Warm & Blister-free Boot Fitting

| November 8, 2010 | 15 Comments

I’m happy to say that I haven’t had a ski boot related blister for years and the last one I did get came from trying to mold my own liners.  Some things are better left to the pros.

Here’s the not-so secrets to my blister free success…

1) Go with boots that fit your feet.  I’ve been skiing in Scarpa’s for years and am not sure if they fit my feet or at this point my feet have conformed to the boots, but whatever the case, Scarpa’s are a known and consistent entity for me.   When I was into Alpine racing I wore a size 7 Lange, but for touring have gone up two full sizes to a size 9.

2) Use a thick, high quality sock like a Bridgedale, Smartwool or one of the new BC.com merino wool versions.  They are pricey ($25ish a pair), but they last forever, or seven years – which ever comes first.

3) Find an insole that fits your foot.  Some of the new boots come with substantial insoles (like the BD line), but I’ve found that SuperFeet fit my foot and are comfy.  I have been rolling them over for about five years and take them out of my old boots, then use them again for my new ones.

4) Use a good boot fitter who knows how to fit backcountry/touring boots, as a BC fit is different than an Alpine fit.  I’ve been going to Dennis Maw at Black Diamond in Salt Lake City who is a Liner Magician.

Dennis Maw at Black Diamond Retail and his box full of toe caps. These are made by Intuition and I credit them with saving my toes from freezing.

The key to warmth is to be able to wiggle your toes and have good circulation. For touring boots, I like a lot of extra toe room so if it does get really cold I can put in some of those Warmer Grabber toe warmers. I never wear overboots. In this photo I have neoprene toe liners, the Intution caps with extra toe padding and a pair of SuperFeet ski insoles.

Next up, the entire package is held together with some sexy, thin, black socks. These are not the socks I use for skiing - I usually use just a single pair of high-quality, thick wools socks.

Dennis heats the boots up to a bare minimum (four minutes in the oven?) which still gives a nice custom fit, but doesn't smush-out the liner too much. After heating them up, he inserts the toasty lines into a plastic shopping bag and inserts the whole gooey package into the shells.

After making sure the heel is deeply seated, the boots are buckled up moderately tight and locked into ski mode. After a few deep flexes, you then sit back and wait for about five minutes. Voila - a perfect fit.

For a more skiing performance fit, I just use the toe caps with no neoprene liners. The liners felt pretty good right out of the box, so Dennis just barely heated them up for the fitting. The sexy black sock, shopping bag and flexing are all the same as the touring boot.

Stokage! Good to go for another year. This would be an interesting way to tour - a Maestrale on one foot and a Mobe on the other - I'd climb in circles one way and then ski reverse circles on the way back down. :)

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Help support StraightChuter.com and ooze into a form-fitting pair of Scarpa Maestrale Boots from Backcountry.com. Click on the photo below…

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Category: 02 Gear, Gear Reviews

About the Author ()

Andrew McLean lives in Park City, Utah and is a gear designer, writer, photographer, ski mountaineer, climber, Mountain Unicycle rider and father of two very loud little girls.

Comments (15)

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  1. d3 says:

    those thin black socks are also good support hose for varicose veins.

    love the background you selected for the last photo. olan mills?

    and in all seriousness, this is timely; i’ve got a brand new pair of lightweight slipper-hoppers(T3s) i got for a hundie last year whose liners need molding. i’ll be sure to see dennis about it, thanks!

  2. scree says:

    what is the difference between an alpine fit and a backcountry fit?

  3. Andrew says:

    Scree – the difference is in how tight the fit is. I prefer a looser fit for BC and a tighter performance fit for alpine.

  4. Such good advice! I’ve been caught out a couple of times when breaking in boots. Can be a painful experience!

  5. Chris says:

    What is the purpose of the plastic bags?

  6. Oscar says:

    Yes, why the plastic bags? To make it all slide in easier?

    And… Did you modify your maestrales at all? Do you think there’s a good way to stiffen them up a bit? Feel a tad soft for my 200 lbs, yet wouldn’t like the mobes as my designated touring boots..

  7. Andrew says:

    The plastic bags keep all your warm, gooey junk together and reduce friction. I haven’t done anything to modify the Maestrales as I like to spend some time on boots before doing anything to them. I suspect that like most of my touring boots in years past, I’ll take off the power strap.

  8. Justin says:

    So what are your initial impression on the Maestrales? Stiffness, tourability etc….

  9. Geoff says:

    @Andrew, Did you do anything special with the forward lean on the Maestrales, or just go with one of the two factory positions? Some of us are finding that the forward lean is a bit too much for relaxed skiing, even in the least aggressive setting.

  10. Andrew says:

    Geoff – no, I haven’t dinked around with the forward lean on the Maestrales, or any other boot for that matter. Perhaps I just get use to the way they ski and don’t notice it..? I guess you could also take away some of the angle by shimming the bindings up/down.

  11. Ted says:

    @Oscar. I too am having slight softness issues with my new maestrales. Have you done anything yet to stiffen them up a little?

    I am considering trying some intuition pro-wrap liners. What is the consensus on this option people?

  12. Andrew says:

    I either haven’t noticed this, or have just gotten use to it. The first thing I do with most of my new boots is take off the power strap, so the stiffness seems okay to me.

  13. Nick says:

    Andrew, I am trying to decide just how “loose” is good for a proper touring fit. I still want to be able to control the boots when I’m touring, and in the past, I think I’ve always erred on the side that’s too tight. I tried on new Maestrales in 27.5 and 28.5 and I liked the looseness of the 28.5s (I could lift the front pad of my foot off the bottom of the boot and wiggle my toes plenty) but I felt the top buckle was then too loose even on the tightest setting. Any recommendations? Do you find the top buckle is sized weird on the Maestrales, or is it a sign I’ve goon too loose?

  14. Andrew says:

    Hi Nick – I haven’t noticed that on my Maestrales, but from what I gather, I am also blessed with a “normal” foot that happens to fit the Scarpa lasts well. The liners do blow out with usage, but in general, I get my liners fitted with neoprene toe caps which allow me to wiggle my toes, but the rest of the boot is fairly tight.

  15. Andy Mason says:

    Toe caps are key for sure, and I usually put some foam padding on bony parts (ankles, bunions, sixth toes, etc.). The thinner the sock you use for molding, and the looser you leave the buckles, the tighter the resulting fit.

    I prefer nylons over the whole package, less chance of creating wrinkles, but one or the other are nice to keep the liner from catching/binding on anything on it’s way into the shell (can also tape over anything that’s likely to snag on the inside of the shell). I’m surprised to hear that he only heats them for that long, but if it’s working for you then it’s hard to argue!

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