Ski boots are the most important part of any skier's set up. They transfer the power from the skier to the skis and bindings. Boots that are too big will be sloppy and result on a loss of control. Boots that are too small will be uncomfortable and could result in numbness in the feet.
The Pro Ski and Ride is a specialty boot fitting shop. As such, we recommend skiers visit a boot fitting professional to get properly fitted and adjusted ski boots. We recognize that is not always possible and hope that this guide assists you on identifying your next pair of ski boots!
Step 1: Sizing
Ski boots are often labeled in mondopoint (mondo), which is an international sizing standard. It refers to the length in the ski boot in centimeters. For example, a boot that has an internal length 26.5 centimeters will be a 26.5 mondo. Boots are generally sold on the half size.
Below is a chart converting mondo to US men's and women's sizing. Please keep in mind, many people wear their shoes a half size or size too big. It is common to size down from street shoes to ski boots.
|Mondopoint||US Men's / Unisex||US Women's|
Step 2: Last/Volume
Ski boots come in a variety of lasts, referring to how much room there is across and on top of the feet. Boots come in extra low volume (race boots), low volume, mid-volume, high volume, and extra high volume. Measurements may differ between brands but generally at men's 26.5 a low volume will have 98 mm of width in the forefoot, 100 mm for a mid-volume, 102 mm for a high volume boot. Although it seems small, 2 mm makes a lot of difference in a ski boot!
Step 3: Flex
Ski boots come in a variety of stiffness levels referred to as flex. Flex is not a standard measurement, but gives you an idea of how hard it will be to bend your knees forward when skiing. The stiffer the flex, the more responsive the boot. Buying a boot that is too soft will feel lacking when it comes to controlling the skis. But stiffer is not always better. Buying a boot too stiff will make it difficult to bend your knees getting your energy to the tips of the skis.
Stiffness is counted on a scale from 50 - 150. Generally, the higher the number the stiffer the boot. The higher the number also indicates where the boot is in a product line and may come with additional features and/or better materials in addition to being stiffer than boots with a lower number.
Soft flexing ski boots are generally below 100 for men or 80 for women. These are suited towards beginner or intermediate skiers.
Medium flexing boots are 100 - 110 for men and 80 - 90 for women. These boots are best suited for intermediate to advanced skiers. Weight and strength play a large role in determining flex so lighter weight advanced skiers or heavier beginners could find themselves in this range as well.
Stiff boots are above 110 for men and above 90 for women. These boots are generally best for advanced to expert skiers who ski aggressively on a consistent basis.
Step 4: Ability to Customize
Most ski boots can be customized to your feet by a professional boot fitter. A proper boot fitting can increase comfort and performance in nearly any boot. Here are some common adjustments that can be customized:
Heat Molding - Most quality boots sold have liners that can be heat molded for varying degrees of customization. Specially calibrated hot air is blown into the liners making them pliable. When a skiers feet are put in the heated liners the material is compressed in areas that were previously tight.
Some manufacturers also make shells that can be put into a boot oven to create a custom shaped shell!
Canting - Many boots have the ability to adjust the cuff to better match the leg angle this could be on one side of the boot or on both sides of the boot providing even more adjustment.
Forward Lean Adjustment - Some boots have the ability to adjust the lean of the cuff over the toes to make it more aggressive or relaxed.
Flex Tuning - Many boots have the ability to adjust the flex of the boots such as a "ski soft / ski hard switch" or bolts that can be removed from the back. These changes can often be made without the assistance of a boot fitter.
Step 4: Additional Features
Tech Inserts - Tech inserts allow for boots to be used with alpine touring pin bindings. They are not needed for normal alpine skiing.
Ski/Hike Switch - A ski/hike switch allows for increased range of motion while in hike mode. When in ski mode the cuff is locked in a forward, skiing position.
GripWalk Soles - GripWalk soles allow for easier walking with a slightly rockered toe and increased grip. Make sure your bindings are compatible with GripWalk soles if you are considering purchasing boots with these soles installed.
Step 5: Custom Foot Beds
Nearly all ski boots come with a flat stock foot bed with no arch. These flat insole do no harm but certainly do not help. Consider purchasing an aftermarket foot bed that can be customized to your feet. Options range from pre-shaped foot beds that can be used as is or custom molded to completely custom orthotics.
At The Pro we recommend BootDoc comfort foot beds. These are suitable for nearly all skiers coming in three arch types. They are pre cut to fit in boots and can be used out of the box. They can also be custom molded to hone in the arch support you need.