The most common complaints of skiers worldwide are arch pain, throbbing ankles, purple toes, aching shins, and overall foot pain. Snowboarders make fun of rock-hard boots, and beginners wonder if the sport is even worth it with such awkward footwear.
Of course, we know it is, and those who have found the perfect boot at some point in their lives understand that the bad rap on ski boots is unjustified. But how can getting the right-sized ski boots reduce your foot pain?
Size-Related Reasons for Ski Boot Pain
Here are the most common causes of boot pain for most skiers, together with potential solutions to have you skiing pain-free (get to know more fun facts about skiing here!).
Ski boots should be worn snugly but not too tight. A ski boot that is too tight will reduce circulation and make the feet cold and cause cramping and severe discomfort.
Typical sensations associated with too-tight boots:
- a burning sensation all over the forefoot
- aches and pains all over the foot
- the front of the boot bent and squashed the toes
If your finger barely fits or there is no room for it, your ski boots are probably too small for you.
Remember that this is a general fit test to calculate your shell size. Your boot may be the correct size, but the width and volume (known as the boot last) are incorrect, resulting in tightness.
Suppose you experience a burning sensation underneath the ball of your foot while wearing your ski boots (within 5-10 minutes or more). In that case, you are most likely experiencing uneven pressure distribution symptoms within your boot. This can be identified more thoroughly with a thermic measure or podoscope at a ski shop with a technical department.
Common causes of uneven pressure include:
- the high arch of the foot colliding with the top of the boot, pressing the foot down
- the foot size is too large for the boot last (boot width)
- the power strap/boot cuff is too tight around the calf, limiting ankle flex
- unique foot proportions/shape (i.e bunions)
Most new skiers wear too large ones, making their feet hurt in ski boots. This is due partly to oversized rental ski boots and new skies, expecting the fit to be close to a hiking boot.
The less internal space there is, the more energy you’ll transfer into the ski and boot, making hockey stops and parallel turns faster and more responsive. As a result, ski racers typically have extremely tight fits and custom-molded boots as closely contoured to the skier’s shape as possible.
Wearing too-loose boots causes it to be harder to lock the ankle and prevent it from falling or rising as you ski. The greater the internal movement of your foot, the more likely it is to rub, start causing blisters and develop sores.
What Should Ski Boots Fit Like?
Ski boots should fit snugly but not painfully. Your toes must press up against the end of the boot when your boot is completely buckled, and you’re standing up straight. When you stretch forward and lean into the boot’s front, your toes should pull back slightly to make room.
The liner of your ski boot should be snug. There shouldn’t be visible gaps between your calve and shin.
Should Ski Boots Be Tight?
Your ski boots should be snug. However, the boots shouldn’t be so tight that you can’t wear them for several hours at a time.
A tight boot will give you more control over your ski. You will have less control of your ski if your foot squirms around in your ski boot. The added play in a loose boot increases the effort required to turn the ski.
How to Measure Ski Boots
Two measurements are required to get the right size ski boot. Your shoe size and last name.
Ski boots, like shoes, use the length of the foot to figure out the correct size. Ski boots, unlike shoes, use mondo point sizing or the length of the foot in millimeters.
There are ski boot size charts available that convert regular shoe sizes to mondo point sizing. When you buy a ski boot from a store, your foot will be measured by the boot fitter.
If you’re ordering a pair of boots on the internet, consult a size chart to ensure you get the correct fit. It’s critical to be truthful with yourself regarding your shoe size. You don’t want to be wearing ski boots that are too big.
Ski Boot Last
The final dimension is the width of the ski boot in millimeters. It is arguably as significant as the length. The final piece secures your foot and prevents it from shifting from side to side.
Because each foot is unique, each shoe has its own last. So, before purchasing a ski boot, you must first measure your last. Measure the forefoot’s width in millimeters if you’re sizing yourself.
Lasts range in size from 97 to 106 mm. Fortunately, ski boot manufacturers offer a wide range of lasts, so there’s bound to be a ski boot that fits you.
Should You Lift Your Heel in Ski Boots?
Heel movement ought to be minimal to non-existent. When you flex your ski position, your heel should remain flat and firm on the ground. If you try, you can always lift your heel; focus on pushing your knees over your toes in the flexed position.
If you are experiencing heel lift, consult with your boot fitter. You may consider requesting heel lifts or a thinner boot to compensate for this issue. Ski boots have drastically different shapes and feel depending on the brand.
Will Ski Boots Stretch?
Ski boots will likely break in. The ski boot liner eventually wears out. As you wear your boot, the foam in the liner compresses, reducing the total volume of the liner.
If you ski 60+ days per year, a boot fitter usually puts you in a smaller boot since the liner will quickly wear out. It’ll take years to fully pack your liner if you’re a casual skier.
But what happens when your liner wears out? You have the option of replacing your liner. Alternatively, you can place an insole shim underneath your liner. This shim will take up additional space in your boot and make it snug again.