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Foot Skills

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

 

 

Throwing this out for your consideration and thoughts...

 

 

 

FOOT SKILLS

by: bud heishman

 

 

 

Our feet are the beginning of the kinetic chain and our most sensitive proprioceptors for balancing.  The foot/ankle can move in three planes of motion, each relating directly to one of the PSIA skiing skills.  We can dorsiflex and plantar flex (pressure), we can evert and invert (edging), and we can abduct and adduct (rotary).  (note: pronation is a combination of dorsiflexion, eversion, and abduction and supination the opposite)  Though our ski boots fit snugly around our feet, all these planes of motion are available to some degree inside our boots and use the resistance from the boot liner and shell to transmit impulse to the skis.  The following will isolate each range of motion and it’s role in skiing, then try to put them all together in concert.  

 

Dorsi flexion/Plantar flexion:

Standing in your boots and skis in a cuff neutral stance, simply dorsiflex (pull forefoot upward to close ankle joint) inside your boots.  What happens?  Do your hips move forward or back? Does the pressure increase or decrease under your heels?  What muscle(s) do you feel firing?  The anterior tibialus muscle, which contracts during dorsiflexion, is one of the most important muscles in skiing in this author’s opinion.  

Now plantar flex (press forefoot downward to open ankle joint) and notice what happens?  Though many times while skiing, we will forcefully dorsiflex to pull our mass forward, we should generally use plantar flexion in a more passive manner or a relaxation of the ankle rather than an active pressing and is generally most effectively used to modulate our fore/aft balance before the fall line.  

 

Now think about this range of movement while making some shorter radius slow turns, more pivoty at first.  As you enter the finish phase of your turn and begin the edge change, simultaneously dorsiflex your feet by pulling your toes upward, then as you move to the new edges, immediately allow your ankles to plantar flex to begin the new turn as the path of your cg. and skis begin to diverge.  To make this even more dramatic loosen your top two boot buckles, keeping your power strap snug.   Play with this movement as you begin to shape the turns and move toward a medium radius turn with more edge angle to feel the fore/aft affects of using this foot and ankle movement.  You will begin to feel the pressure under your feet move from ball to arch to heel throughout the turn but note this should be a result of the movement of your ankles inside the boot rather than a deliberate fore/aft pushing or pulling of your feet or a fore/aft movement of your hips, which should remain relatively quiet over your base of support.

 

Our foot and ankle movements should facilitate keeping the line between our base of support and cg. in line (balance axis) with the resultant force throughout our turns which will entails balancing with accelerations and against de-accelerations of each turn.  

 

Notice that dorsiflexing your ankle will pull your hips forward into transition and plantar flexing will keep the shovels engaged with the snow as the paths of your skis and cg. diverge toward apex.

 

Inversion/Eversion:

Now let’s play with the lateral movements of the foot and ankle.  When making parallel turns one foot is everting while the other is inverting (tipping).  We can feel this inside our boots standing on the flat by simply tipping the feet inside our boots.  Moving from little toe edge to big toe edge feel the muscles in the feet tensing to tip.  Feel when the foot is everted (tipped to the inside edge) the inside ankle bone press against the boot hinge creating a kind of pressure triangle between the first met head, medial ankle bone, and the heel.  As the foot is inverted (tipped to the outside edge) we can feel the outside ankle pressing against the boot hinge.  These movements serve to adjust initial edge angles and make fine tune balancing adjustment throughout our turns.  While skiing in a well balanced stance these foot and ankle movements inside the boot are invisible to the observer but are very important to dynamic balance.

 

Let’s make some turns now isolating these tipping movements by skiing down a flatter slope in railroad track turns, initiating the edge change with feet and ankles.  Begin in a static position and simply tip on as high an edge as possible to one side then the other using counter balancing efforts up the body.  How high can you tip and still balance?  Now take it into motion and simply tip from one set of edges to the other without any effort to turn the feet.  Progressively ski the railroad tracks into medium radius high edge angle dynamic turns still emphasizing the tipping movements in the ankle.  Note: leading the transition with the first movement being the tipping to the little toe edge of the downhill ski will pull us into the new turn with a simultaneous edge change eliminating any sequential edge change.

 

 

Adduction/Abduction:

Here we discover the foot and ankle movements of inversion/eversion are biomechanically linked to the movements of adduction/abduction.  In your bare feet you can experiment with this by twisting your foot inward (adduction) you will notice the foot also tips to the little toe side (inversion) and conversely, twisting the foot outward (abduction) you will notice the foot also tips to the big toe side (eversion).  This linked movement plays and important part in carving turns we will discuss shortly.

 

Let’s begin playing with Ab/adduction by making pivot slip turns to feel the feet twisting inside the boots.  Granted other rotary movements are involved here, notably the femurs rotating in the hip sockets and the tib/fib rotating under the knee joint but the movement here should initiate in the feet for this task and should all occur with the hips and shoulders stable to anchor the lower leg movements.

 

You will notice as we ski from the pivot end of the spectrum in linked pivot slips, toward the carving end of the spectrum, the role of the foot movements change a bit.  In a pivot slip with momentum moving straight down the fall line the tips are released and pivoted into the fall line and then pivoted across in the opposite direction.  As we progress toward the carving end of the spectrum by adding more edge angle and/or forward pressure our momentum is directed more forward closer to the direction the skis are pointing, we begin to see how the twisting of our feet and the tipping roles change.  In the pivot slip we twist our feet into the fall line and resist tipping them.  Conversely, when carving turns we tip our feet, and consequently because the movements are biomechanically linked, twist our feet in the OPPOSITE direction of the turn direction (or resist the twist into the turn direction)!  I call this the “Tip n Twist” because we twist one 

 

 

way and tip the opposite which as we discovered, are biomechanically inseparable movements in our ankles.   By understanding and using these linked movements, we can improve our carving turn entries.  (note: the tips do not go in first in a carved turn, our bodies do! Conversely while in a pivoted turn entry our tips do go in first).  This is a movement spectrum which is poorly understood by many yet is worth exploring.

 

 

Now that we have isolated each movement of the foot and ankle, let’s put it all together in some turns to optimize the benefits of each plane of motion.  It is probably easier to first play with these movements making “air turns” with our hands to simulate the blends of fore/aft, lateral, and rotary movements with our feet, then visualize how they will feel inside our boots before trying on skis.  You may look like a Polynesian Hula dancer with your hand movements while practicing this?  Visualize, from your edge change into a carved right handed turn, plantar flexing while simultaneously twisting your feet to the LEFT and tipping them to the RIGHT (remember we can not separate these two planes of motion).  As you arc around the turn through the fall line and into completion your ankles begin to dorsiflex, pulling the Cg’s release toward the new turn apex, and simultaneously rolling the feet and ankles toward edge change.  This may sound like a complex movement being described here, however; The actual movements inside the boots are very simple once you grasp the sensations.

 

The Blend:

How does this movement pattern change if I am making a sub-planing (windsurf analogy) or non carved turn?  The mechanics change a bit as referenced above when we are skiing closer to the pivot slip end of the carving/pivoting spectrum (see graph ATM Teaching Concepts III).  Here, beginning at edge change, assuming we are in a good body position balanced over the downhill ski and slightly countered, the movements in the feet and ankles are more subdued as we release our edges the tips seek the fall line aided by twisting our feet, this time, into the turn direction with the new edge engagement (tipping) occurring much later in the turn around the fall line.  Here the tips DO go in first vs. in a planing or carved turn where the Cg goes in first.  The more we migrate toward the extremes of the carve/pivot spectrum, the more evident this becomes and a movement blend occurs along the continuum in between.  The blend then is directly related to where our momentum is directed and how much momentum we have.

 

 

By understanding and effectively using these foot and ankle movements, your skiing accuracy and balance will improve!  Think with your feet and have fun!

 


Edited by bud heishman - 2/27/11 at 4:00pm
post #2 of 23

 

Quote:
Visualize, from your edge change into a carved right handed turn, plantar flexing while simultaneously twisting your feet to the LEFT and tipping them to the RIGHT

 

I tried this standing on the carpet in my bare feet and also out on the snow yesterday. The twisting left and tipping right sounded completely counter intuitive so I was quite surprised by the outcome. It was not at all what I expected.

post #3 of 23

This is one of the best comments on skiing I have read in many years.  I tend to focus on teaching dorsiflexion, especially to release the old outside ski as direction changes, because that seems to be where most of my students can get the most mileage out of my instruction.  Your discussion of inversion and eversion seems to offer some new possibilities.  Could you suggest some common movement patterns that indicate an opportunity to teach something related to inversion and eversion, and what coaching techniques you have had success with?

post #4 of 23

Bud,

I've re-read this several times.  Each time getting something else from it.  Some of the things I knew but hadn't thought about.  Others cleared things up.  Still other things I just plain old didn't know and can't wait until next season to test them out.

 

Thanks for making me think.

 

BillA,

I had the same reaction many, many moons ago when taking a motorcycle safety course.  They told me that when I'm in a turn, lets say to the right, you can tighten the turn by turning the front tire to the left!  My gues is in the case of the motorcycle, and the case of the foot, it isn't so much what the foot/tire is doing, but what it causes the rest of your body to do.  Along the lines of standing on a swivel chair and turning your upper body to the right - your feet will go left.  In this case, you turn your feet, it moves your upper body more inboard so it tightend the turn.

 

I've done it on a motorcycle and bicycle.  Can't wait to try it on skis.

 

Ken

 

 

post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by L&AirC View Post

"I had the same reaction many, many moons ago when taking a motorcycle safety course.  They told me that when I'm in a turn, lets say to the right, you can tighten the turn by turning the front tire to the left!  My gues is in the case of the motorcycle, and the case of the foot, it isn't so much what the foot/tire is doing, but what it causes the rest of your body to do.  Along the lines of standing on a swivel chair and turning your upper body to the right - your feet will go left.  In this case, you turn your feet, it moves your upper body more inboard so it tightend the turn."


I love this!  It is a perfect analogy to the "tip n twist" concept.  For anyone who has ridden a big heavy road bike this will make perfect sense.  In fact if you try to turn the handlebars into the turn it will prove very difficult and ineffective while conversely PUSHING the left grip away will effortlessly tip the bike into a nice turn to the left.

 

 

 


Edited by bud heishman - 3/16/11 at 9:31pm
post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 

I moved this thread here so more could comment and it seems to apply to a recent conversation here.  

post #7 of 23

Great stuff Bud. The best I have seen on Epic so far.

 

Do you have any thoughts on how the "tip and twist" relates to hip and upper body counter?

post #8 of 23
Thread Starter 

Thanks Jamt!,  Regarding twist n tip relationship to upper body counter, I see them as independent of each other, though strong core stability provides the anchor for affective foot movements.  It wouldn't seem to matter if the hips were square or countered to the feet, or the skier is making a larger or smaller radius turn?  Though, I would think the twist would be more subtle as the radius size increased. Again these two movements are biomechanically linked so the twist directly relates to the amount of tipping and it is merely a change in mental focus which helps us notice the action and perhaps use it productively.   Your thoughts are appreciated!

post #9 of 23

 

Great article Bud, I’d like to make an attempt to articulate my thoughts and add just a pinch maybe a dash more? J

 

“The anterior tibialus muscle, which contracts during dorsiflexion, is one of the most important muscles in skiing in this author’s opinion.”  

 

Amen, once a skier begins using their anterior tibialus they can increase or decrease edge angles by flexing and contracting the anterior tibialus muscle. All world cup skiers have a bulging anterior tibialus muscle.

 

“Here we discover the foot and ankle movements of inversion/eversion are biomechanically linked to the movements of adduction/abduction.  In your bare feet you can experiment with this by twisting your foot inward (adduction) you will notice the foot also tips to the little toe side (inversion) and conversely, twisting the foot outward (abduction) you will notice the foot also tips to the big toe side (eversion).  This linked movement plays and important part in carving turns we will discuss shortly.”

 

Amen again, now bring the anterior tibialus back into play with timing (location in turn) by “twisting the foot” you can flatten the ski increasing a skies bag of tricks and tactical options.

post #10 of 23
Thread Starter 

Agreed Jon!,

 

Discovered and interesting comparison sitting in my chair which will highlight how a slight difference in focus can change sensations.  Try this:

 

sitting in a chair with lower legs at a 90 degree angle to floor in bare feet try the following:

 

1st focus on tipping your knees to edge your skis (envision feet in ski boots) relaxing your feet.

 

2nd now focus on the soles of your feet and twist your feet to the left while maintaining pressure on the soles of your feet.  Notice how the feet tip to edge and the knees tip to the right as well.

 

The difference is where in the kinetic chain the movement began and how much more positive the movement beginning in the feet is to edge the skis.  The knee movement and the tipping were secondary movements rather than initiators!

 

 

post #11 of 23



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post

Agreed Jon!,

 

Discovered and interesting comparison sitting in my chair which will highlight how a slight difference in focus can change sensations.  Try this:

 

sitting in a chair with lower legs at a 90 degree angle to floor in bare feet try the following:

 

1st focus on tipping your knees to edge your skis (envision feet in ski boots) relaxing your feet.

 

2nd now focus on the soles of your feet and twist your feet to the left while maintaining pressure on the soles of your feet.  Notice how the feet tip to edge and the knees tip to the right as well.

 

The difference is where in the kinetic chain the movement began and how much more positive the movement beginning in the feet is to edge the skis.  The knee movement and the tipping were secondary movements rather than initiators!

 

 



Brilliant!

 

Doing this both ways is like comparing power steering to rack and pinion.  Amazing.  Only wish I didn't have to wait 165 days to try it out.

 

Ken 

 

post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post

Thanks Jamt!,  Regarding twist n tip relationship to upper body counter, I see them as independent of each other, though strong core stability provides the anchor for affective foot movements.  It wouldn't seem to matter if the hips were square or countered to the feet, or the skier is making a larger or smaller radius turn?  Though, I would think the twist would be more subtle as the radius size increased. Again these two movements are biomechanically linked so the twist directly relates to the amount of tipping and it is merely a change in mental focus which helps us notice the action and perhaps use it productively.   Your thoughts are appreciated!


I don't have any answers, but if you do another living room experiment. Stand up in a relaxed stance and twist and tip the feet, with no concious move in any other body part. Then the hip and upper body will rotate in the direction you tip, becuase the feet are twisting the opposite way. If you concurrently rotate the femurs it will cause the feet to twist in the direction of the tip, thus potentially eliminating the twist of the feet, and in turn avoiding rotation of the hip/upper body. In other words, by combining feet and femur moves you stay neutral, and at the same time you get more edging.

Now of course when the feet are tipped the skis will start turning and you can consider a lot of options of what to do with upper body counter, but as you say, that is more or less an independent, but important, story.

post #13 of 23

Bud, I also think it is very interesting how this relates to alignement. If you have an naturally abducted foot you probably cannot adduct it very much when on skis, and thus with the logic you presented above this will limit how much you can tip the inside ski. What can can you do with alignement to compensate for this? Do you have to buy an "abducted boot", or is there something else that can be done?

post #14 of 23

 

Jamt:

 

If I understand your statement correctly:

 

If you have an naturally abducted foot you probably cannot adduct it very much when on skis, and thus with the logic you presented above this will limit how much you can tip the inside ski.”

 

You are referring to the “naturally abducted foot” going from outside ski to inside ski? If so you should start to tip the ski sooner if there is an adduct limitation; once you start twisting/turning that foot, your femur will start to tip and twist sooner as well, pulling your CM across. I would think you would have a higher edge angle high in the new turn?

 

post #15 of 23

Jon, what I mean with a naturally abducted foot is a foot that point outwards when you stand walk etc. I think it is quite common that people can point the foot outwards a lot more than inwards and with a natural abducted foot I suppose this difference is substantial.

 

When you bend the legs and move the knees in one direction the range of motion in the adduction will eventually stopp the tipping of the inside shin. The outside shin can however tip a lot more, thus causing an A-frame. I think that the range of motion in the adduction is major factor on how much A-frame people have, even on WC racing level.

post #16 of 23

I measured my hip internal rotation on  the left and right leg.

This is done lying on your back, legs straight, and twisting the femur to the inside (ie to the right for the left leg, clockwise).

On my left leg, I can barely move it past vertical. Right leg, I can move it about 40 degrees to the left of vertical (counterclockwise).

Would this lack of flexibilty translate to my jump turns on snow? Or any very short radius turns, 2-3 meter radius?

the internal rotation of the femur would seem to apply when you rotate the skis (pivot slip), without rotating the hips out of the fall line (ie keep the hips facing downhill).

Would you expect that in jumo turns, or very short radius turns, I would have to rotate my left hip to the right when making a turn to the right?

 

post #17 of 23

Great topic, and very nicely written.

 

There are a handful of dryland drills (e.g. ladder drills, cone patterns) that can help reinforce foot movement patterns too.

post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post

I measured my hip internal rotation on  the left and right leg.

This is done lying on your back, legs straight, and twisting the femur to the inside (ie to the right for the left leg, clockwise).

On my left leg, I can barely move it past vertical. Right leg, I can move it about 40 degrees to the left of vertical (counterclockwise).

Would this lack of flexibilty translate to my jump turns on snow? Or any very short radius turns, 2-3 meter radius?

the internal rotation of the femur would seem to apply when you rotate the skis (pivot slip), without rotating the hips out of the fall line (ie keep the hips facing downhill).

Would you expect that in jumo turns, or very short radius turns, I would have to rotate my left hip to the right when making a turn to the right?

 

Yes. this would be a likely result.  This asymmetry in your hips will be evident in your ski technique and until this "cause" is corrected through PT and exercise your technique will not likely change.  The movements you present (hip rotation or "squaring up") are compensatory to the hip rotation issues rather than technique shortcomings or intent.
 

 

post #19 of 23
Jamt,

You're referring to my own situation. My feet tend to point outward at an unusually large angle (natural for me). I suspect it's because I grew up carrying heavy hay bails and feed sacks up a long steep, muddy hill forcing me to really 'dig in' and push laterally with my forefoot. My calf muscle is now aligned with pulling the first met far to the outside of the heel rather than directly back. It's also left me with wide, pronated feet and a minimal range of dorsiflexion.

This has always been a problem leaving me with pain from most shoes, boots and especially ski boots. Simply stretching out the sixth-toe region doesn't really help as it remains difficult to get an inside edge forcing me to strain my foot to get that edge (causing cramps in the foot). People coaching my foot-skills in skiing who would say, "Just do this..." could never understand - I can't do that!


Over the last few years I've experimented with heel and canting ramps underfoot. I've found that a 3/8" - 1/2" heel lift enables just enough dorsiflexion to be workable. Adding ~1/2" rise to the inside of each foot "points" my feet a bit more parallel and enables a reasonable range of inversion/eversion. It also greatly reduces Sixth-Toe Syndrome and lets me fit more comfortably inside seemingly narrow ski boots.

With this internal canting my feet are pointed a bit more parallel while standing normally and I'm now able to engage the tips of my skis at turn initiation without having to firmly twist my outside-foot inward while cranking my outside-knee to the inside. I'm also able to 'stand' on that outside ski without straining the outside-foot to hold onto that inside-edge (typically painful and tiring). My range of lateral tipping (of the boot) is now nearly equal when tipped from the foot. I also use the Fischer Soma-Tech boots for added directional alignment.


For a long time I had a (very necessary) A-frame on the outside-leg as it was the only way to keep that outside-ski on the same edge-angle as the inside-ski and to keep it mostly parallel. I had no option to finely control edge-angles (to the inside) using just foot-skills. I had to use my knees for those fine adjustments. With all the mods inside my boots I'm now able to stand on straighter legs and do what others do naturally. smile.gif

Granted, my experimental boots are now a cut up mess as are my jury-rigged foot-beds but that will all get corrected into a properly finished final form in the next iteration of new gear.


Before making all these adjustments I'd never have believed that "Foot Skills" meant anything in skiing and that tipping only came from shins tipping the cuff of the boot. I simply had no evidence otherwise! Too often instructors and coaches tell students to do/try something that is simply impossible for the student to do because of their gear. On seeing failure, the instructor/coach simply says "Keep practicing, you'll get it..." - which is utterly false as they'll never get it because their gear wont let them!

So for those of you reading this thread perceiving little value in Foot Skills (and the meaningful control gained from minimal foot movements) ... be aware it may be your gear! If your boots (or skis *** ) block your ability to gain a noticeable advantage from fine foot movements inside your boots then it's worth investigating the matter in more detail.

.ma


*** Skis/bindings can also hinder transmission of fine foot movements into ski/snow interaction. If the bindings have a bit of play (with respect to boot-tipping) then the small tipping motions you make at the foot/ankle will be "used up" by the play in the binding before the ski can react to those motions. You'll see no value in such foot-tipping because "It doesn't work"... but in reality the motion simply isn't reaching your skis.
post #20 of 23

Interesting post Michael. I think I will try some inside rises this season to see what effect it has.

post #21 of 23
If you don't have a duck-footed stance or excessive pronation then you might not like the results.

Even if you do it might take a few runs for it to feel right.

My first few runs in Soma-Tech boots had me skiing in a consistent wedge even at high speeds. Took a while for my legs to realize they no longer needed to forcibly twist to the inside in order to go straight. Each time I stacked another mm of inside lift I ended up with "too much" inside edge - until I acclimated.

The realization that these changes were "really good" came after many runs when I realized just how much more relaxed my legs were as I skied. My built-in compensatory patterns simply took time to melt away.

.ma
post #22 of 23

I've had a long journey along these lines. Lots of "just do it this ways". It never helped.

Canting, orthotics, lifting my short leg and, at last, Dobermann Aggressors. Those are the things that worked. I don't remember any drills that did. Back in 1971 Witherall said something like: "when a racer can't change no matter what, the problem is equipment". I've never found that to be wrong.

Great post Bud. I've been "asleep" since April (I sure miss summer camps but my old bod doesn't)

Time to get reved up for the coming season

Thanks.

post #23 of 23
Thread Starter 

It is great to see skiers coming to the realization that improving technique is not solely a matter practicing specific movements.  When analyzing one's skiing I use "TAPP" (Technique, Alignment, Psychological, Physiological) to assess where the limitation or issues originate, then focus my attention where it will do the most good.  Once that area has been addressed, I will move my focus around this "Skier Analysis Diamond" (sorry Weems I stole a diamond)  to another area to develop or refine.  In this way we do not get pigeon holed into becoming frustrated trying to change something that can not be changed until something else is fixed or addressed.  Perhaps this would be a great new thread to discuss in more detail?

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