The Optimal Slalom Boot

adamhcaldwelladamhcaldwell Posts: 379 Open or 55K Rated Skier
Do we have the optimal bindings for slalom?

If a hard/stiff shell boot is optimal for control over a very small edge like a roller-blade or hockey skate without breaking an ankle - How does that make it optimal for a slalom ski are rubber bindings really better from a performance aspect?

A narrow edge is very unstable laterally, and therefore it makes sense to have a hard boot to stabilize the foot and ankle to improve control and reduce the risk of a sprained/broken ankle. However, a skateboard for example is far more stable, and using something like a hardshell would be terrible as it would kill your ability to balance on the board.

Is it safe to make the following generalization in order to preserve our ability to 'balance' on a given object? - As the object we are riding becomes narrower or less stable, the more lateral stiffness we need to have. Conversely, the wider the object the less lateral stiffness we would want to have.

For example, has anyone ever seen a super stiff hardshell 4-wheel roller skate? No, and it is almost obvious as to why. The hard shell would make it much more difficult to move your body laterally without losing balance or having 'too much' leverage over the skate. Those shells are very low and below the ankle, and use mostly the foot for security, and do not restrict the range of motion of the shin above the foot.

What characteristics do you think are necessary for optimal binding performance? Should both the front and back foot on a slalom ski have the same level of stiffness and control?



JWebSkiskialexHortonEFW
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Comments

  • ozskiozski Posts: 1,458
    edited February 3
    I expect in years to come we will look back on todays bindings and cringe, my personal opinion is that there is a lot of room for improvement in binding technology.
    'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.'' Boat 2005 Nautique 196 6L ZO - Ski: KD Platinum

    bkreisHorton
  • JmoskiJmoski Posts: 167 Baller
    In going from Connelly stoker rubber bindings to Radar Vector to a Reflex hard shell I experienced progressive improvements in how “connected” I felt with the ski. With the hard shell the ski reacts to my input much faster than with a rubber binding.

    Might be more noticeable for me given the podiatrist I saw in college said “I had the flattest feet he’d ever seen.”
    adamhcaldwell
  • DWDW Posts: 1,681 Crazy Baller
    I would say given what options are available, the answer is no. The waterski boot option seems to toggle between two very different solutions (rubber v hardshell) which to me indicates the 'optimum' has not been found or developed as of yet. If you look across other sports, it appears at least on the surface, that a more consistent solution tends to exist (think snow skiing, boarding, hockey, golf, etc). Also, it may be a moving target as skis improve, speed control algorithms change, the optimum boot may also adjust to suit.

    If you look at what is on the market, to me at least, it looks like the sport is still in a development phase which means it is ripe for change, development, breakthroughs and potential new innovations. The challenge is the R&D is spread over a miniscule ROI so large investments of $ and time are difficult at best. Thus, just as in the boat market, the technology is basically taken from R&D for other products / applications / sports and applied to waterskiing.
    adamhcaldwellEFW
  • adamhcaldwelladamhcaldwell Posts: 379 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    @Jmoski - Yes, far better connected for sure! Was the overall performance better for you also? Did scores, ease of skiing, the and the overall flow, or natural feel of skiing improve on the hard-shells?
  • tctc Posts: 98 Baller
    Unfortunately optimal performance has to be accompanied by safety. I there was a binding that would increase my score by 3 buoys but would increase the chance of getting hurt by 10% I would pass.
    adamhcaldwellskialexGaryWilkinsonRawbeanEFW
  • adamhcaldwelladamhcaldwell Posts: 379 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    @tc, i agree safety is a must. In reality practically ANYTHING, even a rubber boot could be mounted on plate with a silvretta type release.
  • adamhcaldwelladamhcaldwell Posts: 379 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    edited February 2
    @Bruce_Butterfield Great point - I can agree with that completely.

    Super-shell plastic is extremely stiff, which can have its benifits, but also its short falls. I have a tremendous amount of material removed from that boot to enable the shin to move forward AND left to right with complete freedom. Its as if the cuff may as well not be there at all in the forward direction. Most people making our mods are not going far enough. They just do a little and see how it goes.

    Additionally, the liner itself in the cuff area can completely change the freedom of ankle flexibility. Thick liners are great for a tremendously snug fit in the base, but overly stiff in the cuff. Thin liners are great for shin mobility and ankle flex, but terrible at a rock solid foundation within the base of the shell.
    mmosley899MattP
  • JordanJordan Posts: 919 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    Interesting topic.

    I have long thought that you want a very direct connection to the ski, this should make the ski very responsive to your movements AND provide the most feedback to the skier.

    I do not think that you want to have the ankle frozen in a cast like boot since I believe that ankle mobility is an extremely important contributor to balance. For example, if you bend your knees but cannot bend your ankles your center of mass will move back and that is not good.

    So, it seems that you would want a fair amount of lateral stiffness in the lower portion of the boot combined with either a lot of flexibility in the top portion of the boot, or looseness.

    As far as the back boot goes, the softer/looser the better.
    drew
  • eleeskieleeski Posts: 3,260 MM Trick Skier / Eccentric Person
    One factor not mentioned is that the water is relatively soft. A direct connection to the ski will not result in any more force imparted to the water. There is no mechanical advantage to extreme boot stiffness.

    Hardshell boots feel good and solid but some skiers rock soft rubber boots. It really matters what feels best for you. I personally love the feel of Intuition liners. It doesn't make much difference what shell I use as long as it's the same liner. I have to have my liner rubber banded on my rear foot to ski well with my toe kicker!?

    I might add comfort as a prime factor. You will not ski well if your feet are cramping.

    I haven't figured out the safety aspect. There are too many variables for one idea to stand clear.

    Eric
  • jimbrakejimbrake Posts: 1,182 Crazy Baller
    I'm in rubber (double D3 Leverages) because 1) they give me all the lateral support and forward/backward flex I need 2) I will come out in a bad tumble and 3) I can't make anything else work. I don't know why, but I'm hyper sensitive to lateral positioning of my front knee over my ski. In other words if my left (front) knee is not in the optimal position left or right, then the ski edges too hard one way or the other. When I try stiffer boots that force my knee into a set position (too vertical), my ski will typically edge way too readily and hard to the right. I have to cant (tilt relative to the vertical axis) my front binding to the left to get in the "right" position. I literally can't make a start when I try a new boot that puts my knee in the wrong position.

    I think we are a long way from the best boot/stance/fit. In addition to forward/backward position and distance between boots, we could vary height above ski, cant, forward ramp, and toe-in/toe-out. Too many options for me to experiment with. We need a boot whisperer.
    "...all of the basic fun banter"
    adamhcaldwellBruce_ButterfieldEFW
  • mwetskiermwetskier Posts: 1,266 Mega Baller
    one advantage with a softer binding implied but not spelled out by @adamhcaldwell is it makes it much easier to maintain pressure on the rope after center line with the upper body -but *without* simultaneously edging away from the boat with the ski.

    i would liken it to having a skate board with looser trucks vs one with tighter trucks. i preferred the former for the freedom of movement it allowed on a short board, but went with much tighter trucks on a long board for stability at higher speeds. short board with loose trucks for slalom and long board with tight trucks for ' downhill racing '.
    tcThan_Bogan
  • mmosley899mmosley899 Posts: 459 Water Ski Industry Professional
    @adamhcaldwell I have been modifying my hardshell boots for the exact reasons you have cited for twenty years. I never could run passes on out of the box skate boots I always had to modify the forward/back flex in the cuff and trim down the sides in the cuff area to lower lateral stiffness, and run the cuff buckle more loose. But I like the lower boot to be stiff and have a firm feel. I guess that is why I like the modified Roxa ice skate boot, aka the SuperShell, with my Intuition Liners.
    Mike's Overall Binding www.mobsystemrelease.com
    Sweet Home Alabama Skiing
    Senior Judge, Senior Driver, Tech Controller
    adamhcaldwellEFW
  • andjulesandjules Posts: 692 Crazy Baller
    As long as we're having a geeky discussion about binding systems... what about height? Some binding systems have the skier's foot pretty much on the ski's top plate; others create a 1/2 inch of separation. I've always been intuitively turned off by systems that add height, but (not having experimented) I don't know if it actually makes a difference? Does it make lateral movements even more (noticeably) sensitive? Anyone care to comment?
    EFW
  • Than_BoganThan_Bogan Posts: 5,734 Mega Baller
    edited February 2
    I've come to believe that the foot top pressure that @adamhcaldwell mentioned is absolutely critical, and may be the one reason that rubber boots are even still used: Rubber boots do that one thing so well that they can get away with being bad at almost everything else.

    What I'd like to see experimented with is an open toe shell that can easily be tightened over the fore-foot, to create that advantageous downward pressure.
    Nathaniel Bogan -- GUT Padawan
    skialexBooze
  • mmosley899mmosley899 Posts: 459 Water Ski Industry Professional
    edited February 2
    @Than_Bogan that has been done before, by ARC in its original boot and by Connelly, though neither were molded shells. The R style boot does that also... Easy enough to cut the toe out of your hardshell. I do agree that you need the proper downward toe pressure, so fitting your liner and shell to your individual foot is important. And, I have in fact recently drawn up plans for just such a shell. No prototype yet though...
    Mike's Overall Binding www.mobsystemrelease.com
    Sweet Home Alabama Skiing
    Senior Judge, Senior Driver, Tech Controller
    Than_BoganWaterSkier12
  • WishWish Posts: 7,010 ★★★Triple Panda Award Recipient ★★★
    I got an older black Reflex on the cheap. So much so that I was ok with it being to small. My foot would not fit in it with a thin liner. But it does fit with a neoprene sock. This allowed me to get an extreme snug fit below the ankle and a far better fit across the top of the foot with downward pressure on the toes. I've run home brew hardshells of all sorts since 2001. This is by far the best fit without modifications.
    >>> 11.25..a different kettle of fish. <<<
  • jedgelljedgell Posts: 311 Baller
    @adamhcaldwell and @mmosley899 can you guys post some pictures of your modified boots? I was on Radar Stradas for years and made the switch to Reflex late last year and really struggled. Looking for anything that can help. The main thing is I need to try an Intuition liner, the thin Reflex is too thin and I don't get enough downward pressure on the top of my foot.
    Justin Edgell - Bozeman, MT
  • adamhcaldwelladamhcaldwell Posts: 379 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    edited February 2
    Awesome stuff.

    One thing I hear a bunch of people talk about is how they feel like they can pressure the ski with their shin and thats why they like a stiff & tight cuff. Reality is though, that if the cuff (shell or liner) is excessively stiff in forward flex, while you may be creating a force against the cuff, the shin is blocked from actually being able to move the knee forward flexing the ankle and successfully transferring load to the ball of the foot while simultaneously moving COM forward. Like @Jordan stated, if the ankle cant bend the COM will not move forward.

    One thing I wish was never invented was the arch support. Trying to convince someone to pull it out of their boot is nearly impossible as they believe its 100% better with it in - not realizing that is 50% of the reason they cant feel load on the ball of the foot. The other 50% being from lack of forward ankle flex/mobility.

    @Than - Agree - Top pressure is huge - all the way down onto the big toe! If I can lift my big toe at all I feel like my HS turn looses some magic.
    mmosley899
  • mmosley899mmosley899 Posts: 459 Water Ski Industry Professional
    edited February 2
    @adamhcaldwell I wear holes in the top of my liners with my big toe! I put an 1/8' foam pad in the toe area of my boots so that there is constant pressure on my big toe, and no wiggle room.
    Mike's Overall Binding www.mobsystemrelease.com
    Sweet Home Alabama Skiing
    Senior Judge, Senior Driver, Tech Controller
  • mmosley899mmosley899 Posts: 459 Water Ski Industry Professional
    @andjules I have been anywhere from bare foot on the ski surface up to 1.25" above with boot, plate and liner. Each binding change requires adaptation by the skier but higher does make lateral movement more sensitive. Finding the right setup for yourself takes some testing. Height did not affect my skiing as much as the right flex around my ankle, never liked a stiff or tight cuff.
    Mike's Overall Binding www.mobsystemrelease.com
    Sweet Home Alabama Skiing
    Senior Judge, Senior Driver, Tech Controller
    andjulesThan_Bogan
  • dchristmandchristman Posts: 970 Mega Baller
    edited February 2
    "Is it safe to make the following generalization in order to preserve our ability to 'balance' on a given object? - As the object we are riding becomes narrower or less stable, the more lateral stiffness we need to have. Conversely, the wider the object the less lateral stiffness we would want to have. "

    I don't think this generalization holds for slalom skis. Compare skiing on a 2"x4"x8' to skiing on a 4'x8' sheet of plywood. For the same "skier", the plywood would require more lateral stiffness to get on edge. The amount of lateral stiffness required will depend on speed, wet surface area, and the height of the skier's center of gravity. (yeah - center of gravity. I am operating in a uniform gravity field :-))
    Is it time to ski, yet?
    adamhcaldwell
  • GarGar Posts: 196 Baller
    I think the front and back should have the same characteristics. If you could achieve that AND release when needed without injury Patented it!!
  • adamhcaldwelladamhcaldwell Posts: 379 Open or 55K Rated Skier
    edited February 3
    @dchrisman Exactly. Like going from an inline skate to a 4wheel roller skate. Thats probably somewhat comparable in scale.

    I would argue if you can not flex your ankle laterally, you cant lean or get COM far enough over without loosing balance and falling back. Might be able to get it more on edge - yes. But can you get your COM further over? Balance wise, I feel like you would be screwed on the plywood in a hardshell - hence an overall loss in overall performance IMO. Maybe we could ask Freddy Winter to mount up a pair of supershells on that wooden disk he made and do some research for us!

    Personally, I don't want to sacrifice "edge pressure" above the "ability to stay balanced' in slalom. I want both. And having that ability seems to be a function of successfully controlling more then just the "roll" angle of a ski. We need to be able to manage pitch and yaw also, and a significant portion of that is from our ability to control our COM above the ski at all times. You don't want the binding to have too much control in one direction, and give up mobility in the other two - so much that you the boot is more in control of your COM then you are yourself.

    On a trick ski, I think the hardshell makes sense. ITs much easier to overcome the short-ski with no fin in terms of Pitch and YAW. So a stiffer cuff with less forward mobility could make sense. There. However, it might also explain why I see so many hard-shell plates mounted extremely far forward on the trick ski these days. (I don't trick so I have no idea - but I would guess they want a fair bit of ankle mobility also)
  • skibugskibug Posts: 1,911
    So....Why are there no rubber bindings on downhill skis?
    Bob Grizzi
  • skibugskibug Posts: 1,911
    I have a response....but I am waiting to see what others say....
    Bob Grizzi
    dvskier
  • ozskiozski Posts: 1,458
    After a few seasons playing musical bindings the T-Factor seems work better than anything else for me, and its good enough for Nate. T-Factor gives me a good connection with a decent range of ankle flex that I can tune with the top bungee laces. I can't move around inside it either so I'm the exact same place on the ski every time I ski.
    'Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.'' Boat 2005 Nautique 196 6L ZO - Ski: KD Platinum

  • dropskidropski Posts: 58 Baller
    After working in the snow ski industry/world awhile, its interesting to note the difference in focus between the two "skiings". As the saying goes in snow skiing, "you date your skis but marry your boots". Seems in waterskiing the focus is on the latest ski and the boot is an afterthought. Almost the opposite in snow skiing. I have spent hours with my boot fitter trying to get the perfect fit and doing all sorts of modifications and work to my ski boots to get the perfect fit and consequently best performance.

    Im not a great waterskier by any means, but it would seem to me that maybe just like snow ski boots, waterski bindings would make a greater contribution to your performance than the ski itself. Where am I going wrong? Is it simply not as important on the water?
    AdamCordadamhcaldwellEFWpackski
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