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Balance and heel lifts

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Heel lift or no heel lift? Instructors what do you think?

Buying new boots, the shop recommends heel lifts for 2 reasons:
1) I am a woman
2) snugger fit in the heel

As I am reading up on this everywhere, I get mixed notes on whether to lift or not.
I read that too much lift often leads to the tails washing out into a skid. I also read that many women's boots these days have increased ramp angle and/or more forward lean already built in, so adding more lift could be counter productive, that the extra lift sometimes leads to a sensation of wearing high heel shoes, where the body arches upward to compensate for balance.

As far as balance goes, where should my weight sensation in my foot be? On my entire foot evenly, or on the ball of my foot? How do I tell if my new boots already have more ramp built in than my old boots? I do notice more weight on the ball of my foot with the lifts.

I tried (briefly) lifts in my old boots last year and felt unbalanced immediately - although I admit I didn't ski with the lifts for more than a few runs. I put lifts in my old boots in an attempt to better the fit, to tighten the heel. It could be that I was so used to the boots the way they were, the newly added lifts felt too "different".

I do have a backseat problem, but could that be more laziness than balance? When I remember to press my shins to the tongue I do better. As far as body structure goes, I am petite, not pear shaped, not bottom heavy.

I am skiing on women's skis, so I am already mounted more forward on the ski... Is more heel lift recommended mostly for women using mens or unisex equipment vs. when using entirely women's equipment?

Instinct is telling me to start without them and then try them later on? Am I right or should I do the opposite?
post #2 of 22
Marta - you mentioned you tried heel lifts last winter and felt out of balance. How were you out of balance?

What boot were you in last season and what are you purchasing?

Depending on the skier, adding heel lift may actually put the weight 'back' - a lowering of the hips to compensate for the sensation of being too far forward -

Adding heel lift or adjusting forward lean are two distinctly different functions and will create different results.

Your weight should feel solid over the length of the foot - not exclusively on the balls of your feet. Light, quick flexions with the ankles should give you a sense of readiness and springiness, stable over the front portion of the arch.
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
I felt like my tails were washing out, the pressure on my ski no longer felt distributed evenly. It felt like I was kicked too far forward onto the balls of my feet.

My old boots were Salomon Evolution 7's, about 8 years old. My new boots (will be) Nordica W8-W's (waiting for 1/2 size smaller to ship in...) When I tried them on in the store, the heel seemed to be fairly snug even without the lift inserts.
post #4 of 22
I expect you will get different opinions here as well, but here is what my experience has taught me.

“Because you are a woman” in of itself is not a valid reason.

Lets explore some valid ones. Heel lifts serve different purposes, and have different impact, depending on whether inside liner or outside liner.

Inside liner, under footbed:
1) When used appropriately, to accommodate something called an equines (sp?) foot, which has a great variance between heel and forefoot height. The heel wedge fits the space under heel. This use of heel lifts can also change knee tracking, so this should be factored as well.

2) As a fit accommodation, “For snugger heel fit” probably indicated that your calf muscle attaches lower on your leg and flares out so upper cuff of boot keeps your leg shaft and heel from snuggling down into the heel pocket. Or, boot ankle bone pockets grab your ankle and suspend heel above bottom of liner. If either your boot does not fit your leg type. If (1 above)applies you may get away with this as a solution if the thickness is not so great as to open up your ankle angle so it no longer can match that of the boot. You could wind up on your heels and have to constantly try to get forward, just to get neutral. As this low calf issue is more common in women, some boots are made with proportions to accommodate it. If this is your issue, it may be worth the effort to find a boot that better fits your leg.

Outside/under the liner:
1) This can help an ankle with limited dorsa flexion (pull toes up) better match angle of boots forward lean. This might be a better solution to (2) above if heel fits snuggly in liner heel pocket and the lift raises the whole unit to get calf above rim of shell. Note, however, this changes footboard ramp angle which affects fore/aft balance, so this needs to be a positive change.

So, many intermingled issues. You need an experienced boot fitter with technical, and working, knowledge of how all these factors apply to your individual foot/leg/boot/stance requirements.

Note: I can ski better in a low performance boot with ideal fore/aft balance, than I can in a hi-performance boot with poor fore/aft balance.

Good Luck
[img]smile.gif[/img]
post #5 of 22
Marta,

Well let’s start with why you would want them specifically. Not all women need heel lifts. this is a stereotype that has gotten out of hand. Heel lift works best to help out in the case of limited range of motion in the dorsi-flexion range of motion (raising the fore foot). In these cases what happens is that there is extreme cramping in the calf. and an inability to maintain any real pressure on the heel while flexing.

Your comment about where to pressure the foot is exactly what is in question here. When standing in a boot you should be able to flex the boot and maintain fairly consistent pressure along the length of the foot. If you have an appropriate amount of motion you should be able to do this. If you need lifts you will find that your ankle feels like it is fully flexed inside the boot and any flexing raises the heel.

a great test; sit in a chair with your knees bent at 90 degrees, while keeping heels on the floor try to raise just the fore foot. You should be able to raise them about 10-15 degrees or a normal size paper back under the ball of the foot.

Heel lift is another problem. Usually when the shell of the boot allows a lot of space above the instep or where the laces are on your shoes. Heel lift can be improved simply by padding above the instep inside the boot usually on the tongue inside or outside.

Don't let shops use these heel lifts just because you are a woman. Or because they are trying to sell you boots that do not fit well enough. I would take a long second look at any shop that practices this shot gun approach to helping people with fit or alignment.
post #6 of 22
What Arcmeister and Mosh said....

Heel lifts often do help women, but they still shouldn't be prescribed for any particular individual without a lot more information. As Mosh described, if your ankle does not have enough range of motion (due to injury, perhaps, or perhaps to tight achilles tendons from years of high heels), a heel lift inside the boot will "open" the ankle the same way high heels do on shoes. Some people can't even get their heel to the bottom of the boot because of limited ankle motion, and the heel lift effectively brings the footbed up to meet your foot.

Heel lifts also raise your whole foot and leg in the boot. This can bring a narrow heel to a narrower part of the boot. And it can raise a low, and/or heavy calf muscle out of the boot cuff. Narrow heels and low calf muscles are both common in women--but not universal!

Regarding fore-aft balance, heel lifts do not have the effect most people seem to think they have. Simply elevating your heel does NOT move you forward--do you fall forward on high heels? What is significant is the amount of FORWARD LEAN, which is a combination of the angle of the boot cuff to the bottom of the boot, and the angle of the entire boot as it sits on the bindings ("delta angle"). These things affect the angle of your shins. Even this does not directly impact your fore-aft balance, because you have so many other joints and body parts you can move to compensate.

What it affects is your STANCE, and your ability to move naturally and athletically. If your shins are tilted too far forward, you will compensate by bending your knees a lot and keeping your torso, shoulders, and arms upright and back. If your shins are too upright, you will tend to adopt a very tall, skeletal stance, and need to bend forward at the waist and reach forward with your arms when you flex your knees. Very stiff boots amplify both of these factors. And heel lifts inside the boots will affect neither of them (except for the effect of moving the calf muscle out of the boot, making the boots effectively more upright).

In any case, while the odds may be in your favor, as a woman, for improvement with internal heel lifts, they could also be absolutely wrong for you. If you trust the fitters you've talked with, and they're basing their recommendations on an analysis of your actual feet and their observations and measurements, then try their advice. But realize that MANY bootfitters are woefully lacking in actual knowledge and experience! Employment at a shop does not automatically bestow knowledge. And if they're suggesting fixes based on the generalization that you need them as a woman, run away!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

[ November 13, 2002, 03:40 PM: Message edited by: Bob Barnes/Colorado ]
post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Based on what you all are saying here, I don't think I need them! I don't have any lack-of-ankle-flex issues (I pass all the tests suggested), no past injury, no history of high heel shoe wearing. The new boots seem snug in the heel area (at least in the store, we'll see after a season...), not even pop-up when jumping in them (big problem in old boots). I think I'll wait to see if an instructor suggests I give them a try based on seeing my stance on the hill, rather than starting out with them from the get go. I think it's best for me to feel centered on an even foot. Thanks!
post #8 of 22
Marta,
I am pressuming you have custom footbeds.
Go the next step and have alignment assessed to determine whether or not you require cants, if you need them, get them.

We have great ability to compensate for alighnment issues and figure out some way to ski. But almost always with less efficient compensating movements that hold back out potential.

When you are optimally aligned to your specific needs (fore/aft & laterally) skiing gets easier, and learning is easier. This is because we can move in an efficient manner that is more in sync with our body's intuitive movement solution to produce any intended outcome.

Good Luck,
Roger
post #9 of 22
Thread Starter 
You got it Roger! I have custom footbeds, but most likely will get new ones since my current ones are 8 years old. I do plan to have my alignment worked on, I already know I have lateral issues at the least. I know I am uneven in edge-holding, stronger on right ski than left. Most likely, I'll have the cuffs adjusted first, then go ski and come back to the shop later for further technical magic once I know how the new boots ski.
post #10 of 22
Are your current custom footbeds in good shape and do they give you good support? If so, save your money. Have a good fitter evaluate your current footbeds but don't just go have new ones made just because they are old. I had mine made 17-18 seasons ago and last season when I took the boot fitter's training, the trainers/instructors looked at my "old vintage cork" footbed and told me they were still good and still supported my feet fine.
post #11 of 22
Marta – You will note most shoes have a heel on them and for very good reason, balance. Lets try a little experiment, not the end all but a start. Stand in your stocking feet and bend your ankles to put your legs in a skiing position. Make sure your stance width is about the same as you feel when you ski. It seems we all ski with our skis closer than we think so try and feel the stance. Close your eyes and remember the feel. Now start adding lift under your heels. Keep adding the “lift” which can be magazine or newspapers until it become ridiculous, about 2”, or you actually feel more solid than with no lift. Now you will know lift or no lift or about how much you may need. If you have foot-beds then stand in the foot beds as you experiment. No right or wrong but let your body decide whether you need lift or not. Yes due to pelvic structure re-positioning the center of mass ladies do tend to need heel lifts more than men. Not a chauvinistic comment but a physical reality. Personally I kind of like it that way myself. (That may have been a male observation.)
post #12 of 22
Heellifts may be indicated in some situations. But raising the heel can seriously disrupt the processes of the entire lower limb system and the body.

Footbeds that 'support the foot' can cause similar problems. If you feel footbeds under your arch they may be causing you big problems. Your foot wasn't designed to be supported under the arch. Space exists under your arch for the same reason your car has underbody clearance between its wheels.

These two issues are worthy of a whole thread because there is a huge amount of misinformation (or lack of information altogether) on the subject. Tinkering with the human system is never a good idea at any time unless you know precisely what you are doing.
post #13 of 22
So what you are saying David is a foot bed should not be a rigid orthodic which would not allow the foot to splay under prssure as it was inetended for balance? Or are you saying foot beds are wrong to start with and skiers should not have them?
post #14 of 22
I have sought this in a boot: I want a consistent feel of the boot around me. I want to be able to stand up so my weight goes through my ankle to my foot. Nowhere is the boot too loose or too tight. It feels soft and comfortable. There is play in it: on the chair I can turn my foot in the boot, lift and wiggle my toes, move my heel in the pocket. When I'm skiing, the boot is my foot: it's like it's not there. If I wore a ski sock, I would not have near this mobility. I also think I wouldn't be able to feel as much.

My question: do I feel like I'm skiing barefoot because a) the boot fits, b) because I am skiing barefoot, c) both, or d) none of the above?
post #15 of 22
Learner: So what you are saying David is a foot bed should not be a rigid orthotic which would not allow the foot to splay under pressure, as it was intended for balance?
DM: Yes. It doesn’t matter whether it is rigid or soft. The issue is that it should not prevent the foot from functioning as it was intended to.
Can footbeds help the process? Yes in some situations footbeds can help improve compromised foot function. However, if your foot is able to achieve dynamic function within the confines of the boot and load the ball of the foot (a.k.a. the first metatarsal phalangeal joint) then a footbed should not be used unless there is some very specific prescribed indication for it and the prescribing professional is knowledgeable of the issues. Later I will post some information from a web site science article that deals with the misinformation on pronation and footbeds or orthotics.

nolo: I have sought this in a boot: I want a consistent feel of the boot around me. I want to be able to stand up so my weight goes through my ankle to my foot. Nowhere is the boot too loose or too tight. It feels soft and comfortable. There is play in it: on the chair I can turn my foot in the boot, lift and wiggle my toes, move my heel in the pocket. When I'm skiing, the boot is my foot: it's like it's not there. If I wore a ski sock, I would not have near this mobility. I also think I wouldn't be able to feel as much.
DM: If:
1. You can stand on solidly on your heel and balls of your feet especially the ball of the big toe,
2. You can shift more weight to the balls and especially the ball of the big toe without having your heel rise off the base of the boot (it will get lighter – this is OK) and,
3. When standing in a neutral stance (i.e. weight even between heel and balls of the feet)you are just barely aware of the rear cuff behind your calf and have no sensation of the tongue pressing against your shin;
Then you are in ski boot Nirvana and probably a great skier because you can use the stretch reflex. This being the case I hope you look really good from the rear because this is the only part of you most of 'the boys' will ever see. [img]tongue.gif[/img]

nolo: My question: do I feel like I'm skiing barefoot because a) the boot fits, b) because I am skiing barefoot, c) both, none of the above
DM: both
[img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #16 of 22
This is really interesting. What about Toe Lifts? I have them, helps with alignment but...
post #17 of 22
You know what scares me, David? They don't make this boot any more.

Here's an idea: what about maximizing the functional surface area of the foot? I've talked about this before, people who chench their cheeks, chench both sets of cheeks, and also clench their toes. When I see a chencher I just know they aren't feeling diddly squat because they are gripping, not stretching out their feet to maximize the surface contact between the sole and the boot. What happens when you cram your foot into too short of a boot and your toes are jamming on the toebox? I've been looking at my feet as I stand and walk. Ever noticed the role of the second toe? It's the stabilizer, the landing pad, stretching out from the center. If it's cramped into too small a space, how can it stabilize? I'm thinking of Disski's execise of using the lightest resistance from a finger on a table, wall, chair to assist in balancing on one foot. That may be the role of the 2nd toe too. I don't know, just speculating.

Please advise. I and my Dremel tool may have a future in making space for 2nd toes in ski boots.
post #18 of 22
Marta...FWIW, With a larger than desired heel pocket... I've had success by glueing & taping filler material or layered ducktape onto either the shell @the appropriate area(below & behind the ankle bone) or onto the outer surface of the liner (also, under & slightly behind the anklebone area).

My *hack* taping of the filler onto the shell got the approval(maybe in jest!??) of a bootfitter that has really helped me in
the past...and his alternative was simply to glue & tape the filler material onto liner). This way...you've maintained the
original angles..(foot/ankles etc...)
*Getting the back of the liner flush with the shell as best as possible....from the heel on up thru the achilles tendon area...to the calf area..

$.01...but I haven't had any problems :
post #19 of 22
Nolo: You know what scares me, David? They don't make this boot any more.
DM: Tells you something of what a lottery skiing is. Luck is much more of a factor than raw talent.

nolo: Here's an idea: what about maximizing the functional surface area of the foot?
DM: Great concept. Your foot will like it.

nolo: I've talked about this before, people who clench their cheeks, clench both sets of cheeks, and also clench their toes. When I see a clencher I just know they aren't feeling diddly squat because they are gripping, not stretching out their feet to maximize the surface contact between the sole and the boot. What happens when you cram your foot into too short of a boot and your toes are jamming on the toebox?
DM: One thing we can say for certain is that they are not using eccentric contraction. They can’t because they are using muscles that are shortening in length or in staying the same. So the normal balance system just went out the window. Skiing is now and life and death struggle with the forces. It is only a matter of time until the forces win.

nolo: I've been looking at my feet as I stand and walk. Ever noticed the role of the second toe? It's the stabilizer, the landing pad, stretching out from the center. If it's cramped into too small a space, how can it stabilize?
DM: Actually the big toe is far more important. The 2nd toe is the center of the principle arch as it relates to weight-bearing. And you can cause all kinds of problems by preventing the big toe from assuming its correct alignment.

Nolo: Please advise. I and my Dremel tool may have a future in making space for 2nd toes in ski boots.
DM: Make room for the big toe first. Remember that round shape at the front is for the DIN Binding standard not your feet. I normally have to completely cut away the liner along the side of the big toe and then stretch the hell out of the shell while being very careful not to distort the area in the DIN zone.

Linda A: This is really interesting. What about Toe Lifts? I have them, helps with alignment but...
DM: Generally boots have too much forward lean and too much ramp angle on the boot board [i.e. your heel is too high in relation to the balls of your feet]. Lifting the toe is an easy way to make both better so long as you don’t compromise binding function.
post #20 of 22
Thread Starter 
New Nordicas have shipped in, in a 1/2 size smaller - trying them tonite! Thanks for all the info, it'll help me determine how my feet balance in them with the custom insoles and then with and without the lifts...
post #21 of 22
So who needs footbeds? If you have a loose arch ( definition? foot elongates a lot when weighted -not sure if that's right though) should you get them?

What's always bothered me about footbeds is how narrow they are in the forefoot. You put your foot on them and it wants to go over the sides. I suppose this is because the forefoot of the liner is too narrow?

We thought we knew something with the footbed perscription...Now I'm wondering.
post #22 of 22
Tog, there are a few issues with feet that are loose. But generally footbeds will not help. Sometimes small things like varus wedges under the heel can produce very good results. I also have a loose foot. In my case I was carrying too much weight on my lateral or outside arch. This was forcing my foot to pronate excessively to accommodate the levering of the midfoot. Raising my heel a few mm to reduce the excess loading of the outer arch produced amazing results.

One of the key issues with a loose foot is having enough space for the foot to function. If the ankle bone hangs up on the shell when you stand on your foot this will cause serious problems. I made a reference device so I can measure clearances on the shell of the boot. I use this to find a boot shell I can work with.
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