Scan-to-skate’ technology brings customized comfort to the ice

Postdoctoral fellow provides research for improving skate customization

A new research project between Anne-Laure Ménard, a postdoctoral fellow based at Laboratoire d’Imagerie Orthopédique (LIO) at Hopital du Sacré-Coeur in Montreal, and sports equipment company CCM Hockey is integrating biomedical engineering and skate design to provide customized hockey skates. The project began when Anne-Laure started looking into industry opportunities as she was nearing the end of her PhD at Polytechnique Montréal. “I reached out to a professor at École de téchnologie supérieure who happened to be in contact with CCM Hockey,” she explains. “The company had a small R&D department working on hockey skate customization and wanted the science to inform that customization.”

On the advice of an employee, Anne-Laure, her professor Prof. Éric Wagnac, co-director Prof. Yvan Petit, and CCM Hockey applied for a two-year Mitacs Elevate postdoctoral fellowship. An elite runner herself, Anne-Laure was especially excited to undertake a project that combined her professional expertise and athletic background.

Following the approval of their Elevate proposal, the team dove into the project. “As skates evolve, their rigidity increases, so skate fit and comfort level are crucial,” says Daniel Chartrand, Advanced Development Manager at CCM Hockey.

We wanted to better understand why certain foot types worked with specific skate designs, and how we could investigate that with a 3-D scanner.”

Although Daniel’s expertise as an industrial designer could inform some components, the team needed Anne-Laure’s research background to apply engineering principles to illuminate why certain feet worked best with certain skates.

Although elite athletes already typically have custom-made equipment, Daniel advises that mass customization is an emerging trend that will be available to all consumers. “We expect that in the near future you can have your foot scanned, find the best skate for your foot type, and understand why it’s well suited to you.” Furthermore, CCM Hockey anticipates that this type of technology can apply to their other product lines, giving athletes of all sports and at all levels access to better-fitting, more comfortable equipment.

As a result of their collaboration, CCM Hockey has gained a competitive advantage in both elite and amateur sports, and Anne-Laure is getting the industry experience she was looking for as a new postdoc. But the impacts of the project don’t end there — just ask the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who lace up skates each winter. 

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec for their support of the Elevate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Elevate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Saskatchewan, and Research Manitoba.

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