Custom Ski Boot Fitting: How to Make Your Boots Fit Better

Congratulations, you have a new pair of boots!

The best way to start getting acquainted with new ski boots is to spend time wearing them at home. Put them on and watch a movie or game while standing and flexing them. Spending a few hours in your boots at home will allow your feet to become accustomed to being held stationary and rigid, which is quite different than normal shoes. It’ll also help you decide what adjustments you need to make at home and if you need any custom work done to the boots before you ski them. It’s better to figure this out in the living room than on your third ride up the chairlift on a perfect day.

Keep in mind that new ski boots are as snug as they will ever be right out of the box; the liners will compress as you ski them, making the boots roomier the more you use them.

Home Customization for Your Ski Boots

There are a few simple things you can do on your own to make your ski boots fit better. Below is a list of common problems and solutions you can try at home. 

Problem: You are having trouble buckling your boots.

If you are having a hard time closing the upper cuff of the boot because it seems too tight, you may need to move the buckle ladder (the part with the teeth that hold the wire bale). Use an Allen wrench (often provided in your boot box) or Phillips head screwdriver to move the ladder.

Problem: You’re having trouble finding the perfect tension with your buckles – one notch is too loose, the next is too tight.

Most boots have micro-adjustable buckles. Twist the buckles clockwise to shorten (tighten) or counter clockwise to lengthen (loosen) them. Doing this should enable you to find the perfect level of tightness.

Problem: The upper cuff is too tight or pinching your calves.

Many ski boots have a wedge or spoiler between the liner and shell directly behind the calf. These are either screwed on or attached by Velcro. You can simply remove the spoiler to create more room in the upper cuff.

If even the loosest buckle setting feels too snug, most boots have an adjustable plate or "ladder" for the top buckle straps that can be moved to provide a new, looser range of notches. Some ladders require that you undo a screw to move them (you’ll need a screwdriver or Allen wrench), others can simply be twisted or have a release that allows them to move.

Problem: The ski boot does not have enough arch support.

The stock footbeds provided by boot manufacturers do not offer much support, and probably don’t match the shape of your foot either. If you have a high arch or need better support underfoot, try replacing the footbed. You can use an aftermarket trim-to-fit footbed like those offered by Conform’able or Superfeet. These are fairly inexpensive footbeds that you cut to match the shape of the stock footbeds – lay the stock footbed over the aftermarket one, trace its outline, and trim the new one to match.

For even better performance and comfort, we strongly recommend having a custom footbed made by a trained boot fitter.

Shop Customization for Your Ski Boots

While there are a lot things you can do at home to customize your ski boot fit, it's sometimes best to seek out a professional. A specialty ski shop with trained boot fitters like at ESS Board Stores can perform extensive modifications to your boots. They are equipped with the proper tools and knowledge to help you achieve the best possible fit. Custom footbeds stabilize and balance the foot and are designed to fit your foot perfectly, while modifying the shell with heat or grinding allows it to take the shape of your foot and eliminates “hot spots” or pressure points.

Custom Footbeds

Every skier, regardless of ability or experience level, can benefit from having a custom footbed made for them. Custom footbeds are molded to your foot by taking an impression of it, then placing the heated footbed in the mold with your foot on top. The process of molding a custom footbed typically takes between 30 and 60 minutes. Think of a footprint in wet sand which is unique to you and supports your entire foot evenly. A supported foot is stable, strong, balanced and relaxed, while an unsupported one is weak, unbalanced and easily fatigued. Much of the discomfort skiers experience is a result of an unsupported foot trying to stay balanced and working too hard to steer the ski through the turn. Proper footbeds are essential for an effective fit.

Cuff Allignment

Once a footbed is selected, the next step is to check the alignment of the upper cuff. Ideally, you should be able to stand in a natural stance and have the base of both skis neutral (flat) on the snow. Not all skiers require cuff alignment, and not all boots offer a cuff adjustment feature, but ask a boot fitter if you suspect that the natural alignment of your legs puts unequal pressure on either your inside or outside ski edges.


Often confused with cuff alignment, canting refers to tilting or angling the entire ski boot laterally to achieve a neutral stance. This is done either by installing wedges under the bindings when the ski is mounted or planing the sole of the boot. Since this is not something that can be accurately done at home, canting should be left to a qualified boot fitter or shop with the right equipment.

Shell Modifications

When your bones are pressured by the hard plastic shell, you can expect problems. This is where shell modification comes into play. Modifying the shell to match the shape of your foot can be done by grinding the plastic away or by heating and reshaping the plastic with an assortment of specialized tools (also known as “punching” the boot). Common situations that call for modifying the boot shell include bunions, bone spurs, hardware or tender spots from surgery, and downsizing for the sake of performance.

If you are near one of our stores come on in and have a professional boot fit done.

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