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Ankle Motion, is it needed? - Page 2

post #31 of 131
Originally Posted by RicB
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.
No apology needed, Ric. Naturally, telling and showing are only the very start, at best, of "teaching." Until this point, I would not have said that this discussion was about teaching these techniques at all--it has been merely about the techniques themselves.

But I would suggest that good teaching can only take place on a foundation of good understanding. In my most cynical moments, I sometimes think that the only redeeming virtue of some misguided instructors is that they're lousy teachers too, so at least their unfortunate students aren't actually learning the misinformation they're trying to teach them!

No, there is no "simple answer" here. It's different for every student--that's the art of teaching! But, especially in the example of the "backpedaling" motion in bumps, I do know that understanding and visualization can go a long way for many people. It's much like riding a bicycle, in that the movement happens far too quickly to think it through consciously, part-by-part. But serious cyclists know that simply visualizing your feet moving in circles, rather than up and down like pistons, can dramatically smooth your pedaling motion. So it is (often) with skiers. Understanding and seeing the "backpedaling" motion can produce a breakthrough, and not just in moguls. Sometimes, all it takes to change a movement is simply to give ourselves permission to make a new movement. Seeing the animation, and participating in this discussion, may do it for some people.

On snow, off snow, even over the Internet, there are things we can do to help people learn these movements. Put your boots on and imitate the movements of the skiers in my first illustration above (the 9 boxes). Flex low. What do you have to do differently than in bare feet? (Answer: reach forward more with your arms and torso, to substitute for the restricted forward movement from your feet and ankles-see Fig. 3C.) How low can you go without falling over backward? (Reveals whether the forward lean of your boots is effectively adjusted.)

But one thing is certain: BECAUSE alpine ski equipment significantly (at least) restricts the motion of the feet and ankles, learning new movement patterns to replace those practiced in a lifetime off skis is essential in learning to ski. I do not buy the argument that beginners should start with very soft boots because they haven't yet learned the new ski-specific movements--it only encourages them to further ingrain bad habits that will need to be unlearned later, and delays their learning to ski. Somewhat softer boots, yes, to forgive their natural inconsistency and make learning less painful and frustrating. But beginner equipment, like any learning tool, must reward and reinforce proper movements, and not reward mistakes.

The only place I'd support very soft boots as learning tools would be for the skier who has come to rely on the support of the stiff boot cuffs, rather than on balance. Free-heel cross country equipment is great for this, as is the old alpine instructor's trick of skiing with boots unbuckled. (Note--this "trick" has fallen out of favor in recent years, because of the risk that it could compromise the release function of bindings. Use it only at your own risk!) Take away the support, and they'll have to find balance, the argument goes. But if you buy this argument, then you must also buy the argument that beginners should not start in too soft boots--take away the foot/ankle motion, and they'll have to find the new, effective movements!

It's the concept of "tough love," I suppose, but it's all in the interest of providing accurate feedback for both good technique and bad. "But soft boots make it easier for new students...." This notion is a cop out for instructors who find it difficult to teach the necessary techniques. (I've heard the same argument used for many other things, including "rotary," even from some highly placed and experienced instructors. "Proper rotary is the hardest skill to teach, so I don't...." This statement does not earn my respect!)

Anyway, we should never confuse a discussion about technique with one about teaching that technique. They are two different discussions, and one should not be criticized merely because it is not the other. Technique is about understanding, precision, accuracy, and correctness. Teaching is about invoking lasting, meaningful, and relevent changes, about experience, experimenting, feedback ("tough love") and play. Now that we understand it, let's go learn to do it!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #32 of 131

I don't understand your comment about not flexing enough at the knee and hip. In a full squat aren't the knees and hips flexed to the max with the ankle flexing the amount needed to keep the whole system balanced over the foot? I use the full squat (especially when done in ski boots) as a tool to evaluate the structural alignment of my students and to determine approximately how much compensation is needed in their equipment.

I can't do a full squat in normal ski boots unless I either raise the heel of the boot about two inches or put a 42mm ramp in the boot and raise the heel of the boot about 6mm. The ramp and raised heel is what I do to compensate for my extreem missalignment when I'm skiing. With them my stance looks like the stance of other high level skiers. Without them everyone said that I was out of balance, way in the backseat, but I didn't feel out of balance was able to ski all day without the quad fatigue that is associated with backseat skiing. I was in balance but not in alignment.

We do indeed use our ankles for stance alignment. The problem is that using the ankle to compensate for missalignment compromises the ability to use the ankle to make skiing movements.

post #33 of 131
We can find the answer to the question of the proper stiffness of boot for the given skier, burly man or tiny little kid, by asking what is the purpose of the ski boot? Does it have more than one purpose? I think that there are two purposes that I expect my ski boots to perform, and they are like yin and yang, stiff and soft, power and touch. They need to be stiff enough to hold my lower leg and foot in functional alignment and soft enough to allow for fine adjustments and the occasional PIOYA-type corrective movements.

So my thought is different people, depending on strength per pound or something like that, need different gradations of stiff/soft to find their personal boot heaven.

However, the boot has numerous other characteristics which also should be considered, particularly with kids. A ski boot is a form of shoe, and if you look at the kinds of shoes children wear in comparison to shoes that adults wear, I think a pattern emerges. Take the classic "baby's first shoes" -- wide at the instep, topside structure extending just above the ankle, comfortable, flat (without footbed or cant), easy to put on and take off, and lightweight. The baby shoes are designed to support the ankles while enabling the maximum surface of the soles of the feet to be in almost direct contact with the ground. Some models of adult shoes handicap movement and some actually deform a person (e.g., cowboy boots and women's high-heeled shoes).

I think the best ski boot for any age will allow the feet to function like they do barefoot and will support the ankle joint complex so it doesn't collapse under the loads they typically experience in skiing.
post #34 of 131
Hell, kids should be on snowboards anyway.
Weems, I'm shocked!! God forbid!!!!
post #35 of 131
Here's a photo of Canadian junior racer Matt Holler, for a visual of how a boot should function: stiff enough to hold the edge of the outside ski and soft enough to finesse the edge of the inside ski.
post #36 of 131
YD, yes if you can't keep your feet flat in a full squat and keep your knee behind or inline with your toes, you have some limited range of motion (we all have them) not in your ankles, because they are not flexing much if you keep your knee even or behind the toe, but in the joints above the ankle. I also agree that alignment is very improtant, but so is a discussion of ankle flex. Really two different discussion, even though they both affect the other. I knew LM could do a squat this way (she's a fitness pro) and she seemed to be wondering how much ankle flexion was appropiate, and I feel that this does a good job of demonstrating this for her.

Bob, I figured you'd have plenty to say to me. Didn't have any disagreement, just trying to get more of a conversation going. I'm not a soft boot person either and hope I'm not one of those instructors, but I do see the issue going beyond just instruction and technique. Here's the issue as I see it (I'm speaking generaly). We buy boots off the snow. Most of us are lucky to get any kind real alignment expertise, let alone knowing how much ankle flex is appropriate and how our boots affect this. Feeling this off the snow and determining how our boots affect this off the snow as we buy them seems important beyond just understanding a graphic that shows how we use our ankles in skiing. We tend to just live with our boots once the purchase is made and so there is real work to do before we get to the snow or our lesson. If the stiffness needed is personal, and if ankle flex has it's limits in range of motion and funtion in boots, how does the individual figure this out for there own understanding? How do they become an informed buyer of a boot that they can really ski in with the minimum of compensation? Doesn't anyone see this as a very relevant issue to ankle flex? Something that almost needs to come before technique?

I know that this is one (full squat) thing I've done with my last two boot purchases. It tells me how my boot not only affects my stance but my dynamic stance. For me it would be a red flag if the boot affected my stance enough to force me out of balance, or force my heel to raise. Something I didn't understand as well in the past. So what does everyone else do when trying on boots, does anyone do more than simply stand in them? Seriously, what does everyone do to test the funtion of their boot when they buy them? Later, RicB.
post #37 of 131
Originally Posted by nolo
Here's a photo of Canadian junior racer Matt Holler, for a visual of how a boot should function: stiff enough to hold the edge of the outside ski and soft enough to finesse the edge of the inside ski.
Good pic.

So you believe in the new (last year on the WC) Salomon boot theory? With the softer inside flex?

Guy at work drilled holes in his boots as soon as he saw that on the WC, and swears by it now. I haven't had an opportunity to ski in the new WC or production race boot, but I believe the concept has merit.
post #38 of 131

From what I read about the spaceframe technology at their website, it sounds like a good concept that seems to be proving itself on the WC.
post #39 of 131
A friend of mine emailed me this article a while back by Harold Harb. I found it interesting.

Harald Harb
#4 - Skiing Inside The Boot At Harb Ski Systems

We are always striving to put our customers and ourselves in the best products available in the ski industry. My staff and coaches are all professional skiers and have been for many decades. These people are not just instructors and coaches, but also boot fitters, footbed specialists and alignment experts. We feel that to teach skiing properly at the highest level you must understand the whole system: feet, ankles, boots and alignment. With this level of understanding, ski instruction becomes very precise and effective. My staff and I are always looking to enhance our own experience on snow. Therefore I encourage them to try many products and to modify their own. Recently, we have been working on ski boot modifications. Last summer, I modified many ski boots at Mt. Hood for FIS Junior US development racers with great success. We began this season modifying ski boots for many other racers including World Cup and US Ski Team racer, Erik Schlopy. This has become an ongoing relationship. We send modified boots to Europe for Erik and he sends his new boots to us from Europe to modify. Erik, remember, has access to the best boot technicians the World Cup can provide, but prefers to send his boots to us. We are working on two different modifications on Erik's boots. They increase the ability of the foot and ankle to produce edging power and the ability of the ankle to access the boot wall through medial wall and boot board modifications. These are the same movements of the ankle we try to provide for all our footbed and alignment customers. The functional articulation of the ankle and foot in the boot provides and enhances the skier's ability to make refined, fine-tuning movements to adjust the ski edge angle on the snow. If this articulation is not available, movements are made at the hip using the adductor muscles to lever the ski on edge. This is a very gross motor movement and does not allow for much adjustment once the movement to the edge begins. In high-end expert skiing or World Cup racing the combination of ankle, foot and leg edging adjustments is essential. So, why do so few recreational skiers have access to these movements? Because most industry footbeds are overposted and too rigid. This concept has been in my mind and I have applied it for generations as a ski racer, skier, coach and instructor. I have always felt that foot and ankle articulation in the boot are critical to skier performance, especially in the areas of ski edging, holding and controlling. But everywhere I investigated, even to this day, I find that the ski industry is trying to accomplish exactly the opposite. With hard footbeds and ski boot walls that are very tight on the medial (inside) ankle, most products reduce lateral movement of the ankle toward the boot wall - reducing or eliminating foot articulation. In some ways of thinking this can be justified and explained to seem like a benefit. For example, if rigid footbeds with dense material filling the arch stop any foot movement, one could think that you would get immediate edge and energy transfer. Yes, this does seem to make sense - until you begin to understand that you are now forced to use your upper leg muscles to achieve this immediate edging and transfer. The upper leg muscles (adductors) do not have the ability to fine-tune the edge, thus eliminating any presumed "benefit" of the rigid footbed/immediate-edge-power concept. Skiers whom we have converted from rigid footbeds to those that allow articulation become more balanced, smooth, and fluid. They also benefit from better foot circulation and therefore have warmer toes. Many overposted and rigid-footed skiers fight their edges. The lack of foot articulation creates chatter on hard snow and over-steering on soft snow. The skis are also super-reactive and feel nervous. Many skiers complain of arch pressure or even pain, but are afraid to mention it because they supposedly bought a "special upgrade". All these problems can be immediately relieved with a more compliant and accurately designed footbed. Now we must keep in mind that every body has different abilities and needs. Some skiers have excess foot movement that needs to be controlled, though not eliminated. A rigid foot and ankle demonstrate the opposite needs. The rigid foot and ankle are particularly interesting because increasing range of lateral movement in the ankle and foot is much more difficult than reducing range of motion. Hence every footbed needs to be carefully designed and built for the needs of the individual foot to optimize lateral edging power, allowing the range of articulation of the foot and ankle required to apply force to the boot wall. Applying force to the boot wall can only be achieved if the muscles that tip - evert - the foot can function. The peroneal muscles that run up along the outside of the tibia must be able to move the foot through some range of motion for this to occur. In our painstaking effort to evaluate a skier's balance on snow, we came across some interesting findings. We video all of the skiers who come to our camps while they perform on-snow balancing exercises. After careful analysis of the skiers before and after alignment, over a period of six years, we have determined that skiers with rigid feet and skiers with flexible feet both suffered similar consequences from rigid, inflexible footbeds. These skiers were not able to use their lower joints in the ski boot to help balance or edge the ski. They instead leaned or otherwise used the upper body in a contrived manner to lever the ski to an edge. Most of these skiers cannot engage the edge of the ski – make it slice into the snow. Instead, they demonstrate slipping of the ski. After a complete set of range-of-motion measurements are taken and a footbed made to allow for proper articulation of the ankle and foot, the skiers again perform the on-snow balance exercises. This second set of exercises yields very different results. Again, slow motion video analysis is used to determine differences in balancing and skiing abilities. One noticeable difference is a new, relaxed body position. The lower body acts as an adjuster of balance and the upper body a stable unit over the boots and feet. Some observers go so far as to say that, the skiers skied as if they had another joint to use in the boot to edge and balance over the ski. Another noticeable difference is an improvement in the skier's ability to engage the edge of the ski, eliminating the slipping that was previously evident. In this season alone we have assembled quantifiable evidence that the footbed and movements I am describing in this article are not only effective but also necessary for higher performance and comfort. We have documented major performance increases with ski racers the very next day after footbed changes. In one particular case, the ski racer improved by thirty FIS points on three different occasions. This occurred without further coaching or equipment changes. We can document such changes in recreational skiers by video and observing their improved edging and ski performance characteristics, but many objectors and detractors would claim that this is unscientific. When we have quantifiable results based on huge improvements in racing times, there is very little left to doubt. When the top ski racers in this country are noticing the performance benefits, and when our recreational skiers are noticeably skiing better and improving faster, that's all the proof they need.
post #40 of 131
Originally Posted by skiingman
Good pic.

So you believe in the new (last year on the WC) Salomon boot theory? With the softer inside flex?

Guy at work drilled holes in his boots as soon as he saw that on the WC, and swears by it now. I haven't had an opportunity to ski in the new WC or production race boot, but I believe the concept has merit.
It is the "Outside" Lateral side of the boot but of course the inside of the turn.

I must admit the thought of drilling holes in my X2's has crossed my mind.
post #41 of 131
Originally Posted by Atomicman
It is the "Outside" Lateral side of the boot but of course the inside of the turn.

I must admit the thought of drilling holes in my X2's has crossed my mind.
Very good point on my flawed terminology.

The X2 is the boot my buddy drilled. Big bit, something like 3/8 or 1/2 inch IIRC. Used the same number of holes that the new boot has, though they are hexagonal instead of circular. I believe thats primarily for looks though.
post #42 of 131
How did he seal the back side of the holes to keep feet his feet dry? Since they are not very warm in the first place, I assume that the holes don't help keep the heat in?
post #43 of 131
Originally Posted by Atomicman
How did he seal the back side of the holes to keep feet his feet dry? Since they are not very warm in the first place, I assume that the holes don't help keep the heat in?
They are cold boots.

IIRC, he ducttaped the inside of the holes. Then he got some silicone RTV and applied it to the holes. Then he scraped the excess after it cured. Then he duct-taped the outside.
post #44 of 131

Duct tape doesn't match my coat!

post #45 of 131
Thanks for the article Atomicman. This is pretty much what someone else has told me over the past couple years. Someone who did actual measurable testing.

I was told that most boots, even the stiffest, allow around 8-10 degrees of movement between the body soft tissue and the padding. Beyond that we add in some boot flex. This seemed resonable, and if so does bring up the question then of over what range we want this movment to take place, which would be in our natural range of motion we need for stance. Accordingly, the forward lean will affect the range of this movement, just as we all know that forward lean affects the body balance system. So, if forward lean is affecting this range then what amount of forward lean is best, and does this change from person to person?

What I've found for myself is that I really want to be more upright than I have ever been before. Right now I'm at about 11-12 degrees, and it was suggested that I could go more toward a real 10 degrees, by two differesnt individuals. It was also put to me that there is very little variation on forward lean requirements from person to person, it is more an issue of boot to boot. All this really boils down to ankle flex and over what range the ankle is flexing.

Could it be that the softer boots are a response by the industry to individuals wanting more ankle motion because they don't have the right range of motion and so they aren't getting it in the range they really need?

So Nolo, what do you do to determine if the boot you are about to buy is going to let your feet work like they do barefoot?

Atomicman I have permently given up hard footbeds for a more simple 1/2 footbed that gives good heel stabilization and no fore foot stabilization. My foot tends towards the flatter side of feet. This has given me a better feel for my edges and the ability to find them quicker. Now I just need to get better at using them. ;>D Later, RicB.
post #46 of 131
Originally Posted by Atomicman

Duct tape doesn't match my coat!

Duct tape is available in many colors
post #47 of 131
Holy Smokes--a 1300 word paragraph! My brain hurts just looking at that thing.

However, that paragraph does summarize a few things that I suspect most top instructors, boot fitters, and alignment specialists would agree on. They may not all agree on the solutions, but they do agree on the issues and the problems.

It is important to note that this article addresses primarily the need for lateral motion in the foot and ankle. It should probably be a separate discussion, since most of this thread so far has addressed fore-aft ankle motion.

Here are a few of the highlights of Harald's "paragraph," at least as I see them (Harald's words are in italics and quotes):
  • "you must understand the whole system: feet, ankles, boots and alignment."

    Yes! The anatomy and function of the foot and ankle, highly-evolved to support walking and running activities, are fascinatingly complex. The foot has three axes of rotation: fore-aft (dorsi- and plantar flexion), lateral tipping (inversion and eversion), and internal/external rotation (adduction, abduction). They are interdependent--you cannot move or alter one without affecting the others.

    And movements of the feet translate up through the "kinetic chain" of the knees, hips, and spine. Both fine muscle movements and gross movements take place, and when the chain is disrupted, gross movements (hips, for example) substitute for and preclude fine motor skills in the feet that provide important subtlety and balance. All good boot fitters recognize this holistic interdependence of anatomy and equipment, and strive to support and enhance it for skiing.
  • "The functional articulation of the ankle and foot in the boot provides and enhances the skier's ability to make refined, fine-tuning movements to adjust the ski edge angle on the snow. If this articulation is not available, movements are made at the hip using the adductor muscles to lever the ski on edge."

    This statement reinforces the previous one, and it has been a point of lively discussion at EpicSki in years past. The foot needs to be able to tip laterally inside the boot--it's where tipping and edging movements begin.

    The belief that boots must be laterally stiff and tight is based on the misconception that edging movements are the result of the boot cuffs acting like big lever arms, cranking the skis on edge through gross movements of the legs. Skis just aren't that hard to tip, and much of the effort needed should come from the feet and the ankles. We tip the boots with our feet, and the boots then tip our shins, knees, and hips--not the other way around!

    This need for some lateral freedom of the foot inside the boot is the gist of Harald's article, and I'm glad to see him on the same page as many others in the "mainstream." Contrary to his suggestions, though, I don't see "everyone else in the ski industry" claiming otherwise. Yes, there's a lot of misconception, but there's also a lot of agreement. He has his ideas of how to address the issue (compliant footbeds for one), but manufacturers of so-called "hard" footbeds recognize the issue, even if they attempt to address it differently. "SuperFeet Cork" footbeds, for example, among the firmest, most supportive custom footbeds out there, are built with "rocker"--a slightly rounded base--to promote mobility of the foot. Boot experts will argue among themselves about the "best" solution, but it seems that they do generally agree on the problem.
  • "Some skiers have excess foot movement that needs to be controlled, though not eliminated. [Conversely,] a rigid foot and ankle demonstrate the opposite needs."

    I'm one of those with excessively mobile feet (typically strong "pronators") who need substantial control and support from my foot beds. Posting ("pronation wedges" that tilt my feet slightly toward their outer edges) and a good arch give me the needed--but not excessive--stability. (Fischer's externally rotated boots help too, as "abduction" reinforces the effects of the "inversion" from the posted foot beds.

    Again, Harald's main point is that some lateral mobility of the feet is essential for good skiing, and I believe most experts would agree. As Harald suggests, adding mobility to those less common individuals with excessively rigid feet (strong "supinaters") is a bigger challenge for boot fitters than stabilizing those with excessively mobile feet.

As Rusty pointed out in his first post to this thread, I have long suggested that the current "conventional wisdom" that boots should be more flexible fore-and aft, but stiffer laterally, needs further review. I like boots to be pretty stiff and snug fore and aft. But I need to be able to tip my feet and work my ankles in the boots, and I do NOT need a laterally stiff cuff for edging "power." Indeed, too laterally stiff and tight a cuff interferes with my edging movements!

I like my boots fairly stiff fore-and-aft for several reasons:
  • They give me an immediate and positive kinesthetic reference point for my movements and my balance.
  • They allow quick, precise, direct, and powerful fore-aft pressure regulation when I need it, with minimal movement.
  • They provide needed solid support to help me recover quickly when I'm thrown out of balance, while softer boots just mush out on me.
The upside is that they transmit all of my input more immediately and completely to my skis. The downside is that they transmit my errors and imbalances just as efficiently.

I find that even when I snug down my cuff buckles and powerstraps, I have plenty of fore-aft "play" from the give of the boot padding and the soft tissues of my legs (a point RicB has also made). While I rarely apply forceful leverage forward or back, I make constant subtle fore-aft balancing movements, mostly within my boots.

I do not like my boots too stiff laterally--or too snug or tall, either. Far from helping me tip my skis, as I said, these things interfere with it! I tip my boots with my feet, from inside, not with my legs. When I tip my boots to the left, the cuffs press on the RIGHT sides of my shins--the opposite of what some people might expect. This point was the subject of Rusty Guy's February 2002 thread, "A Great Quiz,." which went three pages!

In any case, innovations like Fischer's abducted boots and these new Salomon boots with the cut outs to enhance lateral flexibility are further evidence that the "industry" is paying attention. I first saw the prototypes two years ago, when Steve Bagley (boot guru from Snowbird, and our EpicSki Academy featured speaker in Brighton and Snowbird) returned from a Bob Gleason "Masterfit University" seminar. They looked like a good idea then, and I'm glad to see them coming into production. Maybe I should try them!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #48 of 131
Thanks Bob,

I knew thew article was more about lateral ankle movement, but the original post said ankle motion.

Great response and I completely agree with everything you've said!

Unfortunately I am one of those rigid footed animals and it is a challenge. My boots are damn comfortable though but I am sitll fighting some alignment problems with my right leg due to a couple of injuries. Seems like no matter what i do wiht cuff or tape canting I tend have pressure on my medial edge of my right ski. Certain snow (really wet or grabby) is when it's most noticeable and god knows we get plenty of that up here in Seattle. Sometimes I don't notice it at all or maybe am just better on certain days of dealing with it athletically. I've been told that they can't really see any A-frame in my skiing and the whole alignment thing seems to be as much art as science. But one of these days I'd like to get with somebody on snow and see if I could get to the bottom of it! I think in some snow I just make the movements that make my skis do what I need them to regardless of lateral alignment.

Anyway, I think your post was almost as long as the paragraph.

Thanks Again!

Over & out!

Stockli-man, skier formerly known as Atomicman!
post #49 of 131

Your argument is very interesting and really makes me think. I have a few questions after reading it though.

First: All the reasons you gave for wanting stiff boots fore-and-aft, couldn’t all those same arguments be made for wanting a laterally stiff boot?

Second: You said “I have plenty of fore-aft “play” from the give of the boot padding and the soft tissues of my legs”. How come you don’t have this same play for lateral movements? It seems to me I have just as much soft tissue if not more on the sides of my legs than on the front and back.

Third: You said, “I do NOT need a laterally stiff cuff for edging power”. Does that mean you could still edge your skis throughout the whole turn with a boot that is not laterally stiff at all? In my experience it is possible to tip your skis without lateral stiffness from the boot when there are no forces involved, but as soon as you try to do it while skiing you are overpowered. The few times I have messed around jumping into ski bindings in my snow boots on the rope tow that has been very apparent.

Of course this discussion is very difficult without reference points for what is stiff and what is soft. Maybe we can talk about range of movement in the foot/ankle to better clarify points. For instance I use a great fore-aft range than lateral in my foot/ankle when I am skiing. From your posts it almost seems like you use a great lateral range of movement than for-aft.
post #50 of 131

Do you use Atomic boots? If so, they may be the wrong boots for you, for the same reason that they would probably work well for me. While not as dramatic as the Fischer boots I ski in, Atomic boots also support you in a slightly abducted (toes-out, duck-footed) stance (when your skis are parallel). For me, as a naturally under-edged excessive pronater, that's a great thing.

But your feet sound like the opposite of mine, and those boots might well be contributing to your problem. Something to think about!

For anyone who is curious about how this works, try this: Stand up, barefooted and in a natural-width skiing stance, toes pointing straight ahead. Now flex your knees a few times and pay attention to what heppens. Do your knees track straight forward and back? If so, you are one of the fortunate few.

Do they tend to come together when you flex them (like mine, and the majority of other skiers)? That's a sign that your arches are collapsing and your feet are pronating when you flex forward. This collapsing will interfere with your edging movements, and you're also likely to suffer from "sixth toe" and heel irritation, and perhaps bone spurs, as your feet change shape inside your boots.

If your knees track together like that, rotate your feet out a little, like a duck, and try flexing your knees again. Your knees should track much straighter now. This is what the abducted Fischers and Atomics do for you.

Another solution is to tilt (invert) your feet a little. Insert a thin paperback book or something under the inside (big toe) sides of your feet, and try the flexing experiment one more time. This, too, should make your knees track better, which in turn will enhance your edging power and precision.

On the other hand, if your knees tracked OUT the first time you tried the experiment, externally rotaing your feet, or posting them with pronation wedges, will aggravate the problem. That's why I suggest that Atomicman may want to consider a different boot, if he is in the Atomics.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #51 of 131
Three excellent questions, Boozer!

The first two questions are related--why don't my arguments for stiff fore-aft boots apply equally in the lateral plane? In one sense, they do apply--my boots are pretty stiff laterally too, and part of the needed lateral movement does indeed come from the give in my soft tissue and boot padding.

And, while I maintain that I do not use my boot cuffs to pry my skis on edge, I do need at least a fair amount of lateral support to protect my ankles and help me sustain the momentary, but often powerful, stresses that skiing involves. Again, much like an ice skate. If anything, those cuffs help keep me from OVER-edging!

But there are differences, too. First, I rarely need to put much pressure laterally on my boot cuffs. Especially with narrow-waisted skis and even moreso with added binding lift, it takes very little force to tip skis on edge, or to keep them there. Skis aren't quite ice skates, where the narrow blade acts almost like a hinge, providing virtually no resistance to tipping. But tipping skis on edge certainly doesn't require my whole body cranking laterally on the long lever arms of my stiff boot cuffs!

I don't need it, and I couldn't put much lateral pressure on my boot cuffs even if I wanted to, because there is so little to resist my effort. An exception to this is very wide skis, which do require a fair amount of torque to tip them up, at least on hard snow. But they aren't meant for hard snow, and that's part of why they don't work very well on hard snow. In soft snow, wide planks tip IN it, rather than on it, and once again there is little resistance.

On the other hand, even the shortest skis are long enough to powerfully resist my fore-and-aft movements. If I really want (which I rarely do) to put a lot pressure on the tips or tails of my skis, the stiff, powerful lever of my boot cuffs becomes important. And if I am thrown off-balance, it is those stiff cuffs that I push against to recover. If I'm off balance to the SIDE, I'll step or twist a ski out there to recover--can't just push sideways on my boot cuffs, no matter how stiff they are!

Does that make sense?

I guess I've partially addressed your third question as well, haven't I? Yes, in short, I am saying that I tip my skis and hold them on edge throughout turns without engaging the stiff cuffs (or, likewise, that laterally softer cuffs would not make much difference). This is largely the discussion of the "Great Quiz" thread I linked to above. Don't forget that your soft snowboots lack not only a stiff cuff--they also lack a stiff lower boot and sole, and probably didn't even engage in your bindings. So, naturally, you'll have a hard time tipping your skis with them.

Try this, if you've got a moment (it's almost time to find those ski boots anyway!): Take the inner boot out of your ski boot, and put your bare foot into the shell. Now, try tipping the boot left and right. It's easiest if you sit in a chair, and put that foot out to the side, as it would be in a turn. Notice that you can tip it quite easily with your foot, without even moving your leg or your knee. Notice further that, when you tip the boot toward you (with your foot), the top of the cuff hits the OUTSIDE of your lower leg, which actually stops the tipping.

I wish I could draw a picture of what I'm describing here, but I hope I've explained it well enough for you to duplicate the experiment.

I would not say that I use a greater lateral than fore-aft range of motion in my feet and ankles, but again, the forces involved and the resistance to my movements are much greater in the fore-aft plane than in the lateral plane.

Thanks for the good questions! This is an area where appearances may deceive, and one where what makes sense at first glance may not make sense when you really think about it. While those big boot cuffs would seem to be ideal for cranking the skis on edge, as Harald points out, "this does seem to make sense - until you begin to understand that you are now forced to use your upper leg muscles to achieve this ... edging...." I agree with him entirely on this point.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #52 of 131

I'm in the Salomon X2 Lab soft. Although i used to ski in Atomics. I don't think the problem is any better in the Salomons, but they don't pack out at all and we have them damn comfy. Also they are very upright and low ramp angle which I like.

I think my knee tracks to the inside but my foot does not collapse. I do have a big 6th toe. I think some of the problem is that my right foot is very curved. My bootfitter calls my whole right leg thing "A Rigid Lever'.
post #53 of 131
Oh well, it was just a thought! I hope you have found a good boot fitter, A-man--sounds like a job for an expert. That "rigid lever" comment does suggest to me a supinated, rigid, high-arched foot, but I could certainly be wrong. While some rigidity is a good thing, and does help create powerful edging, it can cause lack of shock absorption, and difficulty "modulating" that edge angle. Good boot fitters can work miracles, though! (By the way, I do not claim to be one, by any stretch. I know enough to know when to say "you should go see Jeff Bergeron, Bob Gleason, Eric Ward, [insert your boot guru here], but that's as far as I'll go!) Best of luck.

Best regards,
post #54 of 131
Thanks Bob,

I am going to work on it further this season. thinking about planing the sole before I add a little increased standheight. I work with Jim Mates up here in Seattle. He works with alot of the racers here and is really very, very good. Thanks for you comments. They are much appreciated!

Over & out!


PS you were pretty damn close on the description of my foot!
post #55 of 131

Ski boots in September ...in Ohio

Thanks Bob ...I forgot how much fun these things are to get on:

I remember talking about most of this, but it was a good review for me, that pointed out some good things to remember going into the season!!


post #56 of 131
ankle motion as you put it is all about skiing. both modern skiing and the leather boots stuff. not only can you manipulate how the ski bends with your ankle, all of your re-balance moves come from the ankle. unless of course there is a gross breakdown in basic stance, like a break at the waist for example. these are all fine movements in the lower leg but are crucial, especially off trail. i could be mistaken but i recall a us team experiment with electro blah blah blah hooked up to ski racers and found the muscles in the lower leg to fire the most. anyhoo, ankle motion is good, and boots you can actually bend your ankles in are a plus too. sometimes too stiff a boot means back seat.
post #57 of 131
Thanks for your posts Bob. I know it took me while to come to the realization that my plastic boots were really to reinforce my foot/ankle movements and not to make them for me or keep my foot and ankle from them. I remember coming back to alpine after years of being on old school tele gear, and how I fell into the bolt em on mind set. Not foot movement, ankle held immobile ect. It wasn't until I started teaching that I started trying to understand all this. I will say that I always felt that the forward lean I had in my boots was too much.

I would say that there are many still out there that say the ankle needs to be immobilized. I have found that what you say to be true about the ankle needing some lateral movement, but like forward lean, too much can be as bad as too much forward flex. My pronation tends towards the excessive side, but if I simply stabilize my heel and the rear part of my arch the right amount of pronation happens. My edging feel, and quicknees of egdging improved with a move away from full, hard, footbeds.

Our ski school brought in a visiting boot fitter last spring and even though my mens program had ended, half my class paid a small fee and sat through the two hour presentation. It was a good reinforcment of what we did in the classes and our off snow stance and bare feet work. After the classes and the clinic, they are now better informed buyers of their next ski boot.

I'm so concerned about this that I will go with a student boot shoping if they want my assistance. The shop where I do business doesn't mind and actually like the personal detail I can give them about the skier.

KNees do track some to the inside as they flex on most of us as Bob said. I'm still don't know how much this can be corrected or should be corrected. How much of this is by natural design of the knee and how much is imbalances. I've heard both sides of the argument, but haven't settled this in my own mind.

Atomicman, have you ever measured the ramp angle in your boot boards? This was thing that made a big difference to me was reducing this to 3 degrees in my new boots. This changed the effectiveness of my subtle ankle movements. I know that reducing the ramp angle and forward lean allowed me to eliminate the 1.5 degree shims my previous boots had. This tells me that the proper range of motion along with ramp angle does have an impact on how the knees tracks in skiing. Most boots as I understand it are in the range of 5-6 degrees for ramp angle, I'm curious about what yours are since you like them. Later, RicB.
post #58 of 131
I have not actually measured them but I do know that the Salaomon X2 may have the least ramp angle and most upright stance of about any boot available.

On the other end of the spectrum is the new Tecnica Diablo Race. I believe they increased the ramp angle in the new boot to about 7 degrees.

How did you measure it?
post #59 of 131
Just a quick point of clarity, guys: by "ramp angle," are you talking about the angle of the boot sole, as it sits on your bindings? Or are you talking about the angle of the sole of your foot inside the boot? These are two very different things.

For what it's worth, many boot fitters these days have adopted the term "Delta Angle" to describe the tilt of the whole boot, mostly affected by the bindings (higher heel causes greater delta angle). And "Ramp Angle" refers to the foot inside the boot, mostly due to the plastic boot board ("Zeppa"), but also greatly affected by the insole or custom footbed. When you add heel lifts inside the boot, you increase ramp angle. When you add a platform under your heel binding, you increase delta angle.

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #60 of 131
That is a good point that I am well aware of. I was thinking of RicB's comments in the context of ramp angle,the angle inside the boot. IMO in order to get into balance you must also take into account the difference in toepiece and heelpiece height (Delta angle).

My question in regard to measuring. I am curious as to whether the boot board is actually ramped or does the the inside shape of the boot sole (where your bootboard sits) have any angle to it or both? I haven't really looked at that. If it is the boot board only I assume that it is simple to measure the difference in thickness at heel and ball of foot. If in fact the bootboard doesn't not sit on a level platform, that may be tougher to measure.
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