By Alex Cooper
My boots are too big. That’s the hard truth Kai Palkeinen, the owner of Pulse Bootfitting, tells me when I paid him a visit at his new store a few weeks ago.
My Scarpa Maestrale RS touring boots, which I bought at the start of last year, had been giving me trouble on long ski tours. Notably, my feet would cramp up on long descents, especially if it involved negotiating very technical terrain, where I really had to work for my turns
I went to Pulse for the purpose of this article, but also to get my boots fit by someone with many years experience as a boot fitter. I walked out with a primer on boot fitting that was far more detailed than any I’d heard before.
Palkeinen brings 20 years of experience to the business. He started fitting in Whistler in 1993 and worked for many years in Europe, running a boot fitting shop in Chamonix before leaving the industry and training as a paramedic in 2011. He and his partner (in business and life) Kelly Hutcheson moved to Revelstoke last year, and Palkeinen was lured back into the business, seeing an opportunity with the lack of a proper boot fitting service in town.
PHOTO: Pulse Bootfitting carries boots by K2 and Head.
Pulse Bootfitting is located at 106 Orton Ave., next door to the Cabin. It’s easily noticeable by the bright green awning. Walking inside, there’s a wall of ski boots arranged on the far side. To the left is the boot bar, where you can relax while work is being done on your equipment. To the right is a row of seats where the fitting is done. Above that is a selection of photos by Bruno Long.
I’ve worn size 28.5 boots for years now. It’s been my go-to size and for the most part has treated me well, so it was a bit of shock to be told they’re actually too big. As Palkeinen explained, the issue I, and many others face, is that when you try on a boot, your foot isn’t properly supported. As the liner packs out, there’s more space inside the boot, your foot moves around more, and you get problems. A foot that is properly supported doesn’t need a big boot. ‘When your foot is supported properly, your foot is a very different shape, and that’s how you probably ended up in a boot that’s too big,” he said.
The boot fitting process begins with Palkeinen getting you to fill out a form with your height and weight. He’ll also ask what kind of skier you are and how often you ski. “Someone that skis five or six days, we’re not going to fit them the same way we’ll fit someone who skis 50 days a year,” he said. He’ll ask if you have any physical or medical issues that might affect your feet, and any old injuries.
Only then will Palkeinen actually measure your feet. When he did that to me, he had me place my feet on the pad, and then rolled my feet in and out. Foot volume and stability play a role in the process. “By this point we’re usually at four to five minutes trying to explain some stuff and getting people very comfortable with the fact we do things differently and it’s a different level,” he said.
Once the measurements are done, Palkeinen will select you a boot. He carries boots by Head and K2. The former, he said, are for the more casual skier who skis only a dozen or so days a year because they’re more comfortable out of the box. The K2s are more performance orientated.
PHOTO: Kai Palkeinen assists a customer with custom foot beds.
At Pulse, you can buy boots two ways. You can just get the boot with the stock liner, or you can get a fully-customized package that includes the boot, a custom-fitted liner, a custom footbed and a pair of socks. The packages range in price from $1,200 to $1,500, depending on what boot you buy. “The idea is get into right size shell so you’re getting the fit from the shell,” he said. “Liners complement the shell that fits well.”
Of course, he recommends going with a custom liner. “The stock liners are horrible on every single boot on the market and they give people a poor impression of what the boot is,” he said. “Stock liners are inevitable replaced with injection liners, and then you’ll have a custom-fitted boot and it will last 300 ski days.”
Palkeinen told me I should be in a size 27.5 boot. He placed me in a pair and my feet screamed in pain, but he assured me that after a few days, they would feel better. He added he can make a boot bigger by punching it out, but you can’t really make a big boot smaller. He estimates 80-90 per cent of the people who have come in the store are in boots that are too big.
I wasn’t in the financial position to get new boots, let along the complete custom package, so I settled on a set of custom foot beds. He did make a good sales pitch.
“When you get into a boot that is fitted properly, it is more valuable than any ski lesson you can ever take,” he told me. “All of a sudden, control and confidence skyrockets.”
Maybe next time.