Here's my boot story.
I started backcountry skiing last season, and had a lot of trouble finding touring boots that fit well. Local bootfitter said my feet measured in at a 21 shell length, with a wide forefoot and narrow heel, which was an issue as no AT boots come smaller than a 22 shell. I eventually settled on the Salomon Quest 80W boots, which weren't as touring specific as I'd hoped but seemed like the best fit that included a reasonably good walk mode. Later, after doing a bit more research, I realised there were several additional brands we could have tried had the store carried them, including Scarpa and Dynafit.
The Quests worked really well at the beginning of the season. They were definitely on the heavy side for the uphill, but given that my focus is day tours that was completely manageable. They were comfortable and strong on the downhill. Toward the end of the season I started to have some issues with blistering on the insides of my heels, which I attributed to the additional warmth and sweatiness of spring touring.
This winter things started out okay, but as the season wore on the blistering problems became more consistent, always in the same spot on both feet. Last weekend I did a particularly strenuous day tour, and this was the result:
This is actually the slightly better of the two heels - the left has full thickness skin loss in two spots. My doctor was quite emphatic about not touring again in my current boots without at least changing the liners, and I respect that. There's no question that after two seasons of steady use (40 days per season; 10 touring) the liners have packed out. I'd noticed increasing slop on the downhill recently, and on my last two inbounds days I'd started buckling 1-2 notches tighter than normal to retain control. I also suspect that the liner was hiding the fact that the shell itself is too big.
I'd planned on replacing the Quests with more touring-specific boots with tech fittings (since I'm also planning a tech binding upgrade) next season. I'm quite willing to bump the purchase up, but I've been to every store in Vancouver and they're all sold out of decent AT boots in smaller sizes. I'm heading to Squamish and Whistler tomorrow with my fingers crossed, but I know this is a bad time of year to be looking for new boots. If I'm out of luck, is it worth paying for Intuition liners for the boots I have? A couple of stores recommended this option, but I can't help feeling that it would be a stop-gap solution if the shells are too big, and I'm really concerned that it won't fix the hot spots that caused the blisters.
I did try on a rental Scarpa Gea that I found it to be a really good fit, and noticeably snugger than the Quests. However, I can't find Geas in a 22.5 anywhere online or locally. I have found a Scarpa Skadi in the right size online; I'm not too concerned about the weight difference between that and a Gea, and I'd be happy to upgrade to an Intuition liner, but I'm extremely wary of buying boots online and am not clear enough on the differences between the Gea and the Skadi to know if this is a good option.
So...I think that lays out my dilemma. Is it worth spending close to $300 on new liners for boots that I know aren't really working, given that I may not be able to find the right pair of new boots at this time of year? Are the Skadis worth serious consideration? I'm conscious that boots are the most critical piece of any ski setup; I don't want to compromise the new boot purchase, but I feel backed into a bit of a corner given the damage to my feet and the fact that I can't use my current boots again without at least replacing the liners. I also don't want to give up all of my spring touring plans to wait for the right pair of boots to come along next year. Advice from folk who really know boots would be very much appreciated.