In its early days, skiing was how hunters and warriors crossed terrain that was both snowy and mountainous. Today, it’s recreation and an Olympic sport. Skiing has come a long way since its start five millennia ago in Ancient Scandinavia.
The very word “ski” comes from an Old Norse word that means “split piece of wood”. Yes, this means the Vikings went skiing. The early skis were asymmetrical. The longer ski would be for sliding and the short one would be for kicking.
The short ski would be covered with an animal skin while the other would be coated in fat, much like modern waxing methods. Until 1751, one long pole or spear was employed in skiing. And going by a painting done by Knud Larsen Bergslien, they’d do it while carrying a toddler.
Skiing as it’s known now began in the 1850s when Norwegian skier Sondre Norheim introduced skis with curved sides and bindings with stiff heel bands constructed from willow. It came to America in 1882 with Norwegian immigrants in Minnesota and Wisconsin where they found hickory worked even better than ash or willow.
As technology improved, so did the ski. The first real ski boots were custom made by the local cobbler. After 1870, they were mass-produced. In 1936, men’s and women’s alpine skiing was added to the Olympic program at Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
The first ski boots were little more than a leather strap that attached to the reindeer hide boots the wearer already had on. When skiing became more about jumping and taking on steeper hillsides than just covering the ground, ski boots got stiffer. It’s necessary for a ski boot to be a little stiff in order to control steering and edging. But is it possible for ski boots to be too stiff?
Table of Contents
- What Happens When Ski Boots Are Too Stiff?
- How Stiff Should Your Ski Boots Be?
- What Does “Flex” Mean In Ski Boots?
- Why Is Flex Important In Ski Boots?
- How Do You Measure Ski Boot Flex?
- How Much Flex Do I Need In A Ski Boot?
- How Do You Soften Ski Boot Flex?
- Do Ski Boots Loosen Up?
- Can You Stretch Ski Boots?
- How Do I Loosen My Ski Boots?
- How Can I Make My Ski Boots More Comfortable?
- What Is Canting On A Ski Boot?
- How Do You Adjust The Canting On A Ski Boot?
- Why Do My Toes Go Numb In Ski Boots?
- Why Do My Ski Boots Hurt My Ankles?
- Why Do My Ski Boots Hurt My Calves?
- Are New Ski Boots Supposed To Hurt?
- Should New Ski Boots Be Tight?
- Should Ski Boots Be A Size Bigger?
- Should Ski Boots Hurt Your Shins?
- Should My Toes Touch The End Of My Ski Boots?
- How Do You Break In Ski Boots?
- Why Are Stiffer Ski Boots More Expensive?
- How Much Are Custom Ski Boots?
- How Long Should Ski Boots Last?
What Happens When Ski Boots Are Too Stiff?
A boot that is too stiff will lead to the skier leaning backward. It’ll look like you’re doing Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” dance, only wrong. Do keep in mind that very frequently the softest boots are quite shabbily designed and are inordinately wide.
Beginning skiers need a soft flexing boot that is neither too wide nor made from of poor-quality plastic. Most of the time, the softest-flexing quality boot for men is about a ninety flex and for women, it is anywhere from seventy-five to eighty.
How Stiff Should Your Ski Boots Be?
There are a lot of variables here to consider. Your weight, height, skiing ability and the personal biomechanics of your ankles and feet should all be taken into consideration as would your preferred speed, terrain and snow type.
You may want to consult a professional boot fitter. The boot fitter will typically watch as you flex the boot and might come to a judgment to either suggest a stiffer or softer flex based on what they have observed in the shop.
What Does “Flex” Mean In Ski Boots?
Where ski boots are concerned “flex” means how hard it is to bend the boot forward. Boot flex has a range from very soft to race stiffness. This stiffness is indicated by a number, a “flex index” that is generally a number between 50 (soft) and 130 (very stiff). Typically, this number is printed on the exterior of the boot cuff. Keep in mind this is not the standard of all brands. Larger people may need stiffer boots.
Why Is Flex Important In Ski Boots?
As said before, stiff boots are necessary for steering and edging. Soft boots are warm and comfortable; good for leisurely skiing on the blue and green runs. More intermediate skiers may prefer something with more responsiveness for better turn-carving skills and more speed.
Advanced skiers and racers need very stiff boots plus some shock absorption. A boot that is too soft will buckle under the leverage and weight of the skier, leading to excessive bending in the knee and causing muscle fatigue.
On the other extreme, a boot that is far too stiff will not move properly when the skier applies forward pressure. This restrains the skier and prevents them from maximum use of their skis. Boots that are too stiff force your center of balance and make it hard for you to control and turn the skis.
How Do You Measure Ski Boot Flex?
Flex measures how much pressure is needed to bend the boot. As said before, there is no industry standard for determining flex. The ski manufacturer Atomic Skis is on the precipice of changing this with their innovative flex testing machine.
Basically, a robotic leg flexes the boot and measures the force in Newton-meters needed to achieve certain angles. This is the latest example of how improvements in technology can lead to changes in skiing.
How Much Flex Do I Need In A Ski Boot?
One of the worst mistakes skiers make is purchasing the wrong flex of ski boot. The narrow racing boots may seem to fit a narrow foot, but if the owner of that foot is not an experienced skier it can be far too rigid to handle.
You need to keep in mind a broad variety of factors to decide which flex number is best for you. Trying them on in-store can help, but you really need a professional’s help. A good boot fitter will tell you everything you need to know.
In fact, the first thing you should do when buying ski boots is to invest in a professional boot fitter who will help you find the right boots. They can help you find the skis that are the perfect investment for you.
How Do You Soften Ski Boot Flex?
On many boots, the flex is adjustable. Ideally, the boots should come with diagramed instructions on how to adjust flex. It’s a simple matter of removing the rear cuff screws and replacing them with the supplied clips. You can remove the screw with a three-millimeter key and just insert the clip in its place.
Just push the clips in and tap them with a hammer. Depending on the boots, it could be even simpler. It may be all you need do is use a four-millimeter key to turn the rivet in the back left to reduce the flex. Turning it right will increase the flex.
Do Ski Boots Loosen Up?
It is possible and even recommended to break in ski boots. Remember to wear only one thin pair of ski socks while you are doing this. Breaking in a pair of ski boots will make them more comfortable on the slopes.
Can You Stretch Ski Boots?
If you have sore toes you may want to stretch the length of the boot. You may be able to modify plastic ski boots by using heat and pressure. It is quite possible to stretch a shell in length, though only by a millimeter or two. Heel lifts and custom insoles may also fix your sore toe problem.
How Do I Loosen My Ski Boots?
You might only be able to do this if your boots are made of soft materials as you may find in boots for beginners and intermediate skiers. You might need professional help for anything tougher. Professionals will use heat and pressure.
It’s best not to try to stretch boots unless you really know what you’re doing or you may ruin some very expensive ski equipment. Paying to have them stretched won’t cost as much as a new pair of boots.
How Can I Make My Ski Boots More Comfortable?
You can start by wearing the right kind of socks. A good ski sock will wick moisture away from your foot. Double spun merino wool a synthetic material will keep your feet warm and dry. Every boot fitter recommends an aftermarket footbed for better foot support.
A supported foot will provide you with both better comfort and performance of your ski boot. It does this by making a little extra room in the toe. This aligns your ankle properly and makes your whole-body bio-mechanically stronger.
What Is Canting On A Ski Boot?
Canting on a ski boot refers to an adjustment that can be made to your ski boots. It brings about a neutral stance that lets you stand flat on both skis. The boot is canted (also known as shimmed) under the binding to bring your foot into a neutral position. If you have a bit of natural tilt to your legs towards one way or the other a bit of canting can compensate for it.
How Do You Adjust The Canting On A Ski Boot?
If you want to adjust the canting on your ski boots just follow these simple steps. Besides your ski boots, you will need a three-millimeter key and an assistant:
- Put your ski boots on and fasten up the buckles and Velcro straps.
- Use a three-millimeter key to loosen up the canting screws.
- Hold your feet as wide apart as you would if you were skiing then flex forward three to five times.
- Without performing any lateral movement, ask your assistant to tighten the canting screws once more.
If done properly, your feet will be tilted into a neutral stance, whether you are naturally bow-legged or knock-kneed.
Why Do My Toes Go Numb In Ski Boots?
The only thing worse than feet in pain are feet that feel nothing. If your feet have no feeling at all that means something has gone very wrong. Here is a list of the major culprits of feet going numb while skiing:
- The boots are too tight. Boots that are too tight can trap and pinch the nerves in the feet, toes, and ankles.
- The boots are too loose. If the boots are too loose the feet can get too cold and may even develop frostbite.
- The boots are too big. Boots that are too big will let cold air circulate and make your toes tighten up.
- You have poor peripheral artery circulation. If you smoke, have diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels or high blood pressure you may experience poor circulation.
The first three listed reasons explain why it is so important to have ski boots that fit right. If it is your circulation and not your boots, consult your doctor.
Why Do My Ski Boots Hurt My Ankles?
The number one cause of boot pain is the rotating or flattening of the skier’s foot inside the boot whenever the skis are put on the inner edges. New boots may hold the foot in an upright position. However, over time as the boot liners wear down and begin to compress, the foot moves around more inside the boot.
Boots that are too soft or too big can cause the ankle to sit too low in relation to the boot’s regulated ankle pocket area. Canting and getting a proper fit in your boots can fix that problem.
Why Do My Ski Boots Hurt My Calves?
Wanna know a secret? Your boots probably have a walk/ski lever in the back. In walk mode, your boot freely hinges forward and backward. Ski mode locks you into a forward lean. If your calf pain is mostly at the base level rather than the slopes, try this.
It could also mean you’re not drinking enough. Water, that is. Keep yourself hydrated. You may be low in potassium. Eat your bananas. It could be bad circulation from altitude.
It sounds crazy, but the problem could be the tightly made bed at your lodge or hotel. Loosen the sheets up before you hit the sack. Improperly fitting boots can also be a problem. Troubleshoot and see if you can find the solution.
Are New Ski Boots Supposed To Hurt?
Ski boots should not hurt. The three main causes of pain from wearing ski boots are the boots being very tight, inflexibility and uneven distribution of pressure. Always wear a supportive footbed to keep your arches from collapsing. Pre-molded insoles work well. Removing the spoiler will allow the ankle to flex more.
Should New Ski Boots Be Tight?
The fit should be snug but not painfully so. You should be able to move your toes but your ankle and heel should be stable. Your ankle buckles should be fastened firmly but not too tightly. If the boots are too loose you will not be in good control of your skiing. You don’t want it so tight it cuts off your circulation either. Remember that the trousers go outside of the ski boot.
Should Ski Boots Be A Size Bigger?
The opposite is true. You might want to go for the smaller, snugger boot. Your new ski boots must fit as snuggly as they comfortably can in the shop. This is because they are only going to get looser, bigger and sloppier with wear. Some clothing wears down but ski boots tend to wear up.
Should Ski Boots Hurt Your Shins?
Shin band is the bane of all skiers. Shin bang happens when the angle of your tibia (also known as the shin bone) does not match up with the angle of your boot’s tongue. This causes the shin to make contact only near the top of the cuff. Too big boots are a major culprit. A foot that sits too low can also cause problems.
A heel lift can help. Some people just have skinny calves. If this is the problem, stick a Velcro strap between the tongue and the plastic shell and tighten it up before you buckle. Then go eat your bananas.
Should My Toes Touch The End Of My Ski Boots?
Your toes should indeed be touching the end of the ski boot when you first put it on. It might even feel half a size too small. You should feel a little pressure release and get a bit of room for your toes as you buckle the ski boot up and flex forward with your knees over your toes. There should be little to no heel movement.
How Do You Break In Ski Boots?
Start by wearing the boots at home for an hour each night. Tighten them slightly more than you usually would. Start at the toes and work your way up. You need to push that heel cup into its proper position. You also need to mold the liner to your feet. Wear the liners by themselves like a pair of slippers.
When they start feeling like slippers, it’s time to put them back in the boots and tighten the lowest buckles and straps as far as they’ll go. Keep them on for ten to fifteen minutes to get them to mold to your foot. Consult a ski boot fitter if nothing seems to work.
Why Are Stiffer Ski Boots More Expensive?
Most of your fancy, high-end boots will come with a flex rating of about one hundred and thirty to indicate more stiffness and superior power transfer. Stiff boots mean great responsiveness. More advanced skiers can really benefit from this. Inexperienced skiers need a more forgiving boot. However, heavy skiers, even novice ones, may need boots with a little bit of stiffness to them.
How Much Are Custom Ski Boots?
As they say, if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it. Back in the earliest days of skiing, all ski boots were custom made. But the village cobbler has since become something only found almost exclusively in fairy tale books.
The numbers vary from one brand to another of course but a complete Surefoot custom boot can cost about double the price of an off the shelf boot and it can run somewhere between $900 and$1,200 depending on the type of shell you choose. You can save money by shopping in the offseason.
How Long Should Ski Boots Last?
Ski boots should last several seasons. They may even outlast two pairs of skis. This generalization, of course, is only on average. Usually, boots will last between fifty and two hundred full skiing days. That does, of course, depend largely on the quality of the boot. High-end boots are more durable and can last even longer. Replace your boots if you notice any of the following:
- Your boots no longer fit properly.
- The shell is cracked or the buckles snapped.
- The toe or heel is rounded off and will not connect securely to bindings.
- Your skill has improved and you need something stiffer.
What is skiing about? Having a good time. If you choose the wrong ski boots, you won’t be able to control your skis, you’re gonna have a bad time. The part where you have a good time is when you’ve picked out the ski boots that are just right for you.