Quick update on my development of a procedure for stretching my own ski boot shells:

I have tested a boot stretching tool prototype. The tool worked on one of my test boots, although imperfectly. The tool itself needs some refinement to deliver the quality stretch I require for work on my “good” boots. I do, however, believe execution of my procedure was mostly successful and repeatable. The only problem with execution was that I didn’t quite stretch the shell enough.

I will follow-up with details about my simple boot stretching tool when I get closer to a final product.


Shell Modifications for Dummies

Contrary to what some ski boot fitters will tell you, the skills and tools necessary to modify ski boot shells are not scarce and you do not need a doctorate degree in engineering or material science to modify a ski boot shell. I have proven to myself that anyone can do it with a fairly rudimentary set of skills and tools.

To get started modifying ski boot shells, here’s all you need:

  1. A heat gun ($20–$25) (The concentrator nozzle accessory, which is sold separately, might also be helpful)
  2. An infrared thermometer ($25–$40)
  3. A plank of wood (1″ x 6″ x 8′ common board) ($5)
  4. Tools to modify said wood into roughly the dimensions of your foot, or into the shape of a “punch” for modifying specific spots
    • Hand saw ($10–$20)
    • Mitre box (with mitre saw) ($20–$30)
    • Dremel tool (basic model) ($35–$75) (Optional, but extremely helpful if you’re intent on creating a blank of your foot’s dimensions)
  5. Leather work gloves
  6. Heavy duty aluminum foil (optional, but seems like a good idea)
  7. A pair of very cheap ski boots to practice with (I found pairs for $10 at a Savers Thrift Store)

Here are the steps I used to modify my first ski boot shell:

  1. Create a wooden blank of your foot, or a wooden “punch”, or any other shape that can be jammed into the shell to stretch it for your needs, or just to prove that a stretch of any kind is possible
  2. Heat up the shell with the heat gun
  3. Frequently check the temperature of the plastic using your infrared thermometer
  4. When the temperature of the shell area you’re stretching reaches the appropriate temperature, jam the wood into the boot’s toe box to stretch the shell’s width. Make sure you’re wearing your leather gloves so you don’t get burned. (This step takes quite a bit of force. If it is too hard and your block won’t go any further, but needs to, the shell is probably not warm enough, yet.)
  5. Leave the block in the boot and let the shell cool to the ambient temperature (use snow, water, ice packs, wet paper towels, etc. to quicken the process)
  6. Remove the wood and admire your work

Here are some additional considerations:

  1. Line critical parts of the boot you don’t want to stretch that are near the areas you are heating with aluminum foil
  2. Shell temperature: 250° seemed too low. 400° seemed too hot, but didn’t cause any problems other than making the plastic change color and appear “burned”. (Important note: This temperature consideration applies only to the boots I practiced on, which may be made of different plastic than yours. I have no idea what type of plastic my test boots are made of.)
  3. Be very careful with the heat gun. It is not a hair dryer, even though it looks and sounds like one. Be cognizant of items and surfaces that are near the heat gun’s output.
  4. The shell stays warm longer than I expected. No need to frantically shift from heating to stretching.
  5. The stretch will not hold if you remove the stretching implement (in this case, a block of wood) before the plastic has cooled

I have only attempted a shell modification once, so far. The method I describe above is merely a rudimentary “proof of concept” test. Do not just jam a block of wood into your boots and expect that the result will be acceptable for skiing. I am working on refining my methods to work for my needs. I will be sure to post updates regarding my refinements and future attempts to share with you what I have learned about the process.

Ski boot shell stretch test result
Ski boot shell stretch test result

Disclaimer: Do not try these methods on your current ski boots, or expensive new ski boots. I suggest practicing stretching ski boot shells with used boots you are able to obtain for very little expense. Also, professional boot fitters often know what they are doing, and they know how not to ruin a ski boot when stretching shells. Until you are confident in your methods, consider visiting a professional for your shell stretch needs. If you’re consistently frustrated by bootfitters’ inattentiveness to your needs (like me), however, you might want to consider figuring out how to stretch your own ski boot shells!


It Has Been Awhile

I haven’t posted here in a long time. Part of the reason I haven’t posted is that, quite frankly, I gave up skiing last season. I didn’t ski at all last season for a few reasons. Although the poor fit of my ski boots wasn’t a main reason for me quitting skiing, it certainly didn’t help convince me otherwise.

But, I wanted to get back into posting here about ski boot fitting because I’m back to skiing and I’m back to trying to actively solve my ski boot fitting issues. This time, however, I’m planning to solve the issues on my own. More to come…


Boot Fitter 2 Lange RX 110

The Liner Is the Key?

If I can put my foot into the ski boot shell and the shell does not crush my foot, then there must be a way to make the ski boot work. A successful fit must then depend on the liner that fills in the space around my foot. In my case, the liner needs to be wide enough so itself does not cause pain, and it needs a relatively small amount of material to fill in the space around the width of my forefoot.

I have spent most of my time and energy thinking about how to get the shell modified to the appropriate size to accommodate my foot. Perhaps I need to spend more time instead thinking about how to make the liner work. The thing that makes me skeptical, however, is that inserting the extremely thin Tecnica Agent liner into these Lange RX 110s did not improve the comfort.

Oh, well. I had a glimmer of hope that these high-quality, but yet unused boots would work for me at some point. But probably not.

Boot Fitter 1 Salomon X-Wave 10 Ski Days

Skiing, Finally

After not skiing for two months for various reasons, I finally made it out to the mountain this weekend. Although I’m horribly out of shape, it was fun to show my cousin around the mountain for the first time. The conditions were not great, but it was just good to be outside in the sun.

My Salomon X-Wave boots behaved, too. Boot Fitter 1’s latest adjustments seemed to make no difference–it was just one of those days when my boots and my feet cooperated. The new Booster strap is an improvement, but it didn’t seem to reduce “shin bang” so much as it advertises.

Finally, I just have to report that it was very odd to see snowmaking at Snowbird in February.

Boot Fitter 1 Salomon X-Wave 10

Latest Bootfitting Results

I dropped off my boot for the umpteenth time at Boot Fitter 1 just before Christmas. I got back into town on Saturday night (New Year’s Eve), so today I went to go pick up the results of their latest work. They did a lot of work, but they definitely didn’t do what I had asked them to do, which was much simpler. I’m not sure if it’s that I don’t communicate properly, or if it’s that they won’t listen, but they just don’t ever do what I ask them to do. It’s mind boggling.

They added all this space in the very forward part of the toe box, but they didn’t stretch the spot near my pinky toe that causes the problems! It’s still not wide enough. I don’t know how many times I can point out the exact spot on the boot that I want stretched,  have them, presumably, not listen to a word I say, and then do something completely different! I am so sick of this bootfitting shit!

So, now my options are to go back and ask them, again, to punch that spot, or I can just quit skiing. I’m seriously considering the latter. I’m just so sick of this shit.

Boot Fitter 1 Salomon X-Wave 10 Tecnica Agent 120

Good and Bad

I stopped at Boot Fitter 1 to pick up my Salomon X-Waves tonight. I had stopped there last week to have them punch the spot on my right boot near my little toe that causes problems. I tried the boot on for a second, but I didn’t say anything because I needed more time later to wear them and measure them anyway, and then moved on to my next order of business: my new Tecnica Agents.

They took a look at the Tecnica Agents, checked out the shell fit, and tallied up all the modifications I would need to make those boots work. If they did everything (which includes the boot balancing, a new orthotic, forward lean adjustment, and all the shell modifications), the total charge was going to be almost $900. The shell modifications themselves would cost about $400. Of course they tried to sell me new boots at full retail, which, of course, doesn’t include the the cost of new orthotics (the ones I bought from them five years ago are “worn,” he said) or the cost of the necessary shell stretches. I ignored their sales pitch at this time, but I did agree to buy a Booster strap to replace the worthless Velcro straps on my X-Waves.

So, the “good” was that I developed a good rapport with these guys today. They charge way too much for their services, but I do appreciate that they take the time to think about what they are doing before just doing things. One of them is also a good listener, which is something that is very important to me.

The “bad” came later. I got the boots home and proceeded to take my typical measurements. Unfortunately, their stretch (if you could even call it that, because it was very minimal) was simply not in the right spot. It was too far back. It could be my fault for not identifying the right spot, but I was pretty clear when I pointed out the spot on the shell I wanted stretched. Long story short, they didn’t stretch the spot I need stretched at all, and it still causes problems.

So, I will be returning, yet again, to the shop to ask for another stretch. I’m trying to get over my typical feelings of embarrassment about returning. I have to get past those feelings so that I can get this damn boot taken care of once and for all. After five years, it’s about time, dammit.

(If there is an “ugly” to this latest situation, it’s that I’m fairly certain that they will charge me for this next stretch, even though it’s at least 50% their fault that they didn’t punch the right spot. The saga continues…)

Boot Fitter 1 Salomon X-Wave 10

Back to the Boot Shop

My goal right now is to get a more workable solution for this season, which basically means that I need a small adjustment to my Salomon X-Wave boots that I have needed for the last five years. So, I went back to Boot Fitter 1 to ask for a punch.

My initial reaction upon seeing their faces for the first time in a long time is that I just cannot stand those guys! I appreciate that they are the only ones so far to even come close to providing me with a workable ski boot, but they charge too much, they charge for every little adjustment they do, their fake perma-smiles piss me off, and they, too, treat me like I’m a fucking idiot.

I know exactly where I need my right boot stretched, so I brought in my shell only and told him where I needed the stretch. He projected a condescending attitude in asking where my liner was and that he wants to make sure what spot needs the work, etc. I told him I know exactly where I need the shell stretched, but that I would go grab the liner. Despite all his talk about checking things, he didn’t even put my foot in the shell. All he used the liner for was marking the spot I wanted punched.

I just cannot communicate well with these bootfitters I totally rely on for their work. I just want to be demanding and forceful about what I want and what I need because, contrary to their belief, I know exactly what I need. I just do not allow myself to act demanding and forceful with them because, I guess I feel that I risk their willingness to do good work for me.

Hopefully this punch will solve the problem. I should have had him slide the liner in the boot to double-check the location of the mark he made to make sure that it is lined up with the right spot, but I just don’t stop and think when I’m in that environment and I act too nice and compliant.

Anyway, I hope it gets fixed correctly, but the bottom line is that I really need to be able to just do this custom shell work myself.

Salomon X-Wave 10

My Old Boots

My old Salomon X-Wave boots, which I have been trying to replace for almost a year now, are still the winners. I took my newest pair of custom fitted ski boots (the Lange RX 110s) out to test them today, but as soon as I slipped them on I knew they would cause problems. I just wasn’t in the mood to sacrifice such a nice day to a bunch of painful boot test runs, so I put them back in the car and instead put on my old Salomons.

(I did have the Tecnica Agent liners in the Salomon boots again this time. Those Tecnica Agent liners are longer, wider, thinner and more forgiving than the original Salomon liner. Those Salomon liners, as I had presumed, did contribute to my problems with those boots.)

The left boot is basically perfect. The right one is very close to being appropriate. I’m fairly certain after paying attention to my right boot very intently today, that it only needs a punch near my little toe to fix the pain it causes. It’s kind of ironic/frustrating/annoying that a) the liners caused so much of the pain associated with my Salomon X-Wave boots; and b) I was ostensibly only one small shell punch from pain-free skiing for 5+ years!

(We’ll see if the fix for that right boot is as easy as I presume…)


I Need to Do This Myself

I need to acquire the tools and the skills necessary to customize my own ski boot shells. I expect that I’m going to continue having problems getting boot fitters to do the work that I need done. I’ve discussed my ski boots with and/or or had work done by no less than six boot fitters since February 2011. I still don’t have a new boot to replace my Salomon X-Waves.

So, I have taken the very first step to make this endeavor a reality, which is to say that I inquired about pricing on a tool used for stretching ski boots. I think I will need this tool, a heat gun, some boots to practice on, and probably not much else. We shall see…

Update: Nevermind. That boot stretching tool costs $675.

Boot Fitter 2 Lange RX 110 Salomon X-Wave 10

Another New Pair of Ski Boots

Thanks to my complaint letter, the boot fitter in question offered to make me a new ski boot. With little choice (I had requested a refund, but they denied that request), I went in for a fitting today.

After five hours, I walked out with another boot that doesn’t fit properly.

I literally spent five hours telling them that the boot still wasn’t wide enough. Like always, boot fitters are in the business of eliminating symptoms without even pausing to investigate the underlying problem. I even busted out some of the tools I use for measurement. They mostly mocked me for showing them those tools. The results of one of those measurements clearly showed that the shells weren’t wide enough in several areas, but they mostly ignored those findings. Instead, he went to the back, ground out more shell material, which adds only fractions of a millimeter worth of width, brought them back out, and asked me how they felt.

My response, every time: “Not wide enough.” The boots were causing tremendous pain.

I’m not just imagining things, like they tend to believe. Eventually, he finally tried some more stretches. Those stretches, however, never really added much width. Instead, the stretch work sometimes actually shrank other sections! The outside of my new boots look mangled, and I’m pretty sure he burned one spot. There is so little shell material left from all his grinds that he might actually ruin these boots completely when I go back to ask for more width.

And you have to see the liner! One of their boot fitting process competitive advantages is a full custom liner that they pump with foam to conform perfectly to your foot. They sanded off all the foam around the edges of my foot (in an attempt to alleviate the symptoms and make me go away). They also cut the bottom of the liner to give it room to spread. That cut may help, but regarding the sanding down of the foam… just make the shell wider and you wouldn’t have needed to take that drastic step in the first place! Instead, the foam would have filled in the small bit of excess room in the shell, like it is supposed to do.

I just can’t believe that this process is this difficult. My foot is right there. The boot shell is right there. The answers are all right there. I have a little instrument I use to measure the width of the inside of the shell–it’s just the barrel of a Bic Round Stic pen that I cut down to the exact width of my foot. All I have to do is put it in the shell and I can tell exactly where the shell needs more width. I hope that when I go back, I will be able to tell them exactly what to do, and that it will work once and for all.

With all of that said, I will ski these boots at least once just to see how they feel. I know they will feel like shit, but they like to hear that I actually skied in them. I know ski boots feel different when you’re skiing in them, but if I can’t even stand to have them on for more than about 15 minutes just standing around with them on my feet, I don’t understand how any amount of skiing will make the problems disappear. Of course, the liners will stretch and/or pack-out a bit, but the pain I am experiencing is not just tightness. It is a painful, crushing sensation that literally does not abate for hours after I take the boots off, and it is most certainly caused by the shell not being wide enough.)

Coming up next: a trip to boot fitter 3 to explain to him that those shells also are not wide enough.

Some good news: My Salomon X-Wave boots with the Tecnica Agent liners seems to be a good combination. The Agent liners seem to be thinner and more flexible than the X-Wave liners, so my X-Wave boots (and their mostly appropriate shell widths) seem to fit better because the liner causes less of a problem.

Boot Fitter 3 Salomon X-Wave 10 Tecnica Agent 120

So, About My Tecnica Agents…


I skied two runs in my new Tecnica Agent boots, and that was 1.5 too many. They are simply not wide enough. What is so fucking difficult about making a boot wide enough for my fucking foot?! It was obvious to me when I got them home and measured them myself that the shells still weren’t wide enough, but like I said then, “I cling to hope.” With that said, it shouldn’t be this fucking difficult to stretch a boot so that it’s wide enough for my foot. It’s simple: something that is 100 mm wide will not fit into something that is only 98 mm wide.

This latest boot fitter mentioned that I would hate the liner. The liner had very little to do with the problems these boots caused me today, which is just the first day of the ski season. I know that the liner had nothing to do with the problems these boots caused because I skied with those liners in my old boots, and my old boots actually fit better, which basically means that the liners from my new boots are pretty thin.

Is there any boot fitter out there who will pay close enough attention to what the fuck he is doing to just goddamn check that the shell is wide enough for my fucking foot. Please? I understand that he didn’t want to do any more work to the boots without me skiing in them first, and I recognize that his work to stretch the shells so far is of much higher quality than other boot fitters, but give me a break. I am so sick of this fucking shit.