Ski boots are arguably the most important piece of kit you will buy in you skiing career. They have the power to make or break your holiday and should not be bought without knowing exactly what you are getting.
Here at Tignes Spirit we always recommend coming into store to see one of our expert bootfitters to ensure you are paired up with the perfect boot for your foot shape and ski ability, however we realize that sometimes you won't always be able to make in so here is some info to help guide you on your way to your ski boot purchase.
Foot Shape & Length
The most important factor when buying a ski boot is finding the correct size and shape. Ski boots, like most footwear comes in a range of shapes and sizes, narrow, wide, big, small and everything in between.
The first thing you should be looking for when picking boots is the correct size. Ski boots are measured in Mondo Point. Mondo point is literally the length of your foot in centimeters. Rather than using your shoe size and a conversion chart, you can draw around your foot on a piece of paper than measure the length from your heel to the end of your big toe. If for instance your foot measure to 27cm, you should be looking at a size 27 mondo point ski boot. advanced skiers should consider sizing down half or a full size to ensure a performance fit.
Once you have established what length you should be aiming for, you can then figure out what width to look for. Ski boots are measured in Last width, you will quite often see numbers in mm (typically from 97mm-104mm)in the description of a boot, this is the last width. 97-99mm is considered a narrow fitting ski boot. 99-101mm is considered a medium fitting ski boot and 102mm+ is considered a wide fitting boot. Unfortunately it is less easy to take a measurement of width as these last widths are taken from size 26 mondo point. This means if you are smaller or larger than 26 these last widths will also be smaller or larger respectively (for instance a narrow 24 would be more like 94mm wide, whereas a narrow 28 might be more like 102mm wide).
Ski boots use a "flex rating" to measure the how difficult it is to flex a boot. This number typically ranges from 60-130 (and even higher for race boots) the number is typically written on the outside of the cuff of the boot.This number is usually associated with the ability level of a boot. A low number usually will be better for beginners as it is easier to flex the boot. A high number usually is better for advanced skiers as they a stiff boot will offer more performance whilst skiing fast.
Ability is not the only factor to consider when choosing what flex boot to buy. Height and weight also play a role. A person with an above average height or weight will be able to put more leverage on a boot, and therefore should require a slightly stiffer boot than somebody of the same ability but lower height and/or weight.
Style of Boot
The last thing worth considering is the style of boot. There are several different styles of boots that will perform better for slightly different uses.
The first and most common is an Alpine boot. This style of boot is designed to have optimal performance for everybody from beginner skiers to advanced and expert skiers who stay predominately on piste. They typically offer plush liners with comfort in mind. As well as this, they usually offer a high level of moldibility and customisation.
The second most common style of boot is a Hybrid boot. These boots look very similar to Alpine boots but include a mechanism in the back of the boot that allows the cuff to move freely of the lower clog. This is beneficial for those who will spend some of their time hiking or touring to get to fresh snow or off piste not served by a chair lift. Usually they feature a fully or partially rubber sole, to give better grip when hiking over exposed rocks.
Touring boots are the final option. These boots are the lightest on the market as they are designed to for people who spend a lot or all of their time touring or hiking. Like Hybrid boots they feature a walk mechanism, although usually it allows for more movement. These boots typically are less downhill performance oriented because of the lower weight.
Ensuring Correct Fit
Once your new boots have arrived the first thing you should do is a shell check. To do a shell check you need to pull the liners out of the shells and insert your foot with no sock into the shell. Slide your foot forward until your toes are just touching the front of the boot, in this position you should have have between 10-20mm of space between your heel and the back of the boot. Once you have checked this slide your foot into the middle so you are not touching the front or the back of the boot, in this position you should either have just a small amount of space on either side of your foot, or very minimal pressure. If both of these checks are good take your foot and put the liner back in the shell. You can now try the boot on. Buckle the boots up starting with the top 2 then the bottom 2. flexing forward into the boot you should have a little wiggle room for your toes, and your heel should feel snug and not lift.