By Lennard Zinn
Russel Bollig’s path to Lance Armstrong’s feet began with Tyler Hamilton,for whom he first built some custom orthotics in 1992. About four yearsago, Christian Vande Velde got some as well. They passed the word on toArmstrong, who was looking for an improved fit in his cycling shoes, andafter the 2001 season Bollig went to Austin, Texas, to fit the three-timeTour champion.
While at Armstrong’s home, Bollig used resin-filled casting socks tomake casts of Armstrong’s feet and ankles. Then, back at his Podium Footwearshop in Boulder, Colorado, he made plaster duplicates of Armstrong’s feetfrom which to make the orthotics.
“I casted his feet several different ways, much like taking a numberof photographs,” said the foot master to Boulder’s athletic community. “Once I had built the orthotics, Lance sent me his shoes so I could trim[the orthotics] to fit perfectly inside. We had to do some further back-and-forth through the mail to get them to fit in his shoes and against his feet just right.”
Bollig fine-tuned the orthotics by peeling off the covers and changingthe padding.
“Lance could pretty much ride barefoot and still win,” said Bollig.“But he came looking for a performance fit in his shoes, and I was ableto improve some things. For him, the crucial adjustment was on the outsideof his foot under his lateral arch to keep him from rolling out [over-supinating]. That’s quite rare. All of the non-custom cycling foot supports, like Big Meat, focus on canting from the medial side to prevent pronating. Lance’s orthotics prevent him from pronating but also from over-supinating. Another thing I did in light of his mileage and force was to pad under the metatarsals. But I had to be space-efficient, because he really has a tight fit in his shoes for performance. I had to do the most minimal amount of cushioning to get the job done but not take up too much room. He says they are working great.”
Cyclists come to Bollig because, being a successful bike racer (as wellas cross-country ski, running, and snowshoe racer), he knows cycling shoesand how they should fit. The underside of the orthotic has to be contouredto fit into the shoe; it’s a craftsmanship project because there is so little space inside.
“Think of an orthotic as filling voids to eliminate unwanted motion. Most shoes are not going to contour to people’s feet like that, and once someone gets used to a custom orthotic, they can never go back.”
Armstrong, who is always looking for every little performance advantage,may be one of those people.