Brody's Guide To Ski Boots

Brody's Guide To Ski Boots

Got questions about ski boots? This guide should answer all of them. If it doesn’t, feel free to ask us your question directly!

This Fact About Ski Boots May Surprise You

There's a good chance you've already heard this, but it's worth repeating:

Ski boots are the most important part of your ski equipment.

They influence your level of comfort more than anything else. If your boots aren’t properly fitted, you’ll be uncomfortable, and that feeling gets old pret-ty fast.

You should always try boots on before purchasing them. At Rick’s, we’re always happy to offer our expertise to help you choose the right pair of boots.

5 Key Factors To Look For When Shopping For Ski Boots

When it comes to choosing a pair of ski boots, you'll want to pay attention to these 5 key elements:

  • Gender (Are you an adult male or female, or do you need kids’ boots?)
  • Skiing Ability Level (How skilled of a skier are you?)
  • How To Get Your Boots Fitted & Boot Size Chart (What size boot do you need?)
  • Snow & Boot Types (Where are you skiing/what type of skiing are you doing?)
  • Last, Flex, and Boot Construction (How does a boot’s construction affect its performance?)

 

Record your results in cheatsheet below while you read this guide in case you have further questions for an in-store skiing expert:

 

Gender - Women’s Vs Men’s Ski Boots

Boots are designed with respect to the unique leg and foot shapes of men and women.

A Nordica Speedmachine ski boot

Men’s boots have taller cuffs, stiffer flex, and more room in the forefoot.

Shop Men's Ski Boots

Nordica Women's Ski Boot

Women’s boots are designed to accommodate their unique centre of gravity with a heel lift for greater stability. Their boots are narrower and have more flex to accommodate their smaller feet.

Shop Women's Ski Boots

Nordica Speedmachine J3 Ski Boot

Junior ski boots have lots of flex and are designed to allow smaller, lighter skiers to move freely in their boots with better ski control.

Shop Junior Ski Boots

Skiing Ability Level

An easy rule of thumb with this one: newbie skiers need boots with more flex. Seasoned skiers need stiffer boots.

There are four skiing levels:

  • Beginner
  • Intermediate
  • Advanced
  • Expert

Beginner

As mentioned above, those learning to ski should stick to a comfortable boot with more flex.

Shop Beginner Ski Boots

Intermediate

These skiers are now pretty comfortable and adept on their skis. They can gain a good amount of speed when skiing. However, they may still have trouble with tougher terrains.

Shop Intermediate Ski Boots

Advanced

Even in less than ideal weather or on rough terrain, advanced skiers are confident and in control thanks to their solid ski skills.

Shop Advanced Ski Boots

Expert

Experts can ski in any snow condition and terrain, all while maintaining total control of themselves at high speeds. Experts need stiff ski boots that can truly handle speed and precision.

Shop Expert Ski Boots

How To Get Your Boots Fitted

Before you try on ski boots, make sure you’re wearing a thin, dry sock—a ski sock is preferred. Ski socks are thin but designed to keep your feet warm. You need to wear a thin sock to get a better fit.

You should also factor in custom footbeds when buying ski boots. They're a must for almost every skier to help stabilize the foot. They can also help reduce foot width and length, allowing for a more true-fitting boot. This translates into speed and quicker response time from foot to snow.

How To Measure Your Foot Size Using Mondopoint

Since the 1970s, ski boots are sized in a universal sizing framework called Mondopoint. Before Mondopoint, sizes varied depending on the origin of the manufacturer (UK, US, or Europe.)

To simplify things and provide a common standard for measuring boots, Mondopoint was created! Here’s how to use Mondopoint to determine your ski boot size:

    1. Measure your foot against a flat surface, from the heel to the tip of your toe.
    2. Whatever you measure in centimeters is your Mondopoint size. For example, if you measure that your foot is 26.5cm, then your Mondopoint size is 26.5.
    3. Now that you have your Mondopoint size of 26.5, you need to consider your skiing ability. The more advanced of a skier you are, the tighter and narrower of a boot you’ll need to respond to your swift movements.

    Parts of a ski boot

    Step 1 - Measure The Ski Boot Shell

    The first test is to assess how a boot’s shell fits on your foot. This requires taking the liner (soft inside part of the boot) out of the boot’s shell. Here’s how to do it:

      1. Unbuckle the boot and place it on the floor with the toe facing away from you.
      2. Grab the top of the liner with your dominant (writing) hand.
      3. Use your other hand to grab the top of the shell and place the fingers of this hand between the shell and the liner.
      4. Pull the liner forward (away from you) in a swift, firm motion.
      5. Slide your foot into the shell so your toes are just beginning to touch the end of the shell.
      6. Measure the gap between your heel and the back of the shell with your fingers.
        • Can you fit two or more fingers behind your heel? Then the boot is likely too big.
        • Can you barely (or can’t) a finger behind your heel? Then you’re getting into “performance fit” territory. Contact an expert boot fitter for help if you’re an expert skier or a race skier. If you aren't, then you need a bigger boot.

    Is Your Ankle Touching The Shell?

    Centre your foot side to side in the shell. If your ankle bone is touching the shell, you might need a different boot, have a boot fitter modify the shell, or build you a footbed.

    If you've confirmed that the shell fits, put the liner back into the boot.

    Step 2 - Put The Boot Liner Back Into the Shell

    Make a fist with your hand (1), insert your hand into the liner with the fingers pressing into the heel of the liner (2) and pop the liner into the boot, and then apply force to press it back in (3), like this:

    A visual guide on how to re-insert a ski liner into a ski boot shell

    Here’s a quick and simple video on how to re-insert your boot liner into the ski shell:

     

    Step 3 - Try On Your Ski Boots

    Now that you’ve tested the shell and the liner, it’s time to put your ski boots on and try them on a bit.

    A woman putting on her ski boot the correct way

    1. When you open the ski boot, don’t push the tongue directly down towards the front. The right way to do it is to reach down, grab the tongue and one side of the plastic, and pull the tongue away from the plastic (see image above) and slide your foot in. If you push the tongue forward and down, it stops your foot from actually getting into the boot.
    2. Buckle the upper two buckles lightly.
    3. Stand up, flex your knee forward a little to "lock" your heels into the heel pockets of each boot.
    4. Buckle the two top buckles a little tighter.
    5. Attach the power strap, and then buckle the lower two buckles.
    6. Walk around for a few minutes and see how your feet feel.

    How Your Ski Boots Should Feel

    Your boots should feel snug, like a “firm handshake” on your feet. It’s very normal for ski boots to feel pretty snug—they’ll loosen up after you use them a few times. You should not feel any noticeable pressure points or discomfort.

    When you lean forward in the boots, your heel should feel snug and “lock” into the heel pocket. You should also feel space in front of your toes. Your toes should not feel any weight or pressure.

    When you’re standing upright, you should feel slight pressure on the tips of your toes.

    If the boot feels comfortable, walk around in it for at least 10 minutes indoors and pay special attention to the arches of your feet. If your arch begins to ache or feel discomfort, you may want to try a footbed with a higher arch, or a different ski boot altogether.

    Foot arches

    Boots feel off or you're unsure? We can help

    If your boot feels tight and uncomfortable, it’s either because of the shell or the liner (or both.) If you aren’t sure about whether your ski boots fit correctly, don’t despair. Contact us and we’d be happy to help.

    Ski Boot Size Chart

    In case you need a ski boot chart to convert sizes, here’s a easy one to follow:

    Mondo (cm) Men/Junior (US) Women (US) Europe U.K.
    Mondo (cm) Men/Junior (US) Women (US) Europe U.K.
    15.0 8 (Junior) - 25 7
    15.5 8 (Junior) - 25 7
    16.0 9 (Junior) - 26 8
    16.5 9 (Junior) - 26 8
    17.0 10 (Junior) - 27 9
    17.5 11 (Junior) - 28 10
    18.5 12 (Junior) - 29 11
    19.5 13 (Junior) - 30.5 12
    20.0 13.5 (Junior) - 31 13
    20.5 1 - 32 13.5
    21 2 - 33 1
    21.5 3 - 34 2
    22.0 4 5 35 3
    22.5 4.5 5.5 36 3.5
    23.0 5 6 36.5 4
    23.5 5.5 6.5 37 4.5
    24.0 6 7 38 5
    24.5 6.5 7.5 38.5 5.5
    25.0 7 8 39 6
    25.5 7.5 8.5 40 6.5
    26.0 8 9 40.5 7
    26.5 8.5 9.5 41 7.5
    27.0 9 10 42 8
    27.5 9.5 10.5 42.5 8.5
    28.0 10 11 43 9
    28.5 10.5 - 44 9.5
    29.0 11 - 44.5 10
    29.5 11.5 - 45 10.5
    30.0 12 - 45.5 11
    30.5 12.5 - 46 11.5
    31.0 13 - 46.5 12
    31.5 13.5 - 47 12.5

    Snow & Boot Types

    Unlike skis, most ski boots aren’t actually designed for unique types of snow. Most ski boots are classified as simply downhill (unless they’re an Alpine Touring boot.)

    At the end of the day, your preference and comfort is the key to choosing the right boot. Here are some general recommendations on characteristics you should look for in a boot depending on the snow type:

    All-Mountain/Powder/Carving

    Any well-fitted boot will work for all-mountain snow conditions. This is pretty typical of the snow we see at Blue Mountain, MSLM (Mount St. Louis Moonstone), Happy Valley, and Snow Valley in Ontario. Our ski shop carries plenty of all-mountain boots.

    Shop Ski Boots

    Racing

    These boots are stiff, narrow, and designed for one thing: speed.

    Big Mountain

    Big Mountain terrain can vary, so here are a couple things to consider:

    • If you want to explore open spaces away from groomed runs, check out ski boots with Hike Switches. They’re designed to help you move more freely when walking off-trail.
    • If you’re a pretty adventurous skier, look for a ski with soles that offer more grip.
    • If you’re planning on skiing unpredictable terrain, look for a softer boot with higher volume (room in the boot.)

    Park & Pipe

    Since park & pipe or freestyle skiing involves a lot of big jumps, you’re gonna need more padding and shock absorption. This means a more flexible boot with a more upright cuff to make backwards landings a little softer and easier. Gnarly, dude.

    Alpine Touring

    You will absolutely need a Touring-specific boot & bindings if you plan on exploring the backcountry. These ski boots are unique because they’re made of lighter materials and designed for hiking and to go up and downhill.

    Last, Flex, and Boot Construction

    Before we get into the more technical components of ski boots, here’s a quick overview of the parts of a ski boot to help you visualize what we’re talking about:

    Parts of a ski boot

    Liners

    We referred to liners earlier when going through how to fit a ski boot and remove it from the shell. The liner is the soft, inner boot that protects and insulates the foot. After using your ski boots a few times, liners will compress around your foot for a truer fit. The sole inside the liner is called the footbed.

    Tip: Liners can also be heat-molded to your foot so they retain the exact shape of your foot. Always have a professional ski boot fitter heat-mold your liners.

    Pro Tip: Invest in a footbed that will better support the shape of your foot. Footbeds are inexpensive and the right one can make a massive difference in how your boots fit and feel.

    Shell

    The shell is the hard plastic, outside part of the boot. Some shells can be heat-molded for expert skiers who need a super-snug fitting boot (get a professional to do this!)

    Power Strap

    Sounds intense, doesn’t it… It’s just the Velcro strap along the boot’s cuff that closes the gap between your leg and the boot. You can tighten it to your preference—I usually recommend leaving your strap a little on the looser side.

    Micro-Adjustable Buckles

    These are the end part of the buckle that can be tightened and loosened to provide more customization in terms of the tightness of your buckles.

    Buckle Ladders

    These are the pieces with the notches (always reminded me a bit of zip ties) that you clip the buckles onto.

    Now for the real ski boot enthusiasts, let’s take a final look at some very specific characteristics of ski boots:

    Last

    The last of the boot is defined by how wide or narrow your forefoot is (the widest part of your foot, AKA the metatarsal heads). The last is measured in mm, and there are three primary categories of last: narrow (96 to 98 mm); medium (99 to 101 mm); and wide (102+ mm.)

    Volume

    A boot’s volume refers to how much room a boot offers in the foot and/or calf-area. For example, if you’ve got skinnier calves, you’ll want a boot with lower volume.

    Instep Height

    If you’ve got high arches, you’ll need more instep height. The opposite applies if your arches are somewhat low. It’s hard to correct a boot’s instep, so it’s important to take the time to test out your ski boots before you buy them.

    Flex

    A boot’s flex refers to the level of force needed to bend your boot forward. Flex is measured numerically, and the higher the number, the stiffer the boot, the harder it’ll be to flex forward.

    Height and weight are both factors to consider when it comes to flex—remember, a heavier/taller person or an advanced skier (or both) needs stiffer boots for peak performance.

    Flex can vary depending on the manufacturer, so here’s a few simple charts for male, female, and junior skiers to help you narrow down a suggested flex range:

    Men's Flex Rating

    Ability Beginner Intermediate Intermediate-Advanced Advanced-Expert Expert-Racer
    Flex Rating 60-70 70-80 85-100 110-120 130+
    Feel Very Soft Soft Medium Stiff Very Stiff

     

    Women's Flex Rating

    Ability Beginner Intermediate Intermediate-Advanced Advanced-Expert Expert-Racer
    Flex Rating 50-60 60-70 70-80 85-100 110+
    Feel Very Soft Soft Medium Stiff Very Stiff


    Junior Flex Rating

    Ability Beginner Intermediate Intermediate-Advanced Advanced-Expert Expert-Racer
    Flex Rating 30-50 30-50 40-60 60-70 70-90
    Feel Very Soft Soft Medium Stiff Very Stiff 


    Congrats! You completed this guide. ⛷️ 

    That's it! Hope you found this guide to be useful, but if you still have questions, contact us anytime! Happy skiing!

    -- Brody

     


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