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Open Letter to the Boot Makers

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

After many years of skiing and many years of problems with ski boots I’ve come up with some observations about the current design and fitting of boots. The following is an open letter to the boot designers. I am not a boot fitter, just a reader of Internet boot fitting forums and a skier with hard to fit feet. These observations are collected from my experiences and the common boot problem themes I see in the “Ask the Boot Guys” and other Internet forums. I invite feedback from boot fitters and maybe some of the ideas will trickle up to the boot designers.

1. Sizing

This seems to be the biggest area for boot fitting mistakes. Although Mondo Point sizing was a step forward the conversion chart from street shoes to Mondo sizes causes no end to confusion. Buyers (and inexperienced boot sellers) use street shoe sizes to find Mondo size. This almost always results in a boot one or even two sizes too big. Fix the chart.

Last measurements need to go. I’ve tried 98mm boots that fit like boats and 101mm boots that are snug. Quit using the last size number and just use something like ELV, LV, MV, HV, EHV (ie. Extra Low Volume, Low Volume etc.). Lange has started doing that on some of their boots and it’s a step forward. Since the boot is a complex 3D shape and fit is subjective a number measurement is useless.

In addition why are we stuck with using the “number of fingers” shell fit method. There needs to be a better way. How about a transparent plastic boot with only a foot bed for each shell mold and size so the foot can be observed inside the boot for fitting purposes? Since the trend seems to be to make many different models using the same mold which stay in the line for many years (think how many years the Flexon molds have been around!), it shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive to make a run of clear “fitting” boots for the shops?

Third, the industry should produce a small pamphlet explaining how ski boots fit and what the different measurements mean and give those to every customer that comes in the store. An educated customer will been a good customer for life.

2. Toe Boxes

Something I keep seeing over and over again on the Internet forums and with my own personal experience is that the toe box is always too small. Snugness around the toes does nothing for skiing. A boot with the toe box cut open would ski just the same as a boot with a tiny toe box. Actually it would ski better since the foot wouldn’t be cramped up, cold and in pain. If the end of the boot is all that’s keeping your foot from sliding forward you’re going to end up with bloody toenails. Make the toe box (from just in from of the ball of the foot and the sixth toe) tall, square and wide.

The shape of the toe box matters as well. Many of us have big toes that are longer than our second toe. This isn’t that uncommon, yet every boot has the second toe area longer than the big toe (I’m particularly looking at you Tecnica and your pointy boots!). It’s called the “big” toe for a reason. Give it some room even if it means having a longer boot to still stay in DIN spec. There’s no reason so many people should need the big toe punched out on a new pair of boots.

3. Ankle Hold

In my opinion the single biggest area of fit that is ignored is that bend between where the shin meets the instep at the front of the ankle. If there is a gap there your foot will slide forward when your weight is back and your heel will lift when weighting forward. Those two conditions cause your fore/aft balance to change while you move making your work twice as hard to stay in balance. In addition the forward sliding leads to smashed toes.

In an overlap boot the instep buckle does nothing for this area and over tightening the instep buckle and squashing the foot is usually a failed attempt to tighten this area up. The third ankle buckle addresses this area somewhat but it is pulling more back against the shin rather than snugging down this gap area.

Three piece boots address this area better, but they can only get as snug as the molded shape of the tongue, plus there’s limited selection and not everyone like the feel of a three piece boot.

I don’t have an answer for this one, but I’m sure someone can figure out a way of snugging up this area. Forget making vice like heel pockets, solve this problem and the heel pocket becomes much less of an issue.

4. Liners

Figure out how to make a liner as good as an Intuition or just use Intuition liners. There’s no excuse for the sorry state of the liners included in some top end boots.

Quit short lasting liners. There’s no point in making your liner smaller than your shell. Sure it will stretch out eventually, but early on it will be too tight and then later it will be much too loose. Make the liner fit the inside of the boot, or see Intuition as above.

5. Tech Fittings

No boot with a walk mode should not have tech fittings (Lange!). You can use (most) boots with tech fitting in a frame binding, but not visa versa. This is a no brainer. Charge the extra $30 to cover the cost. We’ll pay it.

6. Make the Boots Easy to Modify

Most people will take a least some custom punches or grinds. Keep this in mind when designing and selecting materials for your boots. Publish recommended temperature for punching your plastic. Don’t make seams or sole overlaps where boots typically get punched or ground.

Quit using rivets in key spots! The ankle pivots should use bearings and be assembled with screw fasteners not a giant rivet that will fail. Buckles should use T nuts and screws so they can be replaced easily or removed during boot work. All this goes double for touring boot.


All of this said the gear we have now is truly amazing. 10 years ago who could have imagined a boot like the TLT5 Performance or some of the new alpine boots we have now. The point of my letter isn’t to disparage the the amazing work folks in the industry have done, it’s to address some problem areas that could be improved and add to our enjoyment out there in the hills.

- Nexus6

post #2 of 2

and you think none of us haven't already suggested most of this stuff already?  it is a slow process, but i certainly believe we are getting there


a couple of points which will not be changed.... sizing, mondo is great, it could be more accurate but it is made big for commercial reasons around 10% of boots sold are fitted the rest are bought by people who can't be bothered and salesmen who don't care.... if you use street sizing then it is never going to work but it is simple you can't fix stupid!  last widths are a width not a volume the LV on lange is there to mark the difference between the 97mm and the 100mm sure it has less volume but mostly because it is narrower in the first place.


liners, short lasting is a problem but there is a tolerance in the manufacture so if they spec them longer and they wrinkle in the front of the shell then it is a guaranteed return


people do buy boots with a walk/hike mode that don't have tech fittings, it is not $30 it is a whole heap more than that and the average punter just simply wouldn't pay


i think the whole thing sums up the need for good boot fitters, but until the customers stop buying boots based on $5-$20 savings at big box stores then the owners won't bother training their staff, imagine if nobody bought boots from REI or somewhere like that (not sure if they are the best example).... what do you think they would do?  would they stop selling ski boots or would they find out that it was because their staff needed better skills and then give them those skills


sure there are some stupid things design wise in ski boots but the same is true of cars, TVs, home appliances  a few of the people on here are involved with the development of ski boot products, it is not as simple as just making the dream boot to fit, it has to be commercial and it has to meet the design brief driven by the marketing department... back to my point that 90% are bought by "can i try that one in a size 9"


sure others will add to this...as you say stuff has moved on over the past 10 years, it will continue to do so, maybe just not at the rate that some people would like

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