Ever wondered what goes on behind closed doors at the boot fitter? It’s not pretty, but nonetheless amusing in a perverse kind of way. A while back I figured out my correct fit was between shell sizes in the Dynafit Zzero. The 28, while I could make it work with shims and liner molding, is too large for me to get the kind of responsive fit I like (though it would be perfect for building a warm boot with lots of liner thickness, say for Denali or something). The 27/27.5 shell is nearly perfect, but slightly small in the toe area. Follow along as we make a few mods.
|First step is to mold the liners with chosen footbeds, then evaluate fit. I’d done those steps before master boot fitter Mark Rolfes took a look at how my foot interacted with the bed and shell, and knew right away that a slight shell punch in the big-toe area would solve most of my problem. But we did so only after taking some thickness off the bottom of the footbed to drop my foot down and thus create more volume.
Using the device pictured above, Mark did the deed with the required light touch to prevent ruining an expensive pair of shoes. Hint: Another reason to buy boots from a shop with expert fitting is that they can guarantee their work and eat the occasional mistake. When you’ve bought the boots elsewhere and ask for a punch job, you have to accept the remote possibility that a boot could be ruined and would be your responsibility to replace.
|Here is the Zzero toe after punching; a few millimeters of added room makes the big difference. We also did a quick toe punch on the liners to match, but could have also remolded the liners.|
|Next step was to add slightly more room on the small-toe side of my foot. To do so, Mark used this evil looking caliper press, along with the usual scientific touch with a heat gun. Poor suffering boots = happy feet.|
|This wild tool is very effective for side punching the toe area.|
With just about an hour of work, I’ve now got a pair of boots that fit me using a form fitting shell size rather than a larger shell that would have worked, but required a battle with too much volume. That said, when I learned boot fitting a master taught me that it’s always easier to reduce volume than increase it. That’s true to an extent, and for most people will be the way to go. But once in a while, given a particular brand of boots and their shape, a person will find that the size with enough volume is difficult to work with and need to drop down a size. That’s what happened to me and thus Mark’s solution.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.