GUEST POST: MICHAEL PUPKO


Since I started this blog with my first post on May 11, 2013, A Cinderella Story: The ‘Myth’ of the Perfect Fit,  (https://skimoves.me/2013/05/11/the-myth-of-th…ve-perfect-fit/), I have had a number of skiers contact me from various parts of the world, either through my blog via a comment (which I don’t post), through a social media site like FaceBook, Twitter or Linkedin, or through contact information provided by someone they know who knows me. One skier who contacted me privately is Michael Pupko. After he started following my blog, he started trying some of my ideas. Most important, he started giving me valuable feedback. Michael has developed some innovative concepts of his own. He started discussing them with me and asking for my feedback. Over the years I had considered some of his ideas. But never got around to trying them. Michael put them into practice and refined them. We have both learned a lot from our corroboration. He recently posted a large comment. With his permission, I am posting it as a guest post with my comments inserted.

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MICHAEL PUPKO

The physics of skiing are secondary to the ability to move within the ski boots. My only contact with David MacPhail has been through this blog and a limited amount of personal emails from which I can guarantee, I don’t have a complete grasp on his ‘alignment concepts’ of ski equipment but am 100% convinced of their validity because applying my limited understanding to what I have discovered myself over the past 20 years has changed what I do with equipment radically for the better. The latest discovery before being given the link to this blog (I can’t even take credit for finding it myself!) was to leave my boots unbuckled to the point where I hit the cuff just before my ankles range of motion is zeroed out so should I happen to need it, my binding would release before my ankle. Upon reading this blog I found someone who knew the why and methods of doing this properly, so I’m grateful to not have to reinvent the whole wheel, just try to build on it and make it better and above all, understand methods already proven by Podborski, etc.

Sometime around 2005 I ‘discovered’ a new method of adjusting footwear and orthotics that is better than any current method THAT I”M AWARE OF (which doesn’t mean there isn’t a better method). Finally after 1000s $ and many rejections I now have a patent on the method because I was finally able to convince the necessary parties that the vertical relationship of the heel to forefoot is different than the lateral (canting wedges) relationship. Since over 99% of humans that have access to fancy footwear walk anatomically incorrectly, the vertical relationship, called toe drop by some, remains a critical aspect of fitting not just ski boots but all footwear for me, guess what? I am now skiing without footbeds/orthotics for the first time in 2 decades with better results than with because what I learned from this blog enabled me to remove the original interference in the arch that was the limiting factor in not only my ski boots, but also other footwear.

In spite of a pile of fancy orthotic blanks and the equipment to create orthotics it will take a strong argument from any one to convince me to make them a pair because MacPhail’s methods are better than what I was doing. So obviously his methods is based upon a more solid ‘principle’ than my methods.

My theory on Ligety’s last season is so silly I never dared to mention it last year; I say it boiled down to his broken hand / wrist. When one is competing at any level, in any sport, anything that can cause one to hold back just a touch will change the standings dramatically.

COMMENT: I agree

We’ll see as the season progresses how far ‘back’ he is, obviously. Nothing could stop Ted though in Beaver Creek last season because his mental strength overcame whatever other issues seemed to be there last seasons. He ‘rose to the occasion!’ Bottom line is that Ligety and Shiffrin are both better aligned for their best disciplines than any other current racer and while they are dialled in them, either they don’t know or their equipment techs won’t allow them to transfer it over to the disciplines. Something we’ll never be able to prove now is that if Bode had MacPhail as his boot-fitter I feel he would have left Stenmark’s records in the dust. As dominant as Ligety has been in GS, he still has a little bit of catch-up when it comes to Stenmark who skied on brands of equipment that no other racer has won consistently on!

COMMENT: I agree

MacPhail’s theory that removing the inner liner of the ski boot keeps one’s feet warmer doesn’t make much sense. I did that and with an extra pair of liners in a pair of used boots I had bought and I’ve never gone back.

COMMENT: I think Michael means he tried his boots with minimal liner and found it works. Racers I worked with like Podborski, skied in shells with no liner except for the portion of the liner that was screwed in the shaft of the boot. They never had cold feet. This is not something I recommend without careful experimentation.

My boots are a joke, I laugh every time I go skiing because I have so much more fun. I challenge any critics to simply apply these ideas to your equipment and then if you want to argue fine. But I’d first ask for MacPhail’s help in what went wrong because my experience has been that my problems were in a mistake that I made.

4 comments

  1. Sorry I wasn’t very clear on my liner modification which David picked up on in his added comment; originally I removed both the sides from the ball of the foot forward including the top from the base of the tongue forward. Thus now the tongue is a separate piece (read past blogs on Tonguectomies). I discovered 2 things. My feet were the only warm part on me the first day I tried it which was -2F. Scientifically this is proven when one looks at where the blood vessels run to the toes, the only place they can be which is between the toes. Thus a too narrow boot cuts off circulation between the toes, not from pressure elsewhere. Second, I had so much edge that I literally could not control the ski except on the easiest terrain. I finally skied with one modified liner and one original and the original was fine the other still terrible. I replaced a piece of liner just at the ball area of the big toe so about 2mm/ 1/8″ lateral change made a huge difference, now the edge doesn’t lock up any more, my big toe can be straight instead of pushed in by the DIN of the boot and the foot spread makes skiing so much better, exactly what David is trying to tell us. Win, win, win! Here again David is light years ahead, I don’t know enough about it at this point but I have to think he is totally correct in the blogs about foot size and the relation of the big toe to the edge of the ski. I truly believe Fenninger’s turn as discussed in a blog last year is simply from this foot to ski relationship. Thanks to my ‘mistake’ with the liner I’ll be looking at this concept very closely from here forward.

    Now for Roland and toe drop. What my whole theory and patent is about is each individual has an optimum toe drop. So far I’ve worked with people ranging from TOE HIGHER than the heel to I believe the max was 14mm heel high. Right now I theorize that zero is the healthiest feet and have actually seen many people’s feet ‘migrate’ towards zero as their foot health improves. Totally removing the liner from the ski boot only changes toe drop IF there is a difference in thickness between the heel and forefoot of the liner. It is mostly built into the ‘boot board’ which is what the liner rests upon. Then you have to watch out what the insole, stock or custom does. I have designed special tools to measure the toe drop within the footwear because the only way you can measure it for sure is with said tool and a degree gauge or cut the footwear in half! In all honesty, cutting most foot wear in half is the best thing one can do and get something that fits your feet better!! So the trick is to find the perfect toe drop and then integrate it into all your footwear keeping in mind that when your feet change, your foot wear will have to also.

    1. “I have designed special tools to measure the toe drop within the footwear because the only way you can measure it for sure is with said tool and a degree gauge or cut the footwear in half!”

      This is a good example of where Michael took my raw finding of 3 degree net ramp angle to a whole new level. I had a ‘theory’ that net ramp angle is individual and not a ‘one size fits’ all. Michael ran with it and found a way to measure. The implications are potentially huge for skiing if the rest of the boot is configured properly.

  2. FINALLY!!! So this is what you have been saying. I have been walking in zero drop/ minimalist/ barefoot shoes for 5 years and love it. As I understand this, you both are suggesting that if I take the liners out of the boots I will be at zero drop? And then do I leave them unbuckled, rather just enough so the bindings will release before my foot comes out of the boot? And therefore my booits will be more aligned with my feet and that will let me be more effective in transferring forces to my skis?

    1. Whoa, not so fast Roland. First off, I use a variety of shoes from zero drop to 4 mm. I am not convinced that zero drop is the best in shoes. Barefoot, yes. Shoes? It depends. Mostly I use 4 mm drop. I don’t like 12 mm drop. Ski boots are a lot different than walking shoes because skiing involves standing on a platform (ski) that is in motion over undulating terrain in a dynamic physical environment. Through empirical experiments, that are now being supported by scientific studies, I arrived at a net ramp angle of 3 degrees plus or minus a fraction of a degree. This is what Michael Pupko has been experimenting with. Please read my post WHAT’S YOUR ANGLE? Once I get a good skier dialled in, they can notice variances in insole thickness or ramp angle of 1 mm. I made a series of posts on ski boot modifications. I am going to put all the links in a post soon. One modification that makes a huge difference is disconnecting the tongue from the liner and inserting it ‘loose’ with the liner.

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