Happy 4th! I'm planning to get a new pair of boots this summer and need some input from y'all. I understand that there is now technology to make boots that conform to your feet for a "perfect fit." I went to a ski shop and the sales guy told me there are two approaches: one in which your foot is put in a mold while it is "baked" for a half hour to mold to your foot, and the other a system whereby over time the inner lining continually molds itself to your foot with use until it reaches some "optimal" point.
I have several questions, for those of you in the know:
1) Do these custom fitting systems work in the real world?
2) Is either of them preferable?
3) Has any manufacturer "perfected" this technology more than others, and is the one to seek out?
4) Has anyone had any experiences that have been less than what the technology promises?
The sales guy was talking about technologies I have never heard of. Not that they don't exist, but I'm a guy with a lot of shop experience and like to talk about equipment on the lifts and in the lodges. My current books are Lange Gold's with the thermofit inner boot. Basically, you heat the inner boot with a hair-dryer or some similar kind of dryer and then put it in the boot and on your foot. A half hour seems like it might be too long, but there's a recommended period to let it set while you keep the foot still. After that, you can repeat the process for whatever reason you want. If your foot shape changes due to an injury or you aren't satisfied with the way you did it, the material can be worked again. I have a nice comfortable fit. My previous inner boot had packed out to the point where I couldn't wear a thin sock. If this boot packs out, one can refit it. There is another system which has been around a long time called foam. It's expensive and requires a skilled tech-type to fit. Dynafit used it for their race boots. Essentially the tech injects foam through tubes into the boot bladder and it hardens. Once the inner boot sets, you can't refit it. If you fit your boots in the summer, they won't conform to the shape of your foot in the winter. Your feet swell in the summer and shrink in the winter.
Strolz is probably the number 1 fully custom boot you can get. The liner as well as the outer boot can be designed for whatever you want them to do. I know of one shop up around Plymouth, NH, and closer to the Boston area, just over in Worcester is Strands.
Do not drink Pepsi, do not eat M&M's, because they are the tools of Babylon.
I have a very hard to fit foot: Very wide toe area (EEEE), narrow heel, very high instep and very high arch. I either had to wear boots that were far to large, or pay to have the shell melted so that my feet could fit. Even then they still hurt.
About 8 years ago, I read about a mail order custom boot fitter in Salt Lake City. His name is Mel Daboot and the company is DaleBoot, www.dalebootusa.com. He claimes to have invented the heat fit process (his patents have recently expired so other boots now use the heat fit technology) He claimed to be able to fit any foot, and had some grusome pictures to prove it.
I was faxed a kit. I had to measure my feet and legs in certain places and provide him with a tracing of each foot. I sent them back with a credit card number for $500. About 2 weeks later a new set of boots arrived. I had to custom fit the boots via the hair dryer method and lo & behold, they fit!
I've re-heated them every other year since then. The liners are basically skied out but I'll replace them over the summer.
They aren't perfect, but they are better than any boots that I've had on my feet.
The problems are:
The liners expand with usage. I've found that over the course of a week, I would progressively put on slightly thicker socks to compensate.
Some of the first set of buckles shattered on one of those -20° days at MRG. He sent me new ones. They haven't had the same problem.
I was warned that the liners get permantly skied out. They do, but 8 years is a good run.
I would prefer 4 buckles to 3.
The web site says a new pair now go for $575 - $600.
I can vouch for the system that Strolz uses for their boots works well, but is very expensive but worth it for hard to fit feet or people with foot problems. Strolz has two different widths of shell in two stiffnesses and a custom leather inner boot that is foamed to your foot. The result is a boot that is comfortable, warm and supports your feet. The results have a 'lifetime' warranty from the shop where I got mine.
The one down side to Strolz boots, is I don't get that end of the day 'elation' from taking my feet out of the boots.