Being excellent shoppers, many women often find great deals on men’s ski equipment that is the correct size and wonder if it would be appropriate for them. In a few instances this might be an economical option, but we strongly recommend that women purchase women’s specific equipment. That isn’t just because were in the business of selling women’s ski equipment, here at WomensSkis.com we strive to help women choose the equipment to help them ski their best. Over the last decade the ski and boot manufacturers have taken a new approach to creating women’s ski product to help women do just that, ski better.
Women clearly have a very different physical make up than men. Unfortunately this puts many of us women at a disadvantage when it comes to ski technique and equipment. Women have a lower center of gravity, a wider pelvis, and a shorter lower leg with a lower positioned calf muscle. Regardless of how long you have been skiing, your ski instructor, husband, or boyfriend has probably nagged you to stop sitting in the back seat, or to get forward over the tips of the skis. These errors in technique aren’t necessarily your fault and can easily be corrected with the proper equipment.
BOOTS: Fit, Flex, Forward Lean, and Features.
Ski Boot manufacturers are constantly adapting the way they design boots. The defining characteristics of a woman’s ski boot can be classified by the four F’s; Fit, Flex, Forward Lean and Features. Since men’s and women’s boots use the same Mondo Point Sizing system, there is no difference in length between a 25.5 women’s boot and a 25.5 men’s boot from the same manufacturer. However, there are significant differences in the fit, flex, forward lean, and features making it better for women to use women’s boots.
Fit Boot fit is one of the biggest differences in between men’s and women’s boots. Since women are built much differently than men, the boot manufacturers have gone to great lengths to accommodate a woman’s physique. A woman’s Tibia and Fibula (lower leg bones) are typically shorter than a man’s when compared to the length of their Femur (upper leg bone). In addition, since the calf muscle is positioned lower on the woman’s leg we typically have to fit more leg volume into the cuff of the boot. While some manufacturers may use the same lower shell for some men’s and women’s boots, all of the major brands are using women’s specific cuffs. The cuff height is considerably shorter and the back is generally scalloped to sit below the calf muscle. This shorter cuff not only makes the fitting process considerably less painful, it also makes the boot easier to flex forward. If you find that a women’s boot is too tight in the cuff, getting a men’s boot is not the answer. The cuff may be a hair larger in diameter but it will also be taller and can emphasize any pinching of the calf muscle. The best suggestion is to try a different brand of boot; some Salomon’s and some Tecnica’s tend to have a wider calf opening. Also many of the women’ ski boot have removable spoilers and adjustable cuff catches for making fit adjustments. In addition to making the cuff more comfortable, Women’s boots generally use a heel wedge, or a similar technique to make the heel pocket smaller for a sung, more controlled fit while still allowing plenty of wiggle room in the toes. As a whole women’s boots typically have a smaller volume than men’s boots in both the width and instep measurements.
Flex While ski boots come in a variety of flex ratings, women’s boots are typically a bit softer than men’s boots for skiers of the same ability level. Manufacturers realized that women are generally lighter than men and have shorter legs, making it more difficult for women to get the appropriate leverage to bend a stiff boot. By softening the flex the manufacturers make it easier to get the boots on and off, in addition to making it easier to bend the boot and control your skis.
Forward Lean The manufacturers realize that many women have issues getting their weight forward over the tips, so they increase the ramp angle within the boot. This is similar to wearing a pair of high heels, with a more upright posture you end up putting more pressure on the ball of your foot. Don’t worry ski boots are definitely more comfortable than wearing heels all day. With your weight tipped slightly forward, more pressure is placed on the ball of the foot making it easier to initiate each turn and control your skis. Many women’s ski boots come with a removable rear spoiler, and a wedge shaped piece of plastic that clips to the back of the cuff. The spoiler is designed to increase your forward lean, keeping your weight forward over the tips of the skis making turn initiation easier.
Features Fit aside, women’s boot manufacturers have gone to great lengths to improve the thermal properties of the liners. Many of the women’s liners are made with heat trapping materials such as down, Primaloft insulation, and micro fur fleece. The better thermal properties of the liners will help keep your feet nice and toasty warm all day long. Additionally, some of the companies have started pre-wiring the boots for boot heaters, for combating those extra cold days on the slopes.
Exceptions to the Boot Rules While the vast majority of women should be using a women’s specific boot there are a few exceptions to the rule. Women’s boots are only made up to a mondo point size 27.5, which will accommodate up to about a size 11.5 women’s shoe. Unfortunately if your foot is larger than an 11.5 you will have to purchase a men’s boot. If that is the case, pay special attention to the last and flex measurements to make sure they are comparable to your skill level. While many of the manufacturers make wide width women’s boots, they are typically only produced in beginner to intermediate flexes. If you have a very wide foot and are looking for an advanced to pro level boot, you may find a men’s boot a bit roomier, as they make wider widths in stiffer more performance oriented shells for men. If this is the route that you decide to go, make sure that you are able to get enough pressure forward over the tips of your skis to easily initiate your turns. If you find yourself a bit in the back seat, installing a heel lift can help you achieve ideal form. Most ski shops should be able to quickly install heel lifts for you at a minimal charge. Women with very long legs or small calf muscles can usually wear men’s boots without many fit issues, however this is only recommend if your technique keeps you out over the tips of the skis as men’s boots are not ramped forward as far as women’s boots are.