How the Best Custom Ski Boots Are Fitted and Why They Are Worth It
Top Reasons to Get Custom Ski Boots
- Custom ski boots can make ski boots comfortable for an entire day of skiing. The custom fit can be tailored to feet that are two different sizes, to wide or narrow width feet, or to feet with high arches.
- A well-fitted boot will help with turning and balance while skiing.
- Ski boots last several seasons. The pair you invest in will likely outlast two pairs of skis since boot technology hasn't changed significantly in the last ten years.
Downside of Custom Ski Boots
- They are expensive. You can save money by purchasing them during the off season, buying boots that are a previous year's model, waiting till the end of the season for when things go on sale, or even getting slightly used boots (worn once) like I did, which saved me $175 on my recent pair (February, 2017).
- How good the fit is often depends on the boot fitter. Make sure to get your boots from an expert, or you may end up with a poorly fitted boot.
The Custom Ski Boot Process
Our recent trip to Olympic Bootworks in Squaw Valley was an education in biomechanics and the ultimate fit centered around custom orthotics and Buck Brown's proprietary technology called "Heel-Loc."
The idea is relatively simple. Using a foot skeleton, Buck, the owner, will go deep explaining how each bone in the heel works and moves, and why his take on boot fitting is fresh and better.
My simpler understanding is that the custom footbeds of the past, like cork beds and even modern day footbeds from Sure Foot, are shaped to the foot with the full weight of the body compressing the foot out and longer. These beds are basically designed to provide arch support. Heel-loc is shaped and molded to the foot in a natural sitting position. It's designed to stabilize the heel and keep it aligned when weight is added.
The result is an outstanding custom fit that goes well beyond ski boots. These orthotics can be used in any shoe that has a removable insole.
Olympic athletes like Travis Ganong are using Buck's footbeds, but so are world class mountaineers and golfers. Perhaps what made Buck the most excited is a few examples of where his footbeds have helped two kids with cerebral palsy. As Buck explains, kids with cerebral palsy walk on the balls of their feet. Stabilizing the heel allows for a more natural walking position that has been a dramatic improvement for the two kids using his invention. As he explains, it's rewarding to have a thriving business, but it's really nice to be helping people.
Back to custom ski boots. There are three main pieces to custom ski boots. The first part is the ski boot foot bed, the second is the ski boot foot liner, and the third is the ski boot shell. Outlined below is the process my wife went through to get her ski boots.
Buck Brown, Footbed Expert, Entrepreneur and Good Guy Happy at Work
The Cost of Custom Ski Boots in 2019
$400 - $1000
How Custom Boots Are Fitted
I'm going to show you custom boot fittings by two different experts: Olympic Bootworks in Squaw Valley, CA and Barry Allison, of Whistler Sports Village in British Columbia.
2019 Custom Ski Boots and Footbeds (Orthotics)
Olympic Bootworks is Worth a Trip to Squaw Valley
We went to three shops in Squaw Valley and Truckee and talked to the bootfitters. Went through the process at two of them and decided that Olympic Bootworks by far the best. Here's how it works.
Getting the Right Ski Boot
My wife got her boots fitted by Rich at Olympic Bootworks. We started off by bringing in her old boots to see if we could get the heel piece replaced because it had worn down so much. Her Technica boots are about 8 years old and they didn't have the piece to replace it, which led to a discussion on how the technology and plastic in boots has changed.
He measured her foot and based on the length and width of her foot, he recommended a Lange boot. He placed her foot in the shell to come up with the recommendation. As it turned out he had a few boots in her size.
The next step was to place her foot in the boot and flex the boot. This is where we hit a snag. He had 90 flex boots. When Robin flexed the boot, he said the boot wasn't stiff enough.
I was thinking, here we go. We are about to get sold a much more expensive boot. It turns out they didn't have a boot in her size with the flex he recommended. So, he gave us the boot recommendation and I went online on my phone. I found the exact boot he recommended for $280 (Lange XR 110 Women's from Evo).
Now I was concerned again. He said we could still get the footbeds and put them in the boots once I got them. I had just found out that my wife's previous corkbeds wouldn't work and I have to say, I was a bit skeptical, but my wife wanted to go forward so we did.
Footbeds Molded to Feet on Gel-Pads
Making the Custom Footbeds
The process is simple. They start by heating the shell in a crockpot so that the plastic is pliable.
Then, while you are sitting down, the inserts are placed on gel pads and your feet rest on the inserts. As the footbeds cool, they conform to the natural resting shape of your heel and foot.
Skeleton Demonstrating Footbed Fit
Skeleton Demonstrates Fit
The orthotic looks like it has a high arch, but that's the natural shape of the foot. Since the heel is stabilized and supported, this orthotic will flex when pressure is applied and move naturally with the body.
A Heel Piece is Attached to the Footbed
The boot maker analzyes the gait of the person being fitted. To complete the footbed, a heel piece is attached. It's made of dense foam to form the platform of the orthotic.
Hand Sanding the Heel Piece
The bootmaker sands the heel piece using a belt sander, to create a flat portion in the heel for stability.
Smoothing Edges of the Heel Piece and Footbed
On a smaller sander, by hand, the excess foam is smoothed to the orthotic's edge to create a clean line and a professional finish.
How Good Are These?
I have to say, as a ski boot goes, they are top notch, and as modern day technology goes, these are exceptional, but what about value.
For $200, it's a pretty dang good value. I've had two pair made and each one was between $300 and $400. They included a fee for the orthotic and the fitting. This is one all in cost.
My daughter has suffered from Sever's disease. It's a painful foot problem. She's been to the podiatrist and had two pairs made for $700 apiece. Going forward, we will give these a try. Buck's confident they will be better than what she has.
One last thing on value. You can pull these inserts out of the ski boot and use them in any pair of shoes where the original insert can be removed. So, game on for running, golf, basketball, soccer, and baseball. Do they work in cleats? Yep.
What about dress shoes and boots? Well, he can make you an extra pair for a fraction of the price of the first pair (about $100).
2017 Getting Custom Ski Boots by Master Boot Fitter Barry Allison
Getting Custom Ski Boots by Master Boot Fitter Barry Allison
The entire boot fitting took about one hour and my boots were ready the next morning. Barry is about as cool of a guy as you will meet, with an easy smile and calm demeanor. Here are a few cool things about Barry.
- He trains ski instructors.
- He started boot fitting out of his garage in Quebec.
- He's fitted kids for the Canadian Para Team.
Getting Custom Footbeds
The first part of the process is putting the various layers of the custom bed into a machine that heats and compresses the layers.
Standing on Gel Pads
To create a form of your foot, you stand on a Sidas Gel Pad.
Molding the Footbed
After the layers of the footbed have been compressed, they are placed over the gel pad molds and you stand on the foot beds to create the custom fit.
Fitting the Boot to the Foot
After the molds are done, he places your foot back into the boot and examines how the boot is fitting each of your feet.
Punching and Adjusting the Boot
Based on how the boot fits, he adds padding and punches the boot out to relieve pressure. He marks the boot with white chalk and takes notes as well as an outline of your feet.
It takes about one hour for the fitting and then the next day the boots are ready.
Amazing Fit with Barry Allison
These are the absolute best fitting most comfortable boots I've ever had. I highly recommend Barry. Tell him Paul sent you!
Barry Requires an Appointment
Barry works out of Whistler Sports in the village. He's in high demand, so schedule an appointment by emailing him at email@example.com.
If you get boots, please leave me a comment to let us know how they feel.
Questions & Answers
I have an 8 12 eee ft, 26.67 cm long 114.3 mm wide, is there a boot with 120 ish flex that can be fitted to fit that foot, narrow heal also?
Yes, a good boot fitter can make it work. Sometimes they add extra lining or shims. Lange and Tecnica tend to fit narrow feet better.
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