The First Ski Boots That Fit

March 07, 2018

With the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games dominating prime time, the equipment contending athletes use is foremost in the picture.


Ester Ledecka, the world champion snowboarder from the Czech Republic, delivered one of the biggest upsets in Winter Olympics history, winning the women’s super-G. Her career best run was on a pair of borrowed skis from American star Mikaela Shiffrin. The Guardian reported that the “look of confusion that washed across the 22-year-old Czech’s face as she looked up at her winning time will endure as one of these Olympics’ most memorable images.”


Ledecka snatched the gold medal coming out of 26th position.


The idea of a career athlete being able to use unfamiliar equipment to win the gold is unheard of. But us regular folks do it all the time.


Think rented ski boots. Rented skis.


One thing the Olympics teaches us is that skiing is a precision sport. When hitting the slopes in Vail or Copper Mountain, it’s not unusual for skiers to rent equipment. Even those regular ski enthusiasts who have purchased their own equipment aren’t skiing with the acutely fashioned boots an Olympian uses to compete.


That’s where orthotics come in. Today’s skier can get custom-made orthotics to wear in ski boots or dress shoes. They don’t even have to leave home to get precision orthotics. All they need to do is visit to order an impression kit to take impressions of their feet right in the privacy of their own home. Return the impressions in a pre-paid postage box and within a week, custom orthotics are delivered in the mail.


It’s a convenience busy athletes appreciate. Moreover it’s a wholesale change in ski boot fitting.


It was 1971 when DaleBoot achieved the first U.S. patent (number 3,581,412) for its two-part non-expanding urethane elastomer and gas expanding urethane foam lined ski boots.


It’s hard to believe it is only 47 years ago that skiers buying boots off the shelf relied mostly on thick socks to achieve a semi-comfortable boot fit, proving that pain does inspire innovation.


The first ever ski boot was made by Heierling boot company. Franz Heierling opened his cobbler shop in 1883 in Davos-Dorf, a small mountain village in the Rhaetian Alps that was gaining in popularity as a destination health resort for the well-heeled. Norwegians introduced the first skis to Davos-Dorf and Heierling tried his hand at crafting the first ski boots in 1892. He earned the reputation of being the expert crafting double stitched boots for international world-famous ski racers and jumpers in the 1930s and in 1972 the four-generation company introduced the Hot Shot, the first custom made ski boot with a foam liner.


The sport of skiing as we know it today evolved over centuries. Norwegians and Swedish infantries used downhill ski target practice as a military exercise as early as 1767. Primitive Scandinavian carvings dating back to 4000 BC depict skiers with one pole. Norse mythology tells of the god Ullr and the goddess Skaoi hunting on skis.


There’s nothing like a pair of perfectly fitted ski boots to improve a skier’s capabilities overnight. Author Michael Miracle wrote in the Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine in 2012 that the Ertl/Renz boot-fitting system named for five-time Olympic ski racer Martina Ertl and her husband was his miracle. He’d tried cants, shims and other DIY fixers in his boots over his skiing career but nothing was a match for the Ertl/Renz.


Miracle tried the 12-step fitting process out himself and learned that his feet were not identical but millimeters different. The measurements are sent to Munich were master podiatrists use wood and composite materials to create reproductions of his feed and lower legs that are then use to make foam-injected liners. Custom insoles were also made using a pressure scan taken while Miracle stood on a platform. The balance of the equation achieving the ideal boot fit is dependent upon Miracle’s answers to his skiing ability and aspirations.


A pair of Ertl/Renzes ranges from $1,450 up to $2,750 meaning that it’s not the boot an occasional skier would likely invest in.


Forbes writer Larry Olmsted put the full court press on the importance of boot fit in his articles on ski boots over the years. Proper fitting boots deliver comfort, are warmer and make one a better skier. Those three benefits deliver yet another: less fatigue. When your boots and equipment fit, it takes less energy to ski the mountain.

Using the custom orthotics by FootDoctors Orthotics, it’s a sure bet that ski boots and other sports shoes will help the athlete in your perform better.