or Connect
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Ankle Motion, is it needed?

post #1 of 131
Thread Starter 
I've keep hearing the latest trend in boots in easier foward flex to allow easier ankle mothion. I occasionally run in some people who profess that no real ankle motion at all is called for in modern efficient skiing and you really can ski in boots as stiff as you can find. So two diametrically opposed positions. What's you take on it?
post #2 of 131
I heard our own Bob Barnes say the other day bootmakers have it all wrong in the soft fore-aft stiff lateral paradigm. He posited perhaps it should be the other way around.

We were talking about the new Salomon boot.

This goes back to how we tip our ski and/or foot.

Do we tip the knee to put the ski on edge or does it occur way down low?

Perhaps we bring back the great boot cuff quiz!
post #3 of 131
Stiff boots are not incompatible with ankle motion. All that stiffness does is make the ankle motion transmit more powerfully to the ski. Someone not strong enough or fast enough to need that would not be able to manage that power.

Also I think, in slalom, the stiffer boots (at least traditionally) have been better for the very quick on/off movements. Whereas in the speed events the softer boots have tended to give a little better feel for the snow during the relative long duration of each turn. In the speed case, the sudden application of power by small movements of the ankle against the stiffer boot might have the effect of overcorrecting. In the slalom case, the relatively slow application of power by moving the ankle against the softer flex would make the turn feel mushy and imprecise.
post #4 of 131
To answer the question do we tip down low or at the knee? The answer would be we tip down low, or load the foot in pronation, to engage the edge, and we edge our ski by inclination, our knee really doesn't tip sideways, but it can be taken out of alignment between our ankle and hip, but this is a weak position.

So how does this apply to ankle movement? I see the ankle movement issue as being one of balance and how much ankle movement we need to dynamicaly balance. As I see it, it should really be a question of how much ankle movement do we need and over what part of our ankles range of motion should the movement take place? It seems to me that taking all ankle motion out of the equaton does nothing but make balancing nothing more than leaveraging out boot as opposed to balancng on our feet.

Without some ankle movement, I loose the ability to adjust my stance to what's happening under my feet, and without some flexing in my boot cuff I loose the ability to absorb and increase my range of ankle motion to effect my stance in the moment.

I don't ski a soft boot and don't ski the stiffest boot either. What I do like about the new boots is the even progressive flex that does allow me to have more effective ankle motion, which gives me better ability to stay in a neutral stance throughout a greater range of motion in my knees and hips. Hope that makes sense.

I can't imagine a boot that doesn't allow effective range of motion in my ankle allowing me to stay dynamically balanced. Isn't the debate really on what is our effective range of ankle motion, is it the same for everyone, and how does this effect our stance? Later, RicB.
post #5 of 131
I liked Weems answer.
post #6 of 131
Beat me to it, Rusty! Yes, I agree (with myself)! I like stiff boots and always have, at least to a point. There are many reasons, but in a nutshell, the boot is the "handle" by which we manipulate our ski, and through which we receive feedback from the ski. The stiffer and snugger the handle, the more more direct this vital two-way communication between skier and ski.

But stiff boots are less forgiving, of course. They require a skillful operator. They transmit mistakes to and from the skis completely and instantly. And it is possible for boots to be too stiff, causing them to transmit every vibration and jolt to the skier. This is not only painful, but it is slower too, and can cause the skis to chatter and lose their grip. It's similar to the suspension of a race car--very stiff and tight, but some compliance is necessary.

Of course, that wasn't your question. Do we need "ankle motion," and in particular, foward flex. As Rusty Guy says, my answer may differ from others, and I've taken pains to support it in the past (search the archives). My answer is yes. And no.

Yes, ankle motion is critical to good skiing. I feel like I ski with my ankles more than most skiers. Both fore and aft and laterally, minute and subtle movements of the ankles have very large effects as they translate up through the "kinetic chain" of the rest of the body. You don't need much, but ankles are the key to tipping movements and fore-aft balance and pressure control.

Many will tell you that you need to flex your ankles deeply in order to flex and extend while maintaining fore-aft balance. Indeed, the ankles, along with the knees, hips, spine, neck, and arms, (and heels, if they can lift off the floor) are all involved in fore-aft balance in almost everything we do. They would be in skiing too, IF the need to substantially lock our heels and ankles for support and control did not outweigh the need for flexibility here. But it does!

Using stiff, snug boots (i.e. skiing) involves a new, learned pattern of movement. Yes--learned, not innate. We must learn to flex and extend through the widest possible range, without involving our ankles or lifting our heels, and without affecting fore-aft balance. Normally when we bend low (flex), our heels rise and our ankles bend, which has the effect of moving our balance point forward. The knees bend back, moving our balance back. And the hips and spine bend forward. Extending is just the reverse. The combination of all these joints working together allows us to crouch low and stretch tall while keeping our balance.

You might assume, then, that ankle flex is essential on skis. But it isn't (again, within reason). With a few new movements, we can accomplish all the same things, AND take advantage of the high-performance "handle" of a stiff boot. I will say that the stiffer and snugger the boots, the more critical proper fore-aft alignment becomes. But properly set up (see "A" in the illustration), full range of flexion-extension is possible, even with the stiffest of boots.



So--make sure your boots are properly set up (shameless plug here: check the Academy Planning Forum for upcoming news about the Friday Alignment clinic preceding the Saturday-Sunday Eastern Tune-Up). And find a great instructor to help you discover the right movements (shameless plug here...ETU, ESA...link in my signature below...!).

Finally, here's an image I've posted before, that fully debunks the argument that you "must" have flexible ankles to ski moguls:



Note that all of the skier's joints EXCEPT the ankles are very active in this animation. He/she maintains perfect balance while absorbing the moguls, and never feels the dreaded "shin bang." Because they're NOT involved in the large movements of flexing and extending, this skier's ankles are free to make the subtle, refined movements needed for good skiing.

Others will probably disagree, but I've stated my case! Search the archives for more extensive coverage of this important topic--it's been much-discussed.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

PS--I see that, while I've been typing, Weems has stated much the same case. (Hi Weems--how are you?) He is right, of course!

Now, if someone would just disagree, we could have a discussion!
post #7 of 131
What about someone like me who has excessive lateral ankle flexibility, which borderlines on instability{would cross the border if I didn't work on it} but not enough fore/aft flexibility? Ydnar fixed the far/aft thing somewhat, just by adding some trail maps. But overall, it's kind of a tricky situation. Boots that are too flexible leave me unstable. But being too flexible myself makes it challenging to manipulate a very stiff boot.
post #8 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado
... Yes, I agree (with myself)!...
You'll be sure to let us know if this becomes an issue:

I like the new fore/aft alignment graphic, and how you line up the different arrangements in line to see the contrast. It doesn't include/show the "moving forward" that is required when slope pitch changes (like the old one did) ...have you revised that portion as well? ....I'm seeing one of those animated .gif files (I've gotta figure out how to do those one of these days).
post #9 of 131
Hi Chris--I have actually added an interactive feature to the "stick man" diagram above, to directly address your thought about the forward movement needed when the pitch gets steeper. To access this special interactive feature, here's what to do:

Pick up your monitor, and tilt it to the right (counter clockwise). Note that the slopes the stick figures are standing on tilt too, and like magic, all the little stick figures tilt forward to adjust! (It's amazing what technology can do, eh?) To animate the image, just tip it left and right rapidly....

Like this:



(Sorry Chris. I'm stir crazy here in my folks-in-law's home in New York. What happened to the mountains? The snow? It's HOT, and humid.... It may be affecting my sanity! Home soon!)



Best regards,
Bob
post #10 of 131
So LM, can you do a full squat, flat footed, without your knees going ahead of your toes? Just curious. My guess would be you can do these anytime you want for as long as you want. I think this is close to the range of ankle motion needed in skiing. For me, moving beyond this I want my boots to resist, even a little before.

So, you an over pronator I take? Just curious. Later ,RicB.
post #11 of 131
Hey Bob ...that works great!!!!! Thanks!

Sure glad I have one of those lite flat panels that rotate between portrait and landscape mode though! It would be a chore with a 21" CRT

Whew ...good luck holding it together till you can return to the wide open spaces!!

Thanks for the laughs!!!

Chris
post #12 of 131
Bob and Chris. When I tried that I fell off my chair. I'm suing.
post #13 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisamarie
But being too flexible myself makes it challenging to manipulate a very stiff boot.
I'm not sure I understand this. Can you elaborate?
post #14 of 131
Ric,

Lisa would probably not be able to do the flat footed squat that you describe unless her fore/aft ankle flexion is enough to compensate for the rear bias of her fore/aft alignment. I have a severe rear alignment bias and ankle flexion at the very low end of the normal range and to do the squat move you are talking about requires me to lift my heels a full two inches off the floor.

I would like to make a point here. Having a fore or aft alignment bias and being able to compensate for it by something like having very flexable ankles is not the same as correcting the alignment to bring the skier into a neutral stance. Proper alignment allows you to use the avaliable movements of your body to ski rather than waste them in striving to achieve fore/aft balance when fore/aft alignment is off.

In relation to this thread you can look at it like this. We put our feet in boots that greatly restrict our ankle flexion yet this ankle flexion is critical to our being able to ski. Now, given the above why would I want to use up some or all of that limited flexion to achieve fore/aft balance when I can get the balance through proper alignment and leave the ankle flexion for skiing.

yd
post #15 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by weems
Bob and Chris. When I tried that I fell off my chair. I'm suing.
Weems:

Clearly you have a PEBCAC and neither Bob or I can be responsible for such issues that are entirely beyond our control

I submit that your application of the "more than you thinks" is most likely the culprit here. Had you employed a more centered stance (as Bob suggests) then you would have been in a stronger position to manage the forces, and your tail wouldn't have washed out: : :
post #16 of 131
Hmmm. Clearly, then, a case that would be thrown out in court if I only knew what a pebcac was.
post #17 of 131
I'm certain that would be the case:

Problem
Exists
Between
Chair
And
Computer

-----------------------------

Ya know I'm just funnin with the "more than ya thinks" ...I've gotten a ton out of working with them
post #18 of 131
There is more than one problem between that chair and computer!

Maybe I should now, in the spirit of excess, develop some "more than you ought to's".

By the way, on the ankle issue, one of my sons got into a too soft pair of boots, and his comment was that there is nothing to bend the ankle against.

Bob, your comments are really good, thanks. See you at Breck soon.
post #19 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by RicB
To answer the question do we tip down low or at the knee? The answer would be we tip down low, or load the foot in pronation, to engage the edge, and we edge our ski by inclination, our knee really doesn't tip sideways, but it can be taken out of alignment between our ankle and hip, but this is a weak position.

So how does this apply to ankle movement? I see the ankle movement issue as being one of balance and how much ankle movement we need to dynamicaly balance. As I see it, it should really be a question of how much ankle movement do we need and over what part of our ankles range of motion should the movement take place? It seems to me that taking all ankle motion out of the equaton does nothing but make balancing nothing more than leaveraging out boot as opposed to balancng on our feet.

Without some ankle movement, I loose the ability to adjust my stance to what's happening under my feet, and without some flexing in my boot cuff I loose the ability to absorb and increase my range of ankle motion to effect my stance in the moment.

I don't ski a soft boot and don't ski the stiffest boot either. What I do like about the new boots is the even progressive flex that does allow me to have more effective ankle motion, which gives me better ability to stay in a neutral stance throughout a greater range of motion in my knees and hips. Hope that makes sense.

I can't imagine a boot that doesn't allow effective range of motion in my ankle allowing me to stay dynamically balanced. Isn't the debate really on what is our effective range of ankle motion, is it the same for everyone, and how does this effect our stance? Later, RicB.
WELL SAID!!!
post #20 of 131

Question for the group

Very fascinating animation. But, are there times when the angle of the ground will not convienently match the need for ankle flexion as in the animation?

If you stand vertically and simply want to lower yourself and stay balanced both the knee and the ankle flexes. In the animation, the hill points uphill allowing for lowering to occur without ankle flexion.

Here are 2 scenerios to consider.

What is the body's position at the top of the bump. Here, if the upper body hasn't bobbed up and down, the skis are now level yet we want the min distance in total height so that the whole leg thing can be extended to ride the back of the bump. Wouldn't the ankles be flexed there?

2nd example - you are doing high speed short radius turns. Your going for maximum speed and you don't want up and down body movement. Here, at turn transition you are flexed the most where there are no g-forces, but where the g-forces are the most and you are at the steepest angle off horizontal you are extended. To move between these two points also requires ankle flexion.

A stiff boot in the ankle flexion department would prevent these movements.

Personally I can ski and come out of a turn and let myself extend at transition, or I can go for the faster style of turn and keep my vertical distance off the ground close to the same. The first very relaxed style does not matter a whit about ankle flexion. The second more agreesive style would be negatively affected by lack of ankle flexion. (or show up as bruised shins)

Now Bob you can have fun. Not that I'm disagreeing per se, but I don't want to restrict my skiing style to one type of turn.
post #21 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisamarie
What about someone like me who has excessive lateral ankle flexibility, which borderlines on instability{would cross the border if I didn't work on it} but not enough fore/aft flexibility? Ydnar fixed the far/aft thing somewhat, just by adding some trail maps. But overall, it's kind of a tricky situation. Boots that are too flexible leave me unstable. But being too flexible myself makes it challenging to manipulate a very stiff boot.
My bootfitting manual suggests/implies that people with a large range of ankle flexion will ski better in softer boots, and vice versa for those of us with small range of motion there.
-Garrett
post #22 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by weems
...By the way, on the ankle issue, one of my sons got into a too soft pair of boots, and his comment was that there is nothing to bend the ankle against...
Weems:

I like that ...it says a lot!

My experience falls right in line with the comments you and Bob have already made in this thread. I struggled with poor alignment in stiff boots, then to softer boots, but no better alignment. The softer boots let me seek/force a bit better stance, but traded response. Now as I'm getting closer in alignment, I find a stiffer (relatively) boot is working better to help me stay-in/recover-to proper position and dial in input to the skis more accurately.
post #23 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by skiingman
My bootfitting manual suggests/implies that people with a large range of ankle flexion will ski better in softer boots, and vice versa for those of us with small range of motion there.
-Garrett
OK ...why is that?
post #24 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by cgeib
OK ...why is that?
The manual is not in front of me at the moment, so if any of this turns out to be different when I actually see it again I'll let you know.

IIRC, its purportedly because stiffness of flex and progression of flex is all about pressure management on the ski shovel. So, people with a small range of motion need a stiff boot to allow them to modulate pressure effectively. These people modulate mostly via pressure, not actual displacement/flexion. People with a long range of motion are able to modulate pressure more effectively with displacement than just increases/decreases in pressure.

In contrast with that line of thought is this: in motorsport, it is claimed that pressure modulation of brakes to be more effective than displacement modulation. Supposedly the human brain/foot interface is more efficient that way. I know I personally prefer a stiff stop pedal to a long throw one, assuming both have equivalent brakes behind them.

I would guess that the above claims re: flexion capability of the skier are only one side of the story. The other side of the story is the skier's particular mission and preference. Thus, as weems noted, speed event skiers prefer softer boots.
-Garrett
post #25 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by weems
I'm not sure I understand this. Can you elaborate?
Sorry. Should have clarified. Excessive flexibility is usually associated with weakness. Initially, when I switched from "bedroom slipper" type boots to stiffer ones, I was not strong enough for them. That changed, but it was a challenge.
post #26 of 131
Skiingman,

Thanks!
post #27 of 131
Would anyone advocate that children be in stiff boots? Why or why not?
post #28 of 131
http://ourworld.cs.com/BBRNZ/Backpe...ation+small.gif

I really like this animation. Although I think it really serves as an example of why ankle flex is needed in skiing. If you flex and extend your knee, hip, and spine without much involvement of your ankle, you end up with your knees in your chest. The same position the skier in the animation is in at the top of the mogul. Not a very powerful or desirable position and I don’t think you would see many good mogul skiers get in that position.

In my opinion boots that are to stiff tend to encourage people to rely on the boot for balance. In general good skiers with stiff boots tend to lean forward against them. This inhibits a skier’s ability to absorb terrain because they are constantly getting pitched even farther forward.

Ideally a skier is skiing in a boot that they can flex. How stiff a boot you want depends on a couple of factors. The first is strength; a stronger heavier person is going to be able to flex a stiffer boot. Second is how fast you ski. Faster skiers generate more force, so generally the faster you ski the stiffer you would want your boot.

Oh and as far as advocating a stiff boot for children I think it depends. A child that is strong enough will benefit from the range of motion that a softer boot allows. For children who haven’t developed much leg strength yet, a stiffer boot will give them more support and will probably be easier to ski in.
post #29 of 131
Boozer's "stiff and soft" describing kid's boots are relative terms here. We've seen the whole gamut with kids. Sometimes they show up with boots that are little more than mukluks. ("remember mukluks?) Other times they show up with iron boots. The latter are usually the boots offered by high performance seeking parents! And there is a "reverse benefit" at the top end for kids relative to Boozer's comments. In other words, kids who are quite strong might get some benefit from a boot that is stiff enough to offer resistence, whereas one who is not so strong might need a boot she can bend a bit for that smooth flex.

The other element in this particular soup is age and height of the kid.

It's hard to find what they actually need, but it's really easy to recognize too soft or too stiff. However, I think the boot manufacturer's have really improved on finding the middle ground here.

Hell, kids should be on snowboards anyway.

What are your thoughts on it Nolo?
post #30 of 131
Quote:
Originally Posted by ydnar
Ric,

Lisa would probably not be able to do the flat footed squat that you describe unless her fore/aft ankle flexion is enough to compensate for the rear bias of her fore/aft alignment. I have a severe rear alignment bias and ankle flexion at the very low end of the normal range and to do the squat move you are talking about requires me to lift my heels a full two inches off the floor.

I would like to make a point here. Having a fore or aft alignment bias and being able to compensate for it by something like having very flexable ankles is not the same as correcting the alignment to bring the skier into a neutral stance. Proper alignment allows you to use the avaliable movements of your body to ski rather than waste them in striving to achieve fore/aft balance when fore/aft alignment is off.

In relation to this thread you can look at it like this. We put our feet in boots that greatly restrict our ankle flexion yet this ankle flexion is critical to our being able to ski. Now, given the above why would I want to use up some or all of that limited flexion to achieve fore/aft balance when I can get the balance through proper alignment and leave the ankle flexion for skiing.

yd
YD, I don't see ankle flexion being excesive if you keep your knee from going in front of your toe. This is well within the range of low normal. What it does require is good flexion in other joints. If your heels are coming off the ground it means probably that you moving your knees past your toes because your "hips" and knees aren't flexing enough. These same movements need to happen in skiing too don't they? What a person can do dry land, is just try it with their boots on. If you can't do this with your boots on how can you expect to make these movements effectively while skiing?

I'm not saying equipment alignment isn't important, but the question was on ankle movement, which I agree is most efficient when we our equipment allows good alignment. On the other hand, I don't think I can say that we don't use our ankle for stance alignment. Isn't this a primary function of our ankle?

I don't think it is enough to say ski stiff boots and show an animation (sorry Bob), how do we show people what range of motion is needed. How do we get them to feel it, and do it, so they really understand it, and does this require snow? Is there a simple way to answer this? Later, RicB.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Ski Instruction & Coaching