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Customization gets fit right

Chris Fellows
North American Ski Training Center

Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series by North American Ski Training Center director Chris Fellows on ski boot customization.

In my years of teaching, I’ve encountered very few students who could buy ski boots off the shelf and get them to work without customization. There’s the possibility that you’re one of the lucky few, someone who requires only minimal customizing. For the rest of us, here are some ways you can identify problem areas with your fit and learn how to customize it for maximum performance. The following diagnostic techniques will help you identify areas that may need attention to produce optimum performance this season.

Footbeds are a good place to start because they’re the first link in the platform that supports your feet. Achieving a neutral or even foot position can be a challenge if you have flat feet, a high arch or excessive pronation (rolled to the inside of the foot) or supination (rolled to the outside of the foot). The footbed acts as a foundation that supports and balances the rest of the anatomy, which is why my minimum equipment recommendations include a custom footbed.

With an ineffective footbed, the most common performance cues you will see and feel include the following:

1. A lack of response from the equipment as your students struggle to articulate their feet and legs.

2. Feet that will unsuccessfully search for a neutral position, resulting in tightening of the lower leg muscles and foot muscles. Skiers will report cramping in their feet or feeling as if a golf ball is lodged under the arch of the foot.

3. Feet that will sit in a different spot every time the boot is put on, resulting in inconsistent and unreliable movements whenever students try to use their feet.

For the footbed to function properly as a supporting device, it has to match the shape of the foot. If the foot hangs over the footbed or is improperly aligned, then the footbed should be repaired or replaced. The footbed should fit snugly in the liner; it may need to be trimmed to fit the inner boot. Every year the footbed should be inspected to determine if the original work is still intact and aligned.

Balancing movements will improve dramatically if a quality footbed is in place. The skier’s feet will feel comfortable and relaxed, regardless of whether he or she is standing in a lift line or making a lengthy ski descent. Foot and lower leg muscles will relax, leading to greater control.

This easy adjustment will align the shaft of the boot with the circumference of the lower leg. Many people believe it to be a cant adjustment (a lateral adjustment to the boot exterior), but that just isn’t true. The upper cuff should be aligned in the ski shop, but if you know what to do, you can perform this adjustment in your living room. First, remove the boot liner, then loosen the rivets located on the sides of the boot at ankle height. Next, lay your footbeds on the boot board inside the plastic shell.

Now, step into the boot and have a friend check to see that the plastic of the upper cuff is the same distance from your leg all the way around your leg. This process takes only 10 minutes and will set you up for a solid foot-boot connection. It’s a good exercise to become accustomed to because the rivets sometimes loosen and require periodic adjustments during the season.

View boot-fitting videos online at skinastc.com or purchase Chris Fellows’ “Tactics for All Mountain Skiing” book and DVDs by calling 582-4772.

Chris Fellows and his wife Jenny are the directors of Truckee’s North American Ski Training Center (NASTC) and Chris is a member of the PSIA National Demonstration Team. Chris will be writing a weekly column all winter. He can be reached at ski@skiNASTC.com or 582-4772.


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