[Editor Note: Steve Cohen, CEO and co-founder of Masterfit Enterprises, oversees the Masterfit University Training Centers, the America’s Best Bootfitters organization of top ski bootfitting shops, and Masterfit’s insole and bootfitting products lines. He created the annual national on-hill boot testing program in 1988 while serving as executive editor of Ski Magazine. He is a senior contributor and co-authors all the boot content for Ski and Skiing magazines and their websites, and for the America’s Best Bootfitters website (www.bootfitters.com).]

Steve Cohen, CEO, MasterFit

Experienced skiers advise that ski boots rank most important. Why is that?

Boots are both the suspension and steering link between the body and the ski. If your boots don’t fit comfortably and efficiently transmit power between foot and ski, you’ll never ski to the best of your ability.

What’s more important for comfort and performance: boot liners or boot insoles?

Both are important. But the liners that come with most quality ski boots are pretty good and bootfitters are great at making comfort and fit modifications to them.

The insole is a critical fit, stance and performance component. But the dirty little secret of the ski boot world is that the insoles that come in most ski boots, even the most expensive ones, aren’t very durable or supportive. In fact, boot companies expect skiers to upgrade their insoles so they see it as a place to shave cost.

Think of your boot insole as the foundation for the entire boot. If you aren’t standing on a stable, well-balanced platform, all the joints above that are so crucial to executing a ski turn—ankles, knees and hips—will be out of kilter. That can lead to pain and make it difficult to execute turns.

Explain the importance of Masterfit University and seeking out a shop with an “America’s Best Bootfitter” designation when getting boots fitted.

Would you rather go to an auto mechanic with professional training or one who figured stuff out by trial and error? Masterfit University is where ski retailers send their personnel to be trained in the science and art of bootfitting by the world’s elite bootfitters.

The shops that earn the America’s Best Bootfitters mark of distinction are the best of the best. They have elite skills, knowledge and a complement of specialized tools to provide the best in boot sales and service.

Do you recommend custom insoles for ski boots, or are off-the-shelf models sufficient?

Depends on how often you ski and your aspirations. What we call drop-ins or cut-to-fit models definitely provide better fit, stability and comfort than stock insoles. They’re great for skiers on a budget and those who ski infrequently or at a casual pace. But if you have a complex foot problem, stance issue, ski frequently, or aspire to ski at an advanced level, custom insoles should be inside your boots.

How frequently should skiers replace their boots?

That’s a function of how often they ski. Full-time instructors and others who ski daily will replace their boots every year or two.

For recreational skiers, figure 150-175 days of use or 7-8 years. Whichever comes first. The boot’s shell is subject to incredible stresses in every turn. The plastic eventually loses resiliency and strength and can even crack or explode. The padding in the liner also compacts and loses its resiliency. Components like buckles start breaking. I like to have a transition season where I phase out a boot and break in a new one.

If you frequently walk on hard surfaces with boots, all the guidelines above can be tossed out. Once your soles start wearing thin or losing their shape, it can affect how your binding releases. That’s serious stuff. Your binding may not hold you in when it should or it might not release when it should. Both are dangerous situations. Your boot/binding interface should be inspected and tested periodically by a certified shop.

What should older skiers be looking for when they’re shopping for a pair of boots?

A good bootfitter to guide them. Older feet have more problems and need someone with experience and skills to help in the selection and make modifications and accommodations. Older skiers might also want to consider a softer boot than they used in the past as well as one designed for easy entry/exit and easy to close and open buckles.

Masterfit organizes the annual event where the coming season’s boots are evaluated. The results appear in Ski, Skiing, and at the America’s Best Bootfitters website and inform ski shop sales personnel around the country. How is this information relevant for older skiers?

We have a lot of exceptionally-experienced skiers who are 50+ testing boots for us. Their experiences and feedback gives older skiers a reference point from which to start a boot search.


One Comment

  1. What, no mention of Steve’s early days wrapping Christmas gifts? Who is this guy Steve Cohen? Love, peace and happiness to my old friend.

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