Is your equipment helping or hindering your Fore/Aft balance?

Disinterested

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I have to say that I agree with the previously given opinion that there's no pure science of bootfitting. Really what you're looking for is someone who not only has experience but who you can build a relationship with and who'll listen to you. So step one is getting a recommendation but then you have to talk to the guy, listen to his spiel, decide whether you believe it, test it, and if it's still not working you have to do a little bit of an iterative process of improvement.

If the boot still doesn't work, it's time to ask for a refund and try another fitter. If it does, you should have a mental note of what your issues are and a roadmap of how to solve them in the future.

I wish I could tell you there's a better way but if you have weird feet that's how it goes.
 

Tricia

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I had a very well-regarded fitter in VT put me on this thing that was like 2 blocks of wood with round bottoms. The idea was to determine if I was balanced correctly in my boots. I believe that instrument accentuated my alignment problem WAY TOO MUCH. I ended up with boots that were canted a ton…and then created hip pain so bad I couldn’t walk.
At Masterfit they show several types of tools to check alignment.
That is one of them.
4CC142A1-EB37-4DF7-8A93-C80D52315B9C.JPG


There are many ways to check it
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Wendy

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PA til 2023. Counting down!

Tricia

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I was on one fo those at the Masterfit academy as well. The one the other bootfitter used were rockered beneath so it was like being on a really tippy balance board.
If you look closer, the blue ones are rockered.
4CC142A1-EB37-4DF7-8A93-C80D52315B9C.JPG
 

Jilly

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But...I still like the smiley faces on my knees....

Skiconnexions.com based out of Gatineau Qc, or Whistler BC.! Barry fixed my Technica's so I could ski in them. My current Atomics have been blown out to accommodate my square toes...
 

Mike King

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There is a lot of science in good boot fitting. There is a lot of background in biomechanics, ski performance, knowledge of ski technique, knowledge of ski equipment, study of anatomy, physiology, physics, and on and on. There are also a lot of charlatans, folk who do not have the background, folk who are in it for a buck, folk who do not study, folk who will pull the wool over the eyes of their clients to sell a product, service, or solution.

It is hard to find a good boot fitter, but there are resources to find the competent or excellent, including this site. Or well respected instructors.

In my opinion, one of the most significant factors leading to folk leaving the sport after trying it is equipment that isn't aligned to their body. I've watched many beginners not be able to get an edge or not be able to get off of one. It's sad to see folk who otherwise would love skiing struggle. I've sent some of those folk to a competent boot fitter and watched them progress into competent skiers who love the sport...

Mike
 

Tricia

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Skill
Science
Art
Understanding
All of these are in the recipe of a really good bootfitter.
If the fitter can't communicate well with the client, and the fitter can't get the client to communicate well in exchange, then the lack of understanding will cripple the art, skills and science.
 

Bruno Schull

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There is a great wealth of information on this thread--thanks! I will definitely be thinking about these ideas this season.

Question: when in this process does one typically make insoles and/or mold a boot liner and/or boot? As the first step? At he end? It would see that adjustments to the insoles, liner and boot would influence fore/aft and lateral alignment, and adjustments to the latter would influence insoles/liber/boot...???
 

Chris V.

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Thoughts on the discussion of the relative importance of alignment work, and the accessibility of such services:

A thought experiment. Imagine yourself in a boot-binding setup (1) pitched so far forward that you were constantly standing on your toes inside the boots, and had to choose between supporting your weight strongly with shins against the tongues or sitting way back, and (2) with cuff angles tilted so far inward that your shins pressing against the outer parts of the cuffs constantly disengaged the big toe edges of the skis. How well could you ski? Well, some skiers, with their individual anatomy and personal gear, struggle with issues not far removed from this. Or the exact opposite. So it's certainly possible that gross alignment issues can severely impair a skier's ability to use equipment effectively, and to develop good technique--and in my experience I'd say it's not uncommon.

Fine tuning of alignment past a certain point may not bring the same scale of benefit. However, from the experience of making adjustments to my own equipment, I would say that the enhancement through having patient work done by top-notch professionals can still be substantial. You don't really know until you try. How much time and money to put into the quest is an individual choice. There are a lucky few with textbook perfect anatomy for whom gear may be set up perfectly right out of the box.

Quality is expensive. Some people will buy $800 boots, while others will buy the $250 beginner boots. Some people will buy $800 skis, while others will buy the $250 beginner skis. It's hard to fault a casual skier for not wanting to clean out the kids' college fund to get the best ski gear. Likewise, getting comprehensive alignment work is expensive. The actual fee charged by the technician may not be a deal breaker, but getting good work is also going to be a commitment of time, and may require travel to a distant shop, depending on where the skier lives or recreates. Actually, the greatest impediment to getting good help with alignment, for most skiers, may be just initially getting the information on where to get that help, and understanding the potential value of the various levels of work available. The number of skiers who make the effort to seek out the most qualified professionals is rather small. As long as that market remains small, there will be a limit to the incentives for people to go through the training and acquire the experience to reach the top levels of the profession. The numbers of those top professionals will remain small, and they will be widely scattered. This will just reinforce the situation of getting access to top line services being difficult for many skiers.

There's a whole hierarchy of steps that a customer can choose to go through in buying and adjusting gear. Each higher step calls for a higher level of skill on the part of the shop staff. At the lowest level, many people buy gear at general sporting goods stores. Staff there may not even have knowledge of what amounts to a proper fit. The next step up is to go to a specialized ski shop, which will most likely be offering higher quality, more expensive boots and skis. Dedicated ski shops should at a minimum have qualified bootfitters, and be capable of making basic adjustments such as cuff angle adjustments and punchouts. However, many ski shops don't have the equipment or trained staff needed to assess the need for and to make more advanced changes such as canting or adjustment of ramp angle inside the boot. The next step up is to go to a true specialist, get detailed alignment measurements, and make further equipment adjustments accordingly. Even here, there's a range of scale of service to choose from. An alignment session might be done in a half hour, or it might take two hours. One might have a choice between using off the shelf footbeds, getting basic custom footbeds, or getting footbeds built based on a series of very detailed measurements. All of this is still "static" alignment. The top level of service will include on-the-hill evaluation and continuing fine tuning of the gear. There's an opportunity to spend a lot of money, if you want.

Alignment specialists can be a little high strung, so yes, I've seen a tendency to criticize others' work, which can be disconcerting for the customer. Nevertheless, my experience has been that on most questions the various professionals will end up recommending close to the same adjustments. An exception is that there's more than one school of thought as to the best way to build footbeds. Some prescribe support under the arch, while others believe in a softer footbed, that furnishes customized support for the parts of the soles of the feet that would naturally be in contact with the ground while leaving the foot free to flex and move in natural patterns. Individuals with anatomical peculiarities may have specialized needs when it comes to building them footbeds.

The advice I would give a neophyte would be not to rush into anything; to talk with a lot of people and get recommendations; to make an honest self-assessment of one's skill level and ambitions, and to share that information when shopping; to gain an understanding of what it means to have a performance fit and what the break-in process will be; to seek out well qualified professionals with good referrals; and to have a frank conversation before starting any work, and reach a mutual understanding of the potential budget.
 

onenerdykid

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There is a great wealth of information on this thread--thanks! I will definitely be thinking about these ideas this season.

Question: when in this process does one typically make insoles and/or mold a boot liner and/or boot? As the first step? At he end? It would see that adjustments to the insoles, liner and boot would influence fore/aft and lateral alignment, and adjustments to the latter would influence insoles/liber/boot...???
If you don't have a good footbed, you can try on boots and get a feel for which boot will be the best starting point but as Phil said no customization should happen without getting the footbed right FIRST. The human foot is always more flexible than the rigid plastic shell and this means the foot will move inside it if not properly supported and interfaced with a device we call a footbed.

Without a footbed, your foot/ankle won't be sitting correctly in the shell, so if you stretch/grind without a footbed, you will be modifying the boot in the wrong spot.

Without a footbed, for the same reason as above, you don't want to customize the liner because again your foot/ankle/leg will be incorrectly positioned in the liner.

Without a footbed, for again the same reasons, you don't want to perform any geometry changes to the boot because as you pronate, your leg twists, your knee follows and your hip-femur-knee-tibia-ankle alignment is all over the place rather than positioned correctly.

Doing any of those adjustments without a footbed just means you will be constantly chasing a moving target and your chances of successfully being happy with your boot are slim to none.
 

Bruno Schull

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@ Chris--that's a great summary--maybe it should be a sticky below Bud's original information.

@ Matt--Many thanks your contributions here and elsewhere. I always learn something.

I have problem feet: collapsed arches, big bunions, chronic pain, Morton's neuroma surgery on one foot, lots of rehab to manage the same pain on the other foot. In my life (49 yrs old) I've tried dozens of insoles, from very expensive insoles made by doctors, to things like Superfeet, to cheap stock insoles. It's really hard to know what will work, and spending loads of money, or going to the people with the best reputation, is absolutely no guarantee of comfort. In this respect my general criticism of the custom insole world is somewhat similar to the criticisms directed at the ski boot world above: it's as much art as science, there are diverse and widely divergent views, there is no one right answer, everybody has to find what works for them, and that might just be what intuitively feels most comfortable, despite what the experts say.

Regarding insoles in ski boots, I did post here last year about the differences between insoles for walking vs insoles for skiing. The general consensus seemed to be that 1) insoles for walking are designed for that purpose (obviously) while insoles for skiing are designed to support the foot and apply pressure to the inside edge, 2) Despite the specific nature of ski insoles, if one has custom insoles for walking it might be a good idea to try them in ski boots, and 3) insoles will definitely change the fit and feel of ski boots.

Having been to a few boot fitters, some wanted to mold with custom insoles inside (their insoles or mine) some refused to mold with insoles inside for fear of destroying them (again, their insoles or mine), and some wanted to mold without insolves, and then insert them afterward, to make up for some natural packing out of the liners. I can see merit in all approaches, but, if the molding and shell fit process is really so specific, it seems that the only way a proper liner and shell fit could be achieved is with insoles in place. Otherwise, everything would change when you inserted the insoles, as you said.

But, let's pretend you make a custom insole, mold a liner and shell with that insole, and then perform all the fore/aft and lateral adjustments described above. Couldn't an argument be made that it might make sense to mold the liner and shell again at the end? Sort of a "final mold." Afterall, if you insert heel lifts, change lean angles, add shims under bindings, and so on, you are going to change all the pressures and forces in the boots. I can see how this would easily create pressure points, empty spaces, etc. Maybe you'd have to do the whole process, over and over, in a series of iterative steps with changes of diminishing magnitude until you converged on boot fit nirvana....God, it's too much...let's go skiing!
 
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Tony S

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I have problem feet: collapsed arches, big bunions, chronic pain, Morton's neuroma surgery on one foot, lots of rehab to manage the same pain on the other foot.
I have all of these issues plus more, but probably at less severe levels. I've become resigned to the idea that doing foot-centric sports like running, hiking, and skiing (nordic and alpine) is just going to involve a certain amount of discomfort. No boot fitter is going to change that when my feet don't like something as simple as walking down the stairs in the morning. What I'm shooting for is performance so satisfying that I can forget the pain most of the time.
 

Tricia

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A dirty secret with this whole thing is that there is a significant learning process involved with becoming a "fittee" on whom a fitter can work with maximum effectiveness.
That's my point. Its up to the fitter to engage and help the "fittee" to know how to communicate.
This may sound silly, but it starts with the fitter asking for permission to touch them.

I know that I start with the basics to open them up and help them know what they should be feeling.
Shake my hand. Your ski boot should feel like a firm handshake, uniformly, all the way around your foot.
Do you feel any pressure points or hot spots? (that's when I use the handshake to mimic what a pressure point may feel like on the foot)
That's just the beginning.
 

onenerdykid

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But, let's pretend you make a custom insole, mold a liner and shell with that insole, and then perform all the fore/aft and lateral adjustments described above. Couldn't an argument be made that it might make sense to mold the liner and shell again at the end? Sort of a "final mold." Afterall, if you insert heel lifts, change lean angles, add shims under bindings, and so on, you are going to change all the pressures and forces in the boots. I can see how this would easily create pressure points, empty spaces, etc. Maybe you'd have to do the whole process, over and over, in a series of iterative steps with changes of diminishing magnitude until you converged on boot fit nirvana....God, it's too much...let's go skiing!
Some thoughts as to how/why people sometimes struggle to solve their boot-fit-related dilemmas:
  • Boot-fitting is not an exact, deductive science that involves universal rules and universal ways to apply said rules to all specific cases. Boot-fitting is about applying general rules to specific cases. This means boot-fitters are sometimes dealing with exceptions to the main rule, often working in a bit of a grey area. This then means we are dealing with success/failure rates, not absolute certainties.
  • Humans are imperfect. There is always going to be some amount of possible human error present when applying those rules in practice. Stretching too much/too little. Grinding too much/too little. Or in slightly the wrong spot. Simply making a mistake. Something breaks. All of these can & do happen.
A good boot-fitter is aware of all of these but he/she will work systematically the same way, every time, being aware that exceptions can sometimes be made, and doing what it takes to keep the success rate as high as possible.

To your question- the general order of operations is:
  1. Ensure the foot is properly supported. If our foundation is weak/wrong, then everything we build on top of it will be too.
  2. Perform the shell work (stretching, grinding, heat molding, etc.). Exception: set cuff alignment & forward lean before doing Memory Fit- it just makes the Memory Fit process more effective.
  3. Perform geometry adjustments once the foot is allowed to sit correctly in the shell (cuff alignment, forward lean, sole canting).
  4. Make additional adjustments to fit & geometry after skiing the boot a few times.
I hear what you're saying about a geometry change causing a new pressure point to occur, and while that is hypothetically possible we just don't see geometry changes drastically change the actual fit of the boot (especially for the vast majority of us here on SkiTalk). When you stabilize the foot and make the boot fit the foot, a geometry change after that is going to be 9 times out of 10 beneficial for the skier. I would bet on those odds every time and walk away with far more money than I lost.
 

Philpug

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They reasons mentioned by @onenerdykid are why we will never see a (successful) 3D printed shell, soft tissue, bone structure, muscle mass and mobility of the foot cannot be measured by a scanning device. IMHO, the industry is not helping itself with reviews like the "5 Best Fitting boots..." or the "5 Best boots...." and ads like "Most comfortable..."No, no and hell no. Don't even get me started (again) on how boots are measured for flex, stance and volume.

Go into any busy boot shop and just listen to the people walking up to a bootwall and looking only to ask "What's the most comfortable boot?". I applaud shops that have the courage not to have boots on display, it takes much of the confusion out of the fit process because it avoids 90% of the "Well, what about that one?
 
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