Barefoot science posts


When readers click on my blog address at, analytics give me a hierarchy of the countries with the most views and the most popular posts in ascending order. This helps me identify which content resonates most strongly with viewers and which content draws a blank.

As I write this post, the top five countries are the US followed by Croatia, the United Kingdom, Slovakia and France.

The most viewed post today is THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT POWER STRAPS; far and away the most popular post I have published to date. But the most important posts by far that I have ever written, A DEVICE TO DETERMINE OPTIMAL PERSONAL RAMP ANGLE and STANCE MUSCLE TENSIONING SEQUENCE EXERCISE barely sputtered in comparison. This strongly suggests that far from just some small gaps in the knowledge base skiing is founded on, massive craters exist.

Arguably the most important aspect of skiing is a strong stance. Any variance in the fore-aft angle of  the plane of support under the feet and the plane of the base of the ski has significant impact on stance. Yet these subjects are barely blips on the Doppler Radar of the ski industry.

Since I started the dynamic ramp angle assessment project a few weeks ago I have found that when asked to do so, it is rare for a skier of any ability to be able to assume a strong ski stance in an off the ski hill environment. Even when a skier  skis with a relatively strong stance, they seem to lack a sense of what a strong stance feels like. Because of this, they lack the ability to consciously replicate a strong stance. If asked to do so, they would be unable to coach a skier in the sequence of events that I described in my last post

In the dynamic ramp angle assessment project, I  have also observed that skiers with with a boot/binding ramp angle greater than 2.8 degrees appear to have become accustomed to the associated unstable, dysfunctional feeling and identify with it as ‘normal’. Before I can test them, I have to spend time coaching them into the correct stance because it feels unnatural to them.

When I go back and forth between a strong functional stance on a flat, hard level surface to a stance on the dynamic ramp angle device set to an angle of 4 degrees, I can get close to the same angles of ankle, knee and hip. But when I do, I feel strong tension, stiffness and even pain in my mid to lower back which is  common in some skiers and even racers.

Based on results to date with the dynamic ramp angle device, it appears as if strong skiers ski best with ramp angles close to zero. But depending on their sense of balance and athletic ability, they may have a wide range in which they sense little difference on the effect of ramp angle until they approach the upper limit of stability. While they may be able to ski well with a ramp angle close to the maximum limit of stability, ramp angles much above 1.2 to 1.5 degrees may not offer any benefits. This can only be tested on skis where balance is tested by dynamic forces which cannot be replicated in a static setting.

Issues affecting skier stance were discussed in detail in my post, THE SHOCKING TRUTH ABOUT POWER STRAPS. Here are the excerpts I posted from the chapter on The Ski Boot in the book, The Shoe in Sport (1989), published in German in 1987 as Der Schuh Im Sport– ISNB 0-8151-7814-X

“If flexion resistance stays the same over the entire range of flexion of the ski boot, the resulting flexion on the tibia will be decreased. With respect to the safety of the knee, however, this is a very poor solution. The increasing stiffness of the flexion joint of the boot decreases the ability of the ankle to compensate for the load and places the entire load on the knee”. – Biomechanical Considerations of the Ski Boot (Alpine) – Dr. E. Stussi,  Member of GOTS – Chief of Biomechanical Laboratory ETH, Zurich, Switzerland

“The shaft of the boot should provide the leg with good support, but not with great resistance for about two thirds of the possible arc, i.e., (14 degrees) 20 to 22 degrees. Up to that point, the normal, physiologic function of the ankle should not be impeded”.

“Previous misconceptions concerning its role in absorbing energy must be replaced by the realization that shaft pressure generates impulses affecting the motion patterns of the upper body, which in turn profoundly affect acceleration and balance.

“When the lateral stability of the shaft (the leg) is properly maintained, the forces acting in the sagittal direction should not be merely passive but should be the result of active muscle participation and tonic muscular tension. If muscular function is inhibited in the ankle area, greater loads will be placed on the knee”. – Kinematics of the Foot in the Ski Boot – Professor  Dr. M. Pfeiffer – Institute for the Athletic Science, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

It has been over 40 years since international authorities on sports science and safety raised red flags concerning the adverse effects of ski boots design and construction on skier stance, balance and the potential to cause or contribute to injury. It is time that their concerns were taken seriously and acted on. Research on stance and the effect of such things as zeppa and delta ramp angles is urgently needed.




Tens(ion) + (Int)egrity 

The optimal ramp angle, as determined by the dynamic ramp device, is based on a stance predicated on the principles of tensegrity.

Fascial continuity suggests that the myofascia acts like an adjustable tensegrity around the skeleton – a continuous inward pulling tensional network like the elastics, with the bones acting like the struts in the tensegrity model, pushing out against the restricting ‘rubber bands: Tom Myers, Anatomy Trains (1.)

A ski stance based on the principles of tensegrity must be learned and rehearsed in a step-by-step process. It is neither natural or intuitive although elite skiers and racers such as Shiffrin and Hirscher appear to have acquired the elements of tensegrity. Assuming a group of racers of equal athletic ability, the odds will favour those whose stance is based on tensegrity.

In a ski stance base on tensegrity, tension in the arches of the feet will extend to the palms of the hands holding the poles.

  1. Start by standing barefoot on a hard flat floor or surface in a controlled environment such as your home. Where possible, use the same surface and place to rehearse the stance. If you have constructed a dynamic ramp assessment device, use this with the top plate set to level.
  2. Stand upright at attention. You should feel most of the weight under your  heels and less weight across the balls of your feet. This is normal. The fore-aft weight distribution is actually 50-50 heel to forefoot. But because the weight of the body is spread across the balls of the feet and along the outer aspect behind the small toes, more weight is sensed under the heels. Stand so your weight is distributed equally between both feet.
  3. Relax your hamstrings (in your thighs) and let your torso drop towards the floor.  Your knees move forward as they flex and your ankles will dorsiflex. Your ankles should stop dorsiflexing on their own when the front of your knee caps are aligned approximately over the balls of your feet. This is the point where the tension in your soleus (calf muscle) peaks with the tension in your arches. You should feel about the same pressure under the balls of your feet as you feel under your heels. But it should feel as if the circle of pressure under your heels has gotten bigger and your feet should feel more connected or integrated with the floor. I call this ‘rooted’ because it should feel as if your feet have sunk into the floor.
  4. While keeping your upper body erect, move slightly forward in the hips. You will quickly reach a point where you start to become unstable and feel as if you would fall forward onto your face if you move farther forward in the hips. When you get to this point your big toes should press down on the floor on their own to try stabilize you. This is the forward limit of stability.
  5. Now move rearward in the hips until you start to feel the same instability. This is the rearmost limit of stability.
  6. Now bend forward from the waist. Do not curl your back. Bend from the hip sockets for the thigh. The movement is actually thigh flexion. Lift your thigh to get the right feeling. As you bend forward from the waist, let your buttocks move rearward.  Your ankles and knees straighten. Allow your buttocks to drop towards the floor until you feel your body settling onto your feet. As this happens, reach forward with your arms as if you were going to hug a large barrel in front of you. Make sure the palms of your hands are facing each other with fingers curled and pointing towards each other. Find the place where your arms and head feel neutral to your spine. As your arms come into position you should feel your abdominal core and muscles in your back acquire tension.
  7. Experiment by increasing the amount of flexion at the waist while keeping solid pressure under your heels and balls of your feet as you straighten your knees slightly. As you increase the forward bend at the waist, pressure should increase under the balls of your feet. But you should not feel unstable. If anything, you should feel stronger and more stable. Make sure to keep solid pressure under your heels as you increase the pressure under the balls of your feet. You should feel as if the weight of your head and shoulders is pressing your feet down into the floor.
  8. Increase the bend at your waist while keeping the pressure on the balls of your feet and heels until the top of your head is down by your knees. You should still feel very strong and stable in the feet. The is the lowermost limit of waist flexion.

Once you have acquired a kinesthetic sense of the integrity of foot to hand tension, a sense of stability while pulsing the torso vertically up and down over the feet confirms a state of tensegrity.

The photo below is of simple model I designed and constructed in 1993 to illustrate the basic concept of bottom up tensegrity and how the degree of tension in the arches of the feet and the vertical biokinetic chain is driven by the weight of COM stacked over the foot.

The graphic below shows the continuum of tension from the balls of the feet to the opposite shoulders through the mechanism of the transverse posterior sling.

In my next post I will discuss what I term the NABOSO Effect.



Since my first version of the stance ramp assessment device I have made a number of significant improvements. The series of photos below are of the fifth generation device.

The bottom plate or base of the device is approximately 18 inches (46 cm) wide by 16 inches (41 cm) deep (front to back). I intend to make the next version about 22 inches (56 cm) wide by 18 inches (46 cm) deep. Size is not critical so long as the top plate is deep and wide enough for the feet being tested.

Stiffness of the plates is critical. Three quarter inch thick (2 cm) plywood or medium density fiberboard (MDF) are suitable materials. I added 1.5 inch x 1.5 inch wood reinforcing ribs on the sides, middle and rear of the top plate.

The photo below shows the heel end of the device. Two 1/4 inch drive ratchets turn bolts threaded into T-nuts in the top plate that raise the heel end up.

The photo below shows the top plate hinged to the bottom plate with 4 robust hinges.

Four telescoping hard nylon feet are set into the bottom plate to enable the device to be leveled and made stable on the supporting surface. It is important that the device not tilt or rock during testing.

The photo below shows the details of the interface between the top plate on the left and the bottom plate on the right.IMG_3409

I used gasket material purchased from an auto supply to shim the forefoot of my boot boards to decrease the ramp angle so as to obtain the 1.2 degree ramp angle I tested best at.Shim pack

The package contains 4 sheets of gasket material that includes 3 mm and 1.5 mm sheet cork and 2 other materials.Gasket

I cut forefoot shims from the 3 mm cork sheet as shown to the right of the boot board in the photo below.BB w shims

I adhered the shims to the boot board with heavy duty 2-sided tape and feathered the edges with a belt sander.shims installed

I corrected the ramp of my boot boards in 3 stages. Once my optimal ramp angle is confirmed, I will pour a boot board into the base of my ski boot shells in place of the existing boot boards using a material such as Smooth-Cast 385 Mineral Filled Casting Resin. More on this in a future post.

Ramp Angle Appears to User Specific

It is important to stress that although there appears to be a trend to optimal boot board ramp angles for elite skiers in the range 1.5 degrees or less, there is no basis to assume a  ramp angle that is optimal for one skier will be optimal for another skier. Recreational skiers are testing best between 2.0 and 2.5 degrees.

It is also not known at this point whether the initial optimal ramp angle identified with the device will change over time. Based on the impressive results seen so far in the limited number of skiers and racers who were tested and ramp angles adjusted there is no basis to assume that ramp angle is not a critical factor affecting skier balance and ski and edge control. Studies on this issue are urgently needed and long overdue.

It is important that testing for optimal ramp angle be preceded by kinesthetic stance training. This will be the subject of my next post.


A recent post on The Foot Collective FaceBook page titled Humans aren’t meant to walk on ramps!, highlighted the problems caused by elevating the heel above the forefoot known in the footwear industry as drop. Like the author of the post, I also wear zero drop shoes like Xero and Lems exclusively  (with NABOSO insoles) and spend all of my time indoors barefoot. Like the author, I too have experienced an immediate, unnatural and a sense of disorientation in terms of a connection with the ground, when I have worn dress shoes and winter boots with moderate drop.

While some amount of boot board ramp angle or zeppa appears to necessary for a strong, tensioned stance (what I refer to as a planted or rooted stance), the amount of zeppa is turning to be much less than I originally thought. It may be less than 1.5 degrees total (zeppa + delta). Assuming zero delta, there appears to be a very narrow range within which zeppa is optimal after which a tipping point is reached in terms of adverse effects on the motor control and balance systems.

It has also become apparent that some racers are tuning ski response by adjusting binding delta. Zeppa and delta each have a different effect on ski response especially edge control and the ability of a skier to resist the forces acting on them in the load phase of a turn. I will discuss issue this in a future post.

Humans aren’t meant to walk on ramps!

Powerful post by TFC Educator @optimize.physiotherapy
Why do most shoes have a heel on them?
This really hit home the other day when I put on my winter boots (because it snows in November in Canada). Being someone who goes barefoot all day at work and at home (and wears zero drop shoes), it was a very unnatural feeling. It really threw my walking off, and I noticed the effects immediately. It changed the way I walked, stood, and made me use different muscles.
Humans are meant to have a flat base. No other animal wears mini ramps on their feet, but we do. The problem is that your body adapts to having a heel on, and it works different from a biomechanical perspective in any given movement pattern (the higher the heel, the worse the effect…but even most casual, running, and gym shoes have heels)

One thing it really does is affect your ankle/foot function. It has a huge effect on ankle ROM and tissue tension around the ankle. The problem is, when you wear a heel all day at work/at the gym/walking around, your tissues adaptively shorten and you don’t require as much ankle ROM. But then you take your shoes off and walk, go up your stairs, squat down to get things around the house etc. This is where people have issues. Not only at the foot/ankle but all the way upstream at other joints

Ankle ROM is incredibly important, and walking on a ramped surface all the time is incredibly unnatural. So do yourself a favour and spend less time in heeled footwear or get rid of it altogether

The Foot Collective is a group of Canadian physical therapists on a mission to help humans reclaim strong, functional and painfree feet through foot health education.

The Foot Collective are empowering people with the knowledge they need protect their feet from the dangers of modern footwear and the guidance to fix their own feet.


The following post appeared on the Evidence Based Fitness Academy (EBFA) fitness blog on February 6, 2018 under the title Beyond Biomechanics | Addressing Foot Pain with Sensory Stimulation (1.).

I have reproduced the post with the kind permission of Dr. Emily Splichal under the title Beyond Biomechanics by Dr. Emily Splichal because her emphasis on the role of sensory stimulation of the plantar foot on foot, lower limb and function of the entire body has both direct application to and implications for, skiing.

I have a theory on what I call The NABOSO Effect that explains how I think NABOSO insoles improve dynamic stability in the biokinetic chain that I will discuss in a future post. I have been testing NABOSO 1.0 and 1.5 for months.

Beyond Biomechanics | Addressing Foot Pain with Sensory Stimulation – by Dr. Emily Splichal

I want you to picture a human foot.   Now picture a person standing barefoot, and then walking barefoot.   Do you see the foot striking the ground and flexing under impact, only to re-stabilize and push off just a few milliseconds later?

Often times when we think of human movement we can’t help but to be drawn to the thought of joints moving and muscles contracting.   Or in the case of foot function we are quick to consider the mechanics of flat feet, high arches, pronation and supination.   However when we delve deeper into the science of human movement there is more than meets the eye.

The Two Sides of Foot Function

When I teach on behalf of EBFA Global or speak to my patients I always emphasize that there are two sides to foot function (and dysfunction) – biomechanical and neuromuscular.    Now both play an important role in foot function which means that both must be appreciated – however to solely treat foot pain with just one belief system in mind is inherently flawed.

In most Podiatric Medical Schools we are taught foot function and foot pathology solely from a biomechanical perspective.

This means that every patient is tested for foot mobility and told to stand statically to determine arch height and foot type.   Based on this foot-focused biomechanical assessment and foot classification system the patient’s cause of injury and treatment protocol is determined.   Some of the favorite treatment recommendations include motion-controlled footwear and custom-posted orthotic both of which are prescribed with the hopes of controlling foot-focused biomechanics and thereby reducing their foot pain.

Beyond Biomechanics

The other side of foot function is one that is driven from a neuromuscular perspective and integrates the science of sensory stimulation and fascial systems.   In the case of neuromuscular function every patient would be assessed for sensitivity of plantar mechanoceptors as well as co-activation patterns between the foot and the core.  The role of minimal footwear, myofascial releasing, breathing patterns and compensation patterns more proximal would all be considered.

So which is more appropriate?  Well it depends.   In certain cases there will be a stronger argument towards a more biomechanical influence and in others it is more sensory.  This means it really is a marriage between the two approaches that provides the greatest patient outcome.

Sensory Stimulation in Foot Pain

My practice and Podiatry career is built around bringing an awareness to the important role sensory stimulation has on foot function and foot pain.

With every step we take impact forces are entering the foot as vibration.  This vibrational noise stimulates unique mechanoceptors on the bottom of the foot and is used to coordinate the loading of impact forces through coordinated contractions of the intrinsic (small) muscles of the bottom of the foot.   This co-contraction leads to a stiffening or strengthening response of the foot.

Researchers such as Nigg et al. and Robbins et al. have demonstrated a direct relationship between sensory stimulation of the plantar foot and intrinsic muscle strength concluding that one is necessary for the other.   This means that if our footwear or orthotics disconnect us from sensory stimulation – as in the case of cushioned footwear – this can actually weaken our foot making us susceptible to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis and stress fractures.

Beyond Vibration Stimulation

Vibration stimulation is an extremely important sensory stimulation that enters our foot however it isn’t the only stimulation.   Another important stimulation is the ability for our foot to determine texture and if a surface is rough or smooth.   This information is used to help maintain dynamic balance (think walking on ice).

Enter the merkel disk mechanoceptors.   These superficial sensory nerves are used to determine what’s called 2 point discrimination which is translated to roughness or the texture of a surface.  Surface texture and insole texture is one of the most studied aspects of foot stimulation and posture or gait.  From decreased medial lateral sway in patients with Parkinson’s or MS to reduced prefrontal cortical activity in atheltes post-concusion the applications are promising!

One area that hasn’t been focused on for sensory stimulation and foot function is foot pain.  I am here to change the awareness around this concept and share the powerful application of sensory stimulation and foot pain.

As we mentioned earlier sensory stimulation of the foot leads to a contraction of the intrinsic muscles of the foot.   Intrinsic muscle contraction is not only a criticial step in the damping of impact forces but has also been shown to increase the medial arch and build co-activation contractions in the core.

 The Evolution of Textured Insoles

In October 2017 Naboso Technology launched the first-ever commercially available textured insole!   Naboso Technology essentially brought the science of touch and years of textured insole research to the market place giving new hope to people with foot pain.

Available in two strengths – Naboso 1.0 (1mm texture) and Naboso 1.5 (1.5mm texture) Naboso Insoles are designed to be worn without socks (or at the most very thin socks).  They fit into all footwear, are freely movable in all planes of motion and are only 3mm thick.


Are you barefoot strong?

Learn more about the power of texture! –




In June of this year, I posted on my beta testing experience with NABOSO surface science, small nerve, proprioception stimulating technology (1.).

Recently, I received the consumer version of NABOSO called NABOSO 1.0 shown in the photo below.

NABOSO 1.0 has a tighter grid than the NABOSO beta version I have been testing. The pyramid-like texture is also smaller.

The photo below shows NABOSO 1.o on the left and NABOSO beta on the right. The photo was taken before I trimmed NABOSO 1.0 to fit my shoes. 
Here is the information that came with my pair NABOSO 1.0 insoles.

I use both NABOSO 1.0 and NABOSO beta in my Lems Primal 2 and Xero Prio shoes. I immediately sensed better balance with the tighter grid of NABOSO 1.0. But I found it interesting after going back to NABOSO beta, after a period of time in NABOSO 1.o, that NABOSO beta felt more stimulating. Based on this subjective experience, I think there may be some advantage to switching back and forth between different texture grids. Hence my interest in the new NABOSO 1.5.

NABOSO 1.5 can be pre-ordered now for a reduced price of $30 US at

Disclosure: I do not receive any form of compensation from NABOSO or Dr. Emily Splichal. Nor do I hold any shares or have any financial interest in the company. The sole benefit I derive from NABOSO is to my feet and my balance and the efficiency of my movement.

I will be testing NABOSO insoles in my ski boots this winter in conjunction with toe spreaders starting with NABOSO 1.0. I will report on my experience in a future post.



There are some who can benefit from footbeds or orthotics and some who do actually need them. But these groups are the rare exception. And they are unlikely to be skiers.

Orthotics. The pros / cons of orthotics in today’s society!

In a recent YouTube video (1.), Podiatrist & Human Movement Specialist, Dr Emily Splichal, explores the concept of orthotics and their role in today’s society. Dr. Splichal doesn’t pull any punches when she says:

“…..I have been through the conventional podiatric school and been fed pretty much the bullshit from podiatry of how every single person needs to be in orthotics, that our foot is not able to support itself without orthotics……if we do not use orthotics our foot is going to completely collapse  and you are going to lose your arch…….”

“……Our foot is designed to support itself. If we actually needed orthotics, we would be born…..we would come out of the womb, with orthotics on our feet.”

Meantime, The Foot Collective  asks (2.) Are you promoting weak feet?

  • Anything you use for artificial support at the feet (footwear with arch support & orthotics) your brain takes into account and accommodates for it.
  • That means if you provide your foot support your brain shuts down the natural arch supporters to reduce un-necessary energy expenditure.
  • Stop using support to help with pronation and understand why your feet pronate in the first place – because they are weak.
  • Strong feet = strong foundation = strong body.

The Real Source of Support for the Arch

Ray McClanahan, D.P.M. offers a perspective on the issue of Arch Support in his post on the CorrectToes blog (3.)

Are Custom Footbeds and Orthotics better than stock insoles?

In his post of August 20, 2017, Custom Foot Orthotics; No Better Than Stock Insoles (4.), Rick Merriam, of Engaging Muscles, explores the issue of orthotics in depth.

Prior to being told that supportive insoles are the way to go, I think it’s safe to say that all of those people didn’t know what they didn’t know.

The erroneous assumption that every skier needs footbeds or orthotics was made at a time when little  was known about the function of the foot and lower limb, especially in late stance. I was one of those who didn’t know what I didn’t know when initially when down the ‘the foot needs to be supported in skiing’ road up until I realized what I didn’t know and took steps to acquire the requisite knowledge.

Footbeds; is anyone checking what they do?

In 2000, I formed a company called Synergy Sports Performance Consultants (5). Synergys’ product was high quality information. One of my partners, UK Podiatrist, Sophie Cox, was trained by Novel of Germany and was one of the few experts in the world at that time on the Pedar system. Synergy did not make and/or sell footbeds or orthotics. Instead, we checked the effect of footbeds on skier performance. We performed a quick footbed check for a minimal fee of $20 using the sophisticated Novel Pedar pressure analysis technology.

Synergy was one of the first companies in the world to use the Novel Pedar pressure analysis system synchronized to video to acquire data on skier performance and analyze the captured data.  The Synergy team with diverse expertise studied the effect of ski boots and custom insoles on skier performance and identified functional issues in the body that needed to be addressed. It was a common finding that custom footbeds were significantly compromising skier performance, especially the ability to create the necessary platform under the foot on which to stand and balance on the outside ski.

Synergy offered a comprehensive 5 Step Performance Program that started with a footbed check. A key component was item 2., the Biomechanical Check.

With increasing recognition of the negative effect of most footwear on the user and criticism of the unproven claims made for footbeds and orthotics coming hard and fast, credibility in skiing is rapidly going downhill. It is time for proponents of custom insoles for ski boots to support their claims with solid evidence, especially evidence supported with data acquired during actual ski maneuvers. The technology to do this has existed since at least the year 2000.