Inside the Boot Shop

Post by blogger | November 23, 2007      

Ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at the boot fitter? It’s not pretty, but nonetheless amusing in a perverse kind of way. A while back I figured out my correct fit was between shell sizes in the Dynafit Zzero. The 28, while I could make it work with shims and liner molding, is too large for me to get the kind of responsive fit I like (though it would be perfect for building a warm boot with lots of liner thickness, say for Denali or something). The 27/27.5 shell is nearly perfect, but slightly small in the toe area. Follow along as we make a few mods.

Punching Dynafit Zzero boots.
First step is to mold the liners with chosen footbeds, then evaluate fit. I’d done those steps before master boot fitter Mark Rolfes took a look at how my foot interacted with the bed and shell, and knew right away that a slight shell punch in the big-toe area would solve most of my problem. But we did so only after taking some thickness off the bottom of the footbed to drop my foot down and thus create more volume.

Using the device pictured above, Mark did the deed with the required light touch to prevent ruining an expensive pair of shoes. Hint: Another reason to buy boots from a shop with expert fitting is that they can guarantee their work and eat the occasional mistake. When you’ve bought the boots elsewhere and ask for a punch job, you have to accept the remote possibility that a boot could be ruined and would be your responsibility to replace.

Punching Dynafit Zzero boots.
Here is the Zzero toe after punching; a few millimeters of added room makes the big difference. We also did a quick toe punch on the liners to match, but could have also remolded the liners.

Punching Dynafit Zzero boots.
Next step was to add slightly more room on the small-toe side of my foot. To do so, Mark used this evil looking caliper press, along with the usual scientific touch with a heat gun. Poor suffering boots = happy feet.

Punching Dynafit Zzero boots.
This wild tool is very effective for side punching the toe area.

With just about an hour of work, I’ve now got a pair of boots that fit me using a form fitting shell size rather than a larger shell that would have worked, but required a battle with too much volume. That said, when I learned boot fitting a master taught me that it’s always easier to reduce volume than increase it. That’s true to an extent, and for most people will be the way to go. But once in a while, given a particular brand of boots and their shape, a person will find that the size with enough volume is difficult to work with and need to drop down a size. That’s what happened to me and thus Mark’s solution.


19 Responses to “Inside the Boot Shop”

  1. RobinB November 23rd, 2007 11:08 am

    My bootfitter actually says that it is easier to make space, than to make a boot smaller… different strokes for different folks I guess!

    Those are some sweet looking tools.

  2. Lou November 23rd, 2007 1:04 pm

    Yeah, I learned about this stuff a while ago, perhaps things have changed. I’ll have to ask Mark what he thinks, but with how he’s tooled up I’d say he can go either way!

  3. Al November 23rd, 2007 2:16 pm

    would punching a boot like that interfer with the toe pieces on some alpine/AT boots & bindings??looking at my garmont xena/fritschi freeride s I would have some room for this mod but I can think of some boot/bining steups where the toe piece was right against the shell

    I assume you will be using this boot with dynafits ?

    No cuff canting on this boot … I wouldnt consider a boot without it

  4. Lou November 23rd, 2007 6:59 pm

    Al, indeed, one would have to watch out for that. A bit of punch as in the photo is usually not a problem. It’s easy to evaluate by placing boot in binding before the punch.

  5. Geof November 24th, 2007 12:42 am


    Where is Mark located? I’m assuming Aspen, but what shop? Also, do you have a website or list of master bootfitters in the front range area? I’d love to get my Denali’s totally dialed. BTW your suggestion of a bit of a foot board worked well for my heel issue, but I still think they can be better…


  6. Lou November 25th, 2007 9:38 pm

    Hi Geof, Mark works out of Kaelin’s across from North of Nell, and also works at the Aspen Club. He works by appointment. Call him and say you saw it on! 970-319-8897

  7. Jeff November 26th, 2007 1:23 pm

    Lou –

    Where can we get or order intuition liners around Aspen? Which is the recommended stiffer liner for AT boots (ie – megarides)? Thanks – Jeff

  8. Lou November 26th, 2007 1:51 pm

    Hi Jeff, the Scarpa aftermarket liner only comes in the “regular” stiffness, but it’s fairly beefy and would be a good addition to the Megaride. I’d imagine any Scarpa dealer can get ’em for you. FYI, the Scarpa Intuition liner is made in two grades. “Precision” is the regular liner. The “Speed” liner is stiffer than the Precision (two layers of High Density versus 1/2 HD and 1/2 Regular Density). The Speed liner is not sold to the aftermarket. Also, the Scarpa liner is available in two different heights, and even comes in a woman’s model.

  9. Danny B. November 26th, 2007 4:39 pm

    Jeff – I know that Durrance Sports (and several other shops I can’t remember) in Aspen sell intuition liners. If there is a specific Scarpa or AT version, I don’t know if they have those, but being a Intuition dealer I would think they could order ’em up for you.

  10. J.P. November 27th, 2007 11:10 am

    Follow-up question for liners ! I have Scarpa Denali TT’s, and the liner is getting rubbed like hell on the inside of the boot. What kind of tape/protection do you guys use ?? Is it better to apply it on the liner or on the boot ? I need a quick solution before I have to buy new liners !!!

  11. Marc December 23rd, 2007 10:39 pm

    Hey Lou-
    This is a question for you as well as others… what Intuition liner do you prefer in your touring boots? I’m currently using an old pair of the Alpine liners in my touring boots, but they are about shot. I’ve got a pair of the Power Wrap liners in my alpine boots, which are significantly stiffer then the Alpine liners. Also, do you ever use a Booster Strap on your touring boots? They use to make some with plastic buckles intead of metal. In terms of weight, plastic might be a better option for touring.
    Thanks, Marc.

  12. Luann April 7th, 2008 6:17 am

    Very interesting…

  13. Lou April 7th, 2008 8:57 am

    Marc, I don’t use a booster strap for my touring boots. As for what liners, I like the ones that are less dense and just make sure they’re fit nice and snug.

    J.P., apply tape to inside of boot shell, use the special tape circles they supply with the boots if you can find ’em. See if a boot dealer can provide some to you — good test of their service level.

  14. Duff Mister November 22nd, 2008 7:49 pm

    Rolfus always companied about his feet in Boots. I should know.. Poundcake!

    Mark you know the the real way is to tape the pressure points of your foot sick your foot in the boat with extreme pain and turn on the heat gun and melt the hell out of em without flexing the boot sole…

    Get them nice and hot and comfy and then add the snow to cool them off fast.

    Now they fit like a condom.

  15. Charles Duffy December 3rd, 2008 5:15 pm

    Mark Rolfes can not only fix your boots he can fix your skiing and skis.

    I have known this man for 25 years.

    We were all skiers in a place called GMVS, Mark and others were 20 years before their time.

    There were no ski technicians. We became the technicians on developing technologies.

    We lived with what we had and improvised. 30 years later nothing has changed much… Mistakes and a few idea’s revolutionizes the feel of skiing,, The sole of it to the boot,,

    Mark knows the true meaning of the boot.

    We were kids in a ski academy and what we did to make ski boots work 24/7 will be something one will never want to go through. No heat guns just hammers and nails.

  16. Charles Duffy February 25th, 2010 3:37 pm

    Mark Rolfe can find a fit without having special Boots made.

    What skiers forget this that their best running shoes should feel the same.

    When a ski boot feels good you don’t have to adjust the buckles all day long.

    Boots need to fit reasonably tight and not tight enough to cut of circulation.

    Racers know this.

    Avid skiers often have boots that feel great at the shop. If the Avid skier skies 30 days or more the boot liner breaks down and the boot becomes larger over time.

    Pulling the boot sole liner after a wet day of skiing is not always a good idea. This also depends how wet it feels in the boot. Let them dry next to a air heater. Pulling the last out of the boot is only necessary if the boot is drenched with water.

    Specific materials expand when wet and actually get larger when pulled from the boot casting.

    Depending on the boot bladder and if it’s water saturation- this is most important that the Boot bladder gets 8 hrs of dry heat to shrink itself back to manufacture size.

    The idea is that your ski boots don’t need extra moisture when you go skiing after the second day.

  17. Charles Duffy February 25th, 2010 4:19 pm

    As Mark will know, arch breakdown in a ski boot is the largest problem.
    I reference this to how ski boots are sold.

    Often this is called over buckling of the ski boot to make up room. Typically ski boots are fit for the weekend skier in a warm ski shop.

    Ski boots are not really meant to feel good in the ski shop. The ski shop and the boots are at 70 degrees and when you go skiing it’s not 70 degrees and this is part of the problem with ski boot fitting.

    Stick those new ski boots in the snow for a half hour before you buy them and then try them on again, This will not only give you a feel of real time fitting but will show the characteristics of the ski boot on a cold day.

    The ski boot should be snug like a figure skates with the right arch support called curvature of the foot bed.

    Mark Rolfes has seen too many oversize boots in his time. This is when the correct foot bed can correct your ski boot investment.

  18. Charles Duffy July 11th, 2011 1:02 pm

    Ski boots are the integral to pressure on the Ice Turn.

    If a figure skater had a boot that does not fit they lose.

    The average skier of 50 day’s does nor know the difference and they are experts?

    Do you honestly think that Bode Miller uses his ski boots after a season.

    They probably made him six pair.

    It’s called Ice skating with a leather last foot bed.

  19. Charles Duffy July 11th, 2011 1:19 pm

    Real ski boots are made out of Wool and leather for the Last and the best of the Best.

    These are not the same ski boots on retail.

    The best made? The outer plastic is the same. The inner boot/

    You can’t buy it.

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