BEEN THERE, DONE THAT


Thirty-five years ago, I was doing most, if not all of the things that are promoted today as the state-of-the-art in ski boot modifications; custom footbeds, cants, varus wedges, valgus wedges,  heel lifts, ankle padding, heel cups, foam liners, alignment, etc. You name it, I did them all. But I discarded most of them just as fast as I tried them. Why? Because, with few exceptions, I was working on the boots of World Cup racers or elite ski pros. Most of the mainstream ideas I tried, did not perform as advertised; they simply did not appear to produce beneficial results

My foray into ski boot modification started after I mentioned to a professional skier friend that I was trying fix my own boots. He asked me if I could help him with his. One thing led to another. Soon I had skiers calling me from all over the area asking me if I would work on their boots. After great success with the boots of my ski pro friend, he introduced me to Canada’s World Cup and Olympic medalist, Nancy Greene Raine.  She immediately asked if I would agree to work on the boots of the racers of Canada’s National Ski Team. In all the years I worked on ski boots I never advertised or solicited work, not once. Every single person whose boots I worked on, came calling on me.

The reason I ended up rejecting most of what is promoted today as state-of-the art is that I was working on the boots of racers who were in the ranks of the top 1% of the world’s best skiers; the best of the best, the top guns of skiing. In those days, the racers I worked with had all cut their skiing teeth in low-cut leather boots.  They not only knew right away whether something I tried worked, they didn’t hesitate to let me know in no uncertain terms when it didn’t.

If I asked, “How did that work out for you Dave?” Mur replied without hesitation, “It sucked”. When it came to choice of boots, they didn’t pull any punches either.  If the boots of the official suppliers didn’t work  for them, they skied in what did and ignored the official supplier team policy.

Crazy Canuck, Dave Murray, lived close to me. He probably spent more at our house than his own. Mur was a willing guinea pig for my boot experiments. But at the same time he was a stern critic. Today’s generation of skiers and ski racers have grown up in the ‘fix the foot in neutral and immobilize it‘ paradigm. Most have never skied in a ski boot without a custom footbed and a form-fitted liner. So they have never known anything different. With rare exceptions like Ligety and Shiffrin, when I watch ski racers today, even World Cup racers, I feel like I am watching athletes trying their best to compensate for an equipment  imposed disability. In the brave new world of ski racing, the least disabled racer prevails instead of the best athlete.

5 comments

  1. In as much as you have shown a disdain for the biomechanics of the foot and ankle, I can’t imagine how you might have gone about boot fitting back then, or now, for that matter. At most, you discarded the things you simply did not understand.

    1. So are you inferring that the academics who provided oversight on my work, did studies to validate my hypothesis and nominated me for the gold medal in applied science and engineering in the 1995 BC Science & Engineering Awards were incompetent? If so I will be glad to forward your comments to them.

  2. So you say, but since you do not want your real name used, I find little credibility in your statement.

  3. Hi Dave, do you know if Ligerty, Shiffrin etc use footbeds ? I do and they really help me as did having my alignment checked and zero binding ramp angle set up on all my skis.

    1. No, I don’t Scott. At some point it came up that some skiers do not use footbeds. Up until I stopped working on boots in about 1982 (but was called out of retirement several times after by the head coach of the Canadian Men’s team) I made footbeds that skiers swore by (not at). Some would not go on the hill without them. So I know that skiers with stiff feet can ski in footbeds. And my footbeds were rock hard. Some were even cast into the bottom of the boot well. I talked to a few upper echelon ski pros about this issue a few days ago. They confirmed that they use footbeds but they never have any perception of them. As I have stated numerous times, I worked with racers who could take a brand new pair of boots out of box, put them on and ski better than 98% of the skiers footbeds or no footbeds. So I think it probable you can ski pretty well. The question that has not been answered is “are you skiing at your full potential”? I could not answer this question and as far as I am concerned nobody can unless one has a way of controlling all the variables and confirming optimal foot function as indicated by specific markers. That was the question that we hired scientists to answer with the Birdcage studies that used strict scientific protocols. For the record, I have not and will never attempt to do any kind of scientific experiment. It’s not my job. It’s not something I am qualified to do, let alone interested in. I formulate a hypothesis. Scientists review it and either validate it, correct it or reject it then design protocols to test it and provide the results. In this process I am in the boxes hanging over centre ice as a spectator.

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