When I walked hopefully in to Pro Feet as an expert skier looking for ski boots that would comfortably fit my feet, after almost two hours in the Fulham Road shop in London I felt like Quasimodo.
“You’ve got a short tibia,” said Michelle, my boot fitter. “For someone who is six foot tall, you’ve got a remarkably short tibia. Your legs are bowed as well, by the way.”
As Michelle took my leg measurements it got worse. “You’ve got a big calf, which means you probably had a forward lean in your old boots? It must have affected your skiing. It’s amazing really, because you’re ankle bone is pretty skinny”, she added.
Great. To know you want custom-fitted ski boots due to painful encounters with rented equipment is one thing. To be told it is your physical inadequacies that have caused such problems is quite another. But this sort of information is precisely the reason why people come to Pro Feet in the first place.
Michelle talked me through the consequences of having a short tibia, otherwise known as the shin bone. “If the top of the boot is too high, you move further forward. It overloads the foot. You get pushed too far forward and try to lean back which affects your skiing.”
Michelle knew all of this information because she is charged with moulding a ski boot that feels to the customer like the comfiest pair of slippers one can imagine – that’s the aim, anyway. The process involves a consultation and then an analysis of your stance, gait and balance. When the data has been dissected, the boot fitter then talks you through the right boot for your performance level and price range and the customisation begins.
Although we often take balance for granted in skiing, it is naturally one of the most important ingredients to being able to ski. The distribution of your weight is studied from heel to front and from foot to foot – few people disperse their weight perfectly.
While some are born with structural deficiencies such as one leg slightly longer than the other, others may have suffered broken bones in the past due to accidents, sports injuries, or as part of their jobs such as being in the armed services. But structural defects are only half the problem. There are muscular drawbacks, also.
For instance, mothers who carry their children on one side too often continue to distribute their weight in that manner due to muscle memory, something which can only be ironed out with Pilates or yoga.
Office workers are also a case in point. Few people train hard for their annual week-long ski holiday, which involves around four hours of intense daily exercise in the Alps. Those that do train, tend to concentrate their efforts on not only their core muscles, but the quads.
Exercises such as cross-training, however, result in a lot of time on the balls of your feet, which will give you tight calves. Running and cycling may be good for the quads, but the hamstrings are virtually ignored. So when the posterior tightens up during skiing the quads have to do double the work during activity, and doubly so if the quads have been worked and the hamstrings have not. This leads to the famous thigh burn, a sense only increased if you are skiing to the limits of your abilities.
The customisation process is therefore of crucial importance in the battle to making skiing as free from pain as possible. Once your boot fitter understands how your body and legs work they can start to put together a boot that is perfectly tailored to you.
Boot are made up chiefly of three parts; the inner, a liner and a shell, all of which can be customised. Pro Feet take a mould of your foot and then mould an inner sole to that.
If you want, you can have a liner fitted, also, but for beginners this is questionable practice. Beginner-level ski boots have thicker inners that prevent poor skiers from translating their mistakes directly to the ski. The more of an advanced skier you become, the more you want your skill to be directed through your skis.
The shell is the final piece of the boot to be heat moulded, although standing out on the Fulham Road one freezing January day waiting for my shells to cool to my feet was the least pleasant aspect of the experience.
Scores of people struggle with poor-fitting ski boots every year. I, for one, had a holiday ruined once by someone in my party moaning consistently about her feet. She then bit the bullet and bought the most expensive pair she could find in the shop, but as a beginner skier, she was totally unsuited to them.
I ended up buying a pair of Salomon Impacts, which incidentally, were excruciating to ski in for the first few runs that I used them. Once I had skied in them, however, the benefits kicked in. They are the most comfortable and responsive boots I have skied in. Never mind the price, feel the quality.
867 Fulham Road
call 020 7736 0046