Masterfit doesn't make ski boots; they make them fit better. They are actually three companies in one. Avid skiers and ski instructors are probably most familiar with Masterfit University, which is an educational and accreditation program for boot fitters. Then there's Masterfit Enterprises, the hardgoods arm that manufactures and sells boot fitter tools, planers, and stance balancing footbeds, including Instaprint CustomForm insoles and Zapz microwavable bio-gel insoles. They also offer the Eliminator custom tongue and Booster power straps. Lastly, Masterfit markets the America's Best Bootfitters/ABB "seal of approval" that is proudly displayed by 55 ski shops and 45 ski companies to date.
At the SIA Show in January 2011 we had a few moments to talk about Masterfit with two of Masterfit U's professors and practicioners, Greg Hoffmann and Mark Elling. Greg, known as gregfits, is one of the Boot Guys here at EpicSki. He has been fitting boots since 1979. He works at Lionshead, where he manages one of the three locations of his Ski Boot Fiitting, Inc. (SBF) shops in Vail, a company he founded. Greg has been helping out EpicSki Academy students at the Aspen clinics the past few years. Mark Elling wrote the acclaimed book for "core" skiers, The All-Mountain Skier: The Way to Expert Skiing. He is the head boot fitter at Mt. Bachelor Ski & Sport. Both Greg, to the left in the photo below, and Mark, right, are expert skiers and PSIA Level III certified ski instructors.
As Greg explained, the most important thing he does is check the individual's ankle flexion. Proper boot fit can compensate for too little or too much range of motion in ankle dorsiflexion. The object is to match the amount of forward lean of the boot to the flexibility of the individual's ankle joint. When the boot flexes forward more than the ankle joint, something's got to give, and generally the heel lifts up and the hip falls back to accommodate the excessive angle of the lower leg.
The sketch below by Greg illustrates how ankle flexion affects the position of the hips and how the boot fitter affects "stance balancing." As shown in the sketch, the net forward lean is 16 degrees. The net internal ramp angle of the boot is 6 degrees. By subtraction we find that the minimum amount of flexion that is necessary at the ankle is 10 degrees with this set-up. If the skier doesn't have 10 degrees of ankle flexion, then to stay in balance the skier's hips have to go back. Greg noted that the ramp angle of the boot board and the delta angle of the binding have two different effects. The ramp angle of the boot balances the foot in the boot. The delta angle of the ski will increase the forward lean of the boot. Skiers with limited ankle dorsiflexion may not be able to ski on certain combinations of bindings and boots. Adding a heel lift only exacerbates the problem.
Masterfit University offers five courses and accreditations: Associates, Associates Plus, Masters, Masters Plus and Backcountry. The Associates course is a one-day comprehensive course for new-hires that includes a pair of custom footbeds and lunch. The course includes such topics as:
- Basic Foot Anatomy
- Customer Evaluation
- Custom Footbeds
- Boot Lasts
- Fit Characteristics
- Brands and Salesmanship
- Fit Tricks
- Fit Problems and Boot Modifications
- Assessing Modifications
- Modifying Boots
- Shell Modifications
- Women's Issues
- Stance Problems and Situations
Associates Plus adds a second day onto the Associates program and dials the previous curriculum up a notch with such topics as:
- Biomechanics and Movement for General Sports Balance
- Advanced Shell Modifications
- Advanced Liner Modifications
- Stance Balancing for Alpine Skiing
- The Business of Bootfitting
- Tactics for Creating Successful Add-On Sales
- Advanced Assessment Techniques
- Focused Footbeds (advanced techniques with one-on-one feedback)
- Snowboard-Specific Bootfitting Techniques
- Boot Sole Planing and Application of Lifter Plates
The Master's and Master's Plus programs are for experienced boot techs, Certified Pedorthists and Certified Athletic Trainers. Another Master's program is for AT/Tele, hiking, and trail boot specialists. The Master's programs are intensive two-day sessions with breakout sessions on snowboard bootfitting, stance alignment and canting, boot stretching and grinding, etc.