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Are there any advantages to stiffer forward flex?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
It seems that if the boot is stiff in the front, then when you press forward on the tongue with your shin you will be more forcefully or more quickly able to press the front of the ski down towards the ice/snow. Otherwise, you are relying on moving your center of mass forward and easing the front of the ski down with it.

If I'm right here, then in what circumstances is there an advantage to having those boots stiff in front? If I'm wrong about the mechanics of this, please explain.
post #2 of 18
Used to be important to have a stiff forward flexing boot, in the olden golden days of straight skis...now it is more important to have a stiff lateral boot.
post #3 of 18
Boots that are too stiff impair balance.

Weight and intended usage are the important factors. The quality of flex is another factor, though... For example, if you try two boots, one with a GREAT flex pattern and the other with a not so great/poor flex pattern (both with a similar flex index, say 100), the boot with a great flex will feel softer than the other. Keep in mind that the instep profile has a lot to do with the quality of flex and feedback.

Choose the boot which has an appropiate flex for your weight and intended usage.
post #4 of 18
To some extent boot flex, (and ski flex) is a lot like a car's suspension. A stiff forward flex is like a stiff front suspension, a softer flex is a bit like a softer front suspension.

With a stiff forward flex you get very little movement causing a high force transmitted to the tips, with a softer flex you have to mover farther to create the same force on the ski. The advantage is that it doesn't take a lot to instantly apply major forces on the tips with surgical precision. With a softly sprung car, you turn the wheel, the tires soon turn, the rubber stretches, the suspension compresses taking up the slack, and then the car turns. It turns a lot harder once the springs have compressed a bit, using up the slack so to speak. It takes a while for it to settle into it's line, and it can be a challenge to smoothly corner hard.

The disadvantage is that just like a car, if you have too stiff a syspension you don't get good contact with tera firma; a bump is transmitted directly to you, jerking you around so to speak. You are also prevented from making large movements to compensate and soak up bumps/moguls, etcetera without sending corespondingly large forces to the skis, unless you compensate by moving your waist instead of your ankle and knees. Boots that are great for going mach schnell on an icy downhill are not much help going 15 mph through a bumpy trail.

Stiffer boots are usefull on surfaces that resemple race courses, where high speeds and precisely controlled high forces are called for; softer boots where there are more bumps. Though a stiff suspension is great for smooth racetracks, you wouldn't want an F1 suspension for your off-road vehicle (nor for the typical roads in Ontario).
post #5 of 18
A good boot fitter will measure your flexibility. Hyper-mobility, I think that was the word used, would indicate a need for a stiffer boot. I have a lot of flexibility and I hate a stiff boot. I have what I consider to be a stiff boot (for me) and it has taken time to get used to it. But, the performance is there.

A flexible person with a soft boot will just keep going, like a tele skier.

Go see a good boot fitter.
post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
If you race occasionally and free ski often, is the one-boot solution a boot with stiff forward flex, and you just loosen the top buckle when bumping it? Any problems with doing this?

Or do most people turn to two sets of boots? It's taken me so much work to get this one pair of boots to fit right; I'm not sure I want to go through that again, until these just wear out.

Or are there any boots with adjustable forward flexes that really work? Mine supposedly have adjustable flex, but to tell the truth I can't tell the difference between the settings, and it takes a screw driver to change the setting anyway so I just don't bother.
post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet
If you race occasionally and free ski often, is the one-boot solution a boot with stiff forward flex, and you just loosen the top buckle when bumping it? Any problems with doing this?

Or do most people turn to two sets of boots? It's taken me so much work to get this one pair of boots to fit right; I'm not sure I want to go through that again, until these just wear out.

Or are there any boots with adjustable forward flexes that really work? Mine supposedly have adjustable flex, but to tell the truth I can't tell the difference between the settings, and it takes a screw driver to change the setting anyway so I just don't bother.
Forgot to mention, I am skiing on two-year old Atomic T-9's, for women.
post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet
If you race occasionally and free ski often, is the one-boot solution a boot with stiff forward flex, and you just loosen the top buckle when bumping it? Any problems with doing this?

Or do most people turn to two sets of boots? It's taken me so much work to get this one pair of boots to fit right; I'm not sure I want to go through that again, until these just wear out.

Or are there any boots with adjustable forward flexes that really work? Mine supposedly have adjustable flex, but to tell the truth I can't tell the difference between the settings, and it takes a screw driver to change the setting anyway so I just don't bother.
Most expert skiers who are free-skiing on a primary basis & racing on a secondary basis will not want or need two pairs of boots. Most will select a consumer plug and customize the boot for all around use. a very good bootfitter will select a boot with the appropriate flex for the skier and then potentially soften the flex if required.

NCAA and higher racers will use boots that are difficult to free-ski with. However, free-skiing is not an important pursuit for most top level racers until they retire.

Owning a stiff boot and using the buckles to improve performance at the cost of comfort is acceptable to me. I might also run a little looser than normal in bumps or crud to improve forgiveness. But one or two notches away from the ideal fit is probably the limit without dealing with diminishing returns in fit or performance.

Most skiers use the adjustable flex like a on/off switch. The boots in my family function this way. the lowest setting is softer than the highest setting, but intermediate settings change little.

Cheers,

Michael Barrett
post #9 of 18
Agree with Phil. Additionally, think of how you are initially balanced in your boots and how that will affect the need for fore and aft motion or adjustment.
post #10 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by barrettscv
Most expert skiers who are free-skiing on a primary basis & racing on a secondary basis will not want or need two pairs of boots. Most will select a consumer plug and customize the boot for all around use. a very good bootfitter will select a boot with the appropriate flex for the skier and then potentially soften the flex if required.

NCAA and higher racers will use boots that are difficult to free-ski with. However, free-skiing is not an important pursuit for most top level racers until they retire.

Owning a stiff boot and using the buckles to improve performance at the cost of comfort is acceptable to me. I might also run a little looser than normal in bumps or crud to improve forgiveness. But one or two notches away from the ideal fit is probably the limit without dealing with diminishing returns in fit or performance.

Most skiers use the adjustable flex like a on/off switch. The boots in my family function this way. the lowest setting is softer than the highest setting, but intermediate settings change little.

Cheers,

Michael Barrett
What boots have such user-friendly forward flex adjustments?
post #11 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet
What boots have such user-friendly forward flex adjustments?
I'm not a seller or bootfitter, so my experience is limited to products my family has owned. I would say that almost every boot we have used provides at least some difference between the full hard and full soft setting. These boots include the Nordica Beast, Tecnica Explosion, Dolomite Sintesi... to mention a few.

My Salomon Course however requires a technician to modify the boot and the modification will only soften the boot and the modification is permanent.

My oldest daughter uses the Atomic boot you have. This boot is way to soft for racing. Consider one of these for combined racing and freeskiing, go to: http://www.bootfitters.com/boot_reviews.htm and click on race/expert. Only consider a boot like this with the advice of a highly skilled bootfitter.

Are you serious about racing?

Cheers,

Michael
post #12 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Jones
A good boot fitter will measure your flexibility. Hyper-mobility, I think that was the word used, would indicate a need for a stiffer boot. I have a lot of flexibility and I hate a stiff boot. I have what I consider to be a stiff boot (for me) and it has taken time to get used to it. But, the performance is there.

A flexible person with a soft boot will just keep going, like a tele skier.

Go see a good boot fitter.
Words of wisdom...
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 
Michael, you ask if I am serious about racing. Yes, I am serious about racing, I don't stop thinking about it all summer, not to mention all winter, but I am a newbie and I have to travel to ski. I spend every weekend in NH skiing once there is snow, and every other weekend Jan-Feb-Mar there's a club-league race that I do. This last year was my first year racing. After this upcoming year, if I am better enough, and can figure out how to ski more often (I skied 25-40 days last year), I want to move up to Masters skiing, but that's in the future, not now.

How does this affect boot advice?
post #14 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet
Michael, you ask if I am serious about racing. Yes, I am serious about racing, I don't stop thinking about it all summer, not to mention all winter, but I am a newbie and I have to travel to ski. I spend every weekend in NH skiing once there is snow, and every other weekend Jan-Feb-Mar there's a club-league race that I do. This last year was my first year racing. After this upcoming year, if I am better enough, and can figure out how to ski more often (I skied 25-40 days last year), I want to move up to Masters skiing, but that's in the future, not now.

How does this affect boot advice?
I am now a free skier, but when I was in H.S. I was a 7 day a week USSA competitor in New Hampshire. We used to train 4 days a week and compete on Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday. Racing is an exciting and demanding passion.

Competition ski gear is highly specialized. Personally I think that racing gear is one of several aspects of acquiring racing performance. Gear is a critical but not exclusive element to future success. Racers quickly move out of recreational gear and use more specialized products when the bug bites.

Race boots are critical to top level racers, however lighter skiers just entering racing can still gain experience on recreational gear. At some point you will be required to choose between race gear and recreational gear.

Didn't mean to offend,

Michael
post #15 of 18
A little input from another random person's anecdotal experience:

From what I can tell, using two pairs of boots is quite unusual. It's not uncommon at the very top levels (by top levels, I'm talking US Ski Team or in that ballpark), but unusual elsewhere, including the top level Masters. Not to say there aren't people at all sorts of levels, engaged in all sorts of pursuits, with multiple boots ... just that those people are rare. On the few occasions I've put on boots other than what I'm used to, they felt really weird.

What sort of stiffness works best for you is a fairly personal thing. Your own weight is obviously a significant factor, but it's not the only one. Notwithstanding those who might announce that a particular stiffness is appropriate for you, based on your weight or whatever, they don't really know.

A goodly number of people do race and free-ski on stiff plug boots. In most cases, they'd be at the softer end of the plug range, though. Depending on your foot shape, a "plug-a-bee" or retail-race boot may be a better choice. There are also some people who race on pretty soft boots. That's unusual, though.

You can make ad hoc flex adjustments with the top two buckles. There are some boots where you can modify the flex by removing screws in the back of the cuff (or something similar), though my impression is that most people don't fool with that once they've got it how they like it. My own practice is that I mostly leave the buckles the same, but sometimes loosen them for bumps. Actually, I'm probably more likely to fool with the lower buckles, which I sometimes loosen for comfort when tight control and feel isn't enormously important.
post #16 of 18
When I was young and foolish, after trying out many many different boots, I went for the stiffest boots I could find. My primary motivation was to get the maximum performance, most instant and precise response. I wasn't a racer, but I was deadly serious about going as fast as I could possibly go. I found I could also ski these at normal speeds, and did indeed use them in all types of terrain free skiing. However my form was severely hampered. I think there's a little cartoon vid of someone skiing without moving his ankles somewhere. It's not easy absorbing moguls using mostly the waist; it produces some interesting fore-aft balance challenges. Those boots (Koflach Comp 911s for those that know) had plenty of bells and whistles for all kinds of adjustments, but because the custom foamed liners were tripple-stacked to concrete-like hardness, the boots were basically cast in stone. Though I had to adjust, they were still preferable to most boots I could rent.

More recently, after settling down in my old age, i figured I wouldn't be risking my life if it took an extra .03 seconds to initiate a turn, and went for a much softer pair of Salomon Cross-max 10s (now X-wave). I told the guy at the shop that I wanted one-step short of a racing boot. While I was getting them dialed in with several trips back to the boot-fitter for stretching, I had to rent mushy rentals. In the end it was worth it;not only do my feet not hurt after 1/2 an hour, the suspension-payback in the rougher terrain and softer snow is amazing.

After exploring two extreems, I think that a boot just shy of what would be ideal for racing would be the best choice. I don't think my Cross-max's, though certainly a little easier-going, would prevent me from being competitive, except at higher level racing. Note: I'm talking top end of the recreational scale, not mid-range.

I think that unless I had a LOT of time to practice, having two boots would cause me more trouble than it's worth. I tend to grow into my boot. It takes me a long time to get used to something, but when I do it's like it's a part of me.

In summary, get a single pair of boots on the stiff side, but not quite as stiff as you would want for full-on race-only boots. Most importantly, get them properly fitted!
post #17 of 18

How much of a stiffy do you need?

This thread highlights what I see as the biggest problem with ski equipment. Your boots are the most important item for comfort, performance and feel of the skiing experience, yet they are the one thing you usually don't often change and almost never get to demo. Boots should be the most personal piece of equipment, but unless you get a pair that has a lot of flex options you are stuck with conforming your technique to the boot instead of the other way around like it should be. A stiff boot lets you react quicker to the ski/snow, but a softer boot allows you to feel the ski and the snow better so your reactions flow more smoothly.

"Stiff" boot is an extremely loaded term. After skiing dozens of boots over the years I agree with analogy to a shock absorber. Just like a front shock on a mountain bike the flex of the boot can have many qualities. It can be very stiff so that it is like hitting a wall and causing an immediate response, or soft initially and then progressively stiffer in infinite varying degrees. Each of these qualities are desireable for certain skis, snow conditions and speeds of skiing, but trying to figure out what is best for you without demoing or years of prior knowledge is probably a good part voodoo. IMHO, if you cannot feel your skis and the snow through your boots then they are not right for you, but how the heck do you figure that our without skiing on them? The proper boots let you become one with your skis and the snow, so you can't take the quest for the right boots too seriously.

The best advice I have is to buy a boot with flex adjustment options and spend some time experimenting. It will be worth the hassle. I have a tendency to adjust the power straps and the top buckles depending on the snow conditions or terrain. Your boots are your connection to the entire and constantly changing situation of skiing, so don't be afraid to try experimenting with changing them.
post #18 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by LiquidFeet
It seems that if the boot is stiff in the front, then when you press forward on the tongue with your shin you will be more forcefully or more quickly able to press the front of the ski down towards the ice/snow. Otherwise, you are relying on moving your center of mass forward and easing the front of the ski down with it.

If I'm right here, then in what circumstances is there an advantage to having those boots stiff in front? If I'm wrong about the mechanics of this, please explain.
You are right.

The advantage of having a stiff boot comes alive in a slalom race course -- less movement required to aggressively initiate a turn.

A softer boot is preferable on the DH/SG side, where small errors and terrain defects would be magnified by a stiffer boot -- with potentially disastrous consequences.

At least that's according to Lemaster.
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