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How To Choose The Right Ski Boots

At Ellis Brigham, we pride ourselves in being amongst the best at fitting ski boots and in having a wide range of ski boots for different budgets, abilities and foot shapes.

For some people buying ski boots might seem a daunting prospect but in reality it's a straightforward process. Our expert fitters follow simple tried-and-tested rules but are also armed with a wide selection of fitting-aids and the knowledge to deal with more complex problems.

Whether you're a first-time buyer or replacing existing boots follow these 10 tips to help explain the selection process and make it even easier.

Tips For Buying Ski Boots

  • Allow Plenty of Time
    Don't rush yourself, the initial fitting will take between 1 and 2 hours. It doesn't matter if it takes longer – we have the time, patience and skill necessary to make sure you get the right boot.
  • Know Your Feet
    It sounds obvious, but consider and discuss your 'ski boot history' and any previous problems you may have had with ski boots or your feet in general.
  • Have an Idea of Budget
    Do plenty of research and have a budget in mind of what you'd like to spend, though do be flexible if it means getting the most suitable model. Make sure the budget includes supportive footbeds if you don't already own them – they will improve the comfort and performance.
  • Get Measured by a Professional
    Measuring is just a guide. The correct size will be gauged from a shell check with your foot in the plastic shell of the boot, without the inner liner inserted. This will confirm if the size, shape, and volume of the selected model are the correct match to your feet.
  • Wear Thin Socks
    New ski boots have warm padded liners that will support your feet and insulate them. Thick socks will only make the boot tighter, restricting blood flow and ultimately making it colder. Thin socks will improve precision, control and comfort.
  • Choose the Right Boot
    It isn't about how the boot looks or what is recommended in the latest edition of ‘What Ski Boot' magazine. It's about the fit and function.
    Fit – the right size, shape and volume matter much more than colour, style or the latest trend. Focus on how they feel.
    Function – biomechanics and weight are just as important as ability. Some people need stiffer boots than their ability might suggest, some need softer. The boot should support and work with you.
  • Select Footbeds & Stability
    To really make boots perform and be comfortable, you have to ensure your feet are stable when inside. We cannot emphasize enough the importance of a well-made custom footbed to a successful boot fitting.
  • Wear Around the House
    After buying your new boots, wear them as much as possible either skiing at indoor snow centres or dry slopes, or at home whilst stood up. The more you wear them, the more the liner will soften and mould to your feet.
  • Modifications
    There are only a small number of brands and styles of boots, but there are millions of different feet. Ski boots are designed to be modified to accommodate lumps and bumps. Our staff have the tools and knowledge to stretch and grind plastic shells, transform inner boots and alter angles and flex.
  • After Sales Service
    Sensations like minor tingling, slight numbness or some hot spots can be expected to start with, as the liner packs down. If they don't ease with use, take the boots into a store for modification. Even if you have a more painful problem, please don't panic, in most cases it only takes a small adjustment to fix it. We provide free customisation work on all our boots.

Understanding Our Range

The Ellis Brigham website showcases a diverse range of ski boots with options for all types of skiers from novice, first-time buyers up to experts tackling anything the mountain has to offer. We have a selection that covers all kinds of fits and shapes and caters for different budgets. To help simplify the range, the boots are graded by performance and have key points identified.

Performance Indicator

This is a guide to show how the boot will perform and what to expect in terms of the overall fit. Shown as a progression from LEISURE through SPORT up to PERFORMANCE.

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  • Leisure
    These models offer extra space, the inner boots use less dense foams and the shell has a higher content of softer plastic for increased comfort. Leisure boots are forgiving and not as precise as sport options.
  • Sport
    A great compromise between comfort and performance. The fit is close and their materials supply plenty of support, the liner is made of firmer foams to ensure an even, all-over pressure.
  • Performance
    Performance boots for experienced skiers have less volume and feel firmer. Control and precision are the most important elements, which means no extra room.

Ski Boot Fitting Terminology

This relates to how much effort it takes to bend (flex) the boot forward. Boots with high flex numbers are stiffer, meaning they are suited to skiers with all or some of these characteristics: fast and aggressive style, better skilled, heavier weight. They feel precise, driving skis extremely efficiently.

Softer flexing boots perform very well at slower and medium speeds, they make it easy to control skis, and are comfortable to use.

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Last Width
This gives an indication of the space inside the boot and relates to the width in millimetres of the boot at its widest point, across the forefoot area. The stated width is for a size 26.5cm ski boot.

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Velcro Strap
They help to close the boot and keep the shin in contact with the tongue of the liner. Generally, the bigger the strap the better it is at retaining the leg. Therefore it takes more effort to use the boot, which will suit advanced skiers better.

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Custom Fit Liner
All adult boots that Ellis Brigham stock use custom-moulding foams. This means they can be heated in store to help the inner boot take the form of individual foot shapes.

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Custom Fit Shell
Certain models can have the plastic shell heated and moulded as part of the fitting process. This creates a better match to foot shape and evens out the pressure for a more comfortable fit.

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How Should New Ski Boots Feel?

Ski boots feel tight and a bit short at first. Don't panic - this is normal! The innerboot is designed to fit in length and volume, initially with no excess space.

Fasten the buckles round the leg first, this will pull the foot back. A few ankle-flexes will push the heel further into the heel pocket, producing more toe room.

Keep the boots on for at least 15 minutes. During this time your body heat will soften the innerboot foam, compressing it a little and creating more volume around your foot. You'll be aware of your toes just touching the end of the boot, and that it's a close and snug fit (as if someone has hold of your feet with both hands).

There should be very little or no movement at the heel and ankle when replicating skiing movements. Remember that a ski boot's internal volume will increase by about 15% with use, so don't upsize.

Don't over-tighten the buckles; they are there to close the boot, not to hold your foot still.

If you have issues with the fit, or it just doesn't feel right, try a different boot in the same size. Remember that well-made custom-moulded footbeds will support and stabilize your feet in the correct alignment, dramatically improving the fit.

Common Ski Boot Problems & Cures

Sore Shins
Too much space around the lower leg will allow it to rock back and forth, banging the shin into the tongue. Pronation creates an inward rotation of the lower leg, during flexion the shin rubs laterally on the tongue. Poor quality socks can intensify the problem. Footbeds will support and reduce the rotation.

Cold/Numb Toes
Poor circulation and nerve pressure are the cause. Support from footbeds helps circulation by spreading the pressure evenly over the sole of the foot, allowing muscles to relax and improving blood flow. Heated footbeds are available to further stimulate circulation to the toe ends. Numbness can be caused by the foot collapsing and nipping nerves. Support the bones with a footbed and relieve the pressure. Foot width can be the issue, so adaptations to the boot can help.

Calf/Achilles Pain
Often caused by poor alignment or lack of balance, tightening and fatiguing the calf muscle. Tight or short achilles tendons restrict ankle flex. Constant flexing pulls hard on the tendon creating pain centrally in the lower calf (commonly seen in high heel wearers). Symptoms can be relieved and balance improved by supporting the foot and fitting a Sidas heel lift. Regular stretching exercises of the affected area are recommended.

This refers to pain in the ball of the foot and is often felt as a 'burning sensation'. Causes of a burning sensation in ski boots include:

  • Poor balance or stance
  • A tight achilles or calf muscle
  • Over-tightening boot buckles
  • A neuroma
  • Over-pronation

These can all contribute to metatarsalgia. People with high or low arches tend to suffer more. Supporting the whole foot to create a more balanced platform inside the boot with firmly constructed footbeds will help.

Pressure Points
Commonly seen on the ankle bones, heels, instep and the widest parts of the forefoot. The most common pressure points are the inner ankle bone and little toe area along the 5th metatarsal, often experienced together due to excessive foot pronation. It can be easily remedied with localised shell stretches and footbeds to support the foot.

Arch Pain
Over-tightening boots that are too big usually leads to excessive downward pressure by the instep buckle. This squashes the foot, makes it pronate heavily and over-stretches the tendons underneath the arch. Other causes for this pain are simple foot fatigue and the more serious problem of plantar fasciitis. Providing effective support with footbeds in a correctly sized boot eliminates the need for over-tightening and provides fatigue-reducing support.

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