The kick zone applies only to cross-country skis that are used in the older, traditional skiing method known as diagonal stride. The kick zone is the space underfoot where kick wax is applied so that the skier can grip the snow. Knowing your kick zone makes it easier to wax and to select a ski that best matches you. A poor kick zone can mean poor skiing which means you don't have as much fun.
The kick zone is the area under the ski that ranges from about your heel to ahead of your toes by about the length of your foot. Kick wax (or grip wax) is placed on the ski base and corked with either a natural or synthetic cork to smooth the wax and help it adhere to the ski base.
The shop where you bought your skis should have determined this for you when you were buying the skis. It's part of the fitting process to make sure you get skis that match your size and weight. If the ski shop didn't do this then, well, it's not a very good shop. If you have ski that is too stiff then you won't be able to press the kick zone down so they kick wax can grip the snow. If the ski is too soft then you will drag the kick wax in the snow which makes it harder to ski. if the kick zone is too small/short then you won't have enough area on the base to have kick wax on resulting in poor grip (which is not good).
General speaking the determination of the kick zone can be done with a "paper test". The skis a re placed on a flat even surface and the skier stands on the skis at the bindings. The skiers weight is evenly distributed between the two skis. A second person (the helper) slides a thin sheet of paper into the gap between the ski base and the floor just under the ski. The helper slides the paper back until it stops. This marks the back of the kick zone. The helper then slides the paper forward until it stops. This marks the front of the kick zone. You can then note this on the ski with a permanent marker or look at the indicator marks on the sidewall that the manufacturer as printed.
When choosing skis the next part is to have the skier place 100% of their weight on one ski through their heel. There should be almost none of the kick zone open; just a short length, usually under the ball of the foot, still open. The opening may not have a lot of height, but the paper will still pull through. The pull through is often tight to almost tight. This marks the area of the kick zone that won't be dragging when the skier is in the glide phase of the diagonal stride. Now the skier places 100% of their weight onto the one ski by the ball of their foot. This simulated the skier moving into the kick phase. The pocket that was barely open before should now be completely closed to the floor. A piece of paper left under the ski before the weight transfer from the heel to the ball of the foot should now be stuck under the ski. This shows that the kick zone has completely compress and maximum grip will be available. If a gap is still under the ski then the skiers are too stiff for the skier. If no gap was left when the skier was 100% weight on one heel then the skiers are likely too soft.
The length of the kick zone should be about 25cm/10in ahead of the toe (give or take a bit) to get a large enough kick zone that you will have enough grip when the skier is evenly balanced. When the skier is 100% on heel on one ski there should be a kick zone left open of about 10-15cm or 4-6in. The kick zone should close entirely when the 100% weight goes to the the ball of the foot. If the kick zone closes when the weight is on the heel the ski is too soft; too much kick wax will drag. If the kick zone does not close with 100% on the ball of the foot then you will have poor grip.
You want to wax with kick wax only (never any glide wax) this area marked as the kick zone (the long measurement).
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