Ask FGG: Where can I find comfortable ski boots for big calves?
Posted by Tee in Ask FGG,Sports + Recreation
The Charm from Salomon Sports
I tried skiing for the first time last year, but gave up because I could barely get the boots I rented buckled, and they were so uncomfortable around my calf, which is about 18" around, that I couldn't stand it. The staff wasn't much help recommending another boot to try and I left feeling embarrassed, so this year I'd like to just buy my own. Are there any ski boots that work well for fat girls?"

I wonder how many of us haven't done much skiing for that very reason. Like, say...ME. I have a long, narrow foot, ironic bird ankles, and some impressively chubby, bulky Popeye calves. I'm a ski shop's nightmare.

Unfortunately there are so many different combinations in leg shapes and variations in ski boots (i.e., some fit a wide foot but a smaller calf, some do well with high arches and lower calf muscles, etc) that there's no one recommendation that will work for all women with large calves. So if you have the money to spend on comfort and you're planning to make good use of your boots, your best bet is to visit a custom bootfitter (find a shop near you here). But if you're on a budget or don't know if you'll be serious about skiing until you've got a few seasons behind you, there are brands that do make boots wider or more flexible, and tricks for making a standard boot a better fit for bigger legs.

We chatted with a few ski shop pros on some good models to start with, and some ideas for how to tweak an otherwise great-fitting boot to fit your calf. With the caveat from each of them that every foot will fit differently in every boot, here's what they had to say:

Bobo's Mogul Mouse
Reno, NV

The Olympia Gransport (GS) by Nordica is a good boot for larger calves; the opening is wider than in most boot models. The Atomic B-series ski boot is also a good choice, because they're very adjustable to different calf sizes.

Porter's Tahoe
Tahoe City, CA

You have to make sure to fit for the foot first, then tweak for other problem areas. That said, there are a few models that naturally run wider, but overall you want to stick with four-buckle boots. They let you made adjustments at more points, resulting in a better leg fit overall. One of the things we can do is put in a heel lift, which makes the top of the boot rest lower on the calf where it's more narrow. Some boots also come with spoilers you can adjust up or down, or remove altogether to make more calf room.

Christy Sports
Denver, CO

The Tecnica 10 is nice because they're a little wider and also really adjustable, accommodating a wider range of calf sizes and shapes. If that's not enough, there are custom adjustments we can make - like drilling an extra hole to let the buckle out a little bit.

Christy Sports
Salt Lake City, UT

Sometimes it's not so much the boot as it is the stiff shell or lining that's the problem. One of the things we suggest for customers who feel like their boots are too tight is to fill two two-liter bottles with hot water and place one in each boot before you go skiing (this works well for rentals on the spot to make a better fit). The heat will soften up and stretch the shell, and then when you put your foot in, the boot material will mold around it.

Reno Mountain Sports
Reno, NV

I like the Head models, Edge and I-type, for larger calves. They allow lots of custom moving and adjusting to make a good fit, and the I-type is especially good for anyone just starting out.

Other good stuff we learned in our search:

:: A good bootfitter can also make custom foot beds, and from what we hear, that can make ALL the difference.

:: If your feet are on the small side, try looking at junior/kids boots. They don't come up as far on the calf, and therefore don't have to accommodate the full width.

:: None of our pros mentioned it, but we found a lot of love for Salomon boots in blogs and forums around the web.

:: A couple of searches turned up pointers to Surefoot custom boots. We've never heard of them, but they claim to be the most comfortable ski boot on earth for any foot/calf type. If you've tried them, let us know!

What about you? Are you an avid skier? Share your favorite wide-calf ski boots in comments!