Comfortable Feet in Skates and Ski Boots

We're well into that time of year when we see a parade of ski boots and skates coming

We’re well into that time of year when we see a parade of ski boots and skates coming through the doors at SoleFit!  With the holiday season over and the Rideau canal and ski hills open, many people are dusting off their winter sports equipment.  Despite the obvious differences between skates and ski boots, these types of sport specific footwear actually have a lot in common: they are notorious for causing problems for anyone who doesn’t have an average foot (which is a lot of people!).  Because skates and ski boots do not have as many variations as, say, a running shoe, most people have issues achieving proper fit, comfort, and support. Read on to find out more about how you can improve your comfort on the ice, slopes, or trails.

Characteristics and problems:

  • Stiff and supportive ankle boot
  • Square toe box for some types ie: hockey skate, tapered for others ie: figure skate
  • Wider widths can be challenging to find
  • Flat bottom with little support or contour
  • Stiff boot can cause pressure points from toes to calf, especially when purchased brand new
  • Foot pain (especially arch pain)

What you can do:
Your first step should always be to visit a skate specialty shop for proper fitting advice and options for different types of skates.  We refer to a few places in town that have knowledgeable fitters, tools available for modifications, and a large inventory of different products and sizes.  Thankfully there are more options than there once was, with options such as recreation or leisure skates that are less aggressive and easier to break in for the new or recreational skater.  Wide or extra wide hockey skates can often be ordered, and custom heat molding can be done to relieve pressure or irritation hot spots.
Because the biomechanics of skating involves pushing heavily through the inside of the foot (arch) to propel forwards, arch pain and strain can be a big complaint. Generic arch supports or custom orthotics can stabilize the foot through the arch and work with the stiffness of the boot to provide support.  Most skates have removable footbeds that make fitting an insole quite easy.  This also greatly improves comfort, as the support changes the contour of the flat factory insole that comes with the skate.

Characteristics and problems:

  • Tight fitting
  • Numbness in the feet (especially toes)
  • Flat bottom with little contour
  • Extremely stiff boot (downhill)
  • Cold feet!

What you can do:
Similar to hockey skates, ski boots are stiff and generally flat on the inside.  Width can be a huge issue again, as well as finding the perfect balance between optimal boot length to secure the foot for control without making the fit too tight causing pain or discomfort.  The most important aspect of finding the right ski boot is to start with a visit to a knowledgable boot fitter.  Many ski hills and local specialty shops have very experienced fitters who can work with a client to achieve that perfect fit.  Heat molding, canting the ski, and other modifications can be easily made by the correct fitter.  As with skates, generic or custom insoles can further customize the fit of the boot by stabilizing and matching the contours of the foot to reduce unwanted or compensatory movement.  Battery operated boot heaters can even be incorporated into the orthotic and/or thermal top covers can be added to complete the experience.

As we advise with any new activity (especially those with long off seasons!) it’s best to start gradually and not jump into anything too quickly.  Give your body time to adapt to the conditions and movements you’re putting it through.  Focus on stretching and warming up properly, even for a casual day on the canal.  Consider getting a sports massage to go the extra mile in preparing your body for new activities.  If pain begins to limit you by carrying over into day to day life, interrupting regular activity, or alters your normal gait mechanics, it’s time to get it evaluated by professional. Simple preparation and injury prevention can mean the difference between you enjoying your day outside, and having to sit in the lodge drinking hot chocolate…though sometimes that doesn’t sound half bad!

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