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How Should an AT Boot Fit?

Posted on July 25 2016

AT Boots Should Fit A lot Like An Alpine Boot, But Much More Comfortable!

Sizing Boots by Length and Width

If you walk through the doors of Cripple Creek Backcountry and are looking for new touring boots, the first thing we'll do is measure your feet on a Brannock device just like at any high end running store. Here we are looking not only at length, but also width. Different boots have different widths and that is just as important as matching the length. We'll ask what kind of ski touring you're looking to do (for more on your kind of touring read here) and then grab two or three options for you to try on.

How Should an AT Boot Fit? | Cripple Creek Backcountry

Shell Fit

With each boot you try on, we’ll do what is called a "shell fit." Put your bare foot in the shell and check what kind of room you have behind the heel. You are looking for 1 to 2 fingers to fit behind your heel within shell when your toes are lightly touching the front of the boot. The tricky part here is that everyone has two different sized feet. You are still looking for a shell where both feet meet the 1-2 finger rule behind the heel. Those that prefer a more Alpine style fit will want 1 finger. This tightness provides a boost in responsiveness on the downhill, but can come at a cost of colder feet and blackened toenails on the uphill. A 2 finger or slightly fit is also doable for an uphill race boot, or someone that values that slipper feel for all day comfort much more than a responsive skiing fit. For most, 1.5 finger is money.

Finding the Right Fit with Liners

Once you find the right shell, we slide the liners back in and try the boots on. When buckling up the boots start with the top buckles and work your way down. This helps to set your heel and then the rest of your foot into the proper position in the boot. DO NOT buckle the lower buckles overly tight. They should be only finger tight, meaning you should easily be able to close them with one finger. If you over tighten these buckles you can cut off circulation and end up with cold and or numb feet.

Ski Mode and Walk Mode

Once in the boot with it buckled, make sure it is in "ski mode" and check the fit just like you would an Alpine boot. When flexing forward into the boot you should have wiggle room in the toe box and when standing upright you should feel your toes against the front of the boot. Now the fun part, switch into "walk mode" and walk around the shop. How does it feel? Don't be concerned with minor pressure points here, those will easily come out with a heat mold of the liner. What you're really looking for are major pressure points. Put another way, any spots that you know you couldn't handle if you had to be in the boots for a couple of hours. If there are spots you know would be uncomfortable, try on different boots until you find one that is pretty comfortable right out of the box. For some really wide feet or bunions, go with the boot that is the most comfortable right out of the box and we will correct the rest during a heat mold of the liner and/or with a punch of the boot shell.

Often we recommend once you find a boot that is comfortable to go out and ski it a couple times. First, if the boot does need additional fitting work, you will have a much better idea where problem areas are after doing the real deal versus walking around the shop. Second, you may not need a heat mold at all and will get a little longer life out of the liner by not heat molding. The thicker the liner the more it can change through a heat mold. Thin rando race liners generally to not change much during a mold, therefore make sure it is big enough out of the box.

Orthotics

Lastly, orthotics. All boots will come with generic foot beds. These have close to no shape or arch support and for many skiers that is fine. But, you will always have a better fit for more efficient skinning and skiing with an orthotic. We really like the Sole footbeds, because they are inexpensive and can be custom molded to fit your feet just like the liners.  

Find your perfect AT boot and be sure to reach out if you have any questions.

Randy

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