski boots from Boot Solutions.

I’ve always watched skiers clump around in those big, heavy, plastic boots and thought how uncomfortable they must be. I hadn’t skied since I was 7 years old and all I remember is that strange heel-toe hobble that those rigid beasts made me do.

But when it came time to introduce my three-year-old boy to the mountain, I realised my snowboard wasn’t going to cut it – having both feet strapped into a board just wouldn’t allow me the manoeuvrability and freedom to move around as my boy tangled and crashed, and whinged and whined his way down the slopes.

So I had to find me a pair of planks. That part wasn’t so hard – I’d seen some old rental skis for sale outside Inski. Y9900 later and I was the proud owner of some fairly nice looking old Head carving skis. Tick.

Then came the part I was dreading. I needed some boots, and as I expected my time on skis would be limited to a period of one or two seasons, I only wanted cheap boots. So I mentally prepared myself for a cold, hard, painful time as a short-term ski instructor.

None of the second hand shops in the area had boots that were my size – they had all been traded in by Japanese people with feet several toe-lengths shorter than mine. After casually asking around friends who had similarly large frames or feet as myself for a few days, finally someone offered to give me his 10-year old pair of Rossignol boots. Rossignol – they should be great! I grabbed a six pack of Sapporo beer for the trade and took the boots home.

Fortunately, before heading up the mountain I tried them on. I pulled the tops open and squeezed my oversized “plates of meat” in as far as I could, before standing up and pushing my heel to the floor. Just as I had imagined, these things felt terrible – like my feet were jammed inside concrete blocks. Surely ski boot technology had come further than this. After a minute or two I decided there was no way I would last five minutes in these things, let alone hours at a time on a cold mountainside.

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I knew what to do – head to Boot Solutions. I’d heard they had all sorts of tips and tricks to make ski boots fit like a glove. I noticed some wry smiles as three staff looked over my old boots. They could probably heat the plastic up and expand them a little to give my feet more space, but given how old they were they would probably crack upon doing so.

Ned, podiatrist and owner of Boot Solutions, was happy to give it a try but said a new pair of well-priced, entry-level boots built for comfort rather than performance, custom fit with moulded footbeds would make a world of difference to my skiing experience. “You might even want to take up skiing full time!” he said.

I didn’t know about that, but after my brief experience with the old Rossignols, some warm, custom-fit boots designed for comfort was music to my ears. Sold.

Up onto the fitting chairs – a row of chairs like a shoe-shine boy’s – where Matt took over and started working on finding me the perfect boots. First we needed to find a boot that was the perfect size. Matt brought me a few different options, removed the inners and got me to put them on and stand up. I’m not sure what he was looking for but after asking me to bend my knees and watching how far my feet moved inside the shells, he found a pair of Salomons that he recommended would be just right.

The next step was to try them on with the inner and walk around the shop for five minutes. As you can imagine, feet come in all strange, gangly shapes and sizes so there’s no such thing as one size fits all. Walking around would isolate any areas that might be too tight or cause discomfort. After I’d finished my stroll I pointed out several areas that were causing issues, took off the boots and low and behold, red marks where the boots had pushed against different areas of my feet.

Now that we’d worked that out, it was time to manipulate the boots. Matt put them in a heater box for 10 minutes or so, while cutting out rubber pads the size and shape of the red areas on my feet. He also moulded some footbeds after recommending they would further support the soles and arches of my feet for more comfort. Sold again.

When the boots were warm and malleable, he pulled them out and fitted the foot beds, stuck the rubber patches onto the sore spots on my foot. I put socks on and slid my feet into the boots once more. This time I had to stroll around for 10 minutes to allow the boot shape to be influenced by the footbeds and rubber patches.

The whole process took almost an hour, and was actually an interesting and enjoyable experience. Not to mention the end result – that old heel-and-toe stride can’t be avoided, but the boots are so snug and warm I barely even think about them when skiing, and don’t have any sore spots after using them.

The snowboard still comes out on powder days, but thanks to these boots I now believe I might well see enough time up there that I might just try out some powder skis one day. We’ll see, Ned!

Drop into Boot Solutions on Hirafu Zaka Street right in the centre of Hirafu to grab any of these products or talk to the team about any boot issues or questions.

 

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