Memories of my first forays into the world of skiing are still fresh. I had booked a first trip to the slopes and was facing the prospect of accumulating all of the necessary clothing and equipment. I couldn’t believe how many things I needed to buy but I really didn’t want to rent anything. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like skiing but renting was relatively costly and seemed like money down the drain. I had a lot of shopping to do but everything was going well until I got to the boots.
Finding skis, salopettes, gloves, a helmet, poles and a jacket was relatively straightforward. Everything seemed to suit me well and the jacket I found was so nice that I knew I could get good wear out of it even away from the slopes. Then it was time to find some boots. I had never tried ski boots before and my first visit to the shops did not go well!
I tried three pairs of boots and they all felt like instruments of torture. I have real trouble with my feet as I have narrow heels, wide balls, raised arches and I suffer from gout. Sometimes I think it a miracle that I ever find any footwear to suit and so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the ski boots were problematic. A few days later I tried some more with little success and so I was forced to simply pick the best of a bad lot.
Heat treating the inner boot and investing in custom foot beds has certainly helped and after two holidays and several trips to the indoor slope I have grown used to the pain. However, I have wondered on many occasions how nice it would be to have bespoke boots made to accommodate my feet. That isn’t possible now but it could be in the near future.
Every day another application for the new 3D printing technology is found and now one company has turned its attention to the issue of ski boots. For those who rent their equipment comfort is really an issue and so British start-up firm ALPrint have developed 3D printed insoles. Skiers take pictures of their feet at home and use ALPrint’s app to determine the dimensions of their feet. The custom insoles are sent to them and can be used in rental boots to improve comfort levels.
Whilst the service only produces one element of the boot 3D technology does present the real possibility of custom made boots in the future. One day we will be ordering a raft of items online which will then be 3D printed especially for us. There is already one company looking at custom athletic shoes and ski boots could follow.
Ski boots are never going to be the most comfortable things to wear but if your pair were made specifically to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of your feet then life could certainly get a lot easier.
Article by Sally Stacey