Months spent squatting in readiness. Weeks spent dreaming of first lifts. Days spent selecting and packing your very best ski socks. Yet there’s nothing like a painful pair of ski boots to drain the enjoyment from your ski holiday.
I’ve been waiting for a revolution in ski boots for years, as it happens. How come snowboarders get these soft, comfy, apres-ski-friendly, trainer-esque boots and us skiers get hard, heavy lumps of plastic with buckles? “Ski boots rarely fi t straight out of the box, Amie” Sebastian Rouget of Caribou Sports in Morzine tells me. “But we absolutely do not need to reinvent the wheel!”
Sebastian’s father Michel opened the very first ski rental shop in Morzine. For more than 60 years the family have been renting skis and boots for a variety of ability levels and budgets. But when it comes to custom ski boot fi tting, Michel is the famous one.
It’s fair to say that the design of ski boots makes it impossible to judge whether they fi t you correctly – or not. Adjustment, fi ne tuning, shaping and stretching is often required on the actual boot, before you even get started on your custom insole. At Caribou Sports Michel, Sebastian and their team use the much-coveted but rare Fischer ski boot fi tting method, which allows the plastic hull to be moulded to your feet. “Fischer are by far the experts in this fi eld,” Sebastian explains. “Our machine is one of only six in France.” Can it be true that investing in a personalised fi t for your ski boots will improve your comfort and performance on the slopes?
3.7 million pairs of ski boots were sold globally during the 2018/2019 winter season, packed inside were identical (usually black) foam insoles; standard, pre-moulded foot beds for the average foot. But there is no average foot. If we consider the ways in which two pairs of feet may vary – in length, width, arch height to name just a few, it seems crazy to imagine that these stock insoles might ever suit your feet – or anyone elses for that matter. Welcome to the world of custom insoles.
Here’s the science bit. Custom insoles better support your feet in your ski boots. A better supported foot suffers less from fatigue as you spend your days smashing fresh powder in Avoriaz or piste bashing on Pleney. Custom insoles also stabilise your foot, reducing movement inside your boot along with pressure points and those painful rubbing, burning sensations. We’ve all been there – it’s around the same time that you cancel your apres-ski plans and hobble back to your chalet in agony.
Custom insoles exist for two reasons. They’ll make your feet more comfortable, certainly. But they’ll also make you a better skier by identifying your natural weight distribution in ski stance and improving your alignment. Before you know it, those carved turns on progressive reds will become dreamy. Your performance will improve significantly and you’ll be smiling all day long.
At Caribou Sports, Michel, Sebastian and their team are experts in the SIDAS custom sole moulding system. Here’s where they thrash out the biomechanical complexities. You’ll stand on two silicone pillows to make an imprint of your feet. Warmed insoles will then be placed into the moulds created by your feet and shaped to precision. Once installed into your ski boot, usually with a stabiliser to keep it in position, you’ll discover improved pressure distribution across the base of your foot.
I wonder how Michel, the most renowned ski boot fi tter in our region, feels about the future of ski boots. He began his career as a ski man having acquired a bunch of skis from soldiers returning from the Algerian War when it ended in 1962. He restored them, replaced the edges and began renting them to tourists. He was a pioneer then, but now? “I am certain, skiing in boots correctly moulded to your feet, will change your skiing. And your holiday,” he believes. “Many times I have corrected the boots of skiers in terrible pain. They fall in love with the sport that we love, all over again.”
You’ll find the famous Michel, Sebastian and their team at Caribou Sports on the route de la Combe a Zorre in Morzine, or at their second shop, ABC Sport on the route de la Plagne, near to the Super Morzine lift station.