This blog comes to Colorado Ski Country from Eric Ward and the good folks at the Foot Foundation
Thanks to all of those who took the time to chat with their favorite snow God. It’s working great, keep it up!!
This week, I am going to attempt to paint a simple picture of just how important it is to understand pronation, and how this knowledge is crucial to ensuring that every guest’s skiing experience is a positive one.
In the past 12 years working on feet, I’ve made at least one important discovery: that the world’s best skiers, share at least one thing in common. They tend to be “functional” in how much they pronate inside the boot. Functional meaning that they tend to pronate less than 2.5 degrees. The problem is, in my testing I have found that, this lucky group makes up only 10 percent of the human population. The Aspen training staff is a great example of how different amounts of pronation effect performance. In our staff of about 1,200 pros, the training staff represents approximately 5 percent. Fortunately, over the past many years, I have had the opportunity to measure most of our trainers, and I can say with absolute confidence that the clear majority, fall into this lucky 10 percent group, and those that don’t, have done something about it. I understand that this is not a perfect example, not every instructor wants to be a trainer, but it frames an interesting question. Does how much you pronate, predetermine who will succeed skiing, and who will struggle to learn or enjoy skiing? 12 Years of testing suggests that the answer clearly, and overwhelmingly, is YES!!!
The problem with being part of the lucky 10 percent, it is almost impossible to imagine what its like to be 4, 5, or 6 degrees pronated. If you don’t have this problem you expect that the rest of the world is like you, and it’s simply not that way. I am in the lucky 10 percent. I could not understand why when I was teaching people that looked intelligent and capable, why they just could not do what I was asking of them. This is why if you don’t have a huge problem with your feet, just a neutral foot bed works. Also why when you are more pronated and you get a neutral foot bed it often does not completely fix the problem.
“What about the rest of the population”, you ask? It may surprise you to hear that 55 percent of people pronate between 2.5 and 4 degrees. It is more disturbing to learn that 35 percent pronate between 4 and 6 degrees. Meaning that, 90 percent of people fall outside the functional zone when it comes to pronation. This means that 90 percent of people have an opportunity to enjoy skiing much more – if the problem were fixed.
The numbers tell an interesting, and hopefully compelling story. The ski industry has a well documented first time skier drop out rate of 80 percent. Interesting note, this rate does not change internationally; suggesting that teaching methodology is not the issue. The significantly pronated rate, and first timer drop out rates, is scarily similar. Depending on how you look at it, the ski industry enjoys an incredible 80 percent opportunity for growth.
If we, as teaching pros, were to take responsibility for knowing as much as possible about how foot dynamics within the boot change skiing experiences, and use this to predict someone’s chances for success or failure. It seems likely that we could begin to tap into the growth opportunity we enjoy. It is not just about alignment, it is about helping our students succeed in spite of their natural state of balance. This issue effects how students learn every skill in skiing, directly and profoundly.
Demographics play a huge role in thinking this through. Skiers are largely a group of intelligent, successful, and most importantly, success driven people: People who are often used to learning things quickly and excelling at them.
The way the foot works within the boot is a clear and present opportunity for failure for anyone not gifted with feet that function while trapped in a ski boot. I hope that it is clear to all, that this is low hanging fruit, and it’s ripe, easy to swallow, tastes great, and is less filling.
Do you know how much you pronate? If not, I encourage you to get measured. This is not the same as knee mass tests with a plum bob. In 12 years of testing, I have only found a hand full of orthotics that actually changes how much someone pronates in testing. So if you are thinking, “I already have custom foot beds,” I would encourage you to test them for yourself.
The symptoms of uncontrolled pronation are many, as each one of us compensates differently, but the most common complaints are the following:
chronically cold numb toes from gripping,
no inside edge on the outside ski,
no inside edge on the inside ski,
stepping through transitions,
ankles rubbed raw,
muscle and joint fatigue,
6th toe pain,
heel spurs on the outside,
chronically way back, and
numbness cramping in the arch and sole of the foot.
If you are skiing with people that are chronically intermediate and hopelessly average, get them tested. Get them to your favorite boot guy pronto!!!
Remember that we offer free pronation testing at Foot Labs in Snowmass Mall (next to the Liquor Store).
Also, we will be organizing morning training sessions for anyone interested in learning more about this subject. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks again. I hope you all find this interesting and thought provoking.