Are Ski Boots Supposed to Hurt? Tips To Maximize Comfort


A common misconception among skiers is that ski boots are meant to hurt. The problem comes from skiers who start off wearing borrowed boots that don’t fit well. Then, they assume that because the first boots hurt, that all boots hurt. 

Rather than continually questioning are ski boots supposed to hurt, you should know that they should fit snugly and comfortably without any pain at all.

Ski boots should have a snug fit that does not allow your feet to slide around. However, a properly fitted ski boot should not be painful to wear.

Ski Boot Fit Guide

No. Ski boots should not hurt. Some ski boots hurt because they are too big, so your feet slide around and bruise your metatarsals and ankles.

Often, wearing the wrong socks can also contribute to your feet hurting as well.

How a Ski Boot Should Feel

Ski boots connect the ski to the leg, so they need to fit correctly. When the boot fits improperly, your feet and knees will suffer.

Ski boots need to be tight, but not too tight. If you ski frequently, pay close attention to the foam, as it breaks down and changes the way your boots fit. 

The ideal fit should be snug. Your heels should fit snugly in place without sliding around, and your toes need to have room to move.

You should also be able to wear ski socks in your boots, and ski socks tend to be rather thick for cushioning and warmth. 

Ski boots come in various widths: wide, standard, and narrow. They measure between 95 and 106mm in width.

If you are a competitive skier or you ski on challenging terrain, you might benefit from a narrower boot, even if you technically have wide feet. Ideally, your boots should match the width and length of your feet. 

Ski boots also come in three volume sizes: low, mid, and high. Volume sizing explains the size around the foot.

Experts suggest relying on width rather than volume. Ideally, the sole of the boot should fit the length of your foot. The volume covers the width, calf size, and instep. 

How to Know If Your Ski Boot Is Too Tight

The easiest way to determine if a ski boot is too tight is to pay attention to your foot and ankle.

If your metatarsals – the knuckle-like bones that stick out by your big toe and fifth toe, hurt while wearing ski boots, then they are too tight. 

Another sign of ski boots fitting too tightly comes from your toes. If your toes curl up uncomfortably while you are wearing the ski boots, then they do not fit.

Your toes should have a slight bit of wiggle room. They should not press firmly against the front of the boot. 

When you are skiing, you have a slight forward lean. If your boots are too tight, you will feel pain on the top of your foot near the midfoot.

You will also feel pain at the back of the heel and along the outside of the ankle bone. You might also feel discomfort at the back of your calf. 

Tips for Making Ski Boots More Comfortable

Rather than struggling with uncomfortable boots, you can take advantage of tried-and-true tips for making them fit comfortably. 

Step #1 – Remove the Liner

The first tip is to try on new boots after you remove the liner from the shell. You do this by unbuckling the boot and pulling out the liner.

Put on the shell and slide your foot to the front of it. Notice how much space remains at the heel of the boot. Ideally, you want about ½ to ¾-inch of space. 

If the space is over ¾-inch, then your boot is too big. Racing skiers should have ½-inch or slightly less, so the boots fit snugly. 

Step #2 – Try on the Liner

Before returning the liner to the shell, try it on. When your foot is in the liner alone, your toes should barely scrape the front of it.

Look closely at the shape of the liner while your foot is in it. If you notice your foot stretching it on the side, then it is too narrow. 

If the liner is comfortable, it’s time to put the liner back in the shell. Remove your foot, and use your fist instead.

Put the boot on the floor, then put the liner over your fist. Push the liner into the shell and open your fist to use your hands to spread the front of the liner in the ski boot. 

Step #3 – Put on the Whole Boot

After you’ve tried the pieces of the boot and determined they fit, the next step is to put on the complete package. Open the whole boot and lift the tongue a bit.

As you insert your foot, widen the boot. Wiggle your foot around, and drop the heel on the floor to get your heel in the pocket. 

To lock your heel in the boot, begin buckling it from the lowest buckle on the upper part of the cuff. Then, close the lower clips without using too much effort.

If you have to use excessive pressure to shut them, then the boots do not fit you. 

After closing the lower buckles, latch the upper ones. The upper buckles keep your foot in the boot, so play with them until you get the right fit. 

Step #4 – Stand Up 

Once you’ve put on the boot and latched the buckles, stand up. While standing, your toes will make contact with the boot’s front. To truly test the fit, get into the ski stance with bent knees and a slight forward lean, causing your toes to slide back a bit. 

You know the boots fit if your toes lightly scrape the front of the boot. If they push with too much pressure, then you need to try on a different pair of boots. 

Some boots have neoprene in the toe for comfort and fit. Your toes might be pressing against the neoprene – be sure your toes are pressing gently. 

After you’ve moved into the ski stance, push your shins against the boots. As you do this, your heels should stay in the pocket.

The goal is not to get your heels to lift but to see if they remain in place or move slightly with the boot’s flexing. 

Step #5 – Go for a Walk

As long as the fit is suitable up to this point, the next step is to go for a walk. Ski boots do not fit like shoes, so remember that they might feel awkward, but they should not hurt.

Wear them for at least 10 minutes and pay attention to pressure points like the metatarsals and the ankle. After you’ve worn them for ten minutes, you should be able to determine if they fit.

But, the true test is wearing them at home for a few hours. It is tough to break in ski boots because they aren’t made of flexible materials. 

If you can’t wear them for a few hours around the house, then you probably won’t like wearing them on the slopes! Within those hours, you’ll notice if the boots are squeezing your toes, instep, or heel.

If the boot is not comfortable, then you need different ones or need to have them properly adjusted at a ski shop.

Final Thoughts

Taking the time to get your ski boots to fit will make skiing more enjoyable. No skier shouldn’t suffer from ill-fitting boots. 

Work with a bootfitter at your favorite reputable pro shop to find the perfect pair of boots for your feet and skiing style. Don’t let the price determine the boots you buy; fit is the only factor you should consider. 

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Hi, I'm Zach Reed and I'm a Colorado-based outdoor lover! For more information about me, take a look at my dedicated about me page.

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