Comments have been made that the information presented on my blog is based on unproven theories and/or that my positions on biomechanical issues is flawed. Such criticisms infer that existing ski boot technology and the principles on which it is based that include controlling joint actions, supporting the foot and ankle and (attempting) to render the joints of the foot immobile, are based on sound principles of science and that the design concepts of current ski boots have been thoroughly tested and proven.
It was my initial attempts at embracing the principles of current ski boots, attempts that failed to produce the claimed results, that served as the impetus for me to look in new directions and eventually approach the design of a ski boot from the perspective of a clean sheet of paper.
In 1991, a company I was a partner in called MacPod Enterprises Ltd, commissioned scientists to develop an instrumented research vehicle called the Birdcage and conduct on-snow experiments to study the mechanisms of skier balance according to a hypothetical model I had formulated on the mechanics, biomechanics and physics of skiing. I deliberately chose scientists with expertise in the lower limbs and with no ties to the ski or sporting goods industry. G. Robert Colborne, PhD, provided oversight on the work of the team and especially my work. He assisted in the development of the patent for my footwear technology by providing an anatomical perspective while ensuring that the biomechanical foundations on which my concept was predicated were valid. At the time that MacPod commissioned Dr. Colborne he was involved in post-doctoral work at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering in Toronto. His area of expertise is the (human) lower limbs, particularly as it relates to walking and other forms of locomotion. His area of research is the kinesiology domain with one aspect being the quantifying of the mechanical moments of force around the joints of the lower limb and the mechanical power generated or absorbed by the muscle groups crossing these joints.
The open-ended objective of the on-snow studies was to either validate or invalidate my model. The outcome would determine whether MacPod would proceed with the development of a new ski boot; one based on sound principles of science. Although the on-snow studies validated my hypothetical model, I was not optimistic that the findings would elicit interest in the ski industry. Even though MacPod spent $130,000 on the research, the results were never published.
In 1995, I was nominated by the Industrial Technology Advisor of the National Research Council of Canada for the Gold Medal in Applied Science & Engineering in the British Columbia Science & Engineering Awards for inventing an interface for the foot and ski or skate blade that allowed the CNS to create the (muscle) skeletal alignment necessary to balance the centre of mass against external forces. The following is excerpted from his letter of nomination.
“The nominee’s technology is believed to be the first example of a footwear system predicated in its entirety on sound principles of functional anatomy.”
In a letter of support of my nomination G. Robert Colborne, PhD stated, “This work represents a tremendous step forward from current thinking in athletic footwear design.”
If there was a problem, it was not that my hypothesis was wrong but that it was right. The problem, one that persists even today, is that the technology I invented, and the principles on which it is based, contradict just about everything held sacred in the ski industry.
It is not a good marketing strategy for any company with a profitable technology to change horses even if a better alternative exists. If a company is profiting from selling Eskimos refrigerators, there is no incentive to educate Eskimos that refrigerators are not needed. It took a company like Tesla to jump-start the electric car. A worst-case scenario is for any company with a successful product to have their product beaten up in a head-to-head competition against another product. Over the following 10 years after the Birdcage tests, a number of attempts were made to develop a new ski boot based on the technology I invented and bring a product to market. All of them failed for various reasons.
Now that all my patents have expired the technology is freely available for all to use. In order to avoid any perceived conflict of interest and/or bias on my part because of the economic potential of my patents with I intentionally elected to wait until well after all patents had expired before publicly discussing my technology. My position in 1991 was that the only way to study balance in skiing was to study it under real life ski maneuvers and conditions using test subjects of differing abilities. My position remains unchanged today. Any research that is not done under these conditions is at best speculative.
An ideal forum to demonstrate the superiority of a new technology would be a study done using a science-based protocol. I had hoped to do a study that compared my technology to existing footwear technologies. But this was not to be……. or then again, maybe it would be.