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Boot Fit: The Foundation for Efficient Skiing / Open Your Heart to Skiing

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Friends...

This is from my chapter on Gear in my book Open Your Heart with Skiing. Hopefully, you find this useful...
Quote:
Originally Posted by OYH Skiing
Getting Balanced, the Foundation for Efficient Skiing

Skiing is a sport of balance. We move in balance to balance and we balance in motion, as we’ll see in more detail in chapter seven. The movements we make are to maintain balance while allowing the skis to do their job in taking us where we want to go. That said, our bodies are amazing in their ability to compensate for challenges to our balance. We all know that we can catch our balance when we’re surprised by an irregular sidewalk, an invisible pothole, or snow that collapses unexpectedly. As a result of our ability to compensate, many skiers ski for years not realizing that they are compensating for equipment that holds
them in an unbalanced position when they are standing in what should be a neutral stance. Before you get on the hill, get balanced! It’s the best place from which to start the movements that will allow you to get the most of your days on the mountain.

What do we mean by getting balanced? It’s a simple concept that often takes some work to accomplish: being balanced is being able to stand in neutral in your boots on your skis, with your feet a comfortable, natural width apart, your lower legs just touching the front, back, and sides of your boots—in neutral—and being in comfortable, athletic, neutral equilibrium. Feeling like you could stand that way for a long time because it’s natural. Your big muscles are supporting you as your body is stacked naturally. You can easily move in any direction you’d like in order to cause the effects that you’d like to have on the skis . . . or to recover your balance when you’re surprised. This is being balanced.

On the other hand, many skiers are not balanced. Their boots and skis tip their lower legs too far forward, forcing their hips back to compensate, together with other adjustments. Or their lower legs are too straight, making it difficult to flex and extend from neutral. Or they have to move differently in order to place the skis on edge in one direction rather than the other. And so on. One of the reasons that so many people think that skiing requires a lot of strength from their quadriceps is that they are set up in such a way that their hips are back so they have to use their quads to stay upright.

To feel what it’s like to be out of balance, take out a block of wood—a two-by-four, for example—or a large book, and put it on the floor. Put your toes on it and feel how you have to compensate. Then put it on the side of your foot and stand on one foot. Put it on the other side of that foot. And so on. Feel how the changes to your foundation make a significant difference.

Do you see the challenge? Imagine now being locked in that position by a rigid ski boot: Too much forward lean, too much “zeppa” (tipping the foot forward in the boot), and various angles of the footboard under the foot all impact your balance. Instead of compensating, we want your body to use all of its available energy and movements to effect a result that you want,
rather than simply to compensate for being out of balance.

Fortunately, there are boot specialists who can help you get to this place on your equipment. Unfortunately, they are relatively rare.

Let me introduce you to a couple of them, my friends Jeff Bergeron and Bud Heishman. Jeff is located in Breckenridge, Colorado, and is a racer, a racing coach, and one of the best boot specialists on the planet. He has done my boot work for the past four seasons, and I trust him completely. For my most recent pair of boots, he watched me stand and flex in my stocking feet and told me which boots to purchase based on which ones would both fit me best and provide the best starting point to get balanced into the boot and moving most efficiently in it. It is important that you understand that there can be no “best” boot, since we’re all so different. Instead, there are a small selection of boots that will be “best” for you, based on your foot and leg shapes, their functional characteristics, and your needs and desires for the performance characteristics of the boots.

Please understand that the last thing you do when trying on boots is to put them on with the liners. Instead, start by having a specialist like Jeff or Bud look at your feet, your stance, your leg shape, the way your legs and feet function when you flex forward and back, and tip side to side, as you will when you’re skiing; and have them tell you which boots to try first. They’ll pull the liners out, have you put your foot into the boot so that your
toes are just touching the front of the shell (the plastic outer part of the boot), and look at the shape of the shell to see how closely it matches your foot. They’ll look at how much space is behind your heel, and, depending on the kind of performance you want, decide which shell size you should use. The shell fit is extremely important! If the shell is too big, the boot will be more comfortable in the shop, but will quickly degrade while you ski to the point that you won’t be able to accurately direct your skis with
them. Worse, your feet will begin to move around inside the boot. Avoid that temptation! If the shell is too small, they’ll have to do more work to make it comfortable, and you may have to put up with some fit issues. If the shell doesn’t approximate your foot shape, you are likely to have fit issues; too tight in spots, too loose in others. Skiing when your feet hurt is brutal—and no fun at all!

After picking the boot and size, your specialist will get you in the boot and start looking at how your body affects the boot. When you stand in neutral, are the soles of the boot flat? Or when the soles are flat, are you in neutral? When Bud Heishman fit my wife, Terry, last season, we discovered that her foot and leg shape were such that she was dramatically tipped in (knockkneed) when she stood with her boots flat. Bud checked the options and then adjusted her boots so that her skis would be flat when she was standing in neutral. For the first time in her skiing life, I saw her able to tip both her skis at the same time when she next got on them. It was the beginning of a dramatic change in her skiing.

Bud is a ski instructor who was a PSIA Alpine Team finalist. During his campaign to become a member of the team, he became fascinated by the value of getting skiers balanced in their equipment before they even try to ski. As a result, he refocused his efforts on getting skiers into balance and learning to ski from a foundation of balance. At his shop in Reno he gets skiers balanced, spends time with them on-snow to fine-tune their fit and
balance, and coaches them in improving their technique to take optimal advantage of what modern equipment can do. Bud’s laugh is infectious and his love for the sport is contagious. It also helps that his skiing is superb and his understanding of skiing skills and movements is exceptional!

Jeff and Bud are examples of a new breed of boot and balance specialist. In earlier days, the focus was fitting boots to your feet. Today, the way the boot fits your body—what the specialists call your morphology—is even more important. Boots can be stretched and ground to fit your foot better, but if they don’t hold you in a balanced, neutral position, you will forever have to compensate for that.

For more information and a current list of exceptional boot specialists, check out www.stephenhultquist.com/boots on my website.
post #2 of 20
Thread Starter 
...copied from the Boot Fitters forum, by request... thanks, guys!
post #3 of 20
I really liked the thought that tied so much about skiing and life into one neat package; and it begins with the foundation. This should be mandatory reading for anyone looking at finally upgrading to "Das Boot". The one that will finally free them to ski.
post #4 of 20
Excellent info for people to think about.

I personally feel most “at home” with lots of forward lean. Zeppa is something that throws me off. I spent my early ski years in Lange Comps and then hideous San Marco Super Pros in the 70’s/80’s with external turnbuckles for adjusting cant and forward lean. I had those things cranked forward to the max and got accustomed to skiing that way. Great for hangin your butt over the back and jetting some turns J, but tough on the knees. I can ski a boot with a more upright cuff, but give me forward lean and low zeppa and I’m happy as a gopher in soft dirt.
post #5 of 20

Balance is very important

I find that 1 Guiniss and 1 shot of Jamisons, puts me in perfect balance to attack he mountain.

For that first chair powder run, 2 triple shot latte's and 2 sugar coated donuts.

Followed with the aboved mentioned shot around 10 am.:
post #6 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by medmarkco View Post
Excellent info for people to think about.

I personally feel most “at home” with lots of forward lean. Zeppa is something that throws me off. I spent my early ski years in Lange Comps and then hideous San Marco Super Pros in the 70’s/80’s with external turnbuckles for adjusting cant and forward lean. I had those things cranked forward to the max and got accustomed to skiing that way. Great for hangin your butt over the back and jetting some turns J, but tough on the knees. I can ski a boot with a more upright cuff, but give me forward lean and low zeppa and I’m happy as a gopher in soft dirt.
medmarkco, while I can relate in many ways, I think that there are actually more options for you to consider. If you can think about how your muscles work when you have extreme forward lean, you can see that it is this kind of boot configuration that leads to overuse of the quads. As you move to a configuration that balances quad/hamstring use (as we naturally do when we walk), you'll likely find a more effective set-up.

That said, it might take some adjustments in technique, too.

Something to consider...
post #7 of 20
Steve,

Any particular reason you didn't recommend Larry Houchen on your website? He is, after all, local in Boulder.

Mike
post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Mike,

At this point I am limiting the list to those specialists with whom I have had discussions recently and who have expressed an interest in being included. It's been a while since I've seen Larry (actually, since before he left Ski Deals, truth be told).

I'm not trying to create an exhaustive list, and I'm committed to having it be a solid list of specialists that I am comfortable recommending. I'm sure to miss some folks, but that's not intended to be a slight of any kind.
post #9 of 20
Just a point Steve,

While I agree with what you wrote, it is important to also mention that you can spend all this time, money and effort to a proper fit that is comfortable and gives you the "correct" netural stance to work from....then throw it all out the window by getting bindings that have ramp angles built in.....it was quiet a few years ago now that I really got into these concepts...introduced to me by a friend by way of a book called "The Athletic Skier" (While the book is based on straight skis, most of the concepts are still valid today).....I was surprised to learn how much and how many bindings have ramp built in.
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
Skidude72, absolutely! Great point!

The good news is that all of the true boot specialists will take that into account, too, so those going to them will get the benefit of that knowledge.

By the way, that book is a classic. And still so accurate.
post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh View Post
medmarkco, while I can relate in many ways, I think that there are actually more options for you to consider. If you can think about how your muscles work when you have extreme forward lean, you can see that it is this kind of boot configuration that leads to overuse of the quads. As you move to a configuration that balances quad/hamstring use (as we naturally do when we walk), you'll likely find a more effective set-up.

That said, it might take some adjustments in technique, too.

Something to consider...
And there's the rub. I've been skiing XT17s going on 6 seasons now. Low cuffed, relatively upright, but with a little more ramp angle than I prefer. After working with fitters and futzing myself with the first 3 pair, I can now pull new pair off the shelf and dial them in from day one. Still most solid when I'm flexed and driving forward.

Long shin and low cuff is not my ideal match, but it's working pretty well.

As for technique ... always evolving ... hopefully for the better. :-}
post #12 of 20
Your ski skills maybe challenged by your ability to write. Very impressive. I believe when MA is done on most skiers, the "flaws" exposed are largely due to balance compensations being made due to their boots not being "right".

I'm guilty of not seeking out a professional fitter and getting this done correctly. I'm self doctored so to speak with my boots and I need to put some money aside and get this done correctly. On a weighted basis, being fit correctly probably has more to do with skiing well than anything else. That being said , probably only 1% of skiers spend money on this, and I have to include myself in that subset.
post #13 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by medmarkco View Post
And there's the rub. I've been skiing XT17s going on 6 seasons now. Low cuffed, relatively upright, but with a little more ramp angle than I prefer. After working with fitters and futzing myself with the first 3 pair, I can now pull new pair off the shelf and dial them in from day one. Still most solid when I'm flexed and driving forward.

Long shin and low cuff is not my ideal match, but it's working pretty well.

As for technique ... always evolving ... hopefully for the better. :-}
As I know you know, I came out of XT17s (great boot!) and into Aggressors last year. The Aggressors are a bit flatter and a bit more upright. I had less quad burn last year, and I did feel an increase in leverage. The XT17s were as close as Jeff felt he could get me before the Aggressors came out. The foot angle change was just what the doctor ordered for my particular feet characteristics and challenges (nontrivial).

I had skied for years on aggressively pitched boots. The upright stance helped me take my skiing to a higher level last year. The boots helped me to stay "stacked" and allowed me to ski with less energy than I otherwise would have expended.
Quote:
Originally Posted by roundturns View Post
Your ski skills maybe challenged by your ability to write. Very impressive. I believe when MA is done on most skiers, the "flaws" exposed are largely due to balance compensations being made due to their boots not being "right".

I'm guilty of not seeking out a professional fitter and getting this done correctly. I'm self doctored so to speak with my boots and I need to put some money aside and get this done correctly. On a weighted basis, being fit correctly probably has more to do with skiing well than anything else. That being said , probably only 1% of skiers spend money on this, and I have to include myself in that subset.
For many years, I was in the same group. I skied for over 30 years thinking that the fit of the boot to my foot shape was all that mattered. I went to Jeff Bergeron in utter frustration in 2003, doubting that it was even possible for me to experience skiing comfortably in a boot that would also allow me to get the most from my skiing experiences.

I was wrong.

Even in a so-called plug boot, I am more comfortable than I was in a pair of Xwaves after I had skied them for a couple years. Just because they didn't fit my foot correctly.

There's a lot here... even for old dogs to learn...
post #14 of 20
Skidude:
I agree and this is the problem I find with the women's packages. Lots of boot ramp, lots of forward lean and then lets through in built in binding and ski ramp and see if it is possible to even finish one run without totally gone quads?

Be aware that it isn't necessary to shop for 0 ramp bindings and they aren't so easy to find anyway. Marker makes an entire shim package to adjust their ramp and Vist makes blank shims that can be used for any binding.

Lou
post #15 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lou Rosenfeld View Post
Be aware that it isn't necessary to shop for 0 ramp bindings and they aren't so easy to find anyway. Marker makes an entire shim package to adjust their ramp and Vist makes blank shims that can be used for any binding.
This is assuming non-system bindings, right? Are there ways to adjust binding ramp on system bindings?
post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by ssh View Post
As I know you know, I came out of XT17s (great boot!) and into Aggressors last year. The Aggressors are a bit flatter and a bit more upright. I had less quad burn last year, and I did feel an increase in leverage. The XT17s were as close as Jeff felt he could get me before the Aggressors came out. The foot angle change was just what the doctor ordered for my particular feet characteristics and challenges (nontrivial).
Yes I know you were a former XT wearer. Not aware of your special circumstances, but from prior posts I've concluded that the Aggressor is a boot I will look into next time. There are still 2 (maybe 3) new pair of XTs in my locker, so I'm not pressed to make a switch. Although, things may change once I'm back in boots after achilles rehab. Unless the scar tissue and swelling substantially subsides I will have to alter that portion of my fit. Range of dorsiflexion is yet to be determined - only 15 degrees currently (assisted).

Me thinks my primary issues right now are not related to equipment. :wink:
post #17 of 20
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by medmarkco View Post
Me thinks my primary issues right now are not related to equipment. :wink:
I hear you. That was the downside of having Jeff really dial me in. No more excuses! :
post #18 of 20
Steve:
Most but not all system bindings are still screwed onto the plate they slide or whatever on. So yes they can still be altered. As a matter of fact for years I've been changing binding position on Volkl's "system" by siimply filing new slots in the rails. Works like a dream.
post #19 of 20
Stay tuned for an AUCTION of Steve's book, Open Your Heart to Skiing.
Coming soon
post #20 of 20
Moving this thread for a while, from gear discussion, to Ask The Boot Guys to help act as a guide and reference. for boot-fitting and alignment.
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