Cinderella Ski Boot Fit

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This post by WildSnow.com blogger  

Like fingerprints, every foot is unique. When you have hard plastic backcountry skiing boots that come out of generically shaped molds based on the DNA of a small town in Italy, it’s easy to understand why your feet might be a different shape, your toes go numb, your arch aches and your knees hurt. And on that perfect powder day, or any day you get to be out, you don’t want to be held back by foot pain. A custom fitted boot can ensure that you won’t.

I love, love, love my Dynafit TLT5′s for their feather weight and easy walking mode, but they are not an out-of-the-box fit for me. I’m using Intuition Pro Tour liners, and I’ve molded and overstretched them to make the toe box roomy, only to get a sloppy fit that makes me struggle all the more. Then my fairy god mother smiled down on me and introduced me to a boot fitter, Bob Egeland.

inspection

Master boot fitter: Bob Egeland.

Bob, owner of Boulder Orthotics operating out of Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado, is a Board Certified Podiatrist with extensive experience in footwear sales, product design and manufacturing. His goal is to provide his customers with the best fitting, best performing backcountry ski boots they’ve ever owned. Ideally, he starts at the beginning, matching the foot with a shell, then he supplies an insole, either off-the-shelf or custom, and molds the liner. I wanted to make the TLT5′s work rather than try a boot that would perhaps be better designed for my foot. While Bob won’t work on boots that are a bad match for a client, after examining my feet and talking to me about my issues, he said the Dynafit’s were suitable.

Neptunes

Inside the hallowed halls of Neptune Mountaineering Store and Ski Museum, Boulder, Colorado. Alongside the latest gear are mountaineering relics dating back to the 1800's. You can even schedule a tour with owner, Gary Neptune.

tools

Some of the tools Bob uses to evaluate feet.

ankle flex

Range of motion and flexibility of ankle determines how stiff you want the boot to feel in the fore and aft mode. If you are super flexible or severely lacking in ankle flex, you'll usually feel the need for a stiffer boot. If your dorsiflexion is average, it'll be less of an issue for you. This is one reason why it's important to not just buy into random internet information from boot reviewers saying a boot is 'stiff' or 'not stiff enough,' since you'd need to know their style of skiing as well as their ankle flexibility to figure out if what they feel in a boot is what you would feel.

harris

Imprints of my feet made by an Apex Harris mat show pressure points. I resisted getting a pedicure because the calluses on my feet highlight problem areas.

neutral

After positioning my legs in a neutral pose, Bob forms a putty cast.

putty

Bob lays a warm insole into the mold and holds my foot secure while it cools.

insole

The mold gives my arch gentle support.

parts

The base of the insole can be made with materials of various stiffness depending on need.

backroom

Lou in the backroom getting secrets from the master, either about insoles or which tool to buy next.

D insole

The original, stock Dynafit insole is used to trace the proper shape onto the custom insole.

grinding

Bob is intimately familiar with the interior shape of most AT shells. This is important because most are not flat under the foot, but rather have bumps and curves you have to interface the footbed with. He grinds my insole to fit the TLT5 and my liners.

liner molding

Once the insoles are finished, Bob remolds my Intuition liners with an EZ Fit off-the-shelf insole which is the same size as the custom insole. Since the custom insole is heat moldable, it would get wrecked if it was used for heat molding the liner.

last

Thin rubber discs are placed on bone spurs and bunions to ease the pressure off these sensitive areas.

elastic

I like lacing my liners but it's always been a hassle. They constantly come undone and if I tie a triple knot, it's tough to untie. Bob's solution is elastic on the bottom loops. This secures the tongue in place but allows easy in/out access. Clever!

Ahhhh, when I put on my boots and buckled them up, they felt great! Bob wants them to feel good immediately, and that certainly happened for me. No more squeeze or slop. My foot was encased in a comfortable handshake. I felt like Cinderella slipping on that magic slipper.

My only concern now is warmth: the liners may have lost some of their insulating power since they’re thin in places where we stretched them for my wide feet. My toes get cold and have patches of Raynaud’s, but I surely don’t want to sit home on those lovely, cold smoke days we’ll have in January. Temps get down to the single digits but the slopes can be covered in Colorado’s finest champagne pow. Battling the brrrr is always on my radar, and luckily, I recently attended a class on installing boot heaters, such as Hotronics, at Masterfit University. Eeee gads! Am I becoming like Lou where there is always one more mod to be made??? Stay tuned.

Comments

44 Responses to “Cinderella Ski Boot Fit”

  1. Bill November 14th, 2012 9:38 am

    Thanks Lisa

    Getting a comfortable fit for my wife is an epic battle.
    From what I hear, boots on the ends of the size spectrums often tend be of out of whack. That is her case with size 5 feet.
    For me it is easy.
    I have a hard time understanding the issues and there is no one around here with the expertise needed that I can go to. This helps.

  2. Lou Dawson November 14th, 2012 10:01 am

    It helped our marriage when I stepped down from being Lisa’s boot fitter (grin).

  3. Arthur November 14th, 2012 10:06 am

    What is the cost that one can expect for this type of service (all in, consult, molding, insoles, etc.)?

  4. Lisa Dawson November 14th, 2012 10:39 am

    Arthur,

    Here’s a link to Bob’s services and prices which I find to be in the ballpark for what most bootfitters charge:

    http://boulderorthotics.com/products_services.htm

  5. Rob November 14th, 2012 10:49 am

    Bungee shoe lace is a great idea.

    Ordered some for my mercurys

  6. Lisa Dawson November 14th, 2012 10:53 am

    Bill, I relate to your wife’s epic to get a comfortable fit. I’ve struggled for years and I think part of the problem what that I didn’t understand that a high performance fit could be comfortable as well.

    After attending two days of boot fitting courses at MasterFit University, it was really an eye opener for me to learn that there are so many issues, especially for a women with smaller feet. Fitting ski boots is so much more complicated that finding a good running shoe or hiking boot. To maximize efficiency, comfort and performance, I’ll always try to work with a professional.

    One of the things I liked about Bob’s approach is his goal of having the fit feel good immediately. This allows you to deal with a boot fitter who might not live in your area, as I did with Bob. We rarely have the opportunity to go to Boulder, but the trip was worth it.

    Good luck!

  7. Forest November 14th, 2012 11:03 am

    Very useful post, Lisa! I started using the “bungee laces” in my liners last year – huge help with no excess lacing to try to tuck out of the way. It can be tough to find someone who is willing to punch out a grilamid shell, too. For those in the Northeast see Dickie at Stan & Dan Sports in North Conway. That man will make your boots fit!

  8. Rob S November 14th, 2012 2:20 pm

    Wow….while I understand the term “wide foot” is relative, I’m astonished that anything approaching a wide foot could be made comfortable in the TLT5. I tried on a pair on my 11.5EE hooves, and while the walk mode was indeed wonderful, the toe box felt like I was trying to cram my feet into ballet slippers. Kudos to Bob!

  9. Roman November 14th, 2012 2:25 pm

    Thank you Lisa — great post!

    I am glad someone finally mentions ankle flexibility as an important consideration in choosing the boot stiffness.

    On a separate note, custom orthotics and liner modifications are great, but they can only go so far — if the shell is way too narrow (and I mean not fixable by stretching or shaving off the plastic kind of too narrow), or, worse yet, too wide, a different boot might become the only viable choice. I don’t know if it would be economically feasible for the boot manufacturers to offer standard and wide versions for their most popular shell sizes, but somehow I think that if street shoe manufacturers can pull it off, so can the larger of the ski boot manufacturers.

  10. Lisa November 14th, 2012 4:06 pm

    Roman,
    Good point that custom orthotics can only go so far. It’s critical to start with a boot that is a good match for your foot.

    From discussions with folks in the industry, I’ve learned that boot lasts are incredibly expensive. To offer various widths, each width would require a lower boot mold and each mold is an elaborate piece of aluminim craftmanship that costs tens of thousands of dollars. That’s probably why most women’s AT boots are actually made with men’s molds.

    But as the market grows, who knows?

  11. Lou Dawson November 14th, 2012 4:12 pm

    Roman, if liner and shell mods won’t do it, then the accepted way is to go to a different mondo size. Each mondo size is correspondingly wider or narrower, of course. But before all that, remember the first standard of boot shopping or fitting, don’t just pick what you like off the dreaded boot wall. Instead, evaluate fit of all shells in a given class, then buy the one that fits best. In the end, that’s the only way you’re going to get the best fit of your life.

    Me, I wish I could do that and I sometimes do, but my job is to ski in different boots so I go against the standard and sometimes force them to work. But, I’ve been in some boots for several seasons in a row just because they fit so good, even though I had my pick of the litter. This year we’re doing more boot testing and we’ve spent some money on more boot fitting equipment to help with that, but if the test boot is too difficult to fit we’ll indeed still fall back to the better brand/fit for our daily driver, and only stay in the test boot long enough to give it a good go for a review.

    I’m lucky because I’ve always fit the Garmont/Dynafit cross pollinated last very well. Lesser so the Scarpa, but I can make it work. Not sure how I’ll fit the La Sportiva as it’s quite a bit different, but at least it’s got a fairly flat boot board the might be removable for interfacing with footbed.

    Lou

  12. Jane November 14th, 2012 5:07 pm

    I can’t emphasize how much I agree. I spent two frustrating years trying to make my boots fit. Finally a friend in a shop convinced me to go to his boot fitter. It was expensive since they talked me into new boots too in addition to the insoles, but worth every hard earned cent. I can’t believe the difference with no pain. I’m taking care of the boots to make them last, and this will be year 3. Over time, a reasonable price to pay.

  13. John Gloor November 14th, 2012 6:23 pm

    So according to Bob, skier skill level, aggression level, and size/weight do not figure into how stiff a boot is needed or desired? He thinks it is a flexibility which determines this? Did I misinterpret this part of the article?

  14. Lou Dawson November 14th, 2012 6:42 pm

    John, we probably over simplified that. Of course those things figure in, but they’re obvious and it’s nice to get more into the subtle stuff such as foot flex causing people to feel the need for various boot flexes. What I’ve learned in boot fitting seminars and from experience is that how a person’s foot flexes has a lot to do with if they think a boot is “stiff enough” or “too stiff.” It actually has to do with body reflexes, foot strength, and neuromuscular control. In other words, if you’re used to your foot flexing like crazy, you’ll instinctively try to flex your boot that way, it’ll collapse, and you’ll want a stiffer boot or one that’s fit better. At the other end of the scale, if you have very little dorsaflexion (like my left fused ankle) you’ll want more support due to the need to not make the foot provide it.

    My understanding is that some people who seem to always want stiffer and stiffer boots can actually solve at least part of their problem with work on delta angle, forward cuff lean, cinching up a power strap — and yes, perhaps picking a stiffer boot.

    Another truth is that terrific skiers all over the world ski in softer AT boots. They adjust their technique slightly to do so and that takes care of at least some of the problem.

    Lou

  15. Lisa Dawson November 14th, 2012 8:03 pm

    John, you’re correct that skill and aggression level, size/weight, style, experience level, etc., are factors when choosing a boot. Bob asked me about it and more during the beginning of the evaluation process. My apologies for not elaborating on that in post.

  16. John Gloor November 14th, 2012 10:05 pm

    Hi Lisa and Lou. I was not trying to be sarcastic or anything. It is just that in all my skiing history, I never considered foot flexibility as a deciding factor in choosing boot stiffness.

  17. Lisa November 15th, 2012 6:45 am

    Thanks, John, and no worries. Your input is very much appreciated and you made a good point. Keep your comments coming!

  18. Ronald Cassiani November 15th, 2012 7:31 am

    I have found that cold feet can stay warm by putting cayenne on your feet. Infuse into olive oil and massage onto toes and bottom of feet. Remember to wash your hands well . For a quick fix sprinkle cayenne into your socks

  19. Bill H November 15th, 2012 8:24 am

    Hey Lou I’m sure you have some good options in Aspen and needn’t drive to Boulder every time. For other folks out there with some truly hard foot issues in the Eagle/Summit/Leadville area are looking for some long-time experts, I can recommend tracking down Matty or Tom O. at Double Diamond Skis in Lionshead. They no longer sell AT/Tele gear, but if you’ve got a boot and need work they will work on any boot and are familiar w/ working on Pebax and all the other common AT plastics, they’ll give you an honest assessment about what kind of punch or grind may/may not hold in your boot. They build Instaprints (the kind pictured in this post) as well as Superfoot moldable Cork (less expensive but still very effective option). Those guys have been doing it for decades, been through all the Masterfit U etc at one time or another, and can certainly be considered up there among the best around. If you’re out there reading in Tahoe, look for Gunnar at Granite Chief Sports (the location in Squaw, not Truckee). Although, he could very well be at another shop these days.

  20. Lisa November 15th, 2012 8:36 am

    Ronald – I’ll try it!

  21. Kathy November 15th, 2012 6:07 pm

    Great info. Thank you!

  22. Ben R November 16th, 2012 9:27 pm

    Just to add to the conversation…with the world’s longest run-on sentence

    John Feig, a physical therapist with postgraduate training and research experience in biomechanics, as well as a passion for bootfitting, here in SLC also swears that appropriate boot stiffness is as much or more of a biomechanics issue than skiing style. He has put beginners in very stiff boots with consequent significant increases in their skiing skill level. Comfort is only one small part of the process.

  23. Dave November 17th, 2012 5:05 pm

    My tlt5 pro’s are making me go crazy. Even with the intuition custom fitting me on site I’m still feeling cramped and i’m built like a girl. Someone did suggest I try boiling my shell in hot water then walking in it to stretch it abit without punching. Infact i’m going to go try that right now.

  24. SCM Troy November 18th, 2012 8:17 am

    Summit Canyon Mountaineering in Glenwood Springs, CO has two MasterFit grads on staff, as well – Ryan and myself.

  25. Rob S March 19th, 2013 9:35 am

    Piling on a little late, but just to reinforce the point…after 40+ years of skiing, I finally invested in custom footbeds for my new Scarpas, using the wonderful services of the Boot Doctor in Taos, NM. My reaction after just a few hours: why didn’t I do this 20 years ago?? Almost 200 bucks seems like a steep price to pay for footbeds, but the difference it made in getting a boot that REALLY fits is worth every penny.

  26. Pierson Bourquin May 13th, 2013 4:00 pm

    Not quite sure where to post this, so, here goes . . . .

    Since it is the height of ski mountaineering season here in CA, I’ve been spending time on Shasta, typically 2-3 days at a shot in Hidden Valley, West Face, Shastina, etc. My TLT5′s have been getting STINKY!!!!! :-(

    I dry them out my boots every day in the backcountry by pulling out the liners, footbeds and laying them in the sun. When I get home, I spray them with Lysol and dry them out in the sun again. Any other suggestions?

    Best regards,

    Pierson

  27. Lou Dawson May 13th, 2013 4:27 pm

    The stank! A couple of techniques, mainly wash liners before you go on trip, with warm water (no soap as you don’t want soap residue). Do a final rinse with a clorox disinfecting solution, using same dilution as that used for doing dishes (not very strong), don’t let the solution sit in liners for very long, rinse after a few minutes, so you don’t end up damaging stitching and such. After that, change socks once a day, dry liners in sun, use foot deodorant/antiseptic foot powder. Wool socks also help as they’re naturally antibacterial. If you have a long afternoon of hot sun, and you’re by a stream, you can rinse out the liners and let dry in the sun. Same with socks. Direct sunlight kills most of the bacteria. That’s my understanding, anyway. Also, some folks rub feet with athlete’s foot fungus killer to prevent or guard against fungus, and this can have a direct effect on odor production.

    In my experience Lysol is lame for this sort of thing. Who knows what kind of residue it leaves or what those chemicals do to your feet.

    Lou

  28. Pierson Bourquin May 13th, 2013 5:51 pm

    Wow! Thank you for the input!
    I can wash the liners without soap, no problem.
    This issue is particularly important as I often sleep with the liners on my feet in my sleeping bag so my liners are warm in the morning . . . .
    I don’t want to stink up my sleeping bag too!
    I’m curious if others have suggestions . . . .
    Pierson

  29. Lou Dawson May 13th, 2013 5:56 pm

    Don’t sleep with your liners on! Too much moisture and perfect temp for growth of nasties! Keep them in sleeping bag, but off your feet! Very bad habit to sleep with them on your feet!

  30. Pierson Bourquin May 13th, 2013 6:01 pm

    hmmmm.
    This is tough! Liners in the sleeping bag not on feet can be worse (in some ways) than liners on the feet, at least from a sleeping perspective . . . . .
    But, maybe I have to decide between 1 of 2 evils:
    1. Warm, stinky feet with an ok nights sleep
    2. Warm, not as stinky feet with a slightly worse nights sleep
    All in all, I have pretty high-class problems, don’t I?
    Others insights appreciated.
    Thank you Lou!

  31. Lou Dawson May 13th, 2013 6:31 pm

    Get a longer sleeping bag…

  32. Pierson Bourquin May 13th, 2013 7:58 pm

    Duh!
    Such a simple, elegant solution.
    Thanks Lou!
    PB

  33. See May 13th, 2013 9:58 pm

    Mirazyme. Just mix it with water in a bucket, dunk the liners and let dry. I’m not sure how it works, but it does (at least for me).

    Not much thermal mass in light boot liners. Mine warm up quick, especially if not too wet.

  34. See May 13th, 2013 10:05 pm

    I should add, that I usually put my liners under my legs but outside my bag. I find this comfortable, liners provide some insulation, legs provide some warmth for liners, and better ventilation might improve drying. I don’t know about techniques for truly cold places.

  35. Frame May 14th, 2013 5:48 am

    I’ve had good success with Gran’s foot remedy – though haven’t used it directly in ski boots. Normally after a week of use in whatever shoes I’m wearing, that sortsodurs out for a good period of time and haven’t had to use it in a couple of years.
    I’m not in the US, so availability could be a problem there.

    Google search Gran’s foot remedy.

  36. Kyle February 21st, 2014 4:58 pm

    I thought posting here might be more appropriate, instead of the scarpa rush posting. I have heat molded, and had the sides of my boots punched(scarpa rush) as it was found by the bootfitter that the shell was a little narrow. Before this I was having way too much pain all over in my foot, arches ect to the point where I could t really pinpoint anything.

    Anyways, since getting it punched ect I have been able to tour mucho longer. However, I am still getting pain. It would best be described as pressure from the underside pain on the ball of my big toe, and pressure on the outside of my feet from the underside. Almost like my foot is not distributing the weight evenly over my foot, and I am walking on my outside. I am using a red superfeet insert at the moment. Slightly frustrating as the bootfitter is pretty long drive from the sleepy little bc town I live in. I have a mostly normal foot overall, little bit wider, not a huge arch but not flat at all either.

    Any ideas I can go with to the bootfitter? Should I invest in a custom footbed and how does a custom bed differ? I guess the hang up I have is imagining it distributing the weight any differently.

  37. Kyle February 21st, 2014 5:00 pm

    Oh and I am getting some blisters on the inside of my heels on both sides. That said, the blisters I can deal with using duct tape and moleskin.

  38. Scott Nelson February 21st, 2014 5:45 pm

    Kyle- I had a very similar experience with my dynafit one’s. Severe ball of foot pain. Punched the shell and liner out wider. Still had pain. Tried green super feet. Still pain. To me, lack of arch support was a big part of the issue. Gave in and had some custom foot beds made by a local guy ( near Aspen), and they helped immensely. They provided the support and alignment my feet sorely needed. Totally worth it, if you have someone nearby who knows what they are doing.

  39. Kyle February 21st, 2014 7:53 pm

    Thanks, I guess it wont hurt trying at this point. Or maybe it will.

    I suppose I have always been a bit nervous of things like footbeds ect as I have never needed them for running, hiking, snowboarding ect. It seems however that skiing is a different beast. Seems many people also seem to think that superfeet are often better than a custom. However its likely that they just happen to fit them well.

    I have always found that arch support feels like its jamming into my arch, so I wonder if this will help. I feel like arch support will push my foot over on its side even more and create pain.

  40. Scott Nelson February 22nd, 2014 9:18 am

    Valid concerns. All the more reason to find someone who knows what they are doing and is willing to work with you to get it right. Maybe I got lucky, either way, they work. I still have minor issues, but the footbeds really improved everything overall.

  41. Kyle February 22nd, 2014 9:32 am

    Yeah I am going to give it a shot for sure.

    You said ou needed arch support? What type of foot do you have arch wise ?

  42. Scott Nelson February 22nd, 2014 4:46 pm

    Medium to medium high arches. I think the bit of extra support took some of the pressure off my forefoot., which helped a lot. Not perfect but better. I don’t think the One is the best boot for me ( shell fit is still a bit narrow, even after punching), so that may be part of the issue as well. Frustrating process, but not uncommon.

  43. Kyle February 23rd, 2014 7:22 am

    I think I will try a short tour with the stock liners back in. See what happens. They have basically no real arch support, like other shoes and hiking boots I use. I haven’t tried the original since I had the boot molded and punched. Feels comfy walking indoors, although that what I thought when I first got the boots ( :

  44. Kyle February 23rd, 2014 7:23 am

    Sorry meant original footbeds not liner.

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