THE EMERGING REVOLUTION UNDERFOOT


What if you used your hands like you used your feet?

Bind your hands with tape and then try typing. Instead of using the muscles and joints of the fingers (intrinsic), you’d peck at the keyboard using excessive motion of the wrists (and extrinsic musculature), leading to intrinsic muscle atrophy and extrinsic muscle (and related joint) overuse. – Katy Bowman, Nutritious Movement FaceBook Group, April 20, 2016 and author of Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear

Bowman wasn’t talking about what happens when you put your foot in tightly-fitting ski boots. She was only talking about what happens to most people’s feet in their everyday shoes. Binding your feet in tightly-fitting ski boots is infinitely worse in terms of making it impossible to effectively use all the muscles in your legs to coordinate balance and initiate precise movement. But in fact, this is the whole idea behind the ski boot. The holy grail in skiing is the fit of a ski boot that perfectly mirrors the shape of the foot and lower leg. In other words, the objective is to render the human foot completely dysfunctional.

“The bootmaker, ignorant of the relative use and importance of the different parts of the foot, has steadily persisted for centuries, and at this day usually persists, in so shaping the shoe that the great toe is forced upon the other toes more or less out of its right line with the heel. (1)

“The Problems in Existing Ski Boots

Existing ski boots do not provide for the dynamic nature of the architecture of the foot by providing a fit system with dynamic and predictable qualities to substantially match those of the foot and lower leg. Thus, the problem with existing ski boots arises due to the dynamic nature of the architecture of the foot”. (2)

One hundred and thirty years after the article was published in the Scientific American, not much has changed. But it gets worse.

“The foot may have been distorted by wearing improperly made shoes, and the person may have become accustomed to the bad-shaped shoe.” (2)

“The less a shoe does to a foot, the better for the foot. A shoe should stay out of the foot’s way. In it’s most elemental form, shoe has only two functions; as a non-intrusive protective foot covering and as an ornamental dressing. The moment a shoe assumes a therapeutic function for the average foot, the foot is in trouble. (3)

LIFT ME UP?
“The worst thing shoes do, according to Bowman, Rossi and others? Tilt the whole body forward by elevating the heel so it is higher than the forefoot. In ski boots, I call this the Net Ramp Angle.

Last ski season, I learned more about skiing than in all the years since I started down this road in 1973. Prior to last season, I knew that a Net Ramp Angle of more than about 3 degrees had an adverse effect on stance, associated balance, ski control and especially the ability to move with precision. But I had no idea just how critical ramp angle is until I reduced the ramp angle of the boot boards in my own ski boots from 3.0 degrees to 2.5 (my bindings are zero ramp). Then the whole world changed. In working with other skiers and racers I found that they were sensitive to changes of one tenth of a degree.

Jessi Stensland, a high performance athlete, talks about how shoes affected her performance and served as the inspiration for FOOT FREEX in a the video in the following link – http://www.feetfreex.com/#!about/c1nx6

After working with Whistler Ski Pro Matt since skiing started last fall it is only in the past few days that Matt’s feet were finally set free and after thousands of hours on skis, he finally knows, for the first time, what it is like to truly ski. Mat’s problem was not a lack of fitness and/or athletic ability. Matt’s problem is his large boned feet that cannot function in a ski boot without extensive modifications. I will explain, in graphic detail, what had to be done to Matt’s boots in my next post.


1. NATURAL SHAPE OF THE FOOT—HOW BOOTS AND SHOES OUGHT TO BE MADE – Scientific American, October 25, 1862

2. US Patent 5,265,350 1992 – MACPHAIL, November 30, 1993

3. Footwear: The Primary Cause of Foot Disorders – Willam A. Rossi – “http://www.feetfreex.com/#!references/c19n”>http://www.feetfreex.com/#!references/c19n

 

5 comments

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with your emphasis on the importance of binding delta and bootboard zeppa. In the 90’s I switched from Alpinas to Tecnicas, and immediately felt out of balance (tipped too far forward). I got rid of the Tecnicas and switched to Rossi Course KX’s, had the bootboard ground down from 7 degrees to 3 degrees, and paired them with Atomic skis with Xentrix 614 bindings (~1-2 mm delta), and felt balanced again. IME, delta is to bindings like sidecut is to skis, and should be just as routinely reported as part of the specifications. Yet manufacturers either don’t publish these numbers at all, or bury them in their technical manuals. Plus, as you know, they vary all over the map, with alpine bindings typically ranging from 1 mm to 9 mm. Thus, for most skiers, it’s essentially a crapshoot whether the delta of the binding in which they end up corresponds to the delta at which they’re optimally balanced. That’s why I always measure bindings with a set of digital calipers before buying new ones.

    Having said that, I wonder if you made a mistake in the calculations you used to reach your conclusions in https://skimoves.me/2016/03/01/ramping-up-the-power-of-your-stance/ (I would have posted there but the comments are closed). There, you describe a ramped board with a 1.2 cm shim that is placed 27.5 cm from where the board contacts the ground, which you say gives a starting angle for your experiments of 2.5 degrees. That’s correct. But then, in the comments, you write “In the ramp in my post 2 mm = 0.1 degree.” Was that a typo (the correct statement is 1 mm = 0.2 degree)? If not, what you think is a 0.1 degree change, from a 2 mm shim, is actually a 0.4 degree change. And what you think is 2.7 degrees (from adding 4 mm) (what you refer to as the “ideal ramp angle”) would actually be 3.3 degrees.*

    *arcsin(12/275)=2.5 degrees; arcsin(14/275)=2.9 degrees; arcsin(16/275)=3.3 degrees

    1. “But then, in the comments, you write “In the ramp in my post 2 mm = 0.1 degree.” Was that a typo (the correct statement is 1 mm = 0.2 degree)?”

      Yes, it was a typo.

      As for optimal ramp angle, it seems to be in the order of 2.6 degrees. But this is subject to change with knowledge. The default barefoot ramp angle is zero. Elevating the heel in relation to the forefoot requires a global shift in the angles of the ankle, knee and hip joints and muscle lengths of the vertical column. Since what is called drop in shoes tend to change dramatically from one shoe to another, most skier’s brains are without a stable reference. To someone who wears shoes with a 12 mm drop (or more) a ski boot/binding with 10 degree ramp feels normal. But normal is not the same as optimal.

  2. Hi David,

    As always I find your dissertations on the complexity of performance improvement and related equipment function and design very thought provoking in terms of creating insight into these issues. In particular the comparison between your hands and feet is one that I have used with my customers having been both a pianist and a skier. It sometimes amazes me to realize that I was so willing to follow the dictates of a manufacturing industry that does not appear to follow scientific principles in relation to product design. Fortunately by buying equipment in the late 70s and early 80s I began to realize that there was a lot more marketing going on than fact when it came to outcomes. I have to admit that as I mentioned before in a comment on a previous blog that originally this started as a voyage of self interest because of my own issues with roadblocks in technique as I pursued my own goals as a skier, instructor and coach. However as I entered the sports industry at the retail level and began crudely assessing my customers feet one aspect of footwear self selection for athletes and recreational purchasers alike began to stick. That was how willing people were to actually cause injury to their feet in terms of structure and function in their pursuit of performance. As I worked in the hockey industry as well and where I live in Canada the numbers of feet that I would encounter on a regular basis were 100 to 1 skater versus skier I was fortunate in terms of seeing the correlation between the symptoms and abnormalities I was encountering in both fitting arenas. Thanks for all your information particularly when it is communicated simply as in this article.

  3. Hey David, since I’m not your mind I’m going to take the liberty to argue a point with you looking in from the ‘outside!’ Part of me regrets not picking up The Skier’s Manifesto online in 1980 jk. But it would have prevented me from approaching ramp angle first in curing the backseat skiing syndrome because I wasn’t astute enough to think of ankle flex first. Well duh! I had a hip injury about 3 years ago, from skiing wear and tear with ideal ramp angle but knew there were still issues to resolve with the boot and especially cuff but hadn’t got to it yet. So to save my 2 last days of skiing in Co. I removed my left foot bed and then progressively loosened my boot cuff until I was able to have the best 2 days of skiing in my life with a compromised hip joint that was then pain free. About three months later I was introduced to this blog and discovered I didn’t have to do ALL the discovering on why my accidental adjustments saved my skiing because the explanation was written by you. I have made huge advancement on my own alignment and any one else that allows me to ‘fiddle’ with their equipment in the subsequent 2 years I believe it has been. So a decade or more of adjusting ramp angle didn’t net me as much as the last 2 years or does it only seem that way because it came in increments with a lot of other factors thrown in? I don’t know about you but without better fore/aft balance I may not even be skiing today to enjoy the fruits of your work. I’m glad your discoveries in ramp angle have been so fruitful but it’s only one of the ‘critical’ components for alignment that’s not finished until they are all at 100%!! Real excited to see that next new random thing that pops up and makes skiing even more rewarding!!

    1. Stay tuned Michael. As I intend to show with Matt’s adventure in boot modifications, there is still lot more chapters to be written. Meantime, I encourage you and anyone else who is truly interested in reaching their peak in skiing to read all the reference material on Jessi’s FOOT FREEX (as in FOOT FREAKS) web site. It made me realize how much rehabilitation I have to do even though I have been barefoot as much as possible since 2005. Time definitely does not heal all, especially foot damage. It takes a lot more than just by not wearing shoes.

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