Tips for buying ski or snowboard boots.

What’s one of the best ways to spoil a potentially good day on the slopes – wear a pair of boots that don’t fit properly.

Unfortunately, many skiers and riders accept the pain and performance woes of boots that are too big, too small, too narrow, or too simply wide.

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Having a trained and experienced boot fitter help with the selection and fitting process is the way to avoid ongoing boot angst.

“The first thing we do is measure the foot for both length and width,” said Jack Coghlan, who has more than 30 years of experience in the snow industry and is a boot fitter at the Any Mountain store in Corte Madera.

“We see a lot of people wearing street shoes that aren’t the right size, particularly young people because that’s ‘the look’ but that’s not how to determine an accurate boot size.”
After getting an accurate measurement, several pairs and brands of boots should be selected based on the skier or rider’s ability and the type of skiing or snowboarding they are doing. 

Fit and flex two prime issues

According to Coghlan, fit ad flex are the two most important issues for a boot buyer to consider. 

“Properly fitting boots provide better circulation and decrease the chances of cold and cramping toes,” explains Coghlan. “From a performance perspective, a perfect fit makes it easier to initiate a turn and gives you better edge control on hard or icy snow conditions.”

Fitting sessions help avoid buying the wrong boots

For people struggling to achieve a better fit in existing boots, custom boot fitting services are also available in locations like Any Mountain, which has eight stores throughout Northern California.

During those in depth fitting sessions, specially fitted devices are inserted and tweaked to achieve a better fit as well as to improve control and comfort on the slopes. 

Four different flex choices

Selecting the proper flex is also part of the fitting formula and an important decision for the customer. Four different flexes allow skiers to select the type of performance that matches their ability.

A soft (forgiving) flex allows easier knee bending for tentative turners. Stiff boots can make it difficult to initiate a turn for a novice skier. Intermediate and advanced skiers generally prefer stiffer boots for more aggressive techniques and terrain. 

Boots can be adjusted for people with foot problems

Adjusting for various foot conditions is also critical. 

“Bone spurs are a common problem, so we often have to heat the plastic and punch out a small part of the plastic boot shell,” Coghlan said. “We also focus a lot on insoles since nearly 75 percent of our boot sales involve after market footbeds orthotics such as Superfeet and Sole. These insoles allow a much better fit, better cushioning, and much better arch support than the current insole in most boots.”

Coghlan is also quick to point out that heat moldable liners really help eliminate cramping and allow for a more precise fit.

How often should you purchase new boots?

Experienced ski boot fitters recommend new ski boots about every five to seven years, depending on the amount of use. Snowboarders need to make the purchase a bit more frequently because their softer, less expensive boots wear down more quickly – approximately every two to three seasons.

Veteran boot fitter Robert Stanley of Any Mountain store in Concord emphasizes that a good boot fitting process begins with an evaluation of the naked foot.

When looking for a new snowboard boot, Stanley tells customers that every single boot is different and every rider has slightly different needs. Some styles run a little bigger or a little narrower. Experienced boot fitters factor in that information when helping riders find the right boot.

“Generally, only one or two options is really going to work for the individual customer and our job is to find the boot that is going to deliver the best fit for that foot,”  Stanley said. “As a buyer, you need to give your boot fitter as much information as possible because in addition to the foot assessment, the more information the fitter has about you, the better they can match you with the right boot.”

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