Fear of Fitting

By: Jackson Hogen

Published: February 28, 2017

Regular readers of these Revelations are aware that I routinely spend my winter weekends diagnosing and remedying multifarious bootfitting woes. Sessions with problematic feet may easily run over an hour, affording me the opportunity to hear countless confessions from afflicted skiers.

Perhaps the most common remark volunteered by owners of ten-year-old boots that felt good for the first and last time the day they were purchased is something along the lines of, “I wonder why it took me so long to do something about a situation I knew wasn’t working.”

Once burned by a bad bootfit, many skiers shun specialty shops,

fearful of falling into the hands of some misguided kook.

It’s a question well worth asking, given that so many skiers continue to ski in ill-fitting boots that place severe limitations on what they’re comfortable doing. To illustrate my point, let’s take the case of the lovely and talented Amy, who was in Bobo’s to oversee the outfitting of her husband in new gear. After watching me fit her husband, she asked if I could examine her boots and possibly fix what was bothering her. Amy hadn’t planned on getting her gear checked out, requiring a long home-and-back trip to get the offending boots in my hands.

It didn’t take a super boot detective to see the problem: in addition to being over-sized for length, Amy’s ultra-slender feet were in a cavernous shell. She described how her feet moved all over the place, making it impossible for her to ski as well as she knows she can. Amy’s feet were never particularly close to the shell that encased them in the first place; over time they’d migrated still further away.

If one’s foot, ankle and lower leg aren’t being properly held, steering accuracy and all pretense of high performance skiing are over. All Amy needed to rejuvenate her skiing were new, narrow-lasted, suitably supportive boots in the correct size. It required some customization to optimize the fit for Amy’s low-volume feet, but nothing out of the ordinary for a veteran bootfitter using current technology.

The point of this tender vignette is that Amy waited ten years to fix a problem that was evident early on in the skier/ski boot relationship. I suspect one of the root causes why an obviously intelligent professional such as Amy might defer “treatment,” if I may call it that, is that bootfitting entails a lot of hassle and rigmarole and what if, with her darn feet, she just ended up back where she was already?

The moral of Amy’s tale (which had a happy ending, by the way) is that people put off re-engagement with a marketplace that has let them down in the past. Once burned (or twice), infrequent boot shoppers often accept mediocrity in fit and performance because, to put it curtly and coarsely, they believe it is the nature of ski boots to suck.

If you last bought ski boots over a decade ago, there have been two elementary changes in boots that aren’t superficially self-evident. First of all, there is no longer such a thing as a “Lange fit,” or a “Nordica foot,” or any other brand-specific last shape. All major brands make narrow, medium and wide boots, which means bootfitters have many more options for fitting imperfect feet.

Second, but perhaps just as important, the modern boot has more customization features built into its design. The ability to distort the shell at relatively low heat has added a powerful tool to the bootfitter’s kit, but heat-moldable shells are by no means the only personalization technology to gain widespread use over the last ten seasons. Both stock liners (such as Tecnica’s CAS or Nordica’s Cork Fit) and after-market inner boots (e.g., Zip Fit, Boot Doc) have also stepped up their game.

One maxim that remains as true today as it was in yesteryear is that the search for the perfect boot begins with the discovery of the best available bootfitter. While I’m in no position to discourage the avid researcher – Realskiers.com is nothing if not a resource for researchers – where boots are concerned, making a model decision in advance of visiting a veteran bootfitter is probably an excess of edification.

If you’re in denial about how badly your ill-fitting boots are affecting your skiing, I suggest you explore two primary resources, Realskiers.com Test Centers and/or America’s Best Bootfitters, to locate the elite bootfitters in your area. Should this prove unsatisfactory, be consoled that Realskiers.com subscribers can simply ask Jackson how to proceed.

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