Getting foot pain in your ski boots is not uncommon. Ski boots are not known for exuding comfort especially because boot performance is heavily reliable on a snug fit. I do however believe that there is a balance that can be found between comfort and performance.
Getting back into your ski boots this season could exaggerate forefoot pain if you aren’t in a properly fit boot. (If you are unsure of your symptoms have a look at my post on forefoot pain here)
Now, as an avid skier I don’t expect you to sit fireside all day while your friends are out shredding. So here is a little information on what I am going to call “a pedorthic ski boot fitting.” This should help you find a balance between comfort and performance.
I will be the first to advocate for the professional boot fitters out there. They are your go to guys and are jam packed with knowledge on fit, function and technology.
In my practice however, I often notice that regardless of your ability or desired outcome when on the mountain, most boot fitters will fit you as though you are representing your country in the Giant Slalom Olympic Qualifier with the primary focus on getting the most response and performance out of your boot.
Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of the importance of a snug fitting boot, however if it’s at the expense of comfort and causes you pain, all that performance packed into that fit means nothing when you’re sipping a hot toddy in the chalet because you can’t stand to have your boots on more then 5 minutes.
PEDORTHIC SKI BOOT FITTING
I follow generally excepted principles of boot fitting, but tend to air on the bigger side of what is considered acceptable.
Your professional fitter will often tell you wear a thin sock when trying on your boots. If you have a pre-existing nerve impingement issue, such as a neuroma you want to be in a heavy ski sock. If you fit your boot – even following my principals – with a thin sock you are going to experience nerve related pain when you get into your boot in your thicker socks.
Start with what is known as shell fitting. Take the liner out of the boot. Put your foot in the shell and with your LONGEST toe just barely touching the front of the boot you should have 2cm of space between your heel and the back of the boot. This is where I will differ from Johnny at the pro shop. Some might say 1-1.5cm but we are looking to balance comfort and function so we air on the bigger side.
PUTTING ON THE BOOT
Now try the boot on with the liner. Open all the buckles, and flex the tongue of the boot forward to step your foot in. Once in the boot tap your heel on the floor a couple times to ensure your foot is all the way back in the heel cup of the boot. First do up the top buckles followed by the powerstrap. Before doing up the bottom buckles stand up in the boot and flex at the ankle to mimic an athletic ski stance. This will drive the foot back in the boot. Do up the bottom buckles now.
Now that you are in lets check the fit!
- When standing up straight in the boot it’s ok to feel the front of the boot. What is not ok in a pedorthic fit is to feel the toes curled under and pressured. When you flex forward into that athletic ski stance you should feel the toes move away from the front of the boot and should be able to wiggle them freely. (Johnny at the shop disagrees – but keep reading Johnny.)
- Spend some time in that ski stance, shift your weight around to get a sense of the fit and feel of the boot. Walking around isn’t going to give you an idea of comfort. Ski boots are not meant to be comfortable to walk in.
- Make sure you spend at least 10 minutes in the boot and that you do not experience any numbness, burning or tingling sensations. If you feel good in the boot and have followed the guidelines, with a proper insole we should have found that comfort/performance balance.
ORTHOTICS AND SKI BOOTS
Alright so Johnny the boot fitter is getting a little uncomfortable with the wiggle room you’ve got in the forefoot. Here is where we teach Johnny a little something. Instead of eliminating that free motion by getting into a smaller and tighter boot, we decrease the wiggle room using a custom insole.
The idea behind performance is to increase the surface area of the foot contacting the boot, thus increasing the responsiveness of the boot when your foot moves. Lets do this by bringing the ground up to the foot with a custom orthotic instead of impinging the foot from the perimeter with a smaller sized boot. With a properly fit custom orthotic you can increase the surface area of the bottom of the foot contacting the base of the boot, which to me is most important.
It’s important to incorporate an aggressive metatarsal arch support in an orthotic for a skier (as pictured below). This helps increase the space between the heads of the metatarsals. This will decrease pressure and friction on the nerves that run in-between the bones. This is important for those with nerve pain and also to prevent those without from developing nerve related pain due to the rigidity and unforgiving nature of ski boots.
I always recommended seeing a Certified Pedorthist for CUSTOM made orthotics. An improperly placed metatarsal support will only exaggerate your symptoms. A Certified Pedorthist is also trained in the fabrication of custom orthotics and can handle unique requests like building in your battery operated boot warmers.
To have the fit and function of your ski boots assessed book an appointment with our knowledgeable staff at Pedorthics in Motion.