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Ski boots were originally made of leather and resembled standard boots. As skiing became more specialized as a form of recreation, so too did skiing boots. Currently, most ski boots fall into the categories of Alpine skiing, Nordic or Randoneé/Alpine Touring. These varying disciplines each use a specialized type of ski bindings and as such, are generally not interchangeable.
Boots intended for downhill use (Alpine, Randoneé, and Telemark) are generally composed of a hard plastic shell with a softer foam liner to provide warmth and comfort. Concerning liners, a thick soft liner will be more comfortable and provide more insulation while thinner, harder liners provide more precision. Comfort has been improved in recent years by the use of conformable linings (usually heated to fit) which allow an otherwise stiff liner to be molded to the foot and comfortably accept a large variety of foot shapes. Shells come in various degrees of stiffness; beginners typically like a softer and more padded boot, while more advanced skiers generally prefer a stiffer boot with a thinner liner. Softer boots are able to be flexed with less pressure applied to the cuff making them a good choice for lighter or less aggressive skiers and translates into a more forgiving ride. This quality is also desirable when efficiency and comfort during touring is a concern. Softer boots are often lighter as well due to thinner shell material; a desirable quality when touring as well. Increased boot stiffness generally translates into more precise energy transmission from the skier to the ski. It also provides better support for increased g-loading during high-speed turns, and heavier skiers. Stiff boots however are often less comfortable and heavier than their softer counterparts.
-Boots which are too soft for a skier will not feel sufficiently responsive, and will over flex during high-performance skiing.
-Boots that are too stiff for a skier will transmit unintended control movements to the skis, and will not flex sufficiently in varying terrain or during normal intensity skiing.
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