In pursuit of the perfect pair of ski boots

Finding the perfect pair of ski boots is no easy feat. Especially when you have the world’s most awkward feet. But after a 12 month search and some expert boot-fitting, Mary Creighton finally found hers

Getting my ski boots has always been a nightmare for me. I know everyone claims this, but I really do have the world’s most awkward feet. Not only are they exceptionally wide, but I also have managed to procure a double bunion on both side of both my feet. That’s four bunions; about four more than someone aged 28 should have. Usually just trying on a ski boot results in bone-crushing agony fit for a Chinese torture dungeon. When I do go to get my ski boots fitted, I take off my socks only to hear a loud sigh from the bootfitter. Last year I even tried to get a pair fitted only to be (very honestly) told that they didn’t have anything (ANYTHING!) that would work for me.

I spent the next 12 months delving into the depths of internet forums in pursuit of the perfect boot. I was after something with enough performance for my everyday skiing, but that was lightweight enough for the occasional ski tour. There’s been a fair few of these hybrid ski boots come into the market in recent years but because a) not many ski shops stock women’s hybrid boots and b) my feet are so tricky, finding a pair that works was no easy feat. Every time I found a model that sounded right I’d ask around the shops to discover that they didn’t have any in stock.

Finally, a friend recommended the Salomon QST Pros, which I’d overlooked because they didn’t have a pin binding-compatible sole. But the 2016/17 model has soles which can be swapped out for pin-binding compatible ones. Bingo! Plus, having been fitted Salomon boots before, I knew they would likely accommodate my duck-like feet. Time to track some down! 

A quick call around the UK ski stores tells me that Ellis Brigham is stocking the Salomon QST Pro 90W (rrp: £300) this season, so I head down to their flagship Covent Garden store pronto.

The perfect fit

I know that I’ve already broken the golden rule of bootfitting: I’m heading to a ski shop with a very clear idea of what boot I want, not letting the fitter make suggestions that will actually work for me. But thankfully Chris, the ski department supervisor and my bootfitter for the day, confirms that the QST Pros are the right choice: “You have a high volume foot, but your instep is actually pretty low, which means that very few of the traditional high volume brands would work for you. There’s a lot of things bootfitters can adjust, but the instep isn’t one of them”. The Salomon Quest Pros, with their fully heat-mouldable shell will accommodate my wide feet without compromising on performance.

The entire boot can be heated in an oven for a bespoke fit

Sizing is a little more tricky. Chris measures me up as 23.5, and the boot comes in 23 or 24. I try both on. The 24 is roomy and comfortable. Chris slides a fitstick — a long wooden pole —down to the spine of my boot to determine how much space there is. There’s around a 15mm gap. Then I try the size 23, which feels like it’s crushing my toes. There’s between 5 and 10mm space at the back of my boot. Chris explains that the 5-10mm space indicates a performance fit, and 15mm a comfort fit. For me, comfort is far more important and I opt for the size 24.

Boots chosen, it’s time for the fitting itself. Custom insoles, unless you’ve hit the genetic jackpot in terms of feet, are always worth investing in. Ellis Brigham offer Custom Sidas SUREfit insoles for £87.50 (£67.50 when bought with boots). The process, for me at least, is simple. I stand on a gel platform while Chris manipulates my feet to make an impression. He then disappears into the workshop to build insoles that will perfectly support my feet. I kickback and flick through the Ellis Brigham Whitebook catalogue for 15 minutes.

Chris works on the custom soles

The next step is even easier. The QST Pros have Salomon’s 360° Custom Shell (thermo-mouldable plastic) and a My Custom Fit 3D Liner, which means the whole boot can be heated in an oven for a bespoke finish. Once heated, I simply slip my fit in. Chris then adds an ice pack around each boot to help the cooling process, while I bend my knees in a ski position. Holding that position for eight minutes test my quads, but I’m immediately impressed with the results. There’s no hotspots, no burns or cramps. And the walk mode is so generous I almost contemplate testing them on Covent Garden Station’s 193 steps…

To the snow

The true test, as always, comes on snow. It’s my first day of the season, and I haven’t done much (read: nothing) in the way of wearing my ski boots in. I’m expecting at least a little bit of niggling pain for the first few days. There’s a slight cramp in the front of the foot for the first 15 minutes and then nothing. They are like slippers. Very supportive, responsive slippers. 

Boot perfection – found

The performance is better than my previous boots, which were both lower in flex and very worn out. I can get my skis onto their edges with less effort than before and they feel more responsive and powerful. The walk mode is nearly as good as my normal touring boots, and they are so light that I can sit with my legs crossed at lunch. But it’s the comfort that’s wowing me. Even in my comfiest boots to date, there was no better feeling than taking them off at the end of the day. But these? These I could sleep in. 

Read an in depth review of the Salomon QST Pro 90W in the current issue of Fall-Line