How To Fit and Break in Ski Boots

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A properly fitting ski boot is necessary not only to ensure you ski to the best of your abilities, but to make sure you’re comfortable and safe. Ill-fitting boots can completely ruin the experience so you must place importance here. Ski boots may look simple enough, but they’re incredibly sophisticated pieces of gear.

They keep your feet protected from the elements, keep you comfortable, and directly connect you to your bindings and skis. Let’s go through exactly how to properly fit ski boots so you’re starting out on the best foot possible!

Starting Out

First off, we have to mention that everyone is different in terms of personal preferences and what is comfortable to you. What do you value more, comfort or performance? Generally speaking, you’ll tend to find that the greater your skill level, the more you’ll prefer performance over warmth and comfort. Again, this is all up to you. There’s no reason why you can’t have a good blend of both.

How to Put on Ski Boots

Before we proceed, we first need to go over how to put on ski boots properly. If you already know how to, then simply skip this part.

  • Completely unbuckle the boot: This includes the power strap. Make sure no buckles are catching or stuck by gently rotating the buckles out of the way. If they’re new, ensure all stuffing is taken out.
  • Keep the boot flat as you step into it and stand up: Do this by holding onto the tongue loop, sliding the foot into it and forward until it’s in the boot completely as you’re standing up. With high performance boots, you can expect these to be pretty tight and unforgiving. If this is your case, instead of the loop, grab hold of the interior cuffs and help pull the sides apart to give you added room.
  • Center the tongue: Just like you would with a tennis shoe, make sure it’s centered over the top of your foot and comfortable.
  • Buckle the two top buckles: After, fasten the power strap.
  • Flex the boot forward forcefully: Make sure you haven’t fastened the bottom buckles yet while doing this. This will ensure your toes pull away from the front and move your heel back into the heel pocket. This will also help with tight boots to give you a more snug yet comfy fit.
  • Fasten all buckles: Make sure your feet are not moving around, though it should never be painful or even uncomfortable. It helps to remember that from here on out, your boots will only get looser (with the exception being a full-bore 150 Flex World Cup Nordica GP or a 90 Flex Recreational model which will actually get stiffer in the cold).

3 Boot Measures

This process goes much smoother if you match the size and shape of your feet and calves, while taking into consideration your skill level and budget.

  1. The liner on its own should feel just like an extra-padded sock with a stiff tongue and back. Here, you should aim for a snug fit while still giving your toes wiggle room.
  2. The shell on its own should be able to fit your bare foot inside, along with maximum 2 fingers. If you’re going for a performance fit, take this down to one finger width.
  3. The upper cuff should also feel nice and snug from your toes to your calves.

guide to fitting ski boots

3 Types of Fit

Comfort Fit

When you’re standing up with your legs straight, your toes should be just touching the shell. When you bend forward, your toes should come back from the shell. Never go larger than this size. If you’re a casual skier or just learning, this is the fit that comes most recommended.

Performance Fit

If you’re serious about performance and comfort and rather not go without either one, then this is the fit for you. Standing up with your legs straight, your toes will be touching the shell. However, when you bend your knees, your shoes should hardly be touching the shell at all.

High Performance Fit

This is the tightest your boots should ever be. This fit is for those who value performance over comfort. Standing up with your legs straight, your toes should feel almost tucked into the front of the boot. When you bend your knees, every single one of your toes should be touching the front of the boot as well.

It probably isn’t going to feel very comfortable when you’re not skiing, so we recommend undoing the bottom 2 buckles when you’re just walking around or hanging out in the lodge. You can expect it to take around a month before you really feel “right” in these with the high-performance fit.

Achieving the Perfect Fit

We should mention that it’s normal to take around 6 days of skiing for your feet to finally properly settle into the shell. Before this, you can expect your feet to feel a bit inflamed due to the added tightness while they’re breaking in.

It’s not uncommon for some to keep the 2 bottom buckles undone until they’re loose enough to fasten. It’s also okay to take them off during breaks like having a meal or a cup of coffee until you achieve this.

If you’re purchasing in-person at a ski shop, we recommend taking your old ski boots with you if you have some. The person fitting your new boots will be able to tell a lot about them to help give you the best fit possible.

In addition, it’s important to make sure your ski socks are newly washed and completely dry. We recommend bringing along the thinnest pair that you have, considering your boots will only get looser as you use them. Try not to wear a base layer or ski pants that are difficult to roll up and over your calves.

Foot Beds

Foot beds are crucial parts of any shoe, why should it be different for ski boots? If you’re serious about your ski performance, you should definitely look into custom foot beds or orthotics. If you have flat feet, bunions, or other foot conditions, you may also want to add your own orthotics.

These custom insoles are designed to perfectly fit with your individual foot’s shape, curves, and more to offer maximum stability and comfort.

Additional Tips

  1. Quite a few boot models come with a removable spoiler attached to the shell, located between the liner and boot rear. If you find the boot is placing a lot of pressure in your calves or you have quite a bit of chafing, you can take this piece off. Usually, you’ll find it’s connected by Velcro or a screw, which is easy to take off.
  2. No matter how you’re getting up the mountain, make sure that your boots are nice and warm before you put them on. If you’re on a bus, try to keep them in a ski bag that you can keep with you. If you’re traveling by car, then we recommend keeping them in the passenger compartment of the vehicle. Another option that’s always nice to have is a heated boot bag. These are great as you can rest assured knowing your boots will be nice and warm, no matter where you are and how you’re traveling.

Now let’s talk about how to break in your ski boots

How Should Ski Boots Feel?

It’s going to be difficult to determine if your ski boots are properly broken in if you don’t even know what they should feel like! The boots are made to feature a snug fit that is occasionally tight.

Generally speaking, the tighter they are, the better performance you’re going to get out of them as the boots will essentially become a part of your body and allow for better control. However, if you’re a newbie skier, then you’re probably going to value comfort over performance, which means just aim for a snug fit.

What does it even mean to “break in” your ski boots?

When you first purchase a new pair of ski boots, they’re going to be pretty unforgiving. This is because they haven’t yet contoured to the unique shape and curves of your feet! There are certain models with liners which can be heat molded around your feet, but these are generally more expensive and even those require a certain amount of break-in time.

Simply put, this is just a period where your feet become comfortable in said boots. The material in the liners will begin to spread out and settle, forming perfectly around your feet. This typically takes around a week or so of skiing.

Breaking Boots in at Home

Undoubtedly, the most effective way to break in ski boots is by actually putting them on and going skiing. However, you can make it a bit easier on yourself by starting the process at home. If you don’t have the ability to go out to the runs every day, this is probably our best bet.

Start by walking around the house in the boots

Right after you get your new boots and bring them home, put them on and start wearing them around the house. Try to do this for at least an hour a day. To break them in quicker, try tightening up the buckles more than you typically would. Start out on the first day for up to just 30 minutes and increase time until you can comfortably have them on for at least 2 hours.

Instead of walking “normally” (as normal as you can in ski boots), try stomping around like your mom just grounded you from hanging out with your friends. As you do this, try flexing your feet back and forth, moving your toes around to give a bit more wiggle room. We won’t lie – it’s not going to be an exactly pleasant process, but it is better than being uncomfortable at the ski resort the next few times you go.

Just Wear the Liners

This will be much more comfortable. Get started by forming the liners to your feet by simply wearing them on their own.

Wear Them Altogether

After you’ve worn the liner on its own, place them back inside their corresponding boots and wear the entire boot altogether. However, this go around you do not want to tighten up the calf straps. Simply hook up the lower straps and buckles and tighten them as you normally would.

Wear them like this for up around 15 minutes. If you feel like they’re just too uncomfortable or even painful, immediately loosen up the straps and buckles and let your feet and lower legs rest. Then go ahead and do it again.

This process also isn’t going to be a load of fun, but it will more quickly make the boot mold to your feet so they’re much easier to use once you actually use them out skiing. You’ll feel like you’re able to wiggle your toes more, like your heel has a bit more space, etc.

Should I have a professional stretch out my boots?

There’s no black and white answer here. If you have already gone through the methods described above and still feel like they’re not forming well enough to your feet, then you may choose to head to a professional ski boot fitter.

However, it’s not a sure thing that this boot fitter will be able to stretch the particular model or brand of your boot. As beginner and intermediate-level boots are made to be more comfortable, they’re made of traditionally more pliable materials. Due to this, it makes stretching more challenging and you can more easily damage the boots.

However, the more expert-level boots are the exact opposite. They’re made of incredibly tough materials and can hold up better against damage that could come about when used by pro boot fitters. Furthermore, there are 2 kinds of boots and you need to determine which one you have:

  1. Seamed Ski Boots: These come with a couple different types of seams and plastics in the shell. Due to this, it’s difficult to avoid inflicting damage on the boots in this scenario. While it may not be impossible, we do suggest heading to a very experienced fitter if you are serious about stretching them.
  2. Mono Injected: As the name suggests, the shells on these boots are comprised of just a single type of material or mold. This makes them much easier to stretch and you generally don’t have to worry about them becoming damaged by the stretching process a boot fitter takes them through.

Reasons Why Stretching Boots Helps

As we know, not everyone has the same shape of feet. This can obviously make for some potential hurdles when boots are all made the same. Some people may encounter pressure on particular areas of their feet, which boot stretching can help solve.

Boot stretching can help with:

  • Bunion pain
  • Ankle pressure
  • Forefoot pressure
  • Heel spurs

Up to the Mountain

Once you’ve started the break-in process at home or you’ve had a pro stretch your boots, you can go up and try them out on the slopes. Make sure that they’re warm before putting them on for best results – particularly when they’re new. When they are warmer, they’re more flexible and will let your feet and legs slide in easier.

You’ll still most likely feel some discomfort and tightness, but you can generally expect this feeling to go away or mitigate when you start skiing. If they still are too uncomfortable, try loosening up your buckles or simply take a break.

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Richard Remick

Richard is the founder and the chief editor of Outside Pursuits. Passionate about the great outdoors, Richard spends much of his time in Colorado enjoying skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, cycling, hiking, and camping. When at home in Florida, he is most often found in the water. He loves water sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkeling, and scuba diving. He is a certified scuba diver. Because of his wealth of knowledge and experience, Richard has been invited to contribute articles to many outdoor-focused websites, such as Florida Rambler, and has been profiled on travel websites such as JohnnyJet.

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