Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter Tires

As someone who grew up in California and lived a large part of their life in Virginia, driving in snow is not something I am comfortable with.  In two weeks, I'll be moving to central New York right on the edge of the Lake Effect snow-belt.  As with all things in life, the love of new gear will get me through this.

There has been a revolution in tire technology over the last decade.  Rubber compounds combined with tread designs have spawned dedicated tires designed for both cold weather and snow/slush/ice.  I am determined not to let my tires limit me getting to the ski resorts.  Once reason for my franticness, is that my current tires, Yokohama Avid ENVigors are downright scary on snow, slush and ice.  My tires spin at the slightest movement and the anti-locks kick in every stop.  Having a Scooby Legacy GT wagon, there is an expectation that it will excel in poor weather.  It was disconcerting that my old Legacy wagon was so much more sure footed in the snow.  Part of its prowess comes from its sway bars and its cheap all seasons, which out perform theses ENVs in poor weather.
 
One of the interesting by products of the internet age is the abundance reviews. Tire Rack is one of the leaders in this space and there are many European reviews.  Snow tires are a popular for discussion.  The keys to new snow tires are the rubber compounds and tread design.  When the temperature drops below 40s, it is beneficial to use a tire designed for this. 
 
In the continuum of tires there are All Season tires that most everyone gets. The tires that is supposed to do well in summer, fall, rain and snow.  A lot of people have two full sets of rims and opt for dedicated tires for summer and winter. With regards to winter tires, there are studded tires, - used for only the worst conditions and often illegal on most roads, studless and studdable winter tires, and performance winter tires.
 
The performance winter tires are for those that want to maintain their sports car nature and still do well in the snow. They are also expensive.  These would be nice to have, but were a little expensive. I would go for a Dunlop Winter Sport 4d if I could.
 
I decided to focus on the studdless(meaning you could get studs if you want) winter tires to prepare me for snow country for the next few months.  I'd change to other wheels with summer/spring tires in late April.
 
 
Bridgestone Blizzaks have the most history as the best snow tires.  Michelin X-ice 3 hold the best ranking at Tire rack.  And the General Altimax Arctic is known as one of the bestbang for the bucks.  It is an exact replica of a famous Euro tire.  The problem right now is the time of year.
 
I talked with several local shops and no one could get winter tires. It seems that only a limited supply are made and by mid February we are beyond the season.  So the General's were sold out almost across the country.  Many suggest to size to a narrower tire for a snow tire. This allows the tire to cut through the snow.  Online, I was able to find some X-ice 3 in my stock size.  But they were very expensive. 
 
I then looked for 205/50R17 and found some Altima Arctic and some Continental Extreme Winter contacts.  The outfit selling the Arctic was a little suspect , so just went with the leader in the field, Tire Rack. I'm getting them delivered to a local tire installer and will have them on in a few days. 
 
I'm also getting my sway bars installed in next week.  That will help a lot to smooth out the body roll that is so heavy in these wagons.  More discussion to follow.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Core and other cycling specific workouts

good article on strength training for mtb. Some nice selection of specific exercises:
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Ultimate sandbag routine for Hip Hinge


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A circuit using the sand bag. I'm getting ready to order the Power package which looks to be their medium size. They are sized as core, power, strength, and burly. With the power it looks like you can put two filler bags and get up to 40 lbs in it which will be plenty for me to learn on.

I'm a big fan of the sandbag. Adding in a rotational component to exercises makes it an awesome tool for athletes needing greater stability in all planes of motion.
The cool thing about the sandbag is that it offers so many different options for holding it. While the barbell offers very little in the way of changing grips, with the sandbag we can shoulder it, hug it, crossbody hug it, and Zercher hold it. The possibilities are many, and each different grip or hold offers a different set of challenges.
Here's an example:
Order Exercise Reps
A Split Clean 5*
B Rotational Lunge 4*
C Push Press 8
D Zercher Good Morning 8
E Shouldered Get-Up 2*
In the video below my athlete is using an 80-pound bag and he's getting crushed by the end.

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Sandbag combo drill
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sandbag for hip hinge progression


a dumbell exercise.  I do something similar with a barbell braced against a corner, where I squat, stand up and then drive the bar up.

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A random compendium of exercises with cycling specific development in mind.

working 3 planes




stagger stance kettle bell push press


12minute routine for lower back/posture from the Foundation book:


wrist work with kettlebell


Lance's strength training:


AntiRotational with a band. I use resistance tubing


4 more core exercises one with sandbag
lateral sand bag pull
renegade row
inchworm

pinkbike video on single leg squats progression (not pistol squat)

http://www.sportsciencelab.com/exercises/hip-twistHip twists on Ball

 The founder:

Sandbag rotational lunge:

Kettlebells for wrist-


Lance's foundation program - core - posterior chain:
http://www.menshealth.com/celebrity-fitness/lance-armstrong-workout


Rotational Deadlifts (ideally with sandbag)






Core workout from Bicycling - do in order: http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/training-fitness/core?page=0,3

1:

2:
3: 4: 6:
 5: This looks really interesting for training hip rotations:



another one. I did these one day at a demo at the gym, it really targeted the same hip muscles needed for cornering



I want one of these 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The "Back Mouse" or Back Mice

I've started my yearly ritual of strength training ala the Morris way. Currently, the transition lifting is proceeding fairly well. This is the phase where I gradually introduce weights starting with extremely light weights and 8-10 reps. Typically, I start with 2 sets the first week, then 3, then up to 4 sets of 12 reps with increasing weight week to week. The goal is to enter into the Hypertrophy phase with connective tissue that is strong enough to take on the new load from the weight lifting. The problem of just jumping into Hypertrophy isn't the muscles as they could probably take the load except with some pretty tender soreness the next few days. However, it is the connective tissue that would probably be the weak link in the chain. My strength training focuses on quads, hips, hamstrings. Squats are a core aspect as is stiff legged dead lift. One thing I've noticed over the years as I increase weight are these small nodules in my lower back. At first they might seem like a typical trigger point. Trigger points live inside my shoulders, upper back, mid back, piriformis, hip flexors like they are bad house guests. I've experienced some relief using trigger point massage balls which allow you to get deep into the belly of the muscle to break up the knot. It is considered a hurts so good technology and can literally take my breath away, however the relief is noticeable. However, these 'knots' in the lower back are different. They are much smaller, and more raised like a nodule. Their shape is more defined and are almost round about 1-2cm and hard. They move slightly yet, deep palpitation or pressure does not dissipate them. I've been searching for information about them and thought that it might be because lower back muscles wrap around the waist as opposed to being longer like a typical mid back or upper back muscle. The ever ending googling has identified a phenomena known as the "Back Mouse". Reading this was fascinating, as it described these nodules that I experience very well. I had upped my squat and dead lift weight recently, and noticed these. They are interesting in that deep massage don't have much affect on them, nor does stretching and they typical cat-back, arching or bird-dog lower back work affect them. This leads me to agree with the supposition that they are these are episacroiliac lipoma or lumbar fascia fat herniation. They seem to go away slowly and don't cause me too much pain. Deep pressure does not provide relief as is the case with other trigger points and usually increase pain focal to the area of the nodule. Other experience pain that is speculated to be the nodule impinging on nerve endings. If it is causing pain, a diagnostic to determine whether this is the root is to inject it with an anesthetic. This targeted injection isolates the treatment to that tiny region. I have also heard of Dry Needling as an alternative to an injection of pain reliever. Dry needling is where they push an acupuncture needle into the trigger point and then move it up and down. You might also come across the drama around dry needling between certified acupuncturists and chiropractors. Supposedly, dry needling is a trendy term and a certificate can be obtained from weekend courses. However a certified acupuncturist requires years of training and oversight from the health department. They have been doing this technique as part of their typical toolset however it wasn't tagged with a hot up and coming name. I've been interested in dry needling for trigger point therapy as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Ropix jump rope shoes

*Draft * 11-22-11
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This review looks at some jump rope specific footwear called Ropix. The first question one has to ask themselves is am I willing and is it worth it to pay $XX for a jump rope specific shoe? Don't go by my answer as I am a true gear head. Whether is is bike parts, snowboard parts, rainwear, watches, or tools. If there is a product that will improve any part of my experience that is a good value for the money and designed well, it is a no-brainer for me.

My perspective is that the connection between my hobbies and the rest of my life is closer than you think. A good day on the bike, or the gym translates over in small was into the rest of the day. I've been doing certain activities for years and years, so a high upfront expense for a product that will see continuous long term use will amortize itself across many years. I spend a long long time researching a specific item, balancing out the value for the money, and magic bullet potential. Sometimes the product works out great, other times it was a bust.

So with this product, my answer is yes, it is worth it.

Why jump rope specific shoes? I've been jumping rope off and one since college. Every winter when the bikes goes away and my weight lifting routine starts (all hail the Morris plan), I also pull out the rope. I hate to run. treadmills, outdoors anywhere except when playing soccer. For whatever reason my connective tissue just cannot get over that initial pain when starting to run. I've tried at least half a dozen times over the years and never make it past a few weeks. Jumping rope on the other hand is an insane workout and the bang for buck in terms of work performed compared to time is high. All with minimal impact compared to running

I love the mechanics of jumping rope and footwork and crossovers. Combined with some good music and it is the closest to dancing that I get. Just jumping up and down on two feet can be inherently boring. However when you start getting efficient and realize that the rope is only a 1/4 thick and learning the timing between your jumping rhythm and the rope it can get really really fun. It's all about timing and knowing when, and how high off the ground you need to be in association with when the rope is going to be underfoot. I do this a lot. Take a simple concept and complicate it. You should see me work with my 13 year old on algebra!

Most people think it's all about the calves and jumping high. It's really a lot more of some of your smaller muscles like this Tibialis Anterior


I also have a good rope. Same question as earlier. Why spend a $30+ on a jump rope? when a $5 special at Dicks will work? no question here. I'd rather jump well than whip myself every time with a crappy rope. Buddy Lee is lord king buddah in this area. I've had a Rope Master for more than 10 years. Replaced the bearings and the rope once.

Anyway, back to the shoes. What makes these shoes a application specific design, and what is wrong with regular alternatives like running shoes or cross training shoes? Two major things: 1) running and crosstraining shoes are designed for heel impacts. there is very little major heel impact in this activity. 2) Running and cross training shoes are also designed with wide forefoot sections. This is a pain in jumping rope as the widest part of the shoe catches on the rope.

The designer of Ropix wanted something that wasn't a compromise. Narrow cross section combined with the specific loading of jumping rope as opposed to adapting a running shoe. This is what he came up with. I think they created some technospeak that wasn't really necessary. Why get caught up in the hype of marketing speak when there is no other shoe that is competing with you in this space. Leave that to Nike and Asics. Plain and simple, it's designed with jump-roping in mind.

I ended up ordering the Sonic White/Black leather lace up. If I were doing it again, I'd go for the mesh style with the velcro as I'll talk about in a bit.

On first glance they seemed really narrow and long. Part of that is the comparison with my other shoes and most running shoes. They just have a real narrow profile which is awesome when doing cross overs. I can really tell that I am catching the rope on the shoe much less. This gives an extra margin for error when tired and sloppy.

Sizing seems a tad big. Meaning a tad long in the toe. I typically wear 8M. I've got a bit more gap at my toe, and wonder if going a 1/2 size small might be good sort of like climbing shoes or snowboard boots. Not a big deal.

The laces on the lace up model are too long. I have to stuff them into the shoe to keep the rope from catching on them. Hence why I'd suggest the velcro model. The leather is pretty nice. Looks tough and able to stand up to anything. But it also makes the shoes warm. My feet sweat a lot anyway, so would have been better with a mesh style. I don't think they offer a mesh/velcro model. It looks like the velcro is in a nubuck material

The sole material is where this shoe is really different. Super tough material, Minimalist everywhere except the ball of the foot.
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It is really weird at first. And I must say, you have to give these shoes at least 2-3 weeks to get used to. It feels like you've got a big wad of gum on your shoes. Or like you are standing uphill. If you look close, the section also has a rounded profile as opposed to a flat profile. This forces you to use extra stabilizing muscles that you don't normally use. So at first it feels awkward and unstable. When jumping with both feet on the ground it isn't as much of an issue, but as soon as you start doing some foot work and alternating between one foot and the other, you notice real quick, that you have to stabilize yourself a little more. My muscles in the front of my shin were pretty soar for a two weeks as I got used to it.

The shoes come with a sock liner that has some gel in the heel
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If you've read any of my previous blogs you know of my universal hatred for sock liners on almost all shoes. They are worthless in my opinion. I have flat feet and have to use an orthotic insert of some kind and took these out and put in some Superfeet Blues. I'm a special case I'd say. One thing is if you are just going to use them for jumping rope, then there really is no need for any arch support. But I like them better with aftermarket insoles, and the designer said that was their approach. Replace them if you want, otherwise you might be fine with them.

I weighed them (w/o sock liners) and they are decently light. I didn't weigh my other shoes, but can immediately tell they are lighter on the feet.
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Performance wise, it has taken a good 2.5-3 weeks to get used to the shoes. The feeling of the extra padding on the forefoot and the rounded profile has taken a while. My muscles, especially on the front of the shin needed some time to grow stronger, and were burning a lot during the first week. I love the low profile and the rope catches on my foot a lot less.

I would say that this design works very well. I am jumping better than I have in years. As some of these minor stabilizing muscles got used to the extra work, lifting off the ground is effortless. Double jumps are easier, footwork is easier. What is really weird, is swapping back to my other shoes to jump rope. It feels so crazy. Like I'm almost jumping in a little decline because that extra padding in the sole isn't there. That lasted all of about 5 seconds and changed back to the ropix immediately.

The lighter weight is noticeable. It's is like cycling which is a repetitive activity. Thousands of RPM over the course of a ride, so a small difference in weight at the pedal or shoe creates a cumulative impact. So while these shoes might be just a bit lighter than other shoes it adds up over the course of the routine.

Changes I'd suggest would be making a mesh/velcro model available, shorter laces on the lace model. Sizing down by half a size possibly. Buyers might want to swap the sock liner for an aftermarket model.

Yes, a significant investment for a piece of equipment that will get used for 20mins 2-3x week between November and February. With the few hotel gym travel days thrown in throughout the year. But for any gear head who cares about sport specific improvements, well worth it. I also just appreciate someone with entrepreneurial spirit to take the initiative to see a gap, and fill it with a specific design. That takes a lot of guts, work, and money I'm sure. Whadda-country I say, where if you want you can find jump rope specific shoe or an aftermarket lever for your Juicy 7.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Awesome Manitou service tutorial

I'm a big fan of Manitou Forks. I have been on them since the Manitou 2 back in the early 90s. They may not be the best forks, and have had their share of mistakes, and creating frustrations for me. But I love 1) the customer service and 2) the ease in performing basic maintenance, and the tune-ability. Most people hated SPV, but I sort of like it, and all the forum posts on how to devolve it made for some fun.

Working on them is messy for sure and you can poke your eye out or shoot oil across the garge, but for me it's one of those therapeutic flow activities like scraping a snowboard.

Here is a great tutorial I found on working on the forks. The guy really goes into details that I never knew.

Monday, February 07, 2011

On variables and the body's ability to compensate

For less than a dozen days within a year, I can get out onto the snow for boarding. Only a handful of times to not only ride, but also tweak and mess with configuration variables of equipment. In which each has the power to change performance with only mm of change. Yet within all this variability, there seems to be only degrees of improvement that the body has an amazing ability to compensate for and overcome. Leading to the question of at what point is it worth stopping the tweaking and just concentrate on the riding and adapt to whatever it is?

Here is a list of variables that can have noticeable affects.
The board
-length
-Type (park, pipe, freestyle, all mountain, freeride, big mountain, twin, directional twin)
-Camber type and flat camber
- wax type
- edge detuning

Boots
-flex
-heel hold
-toe box


Bindings

-highback flex
-highback forward lean
-stance width
-front angle
-rear angle (duck vs both forward)
-regular or goofy foot forward
-stance centering
-flex pattern on straps
-where the strap hits your foot
-toe strap set as cap or across the top of foot
-highback rotation
-canting angles
-heel wedge

With all the variables one can isolate a single one and change it one at a time, or change multiple variables at a time. And with limited time on the snow, there is no way to test all combinations. Something I'm actually looking at in my research is methodologies for testing like factorial design where you test a limited number of configurations but can gain some insight into what other combinations would be given the results


Sometimes I thinks it's time to settle on a configuration and then let you body adapt. I'm almost there, but took a little step backwards with this little gaffe. I think stance position is probably one of the most important settings. The board manufacturers provide a recommended location where the center of your bindings ought to go.



This based on the location of the side cut and the type of conditions that the type of board was designed for. Sure I know more than anyone, but I imagine that the designers of the board defined these recommended position for important reasons.
Look close at the image below which is the top of a board similar to mine:


See the four holes that have a ring around them. These are the starting centered stance recommended by the manufacturer. All the other holes provide you two things, the ability to customize your stance width, and to also shift the entire stance back or forward to compensate for varying conditions such as powder. Which I know nothing of living in the east coast, but supposedly, you can shift your whole stance back to help lift the tip in deep snow.

So say you want a wider stance. The idea is to start at the centered location and than move both bindings out but X amount (one hole, two holes) rather than just moving one 2X. The disc of the bindings also allows a little more variability

So my board has a centered stance of 21", but with the inner most set of the 6 pack of holes, combined with the extra holes in the binding plate I can get a minimum of 18.5" stance width.

Widerstance --> stability but harder to bend at the knees/ankles.

Imagine my surprise when I took loosened up my plates to wax the board (important to loosen the screws when waxing so that the screws don't pull in little divots when you heat it up).

Hmmm, the rear binding seems to be placed off center to the back.

And I rode the whole day yesterday with it like this. Was it off the last time I went too? And how did I ride, ok, pretty good actually. The reason was that my timing of weighting and unweighting was improving a little bit. Something did feel off a little bit.

I of course changed it back to proper centering. And just for good measure added a little forward lean, and will probably remove some of that padding I was messing with in the boots. Why change one thing when you can just change several and start off riding like crap and then compensate over the next few times? But then the season will be over and start over next year.

I'm sure that the snow conditions are going to deteriorate into the ice and crust we typically have which will add another level of variability that wasn't included above.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Review of Nitro Team TLS snow board boots - an Do It Yourself DIY Bootfitting

This post is a combo review of Nitro Team TLS boots 2009 and some experiences in DIY boot fitting

Age:42
Male
Ride Style: just mountain, mid atlantic small resorts (WV)
Board: K2 151 Believer flat base
Bindings: Rome Targa
Street shoe size 8 (7.5 in the Nitros)

2/6/11 ***note that I am rethinking the relationship between heel hold and ankle flexion and that some of the boot fitting things I tried probably weren't good because the padding pushed the top of my ankle into the harness more. Of course I cynched the harness down as tight as I could and the tops of my ankles were fried.

Summary:
Pros:
out of the box decent heel hold
high end construction
inner ankle harness
stays tight for the most part (need to re tightnen after few runs, inner harness came loose but got new lace locks from distributor)
dual zone lacing

cons:
takes forever to put on and get set up
hard to get off
original lace locks for inner harness would not stay tight
confusing lacing (at first) SLOW, lots of extra lace to deal with
laces don't stow well in the little holders



Vitals:
42 years old, M, size 8 street shoe, (right foot bigger), intermediate boarder in WV resorts, just riding the runs, no park/pipe.

-Very flat feet and very narrow ankle and bad circulation (Perniosis) You just can't get much worse than my feet.

With a very narrow ankle from very small bone structure, finding snowboard boots is a real struggle. My bone frame is extremely small, my 12 year old son's wrist is bigger than mine, so you can imagine how narrow my ankle is.

Snowboarding is utter hell on the feet. Sure in ski boots you cram your foot into some icebox an entire size smaller than your foot. But in boarding you have to flex your feet alot, especially on easy runs and flat catwalks. The ankles and your heel hold can make or break any toe-side turn. So having tight heel hold is essential. It often turns out to be a tradeoff between how tight you can cinch your boots down to hold your heel and not cut off circulation to you foot. The circulation issue is especially aggravating because it tends to be cold, duh when snowboarding. The trade off I think is between holding the heel snug while still enabling flexion at the ankle so you can bend at the ankle and knees when driving the board forward and absorbing terrain.

I've had some old northwaves and some Salomons Synapse. The Sals are supposed to be good for narrow heels, but the inner liner packed out very fast and the lacing on the inner liner would not stay tight more than one run.

I don't live in an area with access to lots of boots to try on. From a lot of reading and forums and chatting with sales people online the list of boots that seem on the better side for narrow ankles is:
Northwave Decade SL
Ride FUL-Intuition Liner
Thirty Two TM2
Nitro Team TLS
Salomon Malamutes
Salomon F22

I got the Nitro Teams last year from Backcountry. So far they have been pretty good for the heel hold but have their issues like I am thinking any boot does.


The Team TLS is a pretty high quality boot. Construction is solid, it's decently warm I guess. I am always cold and use toe warmers almost every time so am not a good judge of that aspect. It seems to be a trait of high end boots to incorporate an ankle harness with the boot.
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I seem to like this method over having the liner itself have it's own laces but I only have the Salomon's to compare to. The liner is ok I guess.
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I don't think has any heat molding characteristics like the Thirty two or Ride FUL. I heard the Thirty Twos have a lower end Intuition liner. Which I also heard is a good thing to go for if you have narrow ankles. I think the Ride FUL has a higher end intuition. Intuitions require a good way of heating it. Store will have an approved oven. There is also a good you tube video where the guy heats up rice stuffed in a sock.

The sock liner is an utter piece of crap like most sock liners that come in boots and cycling shoes. They ought to just leave it out an put a piece of cardboard in or just send you a check for to go buy some super feets. Here is a picture of it next to superfeet Blues, more on this later.
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The inner harness laces uses a sliding lace lock
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The first one that came would not stay tight. The distributor was really nice and sent me some newer ones:
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The do seem to work better.

The one problem with this inner harness is that I have to cinch it down tight to get really good heel hold, But it aggravates a nerve on the top of my foot

or it cuts of circulation but it can get really bad after a few hours in the cold.

The outer lacing system is called TLS. every manufacturer of boots has their own special lacing system. Some prefer to stay with traditional laces like a lot of Thirty Two boots. The trick with traditional laces is to learn how hockey players laces there boots. They do two things. They use a lace puller to get the laces tighter than you can with bare hands, and they twist the laces to keep it from coming loose.

The TLS use a two lace system that allows you to tighten the lower laces different than the upper. For me it wasn't an issue because it's always as tight as I can. But sometimes I do keep the lower ones a little looser. The lower laces are black and the upper laces are grey. I found that I have to pull each row of laces with my fingers to get them snug before I pull on the laces with the handles. I typically get the top ones just a little tight, then pull the lower ones then back to the uppers than the lowers again.

Here they are in the loose mode:
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The lack locks are spring loaded and once you pull up they lock into place keeping the lace from coming loose.
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One of the problems with these types of speed lace systems is that there is a lot of laces and they have to go somewhere. In the you tube videos they wrap the excess around the handle and then stuff the handle in these little side pockets. No way does that work given how tight the pockets are. I can barely get the handle in alone.
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I just wrap the lace around my calf and stuff the handle in. Same with the inner liner lock.

Problems I've had have been the inner lace coming loose, and not being able to get heel hold totally under control, as well as just plain my foot hurts like hell after a few hours in the cold and standing up. I've tried to remedy issues in a few ways

1) Get some decent insoles.
Getting some custom or aftermarket insoles is an absolute must if you have flat feet and pronate badly like I do. I suffered in cycling for years before I finally broke down and got custom insoles.
The inner sock liner must go almost always. There are several ways to go for the insoles. Drug stores, etc, have Spenco inserts. Superfeet are a great choice. Super feet green or blues. They also make a red that has foil on the inside which is supposed to be warmer. I've used Super Feet blues for a while, but after a bad day finally got my cycling orthotics to sort of work. The cycling orthotics are 3/4 length then have a neoprene top which bunches up at the end of the snowboard boot. But I sort of have it working.
Here is a comparison showing the Nitro, superfeets and my customs:
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Notice two things. 1) how high the arch is on the customs. A good test to see how flat your feet are is to step into some water and then step onto smooth concrete. Take a look at the wet impression. You can see pretty quick if you have flat feet or have a natural arch. Mine is bad. 2) Notice that the custom and the Superfeets have plastic. in the arch. That means there is very little give in the arch.

Some after market orthotics like the Shred Soles
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have a shaped arch but they don't have a rigid structure.

A note on the shred soles. They are made by a small company that obviously has soul and rider owned. I got some and they didn't work out for me. The owner was really straight up, the box said money back if unsatisfied and he was true to his word. I think they are a great design and have some extra features specifically for snowboarding in the heel and asymetric design that is thicker on the outside. So for someone with a relatively normal foot, it would be a great choice over the stock liner, but for real bad flat feet probably not.

There is also the Sole brand, I got some cheap on ebay and these seem to be the thicker kind. I think they make a thiner one that is probably better for snowboard boots. They have a very deep heel pocket and nice arch. It is not totally rigid like the superfeets but it does hold shape decently well
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Others I have heard of are Down Unders and A Line

Right now I have my cycling ones in there which are custom and it seems to work ok. A KEY point with flat feet and orthotics that have an arch is that you can eek out some extra toe room because your foot is raised in the arch which pulls your toes back a hair. This is a god send in cold weather and wearing boots that are tight. Which they should be. Toes are supposed to touch when standing, but move back a hair when you lean forward.

In areas with good ski shops, you can find custom insole makers. I don't have any experience with those. I got mine made mail order by a podiatrist that specialized in cyclists. He sent foam in a USPS mailing box. I stood in them and sent them back, he made the orthotics from that impression. Not the best way I'm sure, but one way if you don't have access to the expertise.

Again, I have no access to a pro bootfitter, so I started to take matters into my own hands (probably a mistake as I don't have a clue what I'm doing). Tognar sells some boot fitting supplies. I decided to try some ankle wraps
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and J bars.
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I also got the ELIMINATOR which goes under the tongue of your boot to take up space and push your ankle/heel back.

I just tried to mix/match and try ways to fill the dead space around my Achilles tendon.
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Verdict.
Improvement in heel hold: yes. However at the high price of more pain at the top of the foot. Cinching the ankle harness down as tight as I usually did with the new padding there placed hellish pressure on the top of the foot, and inhibited ankle flexion.

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note that I tested out some of the mods today. While the heel hold was improved the strain on my ankles is much higher, top of the foot to be exact. Think about when you flex your ankle, trying to bring your toes closer to your shins. The combination of extra padding around the heels and tight ankle harness put the hurt on in that area.

The real interesting thing, is that I had a free coupon for a lesson at winterplace. I ended up taking it at the end of the day when I was beat and my ankles were hurtin for certain. I've been going on the assumption that a loose boot is a bad boot, and that it caused delayed reaction in my turning. But at one point, after tightening the boots my ankles were hurting again. So bad that I stopped and loosened them noticeably. At the same time we happened to be working on initiating turns by driving with the front foot first. The first step in the move is twisting the board with the front foot while the rear is flat. Then after the twist, driving the shin forward which just lifts the whole board onto to side edge.

so foot is locked in binding, drive the shin forward, which equates to really bending at the knees AND ankles. Hmm, a few times I really felt it. funny thing is you can't do that if the ankles are totally locked down. they have to flex to get that deep drive. So I actually had the board up on edge and my boots were looser. So I don't really need that ultra locked down tightness, what I need is better technique.

I only felt it a few fleeting times, so am now thinking of going back to w/o the padding, and shooting for a very snug fit, but not locked in place.

I've always heard about bending at the knees. But I'm thinking that this also means flexing at the ankles too. And if an ankle harness is totally locking your ankle movements than you can't flex.

I've been thinking about heel lift all wrong I think. I've always 'test' it by trying to lift the heel when standing up. So standing on my toes and trying to lift the foot up in the boot. WRONG. I think that it is foot flat on the floor, strapped in a binding, and then drive your shin forward. Then see if the heel lifts????