A little pre-review background information:
I have very unusual anatomy - a heavy supinator, heavily knock kneed, and a 3 degree outward tibia rotation on my right leg. I have EEE sized forefeet with a thin ankle that is very bony as well as a prominent and bony navicular. To this point skiing has been a struggle with more pain than fun. I was about to call it quits and decided to give the boot fitters one more try then if that didn't work I would simply sell off my skis and be done with it.
I have been to numerous fitters including big names such as GMOL, PJ Dewey at race stock sports, and big name Utah shops/fitters. Each visit produced different solutions like cant and cuff cant measurements that were wildly divergent from one another. Each time I visited a new fitter I got completely different measurements and solutions. It didn't help that some touted as pros came across as exceedingly arrogant and condescending and seemed more interested in telling you how they fit world cup racers or used to work for Lange rather than what they can do for you - the average Joe Q Skier.
I have gone through boots, footbeds, heel lifts, toe lifts, and all kinds of services like they were candy. A whole lot of money has been spent on a lot of 'expert' fitters whose end result was nothing but more pain and discomfort.
Some of the things I have been told along this journey: 'you are in the wrong boot' , 'you need such and such degrees of cant work', 'Your cuff should be canted inward','your cuff needs to be canted outward', 'you need a neutral cuff alignment', 'your footbeds are the problem','your arches are too rigid','you need more arch support', 'you need less arch support;,..'you need new footbeds..the ones you have are garbage'. 'you need heel lifts..that's the ticket'..and on and on.
Also many instructors have been to quick to blame my problems on poor technique despite my objections. I knew I simply could not control my right leg efficiently. Even when walking my right leg likes to rotate a little. I anyone to try skiing when your right leg likes to rotate a bit inward and see how far you get without getting burned out. When skiing my right ski always washes out when edging unless I really exaggerate my stance. This causes further issues with other parts of the anatomy. It took a lot of effort to manage this issue and compensating created a lot of discomfort and fatigue.I could ski but it wasn't fun.
Anyways, I have tried ZipFits, Intuition Liners,Cork beds, Superfeet, Microaveables, footbeds made with plastic vaccum wrap - you name it and some fitter has tried to put them in my boots.You don't even want to know the total bill. Needless to say none of it worked. The pain and lack of control remained.
Enter this season. Business trip to Denver. Break out the skis and boots. The excitement builds..until I get on the hill...maybe this year I can overcome the control problem with the right leg? is still there and I am not having fun. I decide I am going to ski down to the base and that's that. Skiing just isn't for me any longer. Why waste any more money?
I was really despondent because I really wanted to enjoy this sport.
As I walked to my car at the base of Keystone I passed the Surefoot store in the village area. I remember reading about them and seeing a few reviews and comments here.
I walked in and talked to one of the assistants. I explained my problems and was a little bit irritated when he asked me if I ever tried the services of a professional bootfitter. I was thinking ok here we go again..another sales pitch by an 'expert' fitter who can solve the worlds problems. I literally stated 'professional fitters have done nothing for me but take my money' and he obviously could sense that I was a little hostile. After a detailed explanation of my troubles he went and got the manager - Tyler Cataldo.
Tyler is very easy going and friendly - a welcome change from the fast paced and aggressive East Coast fitters I have been too. I was actually shocked when he greeted me with a smile and a hand shake. There were people coming in and out of the shop and it was a little busy but he still took the time to talk and listen. He told me he could tell by the way I was standing in my boots at that moment that I was out of alignment. He said he could see visually obvious cues. I was thinking ok here comes the sales pitch right? I was very up front and frank and told him of my distaste for bootfitters in general based on my experiences. I have already forked over a lot of money and if I fork over any more I darn well better get results. Even though I obviously came across a little hostile he remained very friendly.
I asked lots of questions and he asked a lot back. He didn't shove any particular boot or service at me and simply said if I wanted we would start from scratch with an assessment and go from there. He basically asked me what I wanted from them, not what are all the things they could sell me. I explained my goal is to have control over my right ski and not be in constant pain. He told me something no other fitter had in the past- if my problems are as bad as stated I might always have to deal with a few issues but the pain and fatigue can be kept to a minimum or thrown out altogether. He did not promise the magic bullet as all other fitters have in the past. I showed him my current footbeds and setup. Unlike some other fitters he didn't say they were 'crap' or bash the work of other fitters who I worked with. He simply asked me specific questions about the feel of the footbeds and hot spots ect. He asked how I skied, what I enjoyed ect
He said based on what he sees and what I am telling him his view is past work done by fitters probably solved some issues but created other new problems that could make pain issues even worse. He had no explanation as to how I could get such wildly divergent measurements from different fitters but he was very complimentary of the fitters I have seen in the past and had nothing bad to say about them(I wish I could say the same). He said what I am experiencing is not an unusual problem in bootfitting. Often folks with problems like mine get the usual cant and bed work but this leads to other problems due to the way the anatomy is structured and how it interfaces with the new alignment.
As the day was winding down we made an appointment for the following morning. He told me to bring my boots, socks, skis, and a pair of shorts. Seeing I was skeptical and had such bad experiences in the past he assured me there were no obligations and I didn't have to buy a thing. He also made a promise not to try to sell me anything I didn't need or want.
Next morning the first thing he did was again examine my current boots and then asked to see my socks. He cautioned against using too thick a sock and said mine were fine. He then shell fit my current boots. I am a size 10 street shoe and wear a 27.5 boot. He said the boots were OK as far as size(this is about the only thing right I have received from past fitters). We talked about how my foot interacts with my current footbed and asked me if I was ok with them. I said no...they crunch up my arch and I believe they are too rigid. I was expecting the immediate sales pitch about footbeds again but honestly he said it was up to me. I was told I need to decide what I was feeling and comfortable with. Again another first for me - it seems the very first thing every fitter has done is immediately lambaste my current footbeds as crap and try to sell me theirs as the only way. He had me point to where I was getting the cramps and pain and what exactly was occurring. He examined my feet and arches. I told him I definitely wanted a footbed that had a lower arch and was a bit softer. He said if I wanted to begin with trying footbeds and see how that works then we could start there. No obligations if it doesn't fit or work. I can just walk out.
He had me step up to a gadget used to create a topo map of the foot. It is a platform with soft little spongy sticks that rise up from the bed and adjust to the contours of the feet and arch - one foot at a time. He had me roll my ankle left and right while taking a few measurements. He then played around with the postion of the foot on the bed and repositioned the ankle in the bed and took more measurements. The results indicated that I am a major supinator and the monitor displayed a detailed top map of all the details and nooks and crannies. He pointed to the problem areas and how a footbed could be milled to even things out all the while creating a lower arch as requested.
He then said he would mill the footbeds and I am not under any oblation if they did not meet my needs. I went out for a coffee and 15 minutes later returned to the store. At that time a keystone ski patroller and an instructor were in getting some work done by one of the other techs on duty. We were talking about fitting issues and my experiences and the patroller said give Surefoot a chance as they have done nothing but wonders for many skiers with serious problem feet.
Tyler came back with my footbeds. As requested the computer milled the beds with one of the less rigid materials they use. You actually get to choose the level of stiffness of the bed. I never saw the machine that did the milling as it was in the back. He popped the footbeds in my boot and had me stand in them unbuckled. My first impression was wow...no mashing of the arch. The boots were then buckled up and I walked around. Very firm but comfortable and absolutely no excessive pressure on the arch. I was starting to get really curious about this whole thing and my confidence in a fitter to do something positive for me started to increase.
I immediately said I definitely want the footbeds. He said I can purchase them and ski on them and if I have any problems come back for adjustments and if they just dont work out get a complete refund. At first I was reluctant to go any further than footbeds at this point based on past experiences but as my confidence increased I then had him make some more recommendations. He said based on my wide forefoot, bony ankles and acicular etc a foamed liner would probably be a good options and next step and eliminate some of the pain and pressure points I was experiencing. He stated this wouldn't help a lot with my alignment problems but the foam would eliminate all the little pressure points I was describing. Again no obligations. If I try them and they suck or cause pain just return them for a new fit or simply get a refund. What the heck.
Next step before foaming-align the cuff. Then the big problem surfaced. - apparently the last fitter who had adjusted my cuff alignment had stripped off the plastic flange screws that drill into the cuff on the right boot. On the Fischer MX9 the cant bolts are these cheap plastic sockets that apparently are easily stripped. He tried but simply could not get the bolt to turn and it was just stripping down even further. I tried as well and it simply would not budge and was totally stripped from the housing. Plyers would not even be able to turn the thing as you couldn't get a grip. At this point cuff adjustment is impossible and my cuff was canted the wrong way by the last fitter. He told me I would be out of alignment and have major problems with foaming since the cuff needs to be canted correctly before the process and I am very knock kneed with my shins curving inward - I would always be pressuring the outside walls of the cuff without correct alignment.
I was confident now and finally determined to get it right from start to finish and inquired about new boots. They have a large selection of models and brands at the Keystone store. I tried a few of the Langes as they come with the Conformable foam liners. I tried on a few models, checked for feel and heel hold etc and pressure points. Based on fit, form, and what I desire I finally decided on the Lange Freeride 100 as it had more room up front and a tight heel. The higher end Langes appeared way too narrow up front. Also I wanted something stiff laterally but with a soft forward flex.
Next comes the cuff cant and then the foaming. I was told it might hurt. The Patroller who was getting foamed next to me looked like she was in exquisite pain. When they unbuckled her she breathed a sigh of relief. She looked like she was sweating and behaved like someone just parked a car on her foot. I was getting a little nervous. My turn came and I stepped on the platform and followed various instructions while Tyler hurriedly started shaking little plastic bottles and mixing up some orange stuff. He the had me push down hard on this titled platform using hand rails while he started injected the foam into tubes around the cuff area then onto the ankle and forefoot areas. Each time he started a stopwatch. The pressure slowly built up inside the boot. He was asking how I was doing. I was thinking what is painfull about this? For those of you who have been foamed take the pain and magnify 2 to 3 times and that is the kind of pain I have been in before in ski boots. This was a walk in the park.
He had me stand in the boots on the platform for 12 minutes I think. When the tubes were pulled out it was like suddenly my feet and shins deflated. It was an odd feeling. When I took the boots off it felt like pins and needles as the blood rushed back. It took about 5 minutes for the normal feel to return.Still I wouldnt call the process painfull...uncomfortable, but not painful.
A little while later as Tyler finished up some other work he had me try on the boots. He buckled them up and had me stand up. My first thought was 'now what...these are way to loose'. I walked around. I then realized the boots were not loose...there simply were no pressure points as I was used to. The heel hold was tremendous and the liner fit like a glove with no gaps, no pressure points, and no footbed pain. I was thinking man I could ski these things unbuckled. I thought foaming meant hard and stiff and the material sure is but these felt like slippers. We compared the new foam to my old liners and the foam liners were 10 times as stiff and supportive but also 10 times more comfortable.
I was really fired up now. On to the alignment. I got in shorts and he used various methods and devices to measure my lateral alignment. He measured me 3 times over about 15 minutes. The final readings were 1 degree outwards on the left boot and 2 degree outwards on the right boot. He then took out some cant plates and had me stand on them and do balance exercises. He noticed the rotation on my right foot when I blanced. Based on the measurements what he saw when I did balance exercises on the cant plates he suggested I do the right boot cant and see how it goes with the left boot when I ski. I also had various grinds and punches on both boots over the course of the day. Over the course of the next 2 days I came back for a few punches in various spots as things started to break in and I also eventually got the cant on the left foot.
I still have a minor issue with my tibia rotation but it is so easily controlled now that I am in balance. I am skiing on BOTH skis using both edges without any pain whatsoever and no discomfort. Fatigue is all but gone now that I am in balance. I finally can edge both skis simultaneously without having to rotate my hips to compensate. I have never felt so totally balanced, neutral, and in control. This is a miracle.
Thank You Tyler at Surefoot ! Finally I am skiing and loving every second of it.
I would highly recommend Tytler at Keystone Surefoot to anyone who has had major issues and did not get them resolved or anyone who wants a quality fitting service. I was skeptical but it really worked. Awesome service and very easy to work with. They were very patient as I returned again and again for adjustments. Also the free return policy took a load off my mind.
If you were wondering about the cost here it is. Not cheap but it is nothing compared to the cash I have put down over the past 3 years on failed boots and services. Also, I did check these in my carry on luggage. I am not letting these things out of my sight.
Lange Boots With Foam Liners $755
Cant Work $50
Being able to ski effortlessly and without pain - Priceless.
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I have concluded boot fitting is not a science by any stretch of the imagination. It is part trial and error, part quantative analysis, part art form, and last but not least part customer/fitter communication. If any of these traits are lacking in a fitter you may not get the results desired. I found the fitter that came together and worked for me. I am thrilled. I have figured out from experience that there are as many ways to fit as their are boot fitters. Everyone has their own theory and their own methods. You have to find the one that works for you.
My advice to anyone like me: This has been a long and painful and expensive journey into the world of bootfitting. I may not have the level of skill or experience as many here but as a consumer with extensive firsthand experience and having done tons of research this makes me perfectly qualified to offer the following suggestions.
These suggestions are based on my experiences over the past 3 years:
- Because one footbed model or fit solution 'sucked' for one person doesn't mean it will for you. This is NOT a science by any stretch of the imagination. If a fitter tells you their way is the only way - run, do not walk to the nearest exit.
- Use fitter reviews(including this one) like ski reviews - only to decide which one to demo and to make an inquiry. Do not base your decision entirely on word of mouth. I fell into this trap three times. See for yourself before trying. Don't let another skier , instructor, camp, clinic, web site etc tell you this or that fitter is the only way you should go. I don't care who it is - find out for yourself by doing some research. These are your feet.
- If you walk into a fitters shop try browsing the boot selections and ask lots of questions. If they act like you are wasting your time or want you to hurry up and make a decision then walk out. If they cant be patient with a potential customer then how are they going to be when the fitting begins?
- Try talking to them on the phone when you make an appointment. Ask some questions. If they sound too rushed or cocky just politely say thank you for the time and call someone else. If they are not patient with you on the phone then how will they be in person? Will they have enough time to devote to you?
- Don't let ANYONE tell you there is a right or wrong footbed or boot if you have not tried it. YOU decide what is right for you after consulting with the specialist of your choice and trying things for yourself.
- If a fitter bashes the work of other consider this a red flag.
- If you have footbed problems like me try fitters that offer differing footbeds with various shapes, sizes, densities, stiffness. Some shops I have been to had one model only - its my way or the highway.
- Take lots of time and ask lots of questions? If they don't want to take the time to answer the questions then simply leave.
Trust me -.you will save yourself a lot of time, aggravation, and money.