TIP: Buying Children's Ski Boots
Not All Flexes are Created Equal
By Tammie Thompson
Shopping for kid's gear can be an exercise in patience. You park the kid in the chair. You peel off a ratty sneaker; unroll the athletic sock (is that a pebble or an old pea?); and shove the little foot into a stiff ski boot.
"How does it fit?"
"Can you wiggle your toes?"
You buy the boot, get home, and discover it is one size smaller than the boot you had last season. Help!
A competent shop employee will aid in the boot buying process, but not all shop employees are created equal, and even the best of them are stymied when working with children. Here are some tips to make the boot buying (or even renting) process easier.
Be prepared. Take a slim fitting ski sock to the shop with you. Avoid oversized, thick socks that wrinkle.
Be sure the foot is sized on a boot manufacturer measuring device. Shoe sizes do not translate directly to boot sizes.
Allow a little bit of room for growth. A half size is a good predictor (even though some kids can grow an entire shoe size in a couple of months). A boot that is too big will not work properly.
A good indication of fit is to remove the inner boot, put child's foot back in the shell, and see how many fingers (yours) fit between your child's heel and the shell. More than two fingers is too large. Less, may not allow enough room for growth.
Have your child walk and bend in the ski boot. Can they flex forward with a bent knee?
Is the shell comfortable? Any hot spots?
Have the shop fix any hot spots. They can grind, etc., to make the boot more comfortable - but don't expect miracles. Look for another boot if it is very uncomfortable.
Half way through the season, check for fit. You might be surprised to see that your child's foot has grown and is squished at the toe and he hasn't even said anything!
Notes on flex:
Behind comfort, flex is the most import aspect of a child's boot. Finding a soft flexing boot for a young child has been virtually impossible until now. To determine flex, put a different boot on each foot. Have the child bend their knees and lean forward. Can you see a difference? The knee should be able to flex forward over the toe. Caveat here, a boot that is too soft is also detrimental. Be sure the knee can't go beyond the toe (think 75 lb seven-year-old, with tree trunk legs, bruiser mentality).
I took my 48 lb, seven-year-old, boot shopping. We tried on four boots. The Tecnica, Lange, Salomon and Rossignol. Fit varied for each shell, with the Lange and Salomon working better for a narrow foot. The flex winner was Salomon. Their new Course 60 is extremely soft and flexes forward easily. The tongue has a bit of a cutout to accommodate forward flex. Kudos to Salomon for addressing the flex issue.
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