Ski Boots " Get it right by customization |

Ski Boots " Get it right by customization

Chris Fellows
Fiddler on the Boot
Selko photoCertified pedorthist Jim Schaffner evaluates a skier's alignment at the Start Haus in Truckee.

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

To achieve the benefits from a properly fitted boot we must review and evaluate all planes of motion and come up with a fix that will allow us to make athletic movements on our skis.

The ability to flex the ankle freely and efficiently while skiing depends on proper fore/aft cuff angle alignment. If you’re set up correctly, the ankle will play an important role in balance and overall performance. If you’re misaligned in the fore/aft plane, efficient skiing and stance comfort may be compromised.

The skier will hang in the front of the boots, appearing to be “camped” in the front of the boot.

The skier will put excessive pressure on the tips due to overflexing of the ankle.

The skier is easily knocked off balance due to lack of suspension that starts in the ankle.

An inability to balance over the skeleton of the body causes the skier’s legs to tire easily and leads to muscle burn.

Due to improper alignment, the skier will experience knee pain usually caused by excessive strain against the patella.

Improper ankle alignment and poor stance will cause the skier to break at the waist.

Straightening the cuff can be a simple way to change the ankle geometry for maximum performance inside the boot. If the cause of overflexion is diagnosed correctly, the straighter cuff can have amazing effects on all the joints. Raising the heel ” whether accomplished internally or externally ” can also straighten out the ankle in the boot.

The skier will appear to have no ankle flex.

The skier will put excessive pressure on the ski tails.

The skier will be unable to engage the ski shovel at the start of the turn.

The skier will report feeling as if the skis are always getting ahead of him or her.

The skier’s lower legs will resemble a stovepipe ” straight and rigid in every terrain situation.

The best way to feel the effects of a change in ramp angle is to experiment with shims under the heel or toe of the boot. Try this in controlled situations only to determine the positives and negatives of different ramp angles.

Your skeletal frame will carry more of your weight, and your legs and back will begin to feel more relaxed. Your legs and feet will gain the ability to make quicker edge-to-edge movements. As a result of this larger platform, you’ll experience better balance and have access to a wider range of recovery movements.

You can increase or decrease the amount of flex that you get from the cuff depending on your ability, body type, type of terrain you like to ski, and how aggressively you like to ski. To stiffen the boot, add rivets in the back of the cuff. To soften the boot flex, cut slots into the lower boot’s side wings and heel pockets. Some manufacturers have cut lines already scribed in the boots for precise cutting.

The boot lower will distort when forward pressure is applied to the cuff.

You will feel the cuff collapse and a bottoming out sensation will result.

The boot will feel sloppy and nonresponsive.

Your ankle will feel unsupported and tire easily.

A plastic shin plate attached to the front of the cuff can change the leverage potential and energy transfer by extending and strengthening the lever arm. By adding rivets in the proper places above the heel cup, you’ll notice a stiffer and stronger lever.

To soften the shin plate, remove the stiffening rivets, add a power strap and cut the flex slots in the lower boot. Cut a “V” shape in the back of the lower boot, or cut medial and lateral flex slots slightly lower than those already there.

After the fix, you’ll be able to stand comfortably centered over your feet, permitting easy movement patterns both fore/aft and side-to-side.

Chris and his wife Jenny are the directors of Truckee’s North American 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 or 582-4772.

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