Well, after skiing all season with these boots last year, this year they have caused me trouble with my right foot from the start. I contracted Morton’s Neuroma, which is where the nerves bunch up on the ball of a foot under the middle toes. According to what I could find on the internet from medical sites, it is more regularly an ailment of women wearing narrow toed shoes. My cross country boots – like most all of them – have a narrow toe box and soon after starting skiing, my right foot started to feel like my socks were bunched up under the ball of my foot.
John the town cobbler tried widening the toe, and that did help some, but there’s only so much room in the shoes – they barely fit lengthwise as it is, so not a whole lot can be done.
Cross country ski boot makers just don’t make boots for people with big wheels. I need at least a 52 (size 16 or 17), and I was lucky to find the size 51’s I did get, but now they aren’t cutting it, either.
People with regular size feet like my wife and friends think “someone MUST make big boots, because all those big footed Norwegians or basketball players get their boots SOMEwhere”. I welcome them to find me my size. Even someone who custom makes boots who would make a pair for me. And I’ll take a boot for any binding – nnn, sns, 3 pin – anything. I’ve yet to find them.
First, I tried a technique I’d seen online. I removed the soles of some old SNS boots, and then cut the boot in two near the heel. The front part with the pin that fits in the binding I taped to my extra tuff boots. It worked okay, but not great, and was uncomfortable on the soles of my feet because of the tracks on the bottom of the SNS sole.
So, I looked at an old pair of army cable bindings I bought when I was desperately looking for boots the last time I was looking, when my old 3 pin boots fell apart. I searched online for how to mount them and use them. I soon found a video of the Army base in Anchorage using the same bindings with bunny boots. I got to work.
I mounted the bindings. First I tired using xtra tuffs, and they worked okay, but it was hard to keep the toe in the toe box of the binding, even with the cable around the heel holding the boot forward. I re-reviewed the Army video and noticed many of the soldiers had a strap across the toe box to keep the boot toe in. I found some Army boots in closet I got somewhere and had never used, and these looked better than the extra tuffs. I took them out today on some old llllllloooooooonnnng heavy cross country skis, and they worked okay. But boy, are the bindings and boots heavy as compared to lighter cross country gear used on groomed trails.
So, I came home and took the bindings off the old heavy skis and replaced the nnn bindings on my lighter, shorter skis I’ve been using all season with the cable bindings. That was the ticket. Lots better.
The only problem left with the bindings was that it took all the strength I had to pull the cable around the back of my boot. In fact, I had to put the boots on first with both hands with the ski on my lap, and then when I got to the ski trail, slip out of the boots I had on into the boots attached to the ski.
I started looking for cable substitutes that I could make longer. First I called a bike shop in town as the cable is similar to bike brake cable. The shop keep said he might have something, so he was option 1. Then I thought – the cable looks like a manual choke cable. So I went to Western Auto and found a choke cable – but the inner sliding cable was just a thin wire that was not big enough.
Next I went upstairs and showed the clerk in the marine section what I was looking for as I had the cable with me. He had just what I needed. 3/15 steel cable in a vinyl sheath. And crimps to go on the end. And crimpers to crimp the crimps! I measured out the cable I’d brought plus another 3/4 inches, and headed home to try it. It would work, but was still too tight to be able to put the boots on while I had them on my feet. The cable set up cost less than $3, so I returned with the whole ski and binding and thought I’d experiment until it worked. I moved up another inch and a half, and that one worked. It was a little loose, but I realized I could shorten it, and add a little bit of beefiness to the cable, by doubling up on the crimps at each end, plus the bindings themselves had an adjustment nut that gave me maybe an inch to tighten.
So, now I have cross country ski bindings that will fit whatever boot I want to use in them. They are a lot heavier than with the traditional set up, but I figure that’s only gonna make me work harder, which is the point of my skiing anyway.
Here’s a photo of the ski binding, which will fit a size 16 Keen hiking boot. The bindings are Ramer military cable ski bindings, which are not made anymore I don’t think, but can be found at times on Ebay or from Army Surplus Stores, etc.