Part 1: History and On-Snow Experience

Could a reincarnated 40-year-old boot concept, one that never reached the market, be the answer for the recreational skier today? We are talking about the Kastinger-Porsche design, the boot that started the “knee-high” boot explosion in the very early 1980s. There is a backstory to the design, and it is important to clarify that while the Lever design of the Kastinger-Porsche was a knee-high boot, not all knee-high boots were Lever designs. Most were just traditional boots with a cuff extension and did not have the unique performance enhancement of lever design boots, conceived by Dan Post.

The Backstory
A thousand pairs of the Kastinger-Porsche boots were distributed to celebrities and opinion leaders for a 1980 demonstration season. The demo was remarkably positive for on-snow performance, and the boot was scheduled to be produced and released the next year. Sadly, Kastinger, a century-old Austrian company, went out of business and the design was never brought to market. Some say the Kastinger-Porsche design was doomed from the start – not because of its performance, but because an awkward shock absorber added by Porsche to the front of the boot would kill sales.

1ad8c7f3-2e2d-42a7-9ce3-26ee3c001bd2.jpg We had a chance to talk to the designer, Dan Post, and his daughter and co-author here, Ellen, about the boot. Ellen is a former PSIA National Demo Team member, US Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee, and Master Bootfitter. The story goes back before 1980, Ellen explained. "Dad built a pair of lever boots in our home workshop. The shoe and lever were made entirely of fiberglass and the liner was an insulating foam shaped with heat. Mom sewed the calf straps and instep straps."

1578401301419.png"I remember our family road trip and a boot testing day with Billy Kidd in Steamboat Springs. It was thrilling because Billy skied with us the whole day. He’s an Olympic legend, the first American to medal [silver] in Olympic alpine skiing. Teammate Jimmy Heuga won bronze in the same event. I cherish the photo of Billy Kidd with me, Ellen, on the left, and my twin sister Marion Post Caldwell, on the right. Marion is also a U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame inductee, recognized for her World Championship titles in freestyle skiing competition and for being an international ambassador for the sport in the 1970s.

Yes, Billy Kidd skied on Dad’s boots the whole day. The boots were size 9, but Billy wore a much smaller size. Lots of foam padding filled the extra space, but the foam was soft and his forefoot could move from side-to-side. The instep strap held his heel in place. The verdict: fantastic edging and great support, but Dad learned the forefoot needed to be better secured.

On-Snow Evaluation

e31d72f1-9859-48d6-aad0-605f31369f9c.jpg Phil Pugliese: This past spring I had the chance to ski in a modified K-P boot at Mammoth and I was pleasantly surprised how well Post's concept skied in the heavy spring snow conditions. Like Billy Kidd’s early experience, I too was skiing in a boot larger than I normally would, but this caught my attention: I had very good control of my skis in a boot that was two sizes too big. With the lever boot concept, the containment and support provided by the instep strap, and by the lever and calf strap, allowed the foot to rest stably in the clog (boot lower) with the comfort of a good hiking boot, and not the vice-like fit of even the best fitting traditional overlap ski boots.

I skied the vintage test boot gingerly because of 40-year-old plastics. Even so, I could feel the concept working. I coined the expression "power steering" for the boot because control, or performance of the ski, was achieved with less effort. I felt the exceptional effects of leverage; I coined the name "lever concept" boots.

I experienced the effects of elastic articulation, too. I actually felt less fatigue. Post's conservation of energy argument felt real. Going directly back to my four-buckle boots, the Salomon S/Max 130, I immediately questioned a boot so stiff, and surprisingly enough, I missed the leverage and rebound.

Part 2: LCD – Lever Concept Design

There is no doubt that the ski industry needs growth, and boot manufacturers realize that change is needed. A recent SIA (Snowsports Industries America) report shows that 50% of new skiers drop out after their first day of skiing. They also report that too many experienced older skiers leave the sport prematurely because putting on and taking off their ultra-stiff ski boots is too difficult, given their reduced flexibility and strength. We are seeing much more versatile materials in boot designs, better soles for walking, and even the resurgence of rear-entry boots. These boot changes are a slow evolution, however, and not the revolutionary advance that Dan Post’s “Lever Concept Design” provides. Dan’s Lever Concept Design is truly about thinking “outside the box” for a better skiing experience and to help solve the SIA issues.

DAN composite 3 boots 2 pants 2 diagram REVSOLE.jpeg
The Lever Concept ski boot mates lever boot geometry with the contoured spring of the current PCT patent application: Ski Boot with a Contoured Spring for Elastic Articulation. Check the figures below. It is a rear-entry design with a hinged rear closure. The tall upper portion is called the lever; it extends upward to below the knee, it pivots at a hinged joint near the ankle, and its motion ranges from the initial neutral position to the maximum forward lean. A calf strap extends from the top of the lever to embrace the leg. Two essential elements are hidden inside the shell – the contoured spring to control the flex and the instep strap to secure the heel in the heel pocket of the boot, without constricting or immobilizing the skier’s ankle.

The contoured spring lies inside the ridge along the front of the tall boot. It is loaded exclusively at its ends, with no significant contact or friction along its entire length. The ideal material is a carbon fiber composite, chosen for its very high strength and stiffness and low weight. The flex number for the boot can be varied over an extensive range by varying the thickness and width of the contoured spring. Therefore, the flex can be optimized for every skier. Also note that the flex is consistent, independent of temperature.

Actually, the figures illustrate the concepts for a collection of ski boots. They show one implementation, though the patent covers several design options and my Dad’s notebook shows several more. Design initiatives abound for the inner boot to secure the heel and forefoot, enabling accurate steering of the ski. Abundant options are available for company executives, engineers, and professional designers to suit their individual objectives and preferences. Unique opportunities are here for industrial designers to create sleek styles and inviting cosmetics.

We said special features – these top the list:

Leverage. First consider the design of current boots with traditional cuffs and tongues. When the skier presses forward to flex the boot, the effective force is at the center of pressure on the tongue, well below the top of the cuff. With the Lever Concept boot, however, a soft pad – called a yoke pad – engages the leg at the top of the lever. Below the yoke pad, the leg is free of contact with the lever, so the applied force is always concentrated near the top. Compare the effective height of the two forces. With this height advantage, the increased leverage is substantial. The force needed to elicit a forward, lateral, or rearward effect is much reduced compared to the traditional boot. The increased leverage means enhanced control with less force for all skiers: beginners, advanced, and experts. The advantages of leverage in a ski boot have been compared to the benefits of Power Steering in a car. Yes, in the old days turning the steering wheel was hard work, especially to steer a heavy car when maneuvering into a parking space! In both cases, for the driver and the skier, the exertion to maneuver is reduced – substantially reduced – and with that, the ease and accuracy of maneuvers are enhanced.

Energy: The geometry of the lever boot assures that the contoured spring is compressed when the boot is flexed. The compressed spring absorbs energy, potential energy. The energy expended by the skier to flex the boot resides in the contoured spring as potential energy. Then, as the skier (and the ski boots) returns to the neutral position after flex, the potential energy is released by the contoured spring. At this stage, the lever pushes back on the leg and the energy is returned to the skier. This stage is called “rebound” of ski boots. Rebound is weak for conventional boots, where the flex energy is absorbed mostly by friction. It is strong for Lever Concept boots, where the flex energy is returned to the skier; it prevails in every cycle of flex and rebound. Relative to skiing in conventional boots, the benefit for the skier is reduced muscular exertion and reduced fatigue. A neat analogy is a bow and arrow. You expend energy when you pull back on the string, and when you release the string the same energy is imparted to the arrow. Zoom! With Lever Concept Boots, the energy is returned to the skier.

Rear Support: The calf strap is extraordinary, too! Acting high on the leg, the calf strap is remarkably supportive, and being free of a hard containment structure, it is remarkably comfortable. The strap should be snugged for comfort but not tight. This support is an obvious benefit for beginners and novices, but valuable for advanced skiers, too. If a skier in moguls or choppy terrain gets thrown back, recovery is greatly enhanced, and with far less muscular strain. Similarly, successful landing is greatly enhanced for aerials. It seems counterintuitive, but support from this simple calf strap is a huge benefit for all recreational skiers, and for freestylers, too.

Comfort: Above all, the comfort is unique! Since the contoured spring is the only element that controls flex, the traditional cuff of a ski boot would have no role in regulating flex. Instead, an open lever is provided and the pressure and discomfort on the lower part of the leg is completely eliminated. Forward pressure at the top of the lever is mild because the force is relatively small and it is applied at the broadest portion of the lower leg. Similarly, the calf strap cradles a large area and its flexibility (lack of stiffness) augments its comfort. As a rear entry boot, the easy access allows more effective design of the inner boot to maximize warmth, comfort, and enhanced control. It is a system for comfort and performance.

Part 3: Our View as Bootfitters and the Solutions Provided by the Lever Concept Boot

d55f5fa7-a141-45cb-9231-73ff27f88b92.jpg c56d9490-f7c7-4844-9910-33912d753036.jpg fe8dabed-b1c1-42ee-a09d-27ff23b872f4.jpg
Original Kastinger-Porsche Design with Nordica Polaris

Masterfit claims February as National Bootfitters Month and bootfitters will ask whether the Lever Concept boot provides solutions to common problems. Since Phil and Ellen are both Master Bootfitters with lots of experience modifying boots in elite ski shops, let's talk about the problems and make some comparisons with conventional ski boots.

The skier benefits from a consistent neutral position. For the Lever Concept boot, the neutral stance is enforced by the position of the lever and the contour spring preload. With conventional boots, the neutral stance can vary depending upon the leg anatomy of the skier and how tightly the boot is buckled. A slender leg in a conventional cuff may move around and not maintain an ideal position. A thick calf in a conventional cuff may cause the skier to be over-flexed in a neutral stance.

For conventional boots, the flex (flex number) varies with temperature and with adjustment of buckles, whereas flex is consistent for the Lever Concept boot.

Many skiers loosen their buckles to allow for better circulation and lose fit tension as a result. This isn’t necessary with the Lever Concept boot and feet stay warmer.

59296ee5-a7ef-43ec-a88e-e0680028677e.jpg Power straps are added to the cuffs of conventional boots to raise the center of pressure, i.e., to increase the leverage. Lever Concept boots always provide maximum leverage plus comfort.

Conventional boots can depress the arch of the foot when buckled tightly to keep the foot from sliding forward in the boot. This causes pressure, pain, and restricts circulation. The rear-entry Lever Concept boot does not depress the arch. Instead, the instep strap holds the heel back, eliminating the problem.

The clog and cuff of conventional boots can cause discomfort and pressure points. These are not encountered with Lever Concept boots.

Entry and exit can be difficult, even painful, with conventional boots. The ease of entry/exit for rear entry Lever Concept boots is an enormous benefit.

The characteristics above emphasize comfort. Yet the enhanced leverage and rebound achieved by the Lever Concept boots add to the compelling features that set these boots apart.

At equipment rental shops, fitting conventional boots is often difficult and time consuming and may still result in uncomfortable, ill-fitting boots. Many potential future skiers turn away from the sport after their first day on the slopes. The Lever Concept boot is relatively easy and quick to adjust for each skier; its comfort and support could greatly improve skier retention.

The design of Lever Concept boots is nicely compatible with modular assembly for skiers of diverse anatomy and experience. Consequently, direct on-line sales are practical, as well as modular assembly at the ski shop. New modes of economical distribution are available.

The Lever Concept Ski Boot is a timely development to benefit the skier and the ski industry. We want to see it on the mountain. We value your thoughts and respectfully invite you to offer your views and ideas below this article.

Phil Pugliese's disclaimer: In complete transparency, I was asked to consult on this project because of my history of stating that the industry needs a boot that addresses the solution this boot provides. The consultation includes testing, evaluation, introductions, and possibly marketing direction. Neither nor I, or any other personal affiliations have any financial interest, ownership, or investment in this project. I feel it is important for the industry, and that is payment enough.
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