Cross-country skiing | Dec 27, 2023

Finding the perfect cross-country ski boots: a buyer’s guide

Martin Bieswanger
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Cross-country ski boots have to live up to multiple demands: They should be comfortable to wear, provide sufficient stability and ensure optimal power transmission. To help you find the perfect product for your needs, we provide you with answers to a number of questions related to the purchase of cross-country ski boots.

Scroll down to read more and find the perfect pair of boots for you! Have fun reading – and cross-country skiing!

What types of cross-country ski boots are there?

In cross-country skiing, there are two different styles: classic and skating. Accordingly, there are specific boots that offer optimal support for practising each of the two disciplines. If you want to switch between styles, there are special combi boots that can be used for both of the abovementioned as well as for other styles.

Classic cross-country skiing

Soft sole

For beginners: cross-country ski boots with a thick liner that provides optimal support for your heels and bones.

For experienced skiers: cross-country ski boots with a low weight and thin liner; their sole and shell are made from rigid materials, improving power transmission.

© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH

Skate-style cross-country skiing

Stiff sole, high ankle support

© Fischer Sports GmbH

Skate-style cross-country skiing is harder on the joints than classic cross-country skiing. That’s why boots for this technique feature a special construction with a higher shaft and strong ankle support. Most of them are made from plastic fibres or lightweight carbon.

Combi boots

Soft sole, high ankle support

The perfect boots for all those who want to practice both techniques, they boast a stiff shell construction, a comfortable liner and ankle padding. Their soles are soft.

© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH

Backcountry cross-country ski boots

© Fischer Sports GmbH

As the name suggests, these boots are designed for adventures away from the groomed trails. They feature an additional, insulated layer for more warmth as well as gaiters over the cuffs to prevent snow from entering the boots.

Rollerski boots

Cross-country skiing in summer? With special rollerski bindings, you can use your cross-country skis all year round. As temperatures are higher than in winter, ordinary cross-country ski boots can quickly make you feel sweaty. Special rollerski boots are lighter and better ventilated, making them a great alternative to classic cross-country ski boots.

Which size do I need?

The size of your cross-country ski boots plays an important role in terms of performance and comfort. After all, you can only unleash your full potential and feel truly comfortable in boots with a perfect fit. In general, we recommend choosing cross-country ski boots half a size or a whole size larger than your running shoes or everyday footwear. This allows you to wear thicker socks without the risk of painful pressure points.

However, the fit of your boots also depends on your intended use. Classic cross-country ski boots and combi boots require a slightly larger toe box than skate-style boots. They should provide at least five millimetres of free space to ensure optimal foot-rolling motion. The width also plays an important role, as the boot should neither be too tight nor squeeze.

To ensure that cross-country ski boots fit almost like a second skin, fitting techniques like heat moulding are used, during which the boot is fitted exactly to the shape of your foot.

How do the sizes of cross-country ski boots from different manufacturers vary?

The following guidelines regarding the sizes of boots by different manufacturers might be helpful for choosing the perfect boots for you:

  • Cross-country ski boots from Fischer tend to run on the smaller side and are only available in whole sizes. We recommend buying one or one and a half sizes larger.
  • The size indications of Rossignol correspond to Mondopoint sizing, which refers to the length of the foot in centimetres. If you are between two sizes, the larger one is usually the better choice.
  • The size of Salomon cross-country ski boots generally corresponds to your usual shoe size. If you’re in between sizes, we recommend going for the larger size.
  • Madshus boots tend to run slightly smaller, although some models also correspond to regular sizes.
© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH

Which socks should I wear with cross-country ski boots?

Cross-country ski socks are an important connection between your feet and your boots. There are different models, varying in materials, thickness, length and seams.

Regarding materials, you should opt for synthetic fibres like polyester or merino wool, as they are breathable and provide good moisture management and thermal regulation. The advantage for you: You can treat your feet to some extra wearing comfort and dryness.

When it comes to choosing the right thickness, you should take into account the current weather situation as well as your individual sensitivity to cold. For colder days or deep snow, thicker socks are advisable, while thinner models are more suitable for mild temperatures. However, keep in mind that cross-country ski boots often have quite a tight fit, so to avoid pressure points, your socks shouldn’t be too thick.

A convenient double role: You can also use your hiking, trekking or running socks for cross-country skiing. Ski socks are usually less suitable for the trails as they are too thick.

The length of your socks is a matter of personal preference. Longer socks have the advantage of protecting large parts of your legs from the cold. Plus, they keep snow from entering your pants or boots.

As far as seams are concerned, you should opt for flat seams that don’t cause too much friction. To be on the safe side, you can choose seamless socks.

Other tips by our RENTertainers:

  • If possible, buy your cross-country ski boots and socks at the same time, so you can try them on together! If you already have socks you want to use, bring them with you to the shops to ensure a “perfect match”.
  • On freezing days, you can wear an additional pair of socks. However, make sure your boots are big enough to provide space for this additional layer.
  • Especially for longer tours, it’s a good idea to bring a spare pair of socks. When your first pair gets wet, you can simply swap them for dry ones to keep your feet snug and toasty.

The perfect outfit for cross-country skiing

Do you know what else you need for a perfect cross-country ski outfit? In our magazine article, you can find out what essentials you need.

Read it now!

© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH

How to care for your cross-country ski boots

© Fischer Sports GmbH

Do you want your cross-country ski boots to last as long as possible? You can contribute to that with proper care.

Read on to find out what you can do!

Taking proper care of cross-country ski boots

  • Clean them after every session: Remove dirt and snow from your cross-country ski boots after every session! A brush or a soft cloth is ideal for removing dirt and moisture. This prevents dirt from accumulating in the buckles or catches.
  • Let them dry: Plan enough time for your cross-country ski boots to dry after a skiing session! If possible, remove the insoles and let them dry separately. Avoid using heaters or ovens to dry the boots, as excessive heat could damage the materials.
  • Clean the inner liner: Most cross-country ski boots have a removable liner. Washing and drying this liner ensures that it stays fresh. Make sure the liner is completely dry before the next use.
  • Check the buckles: Regularly check the buckles and closure systems of your cross-country ski boots for functionality! If they are defective, consider getting them replaced.
  • Use waterproofing for an increased lifespan: Some cross-country ski boots have water-resistant coatings that can wear off over time. By applying special sprays and other agents, you can renew the waterproofing. Simply follow the instructions provided by the respective manufacturer!
  • Proper storage: Store your cross-country ski boots in a cool, dry place – preferably in a ventilated room! Sealed or damp containers are unsuitable, as they can promote the growth of mould.

Are there cross-country ski boots for wide feet?

Certainly! Many brands offer cross-country ski boots for skiers with wider feet. You’ll have to try on a few different models to see which ones fit best, but in general Rossignol and Salomon boots tend to be wider than those by Fischer.

© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH

What purpose do the insoles of cross-country ski boots serve?

If you have insoles for your everyday footwear or running shoes, it might be beneficial to use insoles for cross-country skiing as well. Plus, you can try using insoles if you feel that your cross-country ski boots simply don’t sit right.

Some manufacturers even offer tailormade insoles. They are a bit more pricy but experienced cross-country skiers swear by them. After all, a perfect fit has a positive effect on your overall performance and power transmission.

Heated insoles: a blessing for skiers who tend to get cold feet quickly! In addition to a better fit, heated insoles provide you with a toasty feeling throughout the day.

What to keep in mind when buying heated insoles

What types of closure systems are there?

Cross-country ski boots come with different types of closure systems that ensure a safe and comfortable fit. Here are some of the most common systems:

  • Lacing systems: Most cross-country ski boots boast a lacing system that is similar to ordinary sports shoes. It usually consists of traditional laces or speed lacing systems that make it easier to put on and take off your boots.
  • Velcro straps: Some products have Velcro straps above the insteps or ankle area. This type of closure system is particularly easy to use and adjust.
  • Zips: Closure systems with zips are impressively easy and fast to use. The zips are either located in the instep or ankle area.
  • Buckles: Some race and performance boots have buckle systems that are similar to those of Alpine ski boots. They ensure a snug and secure fit. This type of closure system is less common and mostly used by experienced cross-country skiers.

Our RENTertainers‘ recommendation

Which type of closure system is best for you depends on your personal preferences and your preferred cross-country technique. Cross-country ski boots for leisure skiers and beginners often have laces or Velcro straps. Race and performance boots tend to have more advanced closure systems such as buckles.

© INTERSPORT International Corporation GmbH


You can hardly wait to go cross-country skiing?

We’re sure you’ll love it! Before you hit the trails, why not drop by an INTERSPORT Rent shop near you? Our RENTertainers will be happy to kit you out for your first cross-country adventure.

Find a shop near you!

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