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HISTORY OF SKI BOOTS

The design of the tie was what determined the design of the first ski boot. The modernism that has revolutionized alpine engineering has introduced new materials, suitability and height.

AG SETH MASIA

First of all, Norwegian farmers and hunters wore their daily work shoes while skiing. Until the 1840s, a simple ski binding strap with ski leather ran across the front of the boot. The biggest design issue was to keep the inside of the boot dry so that the socks can do their job of insulating the foot. This combination of soft boots, simple ties and skis without steel edges was very useful when running in meadows and forests that are gently rolled and for occasional sporty jerseys.

The simple strap in the front direction placed limits on performance in the race: if the skier supported too fast, the shoe could slip out of the strap. The Sami skiers, the original patches, had a solution to this: They built a vertical edge on top of their reindeer boot to prevent it from slipping through the clothing line (pictured left). Sometimes that lip turned into a crooked and exaggerated finger; Santa’s elves are often depicted wearing ski boots.

As skiing became a sport and as skiers began to negotiate steeper slopes and real jerseys, skiers needed better steering and edge control.

The ties were tightened with the invention of the heel strap around 1840 to pull the boot firmly forward over the tear strap. For example, Sondre Norheim and his friends came up with a braided heel strap with an arrowhead. When Fridtjof Nansen sent his team out for the Greenland cross in 1888, the Sami-style toe was still in use, but a clip was added to hold the heel strap in place.

Then the tear strap became like a stiff steel toe plate and the heel strap became more stable to slide the boot over the toe plate. These developments required a boot with tighter and heavier twine, usually reinforced with a wooden shaft to withstand wrinkles under pressure on the front of the heel strap. The heavy sole is elongated at the front and back to support the toe plate and heel strap. Climbing shoes were made in a similar pattern at the time to accommodate cramps, but the soles had steel or lime buttons to provide traction, which would destroy a wooden ski top in no time.

From village shoemakers to mass production

This development did not have a major impact on the design of top-rated ski boots. Since climbers and skiers ordered their shoes from a friend at home, almost all ski boots were custom-made – the shoemaker measured his foot before he started working.

That changed with the introduction of industrial sewing machines and mass-produced shoes and ski boots in the USA (pictured left). The most important inventions were the Goodyear World, which developed a mechanic that worked for Charles Goodyear, Jr .; and the long-lasting machine patented by Jan Matzeliger in 1883.

The inventions were quickly applied in the industrial cities of New England. In 1876, G. H. The Portland, Maine, Bass Boot Factory was manufacturing a thousand pairs of shoes and work boots every day. With the help of new industrial sewing machines, European shoe factories emerged, and by 1885 companies from Switzerland, France, Germany, Great Britain and Italy had launched thousands of shoes and boots. At the turn of the century, the first mass-produced leather ski boots appeared in sports catalogues.

The first alpine shoes

A quarter of a century later, the typical ski boot consisted only of a lace shoe with a wide square toe (to accommodate these woollen socks) and a rope.

At that time, the design of alpine ski boots was different from that of cross-country ski boots. Boots needed a flexible sole for cross-country skiing and ski jumping.  And since alpine skiers wanted their feet to be firmly on the skis, the shoemakers developed a belt (pictured right). In 1928, mountaineer Rudolf Lettner invented the segmented steel rim for alpine skiing. 

Most skiers wore cheap, mass-produced ski boots, but runners, ski instructors, and wealthier athletes ordered their puzzle boots from alpine ski towns. Some of these artisans, such as Peter Limmer Sr., settled in America.

Continue

The intricate design was difficult to copy with machinery and European domestic industry adapted to the mass production of hand-stitched leather boots. Companies like Henke in Switzerland, Le Trappeur in France and Nordica in Italy employed hundreds of workers to export hand-sewn ski boots.

With the marketing of ski boots, the first serious marketing campaigns and the first suggestions from athletes arrived. When the Nordica shoe factory in Montebelluna sold its first ski boots in 1950, the company was lucky enough to equip the Zeno Colò, which that winter in Aspen won two world championships. . The announcement put Nordica on the map.

Even with multiple layers, the leather boots weren’t very waterproof, warm, or durable. If you ski more than a few days a year, your boots will quickly become loose and sloppy. An aggressive skier would need new boots every winter – an expensive business. Like many great racing drivers, Jean-Claude Killy introduced his boots to his friends. When the boots were “seasonal” – comfortable but not yet soft – they were fine for a few runs. 

Buckle up and wait

The intricate design was difficult to copy with machinery and European domestic industry adapted to the mass production of hand-stitched leather boots. Companies like Henke in Switzerland, Le Trappeur in France and Nordica in Italy employed hundreds of workers to export hand-sewn boots.

With the marketing of ski boots, the first serious marketing campaigns and the first suggestions from athletes arrived. When the Nordica shoe factory in Montebelluna sold its first ski boots in 1950, the company was lucky enough to equip the Zeno Colò, which that winter in Aspen won two world championships. . The announcement put Nordica on the map.

Even with multiple layers, the leather boots weren’t very waterproof, warm, or durable. If you ski more than a few days a year, your boots will quickly become loose and sloppy. An aggressive skier would need new boots every winter – an expensive business. Like many great racing drivers, Jean-Claude Killy introduced his boots to his friends. When the boots were “seasonal” – comfortable but not yet soft – they were fine for a few runs. 

Buckle up and wait

Thus, in the half-century from 1966 to 1972, everything changed. It replaced eighty years of durable machines based on sewing machine technology.

The real revolution came in 1966 when Lange dressed the Canadian ski team for the Alpine World Ski Championships in Portillo with plastic boots (see “Fifty Years of Lange”, March-April 2015). The boots caused a sensation – it quickly became clear that the stiff plastic boots on the side significantly improved the power of the ice and would have a big impact on the race (pictured right).

At the 1968 Olympics, Jean-Claude Killy won three gold medals in his Le Trappeur leather boots, but Langes won eight of the other 15. Leather boots quickly disappeared from the races. Nordica presented its first clean plastic start-up this year. Near Montebelluna, start-up factories turned to make ‘plastic’ leather boots coated with urethane. The following year, injection-moulded full-neck ski boots were available from Kastinger and Peter Kennedy, Rosemount launched their fibreglass boot, and Mel Dalebout offered a magnesium shell.

Spoilers and swallows

During this time, French riders developed a new technique that used knee flexibility to absorb or “swallow” the cross-section of the start of a turn. Full use of the ski heel was necessary to accelerate the swinging motion, requiring a higher trailing edge of the boot. Trappeur was probably the first to give some of its 1967 leather boots a moderately high back.

“Master Boot Slander”, May-June 2014). Until 1973, mainly driven by Coomer at Nordica, the all-modern ski boot with a removable and usable lining, overlapping or external closure of the tongue with a high spoiler (pictured right) emerged. Plastic ski boots like leather did not break and required “flux” materials or an adaptable or injectable foam shape to comfortably fit the endless array of foot shapes.

Ending

Most factories retained some overlapping racing models in production, and in 1990, most high-quality ski boots returned to this model. In 1980, a dozen factories introduced innovative high boots that were both comfortable and high-performance – but ski pants did not fit the top at the time, so ski shops stopped selling after a year.

A big step forward was the standardization of individual ski boots in the 1970s. This meant that ski connections had a reliable and consistent mechanical surface.

In the late 1970s, Mel Dalebout invented the detachable and adjusted contour. Sven Coomer developed the custom “orthopaedic” insole to improve strength, comfort and precision in any shoe. Moreover, in 1983 he introduced the Power Strap to Koflach, which had the effect of the fifth loop at the top. From the tongue to the centre of the tibia (photo left). In 1971, Henke introduced the three-part shell (“bottom of the tube”, outer tongue, upper cuff) with Strato. And the concept began with the introduction of Comp 3 (1978) Nordica and Flexon (1980) by Raichle. 

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