Foot Function posts



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.



I finally got a chance to test Dr. Emily Splichal’s surface science small nerve stimulating NABOSO insoles (1.)

Naboso (meaning “barefoot” in Czech) is the first-ever small nerve proprioceptive material commercially available in the health and fitness industry. The skin on the bottom of the foot contains thousands of (small nerve) proprioceptors, which are sensitive to different stimuli including texture, vibration, skin stretch, deep …

As I typically do, I used a one on one test protocol with a NABOSO 1.5 insole in my left ski boot and my normal insole in my right boot. The results were nothing short of amazing. There was almost no difference in the feeling under the sole of my left (NABOSO) foot compared to the sole of my right (normal insole) foot. The NABOSO Effect (as I call it) in my left ski boot was nothing like the effect I experience in similar tests in my Xero Prios or Lems Primal 2 minimal shoes. You’re probably wondering why I was amazed if NABOSO was no better than my normal insoles. The fact that I felt little difference told me that something was seriously wrong with my ski boots.

The first thing I suspected was that there was too much ramp angle (aka zeppa) in the boot boards in my Head 335 World Cup boots. I can’t recall what the factory ramp angle. But I lowered the heel a lot and the reduced ramp angle seemed to work well compared to the original ramp angle. As a reference, the boot board zeppa angle in the Head RD boot is 4.0 according to Head literature. The zeppa in recreational ski boots can be as much as 7 degrees. Since 1978, I have known that too much boot board ramp angle can cause significant balance and ski control issues for skiers. But I had no way of accurately determining what the optimal zeppa angle should be. What appears to work well for one skier does not necessarily work for another skier. Zeppa is a crap shoot, a good guess, a lottery. A few skiers win the zeppa lottery. But most skiers lose. I decided that I had to find an accurate way to determine the optimal personal zeppa angle for skiers and especially racers.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

I had a need to know situation. In my next post I will describe the Dynamic Ramp Angle assessment  device that I designed and fabricated and the incredible results that happen when zeppa angle is in the optimal range and the NABOSO Effect kicks in. Prepare to be shocked by the results. I was. I am still in shock. If the results hold up, optimal boot board ramp angle will be a big miss for the ski industry.









Step 1 of the synergy 5 Step performance Program described in my last post is a Footbed Check using the Novel Pedar insole pressure analysis system.

Step 3 of the program is the Ski Boot Assessment detailed below. As with the 5 Step performance Program, the Ski Boot Assessment protocol and report were intended to serve as a template to base future programs on. The assessment report was intended to provide clients with information on the effects of their ski boots on their performance and/or as a work order for them to take to a boot-fitter to have any necessary issues identified in the report addressed.  Synergy Sports Performance Consultants Ltd. did not sell products or perform boot modifications.


My next post will be called FOOTBEDS: THE GOOD, BAD AND THE UGLY.






Almost 40 years ago to the day, the head of the Whistler Pro Patrol, whose boots I had worked on, introduced me to Nancy Greene in the Roundhouse restaurant on top of Whistler Mountain. The rest is, as they say, history. Nancy asked me if I would work on her ski boots. She was so impressed by the results of my work that she approached the National Ski Team to make arrangements for me to work with some of Canada’s best racers.

Recently, while going through some archived files, I found copies of Nancy’s communication with the Program Director of the National Ski Team, Andrzej Kozbial. When Nancy approached me about working with our National Team, I stressed to her that I did not see any potential arrangement with the team as a job opportunity but instead as a vehicle where I could gain further experience and knowledge while providing a crucial service to the team and furthering the sport of skiing.

The graphic below is an excerpt copied from Nancy’s first letter of April 26, 1978 to the National Ski Team Program Director.

At the time that I wrote my US Patent 5,265,350 in early 1992, the intent and purpose of the detailed and lengthy specification was to provide a repository of the knowledge I had acquired to date to serve as a legacy for skiers and skiing to help advance the sport. While this information was in support of the inventions disclosed in the patent, the majority of the information was not subject to protection under the terms of the patent. The information was open access to the world. This was my intent.

In spring of 2000, I formed a company with 2 partners for the 2000-2001 ski season called Synergy Sports Performance Consultants Ltd. The objective of the venture was to gain further experience and knowledge and create a model that could be used as a template for future skier performance programs.

The following series of graphics are from Power Point presentations synergy made to ski schools.

The following graphic is the poster that described the synergy 5 Step Performance Program.

5 Step Performance Program description

The synergy Analysis Program looks at how your body interfaces with your ski equipment; primarily your footbeds and boots because this is the connection to your equipment and through it to the snow.

Synergy offers the program as a package made up of 5 components. They can either be taken as the complete package [recommended], several components or steps at once, or one component at time. Synergy recommends that you begin at step 1 and follow the sequence in numerical order. But the order can be arranged however you wish to suit your needs. The choice is yours.

1.Biomechanical Assessment

Good foot function is the key to control. That’s why the first thing we thing we assess is your biomechanical function. What that means is that we look at how well your foot and lower limb works. The examination is done by a podiatrist who looks at how your foot functions and how the lower limbs all connect.  Then we see how effectively your feet interface with the ground by putting you on insoles that read the pressures under your feet. We coach you through some balance movements while we watch how your foot functions while our computer records the results

2. Footbed Assessment

Footbeds can have a positive, neutral or negative effect on the function of your feet.

That’s why the next thing we check is how your foot interfaces with your footbed or orthotic.  We make sure that it allows your foot to function as well as it should without one.  And if your foot needs some assistance for optimal function we make sure the footbed is helping your foot do what it needs to do.

3. Ski Boot Assessment

Now that your foot is functioning optimally we make sure your ski boot lets it keep functioning. We conduct a thorough examination of your boot and provide you with a report that tells you how your boot is affecting your performance. Most important, we tell you what has to be done to fix the problem.

4. Kinesthetic Training

Skiing is about making the right moves. Kinesthetic Training is next. It teaches you how to tell when your body is making those moves. What is Kinesthetic Training? In simple terms it means to train your body to associate a feeling or sense with the right movements made at the right time. It is feeling and bringing about an awareness so you know when you are doing it right because we have taken you there and you have felt it. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but in skiing a feeling is worth a thousand pictures. We bring you to understand what you should feel in your foot at the start of the turn and then what it feels like to settle and balance onto the foot that drives the ski. By acquiring this sense you become more aware of how to allow your foot to transfer energy directly to the edge of the ski by using the body the way it was designed to be used. Remember, your body was not made to be a lever.

5. On-Hill Data Collection

This is where everything comes together. We move to the ski hill for this part of the package. We meet up top on Whistler or Blackcomb Mountain. We put our pressure insoles in your ski boots.  A pair of cables from the insoles goes up your ski pants where it connects to the data box [a kind of mini computer] we attached to your waistband.  Then we go out for a run on moderate, groomed terrain.  We record data in three takes in medium radius turns at a speed you are most comfortable with. While this is happening we videotape your skiing. Then we head into the lodge and synchronize the video with your foot pressure data. When this is done we watch your foot function in your boots on the computer screen on one side while we study your ski video on the other side of the screen. This way we confirm that your foot is functioning optimally as confirmed by analyzing your movement patterns and the timing of your skills.

My next post will be on the synergy Boot Assessment program.



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! –