Boots are the most important part of your ski set-up. They’re the connection between your body and your edges, and when you have an ill-fitting boot, your legs don’t communicate with your skis. Make sure you’re investing in a boot that fits your foot perfectly and is geared toward the kind of skiing you do.
Experience Level: Your skiing ability will dictate how stiff (and conversely how comfortable) a boot you need. New skiers should look for softer, more forgiving boots with lower cuffs for a more comfortable fit. Just keep in mind that if you’re planning on being on the slopes often, you won’t be a newbie forever.
Shell: Shell construction will impact how boots flex and transfer power and how they lock down around the foot. There are two main types:
Three-Piece: Three-piece boots, which have made a resurgence in popularity in the last few years, have a floating ribbed tongue, and a buckle that latches at 45-degrees across the instep. Some people think that three-piece boots have a smoother flex, because there isn’t a break point between the lower shell and the upper cuff, and are more comfortable. They’re also referred to as cabrio or three-buckle boots.
Overlap: Two-piece, or overlap boots are made of two parts—the lower shell and the upper cuff—and have a pivot point on the ankle that connects the two. Overlap boots are considered more powerful; high-end race boots, like the stiff plastic plug boots that racers wear, are all overlap construction.
Liners: Liners are what give the boot forgiveness, warmth and comfort. They conform to feet to a degree and some are very moldable using heat.
Molded foam liners: These come pre-shaped, and are made of foam that breaks down slowly over time, so they’ll change the least.
Thermo-formable liners: These are made of foam that changes based on heat, so they’ll conform to the shape of your feet over time.
Custom thermo-formable liners: These are designed to be heated up, and then cool down around your feet, so they fit perfectly. You can also buy custom liners from brands like Intuition, and swap them out with the liners that came in the boots if you want a custom fit.
Flex: Flex is the measurement of how stiff the boot is. When you ski, you pressure the tongue of the boot, flexing it. Flex index measurements gauge how hard it is to pressure that tongue. They range from 30, for a soft kid’s boot, to 150 for a Bode Miller-style race boot, with most falling in the 70–130 range. If you’re a new skier, or predominantly ski in the park, you’re going to want a softer boot. If you ski hard, or usually ski hardpack, you’ll want a stiffer one. There’s no industry-wide standardization for flex measurement, one company’s 100-flex boot can feel different than another’s, so use those numbers as a ballpark, and trust what you know feels good on your foot.
Last: The last is how wide the boot is across the forefoot, measured in millimeters. The last determines the volume in the boot, which is directly related to comfort. Lasts run from 95mm for a low volume race boot to 106 for a more comfort-oriented boot. Some manufacturers, like Lange, are now making low- and high-volume versions of the same boot, with wider lasts in the high-volume boot.
Mondopoint Sizing: Mondopoint the length of your foot in centimeters. Most boot manufacturers are now using mondopoint sizing, because it’s universal. Boots come in half sizes, for instance, 26.0 and 26.5. To give a baseline, a 27.5 equates to about a men’s American size 10.
Getting Fitted: Because boots are such an important piece of skiing, and because they can vary widely, it’s worthwhile to see a professional boot fitter. They’ll shell fit your boot (put it on without the liner), to make sure you’re in the right size, and then tweak the liners and potentially the shell around your stance, the anatomy of your foot, and what kind of skiing you do. Boots are expensive, so it might feel hard to spend a little extra money up front on a boot fitter, but it will be worth it when you don’t have to buy a new pair of boots next year. And with the cash you’ll save buying boots at The Clymb, you’ll have some extra money to invest in a fitter.