MICHAEL’S EXPERIENCE WITH THE SKIER’S MANIFESTO


INTRODUCING MICHAEL

Michael contacted me soon after my first  blog posts to relate his experiences in applying my material. Over the past two years, he has provided me with valuable knowledge and insights that have helped refine and shape my thinking and understanding of the issues.

IN HIS OWN WORDS: MICHAEL’S EXPERIENCE WITH THE SKIER’S MANIFESTO

Disclaimer; this is sharing my experiments using concepts from The Skiers Manifesto to the best of my ability.  I’m not pretending I understand everything that David MacPhail has written.  What I have tried so far and being well aware how little I understand at this point, I have to say that having ski boots personally customized by David must give one phenomenal results.   Results may well be from novice error (me) rather than the system David has developed over the years so don’t judge his concepts by my results.  Due to how much my ability to fit ski boots and to ski (and thus enjoy it) has improved simply using the material on the blogs and a few personal emails, I’m convinced the principles laid out in the blog are as much laws as mathematics.

The last thing I’ve learned by going back through old blogs to try to figure out some things that were holding me back is that David starts with a snug boot (how snug I’m not sure) and customizes to allow foot function within a tight area whereas I’m hoping to start with a much looser boot and just leave enough liner in strategic areas so the foot doesn’t ‘swim’ inside the boot.  His is a precision fit that I’m currently not knowledgeable enough to replicate so I’m learning with a ‘recreational’ fit.

I already had done the following; removed the toe area leaving only the sole of the liner, inside of liner cut back to the front of the first met, outside of liner cut back to just behind the 6th toe, giving adequate ‘toe spread’ and allowing the big toe to be straight; thus the tongue was detached from the liner and leaving the cuff very loose I had plenty of unimpeded ankle glide path; cuff I self adjusted to hopefully have my leg be perfectly centred, I knew especially the left ski boot was not aligned properly due to a very crooked leg; had an ‘arch-less’ stock insole underfoot.  Greatest mobility/balance combination ever.

About Jan. 20 of this year, I arrived in Colorado and  I started skiing, mostly moguls, using the ‘MacPhail loonie/first met focus’ method of skiing and liked it a lot!  The easiest thing for me to adjust on slope is my ramp/delta angle (because of my adjustable device) which like previous year I found the optimum ramp/delta for steep bumps to be higher than for groomers.

Next, an unfortunate thing happened, close as I can figure out I had a bout of gout centered in one first met which left my foot too swollen to get into a ski boot.  Once that was dealt with properly I was able to ski within a day with a tender bunion.  My wider skis, 84mm and 98mm underfoot put excessive pressure on the first met so I pulled out a pair of 185cm toothpicks from around 1993 and skied those.  I couldn’t believe how well I could turn them with the current boot set up, much better than when I skied them daily… for years (and a sore bunion to deal with also)!!  So it proves to me, probably still not to the ‘detractors,’ that if the boots are set up properly one can ski better on any ski from any era.  Subsequently I took a completely different set of ski boots, modified the liner/tongue per David’s methods and did nothing else, got on a pair of Volants from approximately 2000 and could ski very well.   That pair of skis needs a bit of change in ramp/delta to actually be really comfortable with that combo in contrast to last year  when I skied the same boots ‘as is’ on a pair of older skis and wondered how I ever could ski that way.  Truth is I couldn’t!

In the meantime, with my regular boots, I kept whittling away at the liner.  Seems like the less there is, the better they work.  I discovered one impediment for my left leg is that when I buckle the 2 middle (of 4) buckles even slightly, the inside of the lower boot gets pulled towards the outside of the shell which doesn’t seem to move at all.  This distortion PREVENTS my lower leg from aligning correctly for one legged balancing.  Leaving the 2 middle buckles totally unbuckled helped the ability to balance and find the ‘loonie.’  I still wasn’t satisfied with my left foot function so arriving back in NY I removed all the padding from around the inside of the ankle leaving just enough to prevent the heel from sliding side to side and the left foot function improved dramatically.  Hopefully I’ll get a chance to ski a bit more difficult place sooooooooooooon!!!!!!!!!

UPDATE:  Over the weekend went skiing at Sugarbush Vt.  Can safely say that due to ice the conditions (mind you at 40-50*F) were still some of the worst ice I have skied in my life.  The skis were 70mm underfoot and new edges but the key without question was the first time in my life I could use my left ski even vaguely as it should be use due to the ability to actually balance on the inside edge.  The lateral looseness at the left calf didn’t really hinder performance, maybe because I could for once even have that ski able to perform!!

My opinions for what they’re worth;

  • Ankle flex.  That’s an easy one, no question the importance of ‘ankle glide path’, big score for David MacPhail because I’ve never read anything about that anywhere else.
  • Toe spread.  Again easy, not only do I have the best absorption in my feet ever but never even get chilly feet.  Only ‘drawback’ is they sweat at much lower temperatures!!   Discovered on someone else that too much pressure on the 5th met can cause the knees to kink inwards.
  • Arch support.  200% correct on that aspect also.  The bigger the arch (ie custom orthotics/foot beds) the more locked up the feet.  Limits the ability to absorb and also totally screws up alignment.  First time since learning about canting about 15 years ago that I can ski without them and better than I ever could with orthotic/foot beds and then combined with canting.
  • Lateral cuff adjustment.  Still learning on that but the lower boot can really throw off the ability to balance with anything that interferes with the proper shin placement.  I can’t define ‘proper’ because  I adjusted the lateral cuff cant as far as I could and finally started removing liner padding by just guessing.
  • Trying to ‘cant’ underfoot within the ski boot.  Can’t say ‘never’ helps but every time I’ve tried it has been a disaster from a physical standpoint (may increase risk of injuries) but did help me decide  that I needed to remove boot obstructions from the inside of my foot and leg.
  • Liners.  Way over rated.  The more I remove, the better I can balance, move, and ski.  Maybe some key points to have some of the liner but every time I remove more of it things get better.

Ramp Angle

Ramp/delta angle.  I’ve done a ton with that aspect because I may have the world’s only adjustable delta device which mounts between the binding and ski.  BTW, not only can one quickly change delta on slope, the plate isolates the boot and binding from the ski so it flexes as perfectly as a bare ski.  The key is to get optimum stance in the ski boot first and only then adjust the ramp/delta angle outside the ski boot.  Placing heel lifts inside the boot except for rare occasions creates other problems.  Have to be a bit careful here; if one has a 130 flex ski boot, typically rigid arch support, concrete injected custom liner, canting to compensate for all the other mistakes in boot fitting, then 10 degrees may be required to get the skier over their feet enough to ski safely.  I’ve been there and done that with myself and others.  As I started figuring out, better boot fitting in a slow evolution towards what David is doing, I dropped my delta until now it’s almost flat as measured from the bottom of the ski to the upper surfaces of the heel and toe piece that the ski boot rests upon.  I’m somewhere between 3.5 and 4 degrees net ramp currently and on one pair of skis was fine tuning by adding and subtracting strips of duct tape.  If one were to measure ramp angle using David’s method and then tried to make the boot work without modifying the rest of his brilliant areas as he has outlined, one would never get all the benefits or potentially be even  in a less optimum fore/aft position to ski.  So far I don’t have my boots well enough adjusted that one ramp/delta angle is optimum for all terrain and conditions.  I ski steep bumps better with a higher  ramp/delta than the same pitch of groomed terrain which has been the case with the others that have experimented with my BalancEnhancer.  See that also on the world cup level with the world’s best skiers doing well in one discipline and struggling to finish others.

Conclusion.  The Skier’s Manifesto has been instrumental in increasing my understanding and ability to adjust ski equipment.  Some pieces learned I may have gotten around to eventually but many I may have not discovered in a million years!!  Thanks for all you’ve discovered and are sharing so freely David!!!!

Final Word from Michael

Unless you are the rare skier and can turn anywhere you want, regardless of steepness and conditions, get over it, your boots need major adjustments!!  I realize that I’m in a unique situation of enjoying the ‘quest’ to make my ski boots allow me to function as I would without them but this winter I probably tweaked one or the other boot on a daily basis and often between/during runs.  When you have a guideline to follow such as The Skier’s Manifesto it takes it from pure guess work to more (depending on one’s level of understanding!) of a science.  Do only things that are easily reversible (that takes sole grinding right out of the discussion) one boot at a time and soon you’ll be making moves that you haven’t been able to make all your skiing life.  I can ski better at 30 days/season now than when I was 130+ days/season, when I worked in ski shops, and relied on conventional boot fitting techniques.

MY COMMENTS

Michael said, “David starts with a snug boot (how snug I’m not sure) and customizes to allow foot function within a tight area”.

My efforts are results driven with no hard and fast rules. In my post,TIGHT FEET, LOOSE BOOTS – LOOSE FEET, TIGHT BOOTS https://skimoves.me/2013/06/07/tight-feet-loose…feet-tight-boots/, I talk about the different foot types. Each has their own issues. Each requires their own approach. As I have pointed out in several posts, I recognized long ago that elite skiers and especially elite racers seem to have feet and legs within limits that allow them to ski well in out-of-the-box ski boots with little or no modification. The question of whether arch shaped insoles and especially custom insoles are a good idea depends. I still get skiers tell me that they are using custom footbeds I made for them 40 years ago. Even today, female skiers with small feet can benefit from insoles that help position their feet in the boot so long as they do not cause stance issues. More on this in a future post. Although I always disconnect the tongue from the liner, there are situations where stock liners work well for a skier with little or no modifications. In other situations, drastic alterations are required.

The rule of thumb is the most skier performance for the least effort.

 

11 comments

  1. David , interested that you mention zip fit liner. Having used a pair in my telemark boots and after reading your blog last year I bought some as a possible half way house to some of your more dramatic liner modifications. The soft neoprene toe box has created space for my forefoot. I have deliberately created space around the ankle to allow pronation rather than limit it. Do you still value some grip around the achillies and above the heal that Zip fits can give or does that limit pronation? What tongue modifications do you make to the Zip fit tongue? Do you need to pad out the top of the tongue?
    I have found the minimal changes and skiing with the cuff of my boots loose enough has transformed my skiing.
    The Zip Fit liner is quite tall, does this have any adverse effect.
    Thanks for the advice.

    1. Do you still value some grip around the achillies and above the heal that Zip fits can give or does that limit pronation?
      I want a positive mechanical connection with the boney part of the heel bone and the rear aspect of the boot shell. If necessary, I add dense padding to the inside of the liner to achieve this. Padding in the Achilles area can push the foot forward, away from the shell. I want to stabilize the rearmost position of the foot in relation to the ski.

      What tongue modifications do you make to the Zip fit tongue? Do you need to pad out the top of the tongue?
      I haven’t worked with the Zip Fit liner per se. I have worked with the Atomic version. As with many products today, components tend to be OEM (original equipment manufacturer). Boot makers offer a number of liners as part of their race stock. Atomic has a liner with cork matrix. I assume it is made for them by Zip Fit. But it may not be. The tongue has a good quality closed-cell foam (not chip foam). It works well. But I insert padding between the top of the stock foam and tongue plastic body if I need to eliminate void or ‘crash space’ between the top of the tongue and the boot shell. I want to avoid operating the closures beyond the 2nd bale catches over the forefoot as this will distort the shell.

      I have found the minimal changes and skiing with the cuff of my boots loose enough has transformed my skiing.
      The Zip Fit liner is quite tall, does this have any adverse effect.
      It depends. If you have a skinny leg, probably not. I have no conscious sensation of the cuff on my leg even when I am skiing fast and hard.

  2. I seemed to have neglected to write the most important point; This is the first time since a fairly severe knee injury in 1974 that I have been able to ski pain free in that knee. To me that is a major factor in what may seem to be a bit of ‘hero worship’ for what I have gleaned from The Skiers Manifesto. Probably the last of three surgeons on my knee pretty much guaranteed I would be the proud owner of an artificial knee by the time I hit my 40s. Since that was 20 years ago, forgive me if I don’t listen to the ‘experts’ but rather to what my knee tells me is good or bad!! It is amazing to me that I can put on more mileage skiing in a day than ever and finish without being wasted and sore! What one does with ones’ footwear has a huge impact on total body health.

    1. The liner I prefer is the Zip Fit version. If the foot is compact and intrinsically stiff, it is usually possible to massage the cork matrix away from boney structures and make the liner relatively neutral in terms of impinging on the structures of the foot. Sometimes, it is necessary to loosen the tension on the elastic that ties the quarters together. Try skiing with the tongue loose. Put your foot in the liner first. Then insert the tongue on top of the liner elastic. Make sure the tongue is properly positioned on your shin. You should notice a significant difference as it better.

      1. I will try that thanks. I want to also try to figure out what my ramp angle is. I am on atomic skis and bindings as well.

  3. David, do you know of anyone in Colorado who can help me set up my race boots the way you have in your blog? Love what you write and it all makes sense to me.

    1. With all due respect to boot-fitters, most of them tend to have what amounts to a formula or established procedure they work to. If you can find a boot fitter who will modify your shells based on your instructions, you may be able to do the rest of the work yourself. A lot depends on what boot you are using. I am reasonably familiar with Head and Atomic. There are probably other good boots out there. But I don’t have the time to figure out what to do to them. A lot also depends on whether you are able to get race stock material. Although race boots may look the same as the retail version, they are usually very different. In addition, some race stock boots have 5 or more different liners you can choose from.

      At some point, I will list all my posts on boot work in a hierarchal sequence. A good starting point is trying to figure out your optimal ramp angle. Hopefully, someone will come up with a technology that will accurately do this. Maybe CARV will.

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