Paul Richelson's Feet First review

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  1. #1

    Paul Richelson's Feet First review

    I and others have spoken about Richelson's before in general boot fitting threads, but I figured I'd post an individual thread for easier searching purposes by people who are interested in his boot fitting services.

    This fall I've gone through my second experience with Richelson's. The first one was about 6 years ago to fix some problems with my old Krypton Pro's. That was just a basic refit and blowing out some problem areas of the boot. The work was professional and effective, but didn't encompass the full scope of their practice. This time around I committed to their full experience. It involved two appointments at about 90 minutes each.

    First things first. Richelson's is not a ski shop. Paul is a certified Pedorthist. The scope of his practice is not simply for skiers, though everyone in the shop are passionate skiers. The experience is more like going to a doctor's office. You walk into a waiting room.



    There's very little to indicate their skiing focus in the waiting room. The wall up on the left are a bunch of walking shoes or hiking boots that he stocks for purchase. He does not stock ski boots, but does have purchasing arrangements with several companies. My two visits I encountered a half dozen or so other customers. I think one other person was there for ski boots. The rest were there for running, hiking and one guy was a mail carrier just looking for better fitting shoes for his route. All over the walls are signed pictures thanking Paul from professional marathon runners, tennis players, D1 Basketball players and mountaineers on top of Mount Everest.

    When you get called back to your appointment, you walk into the ski boot fitting room.



    The white and blue piece of equipment under the right hand side of the bench is their custom orthotic molding machine. More on that later.

    In addition to the ski boot fitting area, there were a couple of other smaller exam rooms that I could see that looked to be used for shoes. Staff included Paul, a receptionist and two other fitters. I worked with a great guy named Ian who was going into his second season with Paul. Paul manned another fitting room plus being heavily involved in checking his two fitters work.

    Adjacent to the exam rooms were two work shops to do the production work.



    So, now that you got the feel of the place, here's why I went in for his services.



    I've really never had ski boots that haven't given me problems during 34 years of skiing. Some boots over that time have been better than others, but I've always had issues with my arches cramping and varying degrees of pain on the inside of my ankles, the medial malleolus area. The best boots/experiences I have had over those years were bought and fitted by Shon Racicot who now owns the Boot Pro near Okemo, but those purchases were 20+ years ago when he worked at Northern Ski Works.

    I learned many years ago during high school from injuries to my feet playing football and lacrosse that I have flat feet based on the comments made by the athletic trainers. Shon probably pointed it out back then too. I didn't realize just how flat they were until I had a pretty gruesome injury where I blew a section of the fat pad in my heel out the side of my foot after landing flat off a jump in a park about five years. I've spoken about this injury online when it happened. It happened in late January at Crotched and shortly after I had to shut my season down for two months. I saw a Podiatrist and a Harvard Orthopedic surgeon to figure out what was going on because it was a rare injury. Both reviewed X-rays and made comments explaining shock that my flat feet didn't cause constant pain in my knees and hips. I've never had much pain in either. They contributed that to good length strength from skiing.

    So, this year I had a lot of the same problems with cramping and ankle pain at the end of the year and got pretty fed up and planned on going back to Richelson's due to the prior positive experience. I ended up canceling my appointment due to a big April powder day and said I'd revisit in the fall.

    Paul's basic service is a full foot evaluation for $75. Included in that service is a list of current model ski boots that will best fit your foot. You can buy a boot off his list directly from him or elsewhere. I will get into his science behind boot recommendations later. If you do buy through him and don't like the boots, there is a restocking fee to send them back. You're likely better off buying the boots from another store or online and bringing them in as I didn't see any great discount offered. I don't think he really cares to buy boots for people, he just wants them to fit properly.

    So, as luck would have it, this is Paul's 25th anniversary for his shop. Due to my experience years ago and being on his email list, I received an email early September that he was running a special for a foot evaluation for $25.

    The Foot evaluation process:

    This took 45 minutes. It started with several measurements of my feet in different locations, observing me bending down at the knees and standing on the hand of my boot fitter Ian so he could feel my arch. He rechecked things a couple of times through and charted everything. Additionally, he took measurements of my foot inside my boot just standing in the shell without liners. Mind you they still had my chart from my visit there 6-7 years ago and he compared what he saw with the notes from it. I doubt many ski shops keep foot notes on their customers. After he was done, Paul came to check his measurements and explained what he saw differently.

    Prognosis:

    As was known they said I have severely flat feet. The flat feet cause me to pronate badly. Their estimation is that pronation is what is causing my ankle pain as that rolling inward creates pressure on the inside of my boots at the malleolus.

    Solutions:

    Cheapish Fix: For about $125 he could doctor up some off the shelf orthotics that would mostly support the flat arch and correct pronation, plus add a bit of cushioning above the ankle on the inside of my calf. He said the orthotics would last about 75-100 days of skiing. The padding on the inside of my leg would likely break down quicker. What was interesting about that padding concept is the padding higher up the calf would alleviate pressure at where I was having ankle pain to reduce the pain. In comparison, where I bought the boots said they would put extra padding over where the pain point was. Quite simply better physics when I think about it. However the downfall in that approach is the padding would throw my regular stance more laterally outward.

    Ideal Fix: Custon orthotics for $250. These he says typically last about 750 days of skiing or ten years time. The custom orthotics would fully support my arch and correct the pronation and I likely wouldn't need the calf pad to maintain a neutral stance.

    I gave some thought to the cost for a few minutes and decided to go for the custom orthotics.

    The process for molding my feet took an additional 45 minutes using the machine I pointed out above in the ski boot fitting picture. Ian would have me stand on the mold, bend down a few times and try and fully relax my feet while he gently slid the form in and around my feet. He'd set the mold and have Paul come and check it. Paul kept finding pronation and knee alignment issues and would make Ian redo it. It took three times to get it right. You could tell Ian was getting frustrated by Paul not approving his work, but Paul was quite encouraging to him and let him know that my feet were right up there with the most difficult he'd have to work with. Once they were both satisfied, a follow up appointment was set.

    Follow up visit:

    I returned today kind of expecting a quick visit. I just assumed the orthotics would be done, I'd try my boots on quickly and be on my way. No sir. I spent an additional hour and fifteen minutes of Ian running tests for pronation just standing on the orthotics on flat ground and looking for any lateral knee movement while flexing into a ski stance with them in my boots. Like before, Paul continued to pop in and check the work. With each test, Ian would take the orthotic into the shop to trim and grind down areas. It took three tests to get the left foot to fit properly and five tests to get my right foot and knee alignment done. Paul thinks this will likely fix my issues, but did say I could potentially need to come in for a small bit of the calf padding. I just need to ski them now and see how they feel. If I have any problems, I can come back as many times as needed free of charge through 12/31 for adjustments.

    List of boot recommendations:

    So, after dumping all this money into my current boots, I'm in no rush to run out and buy new ones, but part of the initial fitting deal is they provide you with a list of boots that are likely to fit you best. My list had nine boot models on it with three of them as their top choices for me based upon my anatomy, ability and preferred skiing habits. Here's where it gets interesting. They hand you a list of just models, but they review their shop list with you that contains a bunch of sizing information. What Richelson does is get in the top 10 or so models of boots from the companies they work with (Atomic, Lange, K2, Fischer, Nordica, Rossignol, Technica and Salomon) and they measure them in numerous ways instead of just relying on the factory provided information on flex, last and volume. There were about half dozen columns for volume that were graded: S, S-, S+, M, M-, M+, L, L-, L+. It looked like they check the toe box area, mid foot, ankle, ankle pocket, lower and upper calf. Then they had ratings on how high on the leg the cuff is and how upright or flexed the boot is. I asked if I could get the detailed list and was told no, that's their proprietary information and they don't want it potentially shared with other ski shops. I wonder how many ski shops in New England take this precise and detailed of an approach in cataloging their boots. I'm guessing few if any.

    So, there you have it. I'll post a follow up review a few days into my season to update how well or not well my boots perform. I suspect I'll be very happy with how precise and detailed this process was.

  2. #2
    Edd's Avatar
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    Nov 2006
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    Great report! I’ve been to their place but my foot issues are nothing like yours. This review makes me realize I should try to get my wife to go. She has show-stopping foot problems while skiing every season.


    Sent from my iPhone using AlpineZone

  3. #3
    Hope you'll have some happy feet in the near future DHS!

    Can't undervalue the importance of a properly fit boot + foot bed combo and the great effect it has ones comfort and performance on the hill!

    Sent from my XT1254 using AlpineZone mobile app
    '07--08 season: 51 Days, '08-'09 season: 55 Days, '09-'10 season: 41 Days, '10-'11 season: 49 days, '11-'12 season: 40 Days '12-'13 season: 57 days, '13-'14 season, 60 days '14-'15 season 60 days, '15-'16 season 52 days, '16-'17 season: 50 days '07-'17 seasons: 515 Days

    '17 - '18 Season:
    November: 12,18,19,24,26 (Mount Snow)
    December: 2,3,10 (Mount Snow) 9 (Stratton)

  4. #4
    What were the recommended boots for you?

    Sent from my SM-G930F using AlpineZone mobile app
    104(12/13)
    105
    (13/14)
    48(14/15)
    35(15/16)
    50(16/17)
    Rossi Soul 7 w/ Marker F12 (188 ) FOR SALE!
    Stockli Stormrider w/ Look PX 12 (177)

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkshot99 View Post
    What were the recommended boots for you?

    Sent from my SM-G930F using AlpineZone mobile app
    I was specific in that I wanted a boot with a walk mode in case I ever stop being lazy and get into a bit of touring. There were 9 boots on the list. The 3 that they thought were best to work with for my foot anatomy and desired performance were:

    Atomic Ultra Hawx XTD 120
    Salomon QST Pro 120
    K2 Pinnacle Pro 130



    Sent from my XT1565 using AlpineZone mobile app

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by deadheadskier View Post
    I was specific in that I wanted a boot with a walk mode in case I ever stop being lazy and get into a bit of touring. There were 9 boots on the list. The 3 that they thought were best to work with for my foot anatomy and desired performance were:

    Atomic Ultra Hawx XTD 120
    Salomon QST Pro 120
    K2 Pinnacle Pro 130



    Sent from my XT1565 using AlpineZone mobile app
    Did you tell him about the desire for a walk mode, or did those just happen to go with you wants?
    I would love to talk to a guy like this. I have a boot that I am very happy with after I have done a lot of work to make it my own. But what out there could be better for my specific foot that I don't even know existed. I will most likely never do this as I'm cheap, and can't see myself paying someone to pick out ski gear for me.

    As far as walj mode boots go....they are very overrated. I have 3 pairs of boots. 1 is a Panterra 130 (brand new never skied, but replacing a 2 yr old pair of the same model) and a Dalbello Virus (the predecessor to the current Sherpa series). There is no comparison between the 2.
    The Virus is awesome for skinning up and hiking in, as I have a huge range of motion. I can almost do a full toe point in it. The Panterra allows me to almost stand straight up verticle in them.
    The Virus sucks pretty bad for actual skiing....I don't know what dalbello rates them at, but I would call it a 80 flex boot if I had to compare to downhill boots. The Panterra is a full blown 130 flex downhill charger!
    I have toured in the Panterra 1 time. I happened to go to a resort after a massive dump and some people invited me to go on a tour out the ridge of the mtn. I had my skins in the truck so I was happy to join. The boots barely felt better than the non walk mode boots I had started touring with. I do not turn on walk mode when I go in for lunch. It doesn't make much difference, and I always forget to turn it off after. I spend a run or 2 try g to figure out if lunch killed my ski skills, or what.

    I'm just saying don't limit yourself to just those optioned boots for the chance you might possibly want to tour. So many people have boots/no dings so they can, but really never will use it.

    Sent from my SM-G930F using AlpineZone mobile app
    104(12/13)
    105
    (13/14)
    48(14/15)
    35(15/16)
    50(16/17)
    Rossi Soul 7 w/ Marker F12 (188 ) FOR SALE!
    Stockli Stormrider w/ Look PX 12 (177)

  7. #7
    I was specific about wanting touring capabilities, so all of the boots on the list had a walk mode. Had I asked for a list on downhill specific boots, that's what I would have been provided.

    Sent from my XT1565 using AlpineZone mobile app

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