Ski boot manufacturing hasn’t stopped evolving, there have been some huge changes in the past 2 -3 years which have totally changed the way boots are fitted now, at last liners take up the whole of the shell, and don’t have that gap in front and behind the liner like in the past, this means that the liner doesn’t have to mould to the length of the foot like in the past, many of the new ski boots have heat custom mouldable shells now, this has been a real game changer in getting a very comfortable high performance ski boot.
All good boot fitters will shell size you in a ski boot before getting you to try them on, but even in doing this, I still see far too many boots fitted by a so called good boot fitter that has a shell size of 25mm and more, in fact it is very rare to see anyone in a ski boot that is the right size these days, even if fitted by a boot fitter, as many are employees, and time is money, how many would be allowed to spend 5 -6 hours selling and fitting a boot that makes the shop owner around $150 to $200, it is way less time consuming to sell a boot one size too big, and the customer will not pick it up until the boot has done about 20 days skiing, which for many will be years down the track.
Exceptional boot fitters will spend the time, but also they often have greater knowledge in fitting, that when doing the initial foot assessment, they will check for the overall shape of the shell, not just the gap at the back.
I check for room around both ankles, room at the instep, and most importantly room at the forefoot (Met heads), you can’t do a lot to add room at the instep so changing brand or model of the boot is the best way to get this right, to a degree you can add and also tighten the room around the ankles by either expanding the shell or shrinking it, I am not a big fan of adding padding as it can move when removing the liners for drying, shrinking the shell is better in my opinion, very few fitters know how to do this.
The forefoot can be changed, and in over 50% of the boots I sell I do have to make changes in this area even though I stock a huge range of boot shapes to suit almost every foot, thnkfully this is an easy fix now with custom heat mouldable shells.
Heat moulding is something that I swear by, I doubt many people can wear a ski boot that I have sold unless it has been heat moulded.
Boot fitting can be done a lot better if only every boot fitter stuck to one basic rule, a shell size should be between 10mm and 20mm as a goal, and if going over 20mm make sure you never ever go over 25mm, I aim for 15mm gap myself for most people, to do this you have to have a few brands of boots as the gap will change between brands even for the same size in Mondo point, for example a Tecnica 28.5 will have a 325mm sole length and on my foot has a 10mm shell gap, a Head boot has a 329mm sole length and for me has a 14mm shell gap which I find too big for me, I wear a Salomon boot (326mm), with Zipfit liners.
When shell sizing it takes an extra minute to determine the shell gap around the met heads, and if this is done when shell sizing, the fitter will know if the boot needs work in this area, and not rely on the customer wearing them in agony for 3 -4 days before the fitter expands the shell in that area.
Footbeds are another story, I see so many that are made wrong and all they do if anything is support the foot while misaligned, the key point of a footbed is to stabalise the rear of the foot, but it is also important to do so while in a subtalor neutral position, far too many footbeds are just cast with the foot pronated or supinated, I am seeing way too many footbeds that are not posted, a footbed without posting offers no more support than the factory one that came with the boots.
Most of the problem boots I see are those bought at a sale, where the fitter is rushed or does nothing more than measure your foot and tell you a size, you may get it right but most often you will be in a boot that is no better than a rental boot, and as such is a total waste of money.
For me winning the award from the snow sports industry as Australia’s best boot fitter was a thank you for me spending the time to do the training and also taking the time to get the fit right, as well as stocking a huge range of boots, to read that so many are still buying boots online is real shame and I just shake my head, buying ski boots is the one and only thing that you should never buy online, and if you want them fitted well, do a lot of research into how good the boot fitter is, as there are a lot of bad ones out there, and it is not that they try to be bad at boot fitting, they just haven’t done the training required and think what they are doing is right.