Review using the Ski-Mojo instead of a knee brace
What are the advantages of a Ski-Mojo over a hinged knee brace? And is the hype surrounding skiing with a Ski-Mojo true?I always thought that a Ski-Mojo was not an alternative to a medical hinged knee brace such as Donjoy, but after skiing hard with one all day, and with prior persistent knee issues what a revelation it turned out to be!
Does a Ski-Mojo work, and just how good is it?
This feature comprises two sections; firstly what is essentially my review of the Ski-Mojo, and does it actually work, comparing it to skiing with a normal knee brace and then secondly, an analysis of the Ski-Mojo concentrating on the benefits to one's knees and whether it can be used instead of a hinged knee brace.
To start by way of an introduction, my CV/Profile.
I am a 65-year-old 76kg male, who maintains probably an above-average fitness regime by way of running (5km 25min), cycling the many legendary Cols where we live in Serre Chevalier, such as the Galibier/Izoard, also open-sea swimming back in the UK along with kitesurfing and wingfoiling.
I've been skiing and snowboarding for over 45 years, predominately practising ski touring along with cross country skating, and occasional foray into carving the great pistes we have here on GS Race Skis, and of course, skiing fresh snow whenever the chance occurs during the season!
Over the years that amount of sport has resulted in many injuries, which now are making themselves apparent on almost a continual daily basis, with knees being the most prevalent, so it's very much about managing the body and selecting what tools (skis) to use dependent on the conditions to minimise the impact.
With ACL reconstruction on one knee and a blown ACL on the other (no reconstruction) along with a couple of arthroscopies and one broken knee, I've used various braces over the years, though once I had confidence in the knee I quickly ditched the Donjoy knee brace.
If the knee flares up I use the Stoko knee brace, but there can still be an underlying ache/pain that is close to being uncomfortable unless the conditions are pristine.
And my knee was definitely troubling me again en route to the SIGB Ski Test in La Clusaz after a lot of abuse given to it the days before, and on the first day of the test I skied eight different skis in the All Mountain category, so on average 100 wide or more, on everything from fresh untracked to hard icy piste.
That evening I met the guys from Ski-Mojo staying in our hotel, and we ended up spending most of the evening together.
To cut a long story short, I explained that I thought, wrongly or not, the Ski-Mojo did not actually help protect the knee nor help reduce knee pain, and from a purely egotistical perspective, it was gear for those who were not fit or for various reasons no longer had the strength in their legs to ski, and I certainly was not ready for one just yet!
However, I listened to what Team Ski-Mojo had to say and agreed to give it a go so the next morning after breakfast they set me up with one to use for the day.
I was most fortunate to have the owner/inventor of Ski-Mojo, Martin Hannaford fitting it to me, and he carefully explained the various nuances of the system. My first impression on handling it and naturally bending the heavily sprung rod was that it was akin to the spring load of breaking the barrel of an air-rifle and carefully letting go without actually fully cocking it.
So I could immediately understand the concept of having one of these rods down the outer side of each leg, and for those who have not seen a Ski-Mojo the image below shows it well.
Essentially you have the equivalent of a climbing harness around your waits/buttocks and the upper rods clip into this, then on the outside of the knee is the actual articulated spring mechanism with a lower rod then clipped onto your boot.
Ski-Mojo's technical explanation is that it is a device based on technology using the power of a spring. The kinetic energy generated during knee flexion is restored during the extension phase by the decompression of the spring. The device, acting as an exoskeleton, is held in a neoprene sheath to keep it in place.
After I used it I asked Martin Hannaford for a more simplistic one-liner of what the Ski-Mojo was, and his response was:
A spring-loaded knee-support that acts as an exoskeleton taking a third of the load off the legs and knees – The skiing equivalent of an e-bike.
While fitting the Ski-Mojo, Martin explained that usually if one follows the detailed instructions as well as the various videos, you should be ready in 10 to f15 minutes and then once set up it's only a couple of minutes to take it on and off.
The only remotely fiddly bit was attaching the clip to the back of the boot, and then, once I was all clipped in, Martin stood back and said "squat down" and, then, he stood back to admire his handy work as he had obviously done numerous times and still gets a massive buzz. He asked me to stand up and you feel the power of the Ski-Mojo for the first time which put a big smile on my face as well as Martin's.
I then spent the next few minutes bouncing around the place excited by the novelty of this additional power in my legs.
The initial set-up for each side takes into account your weight and height and the resistance of the springs can be tweaked via the power adjuster with an indicator showing you the correct level for your weight.
A simple switch on the outside lets you engage/disengage the springs, and then I simply put my ski pants over the Ski-Mojo, as I have to admit my vanity ego is such that I didn't want to advertise that I was wearing them.
Driving up to the test centre I didn't notice I had them on and again you can walk in them very easily.
So the Million $ question, what's it like to ski with a Ski-Mojo?
Where we were skiing, Balme sector in La Clusaz, was ideal to test the Ski-Mojo though the fresh untracked snow of the previous morning was no more.
The test run was some 5.3km and 1,200m vertical, taking the Balme gondola first and then the Col de Balme chair. So the chair was my first real encounter using the Ski-Mojo and I decided to not engage it before sitting down and then getting off and then engaging it - though Martin did tell me that there is a technique for using it on a chair which involves engaging the Mojo just before you get off and then you spring off the lift, I actually passed on that one :)
So what was the best way to test them?
At the same time as testing the Ski-Mojo I was continuing my test of All Mountain skis and first out of the starting block was the Nordica Enforcer 99.
Now pretty well all the skis in the All Mountain category can ski fresh untracked with ease, where the more subtle nuances are how well they handle the piste and the 5km was pretty well divided into two sections, cold pisted snow on the first half, from the previous snow a couple of days prior and then a harder section below that had the rain, but which had softened up with the spring-like temperatures. So ideal piste conditions for testing.
To me, there was only one way to test, and that was to ski as hard as I could, aggressively testing the carving prowess of the skis rather than slackly sliding down on them, and most importantly non-stop!
Needless to say my colleagues decided against skiing with me :)
Skiing down the mountain did feel nigh on effortless and come the second section, where normally if skiing like that I would encounter some thigh burn, there was maybe just the slightest twinge, and as I skied the final schuss into the test centre there was Team Ski-Mojo at the entrance.
Now the fact that I could have a totally normal conversation with them, not having to catch my breath, and not a bead of perspiration, and looking back on my Strava that was a pretty quick time, 8:43 for the 5.3km said something.
After that, I did three more tests, Volkl Mantra 102, Dynastar MPro 100, and the more piste-orientated Salomon Addikt Pro all non-stop, and barely a twinge or a sweat raised, and again quick times, and average heart rate relatively low at around 115bpm.
Then a quick snack and two more skis, K2 Mindbender 96 and Elan Playmaker 101, but as time was running out I only skied the lower section.
So that was a pretty intense time on skis, and I should also mention quite an important point that I was not skiing with alpine downhill boots but my Atomic Hawk Ultra XTD 120 touring boots, and I know that compared to my alpine boots my legs have to work far harder if using touring boots.
So, yes, I was very very impressed with the Ski-Mojo and I can now totally understand why people rave about it.
Fast forward 18 hours and the next day, after driving back from La Clusaz straight after skiing in Serre Chevalier my legs were absolutely fine, with no twinges, aches or pains.
I would give it 10 out 10 for performance, but I know that skiing heavy snow off piste is where I really feel it as my knee suffers almost a downward pull akin to an ACL Lachman test when the ski stays in the heavy snow as I try and unweight it. That will be the ultimate test for me, so until then 9 out of 10.
So why does the Ski-Mojo work so well?
And here I'm going to have to refer back to their website, where I've identified some verbiage that I think pretty well encapsulates the functionality of it and the subsequent benefits together, with a pretty picture :)
The Ski~Mojo is a mechanism based on a powerful adjustable spring that supports around a third of the body weight, so in effect you've lost 33 percent of your body weight.
By compressing the springs in the bending phase, it restores energy and increases muscle power tenfold during extension a third of your body weight is alleviated by the system and transmitted directly from the pelvis to the boots.
The springs also act as shock absorbers, softening the imperfections of the terrain like the suspension on an off-road vehicle.
Knee flexion requires an additional, imperceptible energy expenditure. The additional hamstring work, estimated at 10 percent, combined with a 30 percent reduction in quadriceps contraction helps to protect the cruciate ligaments.
And what about leg/thigh burn?
That soreness and burning sensation in the quads (thighs) is a result of lactic acid being produced, which makes the muscles ineffective, and that is massively delayed and limited using the Ski-Mojo exoskeleton, as it essentially reduces the work of your legs and muscles, which in turn reduces the risk of fatigue-related accidents and muscle soreness.
And as for reducing knee pain and protecting the knee?
A conventional knee brace provides only lateral knee support, the Ski-Mojo reduces some 40 percent of the vertical pressure. In most cases when using a Ski-Mojo exoskeleton, this reduction in pressure significantly eases knee pain and for some often disappears completely.
The suspension effect of the springs reduces vibrations, impacts and pressure on the knees by 40 percent. It also relieves stress on the hips and back.
A survey conducted on 560 Ski~Mojo users in September 2019 asked:
If you had knee pain, would you say that thanks to Ski-Mojo your pain has...
Full survey results available here and other interesting details.
And I can confirm all the above
To read more about how it works and the benefits then click here.
As Ski-Mojo states, like many other devices designed to facilitate, extend or improve the practice of a sport (electrical power-assisted bikes for example), Ski-Mojo is not a medical device.
However, I asked Martin Hannaford, Ski-Mojo's founder a few questions relating to using a Ski-Mojo and its effect on the knees, based on what he's heard via feedback from both users and the medical profession, and his response was as follows...
What I generally say is that almost any doctor, physio or surgeon advising about knees will say that the best thing to do for your knees is to take as much weight off them as possible, by that they usually mean lose weight.
And a Ski-Mojo works as if you've been on the best and fastest diet in the world – typically taking around a third of the load off your knees.
I also point out that the Ski-Mojo is a knee-support rather than a knee-brace and that, as we are not medically qualified, I would never advise anyone to stop wearing a brace that has been prescribed and fitted for a specific reason/condition.
However, if it is not prescribed our experience (anecdotal) is that nearly all customers who were wearing non-prescribed braces do not wear the brace with the Ski-Mojo. Also we hear (anecdotally) that the vast majority of customers with a prescribed brace make their own decision not to wear the brace when skiing with their Ski-Mojo.
And a statement from Dr M H Binet who is a world-renowned ski physician and is a board member of ISSS (International Society for Skiing Safety) and Secretary-Treasurer of SITMESH (The International Society for Skiing Traumatology and Winter Sports Medicine).
Dr M H Binet Statement
This is the statement he provided about the Ski~Mojo:
The Ski-Mojo allows skiers with weak or damaged knees or weak leg muscles to ski longer each day and indeed will extend their ski life. Injuries or damage to the knees will lead to weaker leg muscles.
The Ski-Mojo does this by directly supporting some of the body weight and because of the way that this support is 'sprung', the Ski-Mojo also acts as a shock absorber, significantly reducing the stress and strains applied to the legs and knees.
Based on my personal experience I would recommend the Ski-Mojo to skiers with:
- Arthritis of the knee
- Recurrent swelling of the knee joint
- Cartilage damage
- Knee reconstruction surgery
- Total knee replacement
The Ski-Mojo is not a brace to support the knee and hold the joint in place and consequently is not recommended as an alternative to a knee brace
However, for these skiers a Ski-Mojo can be used in addition to a knee brace as, although it will not support the knee, it will significantly reduce the stresses and strains that the knee is subjected to and, therefore, should reduce the risk of further damage or injury.
The level of support given by the Ski-Mojo is initially based on the skier's weight. However, this can be increased or decreased based on the skier's individual requirements.
My personal experience of using the Ski-Mojo is that;
- I find it easy to ski with
- I immediately feel the support given
- I feel no pain in the muscles after a long downhill run, but I’m still short of breath…
- I do not like to ski without it! (I have no knee or muscle damage)
And then finally can a Ski-Mojo protect your ACL?
Now here STYLE ALTITUDE, Ski Mojo and referring third parties, must state again, that the Ski-Mojo is not a medical device and, accordingly, take no responsibility for anecdotal verbal claims that have been made regarding ACL injuries and more specifically a phantom foot fall ACL injury.
However, it is documented that a phantom foot fall ACL injury occurs when the skier falls backwards with a bent and relaxed knee, and if wearing a Ski-Mojo that is locked/engaged then your knee simply cannot be bent and relaxed if you are wearing one.
ACL injuries and skiing is a subject that has been widely documented and here on Style Altitude it's a subject very close to us as well.
Why are there so many ACL injuries when skiing.
And a few more products focused on knee injuries and skiing.
Stoko Knee Brace - but only available in North America