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A bootfitting story (long, but detailed, and with pics)

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
On Friday I arrived at the Vagabond in Chamonix. It's a hostel, 4 people per room, etc. Very cheap, but it's got a decent bar, and the view from our balcony was of some famous cablecar which went up to the "white mountain".

Around 11pm, while I'd been clearing the pub's pipes with a couple of pints of Guinness, two gentlemen, one Large in years, the other Small on shaving walked in to the bar. I believe both may have consumed one or glasses as well.
After introductions, and beers, a major argument broke out.
I was wearing my walking boots - nothing special about them at all (apart from them needing replaced after a lot of years of good service)
Without asking me my shoe size, etc, I was in the middle of a row which made the Troubles look like a mild family debate over Christmas dinner.
And I was the centre of the row.
Small: 268
Large: 274
Small: 268
Large: 274

The two of them just repeating the same number to each other.

They were arguing over the length of my feet in mm.

After the bar shut, we went to the Large one's apartment for a whisky (please note the spelling) tasting session. Around 2.30, I made it back to the Vagabond.

9.05am, Saturday, and I walk in to FootWorks. Within 5 minutes I have a cup of coffee in my hand.
SZK takes my old boots out of the bag, and immediately spots something in them, which he removes...

(one bottle per boot)

He shows me to the fitting bench, which has 4 boxes beside it - 2 Atomic and 2 Nordica. As soon as I take my shoe off, he puts them all away again, and returns with two others - Tecnica and Dalbello.
These were chosen out of the range they currently have in stock...


Before he starts to measure me up, he gets me to put on my current boots – modified Tecnica Icon Alu Comps. They are modified in that part of the lower cuff was removed to allow me to flex further forward. After putting them on, he got me to flex in them, and was able to point out that while I could flex further in them, because of the modification to allow me to do that, then I wasn’t getting the rebound back from the boots.

Then he started to measure me. Firstly with the standard foot measuring thingy. Then with Vernier callipers.
I could see a smile coming across his face, and then a frown. The smile? Well, the length of my foot to the tip of my big toe is… 268mm.
Then he starts talking about me having a Morton toe, i.e. my second toe is longer than my big to. Anyone want to guess by how much? Yup, 6mm. The length of my foot to the tip of my second toe is 274mm.
At this stage I am sitting there in awe of two drunk bootfitters who guessed precisely the length of my feet.
With the Verniers across my feet, he was able to tell me that I have Tecnica shaped feet.
So, out come the Tecnica Diablo Magmas in 27.0. Hey, I knew I’d be coming down from my 28.5, so I was prepared for that. I try one on. Great fit around the foot. And very reminiscent of the fit of my old Icon Alu Comps.
I can flex them. I can feel the rebound from when I flex forward. They feel good.
Just one niggle – the collar of the liner is high at the back and was digging in to my calf.

Next come the Dalbello Krypton Pro ID. Again in a 27.0. They were tighter on my foot, but no problems with the calf. We talked about the tightness, and then he did a shell fit. He got out the 26.0 to shell fit for that too. He reckoned that to put me in a 26, he’d need to stretch it by 6mm, and I’d be back in to see him every day for a few weeks, just to get the stretching right. With the 27, they weren’t too big, but he’d not have to make any changes to the shell. I was happy to stick with the 27.

A bit more flexing, a bit more playing around, and we’ve got the basic boot sorted. Now comes all the other bits and pieces…


(Just before we go on, I should add in a point which was made the night before - when I was standing "naturally", my knees were locked, but they appeared to be in an almost backward position)


Time to do a bit of walking on the spot. Barefoot. Staring straight ahead. Every so often, SZK says "stop". On about the fourth or fifth time he looks at me and says "are you doing this on purpose?" I ask what. We go again. He says the issue is my right leg. I tell him it's my left knee that's fubar'd. He then gets me to look at my feet.
And he starts to explain what he sees in my legs and feet.

But his first comment is a question: When I stop, do I stop to the right or the left? I had to think for a minute, but my prference has always been to stop with a turn to the left.

Turns out that my left leg is slighty collapsed in towards my right one (probably due to the knee injury). My left leg points perfect forward. My right leg points outward.
It appears (to him) that my right hip is stronger than the left, which is helping cause (I should say “exacerbate”, but I’m not sure how to spell that) the problem.

Anyway, the job of a bootfitter is not to correct the problems, but compensate for them, so rather than try to force my left leg into an unnatural position, he works on adjusting the left boot so that it is flat when my leg is in it’s natural alignment. He replaced one of the canting washers on the cuff (you get 10 different angled washers in total – 5 for each boot), and was happy with that, but fully explained what further changes I might need to get it just right, and how to find out if it was right or not by doing various exercises on the snow (similar to stuff Bud Heismann had me doing at the EpicSki Academy in Big Sky) – skiing straight on flat skis, seeing if both skis are running flat and true, etc.

So, having seen me walk, having measured my feet, and prodded and poked them in various ways, he concludes that Superfeet, rather than Conformables are what I need. I was in green, off the peg Superfeet. The same ones I’d been in for about 8 years. He recommends I go for the cork ones to get the best support and fit possible. I agree. And that’s what we go for.

(and I now realise that this wasn’t quite the order of things)

He grabs the red soles of the Superfeet, and marks them our roughly to the shape of my feet, then cuts them down to size. This was just an approximate cut, which he smoothed off later.

And then, I’m sat down on the Superfeet throne. Under me is the smell of a cork footbed being heated. SZK puts wedges under my thighs, and gets my feet as relaxed as possible. Another cup of coffee turns up. At this point a catheter is attached to my leg – but on my calf, and pointing downwards. I ask no questions…
Once the cork bit is ready, he places it in a mould, puts the red sole on top. He puts this mould under my foot – which is just hanging there, with no weight on it, and attaches the mould to my foot using Velcro straps. Then he wraps my lower leg and foot in a plastic bag, making sure there is a tight seal around my leg. He turns on a vacuum pump which uses the catheter to suck all the air out of the bag, and make the footbed mould to my foot. The suction is kept up for a minute or so, then the bag, mould and footbed are removed.
He repeated this exercise with my other foot, and left the footbeds to cool down.

At this stage in the procedure, he went to the fridge, but didn’t come back with beer. This was about the only fault I could give in the otherwise excellent service.

As my feet start to recover from the warmth & suction that they have just been subjected to, that when we do the work on canting adjustment (and did the 26.0 shell fit). The point of doing these things now was that we were waiting for the footbeds to cool down before heat moulding the liner (don’t want the heat of the liner to cause the footbeds to change shape).

Seb and Luke are busy with the other customers, and there’s quite a bit of banter going on with everyone, professionally done, of course. SZK also shows his paternal instincts by keeping one of the children amused for a few seconds (aaah, bless…)

To bring matters back down to earth, SZK grabs a calculator and starts punching in numbers. The boots were €499, the footbeds were €89 (but the distributor has just put up the price to €125, so you won’t get them that cheap). SZK offered me a good discount, that I was more than happy about – since I had originally asked him for a high estimate on a budget and he said €700.

By now, my footbeds were cool, so he tidy up the rough edges using a grinder.


And places my liners in his oven (120C for 20 minutes). Before hand, these liners were very stiff, but as they heated up, they softened a lot, and opened up. While waiting, I think another cup of coffee arrived.

(and include an interlude from earlier)
The canting washers (for the cuff alignment) that come with the boots are on a stalk, just like Airfix model bits. Unfortunately SZK didn’t let me push the ones out that I needed – he seemed to enjoy it himself. So there’s the second complaint I have about the service.

In preparation for putting my feet into hot liners, SZK stuck foam padding to my feet – strips along the little toe side of each foot, and disks at my ankle bones. (again on the little toe side)
He then put a foam cover on my toes, held the footbed to my foot, and put a shop sock on to hold it all in place


With these extras stuck to my feet, it was a squeeze to get everything into the liner and the boot, and once in, he got me to hold the liner tight while he did up my boots. I may have let out a slight wimper at this stage – not because of the heat, but because everything was so tight on my toes. This was followed by the bootfitting dance – heel slam, heel slam, walk all around, flex and hold, and walk around again. The pain lasted maybe 10 minutes, and then the relief of getting out of the boots was noticeable on my face.
The sock was removed, and the footbed put where it belonged – in the liner. The bits of foam were removed from my feet (and discarded, complete with the hair that came off with them). Then I could put on my own socks again, and get back into the boots.
Boy did they feel comfortable now!

And that’s when SZK starts to go through all the extras that come with the boots – softer tongues, replacement sole plates that are better at absorbing landings, forward lean inserts, cuff stiffeners, etc.
He disappears for a minute or two, and returns with this…


…and finally, I get out of my boots, that fit me well, and get back into my shoes. But just before I do, he takes the insoles out of my shoes, and throws them out, and replaces them with my old green Superfeet.

It took about 3 hours in total (but neither of us was rushing). And they were 3 hours well spent, cause a properly fitted pair of boots will make a bigger difference to my skiing than any other piece of equipment.

(and now for some gratuitous nudity)

This is what he had to work with...


Before doing the adjustments to the boots, it looked like this...


...and once he had set my boots up properly, this is the result:



(note: Large = LargeZooKeeper, Small/SZK = SmallZooKeeper - their usernames on snowHeads)

Here is the thread, and surrounding discussion on snowHeads:
http://www.snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=20331&highlight=


SmallZooKeeper is the chief bootfitter at FootWorks, Chamonix - opposite the Aiguille du Midi cable car.
post #2 of 13
Wonderful tale, with all of the ingredients of a fine story: mystery, foreshadowing, irony, intrigue, didacticism, a moral, and of course, gratuitous nudity.
post #3 of 13
Excellent story. Next season will be a boot replacement year for me and I hope I can find a boot fitter as competent as yours.
post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
stoweguy, if you are in Stowe much, try Benny at Innerbootworks, or get a flight to Geneva, rent a car, and an hour later you'll be in Chamonix...
post #5 of 13
Excellent. Like all good stories, I don't have total recall. Did you end up in a 26 or 27 shell. Sounded like in the end you were in a 26?
post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by roundturns View Post
Excellent. Like all good stories, I don't have total recall. Did you end up in a 26 or 27 shell. Sounded like in the end you were in a 26?

In a 27 in the end (still 1.5 smaller than the last pair). The 26 was just too tight in his opinion. (and the way I was squeezed in to just the shell, without the liner...)
post #7 of 13
The legs need a little tan!
post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wear The Fox Hat View Post

Before doing the adjustments to the boots, it looked like this...


...and once he had set my boots up properly, this is the result:



(note: Large = LargeZooKeeper, Small/SZK = SmallZooKeeper - their usernames on snowHeads)

Here is the thread, and surrounding discussion on snowHeads:
http://www.snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=20331&highlight=


SmallZooKeeper is the chief bootfitter at FootWorks, Chamonix - opposite the Aiguille du Midi cable car.
It's amazing what a good bootfitter can do !
I mean, your left foot was turned 90° inside, and he totaly set it straight !
Expect a real breaktrough in your skiing. To have your skis parallel will really improve your overall experience.
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by philippeR View Post
It's amazing what a good bootfitter can do !
I mean, your left foot was turned 90° inside, and he totaly set it straight !
Expect a real breaktrough in your skiing. To have your skis parallel will really improve your overall experience.

yeah, sorry, I really couldn't resist a bit of humour after the hours I spent writing the rest of it!

I'm just worried that I won't be able to snowplough with as much aplomb as before.
post #10 of 13
I was worried it could get un noticed...

Now, time for some sock fitting and pant fitting (or shall I say trousers ?)...
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by philippeR View Post
I was worried it could get un noticed...

Now, time for some sock fitting and pant fitting (or shall I say trousers ?)...

Trousers, please - this is a family forum!!!

Do you know any good sock fitters in Alsace?
post #12 of 13
Well, you could travel west in Champagne to buy some fine Doré Doré socks (and taste some wine on the way) to wear with those Heschung.

But I can't think of anything to match those great irish-green Dalbellos...
post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by trekchick View Post
The legs need a little tan!
Well he's from a place where the sun don't shine.
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