Paul - alignmentHi 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.