Happy Feet Get The Boot

By Scott E. Kinney, Atlantic News Staff Writer

Atlantic News, Friday, February 24, 2006

[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]

SIZING THEM UP -- Tim Barnhorst, a custom boot fitter at Strolz/Kneissl North America LLC/. sizes up a customer that we'll call "Ken" (essentially because that's his name and I'm not feeling all that creative at the moment). Ken came to Tim because the boots he has been skiing in leave him without a toenail at the end of the season. [Atlantic News Photo by Scott E. Kinney]

HAMPTON -- Chances are pretty good that Tim Barnhorst has a cooler job than you.

Yeah, dealing with people's feet can be pretty nasty, but the benefits can be equally good.

Barnhorst works at Strolz/Kneissl North America LLC at 400 Lafayette Road, where they specialize in custom ski boot fitting.

Naturally, no one comes out of the womb knowing how to custom fit ski boots, so Barnhorst had to go for three months of training, in Austria. The horror.

For the customer, the end result of Barnhorst's training is a process that takes roughly two hours, with the end result being the most comfortable ski boots that even the most seasoned skier will appreciate.

The whole thing begins with the outline of the foot. The size and shape of each individual's foot is very different and for the correct fit that knowledge is key. Strolz boots are definitely not about fashion. Three things come to mind and have become a company mantra; form, fit and function. As such there are two available colors — black or, if the skier prefers a stiffer boot, red.

The process then becomes finding the right size shell and lining for the perfect boot. Once that is determined a special lathe is created with a wooden base and glued-on material to take the shape of person's foot. The shells are then heated up, to be made more pliable. The lathe is then placed inside the boot and boot is frozen, so that it takes its new form.

Once the outer shell has been given its appropriate shape it's time for the fun part — foam injection.

SHAPING THEM UP -- The wood blank is shaped into a form-fitting template for the wearer's boot.
[Atlantic News Photo by Scott E. Kinney]

The newly-formed shells, complete with their linings are once again placed on the skier's feet. The liners are then injected with foam, taking the form of the individuals foot. The hardening takes roughly two minutes, the entire process right around 12 minutes. The end result: A boot that is anatomically correct for the individual.

So who exactly are these boots for?

"It's for anybody who is tired of not fitting in their ski boots," said Barnhorst.

He said the work he does is especially beneficial for the ladies, paying special attention to the difference in their anatomy.

"With our boot we can make it fit the lower calf muscle that women have," Barnhorst said.

Barnhorst said one of the key elements of what they do is how quickly they can prepare a pair of ski boots for their customers.

"A lot of people expect this to take a week or two weeks, when it's usually about two hours," he said. "You leave with the boots and that's important to a lot of people."

Currently, Strolz/Kneissl North America LLC is doing custom fittings by appointment only. For those whose feet could stand to be just a little bit happier, (603) 929-0043 is your gate to "Foot Nirvana."

Oh, and Barnhorst will soon be traveling to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to do ski demos.

Like I said, chances are, Tim Barnhorst has a cooler job than you.

Happy skiing!