How to fit Koflachs/plastic boots?

10:46 a.m. on March 11, 2002 (EST)
(Guest)

How do you determine the best fit for a plastic boot? I've been to a number of stores trying to find the right Koflach degree for winter hiking and the advice has varied greatly. Some say to fit the inner boot like you would a city shoe and to fit the plastic boot place your sockfoot in the plastic boot to check for a finger's width at the back of the heel. Others say streetshoe size, still others say ALWAYS get a size larger than street and use inserts to adjust. So far the most credible advice I've received was to make sure the toes never bump the front when going downhill. The solution was to size up to a US men's 7 (EU 6.5) even though my city shoe is U.S. women's 7.5 (i.e., much smaller). The inner boot is about a half inch longer than my foot. To solve the extreme heel lift I was told to put two foot beds in the plastic boot, one in the liner boot, and use ankle pads if necessary. Any tips?
Also, anyone know exactly where the size breaks are in the plastic boots. I know they're whole sizes for the plastics, but is that EU or US?

6:47 p.m. on March 12, 2002 (EST)
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How to fit plastic boots?

Hmmmmmm.... you sayyou want to use these for _hiking_??? Unnnnhhh, well, plastics are intended for climbing/skiing, not for hiking. Properly fit and matching your walking style, they can work for hiking (I've done access hikes of up to 20 miles, which was part on dirt/gravel/scree/talus and the last half on snow, and snow slogs of 15 miles to/from the climbing), but they really aren't all that comfortable for hiking. Look for a lot of rocker and a flexible, hinged upper. You probably would be better off with a good leather mountain boot (they are available as double boots, hence sufficiently insulated).

But if you insist, take a look at Clyde Soles' article on plastics in the March 2002 Rock & Ice. Better yet, go to a really good boot fitter near you. Yeah, I know, really good boot fitters are few and far between, certainly not to be found at the national chain faux-woodsy stores (some of which used to be genuine, before they became yuppy clothing fashion shops).

Anyway, first step is to ensure that the shell is not overly large. Put on your expected socks (light liner with heavy outer, and include your VBL if you use them). Take the liner out of the boot and put your foor in. Slide your foot all the way forward until your toe is touching the end. How much space is there? It shouldn't be more than an inch. Two inches is way too much. Next, put your foot in the liner. If it is a lace-up liner (standard in most climbing plastics and a lot of the tele and AT plastics), tie the laces. Check the fit as you would any hiking boot - half inch to inch at the toe, ball of your foot matches the ball of the liner, not tight across the width of your foot, room in the toe box to wiggle your toes fairly freely (don't want the circulation cut off). Is the heel a snug fit or can you pull your heel up out of the heel pocket when flexing your ankle (if your heel moves up and down in the liner, you are guaranteed blisters, and women tend to have narrower heels relative to foot size than men, making for a problem for women using men's boots. Walk around a bit (on carpet, of course). If that's comfortable, next go to foot with socks in liner in boot, everything snugged down. Again, how does everything feel - room to wiggle in the toe box, heel fit snug with no movement to promote blisters, no tight spots or areas. Walk around a bit, including up and down the store's tilt plank (should simulate rocks and not just be an inclined board). What, no inclined ramp? Go somewhere else, unless the price is really cheap or they have a very liberal return policy. Anyway, wear the boots for at least 15 minutes of walking around, preferably a half hour or more. Again, check thorougly for fit and any hot or tight spots. Plastics will not break in, although the foam in the liners will pack out some. They really have to fit right out of the box, or you will suffer in misery after the first couple hundred yards of hiking.

If you are close but not exact in the fit, first step is to try a different make and model. Different makers use different lasts, and even different models from the same manufacturer sometimes use different lasts. Women's lasts are often significantly different.

The desparation move is to get custom molded footbeds and custom molded liners. I am lucky that I match Scarpa's last almost as if it were custom made for me. But my son has to use thermofit liners and footbeds, plus some heat-reshaping of the shells, to get a decent fit. This is an expensive way to go (add anywhere from $50 to $250 for custom footbeds and liners), but if you need them, it is well worth it. You might be able to get away with off-the-shelf footbeds, but whoever told you to use 2 in the shell and another in the liner just wants to sell more goodies. A single custom thermomolded footbed plus thermofit liner will do the job for less than a whole bunch of readymades. That's like saying, if the boot is loose, stuff it full of socks. The cost is blisters and pain.

Good luck.

September 17, 2014
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