KneeBinding Takes Ski Safety Beyond Helmets

Post by blogger | July 26, 2007      

Ever thought about skiing safety, and done an informal poll of what injuries you or your friends have had? If so, you may have noticed that wearing helmets on your knees might be more important than having one on your head. Indeed, it’s been amusing (and sad) to watch the ski gear industry pretty much ignore skiing’s biggest safety problem as they’ve exerted vast energy to making sure everyone gets on the helmet bandwagon. Sure, helmets are fine, but the big problem is knee injuries. Specifically ACL tears.

Enter KneeBinding. This Vermont company has been developing an ACL injury preventing binding for several years, and were recently awarded a patent for their innovation. With patent in hand, they’re planning on having the binding in shops for the 08/09 season. I’ll still use a helmet most of the time, but frankly I’m more interested in having a binding that protects my knees. Thus, this could be good.

Check out the KneeBinding website. Perhaps someday this type of safety release technology will be available in an AT binding. And can we put a Dynafit on their test machine (see the vids on their website)? Since Dynafits release torsionally at the heel, one has to wonder if they might provide a modicum of knee protection similar to what the KneeBinding is said to give.


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26 Responses to “KneeBinding Takes Ski Safety Beyond Helmets”

  1. Rick Howell July 26th, 2007 8:31 am

    Thank you for your kind words about KneeBinding ™. We really appreciate that you can see how much work has gone into this new technology. We will be introducing the new technology to a small, select-group of specialty ski retailers in Jan 08 at the trade level — for shipment to this select group of stores in the late Fall of ’08. No bindings will be available for the general public before that. Meanwhile our testing on-slope and in the lab continues to be strong. As an engineer and former top downhiller (5th in the US, 29 FIS-points, years ago) — it is essential that this binding provide maximum retention + pass all international safety tests + provide the new knee mitigation feature, decisively.
    RH, Stowe, Vermont

  2. Lou July 26th, 2007 8:57 am

    Hi Rick, cool the binding inventor drops by our corner of the web. I’m sure looking forward to checking out your binding, and have high hopes for it.

  3. Lou July 26th, 2007 10:30 am

    Good point Clyde, I thought about that myself. I think the two bindings are somewhat different in their approach to the problem, so no, it’s not a copy of the Line Reactor. Time will tell. Should be very interesting.

    Having lateral release at the heel is certainly nothing new, but getting it to calibrate correctly so as to prevent pre-release at normal settings (without cranking the setting up high) while still protecting against injury can be difficult.

    If any of you youngsters out there are curious about the Silvretta 404, museum display is here:

  4. Clyde July 26th, 2007 10:08 am

    Sounds like the Line Reactor Binding by another name. Is this really new?

    In the AT world, Silvretta (before current owners) used to tout their lateral heel release as a knee-saver since the pivot is under the tibia. And several other plate bindings (Ramer, Salewa, etc) offered similar release with that kind of force but the plate stayed on your boot. All of that was before shaped skis though.

  5. Ken Gross July 26th, 2007 2:35 pm

    Hey Lou,

    I have a pair of Green 404s mounted on TUA Escalators… I am wondering what the adjustment screw on the Toe Piece is for?? Seems to have three settings.

  6. Lou July 26th, 2007 3:15 pm

    Ken, that screw changes the return spring tension, that’s the spring that gives resistance to the rising of the plate. Euros used to think this was necessary, then Ramer and Barthel (Dynafit) showed perhaps not so.

    BTW, I need some green 404s for the collection, so if you ever want to part with them…

  7. laseranimal July 26th, 2007 6:58 pm

    the Tyrolia Mojo 15 alpine binding also has some form of lateral release from the heel(only 150* though) and its a rock solid binding as well

  8. Terry July 29th, 2007 5:21 am

    Green or ‘optic yellow’ (think tennis balls)? I have a pair in a box I might consider giving up.

  9. Rick Howell August 5th, 2007 4:59 am

    Thank you for the good dialog re the new KneeBinding technology that will mitigate skiing acl injuries.

    Regarding the points brought-up, above:

    There are many other alpine bindings in the past that have provided lateral heel release – including Americana, Alsop, Besser, Burt, Miller, Cober, Head, Gertsch, Moog, and others…. All failed because they all caused extreme inadvertent pre-release. What’s new about KneeBinding lateral heel release technology is that it does so with minimum pre-release (there will always be some pre-release – but the developer of KneeBinding raced at the CanAm level in downhill, years ago, and successfully competed in 80 mph events while still being able to twist-out at the finish line on his home-made bindings. Many of the same engineering principles that were utilized in those hand-made bindings were also deployed in the new KneeBinding technology. The heart of the KneeBinding patent (pending) specifically pertains to features that block pre-release even during extreme skiing – while still providing the new knee protection, simultaneously. The KneeBinding heel unit has a mechanical “Binary Filter” that decouples non-injurious skiing control forces from the signature loads that cause ACL injuries. This way, the binding is not “confused” – and therefore does not pre-release. KneeBinding has undergone extensive testing here in Stowe, Vermont with top skiers who have skied the binding hard – at settings that are 15% below chart-recommended-settings with no pre-releases after 500,000 cumulative vertical feet of skiing.

    KneeBinding is presently an alpine binding – so it is different from Silveretta and the others noted above, in that it pertains to all international safety standards governing alpine bindings (DIN/ISO).

    Regarding the differences between KneeBinding and the Tyrolia Diagonal – the Tyrolia Diagonal only releases laterally AFTER the heel moves upward: this mode of release can only occur during forward-twisting falls. It is estimated that 70% of all ACL injuries occurr during Phantom Foot skiing events – which involve the simultaneous combination of: (1) inward twisting of the upper leg relative to the foot; (2) abduction (the foot moves laterally outward relative to the knee) and; (3) rear-weighting. In a Phantom Foot event, the Tyrolia Diagonal heel cannot release laterally because the heel of the boot does not move upward during the rear-weighting component of this load-condition. KneeBinding releases laterally during Phantom Foot events (pure laterally). Again, its “Binary Filter” (and its other features – such as its progressive cams) block harmful pre-release events.

    KneeBinding is radically different from the Line Reactor because: (1) KneeBinding will meet all international safety standards for what a normal alpine binding must provide (whereas the Line Reactor failed all international safety standards); (2) KneeBinding is significantly lighter; (3) KneeBinding provides a lower boot-to-ski interface; (4) unlike the Line Reactor, KneeBinding is durable.

    Most significantly, KneeBinding is developed from over 30 years of combined efforts from previous ski binding industry work; utilizes advanced Axiomatic Engineering Principles developed by MIT and is refined from extensive on-slope testing here in Stowe, Vermont.

  10. PJA September 22nd, 2007 1:19 pm

    How does the lateral heel release differ from the LOOK turntable heel design? Doesn’t the LOOK (and the TYR for that matter) release on a Phantom foot fall b/c of the upward toe pressure in a backward fall?

  11. Rick Howell October 20th, 2007 7:24 am

    Re PJA’s question: KneeBinding ski bindings are different from Look and all other turntable bindings because KneeBinding provides lateral heel release, while all turntable bindings do not allow any boot to release laterally ‘through’ the side-lugs of the turntables. It is impossible for any boot to pass through the side lugs on all turntables.

    Re your other question about Tyrolia — as noted in the dialog above, the Tyrolia heel will only release laterally AFTER it moves upward. Phantom Foot ACL injury events involve backward-weighting. The Tyrolia Diagonal heel does nothing in this case.

    The upward pressure that is applied to all ski binding toe pieces during Phantom Foot events is dwarfed (relatively speaking) by the lateral heel release problem of all other bindings. When the heel of your boot is trapped, laterally, during a skiing Phantom Foot event, it doesn’t matter what is happening at the toe — just as in soccer, when your cleats under your heels are jamed, laterally, during ACL injuries – and there is certainly no ski binding toe piece holding the toe of your soccer shoe.

  12. Jeremy March 20th, 2009 6:33 am

    Wish I had this binding last week when I tore my ACL skiing

  13. Jon Moceri November 6th, 2009 1:45 pm

    I’ve torn both ACL’s, and so this topic interests me. In fact, I’m having KneeBindings placed on my everyday downhill ski, Head IM-88’s, this week.

    I ski Dynafit bindings on my randonee ski’s, and would love to see them tested on Rick Howell’s testing equipment.

    I skied Spademan bindings as a teenager, and never had an injury. Just lots of pre releases. BTW, I just finished watching the movie “Steep” and noticed that Bill Briggs used Spademan bindings on his epic first ski descent of the Grand Teton. It’s difficult to see, but those who are familiar with Spademans will recognized them on Bill Briggs skis here:


  14. Lou November 6th, 2009 1:58 pm

    I have a feeling that Dynafit would rate well. Would love to see it tested. Any way to make that happen? I can send him up a pair of skis and boots…

  15. Jon Moceri November 6th, 2009 2:44 pm

    That would be cool to see the test. If the Dynafit showed it could reduce ACL injuries, It would turn the whole binding industry upside down.

    Does anyone know of anybody who has torn their ACL while using Dynafit bindings? I personally don’t know of any.

  16. John Niem April 5th, 2010 7:42 am

    On KneeBinding video:

    This binding does not seem to be able to release side ways with the heel going to the right

  17. Jonathan Shefftz April 5th, 2010 10:21 am

    The KneeBinding is truly unique in that it is the first-ever asymmetrical alpine downhill or alpine touring binding: the heel unit’s horizontal release functions only medially. I suspect that despite all the various claims about “filtering” etc that the potential problem of the heel unit’s horizontal prerelease is solved simply by blocking it from releasing to the outside.
    BTW, Rick Howell is no longer involved with the company – you can read about the nasty lawsuit here:
    (Registration is free.)

    Re Spademan, would be very surprising if it was used for any ski mountaineering, given its prerelease tendencies. Are you sure that isn’t a different plate binding in that picture? Also, having that metal plate on the bootsole would be a big disadvantage.

  18. Lou April 5th, 2010 10:31 am

    Bill Briggs skied the Grand Teton with Spademan bindings, cranked down no doubt! Fritz Stammberger used Marker TRs for his first descent of North Maroon Peak that same spring.

  19. John Niem April 5th, 2010 6:35 pm


    You said,” The KneeBinding is truly unique in that it is the first-ever asymmetrical alpine downhill or alpine touring binding: the heel unit’s horizontal release functions only medially. I suspect that despite all the various claims about “filtering” etc that the potential problem of the heel unit’s horizontal prerelease is solved simply by blocking it from releasing to the outside.”

    1. Unless the pair of bindings for each ski is different. Otherwise one will block from releasing to the outside while the other to the inside.

  20. Jonathan Shefftz April 5th, 2010 8:14 pm

    John, right, the binding is indeed asymmetrical, in that each pair has a dedicated Left & Right binding, so that heel unit releases horizontally only to the inside, i.e., medially. If a skier were to inadvertently swap Left/Right skis, then any safety advantage would be eliminated, plus the binding might very well be highly prone to prerelease.

  21. John Niem April 5th, 2010 9:12 pm



    Any ‘general consensus’ among skiers on this binding as to its real advantage over others?

  22. Jonathan Shefftz April 6th, 2010 7:21 am

    Lots of initial buzz when first announced, much of it doubtful, but Rick Howell’s posts on various internet forums addressed the doubters very effectively.
    A couple years later, when it finally arrived, seems to be a generally disappointing reaction b/c:
    – With Rick Howell out, no more responses on internet forums.
    – The binding’s appearance is not very reassuring. I’m not saying this has any practical importance, but when you actually inspect a pair in the store, the plastic housing looks like a very low-end beginner binding.
    – No detailed field reports from anyone who switched back & forth between the Knee Binding and some all-metal race stock binding. I suspect something like that would win over many skiers. (The skiing in the video on the website could have been done with a rental binding set at 4.)
    – Although everyone agrees that ski bindings to date do almost nothing to prevent knee joint soft tissue injuries, unclear if asymmetrical heel unit horizontal release is really the solution.
    – Most alpine downhill skis are now sold with “hostage” plates so the market for a stand-alone a la carte independent binding is far more limited than it used to be. (And most “flat” skis are wider models more oriented to the powder or “freeride” market, and hence exactly the kind of skiers who are going to balk at an all-plastic max-12 binding.)

    “At the summit he endured a considerable struggle to change from crampons to skis a crampon strap had broken. The skis, 210 centimeter K2 Elites, were mounted with Spademan bindings that gripped the sides of his fiberglass Rosemont boots with the power of a spring, a far cry from today’s step-in bindings.”
    “At the summit, he removed his crampons and clicked his Rosemount boots into Spademan bindings mounted on 210-cm K2 skis and started his solo descent of this mountain deemed unskiable.”
    – That makes his feat even more amazing! I mean, even with the release setting at their max, the binding released in so many different angles, with totally messed-up ratios among the different angles (including a totally pointless release directly forward) that prereleases were almost inevitable.

  23. Bruce V. Rorty February 19th, 2014 5:07 am

    Last night’s NBC Winter Olympics coverage showed Lyman Currier injuring his left ACL in the halfpipe ski competition. The slow motion shot looking straight on showed what looks like the phantom foot type injury. I’ve yet to have a pre-release w/ my KBs, and overall am very stoked on the design.

    Pre-releasing is not always innocuous. I slightly tweaked my left knee in 1973 on an Americana plate binding when it pre-released and my knee whacked some hardpack at the wrong angle.

  24. Powbanger February 19th, 2014 1:29 pm

    Bruce. I’m sure the knee binding works great for you and I’m glad you feel protected by it. I know Lyman, I know how he skis, the construction of the knee binding would not stand a chance against the energy and force he puts on a ski and binding. It’s not about preleasing or even releasing with these guys it’s about durability. I’m sure Marker didn’t enjoy having an athlete hurt their ACL using their product, but I know for a fact that he was not set at his suggested DIN. If I were Marker I would rather a athlete be injured while using a binding set above the recommended release value than have it break in 3-4 pieces with millions of people watching across the world.

  25. Lou Dawson February 19th, 2014 6:40 pm

    My two cents: whatever happens with a pro athlete skiing with a locked (high DIN) binding has no basis in reality. Just ignore it, whatever side of the fence you are on. Lou

  26. Bruce V. Rorty February 20th, 2014 5:07 pm

    Lou and Powbanger are spot on, for the KB’s target demographic is not world class halfpipe skiers. I do hope to see some test reports re: whether the Dynafit heel functions like a KB’s lateral heel release. Here’s to a full and speedy recovery, Lyman.

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