What are Custom Fitted Ski Boots and Bunionettes

I’ve skied for 3 years now (snowboarded for 5 years), and this year I’ve had extreme pain on the side of foot, developing what are known as bunionettes. It’s also known as a taylor’s bunion. The pain was so bad that even starting the ski off was extremely painful. I’m not exactly sure what caused it this year and not the last 2 years, but my guess is that I’ve been crushing the slopes much harder this year; more double blacks, more hikes up, and a LOT more moguls. So the active and persistent high pressure likely had a big factor.

After a lot of research and speaking with my Physical Therapist friends (not experts), here’s what I learned in what worked and what didn’t. However, even though my pain is alleviated, the reality is that I still have a bunionette and the only real way to get rid of it is through surgery. I’ve been quoted that surgery can be up to $5K.

3 Do Not Dos:

  1. Don’t keep skiing! You may think it’s a good idea and it’ll go away after a night of rest, but it won’t! It will keep getting worse and your bunionette will just get bigger and worse. Once you feel it, stop skiing.
  2. Do not tighten your boots. Tightening your boots will only make it worse. You may think the bunionette is caused by your foot moving around in the boot, but it’s caused by the friction and pressure. The tighter your boots are, the worse it’ll get. This includes putting silicon paddings on the pressure point. It’ll just make it tighter.
  3. Do not wear toe plugs. So toe plugs may feel good at first since you’re basically shifting your toe out to where the protruding bunion is; however, this is only temporary. The reality is you’re tightening your boot, adding friction to your toe, and your bunionette pain will eventually come back.

So here’s what I did to alleviate the pain.

  1. Talk to a Pro: Go into a ski boot shop and open a discussion on where your pain points are. I was at a shop in Killington Vermont at a local off resort ski shop. The shop was much better than anything on the resort.
  2. Create space in your ski boot liners: The first thing the ski shop did for me was create millimeters of space for me by decreasing the padding on the liners. This immediately felt better. However, after having skied Mt. Hood (2 days), Jackson Hole (5 days), and Whitetail (1 day) over the past month, my bunionette needed more help.
  3. Get new foot pads: So the next suggested step was to get foot pads. This replaces the thicker ones in your current boot liners, and is molded to the base of your foot. It creates an additional few millimeters of space in your boot. It cost about $100 and took 20 minutes where they assess your foot and help heat the paddings to fit your foot. After this I felt there was plenty of space in my boot where my bunionette wasn’t constantly rubbing against the boot. I was done!

Additional steps that were not taken:

4. Mold the plastic of your ski boots: If I had needed more space, the shop suggested they heat my boot and remold the pain section. This would have taken much more time and was quoted between $200-$300.

5. Get surgery: So as final alternative, it may simply be to get surgery to remove the bunionette. Then refit your boots so it doesn’t come back. Surgery is about $5000.

Anyhow, my pain was alleviated, and I immediately tested it out at Snowbird (3 days) in Utah. It’s awesome terrain was the perfect place to ski with my newly fitted boots with the mountain’s awesome bowls and double black runs. I’d be lying if I said the pain was completely gone. But it went from “ouch, I don’t want to ski anymore,” to “this is uncomfortable, but I love skiing!”

 

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