Ski Boots Hurt? Try This Before You Buy a Replacement

New liners can solve boot problems from softness to hot spots and shinbang

My second favorite activity, after skiing, is whining. Specifically, whining about my boots. As in skiing, there’s infinite opportunity for innovation and variety. Boots can be too tight, too loose, both at the same time, too stiff, not stiff enough, wet, so snug they make your feet go numb, frozen solid from a night outside, or just, well, busted. In fact, boots can be so many types of wrong that, for a minute there, I forgot they could also be right.

If, like me, you’ve started to make a shoulder sport out of bitching about your ski boots, you might be a good candidate for a pair of Intuition liners. Ask just about anyone who skis with Intuition liners, and chances are high they’ll tell you that they’ll never go back and they wish they’d made the switch long ago.

Did you know that a 230-pound ski patroller can pack out a pair of off-the-shelf liners in three days? At least according to Tom James, a bootfitter with 20 years of experience and the current in-house fitter and fixer at Intuition Headquarters. The liners that come with your boots are designed to be comfortable in-store (read: soft), and aren’t usually built to last someone who skis upward of 50 days a year.

The trouble with ski boots, you see, is that they work when they’re full—if you have a snug fit, all the energy from your legs will transfer into your skis. If they’re loose, a whole lot of that energy comes to a full stop when you bash against the sides of your shells. Intuition uses durable closed cell foam in their heat-molded liners that offers excellent elasticity and resilience. With a variety of densities and thoughtful design, they’re comfortable and designed to hold up against pressure and impact where necessary (and to give a bit when they need to as well).

I headed up to Vancouver, British Columbia, recently to Intuition to learn more about the technology and fitting process. From the customer side, it all begins with Tom James, their resident foot-and-boot expert. On average, James works with nearly 800 pairs of feet a year. Whether folks need a boot punched out to accommodate a bunion or are looking to replace their liners, he’s your guy—if you can get an appointment. He’s booked from 10-7, daily. James is largely an independent agent—he sets up shop at Intuition, but he doesn’t make any commission from sales. His mission is to make feet happy—whether they belong to a preteen with cold toes or a hardcore backcountry skier liable to shatter his boots on a techy pillow line.

My boot problems were plentiful when I walked in. I’d put over 100 days on store liners that were beyond packed out. I was down to the tightest buckles on my boots and was still finding multiple inches of heel play. I came home every day with serious shin bang, and, on top of it all, have watched my tailor’s bunions grow to nearly twice their size in the last couple years. My boots themselves are awesome—Nordica GPX 105s, one of the stiffer women’s boots on the market, with a high cuff and an aggressive stance. When the liners were cooperating, they were game-changers. But this season, the boots have been a genuine sore spot in my skiing life.

Cue the Dreamliner. After trying out a few liners, the Dreamliner offered the best fit within my boot shell. A huge benefit to going to headquarters to get your liners (rather than from a local shop, though that’s a great option too) is that James has access to every liner, in every size, in every thickness that Intuition has on the market. You’re guaranteed to get the right fit. We heat-molded the liners, James added padding for heel slippage, and I went on my way.

The next day, my boots had a new lease on life. The liners added stiffness, held my feet in place, and gave me more control over my skis. Thanks to a pulley lacing system, the liners hold tight to my shin independently of the ski boots, offering better protection from shin bang (though lacing these too tight can be extraordinarily painful on the shins). I’d previously been certain I needed to punch out my boots, since they made a hot spot of the bone beneath my pinky toe. After the intuitions got my feet back in the right place—and held them there—the hot spots disappeared.

Intuition makes liners for touring boots and race boots as well, and they’re built to last much longer than an average boot liner—hardcore skiers should get at least two years out of them, and someone who skis closer to 15 or 20 days a year will be able to use them upwards of five seasons before they pack out. Plus, should you get a new shell, they can be transferred between ski boots (they’ll just need to be heat-molded again).


Showing 5 comments
  • altadoc

    Intuitions are the bomb! And yes, you should just go get them! But don’t forget the custom insoles as well. They will keep your feet super happy too.

    Lots of great shops that can get you fitted. Inkline in Salt Lake… Gravity Sports at Mt Bachelor, OR. Totally worth it. Will change your experience of skiing

  • Jackson

    What’s the best way to check out these liners if you can’t make it to BC?

  • FRANK Bulkley

    This article is on the right track but doesn’t mention insoles. Insoles are the foundation for good fitting boots; along with someone who knows how to make them. If Ms. Barronian had bunions when she purchased the boots, odds are she was sold the wrong boots at the start. The GPX is quite narrow. And shin bang is 95% of either 1) the boot is too big or 2) the skier needs insoles. (I’m working on the other 5%). Now, if this article is aslo a paid ad for liners, it’s a good one. If not, there is another after-market liner called Zip Fit. They might allow for a bit more versitility but they also cost about twice of what the Intuitions do. But with either one, insoles are required.

  • Lorian Bartle

    I can only second what the other commenters here are saying – custom liners and insoles are critical for any habitual skier. I suggest to everyone to employ a local bootfitter, you’ll find they’re worth every penny.

    • Lorian Bartle

      If we’re giving recommendations for bootfitters, I want to add Larry’s in Boulder, CO to the list.

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