Footbed construction criteria and process
My goals in footbed configuration:
Reduction of extraneous muscle activity and restoration of joint mobility
Establish a foundation for successive alignment parameters
Calibrate to specific tolerances, to accommodate functional parameters of the body and the systems that govern establishment of equilibrium.
I used to think that footbeds were all more or less equal. I had a good pair, hand crafted back in 1985, and I just assumed that all footbeds worked as well as my own.
I was wrong.
There are so many viewpoints affecting the fabrication of a footbed, as well as material choices and molding processes, that the odds of getting a truly effective footbed is minimal. While this might sound like a harsh indictment of the foot support business, I feel it is accurate.
When I began building footbeds on my own, I was asked if I would be competing with the local ski shop. I responded that, it appeared I was competing with 20 years or more of poorly made footbeds.
There are two categories of skiing athlete; those who can, under the right circumstances, succeed at a very high level in competition because they are physically predisposed to be good skiers; and then there is everybody else.
In order to ski well, the rest of us can benefit from a bit of geometric equipment manipulation. This is commonly referred to as alignment or balancing. Though there are a number of theories on how this should be done, a well-made footbed serves as a foundation for evaluating all relevant adjustment parameters. Without a good footbed, you are recreating the leaning Tower of Pisa on skis. Speaking of Pisa, I’m hungry. Off to make a sandwich.
Any custom molded footbed that does not hurt the foot, will provide greater contact between the sole of the foot and the ski boot, and will thus improve ‘feel’ due to an increased number of feedback points on the sole of the foot. So that is to the good.
On the other hand, a footbed that accounts for and supports the structural ‘deficiencies’ of the foot will provide greater feedback along with enhanced range of motion, reduced muscle tension, and generally greater warmth due to improved circulation.
These two photos illustrate a foot that was surgically altered to correct a ‘birth defect’. This foot skis daily for work. Adequate support reduced collateral stress on the rest of the body.
There are three general tendencies for foot mobility: The most common has the foot collapsing to the arch side when loaded, due to the mobility and upward deflection of the first metatarsal. This type of foot represents the statistical norm. The second type of foot has a fairly rigid first metatarsal, but a more flexible set of minor metatarsals, and thus tends to collapse to the outside when loaded. The least common foot type, but the type which I feel represents the actual ‘ideal’, is the foot that does not collapse to either side, due to sufficient structural integrity.
(Actually, this here is more of a rarity. A foot with medial and lateral mobility. Wondered about this posting scheme, but it worked… Fortunately, this skier has straight legs.)
If you account for the mobility of the bones with a truly functional footbed, you create the stability of the latter, ideal foot type. Once supported, the muscles of the lower leg can relax, as they are no longer recruited to stabilize the collapsing foot. Similarly, the structure of the ankle is no longer compromised or leveraged to one side or the other, allowing for greater freedom to invert and evert at will.
If the collapsing foot is not supported, balancing must be moved to the next joint in the chain, which requires learning a slower, more complicated series of movements in order to remain upright.
The arch structure of the foot is ‘designed’ if you will, to proportionally distribute the load of the body to the hind foot and forefoot. Arch support, per se, is a misnomer, as pushing upward on an arch serves only to weaken it, and to inflame the tissues in that area. However, placing material in the arch area serves to stabilize the foot in that such material works as a bit of a ‘curb feeler’ and notifies the central nervous system that the foot is in fact rolling, at which point it may be steadied before it reaches full collapse. The proper way to support the foot, in my opinion, and which has been proven in practice, is to accurately and uniformly support the foot from the metatarsal heads rearwards, accounting for the independent articulations of each bone, such that loads are born proportionally and equally by all of the bones of the foot, without allowing the foot to collapse. As the forefoot goes, so goes the hind foot. In order to accomplish this, it is necessary to use appropriate materials, with an appropriate molding method.