High arches, wide heels, monkey toes, and weak ankles...yeah that describes my feet pretty well, which has made my pursuit of finding the perfect skate boot pretty difficult. I've found a few that come close though, which is good enough for now. I'm not going to go over every boot style available out there because this is a blog post, not a novel. What I am going to do is go over a few foot “issues” and what to do that might help you to find that perfect boot for you.
But before we get to those pesky problems, let's talk about how a boot should fit when you try it on. Leather boots stretch, but usually the stretching is done along the width, not the length. Boots will usually feel pretty snug around the ball of your foot, but your toes shouldn't be scrunched up on the end.
Tip: wear thin athletic socks or nylons when trying on and wearing boots.
There are quite a few boots on the market made for narrow feet. I've heard pretty good things from narrow footed skaters when it comes to Riedell's 265 boot as well as the Antik AR1 and MG2 models. Personally, I don't have narrow feet, I had to get my Antik's in wide for an extra fee. Some boots will come in a wide style for free, but usually these aren't stocked so they can take a while to receive. Riedell 965 boots are made for a wider ball but still have a pretty narrow heel.
One of the best things you should do when looking at getting new boots is measure your feet. For some reason there are a ton of women out there who think they have wide feet that, at least in the world of roller skating boots, are completely normal. Another reason to measure your feet is because not all boots are sized the same way, so knowing exactly how long your foot is will help ensure you're getting the correct size.
You're probably asking what the heck a monkey toe is...well, it's what I call my second toe which is longer than my big toe and makes it easy for me to pick things up with my toes, thus the name monkey toe was born! If you are also lucky enough to have these, you probably have also experienced getting a blister and callous on the first knuckle of that longer toe. It happens a lot from wearing shoes that would be a perfect fit when measuring to the end of your big toe, but that monkey toe ends up pressing against the end of your shoe (or skate) and pushes that knuckle to the top where it is perfect to be rubbed into redness.
Those of us with high arches know how annoying it can be to constantly have to unlace and lace back up boots because we can't just slip our feet in and out of them, but when you find something that works it is worth the trouble. If you wear orthotics/insoles because of these inflictions, take your inserts with you when trying on boots because these can make a world of difference when making your selection, especially in the size arena. My insoles make my overly stretched out size 8.5's absolutely perfect, without them my feet are sloshy messes.
Do you have little horns poking from the sides of your feet that are impeding your ability to skate, pain free for any decent amount of time? One solution might be to get that specific area of your boot pressed out so it doesn't rub the offending appendage. I've heard of people doing this with a hair dryer, heat gun, or even a nice bake in the oven at a low temp before molding the area out with the handle of a screwdriver. You can also see if your local boot store stretches areas of your leather skates.
Whether due to not exercising enough or genetics, weak ankles can be a huge problem in roller derby where we use them for everything from cutting to knee touches. There are plenty of exercises to do, but the best thing out there is a balance board (or something similar). Start off standing on one foot for a minute, then switching to the other one. Once you master that, do the same thing on a pillow or couch cushion. After that is too easy, it's time for either one of those half ball things or a balance board. There are a few different balance board designs, but the best ones to get allow for 360 degree movement. Mine is a board that has a small soccer ball under it so it moves forward, backward, side to side, and everywhere in between. If you get one like this and find it difficult to stay on it at all, try letting some of the air out of the ball. Using a balance board also helps you work on your derby stance. There is a huge difference between standing straight up and bending your knees and you will definitely feel the difference. Stay on the balance board for as long as you can, then try to beat your time the next time you use the board. If you are doing this 4-5 times a week, you should see improvement fairly quickly.
If you are doing the above and don't see any improvement, you may have genetically weak ankles, which totally sucks. Antik boots are great for this because they provide extra support but don't constrict movement.
There is no substitution to actually trying on a boot to know if it is going to work for you. If you don't have a local derby store where you can do this, see if there is a boot camp or tournament you can attend where roller skate reps will have models to try on. Another option, although usually more limited, is to try on fellow skaters' boots if you can find anyone with the style you are interested in and approximately same sized feet. Barring those options, ordering online isn't the end of the world.
If you have found a boot that is a good fit or something to avoid for a certain type of foot, please post in the comments to save your fellow players with the same ailment some time and money. You could win an S-One helmet for your troubles!