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If you’re considering buying a pair or new ski boots or have already bought a pair and wondering if you should expect the boot to stretch -- then this article is for you.
Ski boot liners will compact and stretch a small amount. Over time ski boot liners are designed to be broken in and mold to a skier’s feet and bed-in to the shell. Ski boot shells will not stretch on their own but can be stretched by professional boot fitters.
How long does it take to break in ski boots?
As a rule of thumb, it takes about five to six full days of skiing to break in your ski boot liners. Over this time as you ski, your foot will compact and press against the liner is specific areas. The liner will also spread out and settle into the boot shell (source).
During the first few days, it’s normal for your feet to feel very tight (especially in the morning) as your liners have yet to compact and sit fully into the shell.
Top tip: keep your bottom two buckles completely undone for the first few days until you can get them onto the loosest buckle. Once your ski boots are broken in it’s a good idea to wear these bottom buckles loose, as over-tightening them will put an unnecessary strain on your foot. This pressure can make you arch your foot and reduce blood circulation (a major reason for cold feet).
Can my ski boots be stretched?
Whether your ski boots can be stretched by a professional ski boot fitter, depend on the model of boot you own.
Beginner or intermediate boots are made from softer materials and are more difficult to stretch without damaging the boot.
Expert boots or high-end boots are often more easily stretchable by a boot fitter. Boots made from stronger materials are able to handle the force required to stretch out the boot shell and alter the shape (source).
Typically expert ski boots can be stretched quite a bit whereas lower end boots or boots with seams can only be stretched a small amount or not at all.
Mono injected ski boot: this is a single injection of plastic where the boot is made in one mold or one type of material. Thesee types of boots can be more easily stretched by a boot fitter
Seamed ski boot: If your boot has two different types of plastic or seams within the boot shell construction, then its much more difficult to stretch the boot without damaging it. It takes a more skilled boot fitter willing to take on the challenge if you want this type of boot to be stretched.
Can I stretch my ski boots at home?
Ski boots are highly engineered pieces of equipment and while you can try to stretch your boot at home unless you know what you’re doing your just as likely to deform or damage your boot as you are to stretch into correctly.
Specialist ski shops have special equipment that they use to stretch out their boots, and buying this equipment would likely cost more than buying a brand new boot and getting it professionally stretched.
How are ski boots stretched?
Boot fitters heat up the boot by putting it in hot water and then they use a vice to lock the boot into place and apply pressure to different areas of the boot.
By applying pressure, the boot fitter can expand and collapse the shell in different areas to stretch and mold the heated plastic into better shape to fit the skier’s foot.
Boot fitters use a tool called a boot press to stretch boots and the tool allows the boot to be stretched to its maximum capacity and requires many hours of training and experience to be done correctly and without damaging the boot.
Reasons to have your ski boot stretched?
The main reason to get your ski boots professionally stretcehd is to releive pressure on specific areas of your foot, so your feet are more comfortable while skiing.
You may experience in the following ways and areas of the foot?
- Ankle pressure
- Heel spurs
- Forefoot pressure
If you’ve broken in your ski boots (more than six full days of skiing), and you’re wearing your ski boots properly (read my guide on that here) but your feet still feel painful while skiing, then take your boots to a boot fitter and ask for a free consultation.
They’ll be able to help you decide if you should get your boots stretched or not.
How much does it cost to get my boots stretched?
If you go into any specialty ski shop they will be able to quote a price to you based on the style of boot you have and the amount of stretching that you require.
Some ski shops will include the cost of boot fitting with a purchase of a medium to high-end boot.
Otherwise, you can take boots bought elsewhere to any boot fitter and they will be able to advise you on the best course of action and let you know if it is worth having your boots fitter and if it can be done without damaging the boot (depends on the type of boot).
Expect to pay the following for boot fitting services:
Boot punches = €30 / $35 per punch: Boot punches stretch the boot shell to relieve pressure in specific areas of the boot. (source)
Custom Footbeds = €120 / $140: A custom footbed involves capturing the imprint of your sole and then molding a footbed to match the shape of your footprint. (source)
These are estimates and the final price will depend on the boot shop and how competitive or skilled the bootfitter is. The more work it is for the boot fitter, the more you can expect to be. Always agree on a price before handing over your boots.
How much are custom fitted boots?
You can by ski boots that are custom fitted to the shape and profile of your foot in the manufacturing process, rather than being adjusted to fit from a stock shape.
The final cost will depend on the style of boot, your level of skiing and the materials used.
Generally stiffer boots for expert skiers will also cost more than boots for intermediate skiers. This is because the boot needs have stiffer and more expensive materials, the more advanced the boot becomes.
To get a custom ski boot, the manufacturer will scan your foot (Surefoot scans your foot in 538 places, source) and then maps this data into a topographical map of your foot which is then sent to the machine that creates the insoles.
The insole will then be contoured to the shape of your foot and eliminate any negative space that you would find with an off-the-shelf stock boot.
The less negative space, the more your foot’s movements will transfer directly into the ski, improving its responsiveness.
For an extra cost, you can install heated footbeds, which can be remotely controlled to heat your feet on the mountain.
When to Replace Your Ski Boots?
Normal wear and tear, scuffs and knocks are completely fine. But when the toe is rounded or there are any cracks in the plastic shell, it may be time to replace your boots.
If the boots don’t fit securely into your bindings OR don’t always release easily, then it should be a serious cause for concern.
If you think your boots are nearing their end, take them to a trusted ski shop and they will be able to help you determine if your boots need replacing with a visual inspection and by testing them in bindings.
Ski boots typically have a lifespan of at least 150 days of skiing (source)