Girls and their Shoes
By SkiMum Paula
I’m not quite Carrie Bradshaw, but I have a “thing” for shoes. I had my shoe epiphany about a decade ago while living in Houston. Southern girls love their shoes like they love their hair – high and glamorous! Stereotypes aside, let me tell you, that my “big girl” shoes make me look and feel taller and more confident and, as my husband will ashamedly tell you, I’ve been stopped in multiple airport security lines by strangers and TSA to compliment me on my adorable red patent leather Jessica Simpson wedges rising 4” above the tile. Needless to say, I know my shoes.
You know what I apparently know nothing about? Ski boots! Moving to Utah two years ago, I decided that, as a local, I needed to own ski boots. So, I went to the store and bought some really cute ones that didn’t pinch my wide little feet. You see where this is going. They were great … for four days (about the time spent in a spring break rental pair). After that, my feet were swimming in them. Because I spent a fair amount on them (and, retail, doggoneit), I sucked it up for the rest of the season and another and until last week when I had a powder lesson with my Skimums at Snowbird. When the Mountain School instructor explained that my big toe needed to touch the bottom of the boot to feel the ski (and the Skimums all nodded and um-hummed), I realized I was busted. My big toe was all over the place trying to keep me balanced and warm. My pals gave me a boot intervention and sent me to Inkline.
After dropping the kids at school one morning, I humbly walked in and told Chris and Rand my tale, one they apparently hear everyday. “Ten out of ten people have boots that don’t fit,” said Chris. Sounds like a great business model. “Most are too big.” He patiently explained that ski boots are not supposed to fit like Italian shoes. They are supposed to be tight (like a glove not a tourniquet) so that your foot moves as little as possible inside the boot. That way, the foot, boot and ski all move together. This translates to using less effort in a more comfortable way, which leads to better skiing and fewer injuries. “It takes a leap of faith to buy the right size boot, [but when] your boots fit right, your confidence goes through the roof,” he said. Like in my “big girl” shoes. That’s how I want to feel sailing down the mountain.
And they take boot fitting very seriously… Throughout the morning, Chris and Rand sized, molded, heated and massaged my feet into boots, liners and insoles, which may, in fact, be the secret ingredient in boot fitting. “Custom foot beds correct pronation [and a bunch of other podiatric issues I can’t pronounce] and improve circulation [read –keep your feet warm!!],” continued Chris. Even I know that bad shoes (and, yes, high heels) can screw up your feet, knees and back. So, why would I ignore properly fitting my ski boots where the activity itself presents risks of screwing things up? Part physiologist, part guru, the boys waxed poetic about bones, muscles, flex, stance. “I love someone talking about my feet for 4 hours,” cooed Snowbird’s Cliff Spa Massage Therapist, Hokyo, who was there getting her boots tweaked (btw, good fitters will make adjustments following customization – Inkline does it for free). Chris, who mastered his trade after 18 years at Snowbird before striking out on his own 3 years ago, actually, still takes care of a lot of people there (ski patrol, instructors, employees, pro skiers, guests). So, why am I just now doing this?
Over the years, I have put a fair amount of effort and money into skis (love my Liberty Envy All-Mountain skis in pink), jackets (plural –I admit it, jackets may have replaced shoes in my closet), pants (does my butt look good?), gloves (leather mittens are so warm), goggles (Oakley Illuminators to see in flat light), helmets (snug fit with those awesome drop-in headphones), passes (best snow, longest season – Snowbird, of course), and lessons (because we all want to get better), but it never occurred to me to get my boots fitted. “That’s for Lindsey Vonn and rock stars,” I said. Chris looked at me puzzled. After all, he fitted my husband last season, the same frugal guy who has been encouraging me to do the same and to stay away from SuperTarget! Boot fitting is no more a luxury to local skiers than all-wheel drive. Yes, I can probably get away with front-wheel, but it certainly makes it harder and more dangerous. I want to ski when I’m 80, and boots that fit will probably last that long as well as help me get there. The costs to boot fitting vary depending on whether your boots actually fit or can be “packed” to fit. You might simply need a different fitted liner. Even so, there are so many boots for so many budgets –and even used boots– you can make it work for much less than a pair of Jimmy Choos.
“You won’t believe the difference!” chimes everyone: friends, family, strangers at Inkline, and the folks at 2nd Tracks next door (where I immediately consigned my former boots that were SOOOO big they remounted my bindings while I was there). We shall see. I know, like anything else, they’ll take some breaking in and adjustment but I suspect it’ll be easier than those Pradas I picked up for a steal at Name Droppers. Gorgeous, but they still pinch my toes. But, trust me, I’ll be fine, because, I still know my shoes.