Appendix: Some Ski Boot Basics
It is very important to understand a few key concepts about boot fitting, and to be honest with yourself about your needs, abilities, and goals as a skier. When in doubt, always consult a skilled boot fitter.
1. DOES YOUR BOOT FIT?
This is the most basic yet most important question. First, you will need to get a shell fit. This is done by pulling the liner from the shell, inserting your foot so the toes are just barely touching the front of the shell, and measuring the space behind your heel.
A gap of less than 1 centimeter is an aggressive race fit. A gap between 1cmm and 1.5cm would be a normal, high-performance fit; 1.5cm to 2.0cm would be a comfort fit. If there is more than 2 centimeters of space between your heel and the shell behind it, you need to consider whether it’s worth keeping the boots.
2. EVALUATE THE SHAPE OF THE SHELL RELATIVE TO YOUR FOOT
When your foot is inside the shell with no liner, does your foot nearly touch on all sides? Is it pinched in there? Or is there a large amount of space on either side for your foot (i.e., more than .5cm either way)? How much space is in the shell around the heel and at the front fold of your ankle? From there, the question to consider is whether it makes sense to keep the boot, or whether it just isn’t going to work for your purposes.
3. DETERMINE WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH
There are numerous issues that can arise, and different solutions for each issue. Are there: cramping pains in the instep? Hot spots anywhere? A loose fit anywhere in the fore-foot? Is there heel lift? How old are your stock liners? Do you use orthotics? Is there pain in your shin? And so on. The key is to first isolate what is wrong and causing loss of performance or discomfort, and then work to address the issue causing the symptom.
4. BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR ABILITY, AND WHAT LEVEL OF COMFORT YOU WANT
Everyone likes to imagine that they are an “expert,” but not everyone is. Comfortable feet are feet that perform at a high level; totally crushed feet are only high-performance feet if you are used to skiing in ultra tight fitting boots your whole life (and even then, it’s debatable).
It is exceptionally important to get into a boot that suits your needs, and to communicate those needs to anyone helping you fit the boot. The tighter the the fit of the liner, the more precise and high performing your boot will be, but you will also increase the possibility of hotspots and pain. The thinner the liner, and the closer your foot is to the shell, the more precise and less sloppy (but also less comfortable) the boot will be.
5. START WITH THE BASICS, WORK UP TO THE ADVANCED FITTING NEEDS
It really is imperative to use a high-performance orthotic. This is the foundation for high-performance skiing. There are all sorts of great orthotic alternatives out there, and many different styles of fitting orthotics depending on your own needs.
I have had very good luck with AMFIT (aka Surefoot) orthotics, and also very good luck with ALINE orthotics. If you start using orthotics and feel cramping in the foot, give it a few days to see how your foot feels support in different ways. If the cramping continues, discuss the issue with the podiatrist that issued the orthotic so that he or she can remedy the issue.
Once the foot is properly supported and the ankle is properly aligned, you can begin to focus on the pressure from the liner/shell, or where you need to take up space for a more precise fit.
I would always recommend liner modification or replacement BEFORE shell modification, that is, before punching or grinding the shell.
Once your are happy with the liner, then work on modifying the shell.