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What to do with my feet?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Hey Guys,

Bit of a weird question I suppose but it's been something I have been thinking about while out skiing the last couple of times and decided to finally ask.

I'm an advanced skier, but never took any lessons, really just learned from following my pops.

So I''ve been thinking more about how I initiate my turns and where I'm driving my ankles, knees, etc as I'm turning.

I know that I have a bad habit of making more z-shaped turns and I'm trying to work on that.

Something that has been bugging me though is, I'm not exactly sure what I should be doing with my feet in my boot.

I've read here you need to be using your ankle joints to begin the process, so that would lead me to think I need to be pulling my toes upward (towards me) and putting pressure on the sides of feet (depending on which way I'm turning it would be the outside of my uphill ski and inside of the downhill ski).

However, I've also read about feeling the pressure on your whole foot, so the above would put most of the pressure from behind the ball of my foot and to the heel.

Then I took a lesson where the instructor had me lifting the tail of what would be my new inside ski, but pressuring the tip into the snow to help me learn to shorten the inside leg and to feel where I'm pressuring in the boot to make this happen.

This drill suggested to me that I should be basically up on the balls of my feet (basically trying to come out of my boots from the heel from pressuring the tongue of my boots) and again pressuring the outside of my foot on the uphill ski and the inside of my foot on the downhill ski.

However, then I only feel the pressure on the balls of my feet and also found that this made my feet hurt, although that could be because I have new boots, I'm not sure.

So what exactly should I be doing with my feet inside the boot?
post #2 of 8

We ski with our feet.  Good skiing begins and ends with our feet.  If you try and put the pressure at the ball of the foot and your heels lift up, you are doing it wrong.  I teach how to maintain fore aft balance by learning to slide your feet fore and aft under your upper body with out moving your upper body.  When you pull your feet back you will feel your balance over the ball of the foot and your shin will be pressed against the boot tongue.  When you push your feet ahead you will feel you balance over the heels and you will feel your calves against the back of the boot.  When you pull your feet back your hips will be in front of your boots.  Generally most ski turns will begin from this position.   YM

post #3 of 8

You can pull the feet back to get the CoM forward-er, without lifting the heels inside the boots.  
This is good in so many situations.  

post #4 of 8

mcl, stand up.  Right now.  Stand easily balanced on the balls of your feet, heels just lightly in contact with your shoe insoles.  Nothing tricky.  Feet relaxed.  Toes relaxed.  Now pivot around to one side.  The other side.  Flex up & down.  Nothing tricky, just balanced on the balls of your feet.  Just the way a dance instructor would tell us, or a tennis coach, or a batting coach, etc., etc.


This is pretty much a good stance for skiing.  Pressure on the boot tongue is an indicator that we've pull our feet back under our body's center of mass.  This is great for engaging the tip of the ski to make a smooth turn or to bring the ski tips down to the snow for control when skiing over a drop off.  We don't try for the tongue pressure.  We try to get our feet back under us, and the feeling of the tongue against the shin is a good indicator.  Feet farther back, more tongue feeling, for steeper slopes or tighter turns.


With the feet pulled back under the body roll just the inside ankle up on the side so the bit toe side of that ski is in the air.  Just balance with the rest of your body.  You'll turn.  Pull the feet back farther, lighten the weight on the inside ski, tip it farther, and you'll turn tighter. No more Z turns.

post #5 of 8

What to do with your feet? Short answer- Ski with them. 


Long, less flippant answer- Everything you do in skiing is done to affect how your ski interacts with the snow. All of our movements are done to influence that ski/snow interface. Since our feet are the closest part of our body to the ski, what happens with them will have the greatest effect on our skis. Think of every turn starting from your feet up.


What should you do with your feet? Everything. There isn't a single answer. Because the answer is always going to depend on what you want your ski to do. If I want to drive my ski hard, and put some heavy pressure on the shovels of my skis in a carved arc, I'm going to lift my toes against the top of my boot and mash my shins into my boot tongues. If I'm wanting to subtly adjust my edge angles as I ski, I might push down with the little toe of my outside foot. If I want to pivot my skis and use a rotary motion, I might press my toe into the side of my boot. The terrain and how I'm skiing it is going to dictate what to do with my feet at any given time. 


There is a tendency among many skiers to say "always do this". Eventually, it almost always ends up being "always do this, unless its better not to do it." So when you ask "what should I do with my feet?" I'd ask the question back "what do you want your ski to do?" Don't just think of what your feet are doing. Think of why they're doing it. Your feet do all sorts of different things in good skiing. Not just one thing. One thing is static. Static isn't good skiing. 

post #6 of 8

The key to a clean transition from one turn to the next is releasing the edge's grip on the snow.


For example at the end of a left turn, your right foot/ski is on it's uphill (inside) edge.  You need to flatten that ski (both skis actually, but it's that ski that has the majority of the weight on it.)


To do this you start with a tipping motion of your feet.  Both feet tip downhill to flatten both skis and release the ski's grip on the snow.


The knees assist this, as do the hips, eventually your Center of Mass (COM) will move over your skis to the downhill side and the skis will come around.


So the feet start the process.  To start that right turn, both shins move towards at least 2pm on the clock face of your boot cuffs (with 12 being straight ahead.)

Edited by SkiMangoJazz - 1/28/15 at 12:12pm
post #7 of 8

I want to try to keep it as simple as possible, yet getting my idea across. 


As stated, the bottoms of your feet are the closest thing to the snow, so it makes logical sense to start there. Here's how I do it. 


I think of a central point on the bottom of each foot,  just behind the balls and just to the inside of them. This is the area that when supported properly acts as (more or less)  fulcrum point. From standing (conceptually) on this fulcrum point I can apply pressure fore/aft/left/right with a minimal amount of movement, particularly upper body movement. By allowing my skeleton to align over this central foot point (I call it the "power point") I can then roll off of it in any direction by flexing/extending/rolling my ankle, with the resistant force generating from this one small spot.. As I press gently on this central point I will be able to then roll my ankles in the boot, combined with the needed flexion/extension of my feet. Typically I am rolling into the front corners just above the ankle. To maintain control with a minimum amount of added boot shaft leverage my toes are also supported (usually with a few layers of tape under my orthotic) to maximize the leverage of my foot/feet. 


By using this method of pressing and rolling off the bottom of my feet I feel that I create torque and leverage within the boot (without having to rely on a lot of boot top pressure) and generate a tremendous amount of stability that is transferred into the ski. I feel as if I can get the skis to react simply by twitching my feet. As a result I don't feel the need to over-leverage my boot cuffs nor ski in an extraordinarily stiff boot. It is important to understand that the boot shaft should neither be leaned too far forward or too straight, best matching the stance so that it can react when needed and not interfere when not needed. 


FWIW I learned how to do this several years back. I had been skiing in the trees with Rob Sogard out at Snowbird and witnessed the epitomy of grace and flow and was totally mesmerized. I have his image of skiing burned into my brain.  The following morning at breakfast I asked him how he was able to ski so gracefully. His answer: "I ski from the bottoms of my feet". Even now that image is still clear in my mind and what I strive for when I ski.


FOOTNOTE: Several decades ago Caber (now defunct boot mfg) came out with a "rocker sole" feature   It was an attempt to create a fulcrum point so the ankle could roll into the boot as I described. I myself dismissed it at the time think it foolish but in retrospect I have to believe they were trying to achieve trying to establish a fulcrum point on the bottom of the foot. 

post #8 of 8
Rob and Sean Warman used to travel together when they went to PSIA divisions to conduct clinics as members of the Alpine Team. From Rob I learned to get my feet flat on the slope in transitions and from Sean I learned about tipping the feet, which, to me, starts at the bottoms. I try to feel the full length of the feet while maintaining contact of shins with the boot cuffs. Sean has a video on Utube about tipping the feet called use the feet in skiing. Can't figure out how to link with the iPhone.

Here's Sean's foot movement video:
Edited by Kneale Brownson - 1/29/15 at 8:44am
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