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How Should Ski Boots Fit for Pain-Free Skiing

Wrong size ski boots can ruin a day on the slopes. Shin pain, blisters, and painful pressure can steal away the joy of skiing. So, how should ski boots fit for a pain-free day on the slopes?

A pair of ski boots should be snug and hold your feet in place. We’ll go over how to tell when ski boots don’t fit, some commonly asked questions about ski boot sizing, and ten tips to help get the right fit for you. 

How Ski Boots Should Fit

Properly fitting boots should support you on your skiing journey but can be hard to size yourself. While we always recommend getting professionally fitted, sometimes that’s not possible. To get started, use this ski boot size chart to zero in on your ideal ski boot size.

How do you know if they’re too big?

Here are a few tell-tale signs that your ski boots may be too big.

  • Heel movement: In correctly sized ski boots, your heel should feel the boot liner holding it in place. It will move slightly as you adjust your ski position, but it shouldn't be sliding back and forth. If your heels can’t find a stationary position in your boots, they may be too big.
  • Shin bang: Shin bang occurs when there’s too much space between your shin and the tongue of your boot. If there’s too much space, every time you shift your body forward, your shin will accelerate through the empty space and “bang” into the tongue of your boot. The less open space there is, the less of a chance for shin bang.
  • Blisters: Similar to heel movement, if your feet are sliding around inside your boots, it will create hot spots that lead to blisters. Blisters are a sign that your boots may be too big.
  • Toe curl: When you adjust your body position, your feet will move to accommodate. However, if your boots are too big, a natural response is to curl your toes to try and brace your feet. If you rely on this to keep your feet in place, it means you need smaller boots.

How do you know if they’re too small?

Conversely, some equally painful problems occur in ski boots that are too small.

  • Forced toe curl: In this scenario, there isn’t enough space for your foot to splay naturally. Your toes curl up because they have nowhere else to go. 
  • Calf pressure: Ski boots that are too small will dig into the meat of your lower/mid-calf. This is especially true for skiers with wide calves or wide feet. If this is a persistent problem, your boots may be too small.
  • Ankle bone pain: Your ankle bone extends out from the rest of your foot and can be a huge pain point for tight ski boots.
  • Lower heel pain: Similar to the ankle bone issue, if you feel unwelcome pressure, rubbing, and discomfort just above your heel, your boots aren’t big enough.
  • Numb or cold feet: If you don’t have any blood circulation issues and your feet are numb or constantly cold, your boots may be too small.

Ski Toe

Ski toe, or skiers toe, is another sign that your boots are the wrong size. It can occur if your boot is too large or too small. It’s a toenail injury with discoloration from either repeatedly banging your toe against the front of your boot or having such tight boots that your toenail is always impacting the edge of the liner.

Ski boot volume

Ski boot volume refers to the overall space inside your boot, from the top to the bottom and out to the toe box. Ski boot manufacturers have come up with three volume options, low, medium, and high. These categories are based on your last measurement.

The last measurement is the width across the west part of your forefoot in millimeters. A low-volume boot (for narrower feet) ranges from 97-99 mm, a medium volume (average foot width) is from roughly 99-101 mm, and a high-volume boot (wider feet) lives somewhere between 101-104mm.

You can measure your last at home by finding the widest part of your foot. This is usually measured from a knuckle underneath your pinky toe and across your foot. That measurement (in millimeters) will correspond with a last and volume range.

How long do ski boots take to break in?

Like any piece of equipment, there is a break-in period. The best thing to do is walk around in your new ski boots on dry land for a maximum of 30 minutes a day. Be careful of wooden floors; it's better to try on carpet or concrete. Within a week, the break-in period should be done.

If you want to break them in on the slope, dedicate at least 1-3 full days of skiing. After that, decide whether or not the boots are working for you.

Should ski boots feel painful at any stage?

No. This is a common misconception because people often get rentals or used boots that don’t fit their feet. Ski boots can feel awkward if you've never walked around in them before, but they should never hurt.

10 Tips to Get the Right Ski Boot Fit

These suggestions will help elevate your skiing experience without elevating foot issues.

1. Use a ski boot size chart to get your measurements right

Ski boot width is just as important as ski boot length.

2. Choose the right ski boot flex rating for your ability level

A softer boot is better for beginners, while stiffer boots are better for more advanced skiers.

3. Choose the right boot type

Downhill boots are resort-focused, and alpine boots (also called touring-specific boots or alpine-touring boots) are meant for the backcountry.

4. Know your feet

Do you have wide feet? Narrow feet? A high-instep? Collapsed arches? Knowing your foot shape will help guide your search.

5. Don’t forget boot fitters

Resources online can get you the right fit, but going to a ski shop and seeing a bootfitter is always recommended.

6. Purchase the Right Pair of boots

Best Ski Boots for Beginners

Best Ski Boots for Intermediate Skiers

10 Best Ski boots for Women

7 Best Ski Boots for Wide Calves

7 best Ski Boots for Wide Feet

Best Ski Boots for Every Skier

7. Think about custom ski boots

You can get custom-fitted ski boot liners, heat mould the liners and shells to better fit your feet, and even add custom insoles. Custom boots guarantee a better fit but will likely cost more.

8. Remember the break-in period

If a pair of ski boots doesn’t seem to fit right at first, walk around in them for a week (max. 30 minutes a day) or ski on them for 1-3 full days.Ski boots feel the tightest the first day you wear them.

9. Practice patience

You may not find the perfect boots right away; resist the urge to settle for boots that are less than ideal. The research and testing you put into this decision will set you up for multiple seasons of success with the perfect pair of ski boots.

10. Don't force it

If a pair of ski boots are the wrong size, don't try to compensate by wearing thick ski socks. It may seem like a good way to save space in an oversized boot, but it could accelerate foot pain.

Summary

A good-fitting pair of ski boots will help you avoid uncomfortable pressure, foot pain, and blisters. Use the tips and tricks in this article to make the perfect selection; your feet will thank you!

I’m happiest on long backpacking trips into little-known pockets of wilderness, skiing down backcountry mountains, and on all-fours, scrambling the rocky spines of alpine ridges. When I'm not adventuring in the outdoors, I'm most likely writing about them.

*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.