Ski boots – all there is to know


If you think a ski boot is just a ski boot, think again. In this article we will guide you on the differences so you are well prepared before purchasing your next pair. Boots are a heavy investment so it is worth spending a little time on understanding the anatomy of the boots.

Important terms

The shape of the inside of a boot. Boots can be wide and roomy or snug and tight. “Last” is the old-fashioned term used by cobbler’s wooden form around which shoes were built.

The removable inner boot, usually made of some kind of foam. It gives you padding for the foot to protect it from the hard plastic shell. Race boots have minimal padding to give you a better feel, better connection to the boot shell and eventually the ski. Comfort level boots on the contrary have deeply cushioned liners which feel great, but offer less control of the boot and ski.

This is the removable platform inside the liner. This is where your foot rests, and is also an important interface between your foot and your ski. Footbeds vary widely in quality and this should really be where you throw a bit of extra money as custom made footbeds that is molded to your foot is really a great way of upgrading a standard boot.

The parts of the shell’s sole that connects with the ski binding. They are defined by industry standards for quality and dimensions.

3 types
In general boots basically come in three categories based on widths. 1) Race, 2) All-mountain and 3) Recreation. Last widths range from about 94 mm in the tightest race boots to 105-108 mm in the widest recreation boots. Race boots have the thinnest and firmest liners, all-mountain boots have medium padded liners, in order to combine comfort and performance whereas recreation boots are simply designed to feel good at the expense of control and performance. Remember that it is often better to choose a tight boot as it will feel looser on the hill when you put pressure on. Also it is easier for a bootfitter to help you feel comfortable in a tight boot whereas there is little they can do on a boot to loose.

Flex ratings
This indicates stiffness of the boot, but there is no standardized scale for this and it can relate to measurements of plastic hardness, spine rivets, height of cuff attachment, wall thicknesses, hinge points etc. Use it mainly to give you a rough idea of the stiffness – scales usually go from about 50 to 150 (race boots).

Normally, a boot has a lower shell and an upper cuff, hinged on either side of the ankle, with plastic wings that overlap each other over the foot and in front of the shin. These pieces are then drawn together by a buckling system.

Power strap 
The power strap is usually a Velcro strap at the top of the boot that secures the upper cuff around the calf.

In a “cabrio” boot design, the shell has a tongue, which opens forward like a convertible. That makes it easy to get into and out of.

Shaft alignment
Refers to the inward or outward tilt of the shaft in relation to the lower shell. It is adjustable on at least one side by loosening a screw and thereby you can angle the shaft.

Alpine/AT Hybrids
The newest category in boot design blends the ability of an alpine touring boot with the power and speed of a traditional alpine boot. It is popular among those who prefer better downhill performance than what they can get from traditional AT boots. They often have rubber along the soles to increase traction on ice and many have a device on the spine that lets the boot cuff release to upright and beyond, for improving their hiking functionality.

Most buckles have three parts: The catch, the bail, and the lever. Buckles are an expensive part of the boot, so cheap boots will have cheap buckles. Stay away from the plastic buckles – they have less durability – buckles should be made of metal.

Now – with good insights on the different parts that make up a ski boot, you can head off to the shop and find yourself a good pair of boots. And remember – it is a really good investment to have the footbed and/or liner custom made.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *