Larry Houchen is perched at the boot fitting bench. His eyes are shiny and a little sunken as he ponders a client’s phalanges. A girl in her teens is standing at attention on the elevated bench and talking about pronation. Her mom is watching intently. She sounds like a racer but I’m not sure; I’m just eavesdropping.
Larry’s face is at her feet and he continues to look. After 30 years of bootfitting, countless clinics on movement, and multiple classes in kinesthesiology, Larry can give an accurate assessment from a simple glance. “Do the simple, easy things,” he says and that simplicity translates into affordable fits, insoles, and adjustments.
As Larry answers a couple of questions, he recommends the daughter look for a pair of last year’s Langes for half price at which point she should come back for the fit. This is not the place where people get up-sold and Boulder residents know this. Actually, Coloradans in-the-know go to Larry for all their boot fitting needs. Maybe it’s the down home atmosphere and unpretentious vibe and maybe its the fact that every single one of his 33 reviews on Yelp retains a 5 star rating.
The teenager’s mom and Larry talk like old friends and that’s exactly what great boot-fits do– They bond people together.
Today, I need new insoles. I bought my first pair of customs in 2007 and after talking with some friends who attended CU, it’s clear that this Larry character everyone keeps telling me is the man to see.
Once I take a seat on the bench, Larry gives my foot a quick glance and moves deliberately to the bench. He grabs a pair of moldable insoles and asks me to take my socks off. While he tinkers around the bench, Larry mentions a couple names of friends who live in Jackson Hole, my former ski bum home. I know almost all of them.
When he gets down to business, his technique is simple, quick, and accurate. Most bootfitters “tend to overcomplicate things,” he tells me. “Make it simple, stabilize the heels, and give the foot enough room to pronate but not a ton.” He knows anatomy like the back of his foot (pun intended) and he uses that vast knowledge and experience to make conscious decisions about what needs to be done and maybe more importantly, what should be left alone.
His mentors, which include legendary boot guru Sven Coomer from Nordica helped pass along that ethos, which Larry explains as, “When all else fails, do no harm.”
After 30 minutes and some great conversation, my new insoles are ready and I slide my feet into my Salomon Quest Max 130 flex boot. When it comes to boots, I’m particular and these feel damn close to perfect.
It’s no suprise that some of Larry’s famous clients include world champion bump skiers Johnny Moseley and Ann Battelle.
As I thank Larry, we start talking about skiing and how it’s changed the Front Range over the last decade. Larry frequents Eldora and Loveland but tends to tour most days. Although more people are skiing the backcountry these days, Boulder’s best bootfitter still has his stashes. This is especially true in Rocky Mountain National Park.
“A lot of people go back there [Rocky Mountain National Park] and don’t realize the wind’s power” he tells me. “It can be dangerous,” he says pausing. He then smirks and whispers “it can keep it good back there too.”
As we continue to talk, I realize that unlike many of his contemporaries, Larry has avoided the “jaded” tag. He still loves skiing and loves to talk shop with even the most amateur of enthusiasts.
“Horshoes, sex, and skiing are the best because you don’t have to be good at them to have fun. The best skier on the mountain is the one having the most fun.” – Larry Houchen
Open @ Noon
if 12+ inches @ Eldora
Appointments are recommended but not required.