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Learning to flex the ankles

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I posted this in the boot guys area and got one reply that said "learn to flex the ones you have or buy softer boots" which was a bit redundant since the question was pretty much "should I buy softer boots or learn to flex the ones I have."  So, since the boot guys have shrugged their shoulders, what do you say?  How do I "learn to flex the ones you have?"

 

I'm skiing on The Beast.  My second pair.  I replaced my first pair after they went out of production with the help of one of you guys who happened to have a pair in the back room the right size.  I like the way they feel and work, although the examiners at my last exam did not and neither did my coach at Snow Performance (Crystal Mt, Washington).  His comment, "your ankles aren't going anywhere - you hit the cuff and - thunk - just stop."  The examiners said, "create more tension/flexion at your ankles with the turns."  So, yeah, what's up?  My technique needs work, sure.  But the Beast is not a particularly stiff boot.  And I'm not a small guy - 5'10", 185 lbs.   What is keeping me from "creating more tension/flexion at your ankles"?  I figure I need to polish my technique and maybe also get new boots and/or new examiners and coaches.  Snow Performance syas I should look at some sort of Lange which he suggested has all kinds of options and, now, is wide enough to accomodate my aircraft carriers.  I don't know anything about this new mix/match Lange or how it might improve my situation.  I'm no racer, but I think I ski pretty aggressively, prefer to spend my time off-piste.  Are my boots holding me back?  Should I be looking for a softer flex?  Or just taking more lessons?  Thanks for your time.

post #2 of 12

video

post #3 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by molesaver View Post

I posted this in the boot guys area and got one reply that said "learn to flex the ones you have or buy softer boots" which was a bit redundant since the question was pretty much "should I buy softer boots or learn to flex the ones I have."  So, since the boot guys have shrugged their shoulders, what do you say?  How do I "learn to flex the ones you have?"

 

I'm skiing on The Beast.  My second pair.  I replaced my first pair after they went out of production with the help of one of you guys who happened to have a pair in the back room the right size.  I like the way they feel and work, although the examiners at my last exam did not and neither did my coach at Snow Performance (Crystal Mt, Washington).  His comment, "your ankles aren't going anywhere - you hit the cuff and - thunk - just stop."  The examiners said, "create more tension/flexion at your ankles with the turns."  So, yeah, what's up?  My technique needs work, sure.  But the Beast is not a particularly stiff boot.  And I'm not a small guy - 5'10", 185 lbs.   What is keeping me from "creating more tension/flexion at your ankles"?  I figure I need to polish my technique and maybe also get new boots and/or new examiners and coaches.  Snow Performance syas I should look at some sort of Lange which he suggested has all kinds of options and, now, is wide enough to accomodate my aircraft carriers.  I don't know anything about this new mix/match Lange or how it might improve my situation.  I'm no racer, but I think I ski pretty aggressively, prefer to spend my time off-piste.  Are my boots holding me back?  Should I be looking for a softer flex?  Or just taking more lessons?  Thanks for your time.




the way you flex a stiff while skiing has less to do with strenght or how much you weigh and more to do with COM movements going into and out of turns and how dynamically we are skiing.

 

Take a video, I am sure we can let you know whats up.

post #4 of 12

molesaver: In order to take advantage of flexing the boots you have to have enough range of motion in your ankles.  Normal ranges is about 12-24 degrees.  Sit in a chair with 90 degree angles  from floor to lower legs and upper legs to lower legs.  Put a piece of flat stock under your foot back to the center of the heel and dosiflex the foot with muscle power only.  Lift the front of the flat stock and measure the angle the flat stock makes with the floor.  If using a devil meter or equivalent make sure the floor is level to start with or compensate.   Ski boots take up 6-9 degrees of motion.  If you are on the low side you may need heel lifts inside the boots to open the ankle.

 

Assuming you have some ankle range of motion you can learn to flex even a fairly stiff boot..  Ankle flex almost always results in unequal edge angles with A framing or upper body rotation if you do not tension your core. Absent developing core tension, most skiers find it near impossible to do a decent turn entry using much of any of ankle flex.

post #5 of 12

Molesaver, sorry you did not get the response you were looking for in the Ask a Bootfitter forum?  I didn't see your post myself?

 

Pierre is on the right track with first testing your ankle motion.

 

First of all the Beast is by no means a stiff boot for your build!  So I suspect the issues are in the sagittal plane alignment.

What bindings are you using?  

What is your boot sole length?

 

Could also be the angle created by your bindings which is holding you back?

 

 

Pierre said:

 

 

"Ankle flex almost always results in unequal edge angles with A framing or upper body rotation if you do not tension your core. Absent developing core tension, most skiers find it near impossible to do a decent turn entry using much of any of ankle flex."

Could you explain this statement Pierre, because it makes little sense to me?  
How is Q angle (frontal plane) related to ankle flexion (sagittal plane) and tensioning the core?  
I don't always want to flex my ankles to enter a turn do I?

 


Edited by bud heishman - 1/15/12 at 12:23pm
post #6 of 12
Molesaver,

First, most of the people at Snowperformance are pretty well informed about boots and proper fit as related to on-snow performance - so there's probably an actual fit issue in there somewhere.

I've an older pair of The Beast boots and liked them a lot. Based on your descriptions above, two thoughts cross my mind.

1) Pierre's discussion on Range of Dorsiflexion is huge and may be the actual issue (meaning your foot's ability to articulate vs. the boot's flex pattern).

I've minimal range of motion and had similar issues in the past. By adding a wedge shape under my footbeds along with a goodly bit of internal canting (high on the inside) I've corrected the situation and now have a regular range of dorsiflexion motion in my ankle.

2) The location/position of your foot inside the liner/shell determines your ability to flex a boot just as much as the flex-factor of the boot does!

The ideal location for your ankle's hinge-point is at (or very near) the boot's hinge-point. At this location you have maximum leverage against the support your shell (and liner) create because both "hinges" operate along the same axis.

If your ankle's hinge-point is behind or above the shell's hinge-point you'll end up "crushing" the liner's tongue and front of the shell rather than just pivoting at the axis of the shell's hinge. This happens in a lot of boots where the shell is too big and/or the foot has been positioned too far back (by the liner whose tongue is too thick, insti-print foam is inserted behind the tongue, plastic tongue 'spoilers' or stiffeners are added, etc) or too high (heel lifts, thick footbeds, etc). In this scenario your weight tends to add extra crushing force to the material being compressed or rotated - subtracting 30 to 60 points from the stiffness rating. Shin burn is an indicator here because components are sliding back and forth against your shins rather than simply moving right along with the liner and shell material as everything pivots from the hinge.

If your ankle's hinge-point is in front of or below the shell's hinge-point you have the opposite problem with an added element of sliding friction between the liner, shell and your socks. As you articulate your ankle (flex) you immediately bump up against the frontal components of the boot from a position of weak leverage. Here, your weight doesn't help at all because weight doesn't come into play until the boot is already flexing a bit and your CM ends up in front of the hinge. But to get there, you've first got to flex the boot - a catch-22 situation.

Friction is also hindering movement because the shin can't just topple forward along with the liner and shell cuff - it's got to slide down the liner as the liner topples forward because it's pivoting from an axis further back or down. Again, each time you flex, the liner and your sock rub fiercely to reposition themselves as the boot flexes forward. In effect, the lack of leverage and increased friction might add an extra 50-90 points to the original flex numbers.


I've had some of these issues in the past and resolved them by making sure my liner, footbed and bootboard all worked together to get my ankle's axis close to that of the shell. In the case of my own 'Beast' boots I crushed them too easily (flex # seemed around 55!) because my ankle hinge was both above and behind that of the shell (large heel lifts and foam in front of my shin). I also tended to rub my shins raw because of all the friction this generated.


Bottom line: Boot fitting isn't just about footbeds, alignment and stance - it's also about positioning the ankle hinge with respect to the shell's hinge for accurate operation of the shell and liner. You may not need new boots - just repositioning of your foot within the shells and liners.


.ma
post #7 of 12

michaelA,

 

How do you change the ankle relationship to the boot hinge rivet front to back?

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Bud,

 

I am going to try Pierre's angle test as soon as I figure out what "flat stock" and "devil meter" are.

 

The Boots are Beasts with 315 sole length.

Skis are Volkl AC50, 170

Bindings are Marker PT Wideride (not at all sure whether that is complete, accurate name, just reading off what is on the binding)

 

Standing by with 'bated breath to hear what these tea leaves reveal.

 

Any idea how I would go about assessing where my ankle is in relation to the hinge per MA's remarks?

post #9 of 12

PM'd you!

post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post

michaelA,

How do you change the ankle relationship to the boot hinge rivet front to back?

Good question Bud, wish there was a good general answer!

At first I messed around with reducing the lift under my heel. Earlier, I'd gotten advice to insert 3/4" heel-lifts from several people to "fix balance issues" but that caused new issues as I simply compensated and found a new way to be out of balance (the real issue was failure to move properly at the start of a turn!). By reducing that lift down to 3/8" I brought my ankle bone down closer to the shell's hinge.

As I was using the Beast's included plastic inserts and some foam between the tongue and my shin, I removed the foam (down by the ankle) and 'crushed' the tongue's material in that area as well. I then added a bit of duct tape and thin (but dense) foam up behind my heel and along the sides of my heel. This not only helped hold my heel down better, it moved my whole foot forward maybe 1/4" (so I no longer needed foam in front of my shin/ankle to take up space). Had to mess around with the footbeds quite a bit also (more tape here, less there, put that back, thin that down, undo that mess... etc).

In my newer Fischer boots I chose to add foam to the back of the heel area of the Zipfit liners (the ones I got from you!) right off - and also modeled where my ankle bone was long before working on the footbeds. While I've really hacked them up by now, I've got to say these are not only the best performing ski boots I've ever had, they're also the best fitting boots I've ever worn. Despite being quite tight I no longer need Ibuprofen just to ski! I recently walked around the parking a bunch and almost got in the car with them still on - as they were just as innocuous as my street shoes.


I've seen people with "long feet" as well as "short feet" and now wonder if ski boot makers simply generalize an 'average' hinge location just as they generalize so many other attributes of boots. We fit boots using the one-to-two-finger method with respect to length but I wonder if anyone checks how well the boot's axis of flex aligns with the foot's ankle axis once the liner is actually on the foot with a foot-bed in there too.

From what I can tell a little variation in alignment doesn't make any meaningful difference but flex performance suffers at an exponentially increasing rate the further off that alignment is. So - is hinge alignment a common check-point for boot fitting/alignment? Is it even on anyone's radar?

.ma
post #11 of 12
Quote:
I am going to try Pierre's angle test as soon as I figure out what "flat stock" and "devil meter" are.

Molesaver--I've got to admit, I'm looking forward to Pierre's answer to that one too!

I have no idea what a "devil meter" is either, but the basic concept of Pierre's description (I think) is right on. How much can you raise the front of your feet off the floor using using your leg muscles, starting with ankles at right angles (shins perpendicular to the floor)? If your boots are not overly stiff (as Bud has pointed out, they probably are not), the problem could lie in a lack of flexibility in your ankles. As Pierre suggests, there are boot modifications that can help you maximize the range of motion you may have.

On the other hand, I do think that ankle flexing tends to be over-rated. Yes, we need some, but ski boots are stiff for a reason, and skis simply do not respond to "boot flex." They respond to pressure, both the overall amount of pressure, and the location (front, center, back, and ski-to-ski). They could not care less how flexed your boots or ankles are in the process!

Best regards,
Bob
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

Wow, I really appreciate all the sharing going on.

 

Bud gave me a much simpler method for measuring native ankle flex and the advice to go with .25" heel lift which I did.  Further, I should try that out and, if it seemed to do the trick, consider putting some material on the binding toe piece to (I think) negate the ramp while preserving the opening of the ankle joint. Tried it yesterday for the first time.  There was 10 to 12 inches of wind loaded new at Crystal and I was demo-ing fat skis (Gotama).  Between the manky snow and the unfamiliar skis, I don't think I can comment on heel-lift benefits at this point, please stand by.

 

In response to MichaelA's pm query whether his response made sense, "yes".  Though the prospect of doing all that mucking about is daunting.  I will likely cave and get a pro to do it for me.  You guys handing out free advice are actually ambassadors for the industry.

 

Comments from Bob Barnes, of course, I regard with reverance and I am not being ironic.  I look forward to some illumination about what my coaches and examiners said:  "your ankles aren't going anywhere - you hit the cuff and - thunk - just stop."  The examiners said, "create more tension/flexion at your ankles with the turns."   If the actual flex doesn't count, what DO they see that gives rise to these comments?  Given the coincidence I'm guessing they actually do see something.

 

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