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Opening and closing the ankle joint to avoid excessive bending at the waist a bad habit?

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 

My last post "How do you turn on skis" triggered a response "tip the skis on edge"so simple and profound it has caused a tremendous breakthrough in my skiing . So now I am hungry for another piece of the puzzle.

 

I am looking more closely at the ankle joint. I notice modern racing stance appears to have a very upright vertical and incredibly stiff boot. When the skier absorbs a large impact (such as landing from a jump) or tucks for speed, the ankle of the boot stays the same, and the knees and hips flex. To my eye it looks as though any knee flex forces the skiers bum straight back and to maintain balance the hips must flex an equal amount, bringing the torso forward over the knees.

 

I depend on ankle flex to a huge degree, and anytime I feel "Thrown in the back seat" when flexing my knees, I look to my ankles and boots to increase forward lean, and flexibility rather than hinge at the hips and lean forward to compensate. I have no video footage but I am aware my stance is very torso upright. This makes me wonder if I have developed a bad habit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So my questions for the experts are:

 

Is closing the ankle joint to a significant degree in a modern stiff boot even possible?

 

Do high performance boots exist that have actual cuff travel in ski mode at the pivot for and aft that does not depend on shell flex? 

 

Is an upright torso and dependence on ankle flex to maintain for and aft balance a glass ceiling in development and therefore a bad habit?

 

If significant ankle flex is not wanted for high speed support, how do you determine the best "permanent" boot cuff angle?

post #2 of 32
Yes, you can flex a high performance boot in a high g turn.
post #3 of 32
You basically want the angle of your spine from the waist up to be similar to the angle of your lower leg from the foot up. You want ankle flex to keep contact with the boot cuff. When opening the ankle joints, you want to be moving forward/laterally to maintain that contact.
post #4 of 32

a lot of interesting questions.

 

#1, first and foremost, setting up the boots fore/aft is an art bestowed on few. A good fitter should be able to help you customize it so that YOU have good ankle movement. A lot goes into this, including delta and ramp angles, heel lifts, bindings setup, cuff forward lean, lower leg shape, cuff height etc.

 

In an ideally aligned boot (fore/aft) you do not need to bend plastic to be forward but can dorsiflex the ankle enough to get leverage so it's easy to stay there. Don't use only the ankles to "stay forward" - keep the boots back as well.

 

#2 ankle flex. First off, call it dorsiflexion, not flex. You do certainly want to have enough room to dorsiflex without bending the plastic cuff. You do want to have some shin contact, even some pressure, that's certainly important.

 

Is closing the ankle possible somewhat? Sure. A fair bit, between felling the back of the cuff and the front - again, depending on the boot setup. Less so in a stiff tight WC boot, but it can be terrifying to see how far back they can pull the inside foot, without the aid of pressure/weight - which is all dorsiflexion.

 

In all modern skiing, using the ankles is very important, both balance, fore/aft and tipping the skis on edge.

 

However, back to your big question: you need both. Like mentioned above, you need to use both the ankles and the hip, when flexing... so you should also hunch forward a little at the hip to maintain balance, when the hip is flexing (transition). if you do not, you most likely fall back too much. You should not hunch much - that can be a sign that your boots are not working properly, but if you don't hunch at all now, then "normal" will feel exaggerated.

post #5 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by nematon785 View Post
 

My last post "How do you turn on skis" triggered a response "tip the skis on edge"so simple and profound it has caused a tremendous breakthrough in my skiing . So now I am hungry for another piece of the puzzle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'm glad you discovered that tipping skis on edge greatly facilitates turning.   It's sad however that this idea is still a bit  of a mystery.   Warren Witherell wrote in How the Racers Ski in 1972 that  if you edge and pressure a ski properly it will take most anywhere you want to go.   YM

post #6 of 32

A ferrari has a very stiff suspension, a cadillac has more of a plush ride.  Racer have stiff boots so there is no delay from their movements to ski performance. At the other end, beginner and even intermediate boots will be easier to flex, dampening the input from the skier as they twitch and over-react to the conditions.  This holds true in general.

 

In specific though, its your feet, your ability to move the knee forward/back while in ski boot, while skiing. (I say knee because you can see it move; you cant see you ankle open/close while in your boots).

 

On a gentler slope, loosen your buckles a fair bit and see how that impacts your skiing - it will certainly tell you where your balance is.

 

On *my* boots, if i excessively tighten the velcro strap, i then have limited forward movement and my lower leg feels like its in a rigid cast.  So i don't do that ;)

post #7 of 32
Simple answers are easy but with that said remember all actions we do will have an effect in all skill pools. Knowing this the answers get complex very quickly.
It is flexing and extending that controls the location of the most pressure as well as the total amount of pressure we are putting on the snowpack and thus the globe. When combined with other skill pools we can and should talk about how the skis respond to these inputs.

Hip flex and bending at the waist often gets a bad rap when if fact as the range of motion in the lower half increases the need for bending at the waist increases. Additionally, when combined with counter rotated stances the strict interpretation of leg and hip flex being movements just in the saggital plane goes right out the window. Same goes for foot to foot pressure management.
So suggesting an either / or choice sort of misses the larger picture where both are legitimate movement options. At least within the scope of more advanced skiing. It can even be split up into bilateral hemispheres and quadrants. What this means is we can and often do flex one hip as we extend the other, or dorsi-flex one ankle as we plantar-flex the other. Then as if that isn't complicated enough it all will change as we move through a turn.

For the relatively new skier boot stiffness restricts ankle range of motion and thus knee and hip flex become a natural work around many adopt. The problems start when we consider how that restricts access to the other skills. Some hip flex and bending at the waist should occur but excessive bending at the waist for lower level skiers actually inhibits edging and leg steering movements. We see this as keeping the pelvis squarer to the skis throughout their turns. It also put huge amounts of strain on the lower back because the role of weight bearing traditionally done by the skeleton is now being done by the back muscles.

I could go on and on sharing examples but I would rather not do that because part of the process involves experimentation on the part of the person asking the question. Armed with real world experience the discussion will have more context and the answers will as well.
Go out and play with more ankle flex, more hip flex, and a combination of both. See if you can feel the differences between both.
Hardliners may not agree about the value of both but that should not deter you from doing some active experimentation and drawing your own conclusion.
post #8 of 32

The less flex the better once one starts knowing how to ski.  I've been in 130 flex boots for many years, and I'm not a racer.  The 130s are great for powder & bumps as well as on piste.  The stiffer flex provides something to work against and get re-centered when one is thrown off balance.  It provides much quicker input to the skis when one pulls their feet back to load the ski tips or pushes the feet forward to unload the tips momentarily to ride up a ridge of snow.

 

The boot fitter gets you centered.  You then have a small bit of ankle flexion and all your knee, hip, & spine flexion to work with.  I know that there is a lot of talk about using dorsiflexion (ankle flexion) and most of it doesn't work for most skiers.  We have very small muscles to dorsiflex, and we have big, strong hamstring muscles to pull the feet back, to get the feet under our body's center of mass.  I can flex my knees & hips deeply momentarily when skiing over a roller or mogul, then straighten and extend on the other side even in stiff boots.  Forget about your ankles.  Think about your feet under or behind your hips. 

post #9 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoftSnowGuy View Post

The less flex the better once one starts knowing how to ski.  I've been in 130 flex boots for many years, and I'm not a racer.  The 130s are great for powder & bumps as well as on piste.  The stiffer flex provides something to work against and get re-centered when one is thrown off balance.  It provides much quicker input to the skis when one pulls their feet back to load the ski tips or pushes the feet forward to unload the tips momentarily to ride up a ridge of snow.

The boot fitter gets you centered.  You then have a small bit of ankle flexion and all your knee, hip, & spine flexion to work with.  I know that there is a lot of talk about using dorsiflexion (ankle flexion) and most of it doesn't work for most skiers.  We have very small muscles to dorsiflex, and we have big, strong hamstring muscles to pull the feet back, to get the feet under our body's center of mass.  I can flex my knees & hips deeply momentarily when skiing over a roller or mogul, then straighten and extend on the other side even in stiff boots.  Forget about your ankles.  Think about your feet under or behind your hips. 
True
post #10 of 32
Suggesting no ankle movements are used in skiing is an overstatement. Is RoM in the ankle restricted? Of course but that is poor support for the idea that it is non existent.
post #11 of 32

All top tier motor skills reside under the boot shell. To many, not being able to visually affirm them means they do not exist. Sort of like a "the world is flat" scenario.

post #12 of 32

I show students all the time how to move fore/aft on skis by opening and closing the ankles.  I can move my feet under the upper body by strongly pulling my  feet back and then pushing or relaxing the feet ahead fully opening the ankle.   I ski the Nordica Speedmachine 130 flex.    Full excursion fore/aft is about  8 -9 inches.     YM 

post #13 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by yogaman View Post

I show students all the time how to move fore/aft on skis by opening and closing the ankles.  I can move my feet under the upper body by strongly pulling my  feet back and then pushing or relaxing the feet ahead fully opening the ankle.   I ski the Nordica Speedmachine 130 flex.    Full excursion fore/aft is about  8 -9 inches.     YM 
right, but you're not doing it by pulling the tibia muscles.
post #14 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by rod9301 View Post


right, but you're not doing it by pulling the tibia muscles.

I'm not sure which muscles you refer to when you say tibia muscles.    I just counted 18 muscle  muscles which have their insertions or origins somewhere on the tibia.   YM 

post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by docbrad66 View Post
 

A ferrari has a very stiff suspension, a cadillac has more of a plush ride.  Racer have stiff boots so there is no delay from their movements to ski performance. At the other end, beginner and even intermediate boots will be easier to flex, dampening the input from the skier as they twitch and over-react to the conditions.  This holds true in general.

 

In specific though, its your feet, your ability to move the knee forward/back while in ski boot, while skiing. (I say knee because you can see it move; you cant see you ankle open/close while in your boots).

 

On a gentler slope, loosen your buckles a fair bit and see how that impacts your skiing - it will certainly tell you where your balance is.

 

On *my* boots, if i excessively tighten the velcro strap, i then have limited forward movement and my lower leg feels like its in a rigid cast.  So i don't do that ;)

Hmm..

 

If the boot cuff is loose on your lower leg,  then boot "flex" is compromised. and there is an abrupt discontinuity when the boot becomes engaged.

If the boot shank is tight,  all flex is controlled by the boot design.

Think... elastic Booster straps as a compromise.

 

Perhaps we all ski in boots that are too stiff for our true needs, and cover the fact by allowing our lower legs to wallow around in less than perfect support.

 

No racer images needed..  those skiers are not among "we".

 

Me?  I like AT boots.  Sometimes I forget to lock out the walk mode.  Carved skiing doesn't seem to be a problem when that happens, but bumps tell the tale!  Or a heavy back pack    ;-)

post #16 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by yogaman View Post

I'm not sure which muscles you refer to when you say tibia muscles.    I just counted 18 muscle  muscles which have their insertions or origins somewhere on the tibia.   YM 
ok, any muscle except hamstrings
post #17 of 32
Expand that model to include the entire range of motion in the legs. The use of ankle flex in both directions as well as breaking at the waist become situational options. It's unfortunate some ignore some of that range to make their model seem more complete. YM talking about shuffling the feet and how that forces us to flex the ankles only scratches the surface of what can happen in that world of a wider range of leg movements.
post #18 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by yogaman View Post
 

I'm not sure which muscles you refer to when you say tibia muscles.    I just counted 18 muscle  muscles which have their insertions or origins somewhere on the tibia.   YM 

Yogaman, I know you're just being difficult, but still let me put it in layman's terms.  Put on your ski boot.  Buckle up.  Lift that boot in the air.  Now, flex that boot.  What muscles do you use to try to flex the boot?  Those are the muscles they are talking about.  How far can you flex the boot?  1mm, 0.5 mm?  Almost nothing.  This shows that closing the ankles is something that happens when you flex the boot, not something you do TO flex the boots.  Focusing on the ankles is very in vogue among certain groups, but it's just a mental trigger.  There are other triggers used by other groups of people that are just as useful and focus more on the real sources of energy that flex the boots, such as move weight forward of which closing the ankles is just one small part.

post #19 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Engineer View Post
 

This shows that closing the ankles is something that happens when you flex the boot, not something you do TO flex the boots.  

 

Doesn't that depend on the situation/context? With your foot in the air, you can only use those muscles. On skis on snow, using those muscles could also pull your weight forward, giving you a much bigger lever, and flexing the boot. In that case, I would say that you flexed those muscles "TO flex the boots". 

post #20 of 32

:worthless

 

Note the angle between the shin and the ski...less angle means a closed/flexed ankle while closer to 90 degrees means more open, less flexed.

 

To me, the 7th picture clearly shows ankle flex, while it is more open in the 8th

 

 

 

A lot more ankle flex in the last image than in the 3rd.

 

Huge difference between the 1st and last images.

 

Knees are way forward of the boots in the final image = boots flexed/ankles closed

 

To the OP, rely on all your joints. Top skiers do not leave their ankle open all the time, but plenty of kids (and others) in boots they can't flex have to bend a lot from the waist to make up for lack of ankle flexion.

post #21 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbostedo View Post
 

 

Doesn't that depend on the situation/context? With your foot in the air, you can only use those muscles. On skis on snow, using those muscles could also pull your weight forward, giving you a much bigger lever, and flexing the boot. In that case, I would say that you flexed those muscles "TO flex the boots". 

No matter what the context, the power available from those muscles to flex the boots is not enough to flex the boots.  Using those muscles to close the ankles in some situations/context can be a small part of the entire mechanism that flexes the boot by helping to bring the weight forward, but in other situations it will hardly be involved even in that.  The ankles closing is just a symptom of shifting weight and balancing to apply pressure to the skis in helpful ways.  There are lots of other symptoms that don't seem to get the same kind of fashionable attention.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by The Engineer View Post
 

focus more on the real sources of energy that flex the boots, such as move weight forward of which closing the ankles is just one small part.

post #22 of 32
The boot gets flexed by the g forces in the turn and by moving the feet back(with the hamstrings).
post #23 of 32
Quote:
 You basically want the angle of your spine from the waist up to be similar to the angle of your lower leg from the foot up.

One more thing that is meaningless because it can't be measured by the skier.  And, what is the biomechanical reason for this?  (hint..there isn't one.)  As the original poster notes, the skier needs to flex at the knees & hips to stay balanced during a retraction/absortion movement, then allow the outer leg to extend and recenter the body.

 

In any case, does anyone think of their ankle angles when skiing?  I think of where my body is located over my skis.  The pressure I feel against the tongues is an indicator of how I'm positioned over my skis.  For tight turns and/or steep pitches, I know that I want to be hanging way over the skis, hanging on the tongues.  Just an indicator.  The old instruction to squat to pressure the tongues is almost meaningless, also.  That does nothing to move the body's center of mass over the sweet spot of the skis.  I've seen young women with great flexibility flex down, pressure the tongues, and still have their weight back so the ski tips flap as they ski along.  Skis do not perform well that way.

post #24 of 32

Flexing the boots and getting weight forward, like many motor patterns for skiing are both chronologically concurrent and symbiotic in nature. You have to flex your boots in order to get your weight forward and you have to get your weight forward in order to flex the boots. It is not "one or the other" or "this then that".

post #25 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Engineer View Post
 

Yogaman, I know you're just being difficult, but still let me put it in layman's terms.  Put on your ski boot.  Buckle up.  Lift that boot in the air.  Now, flex that boot.  What muscles do you use to try to flex the boot?  Those are the muscles they are talking about.  How far can you flex the boot?  1mm, 0.5 mm?  Almost nothing.  This shows that closing the ankles is something that happens when you flex the boot, not something you do TO flex the boots.  Focusing on the ankles is very in vogue among certain groups, but it's just a mental trigger.  There are other triggers used by other groups of people that are just as useful and focus more on the real sources of energy that flex the boots, such as move weight forward of which closing the ankles is just one small part.

Nope I'm not just being difficult.  I just want folks to speak accurately esp. when it comes to mentioning which muscles do what but  not really understanding which muscles do what.        I don't ski using the idea of flexing the boot the way you mention above.    I don't try and flex my boot when I ski.  However the idea of managing fore aft balance  by moving the feet under the upper body has been around since before I wrote an article for the PSIA-E  newsletter in 1991.   Out of curiosity, which groups find it in vogue  to focus on the ankles as you mention above?    I can tell you however, that my boots don't flex much when they are cold but I can still move my feet about 8-9 inches fore aft under my upper body.   YM    

post #26 of 32

A couple of things.

 

Dorsiflexion is an important part of getting forward. If you don't dorsiflex, your butt will be behind the heels and you can't keep or bring your boots under your butt.

 

Adjusting the feet back and forth is another important part of getting forward: if you push them forward or don't pull them back, your butt will be behind the heels no matter what. You can do that when the feet are unweighted, in transition.

 

As far as I know, it was first mentioned by WW in 1972 as being efficient, stating that the best racers change fore/aft by placing the boots forward or back instead of adjusting the bigger mass of the upper body.

 

Since the ski has to be flat on snow, these two movements are always complementary, because of geometry. And since anyone with decent balance can stand on the left ski and shuffle the right ski back and forth about one foot, without moving the hip fore/aft, I can put this abbreviation here: QED.

post #27 of 32
Thread Starter 

A lot of these questions are coming from recent ski/boot upgrade and now I am skiing a lot more low angle terrain (snow basin, rather than snow bird). The skis I am on feel very unforgiving in that the moment I am not forward, I am punished. Last year most of my daily skiing was spent jump turning or windshield wipering down tight steep tree runs on dull trashed skis and soft boots with ridiculous forward lean and high binding ramp angle, and now I am on longer runs that allow actual tip to tail contact turns most of the time. I find myself focusing on standing flat on the ski, riding the edge, weight hovering between heel and ball. I was convinced I did not have enough forward lean, and threw a couple ski area maps in as bonus spoilers. skiing on steeper terrain improved, skiing on lower angle suffers. In fact, most of my problems in all conditions come in the moment the slope angle drops under 25 degrees. Everything works like a dream on steeper stuff, so much that it feels like I have a gas pedal under each foot, more speed increases control, and I am stretching my turns out 5 to 1 over how I used to ski. breaking my tails loose is annoying, and no longer a standard way of turning for me anymore. When I hit the low angle routes to the lift or on the way out to the trailhead, I feel like I am fighting the back of the boot , and on my tiptoes constantly. low speed, and my skis are sloppy, and I feel much less  control, no strength or power, turns are herky jerky and no more smooth long arcing swaths. very disconcerting. when just standing there, I find myself resisting the forward lean of the boot, again on my tiptoes. In choppy cruddy firm or icy conditions, I don't feel solid until I ramp speed way up then everything just works. It is confusing to me why slow speed and low angle is giving me so much trouble so much so it seems like I am skiing with both feet separately quite a bit when in contrast at higher speeds, steeper terrain, and rougher conditions give more and more confidence and smooth balanced powerful skiing. 

 

I'm thinking I start bending forward at the waist naturally when the chips are down and the skiing goes high performance, and I have some weird upright skiing habit when things are easy going, and I just lazily try to control fore and aft with ankle movements. 

 

Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks!

post #28 of 32
Sounds like you have some tweaking to do on your fore/aft set-up still. If you cannot do this comfortably (without feeling like your are going to fall backwards or forwards), then it is likely the case:



And here is a crude stick figure drawing for further reference:




zenny
Edited by zentune - 2/22/17 at 4:53pm
post #29 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by razie View Post
 

 

As far as I know, it was first mentioned by WW in 1972 as being efficient, stating that the best racers change fore/aft by placing the boots forward or back instead of adjusting the bigger mass of the upper body.

 

 

You are correct  that WW made reference to this idea in his landmark book How the Racers Ski   1972

post #30 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by yogaman View Post
 

You are correct  that WW made reference to this idea in his landmark book How the Racers Ski   1972

Franz Klammer did it before that, and he was probably not the first.

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