The secret of comfortable ski boots

Are rental ski boots killing your feet? It could be time to invest in a custom-fitted pair.

Is the pleasure you have skiing spoilt by the pain in your feet? Do you dread putting your boots on in the mornings? Do you have to clamp up them so tight to control your skis that you all but crush the bones in your feet?

I used to answer “yes” in each case – until I had a pair of boots custom-fitted three seasons ago, complete with specially moulded insoles. I haven’t had one blister since, my boots fit snugly, and my skis react to the slightest movement in my feet. I can confidently say I have never been so happy about any other ski equipment or footwear purchase in my life.

The fitting isn’t cheap – at Profeet in London, where I had my boots done, the process now costs £149.95 on top of the price of the boot – but this is money well spent.

The process begins with a biomechanical analysis. First you stand on a mat that maps the distribution of weight around your feet, both standing normally and in a skiing stance. The various colours on the computer printout show precisely where you need support.

The technician also videos your movements on a ski simulator – an adapted “Skier’s Edge” – to see how your skiing stance may be affected by tight, weak or dominant muscles.

The next phase involves making the customised insole. As you stand on a squidgy cushion, the insole is heat-moulded directly to your foot using high-definition plastics. The technician then makes use of the information from your pressure-mapping scan to shape a support out of a special foam (EVA) that will provide the maximum support.

I was astonished that my insole was so lumpy, with big bulges under the arches of my feet. The technician showed how, without these, the arches of my feet have a tendency to collapse – which in turn causes my knees to drop inwards, and my pelvis to tilt back. Standing on the new insoles, I felt the whole alignment of my ankles, knees and hips shift.

The final element in the fitting is the boot itself. I was surprised that I had no choice of model: the technician said that given the shape of my foot, heel, ankle and calf, he would fit a particular pair of Nordicas. As for choosing something that goes with your outfit – forget it.

He made a couple of tweaks to the boot, stretching the plastic of the shell to better fit the shape of my foot, before adjusting the canting – effectively ensuring a correct vertical alignment of the lower leg and the boot, for the skis to run flat.

I stopped short of buying a custom lining for the boot, as I was running short of funds – and the technician said I could fit one at a later date. In fact, I intend to buy them soon here in Verbier: while the boots fit my feet perfectly, I notice some play around the ankles, especially when I hit variable terrain – something that a purpose-made liner should correct.

Still, the boots have served me superbly well for two and a half seasons. I find that for the first hour of skiing I have to tweak the buckles a fair bit, but then do not touch them again for the rest of the day. So, if you ski in rental boots or ones that you have bought off the shelf, consider treating yourself a custom-fitted pair – it could be the happiest investment you make in your skiing career.

Tips

Socks Only wear one pair; donning two can create a variety of problems, from wrinkling and bunching to excess perspiration leading to cold feet. Invest in ski-specific socks with extra thickness on the shin, heel and other key areas – such as those made by Falke.

Buckling your boots If your boots are well fitted, they will not need clamping up like vices for you to ski effectively. Start with the power strap at the top of your boots, if you have one. Then fasten the top two buckles on your shin, tightening them alternately to bring your heel firmly to the back of the boot. Finally, do up the buckles over your toes and your instep: not tightly, otherwise you will constrict circulation, just enough to feel the boot wrapped around your foot. Finally, secure the power strap around your shin.

  • Profeet (020 7736 0046; www.profeet.co.uk) is located in Fulham in London. The fitting process costs £149.95; this includes biomechanical analysis, foot pressure mapping, moulding of insoles, boot adjustment and alignment. The cost of the boots is extra; Profeet says it will match the prices of other retailers.
  • Further information: the Warren Smith Ski Academy (www.warrensmith-skiacademy.com), the Switzerland Travel Centre (00800 100 200 30, www.MySwitzerland.com) and the local tourist office (www.verbier.ch).
  • Train tickets from the UK to major Swiss cities are available through Rail Europe (0844 848 4070; www.raileurope.co.uk); onward travel within Switzerland through the Swiss Federal Railways (www.sbb.ch)
  • Equipment rental through Ski Service (00 41 27 771 67 70; www.skiservice.com).