After you read my posts on foot and leg shape, ramp angle and what I look for in a ski boot you may have concluded that all you have to do is get the boot shell right, insert the liners and go skiing. Not quite. It is a little more complicated than that. In my experience, ski boot liners, especially custom-fit liners, can cause more problems than almost any other piece of ski equipment. “Seriously”, you say. “How is that possible? I thought boot liners were designed to help me ski better”. Maybe that was the intent. But I have yet to come across an explanation based on sound principles of science, let alone research that will withstand rigorous scrutiny, that supports the concept of attempting to immobilize the foot and leg within what amounts to an orthopaedic splint. If anyone knows of such an explanation and/or studies please let me know.
If you are like most skiers, you are probably reluctant to do anything significant to the liners of your boots, let alone do anything radical. It is reasonable to assume that if the manufacturer made the liner a certain it was probably for a good reason. There are several reasons I can think of that might explain why liners are made the way they are. But they have to do with manufacturing considerations, not skier performance. The question is how much liner do I need to ski well? In Steve Podborski’s case, the question is how much liner did he need to ski not just well, but well enough to become the only non-European to win the World Cup Downhill title? The answer will probably surprise you. And let’s not forget that in the 1980-81 World Cup season where he almost won the downhill title he wasn’t even supposed to be skiing because he had torn his ACL 4 months before the start of the first race.
The photo below is of a stock soft-fabric Lange liner similar to the ones I built boots with in 1978-79.
The photo below is of the liner that Steve Podborski used in the ski boots that he wore when he almost won the World Cup Downhill title in 1980-81 and in the 1981-82 World Cup season when he won the the title. The liner is a little worse for wear because he skied in it from the start of the 1980-81 World Cup season until he retired.
Two cap screws on the back of the moulded plastic spoiler of the liner secured it to the top of the boot shell cuff.
The series of photos below are of the liner from the Head World Cup boot I am currently skiing in. The first photo is of the inner aspect of the right liner. The cutout below the cuff creates clearance for my inside ankle bone to move towards the shell wall as my foot pronates. The outer layer of the liner beside the ball of my foot has been cut away to allow the side of the ball of my foot to sit against the shell wall. The entire front portion of the liner has been removed to allow my foot to spread and elongate under load.
This is the outer aspect of my right liner. The portion of the liner adjacent to my 5th metatarsal has been cut away to allow my foot to spread under load as it pronates.
Top view of the right liner with no insole in place.
Top view of the same liner with a Superfeet insole in place that I heated, put in a press and compressed it until it was dead flat.
Bottom view of my liner. I intentionally purchased an insole that was too big then trimmed it to the exact length and shape of the base of my boot shell. Note how it slightly overhangs the front of the liner and especially how it overlaps the outer aspect of the sole of the liner.
In my next post I will talk about how the tongue configuration I use makes a liner like this work.