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TangleBoot_3.jpg.86f4cfeb929453b43fb738e5fe962ae0.jpg

 

There has been a flurry of activity regarding boots on this forum lately, and I now feel it is my turn to put my foot in it. This follows on from my “binding ramblings” thread from last year, combined with some good thoughts from other forum contributors. I have also ridden more in soft boots over the winter - in powder, in carving conditions and even in the park – all in the name of science. I have discovered a few things, e.g. that I love riding at flatter angles, but I soon come across the limitations of the equipment and cannot help but think there is room for improvement.

There has also been much talk regarding how to grow our sport, and it seems that many flashing arrows are pointing squarely towards the boots. Consider the rapid development of ski equipment in recent years (especially ski touring), and also of soft boot equipment. The choice of gear is huge in these fields, and the technology is advancing continuously. Frankly, hard booting has been left behind.

Apologies if I repeat the ideas of others. This is an attempt to bring some thoughts together in one place, rather than to claim intellectual property rights for anything. I will get right to the heart of the matter:

 

Bad things about hard boots:

You have, for some inexplicable reason, decided to go snowboarding in your ski boots. Ask anyone in the lift line. NOBODY dares talk to you, as you are clearly a lunatic.

Hard boots and bindings have evolved from standard ski binding interfaces; therefore the bindings are attached to the ends of the boot - resulting in a long and narrow sole. Makes lots of sense for skis, but not for boards. The toe of the boot is not foot shaped, but symmetrical about the center, due to the ski boot heritage. This also makes the boot longer than required.

The heels of my UPZ boots are 59 mm high to the inside of the foot bed. We are in stiletto country now. It is impossible to look even remotely normal while walking across a slippery floor with a tray full of drinks in these boots. Neither can you stand upright, even in walk mode. The center of the foot is 15 mm behind the center of the binding interfaces on my boots – which makes it non-intuitive to fit the bindings correctly to the board.

The long sole leads to long tensile load paths, which then lead to bindings that are longer than necessary. The narrow sole leads to high lateral bending forces, hence poor control over lateral flex in the boot / binding interface. (My reference here is toe lever bindings.) Long boots with high heels are not well suited to flatter angles and wider boards.

 

Good things about hard boots:

Buckles! Tighten the boot as much as needed, exactly where needed. A well-defined mechanical pivot and a spring system provides plenty of progressive flex - in the right direction. The plastic shell provides stiffness in other directions. (Although, as an observation, “hard” boots do not need to be especially rigid. RC8’s are so soft you could stuff your pillow with them.)

 

Bad things about soft boots:

No mechanical pivot. The soft boot flexes by deforming and buckling of the shell. This is not very linear or well defined, and creates pressure points on the foot and ankle. Soft boots also tend to be “loose” initially and then stiffen up considerably when flexing further. Not enough lateral stiffness or longitudinal flex for riding with steeper binding angles. And lacing is not a good way to tighten ANY winter sport boot. More and more elaborate lacing systems enter the market, and they don’t work all that well. The strap binding is a large, breakable and cumbersome device. Boots and bindings need to be matched carefully.

 

Good things about soft boots:

I can walk! It’s a miracle! Low heels and wide, grippy soles. Foot-shaped. Short sole length. Low weight. Soft initial flex in all directions works well for flatter angles and non-carving.

 

Bad things about both soft and hard boots:

The walking surfaces are also the binding interfaces. If the snow is even slightly sticky, the soles need scraping thoroughly prior to entering the bindings. On short runs, this can be a right time waster.

 

Following on seamlessly; a proposed new boot and binding system:

Fundamentally, I would like a shorter, foot shaped hard boot with a wide, grippy sole and binding interfaces on the sides rather than at the ends. The binding can now be more compact, but with a much wider spacing of the transverse load paths, and centered on the foot longitudinally. Build as much flex, lift, cant and height as you want into the binding. For carving and all-mountain uses, I would lift the boot off the base of the binding by about half an inch, so that you no longer have to scrape snow off the sole.

I have attached a preliminary sketch of the TangleBoot for the entertainment of The Carving Community. Note that the binding is nowhere near “designed” at this point, but the sketch shows roughly where I think the attachment points should be.

Et voila! You now look like a fun-loving snowboarder, rather than a high heeled skier who walks funny.

A slick, reliable step-in system should now be within reach. With studs sticking out on the sides of the boots, this becomes very simple - but it would make for a much nicer boot if we could have recessed inserts, similar to those of ski touring bindings. As of now, I am not sure how you could then make an easy-to-use step-in system that would not clog up with snow.

Is there any way we can get the folks who designed the Salomon Shift binding interested in snowboard carving?

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Wow that's a pile of typing feel better now ? Your supposed to type it out then think about it and then delete it. Now that you have sketched your idea get to work on the technical drawings. Desperate to see  how those attachment point are going to work.  I've got some ideas but no time to tinker .

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Thank you for sharing! 

Me not smart enough to appreciate all the intricacy on what make boot/binding/board work well together.
Love the idea having more options in the market place.
It's so cool to see how other think and came up with creative solution to address those "deficiency" in the system.

With carving making a "renaissance(small-ish)"; maybe the big name will throw some R&D resources at our beloved sports.

eFfmdb3.jpg

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Interesting. Like Intec for heel and toe. I think the sole would have to be hard plastic to ensure that the retention pins could always remain in alignment (not jamb). The retraction mechanism would have to be entirely below the foot. It could work. I'm sure Fin has thought about this more than just about anyone else in the world. 

Also, I agree about several of your observations about hard -vs- soft boots. I started on soft, migrated to hard, tried to make these work for me (but never really did) and wound up back on soft boots for carving and other purposes. They aren't a perfect solution but they are the best compromise for me. 

Edited by JohnE

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I'm super glad you are thinking about this.  I agree hardboots and ski boots should look more like feet (e.g. Birkenstocks or Keens) than they do now.  However boot molds are extremely expensive.  Good luck finding someone to finance this mission.  Mountain Slope spent over half a million dollars developing new molds for a relatively simple and traditional boot that was already designed.  Your step-in design has basically already been tried many years ago by Burton with their Physics interface.  The toe piece had hooks so there wouldn't need to be retractable pins in the toe of the boot.  I like the idea of a better step-in, but you are talking about an infinitesimally small market.  Most racers won't touch step-ins with a ten foot pole.

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Love the process occurring here i.e. some critical thinking about what the boot/binding interface between rider and board should achieve.

Some other points to consider.
1/ The position of the pivot point between shell and cuff, relative to the rider's ankle joint.
2/ The position and angle of the straps/buckles that restrict the shell/cuff movement to minimise rider heel lift.
3/ Which axes of the boot do you want to be able to have significant movement, as well as being able to exert force.
Current designs with spring systems allow fore/aft movement with variable force, while laterally very limited movement. Think about what a Bomber Sidewinder binding achieves and whether this is useful.

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It has been tried in the past...

image.png.a1d98e2f96710e6ccf3e25aef3f063d5.png

This was the softboot intec system.

Doing two pins like you suggest might be better, but I actually think the above system is fine for the interface, the pin for lateral moments, the sole for fore-aft bending moments.

I think the key thing is the hard shell on hardboots.  And that hard shell also limits walking. A more logical sole / interface design may improve it, but I actually do not mind that much. For ski boots also alternatives have been made to improve walking etc., but nothing ever caught on. 

But if you do go commercial, do something like above, add a plastic shell, and I'd gladly give it a try.

 

 

 

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I like the idea of a foot-shaped boot with a humane ramp angle. I don't quite follow why it needs to have a lateral step-in system, as I have always been happy with standard bails. Also, I am quite happy with a bit of lateral play, of which your proposed system will probably offer even less than the Intec system ....

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Looks neat, but the $$ involved will make this an uphill battle.  

Note that you need some preload to keep the retractable pins from being subject to large reversing loads.  That's what the ramps/stationary pins are for for in the F2/Bomber design.  Without those pins, the downward load and a bit of spreading could lead to the chamfer being engaged on the moving pin, which will compress and release the pin.  If you use the boot sole to stop downward movement, then the system becomes hypersensitive to snowpack on the bottom of the boot.  It's a complex problem, and it gets much worse when you have four pins per boot.  

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2 hours ago, Corey said:

Looks neat, but the $$ involved will make this an uphill battle.  

Note that you need some preload to keep the retractable pins from being subject to large reversing loads.  That's what the ramps/stationary pins are for for in the F2/Bomber design.  Without those pins, the downward load and a bit of spreading could lead to the chamfer being engaged on the moving pin, which will compress and release the pin.  If you use the boot sole to stop downward movement, then the system becomes hypersensitive to snowpack on the bottom of the boot.  It's a complex problem, and it gets much worse when you have four pins per boot.  

Why wouldn't you make the front pins non-retractable and use some hooks rather than receiver holes? Slide the pins into the hooks in the front and then step down on the heel to engage the rear pins.  Then you have a design that allows preload pretty much like the current Intec and reduces complexity, except that instead of a bail on the front you've got the hook/pin arrangement.  This shortens the boot somewhat and I guess lets you make the rigid portion of the sole shorter.  Otherwise I don't see a clear advantage compared just having the little ledge on the end of the boot for the bail.  The extra pins on the front are just more things to get caught on stuff when you are walking around.

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4 minutes ago, Neil Gendzwill said:

Why wouldn't you make the front pins non-retractable and use some hooks rather than receiver holes? Slide the pins into the hooks in the front and then step down on the heel to engage the rear pins.  Then you have a design that allows preload pretty much like the current Intec and reduces complexity, except that instead of a bail on the front you've got the hook/pin arrangement.  This shortens the boot somewhat and I guess lets you make the rigid portion of the sole shorter.  Otherwise I don't see a clear advantage compared just having the little ledge on the end of the boot for the bail.  The extra pins on the front are just more things to get caught on stuff when you are walking around.

I think that could work quite well. Attaching the boot on the sides rather than at the toe should provide more control of the lateral flex, as well as a shorter, wider and flatter sole. I would try to avoid having moving parts in the boots, and rather move the weight and complexity to the binding. 

8 hours ago, TimW said:

It has been tried in the past...

image.png.a1d98e2f96710e6ccf3e25aef3f063d5.png

This was the softboot intec system.

Doing two pins like you suggest might be better, but I actually think the above system is fine for the interface, the pin for lateral moments, the sole for fore-aft bending moments.

I think the key thing is the hard shell on hardboots.  And that hard shell also limits walking. A more logical sole / interface design may improve it, but I actually do not mind that much. For ski boots also alternatives have been made to improve walking etc., but nothing ever caught on. 

But if you do go commercial, do something like above, add a plastic shell, and I'd gladly give it a try.

 

 

 

Thanks! I had not seen these.

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Here better version of that binding, HBX.

Been on that more than 10 years, best i seen, until i switched to Atomic BackLand

F2-INTEC-Step-In-HBX-Size-L.jpg

Here btw boots i used with them

Hurricane18.gif

Edited by pokkis
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1 hour ago, Neil Gendzwill said:

Why wouldn't you make the front pins non-retractable and use some hooks rather than receiver holes? Slide the pins into the hooks in the front and then step down on the heel to engage the rear pins.  Then you have a design that allows preload pretty much like the current Intec and reduces complexity, except that instead of a bail on the front you've got the hook/pin arrangement.  This shortens the boot somewhat and I guess lets you make the rigid portion of the sole shorter.  Otherwise I don't see a clear advantage compared just having the little ledge on the end of the boot for the bail.  The extra pins on the front are just more things to get caught on stuff when you are walking around.

Yeah, that’s what I was hinting at when I referred to the Burton Physics system. And I agree with the concern about walking. 

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41 minutes ago, Neil Gendzwill said:

Unless I misread your drawing the complexity is still in the boot as you are showing Intec-style retractable pins there. 

Apologies, this is the danger of sketching. As mentioned somewhere in my post: "Note that the binding is nowhere near “designed” at this point, but the sketch shows roughly where I think the attachment points should be."

To clarify; I definitely feel that the boot should be light and simple. I do not have a working design - I am really just sharing some thoughts, as I feel it should be possible to combine the best features of hard boots with the best features of soft boots.

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Not sure i would agree that the drawing indicates where the pins are located ( could be boot or binding). Perhaps they are in the binding. Some early boots  had holes in the heel to receive pins.

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Stock heels on my 323's  came with heels that had retractable plastic pins (plugs). No signs of water ie. ( snow) met in internals. Never found a binding that worked with such a design. Maybe time to call on Gilmour or Kildie  for some intel.

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20 hours ago, pokkis said:

Here better version of that binding, HBX.

Been on that more than 10 years, best i seen, until i switched to Atomic BackLand

F2-INTEC-Step-In-HBX-Size-L.jpg

Here btw boots i used with them

Hurricane18.gif

For now I'm riding Flow Talon boots with Flow NX2 GT bindings. The boots provide unbelievable heel hold-down without being tight. The bindings are like traditional strap bindings but have a tilting highback that provides quick in & out. These aren't a perfect solution but the best compromise for me now. I did a search on Atomic Backland and only found backcountry ski equipment. What is the boot/binding system you show in your pictures?

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Same as TimW's ie F2 soft Intec system, this is just stiffer version of boots and bindings.

But as said now i'm on Backland with F2 Race binding

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18 hours ago, Neil Gendzwill said:

I can’t see any way holes in the boots wouldn’t clog. 

Me neither, but it would make for a very streamlined boot if someone could figure it out.

2 hours ago, pokkis said:

Same as TimW's ie F2 soft Intec system, this is just stiffer version of boots and bindings.

But as said now i'm on Backland with F2 Race binding

Hi Pokkis, I am intrigued by this whole Backland subculture. Does this mean that you use the Backlands for other purposes than just split boarding?

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On 7/10/2019 at 4:00 AM, Jack M said:

I'm super glad you are thinking about this.  I agree hardboots and ski boots should look more like feet (e.g. Birkenstocks or Keens) than they do now.  However boot molds are extremely expensive.  Good luck finding someone to finance this mission.  Mountain Slope spent over half a million dollars developing new molds for a relatively simple and traditional boot that was already designed.  Your step-in design has basically already been tried many years ago by Burton with their Physics interface.  The toe piece had hooks so there wouldn't need to be retractable pins in the toe of the boot.  I like the idea of a better step-in, but you are talking about an infinitesimally small market.  Most racers won't touch step-ins with a ten foot pole.

The costs you mention here are properly scary. I think you would have to be confident of grabbing a good chunk of the wide board / flat angle market to make it worthwhile. Need to convince some marketing departments... 

Did you ever try the Burton Physics bindings?

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On 7/10/2019 at 2:34 PM, Aracan said:

I like the idea of a foot-shaped boot with a humane ramp angle. I don't quite follow why it needs to have a lateral step-in system, as I have always been happy with standard bails. Also, I am quite happy with a bit of lateral play, of which your proposed system will probably offer even less than the Intec system ....

My thoughts around attaching to the sides of the boots were that the tensile load paths of current hard boots are arranged in a rectangle that is only 70 mm wide and around 300 mm long. I just don't think you would choose to attach the bindings to the extreme ends of a long, narrow boot if you did not have the ski boot heritage.

I agree that lateral flex is often desirable, and especially with flatter angles. Hopefully, lateral flex can be incorporated in the binding, rather than in the boot / binding interface. 

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19 hours ago, Neil Gendzwill said:

I can’t see any way holes in the boots wouldn’t clog. 

It is apparent that a lot of research will be necessary in order to educate oneself to avoid repeating previous failures. Picture a Fitec heel that receives a pin rather than projects a pin. When disengaged the heel has a plastic pin that pushes out flush to the side of the heel. Do the same for the boot toe block and then design a platform (binding) to receive it.

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Why reinvent binding AND boot?

We already have light, easy to walk in, and available boots in the backcountry arena. Yes, the BSL is on the long side but the boots are usually fantastic.

Seems to me making a binding to grab these from the side with minimal or no modification is a more feasible endeavor. 

 

Better yet, why not a binding that gives you the support of a hardboot but for softboots? If they can do it for ski boots... 

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