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Alignment - How The Racers Ski Witherall Book

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I pulled the 1972 edition off the book shelf yesterday and read what I thought was a very simple way to determine if you needed cants or not.

Stand on a flat surface with your ski boots on and buckled feet as far apart as you would have them when you ski,flex forward and feel if you are on your inside or outside edges of your ski boots. If so , you are probably a canidate for canting. Next roll your knees to simulate changing from your left edges to your right edges and determine if your soles of your boots flatten simultaneously or one then the other. If simultaneously you are OK. The last test is to put your boot soles up on edge (20 degree is suggested) and have someone check to see if your boot soles are equally edged. The last test to me seems to be the easiest to screw up.

The tests would mandate you are standing on a flat surface. Maybe all floors aren't flat? I remember years ago when I thought I could do simple carpentry and put a chair rail up in the dining room , I learned pretty quick the walls weren't square when I tried to connect the corners! Anyway , I was curious what those in the know think of these pretty simplistic tests to qualify if you are able to stand flat on your skis. Seems too basic.

I think I remeber reading that the Mahres did kind of the same thing when they changed boots to qualify if they were able to stand flat or not.
post #2 of 26
Bud Heishman's boot balancing is a refined version of Witherell's 1972 book's thoughts on the subject. it's a more scientific (more variables controlled) version of Witherell's discussion, as well as better than Elling's discussion in The All-Mountain Skier... but on the same principles, etc.

I was amazed at the difference it made in my skiing posture and my turn symmetry. can't say it would do the same for everyone, but Bud's assessment pretty well tells you if you need it.
post #3 of 26
Thread Starter 
I need to go and have an expert like Bud do the same for me. I wonder if you did the tests Witherall suggests in my post if you would have determined that you needed aligned? The fact that the alignment you received is delivering the desired results you list, reinforces that getting this done is well worth it. I like the fact that his system is done in the boot.

When I do the Witherall checks that I listed it doesn't appear I need cants. I would be surprised if I am flat. Maybe I'm a cant hypocondriac, but I would bet I'm a little too A framed.

I saw something else earlier that I believe instructed you to check your alignement potential by standing with your feet apart and then bring your legs together and determine of your knees touch together before your ankles???

Man that's leaves a lot of margin of measurement error! Plus you're not standing in your bootswith your footbeds on.
post #4 of 26

Alignment involves a lot oof issues

Witherell's book is simply out of date and any simplistic procedure just involving in-boot tracking and boot canting is not sufficient.



The alignment process should involve much more than in-boot tracking. It should look at a number of both static anatomical measurements in the foot/ankle, knee, tib/fib and hip that affect alignment. It should also look at dynamic tracking issues (in and out of boots), and also how these interact with the skier’s current equipment. This is the only way that the various causes of misalignment can be identified. By looking at a wide range of things, the accommodations can be spread in small amounts over as many contributing causes as possible rather than trying to compensate for everything in just one area.



Proper alignment also needs to take into account range of motion issues. Static alignment measurements alone can lead one to make an accommodation that locks a joint into a position where an important range of motion in that joint is used up. This ends up being worse for the person’s skiing than if nothing had been done. This is often seen in the application of rigid foot beds/posting that have the arch area filled in. For most people, this is the worst thing that could happen to their balancing and edging ability. For range of motion issues, there are modifications that can be made in the boot and in the boot board to help get/mimic greater range of motion in key areas.



In addition, many times, one has to balance the needs of one part of the system with the opposite needs of another part of the system. For example, A person with excessive pronantion may need accommodations for that issue – including canting of the boot; however the same person may also have tibial varum or torsion that requires the opposite set of accommodations. In this case, there has to be a specific targeted range of accommodations that balance the two needs.



I would also refer anyone to my comments in a previous thread.



http://forums.epicski.com/showpost.php?p=247762&postcount=8
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
So much for making it simple. Believe me I'm not challenging anything you stated in your post. I was under the impression that proper alignment was very entailed and the info you provided confirms just that.
post #6 of 26
I'll make it real simple......Go look at the heal of a few pairs of your street shoes. It the heal area isn't worn almost exactly in the middle of the heal you are probably off.

A greater amount of weat to the inside (lets say 60% toward the inside of the foot---40% wear to the outside) is about the max, where you would be considered "flat". It the wear from foot to foot is different you again are probably off.

This does not take into account the effect of the boot shaft---but will at least give you an idea. You can look at the heal of your boots too if you have been in them for awhile.

Spot any unusual wear---head to a qualified boot-fitter.

What's above here in my post is a starting point----SkierSynergy is dead on with his post here !
post #7 of 26
not to dis skier synergy, but witherell's book is HARDLY out of date, and the only way to dismiss it so quickly is to ignore the whole point of witherell examining alignment in the first place -- its effect as a dynamic part of skiing.

I think it's quite phony to say that the 1972 book is full of useless, antiquated information. wisdom and perspective are timeless. but so is pointless negativing. :
post #8 of 26
Uncle Louie...Normal wear pattern on a shoe at the heel is usually lateral to midline. When the foot is in the toe up position (dorsal flexed), getting ready for heel strike, the foot will naturally hang in a slightly supinated position. I dont feel this is a good test for determining alignment needs.
Just my .02
post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by cantman
Uncle Louie...Normal wear pattern on a shoe at the heel is usually lateral to midline. When the foot is in the toe up position (dorsal flexed), getting ready for heel strike, the foot will naturally hang in a slightly supinated position. I dont feel this is a good test for determining alignment needs.
Just my .02
I agree, Heel strike almosty always occurs on the lateral side of the foot at the calcaneous. In locomotion, the foot goes from heel stike, to mid stance, flat foot then to toe off. In toe off the foot becomes rigid and acts as a lever to propel you into the next step.
As a certified pedorthist, and boot fitter for 15 years all i can say is that everyones body reacts differently, and always keep an open mind. Everything has an affect on alllignement. Work with someone who listens to you and does not talk in absolutes.
post #10 of 26

alignment

Just wanted to make sure that I don't come across as dismissing Witherel's ideas or book as it appeared in 1972. Not my point. All appropriate respect given to him and his ideas.

But things have advanced since then and today, it is, in reality, out of date in many aspects. This is simply to recognize his important contributions in historical perspective. It's not to diminish them.

My main point is that alignment involves a wide variety of issues that should be looked at systematically. And the person doing it should know their stuff. Don't trust a 10 minute machine, or a computerized-one of 30 template footbeds.

Also, don't too quickly jump to a simple boot canting solution. Boot canting is the last thing I recommend. Accomodations should be made in other areas first. Boot shaving/canting happens when other things don't/can't respond to in boot changes.

Alignment is more than just getting flat. It involves setting up a system that makes things more effective and efficient in the areas that are most impacted by your alighnment issues. Often this means not being flat in the static sense. Alignment also involves issues of general, balance, fore and aft balance, increasing fine control, effective modulation of edging, etc.

Often there is no problem. Often there are simple solutions. However, If you really think there might be a problem and you are serious enough about your skiing to spend more than $1,000 on equipment, then spend the $$ to have the assessment completed by someone who knows their stuff. Most shops offer services that are simply a crap shoot. They are just trying to sell you a footbed and they'll never see you ski anyway.

In general, beware of very simplistic approaches that do not look at a complete set of issues in a systematic manner. There are lots of people out there with fancy machines and very simple generic solutions that will never see you ski, but are more than willing to take your money.

There are also good people out there who will do a sytematic on snow assessment, bring you back to the shop and do a full set of in shop measurements, tailor a set of footbed/boot fitting/equipment/canting accomodations, and then go out and ski with you again to make sure that everything is working better than before. They will probably also do a before and after movement analysis video for you so that you can see the difference. That's what I do and I would't expect less. Why would you.

Sorry to be long winded, but there is a lot of misinformation out there and this is an area that for $200-$300 could do more for many people's skiing than a month of lessons.
post #11 of 26
So what do you do if you are in need of cants? I'm 4 degrees out on the left boot (I think). My fitter adjusted the cuff and said it was not a good fix. He said I need cants.

I ski on Volkl 724 pro with the binding already on the ski (motion 12). Would it be possible to work with that set up.

This issue is most noticeable in fast GS turns. I keep my knee in, to keep the edge in contact. My right leg can edge better so I can tweek the turn by dropping the knee a bit. I can't really do that with the left because I'm already dropped.

Any thoughts please.
post #12 of 26
marketing by Skier Synergy == confuse everyone, make it seem more complex than it is.

go away. I was polite the first time. now it's time to be mean. you're a snarky fock and you oughta get outta here.
post #13 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by gonzostrike
marketing by Skier Synergy == confuse everyone, make it seem more complex than it is.

go away. I was polite the first time. now it's time to be mean. you're a snarky fock and you oughta get outta here.
I hope you're not serious. His posts seemed perfectly reasonable and respectful, as well as well-informed.
post #14 of 26

Wow. Where did that come from?!

Quote:
Originally Posted by gonzostrike
marketing by Skier Synergy == confuse everyone, make it seem more complex than it is.

go away. I was polite the first time. now it's time to be mean. you're a snarky fock and you oughta get outta here.
Wow! I'm not sure what I said that warranted this mean response. I don't think you have skied with me or know me to make the comments that you have.

I am not trying to convince people to see just me, or any one particular company/shop. Nor did I give out any of my contact info.

If you have some comments of substance to make on the original topic then maybe you should do so instead of making personal attacks on people you don't know. If you wish to disagree with me on specific issues then, of course do so. That's what a forum involves. Exchange, sharing opinions, and even disagreement need not involve bad attitudes.

Maybe it's just a bad day for you . . . so, if you are ever in my area, I would be glad to do some skiing with you or just have a beer. By the way, I used to be a climbing guide and like yourself regularly Randonee. I am sincere about what I say.
post #15 of 26
Gonzo strikes again!! Just ignore his assault. To the point: Witherell wrote a later book, The Athletic Skier, that gives a more systematic method for aligning, includes for/aft balance, footbeds, the whole thing. Harold Harb, who I think did some editing on the book and is mentioned in the credits, feels it is outdated for shaped skis and his PMTS methods, but I have found it very useful over the years solving canting problems for me, my kids and a few friends. You should get your own copy. If nothing else, it will give you a place to start that doesn't require paying someone else.

Paul Jones, Most of the ski/binding systems make it difficult to cant under the binding. You will probably need the help of a true expert at grinding bootsoles for alignment. 4 degrees is so far out that you can't compensate. You will improve greatly if you can get things within 1/2 degree. LewBob
post #16 of 26
Be careful about how the 4 degrees is measured. One bootfitter says I'm 4 out, another says I'm two out.

The difference? The amount of space between the feet. Mr 4 out puts the feet closer together. Mr 2 out puts them directly under the hips. Makes a huge difference.
post #17 of 26
I second BigE. Make any changes a little at a time, if you can, and see how things feel on -slope. LewBob
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by SkierSynergy
do a sytematic on snow assessment, bring you back to the shop and do a full set of in shop measurements, tailor a set of footbed/boot fitting/equipment/canting accomodations, and then go out and ski with you again to make sure that everything is working better than before. They will probably also do a before and after movement analysis video for you so that you can see the difference. That's what I do and I would't expect less. Why would you.

.
Sounds great but I'm with Gonzo here. I've been ripping up the mountain for 45 years without any of that. I just stand on the garage floor and fiddle with pads and cant ajustment to get flat.

My regular boots are having a pressure point fixed so I'm in a pair of boots I picked up at Second Season Sports, for $13.30. I'm still having fun, laying down hand dragging arcs to both sides and blasting through the crud and powder. People don't all need the same analysis a world cup racer might do to enjoy this sport to the fullest.
post #19 of 26
newf, My guess is that you are near the center of the bell curve when it comes to alignment. That is a gift that many of us don't have. Both of my sons had a very frustrating time when they got their first stiff boots. I used the Athletic Skier and some tricks of my own to align them, and the difference was immediate. They both would have quit skiing if I hadn't solved the problem of them being overedged. LewBob
post #20 of 26
SkierSynergy, Where do you set up shop? Your last comment about lessons being less important than alignment is right on the money. LewBob
post #21 of 26
One of the problems with Witerall's simplistic 1972 methods is you must have your boots aligned on the floor straight to do these tests . If your boots are not lined up or you have them at a different width than what you ski, I don't think it is going to work very well. Most people have a duckfooted (slightly pointed out laterally) natural stance which is inhibited when you click into your skis, unless you are in an Atomic tri-tech or Fischer boot which both try to deal with that to some extent, how successfully is up for discussion.

My right foot is very curved and when Ii stand at what I feel is with my boots straight, I am actually very kattywompus! (Nice word, huh?)

When I have my boot held straight (heel & toe even on a line) I feel twisted.

I have messed around alot wiht tape canting and even went so far as to have my right boot canted 1 degree inside thick (I was inside about 1-1.5 degrees) to move my knee out. It didn't work. It made me even more on my inside edge. I had it ripped apart and put back flat. I have had a discussion about this in a previous post, but there are a couple schools of thought. Do you try to move your knee into alignment or do you try to fill in the gap under your ski to equlize the pressure on the ski. Different things work or not for different people. It is an art not a science., and the same fix works differently for different people as evidenced by my experience.

As someone mentioned above, static measurement in a shop does not duplicate the dynamics of actually skiing. I think to get this spot on you need to have someone with a trained eye watch you ski.

One of my bootfitteres wants me to go see a "Rolfer" and get this right leg straightened out.

I have almost come to the conclusion that there is no fix for my particular problem. My feet are very rigid as are my knees and hips.

I have come to the realization I just have to use my athleticism to match my edge angles. One of the top masters coaches at Sun Valley last year watched me ski with no cants and said I was very symetrical and he could see any A-frame of my right leg, although I feel out of alignment at times. I think I just overcome it subconciously by making whatever moves I must to get my skis to do what I want them to.

Still will be experimenting some though.

I am scared shi_ less to go to the Rolfer, I hear it hurts like hell. I have had a lot of trauma to my right leg & hip and was very heavy as a kid. All this probably contributed to the issue!
post #22 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by paul jones
So what do you do if you are in need of cants? I'm 4 degrees out on the left boot (I think). My fitter adjusted the cuff and said it was not a good fix. He said I need cants.

I ski on Volkl 724 pro with the binding already on the ski (motion 12). Would it be possible to work with that set up.

This issue is most noticeable in fast GS turns. I keep my knee in, to keep the edge in contact. My right leg can edge better so I can tweek the turn by dropping the knee a bit. I can't really do that with the left because I'm already dropped.

Any thoughts please.
4 degrees outside is quite a bit. There are two ways to attck this. First and foremost an orthotic that supports your foot is key. Second is to allign the upper cuff of the boot to the lower leg. If you need to, the upper cuff should be reriveted to accomidate the leg shaft. This is key.
Third is to then check the allignment again. If you are 4 degrees outside and have a rigid bone structure and have have been skiing this way all your life (how old are you?) you might have to accomidate the allingnment. This means that you need to grind the outside of the sole of boot, to accomidate the problem.
If you are younger, more flexible you might be able to change your allignment by bringing your knee inside of center by grinding the inside of the sole of the boot, to being the knee in. As you can imagine, 4 degrees is a lot, i usually will not grind more than 2.5 degrees because it can result in lower back pain, postieur or anteriur tibial tendinitis and other problems.
I hope this helps and sorry about the spelling
post #23 of 26

Paul - alignment

Hi Paul.

Really interesting and helpful posts. I will make a rather long post to give my 2 cents worth for
Paul and also bring up the range of issues that are actually involved when alignment is holding you back. If you aren't having a problem or if you do have alignment issues, but are happy with where you are at, then of course you have no need for any of this.


Paul, your post brings up several questions/issues.


So, if I understand you correctly, you are functionally bow-legged on one leg (up to 4degrees). This could be caused by several things. The functional restrictions will become apparent in two areas. First, when you are finishing a turn going to the bow-legged side, it will be difficult to release that edge to roll into the new turn by using the muscles and joints of the ankle and foot. The other foot will flatten and roll into the new turn, but the bow-legged foot is by default tipped in the other direction. In essence, the little toe edge of the bow-legged foot/leg will want to hang on as you try to roll the skis through flat and into the new turn and when the other leg is already edged the bow-legged leg (now, the outside stance leg) will tend to remain flat. Usually people will tend to do large upper leg/ or whole body rotational movements to get the bow-legged ski off it’s little toe edge and start the new turn; or they will use small stemming movements on that leg during the release to help get that ski off the LTE and onto the new inner edge. Second, when a bow-legged skier is in the bottom of the turn, if the skier tries to straighten and stack the stance ski to most effectively balance while pressuring the ski, the edge of the stance ski remains flat/tipped outside. So, the skier will often try to use a big knee movement to the inside (sometimes with a widened stance) to get the inside edge to engage. This works to put the ski on edge, but driving the knee also has very negative effects on balance, fine control and edge hold. An over flexed stance leg requires the balancing movements to be done in the muscles that control the femur. These are very unbalanced and do not have good fine control. This is also way more tiring than if the leg is more skeletally aligned and the balancing was done in the muscles of the foot and ankle. Further, driving the knee pressures the front of the ski while also flattening the heel and transferring pressure in the rear of the ski to the outside while causing a rotational force on the ski. This is a prescription for end of turn skidding. The usual response is to simply drive the knee more, setting up a reinforcing cycle.



A by-product that you mentioned is a feeling that all of the range of motion toward the inside edge of the stance ski is quickly used up. Most importantly, in the ankle, all of the eversion gets used up and the ankle becomes incapable of being used for balancing or modulating pressure and up the kinetic chain. In your case, it sounds like even the far less effective (in my book, negative) movements of the knee get used up.



The key issue for correction is to identify the cause of the bowegged-ness.



It may be that your foot/ankle tends to be toward the rigid supinated type. There are several characteristics of this foot type: general limited mobility, a high stiff arch, the calcaneous tipped to the outside, limited eversion and pronantion in weighting, etc. Often, in these cases, one of the joints in the ankle (the subtalar joint) is either tipped or rotated to the outside. To further complicate things, sometimes, in the same type of foot, the forefoot can also be twisted in the opposite direction. This leaves a space under the little toe edge when the foot is in neutral position. When the foot is weighted, it simply pushes the whole system more towards bow-legged-ness. All of these things should be checked. A good foot bed that is designed for this type of foot would help tremendously. Giving proper support under the heel and the forefoot in a way that helps straighten the nominal position of the foot is key.



Just as important is having a foot bed that retains as much range of eversion and arch movement as possible. Therefore, avoid a rigid foot bed or one with the arch area filled in that would restrict the ability of the foot/ankle to use the eversion (tip toward its big toe edge inside the boot) that is has. It is also important to look at the normal range of eversion that you have available. The ability to evert contributes to your ability to pressure the big toe edge without driving your knee.

On a side note, doing some stetching of the ankle to eventually get more eversion can be done and makes a big difference for both skiing and also for general balance issues in older age.


Bow legged-ness could also be produced by external tibial torsion (a tibia that is twisted to the outside), tibial varum (a curve in the tibia), or something going on in the hip. In more general leg issues, the foot bed will not be used to correct the misalignment, but it is crucial that the foot bed not inhibit eversion/pronation movements. It should have a soft arch.



If you have good range of eversion, I would do some strategic stretching/bubble on the inside ankle bone area of your boot. Often, a medially softened boot board will help as well. More generally, a little bit more bottom bevel on the ski will help the release issues, though it doesn’t help the bottom of the turn problems – you would have to gauge which is worse.



With 4 degrees off, even after addressing some of the potential issues I listed, you will have to have a boot shaving and have cant plate put on. Try to spread the accommodations over a wide range of issues so that the boot level cant can be less and more effective. Sadly, the binding system you are using will not easily allow an under binding cant strip. It has to be done on the boot.



Hope this helps. PM me if you would like a recommendation of a good person to do a full alignment for you in the NY area.
post #24 of 26
While advancements are being made it seems to me that we are still a ways off from a defined approach to alignment. SkierSynergy, I like your attitude and the detail you provide. However, I think it is even more complex than your posts might suggest. As far as I've heard, no one has a well established approach to fore/aft balance. In addition there is obviously a great deal of interaction between ski stance, ski movement skills, and alignment that can easily change with time. Another important factor not well integrated into the alignemnt process is the binding mounting point. For myself, I don't really see anyway that I can rely I on one person to work on my alignment and I am pretty convinced that even the best changes will not be right on forever.
post #25 of 26

complicated

Si, I second what you say.

I think the level of complexity depends on the level of the issues you are dealing with and also the level of result you are looking for.

For many intermediates to expert skiers that have a fairly straight forward issue (I mean something addressed with the level of detail I outlined above), a good individualized footbed and maybe a small cant under the boot will give back incredible results. Usually there is just a huge smile of disbelief of how things change.

For people with more difficult issues or sets of issues, it's always a set of trade offs that can be tweaked.

For higher end skiers (racers, etc.) the process is always one of tweeking to try to get a better result as variables change (courses, technique, flexibility and stregnth, comfortableness through the season, aging, etc. etc.).

You are absolutely correect about the issues of fore/aft balance (it really is a black art) and also binding placement.

The only attempt that I am aware of that attempted to study fore/aft issues systematically was HHs study with about 20 people of varying body structures. There may be other studies, but I just haven't run across them. If anyone knows of any please post the references to the forum. Harb Ski Systems used the same Dalbello boots for everyone in the study that allowed for systematic changes in stiffness, forward lean, and ramp angle and then observed the effects on static stance and stance in a fixed set of skiing activities for the different body types. They did find some very general guidlines that were useful and became part of the published technician information for Dalbelo, but there really is very little known about how to look at this in any good systematic way.

In the good studies of binding placement that I have seen differences in placement on the same set of skis made more of a difference in the perceived performance/feel of the ski than 10cm changes in size or even switches to similar skis of a different brand. However, there also appear to be some clear limits on this. In a study presented at the International Congress of Skiing and Science, when bindings were placed more than 2 cm foreward or aft of the standard center point, noone (in any skill group tested) liked the change. These results reinforce just how sensitive this variable is.
post #26 of 26
Synergy

Once again thanks for all the help. I am bow legged - when I ski. My feet are totally flat and I would say there is no detectable arch. My feet flatten and sprawl with pressure. I think I have bad feet!

My foot beds that I am using now (I have seven pair) are easy on the sole arch. The arch I don't have! They do help to prevent the sprawl but only help in a limited way.

Over the years - in the old days, I skied on the outside edge of both feet. I was really bow legged then. Back then I did a lot more skidding in my turns and skied the bumps alot.

I am a really fine skier, but there are holes in my technique. Fore/aft balance are at the top of the list. GS turns - second. Greatest strength - really steep, tight and complete turns, powder and slower speed bumps.

I have used a foam boot and now a hot form - for years. It's the only way to get the snugness in the heal for me.
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