Women’s-specific ski boots have been around since the Lange Competite was introduced in 1968. Today, manufacturers would have us believe that all ski boots are gender specific, however there are usually common components between similar models for women and men. So apart from the obvious, colours and graphics, let’s take a look at the key differences – breaking the boot down into key components and how they correspond to Women’s morphology.
Over to Chloe Holt and Rosie Young from the Profeet Ski Boot Lab…..
LOWER SHELL – SOMETIMES CALLED THE CLOG, THIS IS MADE OF HARD PLASTIC AND WRAPS AROUND THE FOOT AND ANKLE
Shells are manufactured according to Mondo point sizing, a centimetre size range. Women’s boots are generally available from sizes 21 to 27. Men’s are 24 to 34. Boots are only made in full sizes (half sizes are sometimes made by using a thicker or thinner insole in the inner boot).
Other than size, women’s and men’s equivalent models generally share the same lower shell. However, shells can be grouped into narrow, medium and wider widths/volumes. Women generally have narrower feet than men, but a narrow women’s foot can be similar to a narrow men’s foot. This helps explain why manufacturers don’t develop a specific line of women’s shells.
Finding the right shell is key as with only full sizes it is easy to fall between two sizes and it can be hard to establish which ones best match your foot shape.
CUFF – A HARD PLASTIC CUFF WRAPS AND SUPPORTS THE LOWER LEG
Women’s boots feature lower cuffs to better accommodate the calf muscle, which extends lower down the leg than in men and is more likely to cause discomfort and pressure. The cuff may be a lower design with more flare, or it might use a specific insert or spoiler at the back.
There can be a performance trade-off with a lower, wider cuff and so there is often less difference between men’s and women’s cuffs in higher-end models. Good ski boot fitters can work on this area by heating and stretching to improve the fit of the cuff still further.
LINER – THE SOFT INNER BOOT
This is where we find the most women’s-specific design. The liners in women’s boots are adapted to accommodate the calf muscle. Liners are lower and usually flared with a concave shape to complement the female anatomy. Foams within the liner are often softer but thicker to provide a comfier fit for a narrower foot. Increasingly, manufacturers use insulating materials, such as Primaloft, in the liners as women tend to feel the cold more than men. Core body temperature for both is roughly 37°C, but research shows the sensation of cold is related to skin temperature, which tends to be lower for women.
Temperature of the extremities is also affected by the hormone oestrogen, which is higher in women, which makes blood more viscous. This reduces blood flow to the capillaries, resulting in a quicker shut-off in blood supply to fingers and toes.
COLOURS, GRAPHICS and NAMES
Often the key visual difference is due to the colour and graphics. Sometimes there is a specific name but this trend from the 00s is all but dead. Although the colour of a boot may not be to your liking – remember that your ski pants cover the cuff and hopefully powder the lower shell. The most important thing is fit.
In World Cup racing the shell and liner are often identical for men and women. Colour, graphics, design and even fit give way to the need for ultimate performance.
Whether you are buying a Women’s or Men’s boot, a specialist fitter can help ensure the shell is the correct fit for you. Important considerations are:
- Custom insoles are vital to support and stabilise your feet in your boots.
- For optimum foot hold and comfort, upgrade to a custom liner: types range from foam injection to heat moulding.
- If you get cold, electric boot heaters work in any boot and are even used by World Cup skiers.
- If your boots are too stiff, a boot fitter can soften the boot and/or fit elastic power straps for a more progressive flex.
In conclusion, the top priority is that a boot is the right fit and performance level for your foot-shape and skiing ability.
To book a fitting at the shop at 867-869 Fulham Road, London SW6, go to profeet.co.uk or tel 020 7736 0046.
MORE WOMEN’S GEAR: