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  • Writer's pictureHenry

Foot Mould: The Good Kind

Updated: Feb 21


Okay, so to kick things off, there is no good kind of athletes foot or trench foot (other brands are available). Maybe some random craft brewer has a delicious imperial stout brewed from it ... but I swiftly digress.


My life has been transformed over the last few years by moulded insoles or footbeds, not just in my ski boots but in my everyday shoes as well. I have been completely converted to the idea of wearing them all the time.


Whilst they are nice things to have in everyday shoes, for some of us, they are essential, and for all of us, they are an a solute necessity in ski boots.


This is my story of my bang average feet and how insoles have helped me unlock skiing.

 

My Bang Average Feet


Like, I cannot be more serious about this - my feet are really average. Roughly size 10, sometimes 10.5 depending on brand, they come in at around 100mm at the widest point across the balls of the feet, and I have a very plain arch and instep (the bit on top of your foot above the arch).


I don't have a very prominent navicular (the knobbly bit of ankle bone that sticks out the side) and my feet don't collapse in or out (pronate or supinate) any more than what is average.


And yet, I've found insoles to have had a real impact on my skiing experience. So why? If there's no problems that need solving, why do I need this as a solution?

 

White Lies

So this last sentence was something of a white lie. Ski boots are built different to other shoes, and it can mean that "average" things are a problem.


There are three major reasons why insoles are a necessity for ski boots:

  1. They hold the foot in the right place in the ski boot

  2. They limit forward and sideways expansion of the foot

  3. They support the foot and limit pronation and supination.


All this adds up to one thing: comfort. We stop skiing for the day because we're uncomfortable - cold, wet, or in pain. Insoles, fundamentally, add comfort to otherwise uncomfortable footwear.

 

1. Holding the Foot in the Right Place

The perfect fit for your ski boot is one that holds the foot in place at the heel and over the top of the foot, with a little bit of space in the toebox to wiggle your toes.


But, as you use the ski boot more and more, the liner begins to bed down and become thinner and thinner. That perfect fit you had in the shop will wear away until eventually your foot is rattling around inside the boot


Insoles fill up some space, true, but the big benefit here is that they will hold your feet in the right place - if you have to have modifications, such as expanding the boot or adding some foam to take up space, as your foot moves it will bring it out of alignment with this area that has been moulded. Any boot fitter worth their salt will actually refuse to perform mods until you have an insole in, as their work will be pointless without it impacting consistently the same part of the boot.

 

2. Limiting the Expansion of the Foot

You know I said I was a size 10? Well again, a bit of a white lie. Sure, I wear size 10 shoes (mostly) but the actual measurement of my foot is anything but.


The long and the short of it is that your foot is actually two different sizes, and fills the space in between two. those two sizes are your foot unweighted (i.e. when you are sat down or have lifted your foot off the ground), and weighted, that is not just with your foot on the ground but as you flex into your skiing position, driving a lot of power and weight through your foot.


Your foot can grow up to 5mm in length, and a similar amount in width, between unweighted and weighted. In normal shoes, this is fine, as the soft fabric is designed to absorb and react to the growth of your foot. In ski boots, this is a serious problem - your feet are growing against a solid plastic shell, with nowhere to go. Even more so, the pressure we put through our feet when skiing is incredible, far greater than when walking or running.


Footbeds support the arch to limit this forward and sideways expansion, and build on point 1. to ensure where foot expansion does happen, it happens in the right part of the boot. If you suffer from cramp a lot when skiing, you will really notice the difference here, as your foot is no longer jammed in, an unstoppable force against an immovable object. Instead, it is supported and locked in place.


 

3. Limiting Pronation and Supination

Around 85% of people experience pronation - that is, the foot rolling in when it first makes contact with the ground. This is supposed to happen; the human foot has experienced millions of years of evolution to become the ultimate shock absorber. Loads of padding at the heel (which footbeds encourage to soften up) meets a unique skeletal construction, with the foot designed to flex on impact with the ground to absorb impact before locking up against the outside of the foot to provide a platform to step away from.


10% of the population experience supination, where the foot impacts outside first or flexes to the outside. This engages the locking mechanism first before rolling to the shock absorbing part of the foot, the opposite of what it should be. The final 5% experience no pronation or supination at all. In some circumstances, you may "over" pronate or supinate, where this happens to much and can cause medical issues.


Footbeds help to just straighten everything up. When you drive through the cuff of the boot, they ensure your power and control is going forward, pushing where it should to direct your skis effectively.


 

That's the why ...

That's the why of why I always where footbeds, normally in my everyday shoes but especially in my ski boots. The hard, unforgiving plastic is what it really boils down to, so ensuring my feet are in the right place and they are pushing as little as possible against this shell is the key.


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