A Very Deep Dive on Ski Boots, Part 3: Racers & Race Boots (Ep.60)



TOPICS & TIMES:

  • Marcel Hirscher & Bode Miller’s insane attunement (4:11)
  • How many boots does Marcel bring to a race? (18:46)
  • WC ski racers vs. WC DH bike racers (22:40)
  • Mikaela Shriffin’s boot preferences (33:20)
  • Which racers wear the stiffest boots? (36:40)
  • Forward Lean / measuring forward lean (44:27)
  • ‘Static’ power straps vs ‘elastic’ Booster Straps (59:24)
  • Why it’s so hard to name ski boots (1:12:03)

How do elite ski racers like Marcel Hirsher, Mikaela Shiffrin, Bode Miller, and Daron Rahlves approach their gear, and their ski boots in particular? Today, Matt Manser and I discuss how some of the all-time greats “feel” their gear, and how they are almost superhumanly attuned to the slightest changes of a binding or ski boot.

We also discuss Forward Lean (how to measure it, whether lots or less of it is better, etc.); ‘static’ power straps vs. ‘elastic’ Booster Straps; who is pickier about their equipment — WC skiers or WC DH mountain bikers?; and more.

Couple of G.O.A.T.s : Mikaela Shiffrin & Marcel Hirscher

20 comments on “A Very Deep Dive on Ski Boots, Part 3: Racers & Race Boots (Ep.60)”

  1. Awesome ongoing series! What appears to be missing is the discussion about the importance of boot liners I.e.: matching liners to boots, aftermarket liners (Intuition, ZipFit, injected etc). Would be interesting to hear Matt‘s thoughts…

  2. I also have chicken legs and suffer from shin bang. Matt mentions spoilers that go in the back of the liner….is there a link I can look up for further info?

    • Hi Mark,

      A few things can cause shinbang, including excess volume in the cuff of your boot. First, I would make sure you have a proper footbed that stabilizes your foot, ankle, and leg in the boot. Second, you can take up excess volume by adding a spoiler (basically a tapered wedge) to the back of your liner. Most spoilers are velcro-based and attach to the back as such, but many liners are not built to accept these spoilers. In these instances, it is best to have a spoiler shaped from some type of foam (usually a dense EVA) and glued in place. In either scenario, it’s best to visit your preferred boot-fitter and have him/her find the right solution for you (and there are lots, which is good).

      Cheers
      Matt

      • Matt, thanks. I need to buy new boots soon….if it’s not too much of a bother maybe you can recommend 2-3 models I should consider. I am 55 74kg 1.86m, skiing since a kid…I can ski the whole mountain (on/off piste) La Grave/Chamonix/St Anton/Ischgl. I have narrow feet/very high arches+overpronate (orthotics)/very high calf muscle insertion=chicken legs. At my age comfort/warmth are important. Can you also recommend a good bootfitter in those places? Cheers.

  3. In episode four I would like to hear more about boot sole angles and internal boot board angles, how they are selected by the manufacturer, how they affect performance, and how these are altered to suit athletes’ needs. Very interesting stuff thus far!

      • Can we expand this topic to also include taking into consideration the multitude of angles that we deal with in ski boots. Not just the forward lean but starting from the ground up: the binding angle, boot sole angle, delta angle, and forward lean and how they work in conjunction with one another to find that optimal feel and performance for the athlete.
        There was mention of how the athlete’s like to feel over the ball of the foot while they ski, but the recent trend in ski instruction is to feel even pressure between the ball of the foot and heel. Would this differ from how World cup skiers view their stance? How can bootfitters begin to find these optimal setups for athletes coming to them, from the boot bench?

  4. @Mark: It doesn’t matter how good the bootfitter is, they still won’t be able to tell you which specific combination of liner/spoiler/shell skis the best for you. As Matt says, most commercial spoilers have the “hook” side of the velcro attached, and it’s simple to contact cement a strip of the “fuzz” side to the back of your liner if it’s not so equipped. Then you can go out and ski with two or three different thicknesses of spoilers and swap back and forth to see which works best.

  5. Matt, I understand that the boots for top WC athletes come out of a special shop in Altenmarkt and are completely custom – no holes for cuff rivets or buckles are molded in, the technicians work off scans of each athlete’s foot, etc. How many people get this sort of treatment?

    How about top level freeride and freestyle athletes? Do they all pretty much ski a stock boot with personal modifications? Do you have bootfitters available for these people or do they pretty much deal with it themselves?

    Are there any American companies active in producing PU-based TPU compounds for ski boots, or is it pretty much BASF and Covestro?

    • Hi Greg- Our HQ in Altenmarkt is home to our race department (for World Cup athletes) and what we call the APC – The Atomic Pro Center, where competitive athletes (not solely WC racers) can purchase racing gear & services. Boots for the world cup athletes are made as you describe- it’s the same boot but not made with standard hinge point mounting hole. Sometimes the athletes want the cuff rotated from the normal mounting area so the hole is not put in during injection- it will be drilled out by hand. Sometimes a wooden last of the athletes’ feet are made, but I don’t think that is the norm (especially for the Austrian/local athletes). The Atomic Pro Center deals with FIS equipment that is commercially available but the same technicians perform the work you need. They do not get access to special injections, or future projects/prototypes that the world cup athletes get but our in-house service technicians/wizards get them dialed. It’s basically getting the “normal” world cup equipment but fit and serviced by our technicians.

      Freeski athletes work with commercially available products (except when testing protos) and 90% of the time we send gear to them and they go to the local boot-fitter they normally work with (which makes a lot of sense to keep working with the boot-fitter who knows you and your past fitting history). The freeski athletes don’t require the same level of boot nerdery that the racers do- they just want to be comfortable and warm and their local boot-fitting guru can normally take care of that. But if and when they come to HQ, we are totally happy to perform all of the fitting and services they need.

      We only work with European based companies mainly for logistic simplicity. You can add Bayer & EMS Grivory to the list too.

  6. @onenerdykid Thank you for the knowledge you share with us! Question: is it common ski racers use smaller size boots (shorter in length) Would you recommend it for normal users?, to get better feel but not compromising too much comfort-is it possible?

    • Hi Pez, Racers are 99% of the time in downsized boots that are too tight to wear without modification. They want the absolute most responsive fit they can get so they start too small on purpose and make it bigger (longer & wider) where needed. Bear in mind that racers are usually not skiing all day in these boots- they race and the boots come off, so their expectations of comfort are usually quite different than someone looking for a high-performance fit that can be worn all day. For example, Marcel Hirscher has a size 27.5cm foot (FYI- mondopoint = cm length) but wears a size 25.5 boot that is stretched & internally ground to about a size 26.5 and uses a size 26.5 liner. While this can be deemed “comfortable” I wouldn’t necessarily consider it the warmest boot. And this is usually the main trade-off you will be faced with when downsizing. These boots are typically colder than a “normally snug” boot fit. If you are the kind of person who tends to get cold toes, this is probably not the way to fit your boots.

  7. Hi Matt,

    A question about fit down the shin: Are boots designed with the goal of providing even pressure all the way from the top of the cuff down to the top of the ankle, or is it pretty normal for there to be more pressure at the top of the cuff?

    • Hi David, Generally/ideally the pressure should be as evenly distributed as possible. No pressure points, no gaps. Depending on your physiology and biomechanics, this may not be exactly possible but it just kind of depends on your specific set up. I would recommend working with your boot-fitter to alleviate any discomfort first and then move on to taking up excess space.

  8. Great Blister podcast series as usual guys and a big thanks to Matt explaining plastics technologies at work in modern ski boot design.

    My question is:
    With the widespread use of heat moldable shell technologies and plastics, why haven’t ski boot manufacturers explored a completely heat moldable shell (clog & cuff) technology whereby the entire shell (except the sole) is heat molded under positive outside pressure around the foot and while the skier wears a seamless liner having a uniform thickness of high density cushioning material in all areas of the foot? The seamless liner would provide the ‘cushion’ between the foot and the shell. I’m thinking this could eliminate much boot fitting work as the boot itself (clog & cuff) could mirror the skiers foot providing a secure, fully customized fit and possibly reduce weight.

    Modern ski boot shells do not really mirror the shape of a persons foot, requiring the liner (or nothing at all) to fill the voids between the shape of the foot and the inside of the shell. This also results and/or create pressure points that sub-optimize the fit of almost every ski boot. Thanks

    • Hi Hgar, Atomic Shells & cuffs are completely heat moldable & shapeable already, compression fitting is patent protected by another brand (but we know this causes pressure points and lots of refits are common), and seamless liners aren’t really possible. One of the things we will tackle next is liner construction, which I think will be a very insightful podcast. Stay tuned!

      • Thanks for your comments. It seems to me that the optimal ski boot fit system would involve a fully molded shell (cuff & clog), molded with positive pressure exerted on the shell. The liner wouldn’t have to be seamless (I mentioned this as an optimal design – see Salomon seamless liners), as much as it would need to have a uniform thickness so it can provide a proper cushion of the foot within all parts of the shell. I envision the technology and design would produce a ski boot that actually looked more like a human foot rather than a block of plastic.

  9. Hi Matt and Jonathan thanks for another excellent episode, you guys rock!
    I like how the conversation gets deep because of the race aspect. In that arena the small stuff really matters and for your athlete to win a boot makers needs to know what they are doing. Some of Jonathan’s questions comparing the race stuff to regular skiing got me thinking: How much of that knowledge is being transferred to my everyday general use all mountain ski boot?
    (If he does) What kit does someone like Marcel use on a whole day of resort skiing? When he’s just hangin out with his Austrian buddies.

    Another like is the part explaining the power straps, especially the warning to not overtighten. This again got me thinking: why isn’t there any manual on the site? At least for a regular pair of Hawx I couldnt find anything explaining that specific boot. Couldnt find anything on my Salomons as well which is a pitty.

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