As I’ve stated before, downhill skiing is one of my favorite winter activities. In fact, I’ve often joked with my wife that if I had no sense of responsibility, I would probably be a ski bum year-round!
One of my biggest deterrence to skiing all the time is that after walking for a while in my boots, my knees really begin to hurt! When it first started happening, I was worried that maybe I was injured. But then I began to think about what happens to the knee when I am walking in my ski boot.
Most ski boots are flexed forward in order to allow the skier better control in a bent knee position as they ski. This has the effect of creating a better interface with the ski boot and your leg, increasing control over the ski. But when you get out of the ski and attempt to walk as you normally would, heel-toe, this flexed boot causes a different reaction in your knee. The forward stride will thrust the leg bone forward at your knee joint because the ankle is unable to move and compensate for your motion. This of course, puts a greater strain upon the ligaments of your knee joint. (Ligaments hold bones in their position) You’re ACL and PCL (anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments) in particular bear much of that strain. Over time, the increased strain at this more vulnerable ligament can lead to more significant injuries as the ligaments become thinner and weaker with repeated tension placed upon them.
So what can you do about this?
1. Avoid heel-toe walking while you’re in your boots. Try walking flat-footed in your ski boots with the knees slightly bent. By doing this you automatically adjust for the forward position that your knee joint is placed in when the ankle is flexed forward. This might require more muscle activity in your thighs but will help to prevent strain on the knee joint.
2. Remove the boots and do most of your walking in a pair of normal shoes/snow boots. This will allow the ankle to go through its normal range of motion and will prevent straining the knee joint.