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Recommended process for breaking in new downhill ski boots

I am recently getting back into skiing after a long layoff. I have gone out a few times with my new boots, but I am unable to ski for more than 15-20 minutes without my toes/foot going numb. I have tried to wear them around my house to prepare for this, but it does not seem to be going way. I do remember in the past having some frustration with breaking in new boots, but nothing to this level. Would you recommend giving it a few more weeks of breaking the boots in or do you think that I need to switch to a wider boot? Thanks!

5 Replies

Hi @sharjo02  - Sorry to hear that your new boots are making your feet scream pretty quickly into your ski day! 

There are lots of things that could be going on with your boots, and without knowing your foot or your boots, I'll discuss a couple of likely scenarios to see if we can troubleshoot your fit.

1) They are new boots and new boots take some time to break in. Typically, you will notice a break in process of about 7 full ski days before you start to notice that fresh and plump liner starting to mold to your foot. What can you do about it? You can give it some time, or you could call your local REI to see if they have a ski shop and if they have availability to heat mold your boots. Heat molding can speed up that break in process, and since you've skied in them, we would have great information for getting a heat mold that would accommodate all the hot spots you're feeling.

2) Your boots are new AND your socks are too thick. Because these are brand new boots, they are the tightest they are ever going to fit. When we put a thick sock in a tight boot, you tend to cut off blood flow and therefore lose circulation. I would recommend evaluating your socks, and taking a look at these Light and Ultralight Ski Socks . This can make a huge difference in the fit of your boots, and is many times the root cause of boot pain.

3) Your boots are too big or your heel is not locked down. It may sound counterintuitive, but if your boots are too big, your foot will sloppily slide in the boot and your toes will hit the front, making it seem like your boots are too small. Or if your heel is not locked down, the same thing will happen. What can you do about it? Insoles like Superfeet or Masterfit can often lock your heel down and keep you from sliding. Also, you should evaluate how you are buckling your boots. You want to start from the cuff/calf portion first. Get those buckles nice and comfortably tight and then work on your powerstrap. That will lock your heel in and give you the most room in the front of your boot. Then, you want to lightly buckle the straps over the top of your feet. You should only have to use about 1 finger worth of strength to buckle those buckles.

4) It is too tight on your calves or the top of your foot and your are preventing blood flow. For the top of your foot, see the buckling instructions above combined with a light or ultralight sock. This may make a big difference. If it is too tight on your calves, you can go a bit loser on the powerstrap and again, go for the light or ultralight sock. Your local ski shop could also see about putting some heel lifts in your boots to raise your heel/calf just slightly to avoid the wider parts of your calf.

5) Your boots need some adjusting. Fortunately, boots straight out of the box are just the beginning. As you can see, there is SO much we can do to a boot to help if fit you as best as it can. You can visit your local REI ski shop (again, call to check on the current process) to work with a bootfitter to make the needed adjustments and alterations to get your boots fitting better.

Hope this helps you have a more fun and comfortable time on your ski adventures!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

I have found a simple solution too if socks and boots are good. The dry guy boot covers work great for me and I naturally have colder feet even though my boots/socks are correct.  15-20 minutes is too quick to go cold though IMO.  I would check @REI-SarahS suggestions first because they are spot on.  Heated boots are also an option though these are quite expensive, they are very nice.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@sharjo02 I suggest doing a shell fit test with your new boots. There are a few videos on youtube describing the process, but the basic idea is that you take your liner out of your ski boot, stick your foot in the shell and slide your foot so that your toes are just barely touching the front of the boot. Bend your knee like you are skiing and see how much room you have behind your heel. If you have less than ~1/2" the shell is likely too small. Stand around for awhile and see if you have uncomfortable pressure on the sides of your foot. If you do you might need to have a bootfitter punch those areas to relieve the pressure. If your shell size is right and the liner is just uncomfortably tight when you are wearing a thin ski sock, you can have the liner heat molded to your foot. Also, how hard is it to close your buckles? If it takes a lot of effort esp. on the cuff buckles you might be able to move them to make it easier. 


I’m going with the too small reasoning. 

IMO, after the painful process of just getting your feet into them, they should feel great...

I vote take them back 

good luck 

REI Member Since 1979

@sharjo02 Are you saying that your feet are ok when you wear the boots around the house?

REI Member Since 1979