Without a doubt, finding a boot that fits and flexes properly is the most important part of the equipment equation. Even a flawed ski can be overcome if a child has the right boot. We polled coaches and instructors, and the message was clear: Go soft, and go front-entry.Rear-entry boots (buckles on the back) can be a godsend for parents of 3- and 4-year-olds who need help getting boots on and off, but for older children, rear-entry designs just don't provide proper fit and support. Poor fit leads to pain. Poor support leads to bad habits. Even if you're renting, find a shop that rents front-entry boots (buckles on the front).
As with skis, only the strongest and heaviest junior needs a stiff, high-end race boot. If a child can't flex a boot, he or she won't be able to get forward and flex the ski as designed. Take the time to find a boot that fits comfortably, and don't expect to get two years out of a boot without sacrificing performance.
Parents with young children should be aware of the difference between junior and adult boot soles. Several small, entry-level bindings are compatible with junior boot soles only. They work just as well, but as the child grows into an adult boot sole, the binding is no longer useable.
Binding weight is also important, and rental products are often the worst offenders. The long metal track on which a rental heelpiece slides is not only too heavy, it interferes with the ski's flex. If a shop wants to fit your child with a ski that has a binding taking up about 40 percent of the ski, keep looking. Salomon offers lightweight bindings in its Quadrax series, which also are compatible with adult boot soles.