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Ski Gear Review: Ski-boot footbeds can make a difference

The custom-fitting process for ski boots can take on a mystical character among serious skiers. Bootfitters can become regional or even national stars in their niche by excelling in this combination of art and science. Footbeds, also known as orthotics, are one piece of the puzzle for maximum performance and comfort in ski boots. Custom footbeds can cost more than $200. For budget-minded skiers, however, a few less expensive choices can still be an improvement over the factory insoles.

Shock Doctor Active Ultra Insole ($40)
Shock Doctor Active Ultra Insole ($40)
Shock Doctor

Shock Doctor Insoles

The Shock Doctor Active Ultra Insole ($40) or Shock Doctor Active Performance Insole ($25) may be used in place of the standard insoles. Both models feature some built-in shock absorption. Using the factory insoles as a guide, the Shock Doctor insoles may be trimmed to fit virtually any boot. For many skiers, the relatively small investment for after-market orthotics may result in more support.

Footbalance Insoles

Footbalance semi-custom and custom insoles are one step up from after-market, off-the-shelf insoles. Ranging from about $85 to $100, the fitted Footbalance insoles are much less expensive than the custom footbeds generally sold through specialty ski shops. Footbalance also offers a QuickFit line ($45) of off-the-shelf insoles.

“We are a provider of custom and semi-custom insoles primarily geared toward the sporting-goods industry,” said Jeremy Town, managing director of North America Footbalance. The company was started by a Finnish physiotherapist in 2003. Now sold through sporting goods stores, specialty running retailers and a few ski shops in 16 countries, the fitting process takes less than 10 minutes.

(Click here for map of Footbalance vendors)

Prosper Wang, of Littleton, Colo., recently tested the fitted Footbalance product and compared it to his own custom footbeds.

Prosper Wang- Ski Gear Tester:

The analysis and molding process were quick and easy. The footbeds fit perfectly in my ski boots. The edges around the heel had some cosmetic wrinkles that did not affect the performance or fit of the footbed. The initial feel was supportive and comfortable. On the snow, the footbeds performed very well. After about 10 days skiing, I have not felt any difference between the Footbalance insoles my more expensive custom footbed.”

Disclaimer: Products were provided for testing.