Author: Nicola Jowett:
Nicola is a Certified Canadian Ski Instructor Level 3 and Level 1 Course Conductor. Her experience in teaching and coaching goes back many years and her student attest that she’s the real deal. Nicola’s TV hosting experience along with her extensive travel to Greece, Kenya, and New Zealand reveals her passion for people and the outdoors.
No one wants cold, tired, or sore feet during the ski season. it comes down to knowing how to make our feet “happy”.Nicola Jowett
IT’S ALL ABOUT HAPPY FEET
The swoosh of skiing down a mountain, the excitement of learning a new sport or the thrill of accomplishment starts with the right setup. There are SO many reasons to enjoy skiing.. But one aspect always is a damper on the day: Cold, tired, and sore feet.
Pre-Season tips to Keep Your Feet Happy
Here are some helpful tips for your pre-season and some hints for during the season to keep your feet happy.
Boots are the single most important piece of equipment and a good precise fit is extremely important. Your boots are the connection between your body and the skis. If you don’t have a good fit or the right boot, it’s not only setting you up for failure, but it can cause developing foot issues. I love Cameron Powell’s analogy from Squire Johns (Collingwood, Ontario, Canada) about a ‘bad boot fit”…
“ a bad fit is like a ripple in a pond about to become a tsunami.”Cameron Powell – Squire Johns
In order to avoid the tsunami boot issue, we must schedule a pre-season visit to our local ski shop specialist. An ‘ideal’ precise fit, with foot beds, and a custom shell is worth spending extra time on with an experienced boot fitter like Cameron Powell.
Expect to spend at least a minimum of an hour to two hours in the shop. Bring your ski socks and pants that easily roll up to the knee.
Do Boot Manufacturers Make A Difference?
It’s recommended that we use this time trying on different boots from a variety of ski companies. Many Manufacturers have slight differences in their boots. Therefore, it is important for a boot fitter to see your feet without socks and decide on a few brands that can work for you. The hard part is, as consumers we often get caught up in liking a look or colour of a brand – which does not work. Throw all your hopes of colour matching your boots to your outfit out the door. You have to get the boot that fits your foot design, ability level, and aspirations. Trust me, as a women who for years has failed at attempts to match boots to outfits and equipment, the precise fit shall always prevail.
Gender Specific Boots
For women, the times of wearing men’s boots are well over. We have our own shells designed just for us and each year many manufacturers are increasing their women lines with better products for female skiers. As women, we have larger calves, there are boots on the market specifically designed for larger calves. No more squished calves and loss of circulation. In addition, all boots have better liners that have a products like thinsulate to help keep your feet warm.
Custom Boot Fitters… ahhhh
The boot fitter will likely recommend a foot bed inside your boot. If you already wear orthotics in your street shoes you will be advised to have a custom footbed made for your ski boots. This could run you $170 to $250. If you don’t wear orthotics, a custom foot bed or pre-boxed ‘trim to fit’ Insole will always be recommended. A trim to fit insole is roughly $50.00.
We are so used to street shoes and especially children have shoes often a size or two larger, we need to throw out any expectations that ski boots will be as comfortable as your street shoes. Especially, after spending the summer in flip flops and now suddenly jamming your feet into a tight boot. Ski boots are designed for fit/comfort, and performance. They will fit a little tight at first. A proper fit should be snug without cutting off circulation or causing painful pressure points. Boots have a liner inside that will compress after four or five full days on snow. So don’t worry, all liners pack down.
A good fitter will know how much each liner will compress. As each manufacturer has different percentages that the liner compresses. The idea is to have the fit in the zone after about 12 days on snow, rather than out of the gate. As you can always make room in a boot, it is almost impossible to fill in space once the liner packs out!
They will instruct you to hang out in the boots for a few minutes with your socks on. This is when a little red spot will emerge. Now the magic happens. Custom ski boots!
The boot fitter can then decide to conform the boot to help lessen the pressure on your spots with either heating them up and custom moulding them to your feet or punching out difficult spots. Salomon and Atomic have boots that are heated using a 5,5,5 method of heat, wear, and cool down with ice packs. Salomon has the Custom Shell and Atomic has the Memory Fit.
These custom shells are designed help the boot mould to your foot better. It is fun to do the process and nice to have the added comfort and benefit of custom shells.
When you find a boot that, let’s say ‘hurts less’ than the others, it is time for the next step.
We all have some sort of foot issue: bunions, protruding navicular, thick calves, thin ankle, wide fore foot, high instep to name just a few. This is the time a boot fitter can help your sore spots.
Or if there are bigger issues, for example I have a nasty bunion, they will punch out my shell to leave room so that my bunion does not rub inside my boot. This can be done for all sorts of bumps and foot issues. You never have to just grin and bare it with foot pain. A good boot fitter knows how to make the hurt go away.
90% of the time, the Issue is improper fitting equipment
I remember a day when I had to explain to a parent that their child was having issues learning how to ski because the child’s boots were ‘too big’. The parents were angry with me and insisted I just teach them. I then picked up the child and watched as their foot came right out of the boot and the ski and boot sailed down the hill. The parent quickly apologized and got the little one new equipment for the next weekend. The next weekend that child quickly caught up to the entire group, as they had the right equipment. Often a child that falls behind a ski group, 90% of the time it is due to improper fitting equipment.
You don’t have to suffer to have a wonderful day outdoors enjoying skiing.
The good news is many specialized ski shops have a good fit guarantee. They employ fantastic boot fitters that have a ton of knowledge and many fit athletes. So after a few days on the slopes in your new boots have something develop that doesn’t feel right, you can go back and see your fitter for additional help. In fact a good fitter will often tell you to plan to come in after your first day on snow or if something new pops up to come back in and see them.
Additionally, if you get a new injury a year or more later, you can always pay a nominal fee to a shop and have the boot fitter change up your boots to fit better.
Purchasing on Internet?
Hmmmm ? After years of working in retail as a boot fitter, I have seen first hand the upset client who has purchased a pair of boots on the Internet due to price or colour, only to find they do not fit right. I always recommend a good ski shop for such a big purchase. And often explain over and over, it is the fit, not the style and colour.
Buying for the whole family
When it comes to buying for your wee ones, resist the urge to buy a size or more too big or at a yard sale. As a ski instructor I have seen children struggle and be set up for failure by parents trying to buy on the cheap or buy for a few years. This never works. You want your children to love and grow with the sport, not fail.
It happens often where we hear that the children cannot control their skis because they are too long. The same result occurs when the boots are too large. If too large, your child’s feet will slip and slide inside their boots. Also an important note: If the boot is too stiff, they could break their leg at the top of the boot, causing what is called a boot break.
Half Back $$
The great news is many ski shops have Half Back programs for little ones. This way each year the child can get new equipment and it always fits right! Head into the shops in the Fall and bring the old equipment. The hard-goods staff will check out the older equipment and see what your child needs for this year.
Don’t forget the socks! Each year buy a new pair of ski socks for your kids. Great stocking stuffers.
During The Season
Boot Heaters Save the Day!
If there is one product I have to recommend to everyone, but especially to women it is boot heaters. You will thank me. Our bodies are designed to carry and keep a fetus safe, so when it is cold our extremities loose heat first. Our hands and feet become cold quickly. Boot heaters save the day! Your feet will be warm all day long. They are easy to use and many now have an app on your phone to easily adjust the heat setting. A boot fitter can install them for you because I do not recommend trying to install yourself. Better to leave this to the experts.
There are also heated socks. Whatever the product you choose, your feet do not have to be cold. Boot heaters and socks can run you close to $300.00. A pair of merino wool socks that are specially designed for skiing would be a good option. Thinner socks are better than thicker socks. Roll up your base layer, wipe your feet dry, and put your socks on.
Your Are All Setup, Now What ?
Now that you have your boots, a custom pair of orthodics and hopefully boot heaters. It is time to enjoy a day on the slopes. First thing, make sure to put your boots on correctly.
Boots On !
Open all the buckles on your boots and slide your foot in. Make sure to push your heal down as if stomping a bug. This will put your foot into the heal socket. Then start with the ankle buckle, stand up and flex. This pulls your heal back further into the heal socket. Now put on your top buckle, then toes. Toes are always one finger tightness (or enough to keep the snow and wet out). Never put your toes buckled on too tight. This will prevent good circulation to your toes, and almost certainly guarantee cold feet. So one finger tightness for the toe buckles.
When you come in for lunch. I always recommend taking your boots off. At minimum if it is a cold day or you are ski instructing, take your socks off and put on a fresh dry pair. Our feet sweat when we ski and most feet get pretty wet by lunch. Put on a warm dry pair of socks for the afternoon ski. You will thank me for this tip!
Après Proper Care
After a fantastic day on the slopes, proper care of your ski boots will guarantee another good day.
If staying in a hotel, bring your boots to your room. Take the liners out and let them fully dry. Don’t put near a heat source (ie fireplace). As those custom shells will melt or change and not be custom anymore. As I just mentioned we sweat in our boots and the bottom and toe area gets very wet. If you make the mistake of forgetting to dry out your boots and go skiing the next day and it is cold, you won’t forget again. It is a unforgettable nasty feeling, wet and cold boots.
If you are not skiing for a few days or the week, make sure to always buckle your boots up and keep inside your house. They are an investment in you and your enjoyment of skiing. If left in a garage or shed, your investment will become a happy home for mice.
I have always believed the key to a successful day on the slopes is happy feet. A bad boot fit is like driving a car from the back seat and it is a long drive to the resorts. If you drive the car from the front seat, you have better control, proper steering, easier balance, and ability to manage pressure control.
Stay tuned to SkIChatter for more tips and helpful hints from Pros like me who love skiing…
- Pre-season care
- Manufacturer Difference
- Gender Specific boots
- Custom Boot by a Proper Boot fitter
- Improper Fit causes Issues (Bunions, pressure points, cold toes)
- The Next Step
- Orthotics for proper fit, comfort, balance
- The Guarantee
- Purchasing on the Internet
- Buying for the whole family
- Half Back
- During the Season
- Boot heaters save the day
- Heated Socks
- Setup & Putting them on
- What to do at Lunch Time
- Apres ski care
- Happy Feet
- Cameron Powell – Squire Johns
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