Sore Feet is Miserable Skiing

I started telemark skiing in 1994 and can clearly remember the early rudimentary gear. Things have changed dramatically since then, but there’s one piece of advice that remains true…

In his exceptional book “Free Heel Skiing” Paul Parker advises spending as much as you can afford on telemark boots - “sore feet is miserable skiing”. I learnt that lesson early when I bought my first pair of tele boots - ankle high leather lace ups and not only did they allow little control but my feet froze and toes bruised. Three weeks later I bought some cutting edge plastic Scarpa T1’s. At the time they were the most expensive boot on the market, I never regretted one penny of it. Not only did they vastly improve my ability and therefore enjoyment but they lasted 8 seasons! I buried them in 2012.

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Make the Right Choice - Some Tele Tracks Buying Advice

Nicko and I have huge experience working daily since 2003 in both Alpine and Tele Boots, but I’ve still made some bad boot choices, each error lasts at least a season so you’ve got to get it right. Below is a list of fool proof advice to help you make the right tele kit choice.

10 Top Tips for Buying the Right Telemark Boots

  1. Buy from the Specialists - Buy your tele boots from a shop with a good range, allowing you to try as many brands and models as possible.
  2. Match the Shell to Your Foot - Try to match the shell shape to your foot shape. It is essential to work out what foot shape you have in length, width and volume. A good boot fitter should be checking this for you and recommending a boot with a shell shape (last) that matches the characteristics of your foot.
  3. Surgery isn’t Always the Answer - Don’t always see ‘surgery’ (i.e. boot stretching or cutting) as the answer to a sore point. For some, ‘surgery’ is essential whatever the boot model but primarily you need to buy the boot with the last that best fits your foot. Never buy a boot with the intention of making it fit your foot. Ski and Telemark boots are, however, unforgiving beasts and once you have the correct boot to fit your foot shape some stretching, grinding or cutting is often required to achieve the best possible fit.
  4. You Can’t Stretch Length You can’t stretch the length of a Telemark ski boot! So if the shell seems too short for your foot - you need another size or brand. This is because, unlike an alpine boot, the vice that stretches the boot once it’s been heated will only expand the bellows. As soon as the vice is removed the bellows will spring back to their normal length. It is possible to create more length by grinding the interior of the boot but this is limited by the depth of the plastic and will only have a marginal effect.
  5. Tight in the Shop is Good. The boot should be tight on the first or second clip of each buckle in the shop. Why? Because it’s probably 20 °c in the shop and -10 °c on the hill, therefore your foot will have less blood in it while skiing and therefore it’ll be smaller - so you’ll need room to tighten. Secondly every shell is like a leather shoe, it will expand, maybe only 3-4% over time but once you’ve worn the boot in you’ll need to tighten more.
  6. Beware of the Flex. Bear in mind that inside the shop the boot will flex more easily than when on the hill due to the temperature difference. Also, a new boot will be stiff in the bellows as well as at the ankle, both of these joints in the boot will need breaking-in. Flex that leg. Let everyone in the shop know you’re a telemark skier, get that knee to the floor and notice the difference in the toe flexion, it’s quite surprising the different feel between Scarpa and Crispi for example.
  7. Forward - Backward Movement. Does your foot move forward and backwards in the boot when you walk or flex? This is a major cause of the telemark skiers’ ‘Black Toe Nail’, it means either the shell is too long or too wide. Are your toe nails squashed when you flex? Avoid that model if so, as this will also cause toe nail bruising.
  8. The importance of a Good Footbed - a good footbed can make all the difference, Snowberry - Voted ‘Best Ski Hire Shop in Europe’ by the Telegraph, noticed a 90% reduction in boot returns when they put Superfeet insoles into their hire boots. For example; a footbed can create more room and width in the toe box by lifting the heel slightly, which brings the foot back in the boot. If you suffer from sore ankles while skiing, then a footbed is essential as it helps stabilise the foot in the boot and reduce arch collapse, which leads to the ankle bone rubbing on the inside of the boot.
  9. Footbeds don’t Necessarily Need to be Customised. Although customised footbeds are generally great, I’ve been using the Superfeet off-the-shelf footbed for a few years now and I rate them as good as any customised footbed that I’ve tried. They’re also cheaper.
  10. Canting can help your Technique - If you suffer from poor lower leg posture (bandy legs) then catching an edge can be a real problem. Boots with a canting facility can really help align the lower and upper legs making edge changes and lead changes much easier.
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Don’t forget the one golden nugget Spend as Much as you can Afford - because sore feet is miserable skiing!

Check the Tele Tracks kit reviews for some independent advice on a range of brands, if you’ve got any feedback or have any kit you’d like to review, give us a shout! We’d love to hear from you…

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