Why are ski boots so important?
INTERVIEW WITH THE SKI BOOT EXPERT FOR ALINE DANIOTH, ANDREA ELLENBERGER AND OTHERS.
It’s often said that the ski boot is almost as important to an athlete’s set-up as the skis. But what’s different about racing boots compared to standard ones? One of those who can tell you is Max: his working day revolves entirely around ski boots. He’s been a boot fitting specialist for Stöckli for the past three years, and he also handles some of our athletes. He gave us some insights into the fitting of racing boots.
How’s a racing boot different from a standard one?
A racing boot tends to be harder and is based on a narrower last. We’re talking about a last width of 91-93 mm compared to 98 mm or more for standard ski boots. This is important for a more direct transfer of power and to withstand the forces being generated. Furthermore, the boot’s made from a single cast and has different angle settings compared to a standard boot, such as the inclination forwards or inwards and outwards. Another distinctive feature is that the inner shoe’s typically laced separately and very thin. This serves to transfer the movements of the feet as directly as possible to the skis.
What’s different about racing boot fitting compared to a standard boot?
Because the shell of a racing boot is thicker due to the higher proportion of PU, it tends to be machined rather than stretched or expanded. This allows me to keep the boot narrow so the edge angle isn’t affected. Canting’s also of great importance: this determines the boots inclination towards the inside or the outside. It allows me to precisely tailor the aggressiveness of the setup to the needs of the athletes. And don’t forget the insole. Depending on the discipline and the athlete’s body, I assemble it from different materials to create a perfect connection between body and ski.
That sounds like demanding challenges…
I’d describe them as exciting and absorbing! What’s more, racing boots have to be extremely precise. By which I don’t only mean that they have to be exactly the right fit for the athlete, but that certain rules have to be observed. For example, the height between the heel and the sole of the boot mustn’t exceed 43 mm. That said, you naturally always try to fully explore the limits of what’s allowed. To achieve this, we take very accurate measurements of each shoe, since the canting, the lifter plates under the boot and the insole can impact the height.
How long does a boot fitting session with an athlete take?
It all depends. It may be that very little needs adjusting and I’ll be finished in two hours. Sometimes, though, I have to reassemble the boot, possibly add more foam, and make a special insole. If that’s the case, I can spend up to two days on a pair of boots.
And most athletes don’t have just one pair of boots, do they?
That’s right, plus some of them are also testing new setups during the season. An athlete may have more than the usual two pairs of boots. Altering the canting by 0.25 degrees can make a noticeable difference. Or, for example, different shell hardnesses for higher and lower temperatures. Of course, the number of ski boots also depends on how many different disciplines the athlete competes in. One thing’s for sure: I’m never bored!