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Ski Boots -- Testing 1,2,3

Since the initiation of the turn starts with the foot, and the foot rests inside the boot, everything depends on the right fit. If your boots are uncomfortable, don't flex adequately, or your feet are out of alignment, your performance and technique will be adversely affected. In addition, foot comfort and alignment are critical for skiers, since they affect the ability to maintain a balanced stance.

Softer Ski Boots for Shaped Skis

With the advent of shaped skis, subtle foot-and-ankle steering has almost replaced the need to apply strong forward pressure to the tips of the skis. To compensate, boot manufacturers began to make ski boots with more natural flex built right into the design. The result is a softer more comfortable ski boot, with better handling characteristics.

With regards to the aspiring all-terrain skier who has recently purchased shaped skis or is contemplating a new pair of super side-cuts, we'll take a look at a number of different manufacturers and models in a future article. The ski boots we examine will be geared to the expert skier. First, we'll cover the following topics:

  • Stance Test

  • Knee Tracking Test

  • Ankle Flexion Test

  • To get a Good Fit find a Good Fitter

For those who are happy with their straight-sided or subtle side-cut skis, and conventional ski boots, please stay with us especially if you are having trouble with your boots in terms of fit, comfort, or stiffness. You may just need an external flex adjustment, an internal modification to eliminate a pressure point, or a foot bed to replace the original insole that came with your ski boots.

  • Stance Test
    To ski like an expert, you need a stable platform for your feet, and your body must be in alignment. How important is it for you to ride a flat ski? If you are a beginner, maybe it's not that important. If you are an aspiring expert, proper alignment is essential. Put another way, a strong stable foot that's properly balanced makes for a strong skier.

To test if you have a problem with your stance, stand in front of a mirror and slowly bring your legs together.

• If your knees touch before your ankles, you're knock-kneed.
• If your ankles touch before your knees, you're bow-legged.
• If they both meet at the same time, you're from another planet.

What's best? A slightly knock-kneed stance is considered to be best for downhill skiing. However, too much knock is not good. In addition, all bow-legged stances make it difficult to accurately pressure the edges of your skis. Make a note of your stance, so you can discuss with your boot fitter.

  • also see this section:skier


    How to Ski

    How to Choose the Right Skis

    Skiing Sports Psychology

    Expert Skiing Tips

    Exercises for Skiers

     

    Knee Tracking Test
    Knee Tracking tests to see whether or not your knees track straight when you flex forward.Find a partner to help you measure.

    • Stand with your feet six to eight inches apart.
    • Measure the distance between your knees with a tape measure.
    • Flex forward and ensure that your heels remain on the floor.
    • Now, measure the distance between your knees again.

    If the distance between your knees increases or decreases, your foot is rolling inward or outward, respectively. Ideally, you want your knees to track straight when you flex forward. If they don't, it's a sign that your foot is collapsing. You may need the support offered by a foot bed, which is a custom insole molded for your particular foot. Make a note of your test result, so you can discuss with your boot fitter.

  • Ankle Flex Test
    It is critical for the expert skier to find out whether or not he/she is transferring energy efficiently to the front of the boot. The following test can be used to determine your flexion range.Find a partner to help you with this test.

    • Stand with your feet six to eight inches apart.
    • Flex forward and ensure that your heels remain on the floor.
    • If you can flex the front of your knees forward to a point between the base of your big toe and approximately one inch beyond it, you have a good range of flexion. However, if your knees stop at your instep or go way past the big toe, you need to have your boots flex-tuned for your particular lower body. Make a note of this test result, so you can discuss with your boot fitter.

  • To get a Good Fit find a Good Fitter
    Armed with your stance, knee tracking, and ankle flexion test results and a pair of ski socks that you will be wearing during the ski season, it's time to visit a reputable ski shop in your area. What do you mean by a reputable ski shop?

A sporting goods store sells all types of equipment, whereas a ski shop specializes in ski equipment and clothes in the fall and winter months. A good ski shop will have trained and experienced ski boot fitters on staff. If you can't find such a store locally, drive to the nearest town or city which has a shop suited to your needs.

Comfort and Performance

Once inside the ski shop, prepare to spend three to four hours for a proper fit. Yes, three to four hours! You'll be wearing the boots for the next five to ten years, so it's imperative that you spend the time initially to get the best fit. As an aspiring expert, you want the best fit possible, so you can reap the best of both worlds. You need to strike a balance between comfort and performance.



In terms of comfort, the expert skier needs a boot that he or she buckles up in the morning, and rarely needs to adjust throughout the day. There should be no pain, pinching, or pressure points, and your feet should never get numb or cold. The fit should be so good that you don't mind leaving them tightened up during your lunch break.

In terms of performance, aspiring experts need boots that they hardly know they are wearing. The boot should feel like an extension of the foot. When you roll your ankle and foot, even slightly, you should get a lightning fast response from the inside of the boot to the edge of the ski. The time lag should be minimal.


About the Author...

Jim Safianuk is a certified ski instructor and writer of the downhill skiing lessons in the course Skills of the Expert Skier.


More about selecting the right ski boots around the Web:

Ski Boots - How to Find a Good Fit

Buying Ski Boots

Ski Boot Buyer's Guide (Size, Fit & Flex)


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