As a SeniorsSkiing.com reader, you may remember how much plastic inserts increased the lateral stiffness of your boots. Back in those days, if you were really cool, your boots were further stiffened when wrapped with a six-foot long thong.

Photo: Dick Barrymore

Then the plastic boot shell arrived, along with innovative designs from Rosemount, Scott and Hanson.

Hanson
Rosemount
Scott

 

 

 

 

 

The plastic boot made long skis easier to control and turn but hasn’t evolved much over the past fifty years. Liners made from foam, air, cork and other materials, coupled with adjustments for cant and forward lean, made them more comfortable. Standardized soles improved binding function.

What has changed the sport are shaped skis. They are lighter, easier to turn, and just as, if not more stable, than the 200+ centimeter skis of yesteryear.

The molded plastic boot was designed to optimize the amount of leverage a skier could apply to a long ski. Initiating a turn required unweighting the ski, rolling the knees and pressing forward to pressure the ski tips. A job for a stiff boot.

To turn a shaped ski, the skier rolls his knees back and forth across the fall line. The technique requires less forward pressure because of the skis’ greater side cut.

 

Back to boot design.

Most, if not all the boots on the market today are based on designs so old they’d qualify for a subscribsciption to SeniorsSkiing.com. Each boot size requires a separate mold and most boots come in nine sizes making a set of molds a million dollar investment. With manufacturing runs in the thousands, the amount the maker can recoup per boot is limited. ROI is one holdback to new boot design.

The second is flex. In the mid-70s, when I was running the ski equipment test programs for SKI Magazine, we thought measuring boot flex patterns and creating an objective way to measure ski boot performance would be relatively simple. It wasn’t.

Boot flex is determined by the:

  1. Mold design;
  2. Material from which the boot is made;
  3. Air temperature;
  4. Tightness of buckles;
  5. Fit;
  6. Foot volume; and
  7. Co-efficient of friction between the skier’s socks and the liner!

In an attempt to fill the “metrics void,” boot makers created flex indexes and measurements. Each boot maker has its own formula, so comparing one index to another is an apples-oranges affair. The only real way to test/compare ski boots is to ski on them. Even then, “normalizing” the test is difficult because each skier:

  1. Has a different foot;
  2. Doesn’t weigh the same;
  3. Skis differently;
  4. Has different leg strengths;
  5. Buckles them differently; and
  6. On and on, ad infinitum.

So now you know why new boot designs are few and far between.

Next week: How Apex is Rethinking Ski Boot Design

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