Finding the Right Boot

We advise all boot shoppers to try a wide range of boots to determine which brands and models match their feet. First, it is most important to limit your choices by fit. Most of the currently available boots have excellent performance, making fit and comfort a priority over boot features. When looking at features, remember that higher-performance boots are constructed with higher-quality materials and more exacting specifications, resulting in a lighter boot that performs better in fit and functionality.

New boots should fit quite snugly, keeping in mind that boots “pack out” a bit as they break-in; width and volume will change slightly during, but length does not. Find the appropriate length and then try to get the snuggest fit that is comfortable. If a boot squeezes at the ball of your foot, it is too tight. 

It's good to remember that higher-end racing boots have less padding and insulation to pack out. Hence, they maintain their fit better over the boot’s lifetime, without the wishy-washiness that can develop in lower-quality boots over time. Longevity is one benefit of higher-end boots and adds some value to them.

When possible, choose a thin or medium-weight sock; heavier socks will make the boot feel sloppy and can reduce circulation, causing the boot to feel colder. If you have trouble with cold feet, a boot cover is the best solution. And remember: never, ever use two socks at the same time. This will cause slipping inside the boot and could ultimately lead to blisters.

Once you have narrowed the field, compare the features and overall quality of your choices. To get a good feel for what you are trying on, imitate movements made when skiing. Walking is not a useful way to test ski boots. With skate boots, transfer your weight from left to right. For classic boots, roll onto the ball of your foot (not on your toes) and push down, noting how the sole flexes. It should be supple and allow your foot to flex naturally with no sharp hinge points. 

One final tip: Insoles add support and stability. They can also help fix hot spots by aligning your foot properly inside the boot. Across all brands, stock insoles do not offer much support and so utilizing an aftermarket insole, custom or otherwise will improve your skiing and comfort. Even a simple trim-to-fit insole (think Superfeet) can make a big difference.

Skating Boots

Performance in a skate boot comes from stability in the heel, torsionally rigid sole, and snug fit. The boot should have a little room ahead of the toe, ideally somewhere between the fit of a cycling shoe and a running shoe. When standing on the whole foot, your heel should feel solid with little or no lateral motion when you imitate a skating movement by pushing sideways. There should be no rubbing if you transfer your weight from left to right. Your heel will likely lift if you roll up onto your toe or walk—this is due to the stiffness of the sole and is normal. As long as you don’t get any torsional rotation or rubbing as you push off laterally with the entire foot, the boot will work well.

Skate-boot fit can present challenges because of several hard components like the cuff, heel cup, and hinge rivet. Check for issues in each of these areas for each boot you try. Don’t forget about trying an insole.

Classical Boots

Classical boots require a bit more room in the toe as they must flex under your foot’s ball. Toes should not hit the front of the boot at any time during the stride. Do not worry much about lateral motion in classical boots, but it does not hurt to push from side to side and verify that there is no significant rubbing. Compare classic soles by rolling up onto the ball of your foot and feeling how smoothly they flex and if they create any issues by bending in the wrong place for your foot or creating hinge points that hit your feet.

Classic-boot fit tends to be more forgiving than skate fit because there is less structure around the heel and ankle. You do need to be aware of any pinching that occurs when you roll forward onto the ball of your foot.

Looking for more descending and turning control than a traditional classic boot? Consider a combi for extra ankle support or a carbon boot for enhanced torsional stability.

Women's Boots

Most ski boot models are unisex, but some offer a women’s variant. These models have a narrower heel, higher arch/instep, and more room for lower calf muscles. It’s important to note that not all women prefer the gender-specific fit, and it is often advisable to try the unisex version if the women’s boot isn’t entirely cutting it.