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Ski Boots Cutting Off Circulation (Complete Guide)

Ski Boots Cutting Off Circulation

Ski boots are arguably the most important component of ski gear. They are what connect the skier to the skis and transfer the force of the skier’s intended movement to the skis.

In addition to being the most important, ski boots are the ones that present the greatest challenge upon selection and use. It is such a tricky and delicate business sizing, fitting, breaking in, and even using them.

Ski boots that do not have the right flex or fit can result in a skier’s feet being painful, numb, and cold, and make ski maneuvers like turning and stopping difficult.

A pair of proper-fitting ski boots should not have any pressure points that compress the nerves and blood vessels of the legs and feet so that it does not obstruct blood flow and nerve conduction. They can cause pain, cramps, blisters, and cold feet by being ill-fitting as well.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the causes of ski boots cutting off circulation and what you can do to prevent it happening again.

Causes Of Circulation Issues In Ski Boots

There are a number of ways how ski boots can cut off circulation. Let’s take a look at each of them in greater detail:

Also check out our guide on best ski boots for beginners.

Boots Too Tight 

This one is kinda obvious. When a pair of ski boots fit tighter than necessary on a skier’s legs or feet, they can compress nerves and blood vessels.

Boots Too Tight 

The most likely pressure points tight-fitting ski boots can create on the legs and feet are, 

In step: This is the part between the toes and the ankle joint, over which we tie our shoelaces. Being arched upwards, this part is vulnerable to being pressed up against a ski boot. 

Inner ankle: The bone that protrudes out makes the inner ankle another major pressure point. If a skier has an ankle that is rotated inwards due to a very small arch of the foot (flat foot), this issue becomes even more prominent. 

Shin: The shin bone, a.k.a tibia, the biggest of the two bones of the lower leg, can rub against a ski boot that is too tight. 

Heel: The bony part of the back of the heel is another part that can get compressed by ski boots.

In addition, the base of the big toe and the little toe and its base can be pressure points too.

Boots Too Loose

Surprisingly, when ski boots are too loose fitting, it can affect circulation as well, with the possibility of the skier buckling them up too tight or the feet sliding forward inside the boot and rubbing against it.

Boots Too Loose

Loose-fitting ski boots will also allow for cold air to flow in and out of them while skiing, making the feet cold, and reducing the blood flow by making the blood vessels contract. When the feet get cold it makes the skiers tighten their toes too, and it reduces the circulation even further. 

Boots Too Stiff

A pair of ski boots must have just the right flex to match the competence level of the skier for proper transition of power from the legs to the skis.

If the boots are too stiff for a skier’s ability, an increased effort on the skier’s part can cause compressions on the shin area thus cutting off circulation.

Wrong Boot Liner Thickness

A ski boot liner that is too thick can cause unnecessary pressure on one’s legs and feet and reduce or cut off circulation too. 

Wearing Ski Boots For Too Long

No matter how well-fitted and broken-in they are, ski boots are not designed to improve circulation or provide comfort, so prolonged wear can still cause circulation problems.

Wearing Ski Boots For Too Long

Socks Being Too Thick Or Tight

Socks that are too thick can take up too much space in between the feet and the boot liner, resulting in pressure points that affect circulation. Socks that are too tight could also cut off circulation.

Buckles Done Too Tight

If a skier does the ski boot buckles too tightly, either to compensate for bigger boot size or by overlooking the importance of the right tension of the buckles, it can cause pressure points that could cut the circulation off, specifically on the instep

Signs Of Circulation Issues In Ski Boots

All skiers, especially the newbies, must be on alert for the following signs and symptoms that suggest that their ski boots are obstructing circulation.

  • Tingling sensation, a.k.a pins and needles, of the feet, toes, and legs
  • Feet and legs going numb. Not being able to feel the feet, move them,or wiggle the toes. Feet going to sleep, as some say.
  • Cold feet.
  • Changes of skin color and texture (eg:-wrinkled skin) of the legs and feet

How To Prevent Circulation Issues In Ski Boots

Circulation problems caused by ski boots can have horrid consequences if not remedied promptly. Furthermore, any skier must try to prevent it in the first place.

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure.

Choosing Right Size, Fit, And Flex And Customizing

A lot of future hassle can be avoided by getting a professional ski boot fitter to help pick up ski boots of proper size, fit, flex, and category to match the skier’s skill level, foot measurements, and even gender.

Once a particular pair is selected, it is possible to customize such as expanding the volume by heating, or grinding the shell from the inside etc. 

It is also possible to further improve the fit with the use of custom-made insoles, footbeds, and so on. It might take a few trips to the boot fitter to get the customization to the finest point. 

Wearing the boots at home and flexing them back and forth and side to side will help to break them in. Care should be taken not to put too much pressure on the heels of the boots though. So, no walking around in them!

The customization process is applicable to some extent to already purchased boots that are causing problems too.

Putting Them On In The Proper Manner

Following the right procedure when putting the ski boots on and maintaining the right tension on the buckles will ensure a snug fit that ensures good circulation.

Plus, where a single pair of thin ski socks that doesn’t fold down inside the boots.

Taking Breaks

Whenever there are signs of ski boots cutting off circulation, taking a break from the activity, getting back to the resort, and taking boots off to allow the circulation to return are the steps is a wise choice.

Taking Breaks

Seeking Medical Help

If symptoms of poor circulation persist or get worse despite taking breaks to get the boots off, that is a situation requiring immediate medical assistance. If ignored, it can lead to permanent nerve damage. 

Final Thoughts

Ski boots can reduce blood circulation and pinch the nerves in legs and feet by being too tight or too loose-fitting or not having the right flex. Having them on for too long and very cold weather conditions can contribute to this problem too.

Skiers should get professional ski boot fitters to help them pick up boots of proper size, flex, and type and further tweak them for best fitting to avoid this issue in the first place.

It might be possible to customize or remold ski boots that have already been bought and are causing circulation  problems to remedy those issues, but there could be limits to that. 

Putting ski boots on properly with the right type of socks, with buckles just tense enough can help prevent circulation problems. If ski boots are cutting off circulation, taking breaks to keep the boots off can help the circulation to return to normal, but medical help must be sought immediately if they don’t.

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Picture of Lisa Hayden-Matthews

Lisa Hayden-Matthews

An avid Skier, bike rider, triathlon enthusiast, amateurish beach volleyball player and nature lover who has never lost a dare! I manage the overall Editorial section for the magazine here and occasionally chip in with my own nature photographs, when required.
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