How Should Ski Boots Fit?

Published on 04/14/2023 · 8 min readChoosing the right ski boots can be a bit tricky, so Ski Expert Hannah Bibbo answers common questions about this important piece of gear.
Hannah Bibbo, Ski Expert
By Ski Expert Hannah Bibbo

Photo by Maarten Duineveld

Choosing the right size ski boots for you can be a bit tricky, especially if you don’t know how they’re supposed to fit. Determining the right ski boot fit isn’t the easiest part of the process to start skiing, but it’s very important! Ski boots can make or break your skiing experience; if they’re too tight, that could lead to pain in your feet, shins, or ankles, and if they’re too loose, that could lead to blisters and your skiing performance could suffer.

How should ski boots fit?

It's important to have a boot that provides comfort and performance and doesn't inhibit blood circulation.

First off, ski boots sizes are listed by Mondopoint, which is equivalent to the length of your foot in centimeters. A simple way to measure your Mondo size is to simply trace the shape of your foot on a piece of paper and then measure it in centimeters.

Ski boots are also measured by what is called the last, or the width of the boot at its widest point—generally the forefoot region, known as the "toe box". The last should be anywhere from 98 mm in width for low-volume, high-performance boots to 104 mm for boots geared toward wide feet.

The fit of a boot differs based on the skier’s ability. For a beginner to intermediate skier, with the boot liner out of the shell boot, you should assume an athletic ski stance with your knees bent, then slide your toes all the way up to the front of the boot without ski socks on, flex forward, and be able to fit two fingers between your calf and the cuff of the boot. For an expert skier looking for a more snug or high-performance fit, using the same technique you should be able to fit one finger between the calf and the boot cuff.

How tight should ski boots be?

Ski boots should have a snug fit, but not be too tight that they are painful. With your foot in the liner of the shell, there should be enough room around the forefoot that you can wiggle your toes back and forth, and the toes should be slightly touching the front of the boot when the heel is all the way back. Make sure your foot isn’t slipping back and forth when the boot is buckled though. Tightness in your ski boots can lead to painful pressure points and discomfort that can ruin a fun day at the resorts, so they are best to avoid. Too tight boots can also lead to cold feet on the slopes as the boot slowly cuts off circulation throughout your feet.

You should be able to buckle the top buckles of the boot without much difficulty and have them feel snug but not tight on your calf muscle. If you experience soreness in the calves after skiing or have difficulty buckling the top of the cuff due to wide calves, many boot buckles are adjustable and they even sell buckle extenders to fit a larger calf.

What happens if ski boots are too big?

If your ski boots are too big, whether you have narrower feet or were just sold the wrong size, you may feel your heel lift when you’re skiing or walking in the boots, or you may feel your foot slipping forward and backward when you’re skiing. Neither of those is good, and ski boots that are too big may result in blisters, bruises, lower ski performance, or even injury.

Photo by Ethan Walsweer

Do ski boots loosen up?

Yes, your ski boots will loosen up over time. Much like other shoes, they will break in and become roomier, such as in the heel pocket or in other places where there’s more pressure from your foot. It takes a few days for your boots to loosen up to where they will be, so try not to buckle them too tightly at first to avoid any pain in your feet. A good fit in a boot will provide both a comfortable fit and offer warmth all through the season.

How long do ski boots last?

Experts say ski boots will last about 150 to 200 days of skiing. That said, the liner may start to wear out after about 90 days of skiing. If you’re not ready to get a whole new pair of boots, you can always just get new liners to get you through.

It also depends on how quickly you are progressing in your skiing; a softer boot geared toward beginners and intermediates will begin to feel too soft as you work your way up into advanced and even expert skill levels. More advanced skiers will then want to look at a stiffer boot for more aggressive skiing and more technical terrain. Flex ratings in boots vary between manufacturers, but they range anywhere from 60-140, with 60 aimed at first-time skiers, and 140 being perfect for World Cup Racers! Ski boot flex is dependent on your height, weight, and skill level, so it's best to chat with a Curated Expert to determine what flex is best for you.

When should ski boots be replaced?

Ski boots should be replaced when they are worn out or if part of the boot is broken. If just the liner is worn out or not fitting the way it originally did, you can just replace the liner, but if the toe or heel piece or the sole of the boot is getting worn out, you should look into replacing the whole boot! It’s the same with broken pieces on the boot, too; if a buckle is broken, you could look into replacing just that buckle, but if the shell is cracked, you should replace the whole boot. Lastly, if you are regularly putting in 100 days a year at your favorite resort, the stiffness of your boot can also start to wear, leading to your boots feeling sloppy and unsafe.

How to put on ski boots

  1. After undoing the buckles, step your foot into the boot, toes first, while standing.
  2. Pull the tongue all the way up so your foot is fully in the boot, and correctly overlap the liner and the shell. Tip: you should bend your knees at a 45-degree angle, and make sure your heel is all the way at the back of the boot.
  3. Start with your top buckle and close the buckles all the way down to your toe.
  4. Tighten the power strap as tight as you can so it feels secure but not painful.
  5. Ski pants should always go over the outside of the boot.

How do you put ski boots on skis?

  1. Set your skis on a flat surface. If there is any snow on your boot, use your pole to tap it off.
  2. Make sure the heel piece of the binding is pushed down towards the skis.
  3. Step over your skis and align one foot directly over the ski bindings. Point your toe towards the binding and slide the toe of the boot into the toe piece of the binding.
  4. Click your heel into place by stepping down with some force. You’ll know you've clicked in correctly when the break is in the full upright position.

How to break in ski boots

New ski boots typically take some time to break in, and the most effective way to do this is to actually just ski in them. It doesn’t really help to walk around in them, so just make sure to wear thinner socks than normal the first few days. Also, try loosening the buckles when you’re riding up the chairlift to relieve any pressure when you start wearing them.

Tip: If you want a faster fix, take them to your local shop to get heat molded for a custom fit.

How painful should ski boots be?

Your ski boots should not be painful, so if they' are hurting you, something is wrong! The best-fit ski boots are supposed to be tight and snug, but not painful.

If you are getting hot spots or uncomfortable pressure, try readjusting your liner, making sure your thermals or other clothing is not bunched up in the boot, or try a different sock. Also, be aware of the orientation of the seams of your socks and base layers. You can also try visiting your local ski shop or a boot fitter for some modifications, such as getting your liners heat-molded or slightly stretched, and you can even look into having custom insoles made to fit your arch and instep or foam-injected custom liners. Many boots these days even have heat moldable shells as well, so you can also look into a shell fitting, which will customize the shell to your unique foot shape.

How can I stretch ski boots at home?

The most effective way to stretch out ski boots is to wear them down the mountain, but you can do a few things at home. You can try just wearing them while you’re sitting around the house, just watching TV or reading. If this isn’t enough, you can purchase an at-home boot fitter to address specific spots that are bothering your feet.

If you ever have questions about your current boots or are looking to find the best fit for you, chat with me or one of my fellow Ski Experts on Curated.

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