9. October 2017, text: David Torcasso, photos: Till Forrer
Various sensors are attached to professional cross-country skier Roman Schaad’s torso as he runs on a treadmill. A high-tech camera is positioned behind him and additional lenses affixed to the walls. A screen on one wall records the movements of the athlete three-dimensionally. Last but not least, there is the trained eye of Edwin Kryenbühl Junior, co-founder of Swissbiomechanics and son of the shoe expert Kryenbühl from Einsiedeln.
In the lab of Swissbiomechanics in Sihlcity in Zurich, Roman Schaad completes a running analysis. Using state-of-the-art technology developed with the help of Christian, one of the Kryenbühl brothers, during his studies at ETH, foot specialists at Swissbiomechanics are creating a custom insert for Schaad. Roman and his brother Fabian, who is also a professional cross-country skier, train during the summer as well – without snow – up to eleven times a week. They need a stable foundation and good equipment with all the strain they put on their bodies.
“With these inserts, my legs can better transfer their power to the asphalt or my skis during competitions. If you don’t run properly, that impacts your entire body,” says Roman Schaad. His brother adds, “We jog a lot in the summer and it is important not to buckle. The proper foot axis is a critical factor in helping me to perform my best. What appears to be a small change can have a really big effect if you regularly train with inserts.” Roman Schaad also says he can “glide better” on his cross-country skis when he wears his inserts.
The Schaad team received their first custom inserts from Swissbiomechanics four years ago. Ever since, the brothers haven’t wanted to do without them and beam proudly from the “Wall of Fame” beside many other athletes who rely on custom inserts. But the inserts are not intended for professional athletes alone. “Above all, I recommend inserts like these to amateur athletes,” says Fabian Schaad. “Pros like us are constantly monitored by physiotherapists and trainers. But an amateur athlete does not notice right away if their foot axis isn’t right. That’s why it can be helpful to train properly right from the start with custom inserts.”
Edwin Kryenbühl Junior thinks the same. “We cater to many types of sport, not just running.” The national rowing team trained with inserts from Swissbiomechanics and won the gold medal at the Olympics in Brazil. “Golfers, cyclists, tennis players, football players and alpinists also benefit from stable feet that do not tire quickly,” says Kryenbühl.
That is why Swissbiomechanics has been producing custom hiking boots with the name Einsiedler for several years. During the winter season, the company also sells custom-fit skis with the same name. To enable skiers to really feel good all around, Swissbiomechanics also offers custom ski boots. Ski boots in particular rarely fit straight away and skiers’ feet often hurt after a day on the trails.
Swissness has its place in the name and logo of the company and for good reason. “We consciously concentrate on Switzerland, produce every custom insert by hand and want to grow sustainably,” says Edwin Kryenbühl while his father, Edwin Kryenbühl Senior, greets people in the workshop. The founder retired a long time ago, but is still involved in the company. With his expertise and guaranteed Swiss quality, he began producing shoes and inserts with a hammer and nails in a small workshop in Unteriberg fifty years ago.
Now 35 employees work for Swissbiomechanics and it has a thousand domestic and international customers – with more every day. The blue-and-red model shows that inserts can be sexy: it radiates dynamics and power and helps people run stably. “We want our customers to have fun – not pain – during sports,” says Edwin Kryenbühl Junior. Priced at about 400 francs, a custom insert is not exactly cheap, but the investment pays off. “Our feet carry us through life; they are the foundation of our bodies. We need to take care of them,” says Edwin Kryenbühl Junior.