While many people point to skis as the most important part of their snow gear quiver, a properly fitting pair of boots tend to matter much more. Of course, boots connect wearers directly to their skis and if they happen to inadequately fit, the impact it has on even the best skiers is a negative one. For women, who often have fewer boot options designed specifically for them, the issue is amplified.
Take the general anatomy of a woman compared to a man, for instance. Women tend to feature longer calves, wider hips, a lower center of gravity, shorter femurs, and so on. Taking just this structure into consideration, there’s absolutely no reason for men and women to wear the same style of ski boot.
“As recently as 5 years ago, women were not necessarily seeking women-specific skis and boots,” said PSIA National Alpine Team member, Robin Barnes to Digital Trends. “In the past 5 years, more high-end women-specific products have emerged as women are adventure skiing more often, joining expert skiing groups, etc.”
This growth in interest by women only helps the case for more specific products. Selkirk Sports’ Josh Parry recognizes this growing trend, classifying it as a “real need for women-specific boots.” Parry is a boot fitter by trade, though in his close circles he’s referred to as the Boot Doctor. Not only does Parry spend his days manipulating boots to fit people but he’s an expert at figuring out what works and what doesn’t. As any avid skier would attest, this skill is priceless.
“The number one mistake made is buying boots too big but there are a lot of different factors that go into it,” Parry added. “Women often have smaller skeletons than men, so they will have narrower ankles. Another big factor is women’s calves tend to attach lower than on men and this has the tendency to cause pain, or cramps, in the calf.”
Rather than “shrink and pink” like many sports brands have done in the past, the ski industry now takes women’s needs very seriously, as they remain a fast growing market.
“Bottom line, if a boot doesn’t fit correctly, it’s not going to be warm or comfortable, and it certainly won’t perform,” added Tecnica market manager, Leslie Baker-Brown to Digital Trends. “Women’s anatomy is different, so it is absolutely necessary to build boots based on this anatomy. Women make up about 40 percent of the market. We felt we could better address this market with better products and messaging, by communicating and educating women to make skiing a better experience for them.”
According to SIA Snow reports of 2015, sales of women-specific snow products and gear saw a stark rise in popularity. Tecnica took this data to heart, starting a European focus group and a North American focus group to test, develop, and enhance equipment. The women in these focus groups helped create the Blizzard Black Pearl, the best selling ski in the country for any gender over the ’15-’16 season.
Tackling the design of its boots was also a central part of the company’s new program. Tecnica Italy partnered with the University of Verona to test performance on snow. By using sensors under the footboards, Verona measured where a woman’s balance point is regarding their favorable stances.
“One of the major issues is the lower leg,” explained Brown. “It generally is larger and sits lower on the leg, so it’s difficult to fit. At the same time, there are women with skinny calves that have the opposite problem. We created a solution to be able to adjust the upper collar of the boot and liner so it forms to the shape of the female’s lower leg – whether it needs to allow for a larger calf or a smaller one.”
As demand grows and technology expands, the future of proper-fitting women’s products only figures to become much brighter.