They say you shouldn’t try so hard to fit in, but with ski boots it can be worth the effort to get them to fit right. It sounds like a ruse, but boots that are too big can lead to more pain in the foot muscles and toes than one that’s too tight.
Too big means a size or more too big. This may only be 10mm too big, but it can make a huge difference, given that ski boots are fitted by the millimetre.
People mostly end up in boots that are too large because they have one issue that is difficult to accommodate in the right size, so they’re just shoved into a bucket – it’s the easy way out. Their issue might be a high and bony instep, bunions or big calves.
One of the noticeable signs that a boot is too big is when the skier is able to stand straight up in their boot. Rolling the whole foot around inside the boot is another really clear sign, as is sliding around in the boot and excessive moving at the top of the boot.
A sneakier sign that a boot is too big is when the ankles hurt. This isn’t necessarily from too much constant pressure on the ankle bones, it’s often from the ankle moving around too much in the heel pockets and banging the bones on the side of the boot. It can feel like someone’s taken a hammer to your ankle after a day of sliding. The same can happen with sore toes – the foot sliding back and forth can cause bruised toes and lost nails all because the foot is hitting the end.
But one of the most painful signs of a boot that’s too big is pain at the top of the shins. Banging back and forth every time you lean forward to start a turn. Shin bang baby, it will stop you in your carving tracks.
Technique issues that arise from a boot that’s too big can be seen in A-framing (where the knees almost touch when turning), leaning back and difficulty getting clean edges.
Going up a size can be seen as an easy fix to accommodate a difficult or problematic foot and take the “fit it in” approach rather than actually fitting the boot correctly. This leaves the rest of the boot being too big and the above issues ensue. Quite often these big boots are difficult, if not impossible, to modify enough to make the skier comfortable.
Avoiding ending up in the wrong size is as easy as having a full biomechanical assessment done before buying a new boot. This captures any issues and allows for a plan to be made to accommodate issues and the correct boot chosen from the beginning. The correct boot is one which will allow the right modifications to be made.
So next time you’re going skiing, if you’re swimming in your boots, just remember that a bucket won't bail you out.