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The Ski Boot Ritual: 4 Steps to Getting Your Boots On Comfortably

Getting into your boots is truly a necessary evil, but one that can be lessened if you follow a few simple steps. I worked as a bootfitter for more than a decade and witnessed every imaginable way people try to stuff their feet in and lock down.

Above Photo: Backcountry Athlete Jenn Berg getting ready at Snowbird, UT
Shot By: Re Wikstrom

Show me one person who looks forward to pulling on alpine ski boots. I’m not talking about performing this act inside a heated ski shop or next to the roaring fire in the lobby of that fancy country-club-ish resort you went to with your girlfriend’s family for a “ski vacation” one winter. I mean getting after it before daybreak on the side of the road when the mercury’s lurking around zero Fahrenheit and you can barely see beyond the head-high walls of snow. The boot ritual undoubtedly varies from person to person, but it should go something like this:

Keep ‘Em Warm

Make sure you don’t leave your ski boots in the car or in a cold mudroom overnight. Besides the fact that the plastic shells will be nearly impossible to pry apart the next morning, the liners will be really cold and uncomfortable. Let your boots live inside with you until the morning.

Get Some Leverage

Ok, you’re at your destination. While you’re sitting in your truck, grab your boot, separate the power strap, unbuckle and slightly swivel the buckles (that keeps them from re-latching before your foot is all the way inside), and pull the liner’s tongue up and out to one side. Then half roll/stumble out of your truck, but keep the door open. Now—when you’re half asleep and possibly hungover—is not the time to be a yoga hero by attempting to hold yourself up without the assistance of an open car door (a tailgate also suffices). The alternative to holding onto a solid object is one of the worst pre ski-day sins: wobbling on one leg, losing balance, and stabbing the slushy ground with your socked foot. Grab the vehicle with one hand. Also, don’t make the mistake of trying to stay in your cozy car while you put your boots on. Standing allows you to get the leverage you need to efficiently kick your heel back into the pocket.

Stand Up

Delicately transfer your foot from the toasty confines of your oversized galosh into the entrance of your boot. Only then is it safe to remove your free hand from the vehicle and aid in the foot-jamming exercise. Next, curse a little (because it helps), and push like hell until you’re in. Stand up like a champion and take a much-deserved slug of joe from your sticker-clad thermos. But don’t totally relax. You can easily cause a disaster if you aren’t careful…

Buckle Strategically

The next step involves kicking your boot’s heel into the ground a few times to seat your foot back into the liner’s pocket. Then you start the back-and-forth buckling between the two buckles on your leg (the top-most buckles*). Once the tension is dialed, secure the power strap. Finally, with the lightest of pressure, buckle the remaining buckles across your foot. Then repeat process with the other foot.

* Always start buckling from the top down. Many people work in the opposite direction, which, in addition to over-clamping the top of your foot and cutting off circulation, doesn’t let your foot “float” back into the liner. Use this visual as a reminder: all of your body’s force is applied to getting your foot “through the turn” of the boot, which drives your toes straight into the toebox. If you just mindlessly begin ratcheting down the forefoot buckles, you trap your poor cramped tootsies under the downward pressure of metal clamps. Not a pretty scene. Instead, after kicking your heel into the pocket and tensioning the two leg buckles and powerstrap, tighten the buckles across your foot with very light pressure. This keeps circulation flowing to the toes, which, in turn, keeps them warm and your day radical.

Want to improve your ski boots’ fit? Read Alpine Ski Boots: Tips for the Perfect Fit

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