It’s December! Opening days at most major resorts have come and gone, and although it’s still early in the season, storms are in the forecast, and it’s already dumping in parts of the country. That means it’s time to start prepping for trips, and that means making sure your gear is dialed, so you don’t have to stress about it once it’s finally time to ride.
As we all know, your ski or snowboard boots can make or break your days on the hill, so let’s cover a few boot-fitting details to help get your boots feeling their best. Whether you’re about to be fitted in a new pair, just recently made the investment, or have a trust old pair that’s already broken in, there are a few things that our boot-fitters recommend everyone do to ensure your feet are comfy.
- Practice good foot hygiene: Before and after you ride, make sure you treat your feet well and address any issues you may have. It sounds obvious, but proactively treating issues like blisters, bruises, or dry skin can save you in the long run. Use duct-tape, mole skin, foam donuts, whatever works for you. Most importantly, trim your toenails religiously; a millimeter or two of extra toe space in your boots can make a huge difference.
- Exercise and stretch: There are a lot of lower-body exercises that not only prepare your legs for the season, but also help strengthen the muscles and tendons in your feet. Calf raises, lunges, yoga, and bike-riding are just a few of my favorites. YouTube is actually a decent resource for at-home exercises if you’re like me and can’t get to the gym. Of course, as with any DIY training regiment, if something hurts or doesn’t feel right, consult a physical therapist or doctor.
- Work with a boot-fitter: A good local boot-fitter is your best resource for helping you diagnose and fix problems with your boots, plus they have cool tools like shell-presses and heat-molding ovens. They genuinely want your feet to be comfy because they’ve been on the wrong side of a bad boot themselves, and they understand how much it sucks, which is usually why they became boot-fitters in the first place! Make sure you give them as many details as possible during the initial fit and when working through issues. As experienced as they may be, they can’t feel exactly what you’re feeling, so communication is key. Also, don’t be afraid to go back multiple times; everyone’s feet are different and sometimes it can be a process to get your boots perfect.
- Wear good socks: Nothing messes up a good boot-fit quicker than a bad sock. If your socks are too thick, stretched out, not the right material, etc…you’re due for some replacements. Experiment with different weights of socks, then be consistent with what you wear. Generally, the tighter your boot fit is, the thinner your socks should be. Most boots nowadays use fairly warm liners, so thicker socks don’t necessarily mean warmer feet. In fact, a thick sock can put excessive pressure on the foot, constricting blood-flow, or cause the foot to sweat, which means they’re guaranteed to get cold later. Lastly, try to avoid using toe-warmers in your boots; they can take up too much space and put pressure on sensitive parts of the foot. If you absolutely have to use them, try putting them on top of your toes, and consider upgrading your boots or installing battery-powered heaters.
- Buy a pair of footbeds: A boot-fitter’s goal is to make your shell and liner as close to your personal foot-shape as possible, so why would you use the soft, flat, unsupportive footbeds that came with your boots? Complete your boot-fit with a footbed that also matches the shape of your foot. Custom footbeds are the best way to get just the right fit and level of support, but if you’re on a budget, there are some good prefab ‘trim-to-fit’ products out there. Talk to your boot-fitter about your options, and he or she will help you find the right footbed for you.