US Outdoor Store
US Outdoor Store
GUIDE TO SKI BOOTS
Ski boots are arguably the most important piece of ski gear you’ll own. They’re responsible for transferring power from you to your skis. A well-designed, properly fitting boot will help your body communicate with your skis, while an ill-fitting boot will likely limit your ability to perform on the hill (and could ruin your day because of discomfort or pain).

CONSTRUCTION

Most ski boots share a common construction—a durable outer shell made of hard plastic for stability and support and an inner liner for cushioning and comfort.

Most boots also feature a similar entry and front-overlap shell design with adjustable buckles to dial in your fit. (There are, however, a few alternative designs like rear-entry boots and the three-piece model originally popularized by the Raichle Flexon with its iconic ribbed tongue.
Kids’ boots sometimes feature rear-entry design for convenience, while three-piece models have experienced somewhat of a resurrection, especially in Full Tilt ’s lineup.)

Liner technology has evolved as boot technology and fit has improved. An entry-level liner will provide traditional fit and comfort for your feet and will compress or “pack out” over time, leaving more room in your boot. This is fine to the extent that it provides a more custom fit, but if it
becomes too packed out, you may lose performance.

Boots may also feature thermoformable liners which take advantage of your own body heat to mold quickly to your foot and offer a more precise fit. Some boot models feature custom moldable liners as well, which are heated using an external source before being fitted to your
feet. This can be done at home, but the best results are typically achieved with a qualified boot fitter.

FLEX INDEX

A boot’s flex affects how efficiently it transfers power from you to your ski, so manufacturers rate ski boots according to a flex index. Stiffer boots transfer power more efficiently to your skis and rank higher on the flex index while softer boots aren’t as precise and rank lower.

Note: While the flex index is a general guideline, indices may vary between manufacturers. We recommend coming to U.S. Outdoor or calling us to talk to our qualified boot fitters to determine what flex is best for you.

NOTE

The flex index for women shifts downward a bit because women are often lighter in relation to their height and shoe size than men are.

Boots for beginner female skiers will typically feature flex ratings of 50 - 60, boots for intermediate female skiers will typically feature flex ratings of 60 - 80, and boots for advanced female skiers will typically feature flex ratings of 80 - 100.

SIZING

Downhill Ski Boots are measured using Mondo Point sizing (typically known simply as Mondo sizing), which refers to the length of the inside of the boot’s shell (from heel to toe) in centimeters. The following chart provides a rough conversion to US street shoe sizing.

NOTE

This conversion chart is only a guideline and sizes may vary between manufacturers. In order to get the best fit, we recommend coming into U.S. Outdoor to talk with a qualified boot fitter (or one in your area) to determine your ideal size and fit.

Last Width

Most ski boots indicate how wide the last, or the forefoot, is as well. This gives you an idea of the overall volume of the boot. Ski boots typically feature lasts ranging from around 97mm to 102mm or more. An average width last for a ski boot is generally closer to 100mm (and roughly corresponds to the street shoe width “D"). Skiers with narrower or lower-volume feet may need to find a boot on the narrower end of the spectrum, while skiers with wider or higher-volume feet may be better off with boots featuring a wider last.

Note: In the past, advanced skiers with wider feet would be forced to suffer the discomfort or pain of wearing narrower “high-performance” boots while beginner skiers would be sliding around in wider “comfort-fit” models. This is beginning to change and more and more high-performance models with a stiffer flex are available with wider lasts while softer-flexing models better-suited to skiers developing their skills are available in narrower widths.

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

Ski / Walk Mode: To make accessing sidecountry powder caches easier and more comfortable (or maybe just walking from the parking lot to the liftline), some boot models with walk mode (sometimes
known as hike and ride mode) allow you to detach the upper cuff from the lower boot for better
ankle articulation. And it’s typically the simple matter of locking and unlocking a clip on the back
of your boot’s cuff.

Women’s Fit: Anatomically, many women have a shorter lower leg than men do. For men, this often means most of the calf muscle is above the boot’s cuff, but that’s typically not the case for women. To
accommodate this anatomical difference, women’s ski boots feature a shorter upper cuff and adjustable buckles. They may also feature additional padding in the ankle and heel pocket to
provide a more specific fit.

TOURING BOOTS

Alpine touring boots feature a few subtle differences from traditional resort-oriented downhill ski boots. These features may include lugged rubber soles (like a hiking boot) for traction on slippery surfaces, ski / walk mode, and touring-specific tech binding heel and toe fittings. All of this is designed to make skinning uphill and then switching into downhill mode convenient and reliable.

SUGGESTIONS FOR FIT

We recommend talking to our qualified boot fitters when looking for boots, but the following general guidelines are helpful:

Wear thin, synthetic or wool ski socks and try boots on in the afternoon rather than the morning. Your feet swell during the day, and a boot that fits well in the morning may not fit so well at the end of the day.

Stand and walk around in boot candidates for at least 15 minutes. They should fit snugly and feel firm, but not tight. When you stand straight, your toes should barely brush the front of your boot, and when you flex or tuck they should pull away slightly. In that flexed positioned, your heels shouldn’t lift off the insole.

Again, if you have questions, come into U.S. Outdoor to talk with our qualified boot fitters to determine your ideal size and fit.

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