Head have delivered all our toys for the season and I am sitting here gloating over them until the boys come and pick them up. Skis for Nathan, a snowboard for Ed, boots & skis for Joe & me.
These are the first new alpine boots I have bought since leaving Andorra in 2001 so it was with some trepidation I tried them on. The trouble with ski boots is that you can’t really tell if they are a good fit until you get on the slopes but first impressions were good at least. What’s a good fit? Depends really…..
Now I’m not teaching or doing performance exams any more, for me a good fit would be the same interpretation as a lot of our clients. I want something that is comfortable enough to wear all day, snug enough to enhance precision but not so tight circulation is compromised. The plastic outer shell should flex evenly and not collapse suddenly if pressure is applied to the cuff. Too stiff, however, and you will not be able to flex and extend the ankle joint effectively.
Why is it so hard to assess these things when you first try on a new pair of boots? Ski boots will bed down with wear, so that something that seems a nice and comfortable in the shop can quickly become a sloppy fit. This can seriously compromise your technique. I daresay this is a compromise a lot of recreational skiers would consider worthwhile if it means they are going to be able to ski all day in comfort but if boots are too sloppy it could result in rubbing which creates painful sores or more permanent bone spurs. So generally you should expect the boots to be uncomfortably tight to begin with and then start to relax after a few days’ wear.
Air temperature can radically effect the stiffness and therefore the flex of a boot. Most plastics are softer in warmer temperatures (ie in a nice cosy, heated shop) and get harder as the temperature drops, so your feet suddenly feel like they’ve been set in concrete when you hit the slopes! Happily manufacturers are onto this and have made lots of progress over the past few years in producing and delivering consistent and user friendly plastics but meanwhile it is still a consideration.
And then there is the whole issue of alignment. I am really really lucky and on the two occasions I have been to alignment specialists they have deemed any adjustments to be so slight as to be insignificant. A good alignment specialist is worth their weight in gold so if you are investing in a new pair of boots take the time to visit one. Solutions4Feet are mentioned on our Useful Links page, Keith in Morzine is our favourite local guy and now Alain Baxter is opening his shop in Scotland. These guys have a wealth of knowledge and experience to put at your disposal and could potentially save an awful lot of frustration and wasted effort not just in your skiing but in other sports too, not to mention injury prevention.
Not long ago I went to a friend’s place for dinner where a couple of the guys would have happily spent all night discussing the merits of power straps and whether to fasten bootclips from the top down or vice-versa. I also know a female colleague who would not contemplate starting a new season without a brand spanking new pair of boots every year. Kit has never held the same fascination for me (which is possibly one of the reasons I never made my full-cert) but even I know the powerful contribution a well selected, good fitting pair of boots can make to anyone’s ski experience.