Many novice skiers make the mistake of budgeting a large part of their money to new skis when getting gear. Expert skiers know however, that a well-fitted ski boot will make a much greater difference in your ski experience than a snazzy pair of skis. Getting your boots fitted properly can take up to two hours, and should be done by an expert who has experience with things like custom insoles and heat-moulding the inner boots, as well as doing shell work, such as punching out hot spots.
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Most ski boots are measured in the mondo system, as opposed to standard U.S., U.K., or European shoe sizing methods. In the mondo system, the size of the shell is measured and listed as a number between 23 and 31; the number corresponds to the amount of space on the inside of the shell in centimetres. Some companies also use the same size shell for two different sizes of boot, using a smaller or larger inner boot for the different size. However, if you go to a good boot tech, you don't need to know what your mondo size is; the tech will measure your foot and bring out a couple models that might work.
When sizing ski boots, it is best to try them on with thin ski socks, as opposed to thick socks or, even worse, two pairs of socks. Modern boots are built with thermofoam liners that will keep your feet warm and dry if they are properly fitted.
Before even trying on boots to see how they feel, you need to check that the shell is the proper size. As you break boots in, the foam liner will pack down, so it is important to get a snug fit. Many expert skiers and racers will get boots that cramp their toes when first tried on. Most recreational skiers don't need that level of performance. A simple guide to shell fit is to remove the liner boot and insert your foot, with sock on, and slide it forward until the toes are lightly brushing against the shell. You should be able to measure between half an inch and three quarters of an inch between your heel and the back of the shell.
After checking the shell fit, try on the boot and look for any hot spots or pressure points. If the boot feels good, you can probably move to moulding the liner. Heat-mouldable liners are baked in a special convection oven. The tech will then place the liners back in the shell and have you put your feet in the boots and buckle them up. As the liner boot cools, it will mould to your foot.
Custom insoles help keep your knee and foot in anatomic alignment and will add greatly to the performance of your ski boot. Custom insoles also take up more space in the boot liner, so you should get insoles made before heat-moulding the liner to make sure the fit is right when you have the insoles inside the boot.
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