Comfort has always been an important lure of snowboarding. Skiers winced in pain in those stiff plastic casts that bound their feet; snowboarders were free from foot-founded frowns.
Today, new paths to even greater comfort have been forged by after-market insoles, and smart snowboard retailers are getting the word out to their customers.
Insoles provide a new technology for riders to gain even more stability, drive, and comfort. At Snowbird, Utah, Ultimate Mountain Outfitters Director of Retail Operations Jeff Evans views snowboard insoles as part of a movement for riders wanting to grasp that extra edge.
“Snowboarding came on so fast nobody paid much attention to what could make it better,” says Evans about the recent surge of performance-maximizing tools. “Now, as people get to elite levels, every little thing can enhance performance. Insoles can make a difference between a really good rider and a great rider.”
The feet have an incredibly complex anatomy. Surprisingly fragile and intricately connected, the human foot has 26 bones–comprised of ankle bones, instep bones, and toe bones. With each arc and landing made on a board, the bones are spread and three different arches come into play. Two arches run length-wise and one runs across each instep.
These arches give us the bounce, or spring, when we ride and also act as shock absorbers for the legs and back. Even during the simplest glide across the snow, our feet need to be considered as crucial elements of the ride.
“The bones in the foot have a tendency to come apart,” explains Evans, “causing an altering of structure. With insoles, we're making the foot more stable. We can pull it together, so the foot won't be the mushy problem or weak link in a rider's landing.”
Cartilage and even the thick skin on a foot's soles help with shock absorption and protective cushioning, but snowboard insoles provide riders with a degree of support that doesn't come naturally.
Snowbird Ultimate Mountain Outfitters uses an insoles-specific program provided by Dynamic Foot Positions (DFP) and developed by Company President Mike Shaw. While DFP provides both ski-boot and snowboard-boot footbeds, Shaw has created the Stable Ride insole for snowboarder and acknowledges our special niche.
“Snowboarding is a foot experience,” says Shaw. “We want foot freedom, but it's a balancing act between freedom and support.”
He points out that with the evolution of the sport, many boots are emerging with harder soles–especially with the popularity of step-in bindings.
“Sooner or later your foot will battle with it,” says Shaw. Footbeds support the feet in a balanced and calculated system, enabling the foot to remain in a stronger position. The performance an insole can help create is more of a direct-drive, consisting of better energy transmission. The workload will be more spread out rather than isolated pressure points that eventually cause pain and inhibit proficiency.
“There are little voids around the heel that are filled in to make more contact area,” says Shaw. “Insoles provide put the foot in the correct anatomical position and the benefit is both comfort and performance.”
This correct anatomical position Shaw speaks of is translated into science back at the shop. Technicians use the Tek Scan, placing riders on a mat wearing either their socks or boots. The computer system then scans the foot for pressure points. A screen shows the weight distribution in terms of boot soles, bindings, and percentage of body weight. It illustrates how the work load is spread out and how it differs for each individual, focusing on pressure distribution and balance.
The insoles are constructed with a medical-grade foam backed by rigid cork, and once the fit is calculated, can be easily builtt to those exact specifications. The techs completes a 40-minute casting, which is followed by another 40-minute grinding. The grinding is done to actually fit the inside of the boot, then riders and insoles are set to go out on the mountain.
Evans says his shop is equipped to handle hot spots improper fitting can cause, and these can usually be corrected immediately. The insoles generally last for up to seven or eight years, so the investment is by no means fleeting. He adds that insoles at his shop retail around 135 dollars, but the cost are varied. “It depends on how much is happening,” he says.
The cost includes any follow-up work and discounts are offered with in-house equipment purchases. Evans stresses that along with performance features, insoles create additional comfort levels for riders. Evans says that the insoles also act as insulators, providing the foot with additional warmth.
Insoles are one outlet retailers can use to integrate advanced technology into the customers' lives. Offering a fine-tuned footwear experience is surely an extra incentive for patronage. Treat the feet right–insoles may be the perfect solution for many riders who seek a technicians' advice on boot quirks.
For more information on Dynamic Foot Positions, contact Mike Shaw at: (801) 277-5478.