Saturday, January 31, 2009

Forget the never ending story. Try the never ending search

To quote a song title from U2, I still haven't found what I'm looking for. To look at them, my feet appear pretty normal. I'm about a ladies size 8-8.5 (US), smallest in my family. My right big toe is a little crooked, I could use a pedicure some days and I have a freckle on both of my second toes but none of that should be contributing to my difficulty in finding the perfect pair of snowboard boots.

I bought my current Solomon boots 3 winters ago when I got the rest of my own gear. I already had my K2 board (Luna) so I picked up some boots and K2 bindings to go with it. I tried on some K2 boots for consistency but didn't like how they fit. The Solomon ones that I've got now were the best fit and I was excited to try the quick-lace (my term) system. Instead of lacing my boots up like my hiking boots where you wind the laces around the hooks on either side, all I have to do is yank once on the inner pull to tighten the inner laces, then once on the outer pull to tighten the outer laces. This is awesome for someone like me whose hands and fingers are often numb and semi-useless from the cold. I dimly remember mentioning that the balls of my feet were feeling some pressure with the boots done up in the store but the sales guy explained to me that I would buy some super inserts which would solve all my problems. Liar, liar, pants on fire but I didn't know it at the time...

After buying my gear, I didn't get much chance to do any serious snowboarding trips (unless you count a weekend at Tremblant) until last winter when some friends & I went to Zermatt in Switzerland (see 2008 blogs) for 10 days of riding. Up to that point, I'd had some intermittant discomfort if I spent long periods of time in my boots but all it took was a break in a chalet with them loosened for the duration and I was back to baseline. No big deal really. Not so much the case when in Europe. As mentioned in my Zermatt blogs, some of those runs were a couple of km long!

I never profess to be an awesome snowboarder except maybe in my own mind and even I know that's a delusion. I go for the fun and I'm as good as I am. And before you ask, No. I will not teach you to ride. Nothing personal but I don't teach anyone. You need to go sign up for a lesson with a proper instructor. You will thank me later. My first ever snowboarding experience was at Panorama Mountain Resort in Invermere, BC. I took a 3 hour lesson with an instructor and two little kids (I was in my 20s). I hadn't yet learned to wear a helmet but with painful experience, that came later. My instructor taught me valuable tips and gave me an excellent foundation of learning the basics well. Too bad he didn't teach me how to land jumps on my feet...

As I said before, my primary problem is pressure on the balls of my feet. It's relatively unavoidable, given how feet are designed and used. Toe edging on your board puts your weight on the front of your foot. I tend to do this a lot either out of necessity or habit or fear of catching my back edge and smashing my head on the ground...again. After a while, the pressure on the balls of my feet turns to prickling and burning, kind of like stepping on hot coals I would imagine. Shortly after that, I lose sensation to my toes. To some this might sound wussy but when you're spending 7 days in your boots like I did in Zermatt, it's very uncomfortable. Towards the end of those 7 days, I took to removing my boots and standing ON them (on my heels) in the gondolas, trying to make my poor feet last as long as they possibly could. As soon as we were seated on a chair lift, I'd quickly loosen my boots and try to give my feet a little extra room before the inevitable neccessity of tightening them to ride down. It even came to the point where walking in my running shoes felt like walking on needles.

So far this winter, I've tried on about 7 other pairs of boots. I have a theory that the regular lace system (like for hiking boots) might be what I need, given that it would be much easier to keep the bottom portion over the top of my foot looser while tightening the rest of the boot to keep my foot in it. In my theory, this would not compress the top of my foot so much as to cut off circulation to the blood vessels that run along the top which could be part of my current problem. It would also not push the balls of my feet so hard into the bottom of my boots says I. Strangely enough, there are fewer boots with the regular lace system these days than there are with quick lace so my choices tend to be a bit limited. And those inserts which were supposed to fix all my problems? It's been suggested to me by a boot fitter guy that they might be contributing to the problem by taking up valuable wiggle room in my boot, thus my foot gets compressed that much more. The inserts have a pad on the bottom for the ball of the foot but mine end up cushioning my toes instead because they aren't shaped to my specific foot.

I've tried the double quick-lace system where the top of the boot has independant tightening ability from the bottom of the boot which was sort of what I was trying to do with the regular laces. Too bad the double quick-lace boots were so hideously ugly that I wouldn't want to wear them even if I were a sponsored rider. They also didn't feel spectacularly better. The regular lace boots have been more adjustable than my current ones but again, I still run into the pain problem. I hear stories about people having snowboard boots that are so comfortable that they can wear them all day and then go dancing (ok, I made the last part up out of jealousy). I ask, how can I get boots like that? and I hear, you'll just know when you've found them, which is rather unhelpful. So for now I will keep searching and today at Blue I will try riding without my pretty pink inserts to see if it makes a positive difference.


Heather said...

You'll have to take up skiing, I think.

Jim said...

hi alexis, just a thought on your quest to find the perfect snowboard boot. I don't know if you can do this on a snowboard boot , but on lace-up boots, shoes etc. try skipping the first set of holes at the toe of the boot, then start your lacing from there. it just leaves a little more space for the front of the foot. auntie corry