Shin Pressure on Front Of Ski Boot?

How Much, Should I feel?



I've been roughly practicing the drills on the DVD. One important point has me confused: should my shins be in contact with the front of the boot or not? I did not see that addressed in the videos. On your website, you say, "Key is to not be levered against the front or back of the boot with your shin or calf." Then in a later sentence, you say "Now DO lever leg against boot cuff. Keep flexing forward in the ankle until you feel your shin come in solid contact with the front of your boot. Continue ankle flexing forward and feel the boot top bend. You have now added your shin and ski boot to your balance platform, further deteriorating your through-the-foot ideal balance."

So I am guessing from those sentences that I am not support to feel shin pressure? At no point am I suppose to feel it, or generally not suppose to feel it or something else entirely? I've been told taking lessons that I am suppose to constantly feel it so I am trying to figure out what the deal is here. Thank you, Lev.

Your Ski Coach Home> Ask The Coach> Balance> Shin Pressure On Boot Tongue

Hi Lev,

Glad to hear your working on the drills, and thanks for writing with your question.  It's was difficult to get everything in the DVDs with enough comprehensiveness to cover every question students may have. The series was 9 hours long as it is, so I depend on the articles I write for the website, and questions such as yours that I post in the ASK THE COACH page, to fill in the blanks.  

I'll begin answering your question by explaining that, if your boots are set up properly, you should feel neutral pressure on the front and back of your boot cuff when standing center balanced in an Athletic Stance.  By center balanced I mean equal weight on the balls and heels of your feet.  A well fitting boot will not have extra space in the top (cuff) area, so you should feel a connection on the shin and calf, but you shouldn't feel more concentrated pressure on either.  Just standing in your boots, trying to assume a center balanced stance with neutral cuff pressure on shin and calf, will tell you if your boots are properly set up for you.  If you feel space, or you can't seem to stand center balanced without applying heavier pressure to the front or back of the boot cuff, it's time to visit a good boot-fitter.  

So why is that a center balanced, neutral cuff pressured Athletic Stance so important?  It's because it allows the foot to function at its full capacity as the wondrous balancing mechanism it is, and it also provides the strongest position for resisting the strong external forces encountered when skiing.  Let's explore those statements a little more deeply.  When the foot is pressured across the entire sole, from heel to ball, it compresses into an amazingly stable platform that allows for very accurate fine tuning of your balance state.  When moving to 100 percent ball, or 100 percent heel, that stable platform is lost, and it's suddenly like trying to balance on the head of a pin.  You can experience those balance state stability differences by simply standing up right now and assuming each of those three balance states (heel/ball, heel, ball).  

The second advantage I mentioned is strength of stance.  When you're standing tall, center balance, and neutral the boot cuff, it's called standing "structurally aligned", or "stacked".  in a stacked stance all forces acting on the body while skiing, such as gravity and centrifugal force, are resisted primarily by the compression resistance of your bones.  Its a very strong stance that allows the muscles to relax.  

Now lets take a look at an alternative stance.  There are good reasons we don't always want to stand in a perfectly center balanced, neutral cuff pressured stance.  When we stand that way, we pressure the ski equally from tip to tail.  It's a very efficient way to ski, and today's skis are designed to operate very well when pressured in that manner.  Sometimes, however, we want to alter that pressure pattern.  If we move more pressure to the front of the ski at the start of the turn, we intensify how strongly the tip bites into the snow and initiates the turn.  In other words, by increasing pressure on the front of the ski we can enhance the quickness and sharpness of the start of our turns.  it comes in very handy on steeper terrain, when we don't want to spend more time than necessary accelerating down the falline.  

We move pressure to the front of the ski by making fore balance adjustment at the base of our foot..  By moving balance and pressure to the ball of our foot, we simultaneously move extra pressure to the front of the ski.  To avoid that "head of a pin" balancing issue I talked about earlier, we can keep moving forward until we've applied a bit of extra pressure to the front of the boot cuff with our shin.  By doing that, not only are we adding even more pressure to the front of the ski, we're transforming the front of the boot cuff into a second point in our balance platform.  By doing that we stabilize the "head of a pin" balancing problem, but we also diminished the strength of our stance. Now leaning against the front of our boots, our muscles must be recruited to take on a bigger role in keeping us upright.  Considering we've accomplished a loading of the front of the ski, which has sharpened the start of our turn, it's a sacrifice worth making.  But to understand the topic of efficiency in skiing, it's also a sacrifice that must be understood.  

So how much pressure should you exert on the front of your boot cuff when attempting to load the front of your skis to sharpen the start of your turn?  It's not a single answer.  It depends on how aggressive you want the start of your turn to be.  The more pressure you apply to the front of your boot with your shin, the more aggressive the start of your turn will be, as will the amount of sacrifice in the strength and efficiency of your stance.  In less intense situations, where you just want to tweak the start of your turn a bit, add just enough boot cuff pressure to stabilize your balance while standing fore.  When you really need or want to horse the start of your turn, then power into the cuff or your boot.  Anywhere within that spectrum of options is yours to employ.  

So why would an instructor tell you to constantly feel shin pressure on the front of your boots?  Many skiers have a problem with always being too far aft.  It's so common because it's the bodies natural tendency to move away from danger, and in new skiers the falline constitutes danger.  Unfortunately, those survival reactions experienced first days on skis are the complete opposite to what is needed to make the skis perform optimally, but they often become embedded in a skiers technique.   To overcome this problem, instructors will often try to take a student to the opposite end of the spectrum, and have them ski always fore balanced.  Pressure on the front of the boot cuff, if the student is standing in a tall stance, can ensure that fore balance state.  It's not the optimal state of efficiency, but it corrects the aft issue.  The theory in this school of thought is that the student can ease back towards optimal once aft skiing has been thoroughly eliminated as the default state.   That elimination process takes some time, so unless a student has an ongoing training relationship with the instructor who promotes this teaching methodology, they may never be introduced to the concept of progressing to a center balanced, neutral cuff pressured Athletic Stance as their default, home base skiing stance.  

The thing to do to achieve expert level balance skills is to pursue a training program that develops an ability to perform skilfully in any state of balance, from extreme aft, through extreme fore, and at any balance point in between.  With that skill base, you'll be able to put to use the full performance capabilities of your skis.  You'll also be able to confidently cope with, and recover from, any momentary disruption to you desired state of balance that may occur while skiing.   It's a level of skill that inspires tremendous confidence.  It represents the level of expertise your Building Blocks training is designed to take you to.  

Lev, I hope that clears up the confusion.  If you have more questions, don't hesitate to send them my way.

Best Wishes,