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The ski boot is arguably the most important piece of kit. Sure you need the ski, but unless you are properly attached to your skis – you may as well be standing on two bits of wood.
Most new skiers might not realize it, but the perfect fitting boot should be very snug. You should be firmly in your boot with no ‘loose feel’. You should be able to move your toes, but not have any internal heel or ankle movement.
Putting on a ski boot shouldn’t be a frustrating experience and with a bit of practice and following the right procedure, you’ll be able to buckle up with ease. Here’s your guide to choosing the right boot that fits and how to buckle it up from start to finish. With a properly fitted boot, you’ll benefit from improved skiing, more fun, and fewer knee-twisting falls.
#1 How To Choose A Ski Boot That Fits
Before you can get the perfect fit, you’ll need to make sure that the boots you’re using match up correctly with your foot size. Ski boots use a different sizing metric called the Monopoint and you can use my ski boot size chart to check what size you are. (It essentially converts your shoe size into the length in centimeters, which is what the Ski boot industry collectively uses.)
If you’re hiring ski boots at a ski rental they’ll be very experienced in helping you choose the right size. They’ll also be able to measure you up and match you with a recommended boot that matches your level of experience. You should always try on your boot before you hit the slopes to check it’s a good fit.
Get The Perfect Liner Fitting
Take the liner (the inner boot) out of the shell of the ski boot. Slip in your foot whilst wearing your ski socks (be aware that ski socks come in a range of thicknesses from heavyweight to thin to match the climate).
Your toes should touch the front of the liner, but only just touch it – like a feather dusting your nose. If it’s got any pressure pushing back against the toe, then the fit is too tight. A small bit of room for a growing kid is not a problem but, for a fully grown adult, you want it to be as close to my description as you can.
Your foot should be firmly inside the boot liner, but not uncomfortably protruding at the edges. If the boot feels too narrow, then you might need to change to a wider boot to match your foot proportions.
Get The Perfect Shell Fitting
Next, put your foot inside your shell boot (without the inner liner). Push your feet up to the front of the boot, until your toes can touch.
Put your fingers in the back part of your boot to feel the gap. You are aiming to have a 1-2cm (1/2-2/3 inch) gap. You don’t want the gap to be bigger than this. Performance skiers have this gap slightly smaller.
#2 How To Put On Your Ski Boot
Now insert the liner and try on your boots properly.
- Open all the buckles and lift up the tongue to give you some room.
- Slide in your foot – you’ll need to arch your ankle to get the right ankle to get it all the way in.
- Wiggle your entire foot and kick your heel down to make sure your foot is properly placed within the boot.
- Flex your ankle and calf forward to mimic your ski stance (when your knees are slightly bent).
- Open up the clips and make sure the tongue is centered and beneath the two interlocking plastic cuffs.
- Start buckling up from the main ankle buckle (second or third depending on boot size) to lock in your heel. Then from the bottom up begin to buckle up, (not too tight to start with). You may need to tighten the bottom buckles first to get the heel lock on, and then you should release them to a lower buckle.
- Tighten the buckles; once all the buckles are on and the velcro power strap fastened tightly, start around again and tighten each buckle until its as tight as you can be without being uncomfortable.
#3 The Ankle Buckle Is The Most Important
The ankle buckle is what locks your heel into place. The bottom buckle for your toes is not as important; many skiers like to wear these buckles as loose as possible. The bottom buckles can be firm, but need not be tight as the top ankle buckles.
#4 Don’t Overtighten Lower Buckles
Most skiers overtighten their lower buckles when they hear that their boots should be tight. The bottom buckles only protect your boot from snow getting inside and don’t need to be very tight. For most skiers, you can have the bottom buckles undone completely are put on the lowest buckle.
You may need to tighten them tight to get the other buckles on, but you should then release them so as not to put too much pressure on your foot. Over tightening of the lower buckles is one of the main causes of cold feet as it limited blood circulation.
#5 How Your Ski Boot Fit Should Feel
Most beginners don’t tighten their boots enough and the negative space makes your skiing less responsive. The more energy from your foot movement that directly transfers into the ski boot, the more your foot is in control of the ski.
Negative space or lose ski boots makes skiing much harder and you’ll not feel as in control as you should be. You don’t want to feel your heel or foot sliding at all inside, you should only be able to move your toes. The rest of your foot should be snugly fitted. Loose-fitting boots can also rub and cause blisters.
You’re more likely to cause issues by having the boot too loose than too tight. That said, there’s a limit to how tight your boot should be. Too tight and it will cut off circulation and weaken your food muscles.
Pro Tip: You can lift up the buckle and turn the clip to make it shorter and longer. This allows you to reach the next buckle if you’re in between buckle notches and get the perfect fitting boot. Make sure your trousers are out of the way of the ski boot and not tucked inside.
Ski trousers flare at the bottom and once you’re all buckled up, you can pull the trousers down over the boot. This has the added bonus of stopping snow and ice build-up on your buckles for when you loosen them at lunch or take them off at the end of the day.
After the first couple of runs, your foot will have had the chance to extend across the full area of the boot and this will open up any negative space. Take 2 minutes and re-tighten any buckles that have a bit more give in them You’ll be amazing at how much easier it is to ski with snug feet.
Tip #1: Loosen Up Your Skis At Lunchtime
Be sure to loosen up the buckles to a lower notch at lunchtime or on a long break. This gives your feet room to breathe and improves your foot’s circulation. It has the added bonus of feeling AMAZING.
Tip #2: Wear The Right Socks
You’ll want to invest in a couple of pairs of high-quality ski socks that provide warmth and also wick away moisture. Forget your woolen Christmas socks, modern ski socks are a blend of synthetic fibers and are shaped to fit inside ski boots & extend up the full length of your calf.
#6 Taking Off Your Boots
This took me longer to remember than I care to admit, but at the end of a hard day skiing – all you want to do is get those dammed boots off. While you’re in a rush to unbuckle them as quickly as you can, you get to the top buckle and realize it’s fully open but the buckle is still attached.
What do I do, I’m stuck. You’ll have to re-buckle the bottom buckles to tighten the boot enough for it to come off. If your ski boot is stuck on the last buckle, there is an easy fix: Do your buckles back up so the shell is tighter, and then Loosen your buckles from the top down!
Do You Have Wide Or Narrow Feet?
Not everyone has feet that fit the norms of the average ski boot. Check out my reviews of the best ski boots for wide feet and narrow feet.
- Best ski boots for wide feet – Read Guide
- Best ski boots for narrow feet – Read Guide
#1: I Have Ski Boot Pain
If you’re doing up your boot correctly and still have ski boot pain (different to tired feet) then its likely that the shape of your foot is not matching up with your boot liner and shell.
Boot pain is primarily caused by:
- The boots are too tight.
- The boots are too loose.
- The boots internal volume not matching your foot shape.
If you’re renting ski boots, then head back to the rental shop and ask to try on more boots. Different brand boots of the same size have different internal volumes. By picking another brand of boot you should be able to find a better fit. (bear in mind that most ski rental boots are different to off-the-shelf ski boots and they tend to all be in wide fit).
If you own your own boots, then try the following solutions:
- Wear thinner ski socks
- Allow 5-6 days of skiing for the boot to ‘break in’
- Install a supportive footbed.
- See a boot fitter so the shell can be shaped to relieve pressure.
I cover foot pain in much more depth over at: Why Do Ski Boots Hurt My Feet? Practical Solutions
#2: How Long Does It Take To Break In Ski Boots?
It takes about 5-6 full days of skiing before your boot liners will compact around your feet and bed into your ski boot shell. If your ski boots are still sore or painful on parts of your foot, then it might be a good idea to see a boot fitter get them stretched.
#3: Can My Ski Boots Be Stretched?
Some boots can and some boots cannot. Beginner boots are harder to stretch without deforming them, but intermediate and expert boots can be stretched by a professional boot fitter. If you’re unsure take them to a ski shop and they’ll be able to advise on the best course of action.
If you want to know more, I wrote a whole article on the topic: Will Ski Boots Stretch? – when, how much? and everything else you need to know.
#4: How To Keep Your Feet Warm?
- Don’t overtighten lower buckles
- Wear thin NOT thick socks.
- Keep boots at room temperature and dry them out.
If you want to know how I always keep my feet toasty on the mountain, read my in-depth guide: keep your feet warm while skiing.
Your feet should not hurt or be overly sore, but ski boots are meant to be worn tight, much tighter than most beginners might realize. A snug fit makes for better skiing. Too tight and you’ll risk cramp or circulation issues.
A good fitting boot is important and it’s worth spending that extra bit of time at the beginning of the day to get it right. Don’t rush to be on the slopes or your skiing will suffer.