Through the recent era of twin tips, rockers, and supersized skis, ski boots have undergone few, if any, game-changing innovations. One of the only boot developments to really change a skier’s experience is the custom-moldable boot liner. For the low-down on what a custom liner can do, I asked the ski boot fitting team at Neptune Mountaineering, a store in Boulder, Colorado where 400 skiers a year get customized liners and adrenaline freaks of all sorts fuel their outdoor addiction.
Neptune's is the kind of store where you might be fitting your ski boots next to someone getting ready to ski a 8000-meter peak or a former Olympian. Neptune staff Shala Sommerville, Matt Fetbrod and Winston Voigt contributed to these words of wisdom:
1. What does a custom moldable boot liner do for my skiing?
Custom moldable liners are molded perfectly to the shape of your feet and also to the interior of the ski boots, offering precise transfer of energy and power from the boots to the skis. The better-fitting liners allow for more sensitivity underfoot by offering an exact fit and eliminating excess movement. Custom liners can be molded with a roomy toe box for comfort but a snug fit throughout the rest of the boot to maintain performance.
2. What does a custom moldable boot liner do for keeping my feet warm?
Custom liners have more insulation than regular stock liners. In addition, liners can be molded to maintain good circulation in your feet, which also contributes to overall warmth.
3. What custom molded liners do you recommend?
Typically, moldable liners in new boots are all high quality regardless of manufacturer. The liners are warm, they mold well, and offer good fit and performance. To replace an old liner in a still functional shell, we recommend the after market Intuition brand liners. Intuition liners are made with high quality closed cell foam while many other liners are made with open cell foam or cheaper closed cell foam. Closed cell foam is incredibly insulative - it prevents the transfer of cold air into the liner and maintains heat inside the boot. Intuition liners are durable, dry quickly, and can last longer than stock moldable liners. Because of the high quality of the foam and the uniform cell structure of Intuition liners, they are also more malleable and easier to work with after the initial mold.
4. Am I going to get enough advantage out of a custom liner to make it worth the time and cost?
Whether or not a customer would benefit from a custom liner depends on a few key issues; weight, warmth and fit. If warmth is not an issue and the added weight of a stock liner is not bothersome, it is not a problem to use a stock liner. However, custom liners are warmer, much lighter, and offer a better fit. Stock liners often feel good initially but can pack out and be very difficult to modify (like in the middle of your heliski vacation) while custom liners offer a precise fit that can be longer lasting.
5. What kind of feedback to you get from skiers for whom you have customized ski boots?
Most skiers find custom liners to be exceptionally comfortable. If people have only used stock liners in the past, they often find boots with moldable liners to be the most comfortable boots they have ever owned.
6. Can I just buy the liners and mold them myself?
When most people think about custom liners, they usually think about heating up the liners and putting them on their feet. There's actually quite a bit more involved with getting a comfortable fit.
7. So what things do you consider when fitting a boot?
We take into account foot shape and overall size, and can modify our molding technique as needed. After the initial mold, we sometimes alter the shell and liner to improve fit and stability. Bootfitting can be an ongoing process, and we often make adjustments after the initial mold to get the ideal fit for a customer. One of the comments we hear most often is that people had no idea that there were so many adjustments that could drastically change the fit of a boot. Sometimes the smallest adjustment can make the difference between boots that are comfortable all day, every day, and boots that are exceptionally painful.
7. I'm sold. Anything else?
In addition, a properly supported foot offers a clean interface between the boot and the ski, with no dead space around the foot. This leads to a more efficient transfer of energy to the ski and increased sensitivity to your ski's performance.
You ski better when you're comfortable. For more on the perfect fit, check out this post on fitting ski boots with Surefoot Custom Boots.