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Recreational skier confused by boot fitters

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Hello People!

I first posted this question in the "Ask the Boot Guys" forum only to find out that it does not allow for open discussion. Oh well, reposting here. Sorry...

I went to two shops to get recommendation about ski boots and came back thoroughly confused.

First, a little background:
I am a 41 years old male recreational skier, been going about 5 times a year for 3 years to resorts in southern Ontario (mostly Mt. St. Louis / Moonstone).
I am fairly comfortable on the "blue square" slopes and quite uncomfortable on the "black diamonds". I am not a performance freak and have no intention to compete in the next winter Olympics.

Now, about the experience:

In the first shop, the guy measured my feet, declared that I need size 25.5 and brought a pair of Salomon Impact 7 ($400).
Feet go in without liner, more measurements, liner goes back and I get to wear the boots.

First impression, very uncomfortable. Toes mashed against the front and squeezed a little on the sides.
The guy insists that it is the way it should be, and that the will boots "break in" after a while. Also suggests to walk around in the boots for 5-10 minutes it will feel better. For the next 5-10 minutes we try to have a conversation about skis but all I can think about is how uncomfortable I am. Finally I have to take the boots off because I got fed up with the torture.

In the second shop I went to, I had a completely different experience. The guy measures my feet, says 26.5 and brings a pair of Head Edge+ Pro ($300). Out of curiosity, I mention that the other store suggested (actually insisted on) 25.5.

The guy shrugs and says that since I am a recreational skier and not "performance oriented", he recommends I get something I'm comfortable in instead of having cold and cramped feet and feeling miserable.

He also seemed somewhat disinterested when I asked about other models that he had on display.


Two fitters, two diametrically opposed sets of advice.
Please help!


Also, can you recommend a fitter near Toronto, Ontario, Canada?
I live just north of the city (Richmond Hill) and work downtown (near Union station).


Thank you,
Alex.
post #2 of 23
Heh... I saw your same situation happen at the ski shop where I was having my boots fit on Saturday. A guy came in who had been skiing in 26.5 boots for what appeared to be a long time. He was not a big guy, (maybe 5'7") and wore a size 8.5 - 9 street shoe (also had an incredibly narrow foot). This guy was INSISTANT that he needed to be in a 26.5 boot and not a 25.5 boot. Mind you, this was all while I was sitting next to him having my size 10 foot crammed into a 25 shell plug race boot... This guy should have been in a 25.5 - no doubt about it. He had never felt a boot that held his foot like the 25.5 and because it was snug felt that it was too small (obviously didnt understand pack-out or the fitting process for ski boots).

Anyhow, this shop is a very reputable shop and fits people to get great comfort AND performance out of their boots. Most shops will throw you into a boot that feels great in the shop and within 3 or 4 days skiing in the boots they are packed out and end up being too big. A good shop will put you in the boot that is right for you - not the boot that you think is right for you... and not only that they will not just tell you what you want to hear in order to sell a pair of boots.

My advice would be to try on a lot of different 25.5 shells. Check your liner and shell fit in each one, and see what works best on your foot. All boots are different so you may find a high volume 25.5 is just the boot for you. Unforunately in the boot fitting business the customer is rarely right.

Later

Greg
post #3 of 23
When it comes to properly fitting a ski boot, there are few absolute rules in sizing, as all feet and ski boots are different. A size 26.5 from one boot maker is usually different in length of volume & length than another 26.5 from a different vendor. That is because they all use different lasts (foot replicas) to build their boots. Also, what is good for the high performance skier is sometimes but not necessarily good for the recreational skier.

A ski boot must provide two diametrically opposed characteristics. It must be tight enough to allow proper control and feedback from the ski and must be loose enough to provide a comfortable fit.

The important thing is that the boot fitter must listen to your feedback. They can only tell if a boot fits if they ask the right questions and you provide a sufficient response. The questions need to probe whether you have sufficient length and volume to accomodate your foot while providing you a high degree of control.

A good bootfitter will allow you to try various boots to assess the differences in fit characteristics. If they don't, thank them for their time and go immediately to another ski shop. Boot fitting is an art. It requires experience to interpret and understand your response to questions and then to convert that feedback into the appropriate boot solution. Check with www.bootfitters.com for a list of quality boot fitters.

A true story: 30 years ago, a boot rep (not a fitter) offered me a free pair of high performance racing boots. He asked for my shoe size and gave me a pair a full size smaller. I also said they felt awfully tight. He said "everyone skis on these a full size smaller". Lacking any real knowledge of bootfitting , I accepted the pair and thanked him. I cursed his *ss after two days of skiing, my big toe nails turned black & blue, fell off and I couldn't ski for the balance of the season :. Morale: Your feet & a good bootfitter are the best ways to know when a ski boot fits.
post #4 of 23
It takes time to get boots that fit. Except for extremely thin, high performance liners, all liners pack-out to some degree. The difficult task is to try to estimate how much. In most situations, you really don't know until you have been skiing a few days if the boots are really going to work well for your feet.

For me, the boots have to start out pretty tight, but not painfully tight. After a hour of wearing them in a shop, I get an idea where the pressure points are and if the size feels like it may work. As mentioned by others, different boots have very different fits.

Again, it takes time with a good boot fitter. Once you have boots that work well, you will thank your lucky stars.
post #5 of 23
I feel your pain.

I had to go to no less than 4 shops before I found a person that I felt was attentive and patient with me trying on a number of boots.

I would highly suggest that you read up on Boot Fitting basics before you go for Round 3.

Start here:

http://forums.epicski.com/showthread.php?t=58063


Then read all the Boot Fitting bits here:

http://www.techsupportforskiers.com/boots1.htm


Also you can consult this page for additional info:

http://www.bootfitters.com/


I thoroughly read all three (as well as several other online boot fitting articles) before setting out to get boots 2 seasons ago. I started locally, here in San Francisco, and the first two shops I went to I wasn't satisfied with the boots that were suggested or the folks helping me out. So I sacrificed a day on the slopes and hit up a shop in South Lake Tahoe. They were great (Tahoe Boot n Bike Works) but sadly didn't end up having any boots in my size. They did size me correctly and gave me a list of potential boots that would fit my narrow foot. So at least I left the shop armed with a small list of potentially good boots. I then hit up another two shops before settling on some Nordica Hot Rods. Once at the shop where I purchased my boots I probably spent close to 4 hours trying on different boots, different sizes, and just standing around and walking and flexing.

If the boot was still uncomfortable after 30 minutes of flexing, standing, walking, then I'd try another pair.

It's a laborious process, but one that will reward you in the long run.

Again, I would read all the above listed links and arm yourself for another go-around.

If you know the basics (shell fitting with 1 finger room in the heel, etc) then you'll be a much wiser participant in the boot fitting process.

And don't let the shop bully or neglect you.

Honestly, if after 15 minutes I didn't have a good vibe from the fitter I usually just excused myself and left.

After all, you're the customer and the one who is paying (eventually) for the boots and service.






If you go in armed with some basic knowledge of what to look for then you won't get bullied or neglected by the fitter.
post #6 of 23
As others have hinted -- having a shell fit done is quite important. Liners "pack out", thus creating more room in the boot then was there initially. And while bootfitters can create more room by stretching a "too small" boot, they can't shrink a "too large" boot.

The general "rule of thumb" is that you should have two fingers worth of space between your heel and the shell (i.e., with your toes just touching the front and the liners out). Racers and other high-performance skiers go for a bit less, more recreational skiers can get away with a bit more, but pushing the size much beyond that is generally asking for trouble in the long run.

All that said... that merely takes care of the "length" aspect of the boot. It doesn't address the fact that some boots are high volume or low volume. Properly fitting boots are very, very snug fresh out of the box. They aren't exactly comfortable; however, they shouldn't hurt either. I like to try to get constant even pressure around my foot. It's substantial pressure, but not a "oh my god, get this thing off my foot" either.

You did good by walking out on both shops. Sounds like both fitters were more interested in making a sale then they were in making sure your needs were met.
post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by KevinF View Post
Properly fitting boots are very, very snug fresh out of the box...I like to try to get constant even pressure around my foot. It's substantial pressure, but not a "oh my god, get this thing off my foot" either.
Where I got my boot fit they said it should feel like a good, firm handshake.

Not a mamsy-pamsy, limp-wristed handshake nor like a Terminator vice-grip handshake, but a firm, even one, all around the foot.
post #8 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexo
In the first shop, the guy measured my feet, declared that I need size 25.5 and brought a pair of Salomon Impact 7 ($400).
Feet go in without liner, more measurements, liner goes back and I get to wear the boots.

First impression, very uncomfortable. Toes mashed against the front and squeezed a little on the sides.
The guy insists that it is the way it should be, and that the will boots "break in" after a while. Also suggests to walk around in the boots for 5-10 minutes it will feel better. For the next 5-10 minutes we try to have a conversation about skis but all I can think about is how uncomfortable I am. Finally I have to take the boots off because I got fed up with the torture.
This part of your post had me convinced the first shop was right, but got an incomplete. If the shell fit, that was the right boot. Many liners are short-lasted and need stretched or heated to mold them. Shells may need minor grinding or stretching to accommodate foot irregularities. From your description, I think the first boot is in fact the right size, but may not be the right model, or you need some modifications. The second shop is making you smile and selling you an over size boot. The results will be predictable.
post #9 of 23
^to add to Cirque's insight:

try and find a shop that has a large selection of boots, I'd say at least 4 to 5 different brands and all of the models in those brands.

i'll go out of my way to hit a shop that carries at the very least Nordica, Lange, Technica, Head, and Daebello or Dolemite. The more choices you have the better the chance of finding the proper fit.

Also knowing the basic make-up of your foot can aid an experienced bootfitter in narrowing down your choices. i.e. do you have a wide foot? flat foot? narrow heel but wide toes? narrow toes but wide heel? high arch? stuff of that nature.

For example I have a fairly narrow foot. That cut out several options right out the bat. I also have a narrow heel, as well. That narrows the playing field even more. Then you just start trying on boots that might be a good fit to your foot and play it out from there.
post #10 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider View Post
This part of your post had me convinced the first shop was right, but got an incomplete. If the shell fit, that was the right boot.
I agree that the first shop was on the right track; however, it doesn't sound like they spent much time addressing the other factors of a successfull boot fit. i.e., toe box width, foot height, etc. Just because the shell passes the "two finger test" doesn't necessarily mean that you have the right boot. I'm no expert in this arena, but I'd think that if you have narrow toes in a boot with a large volume toe box, you're just as screwed as if you had the wrong "length" boot. i.e., taking up space just doesn't work.
post #11 of 23
Cirque, I'm gonna disagree and say the second shop was closer to the mark. The OP skis 5 times a year and has been skiing 3 years. Boots pack out and start to fit after 5 to 10 days on the hill, it will take him/her 2 seasons to get boots that start to fit. This person will just stop skiing if a race fit boot is forced on him/her. It will take forever for this person to really pack out a liner, a comfort fit will be fine.

For customers like Dookey I play a little game I call 'The Three Bears', I bring out a few different boots that I KNOW won't fit, then after the desire to 'try stuff on until I find the right one' subsides I bring out the correct boot. The one I would bring out first if I felt the customer could be trusted...they can't. Sometimes you've got to fool them to help them.
post #12 of 23
One very important thing about boot fitting is that it is not a one-sided process. Boot fitting and selection takes a lot or work on the part of both the fitter AND the customer. I usually dread boot fitting for this reason. It requires huge amounts of time on my part to get my boots working properly, not to mention the time that the boot fitter spends actually doing the work.

I spent 4 hours in a shop the other day having footbeds made and aligning the boots. I still have numerous spots to grind, potential further alignment/canting to go through, as well as the snow-time to get the boots dialed in. The process is not quick and it is not easy. I have a great setup on my new boots, done by a first class boot fitter, however now it is my responsibility to break the boot in (no small task), find the pressure points, see what needs to be adjusted and what doesn't, play with all the various buckle positions, and ski on several of my skis to make sure the boots work with most of them. This will probably take me weeks to go through, but the payoff is weel worth it.

Later

Greg
post #13 of 23
To the OP, when I try my boots on with the stock liners and foot beds, my feet flatten out and toes jam into shell up front. When I put (after market) foot beds in, my toes have room to work with and the boot works much better.

Think that 25.5 is probably the size boot you will want. But perhaps in a different brand. If you get one with a heat form liner you won't have to worry about having to pack them out over 3 years. Just put on 2 pairs of light ski socks and then mold them. That way you will start with a comfort fit.
post #14 of 23
Alexo,
You are not the first recreational skier to be confused by the experts. If you're a "Joe Average" skier like me, you don't need the services of "expert" boot fitters. Actually, sometimes it feels more like we are serving them, right? After skiing for years in uncomfortable boots purchased in high-end ski boutiques, I decided it was time to back-track down the ski industry food chain. I found myself in my local mass-market sports retailer (Sport Chek). I asked the skinny teenager running the ski department to bring me a bunch of boots and then please just leave me alone. So right away the pressure was off. He's not trying to make a sale and I wasn't feeling rushed to make a decision. I took as much time as I needed trying on boots, walking around etc. I eventually settled on the Nordica W-8. Best, most comfortable boot I have ever had.

Also very important are quality ski socks and a good footbed. The Sole heat-moldable footbed works best for me. It locates the heel and prevents toe-mash in the front.
post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for your replies!

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudman22 View Post
The important thing is that the boot fitter must listen to your feedback. They can only tell if a boot fits if they ask the right questions and you provide a sufficient response. The questions need to probe whether you have sufficient length and volume to accomodate your foot while providing you a high degree of control.
Unfortunately, neither seemed interested.

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudman22 View Post
A good bootfitter will allow you to try various boots to assess the differences in fit characteristics. If they don't, thank them for their time and go immediately to another ski shop. Boot fitting is an art. It requires experience to interpret and understand your response to questions and then to convert that feedback into the appropriate boot solution. Check with www.bootfitters.com for a list of quality boot fitters.
The site does not cover the Toronto area. Are there recommended bootfitters here?
I was not happy with my experience at "Sign of the Skier", perhaps because they set me up with one of the "kids".
I will probably try "Sporting Life" and/or "Skiis & Biikes" next.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider View Post
This part of your post had me convinced the first shop was right, but got an incomplete. If the shell fit, that was the right boot.
From what I understand, there should be 1-2cm free space in the shell. I felt there was less than 1.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider View Post
The second shop is making you smile and selling you an over size boot. The results will be predictable.
Please elaborate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dookey67 View Post
try and find a shop that has a large selection of boots, I'd say at least 4 to 5 different brands and all of the models in those brands.
Any recommendations in the Toronto area?

Quote:
Originally Posted by fudman22 View Post
Also knowing the basic make-up of your foot can aid an experienced bootfitter in narrowing down your choices. i.e. do you have a wide foot? flat foot? narrow heel but wide toes? narrow toes but wide heel? high arch? stuff of that nature.
I don't know. Is this wide or narrow?


Best wishes,
Alex.
post #16 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexo View Post
I was not happy with my experience at "Sign of the Skier", perhaps because they set me up with one of the "kids".
I dealt with Norm there. An older fellow (well he wasn't a kid) who seemed to know what he was doing. I don't think you'll find a better place in the area. I was told to stay away from Sporting Life and Skiis and Bikes. I hear Corbetts in Oakville is pretty good. I hear rumours of some guy in Collingwood as well.
post #17 of 23
My Toronto experience:

I bought my Crossmax boots from Sporting life on Yonge st, and was told to ski em before getting any bootwork done. I was only able to wear them for about an hour skiing the first day,even with no socks, before I had to get sloppy rentals to finish the day. I had them stretch out the sixth toe. I skied them again, brought them back again. After stretching out the sixth toe area two more times there is enough room for that side of my foot. I also have a large bony part of my foot that sticks way out on top towards the inside, no shell work was done to accomodate that, though a fair amount of liner cutting was done. The boots are still too tight around the main part of the foot. I still can't wear them very long with the thinest socks before my feet go to sleep. Bare foot it's ok. The heels are starting to pack out though. It's a nuisance and expense to keep bringing the boots back for work, even though they honour their fit guarantee. I've lost track of the number of times I have brought these boots back to make them fit, but I'm beginning to think it's too many.

Whenever I've been browsing in Sign of the skier I've overheard good advice being dispensed, and they seem to know what they are about. They also did a good job race-tuning my SGs. There was a young person there a few years back who gave me the straight goods on skis (suggested I get an SX11).

I have never had good luck getting boots to fit. Karate does weird things to your feet.

(edit) I don't know much about the shop in Collingwood, except that the guy (seemed like the owner) at SQUIRE JOHN's seemed to know what he was talking about when we discussed base bevels. A good thing about that shop is it's close to the ski hill so it would be convenient to ski and make adjustments afterwards.
post #18 of 23
If you go with the 25.5 and after a few days of skiing it's still to tight a good boot fitter has can deal with that by blowing it out, or perhaps a little grinding but if you go for the 26.5 and after a week of skiing the liner packs out there's very little that can be done to take up the extra room. I'm sure most boot fitters will tell that when a recreational skier comes in with fit problems its almost always due to the boot being too large.
Of course shell length is only one fit factor, and besides the proper length you need to find a last that fits the shape of your foot.
Best advice anyone can give you is to ask around and find out who are the best boot fitters in your locale and plan on spending a couple of hours getting properly fitted. Good luck!
post #19 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by gimmesnow View Post
Alexo,
You are not the first recreational skier to be confused by the experts. If you're a "Joe Average" skier like me, you don't need the services of "expert" boot fitters. Actually, sometimes it feels more like we are serving them, right? After skiing for years in uncomfortable boots purchased in high-end ski boutiques, I decided it was time to back-track down the ski industry food chain. I found myself in my local mass-market sports retailer (Sport Chek). I asked the skinny teenager running the ski department to bring me a bunch of boots and then please just leave me alone. So right away the pressure was off. He's not trying to make a sale and I wasn't feeling rushed to make a decision. I took as much time as I needed trying on boots, walking around etc. I eventually settled on the Nordica W-8. Best, most comfortable boot I have ever had.

Also very important are quality ski socks and a good footbed. The Sole heat-moldable footbed works best for me. It locates the heel and prevents toe-mash in the front.
LOL! if the shoe fits...
you can have my Flexons when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers...
post #20 of 23
A few points:

Just becuase a guy works in a ski shop does not mean he is a bootfitter. To give you analogy, owning a set of wrenches does not make you a mechanic.

If in doubt go the smaller size, it is easy to make a boot bigger, hard to make it smaller....a good trick is, if you sorta like the boot, and wonder what it will feel like at after 2 days of skiing, try on the next larger size...that is what the boots will be like...for low end boots with big smooshy liners...possibly even try two sizes up, to see how much bigger that boot will be.
post #21 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by alexo View Post
From what I understand, there should be 1-2cm free space in the shell. I felt there was less than 1.
We are not asking what you felt, but what was the shell fit ACTUALLY like.
post #22 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whiteroom View Post
Cirque, I'm gonna disagree and say the second shop was closer to the mark. The OP skis 5 times a year and has been skiing 3 years. Boots pack out and start to fit after 5 to 10 days on the hill, it will take him/her 2 seasons to get boots that start to fit. This person will just stop skiing if a race fit boot is forced on him/her. It will take forever for this person to really pack out a liner, a comfort fit will be fine.

For customers like Dookey I play a little game I call 'The Three Bears', I bring out a few different boots that I KNOW won't fit, then after the desire to 'try stuff on until I find the right one' subsides I bring out the correct boot. The one I would bring out first if I felt the customer could be trusted...they can't. Sometimes you've got to fool them to help them.
I will aways defer to those of you who work first hand with the public every day. Lets face it, infrequent skiers remain an enigma to me. Are you ready to put the Boot specialist tiltle under your name yet? You've been in for 3 months.

Whiteroom aka Mr. Incognito.
post #23 of 23
my feet are of average width C and between 8.5 and 9 US

In a solomon boot I fit in a 26.5 or 26. Anything smaller hurts and causes blisters. Anything bigger is sloppy and causes blisters.

The Chart says 26.5 = 8.5 street shoe.

There is some minor deviation from boot to boot But COME ON!!

I think trying to stuff an 8.5 foot into a 7.5 boot is STUPID

If they let me take the 26.5 liner and put it in a 25.5 shell that would be of BUT WHY

BTW My boots work just fine, they don't pack out too fast. I leave then on and buckled all dam day. I am comfortable, I feel so sorry for those who are constantly unbuckling there boots after ever run, they must be miserable.
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