The comfort of your ski boots is an important factor in whether you have a great ski holiday or not - the wrong boots can cause such severe discomfort that they can detract from the overall enjoyment of your holiday. But these days you shouldn't find it difficult to find comfortable boots. Over the years the combination of comfort and performance has improved vastly.
First of all, your ski boots must fit properly - so as not to cause too much discomfort, and to transmit your leg movements to your skis. You should also be able to put them on and remove them easily - the buckles and adjustments should open and shut easily even when iced up.
A few years ago, rear-entry boots with just one or two clips to tighten the fit were all the rage. They were good for comfort and convenience but, for the most part, good skiers found they didn't give them enough support and sufficiently precise control between foot and boot. Rear-entries have virtually disappeared from the shelves now. Most boots now have four adjustable clips to give you precise fit and control.
It is important to get fitted out with the right boots from the start. It's impossible to say which models are the best for fit and performance - it depends entirely on the shape of your foot, so find a shop with a competent fitter and try as many different pairs as you can until you find the one that suits you best.
Most companies offer specific boots for women as well as standard fit boots. Some models - especially for novices and intermediates - have a walk mode, allowing more movement when off the slopes. These 'mid-entry' boots are generally more padded for greater comfort, at some cost to precise performance.
A good boot fitter should examine your feet and select the right boot for your foot - the volume of your ankle, your instep, whether your arch is high or low, and a lot of other things determine whether a particular make and model of boot is right for you.
There are a number of golden rules to follow when being fitted for boots:
- Allow plenty of time - at least a couple of hours and probably more - to try on several models and get properly fitted.
- Shop on a quiet day during the week, when the fitters aren't busy serving several people at the same time.
- Wear ski socks - only one pair.
- Try different sizes and models - and wear different ones on each foot to get comparisons, if you like.
Before buying, always try on both boots together of the pair you decide on. Adjust them for fit and flex forward repeatedly - you should feel your toes moving away from the front and you should be able to wiggle them, but your heel should be locked in place and not come off the sole. Wear the boots and walk around in them for at least 15 minutes to see if any problems develop.
Invest in custom-moulded footbeds. These will be moulded to the shape of your foot and give you maximum support when you need it - we've found them a huge help in maximising comfort and performance. You can also now get custom-moulded inner boots.
If possible, get a comfort guarantee that if, despite all your efforts, your boots remain uncomfortable, you get a free refitting service or, at worst, are refitted with an alternative pair.
In some resorts, there are specialist shops where you can test various boots before buying - an ideal arrangement (unless you are intending to get custom-moulded inner boots).
For more tips and advice on learning to ski: Ski goggles and sunglasses | Skis | Snowboards | Ski wear | Extra gear | Ski fitness