When I’m not creating new content for realskiers.com, a period known to the general population as “weekends,” I fit people in ski boots at Bobo’s Mogul Mouse in Reno, Nevada.
As a family-oriented city shop, we see the full spectrum of the ski world, from never-evers to household names. This means that in the normal course of commerce I see every imaginable foot shape attached to every conceivable candidate for the sport of alpine skiing.
There are several theories as to why I insinuate myself into the front lines of boot fitting. Some would say I’m addicted to the rush of healing one poor sinner after another of their boot afflictions. I like to think I do it because there’s nowhere else in the off-season where I can learn so much about the real world of skiers.
The world I see on weekends reveals a shocking percentage of the ski populous skis in pain, and I’m not just referring to those unfortunates who rent their footwear. Particularly people with some sort of morphological abnormality, usually in the form of a protruding bony bit, presume that pain comes with the territory.
Here’s why: Let’s suppose the skier’s freakish foot feature is a massive fifth metatarsal head, aka Monster Pinky Toe. The customer tells the bootfitter the area has always hurt. Bootfitter agrees with customer that the only way to get enough room for the MPT is to go up a shell size. In the over-sized shell the squeezed forefoot feels relaxed; problem solved.
Of course this new boot buyer’s woes are only beginning. By focusing on fitting the “abnormality,” both skier and bootfitter ignored the extra room created elsewhere in the boot. Once set in motion, the skier’s foot can move forward in the boot, jamming the MPT into the narrower part of the shell and losing leverage over the cuff, creating shin bang. Agony all over again.
The only way to end this cycle of self-abuse is to find a good bootfitter and put yourself in his (or her) hands. Your bootfitter is going to coach you into a shell that may initially feel inhospitable to the MPT. He should be able to explain his fit methodology as he goes, so you understand both the journey and the intended destination.
What your new bootfitter is going to do that the old one(s) did not, is fit your whole foot, not just the squeaky MPT. He’ll pay close attention to retaining the heel and ankle area and observe your stance properties and flex dynamics as you press forward in the boot.
Don’t be surprised if your new bootfitter isn’t even impressed by your MPT. Chances are, he’s seen worse. And he knows the capacity and capability of every boot in his inventory, so he knows a priori that he can comfortably capture the MPT and render it harmless.
If this little pensée has left the impression that a successful outcome depends entirely on the bootfitter, allow me to error correct. Great boot fitting is a collaboration, meaning that you too, Dear Reader, must play your part. You might consider the possibility that one reason a proper fit has eluded you isn’t entirely the fault of your feet but of the feedback you share with your fitter.
So what should the prospective boot buyer with a finicky fit bring to the boot bench? First, be of good cheer. It’s going to a take a little while to get this done right and everything will go easier if the mood is upbeat.
Second, be a good listener. Your bootfitter will suggest/require you to wear a certain sock. This is uniformly for your own good, so do not resist. Your bootfitter will ask to see both your bare feet and will want you to roll up your pants. Again, resistance is futile.
If your feet really are the problem children you make them out to be, your bootfitter will suggest a higher grade of underfoot support. This is not the time to tune him out. I strongly suggest you do as advised.
Finally, be a good interview subject. Give honest self-assessments. Open a window on your ski experiences and invite your bootfitter in. The more information you share, the better the job your bootfitter can do.
The waning days of October are an excellent time to drop by your local specialty retailer. Selection is at its best and you’ll probably receive more attentive service than is possible after it snows and the multitudes rush to get equipped.
Photo: Boot wall at Bobo's Ski Shop (realskiers.com)