In This week’s installment of "Recovering from Lisfranc Foot Surgery"...

Posted by Timothy Ziegler on Mar 24th 2022

In This week’s installment of "Recovering from Lisfranc Foot Surgery"...

This week’s installment of recovering from Lisfranc foot surgery is less of a story post, and more of a step-by-step process for finding a way to put on a ski, and get out on snow before it disappears completely, after not being able to ski since mid-December. My goal was to make an attachment for the iWalk, a device that straps to my leg at the knee and has really helped keep me mobile in spite of not being able to bear weight on my foot since it was repaired.

Just to get everyone up to speed, while forejumping for Ski Jumping Olympic Team Trials on Christmas Day, I had a very unfortunate crash that resulted in a Lisfranc displacement fracture in my left foot, meaning that my two large metatarsal bones were no longer being held together, and I had to have a surgeon screw those two bones back together in hopes of either coaxing the ligament back into place, or forming a bone bridge to keep the toes properly aligned. This post, and others in the future that will be updates throughout the healing process, is not only a live documentation of how I go about recovering from a season-ending injury and all the steps in between, but also a way for me to talk about all the fun things I get to do while I can’t ski, like simultaneously becoming a race bystander, assistant wax tech, cheering squad captain, and part time biathlete.

My aunt initially gave me the idea to retrofit a ski boot to an iWalk. She had seen one of her friends make his own attachment using an AT ski with Dynafit bindings. I started out originally with the idea to take an old pair of Atomic Telemarks with Dynafits, and somehow get the boot to fit on the end of the iWalk post. That was the tricky bit. Initially, I thought about following the lead of my aunt’s friend and making my own wooden foot to go into the boot, but quickly concluded that he, as a cabinet maker, had access to significantly more materials, power tools, and knowledge than a college kid nearly a thousand miles away from home did. This realization sent me back to the drawing board, and I spent a few days scheming about how to make the attachment work.

One evening when I was chatting in the hallway with a housemate and fellow Nordic ski team member, it dawned on me that I didn’t have to make my own foot apparatus. I could just take a ski boot, make a “T” of PVC pipe that went the length of the boot, and that came up to the same height as the stock leg attachment of the iWalk, and fill the boot with expanding spray foam. As long as the pipe coming out of the boot was the same length as the original iWalk leg, I could just pop off the original foot and put the new one with a ski boot on. It was minimal, simple, and seemed to be a potentially effective way to go about at least making a prototype.

Once I had gathered the materials, which included some 1” PVC pipe, and 1” PVC T connector, spray foam, and an old touring ski boot from the gear closet, I set to work designing the “foot”, taking measurements, and cutting everything to length. It wasn’t exactly rocket science, and it definitely wasn’t as precise as it could have been with access to better facilities and tools, but after everything was positioned the way I wanted, I filled as much of the boot as I could with the expanding spray foam. And thus, the iSki Nordic Edition was born.

The first time I tried out the iSki attachment was the day before the start of USCSA Nationals in Lake Placid, NY. (Be on the lookout for an article about Nationals soon! It was a historic year for the Paul Smith’s College Nordic team!). I was able to try the iSki out on the Mt. Van Hoevenberg trails after setting up the wax trailer for the coming races.

It was an amazing feeling, putting the new leg attachment on, realizing that whether it worked or not, I would still be able to at least “stand” on a ski for the first time in over two months. It took a few tries to get the boot into the binding; it turns out it’s kind of hard to maneuver a boot onto a ski when you aren’t able to bend your knee to lean forward. But once it was on, it hit me suddenly that I was on a pair of skis. Real, actual skis, on real, actual snow that I was going to be able to ski on. I think the pictures taken by my coach, Matt Dougherty, perfectly encapsulate exactly what I was feeling as I was putting my poles on, with a gigantic grin on my face, ready to do something that I had missed so much since late December.

It was a bit of a rocky start, I won’t lie, but then again, I imagine it would be difficult for anybody to do something they haven’t been able to do in a while. In a sense I was figuring out how to ski on a semi-prosthetic, and as you can imagine it’s a much different feeling from having two functioning legs. It also didn’t help that I started with an old recreational ski, which I thought would provide more stability since it was wider, but in return also provided no glide, which ultimately made the ski stick and me fall over when I went to do a kick double pole. After switching the rec ski out for a Twin Skin, though, I was off like a rocket, and I couldn’t stop smiling to myself.

Finally, after being unable to do much of anything physically, after losing my best outlet for blowing off steam and keeping my mental health strong and healthy for two months, I was able to slip back into the mindset of bliss that always came to me from gliding across snow. It was what I’d been telling myself the entire time since I got injured:that I would be able to ski again, that it wasn’t the end of the world, and that it would be just as amazing as it always had been. It immediately let me forget about all the things that were clogging up my mind. Thoughts and feelings that had been constantly swirling around in my head since before I crashed and broke my foot, trapped with nowhere to go, were finally released from my head. After such a long hiatus from skiing, finally being able to get out and ski helped me clear my head fully for the first time all winter.

It was unbelievably refreshing to be able to go for even just a short 20 minute ski that day. It helped me realize that all of the positive things I had been telling myself about the future to keep me moving forward every day weren’t just nonsensical “things”. They were the truth, and keeping myself as positive as I could helped me get through the process of allowing my foot to fully heal and recover. So keep this in mind if you’re ever in a position or situation where you feel stuck somewhere low: Positive things you tell yourself aren’t just things that keep you going. Chances are that if you consistently strive for a goal and have some creativity, you can adapt and make the most of your new situation, and good things will follow.

While this may be wrapping up the end of the article, this isn’t the end of the iSki content. I had a blast this last week at USCSA Nationals with the PSC Nordic team. I got to have the proper wax tech experience of waking up early and going to bed late for several days in a row, I built a Version 2.0 of the iSki, and our team may have come home with some pretty significant hardware! Drop by SkiPost next week for an article on all of that fun stuff!