After WhistlerBlackcomb Ski Pro Matt contacted me on October 11, 2015 (11/10/2015), a dialog between us started on FaceBook Messenger. I have posted excerpts below to illustrate the process.
Matt contacted me because he was reasonably certain his boots were causing problems with his technique. My initial efforts were aimed at acquiring an understanding of how his boots were affecting him.
Studies done at the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, found that the human lower limbs function best when barefoot and that any alteration, even a sock, extracts a penalty in terms of efficiency; one that requires an adaptive process wherein the CNS will arrive at the best possible solution; one that invariably involves compromised function. Ski boots are arguably the worst example of a structure that often compromises function to such an extent that extreme adaptation is required. The problem is that once the CNS has come up with a work around, it tends to become a hard-wired pattern that is not easily changed. The main priority of balance synergies is to prevent a fall and especially to prevent serious injuries that threaten survival. In skiing, techniques based on survival strategies tend to predominate over techniques based on optimal human function. The structures of ski boots tend to compromise skier function and especially the normally effective processes of balance.
Matt sent me the following photos of his feet. I have marked key areas to focus on in evaluating potential ski boots.
MATT: Thank you for your comments. Now my next question is…. Through the season could I look at creating the perfect boot and liner with you. Whilst I make do with my vacuum fit in the mean time. I’d like to invest and do this properly as I understand the critical importance of this.
ME: Once you have found a product you can work with, the process is not difficult. World Cup racers often have a choice of 6 to 10 different factory liners and boot shells that are not sold to the public. In the meantime, I will send you a document on how to find the right shank angle and set the boot forward lean.
COMMENT: An essential preliminary step was for Matt to develop a kinaesthetic sense of the correct stance built around the Resistive Shank angle.
MATT: Thank you. I will follow the instructions of the document and get the shank angle and forward lean set correctly.
MATT: As for what you’ve been saying, what is the likelihood of arranging to get a boot shell and liner upon your recommendation and working with you in crafting the correct fit? I have the Fischer but I’m happy to not have it fitted and start with an entirely different set up.
ME: Being able to get factory team product makes the process a lot easier. I can tell you some quick fixes that will make your boots many times better like removing and tossing liner laces and disconnecting the tongue from the liner. But manufacturers seem to be making their products worse and worse.
MATT: Yes I understand. The way you talk about boots/ skiing in general I would be foolish to not ask at least! I appreciate all of your advice on the matters. In my years of skiing I’ve yet to have a boot where I’ve felt as if it’s the correct fit. Whether that be adverse effect in my feet or the outcome to my connection to the ski and snow!
ME: Interesting that you sense that. Most don’t. I will send you a link to a recent paper on shoe myths by Benno Nigg who I have followed since 1991 when he was head of Human Performance Lab at U Calgary. Nigg’s research showed that the most reliable indicator of whether a shoe was right for a person was whether it felt right. The place for you to start is kinaesthetic stance training that follows a structured process.
ME: The texture of the surface under your foot has a significant impact on balance. Studies have shown that smooth, hard surfaces like glass, metal or even smooth hard floors do not activate the mechanical receptors. I did experiments last ski season with different textures and densities of insoles and found there is a huge difference.
MATT: Last year I went and had my first pair or custom foot beds made. Prior to this, I’d use the stock footbeds. I feel the tightness of my feet. It (the footbed) restricts articulation about the ankle joint. Reading and paying close attention. I realized I didn’t send footage of my skiing. If it’s of any relevance. It’s from last April on the saddle in Whistler. I would be keen to match your level of understanding of the topics we’ve discussed and incorporate some of my skiing too. It’s not my best or my worst. A little slower than free skiing speed. Most likely I had a focus which was inhibiting me as usual.
COMMENT: Matt’s comment about custom foot beds is a huge clue. He had never used one before. So he was able to notice that the custom foot bed made his feet tight and restricted his ankle. Most skiers assume that custom made foot beds will have a positive effect on their skiing. Until unequivocally proven otherwise, this assumption is unfounded. As part of the process, Matt will test his boots fit with stock, dead flat insoles and compare performance to his boots fit with his custom foot beds.
ME: Can you please send the video. I need to process video so I can use frame by frame step and fwd-rev.
ME: I just had a quick look (at the video). I immediately saw some issues. I will get back to you with more comments later.
MATT: Looking forward to it!
ME: Here’s a quick screen shot. You are skiing with weight on both skis. Your ankle (shank) is too straight and your COM is behind you. At this point in the turn, your outside leg should be extended and maximally rotated into your pelvis (about 40 degrees). This requires that the inside (left leg) be externally rotated an equivalent amount. This is what creates the inside hip leading perception. Not a lot of the video is useful. But I will try and do a few short clips tomorrow and send them to you. My initial perception is that you are trying to work around problems caused by your boots.
MATT: awesome. I know there is something wrong with whats going on in my boots. From this image alone I can see all that you’ve said and I feel this when i ski. My lower legs aren’t doing what i want them to do. So the issue returns… boots. This is going to be critical in my long term development.
ME: You are not able to move onto your inside (uphill) foot and ski to make a transition move between turns. So you cross over and move away from your new outside ski. If you are coming to Whistler there is a boot fitter I trained who will work with you.
MATT: Yes I feel it happen and know I’m doing it. Ive been trying to change if for 3-4 seasons (2 years) with no result. I am in Whistler as of Nov 15 so yes this would be ideal!
ME: This (the boots) should be an easy fix.
In my next post, I will discuss the boot-fit process. This was the easy part.