Arch cramps aren't fun

September 17, 2019

How can we ski while our feet are cramping?


Like the whiff of waving wattle, we’re welcoming spring into our lives again – the beautiful sunny ski days, spring corn and longer evenings. But sometimes the slightly heavier snow at the end of the day (read: slush) can have your feet in agony if your boots aren’t quite right. And then there are some poor snow-lovers who have sore feet no matter the conditions. One of the most common complaints is arch cramps.

The foot has two arches (the inside and the outside longitudinal arch) and one transverse arch across the forefoot (which isn’t technically an arch because the structures that create it don’t fit into the typical arch camp). The inside (or medial) longitudinal arch is the one we’re all most familiar with and the one that typically is the critical site of day-ending pains.

There are two base causes to foot cramps: the foot working too hard, or the foot not having enough space to do its work. Typically, a foot will end up working too hard if the boot is too big, too soft, or doesn’t have enough
support. When the boot is overly spacious, the foot needs to move more than Peter Garret on stage to get the intended message to the ski. Unlike Peter Garret, your foot can only do this for so long and it starts cramping up because it’s working too hard. If the boot is noodly soft in its flex pattern, then it’s not going to be holding up its end of the bargain (supporting you in a forward leaned stance) and the foot must do too much work to balance you. In translating your weight to the front of the ski and aiding you to stay centered on the ski, then the arch cramps.

Now, the role of your ski orthotic is to help the foot stay in a position where the foot structure can cope with the forces produced during a ski turn (big forces, and lots of them). Without this support the foot gets overpowered and cramps up. Alternately, if the foot does not have the breathing space to do its job then there are going to be
consequences. This is typically the result of not enough volume in the boot or excessive support from the orthotic or footbed. If your boots fit like a onsey that is three sizes too small, then the squish being applied to the foot muscles can create a cramp. This also plays havoc on the lateral arch which offers a very special cramp of its own. And again, back to the orthotic. If the shape of the orthotic is correct but the amount or density of the posting is excessive, then again, the medial arch
will not be able to flex or activate.

As a quick wrap up – if you get foot cramps, you need to make sure that your boot is the correct flex for you, that it is the correct size and volume and that your ski orthotic is appropriate, then you can wave your cramps goodbye.

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