The 'Why' of Canting
NOTE: The leg and wedge angles in the following diagrams are exaggerated for the purposes of depicting geometry differences. Actual ski boot cant angles are typically 3 degrees or less.
Figure 1 - Neutral Stance
Hearing the news from a ski shop technician or boot fitting specialist that you need ‘cants’ is one the best things that can happen to your skiing!
It shouldn’t be a surprise to realize that not all human bodies are optimal for snow skiing. Many of us are shaped in such a way that the geometry of our hips, legs, or ankles hinders our ability to improve our skiing. Ideally, when a skier stands in a neutral position, with their body weight centered over their feet, their weight should be evenly distributed across the sole of each foot. On snow, this means that they can easily skid the ski laterally, and with tiny and symmetrical movements of the knee instantly apply either edge to carve or adjust a turn or control the skid. (Figure 1)
But for many us, this is just not the case. When we try to stand in a neutral position, more of our weight is focused on the inside or outside edge of our feet because of the way our body is shaped. We can have this problem with one foot, or both feet, and the imbalance of weight distribution can go either way – towards the inside or the outside of the foot. On snow, we are at a disadvantage because our ski is naturally tipped with one edge driven deeper into the snow in our supposedly 'neutral' stance. So it's hard to skid the ski and we must move the knee a greater distance toward the 'high side' to compensate. (Figure 2)
You can check yourself.
Figure 2 - Knee Movement Compensates
Stand on a soft surface like deep carpet or a foam rubber pillow. Look straight ahead and try to assume a balanced and even stance with your feet comfortably apart. Without moving your lower body, peek down at your feet. If one or both feet tend to tip to the inside or outside as you try to stand in a neutral and balanced position, we are talking about YOU! Wearing off the inside or outside edges of your shoes can be another clue.
When standing on snow (your favorite soft surface!) one edge of the ski is pressed more deeply into the snow than the other edge of that ski. As you learned to ski, you may have learned to compensate for the problem to some degree. But this need to always compensate will hinder your skiing, and prevent you from becoming as good a skier as you can be... until you fix the root cause.
Various solutions exist, depending on the severity of the problem. The means of correction include adjusting the alignment of the boot with the lower leg and/or sandwiching a wedge somewhere within the foot-to-ski connection. The wedge acts to shim up and align the center of the knee over the center of the boot (red and green lines in Figure 3) and thus compensate for larger geometry problems.
In general, the term “canting” refers to the process of adjusting the angle by which the boot interfaces with the ski. The wedges are referred to as ‘cants’ and they come in various degrees of angle.
Figure 3 - Compensating Wedge Shape
Proper ski boot canting allows both your skis to be dead flat or just slightly pressured to the inside when you stand in a balanced and neutral position on the snow. After a few minutes on the snow with your newly canted equipment, you find that any weak side has gone away, turning becomes easier, and your new-found solid flat-ski stance gives you a solid platform on which to build more advanced skills.
So if you’re tired of thinking you just can’t get to the next level in skiing, get tested for cants by the experts at your local full-service ski shop or specialty boot fitter. If you need canting, fixing your equipment will make a big difference in your skiing. And the greater the degree of canting you need, the greater that difference will be!
This is all pretty straightforward. The challenge is in how to accomplish the adjustments and where in the foot-to-ski connection to put any necessary wedge in your particular equipment. Read about how ski and boot canting is accomplished...