After my disastrous experience with Mur and the perfect fit I started going in the opposite direction from everyone else. Instead of adding padding and other ‘fit aids’ to boot liners I was tearing padding out and modifying liners to create room for the foot. The Lange boot shell gave me the ability to pull the sides apart so I could study what was happening with the foot when it was in it. I even took several shells and drilled inspection holes in them so I could see what was happening to the foot when the shell was closed. The minimal soft fabric liners with flow packs and padding inside ankle pockets sealed with Velcro allowed me to easily remove padding I thought was causing problems.
I had Lange Italy supply me with shell bottoms for every size that were cut off about 2.5 cm (an inch) above the top of the boot board. I used these shell bottoms to size racers boots and to study how their foot fit in the shell base. In many cases the shell was much narrower than the width of the foot. In addition, the shape of the toe box was severely compromised by the DIN binding standard that defined the shape. This caused problems with the big toe where proper alignment is critical. I got really good at stretching the shells into shapes that Lange could have never have imagined. A few years later Pod and I made a presentation to Tyrolia in Vienna. When I found out that some of their engineers had helped develop the DIN toe shape I blasted them for the problems they had caused.
It was around this time that Canadian distributor Raymond Lanctot acquired the Lange boot line. My spouse was working at Jim McConkey’s ski shop in Whistler. I spent a lot of time in Jim’s shop fitting boots because I wanted to learn how to help people ski better. Jim got into Lange in a big way. Soon McConkey Sports was the biggest Lange dealer in Western Canada. With few exceptions, Lange was the only boot I would work on.
As I got better at modifying boots something interesting started to happen. The boots I were modifying started to hurt any place where there wasn’t quite enough room for the boney tissues of the foot. What I discovered was that a boot that made the foot pretty much dysfunctional may not have been comfortable. But at the same time it didn’t cause localized discomfort. As I released the constraint on the foot, the boney structures could start to move in 3-dimensional space. If some aspect of the shell obstructed this movement the result was predictable; pain. Getting good at boot fitting necessitated being perfect.
Another issue that became obvious was that, with few exceptions, there was a lot of space between the portion of the tongue over the forefoot and the upper surface of the inside of the shell. Removing the pads that compressed the foot between the sides of the shell allowed the foot to float up and down in response to changes in load caused by terrain changes (aka perturbations in GRF). This caused a condition I named Separation Anxiety. It got me thinking about solutions. More on this in a future post.