Do you have the ideal shape foot and leg for ski boots? Let’s find out.
Not long after I starting working on ski boots, I began to notice that the best skiers, those who made high performance skiing look easy, seemed to be able to ski in boots right out of the box that usually required major modifications for most skiers just to get their feet into. This small group of elite skiers consistently had very specific foot characteristics, especially the shape of their feet and legs. Although there were some exceptions, the feet of elite male skiers tended to be US size 8 or 9. Podborksi’s foot was a US men’s size 6. The feet of elite female skiers tended to be the equivalent of US men’s size 5 or 6 with some feet as small as size 4. As I worked on the boots of more National Ski Team racers I soon developed a reputation for being able to describe how a racer skied by studying their feet. On one occasion I was with a group of racers in the waiting area of a steak house. Unseen by me, Dave Murray came into the room. He snuck up on me while I was on my knees on the floor studying a racer’s foot. Dave put his bare foot in my face so to speak. Without looking up and without missing a beat I said, “What are you doing here Dave?”
The image below shows the characteristics I have identified as common to racers like Ligety, Shiffrin, Vonn and other World Cup racers. The characteristics of their feet and legs enables them to create the mechanics and biomechanics within the ski boot necessary for them to engage the external forces to drive their outside ski into a turn. Depending on a number of factors, including luck, racer’s with these foot characteristics can often ski in a boot right out of the box with minimal or no modifications. Modifications take their skiing to another whole level. I believe that young racers such as Shiffrin make the connection with the right feel early in their career. Once a racer, or any sensitive skier, connects with the right feel, especially at an early age, they know as soon as they take a run in a new ski boot whether it will work for them. This group of skiers has the ‘magic touch’.
Here’s what the right shape of leg looks like in the cuff of a ski boot. I align the cuff so the leg is centred in the cuff when the skier is standing on two feet in the boot shells with the feet hip width under the pelvis. Note the amount of space on either side of the shin. This is critical for reasons I will explain in a future post.
In my next post I will show what problematic foot and leg shapes look like and the challenges presented in creating a functional environment in a ski boot.