Jul 29, 2014

The last two months since the Vibram Five Fingers lawsuit, I have had a lot of questions about “minimalist” shoes, barefoot training, etc.  My position is simple—trust your feet before your shoes.  The more you put “on” your feet to control motion for them—the less they have to do on their own.  The body weakens with less use—feet are no different.

I was also waiting for some more clinical responses.  Here is an intelligent post by a podiatrist I follow a bit Dr. Nick Campitelli.  His colleague and fellow podiatrist Dr. Emily Splichal referenced in the article below is teaching the Barefoot Rx course I am attending this September in Rhode Island with other health professionals.


Regarding the post, a very important point was made about the strength big toe muscles. Aligning the big toe for efficient gait was something that was taught in detail in classical physical education—I have the vintage reference book if you want to see it.  When you externally rotate from the hip, you turn your foot “outward” instead of pointing it straight forward basically removing much of the big toe leverage advantage and creating compensations from the ground up—go from walking to running, and it just gets worse.  It’s physics and leverage.  Never underestimate the big toe in terms of leverage power and gait efficiency.  This is why we spend so much time “teaching” movement and helping people to get realigned through corrective exercise as much as possible—it matters—especially if you walk or run a lot.  I also cover this in my SAQ-Speed, Agility, & Running classes too, so does the FMS-Functional Movement Screen, and many other systems of movement and evaluation.

On shoes with less support, I have always been careful with transitions from motion controlled restrictive shoes towards more “free” shoes that allow feet to work and control their own motion; hence, we have not had injuries.  As far as Vibram misrepresenting what “can” happen by wearing Vibrams, that is another matter.  But as far as whether or not the shoes can help strengthen feet—I have dozens of people I know personally that have positive testimonials for wearing Vibram Five Fingers or other minimalist shoes—many have self corrected some major pain and dysfunction in their feet.  The structure and function of my own feet have significantly changed since barefoot and minimalist shoe training.

If you have an actual clinical case, by all means go see a doctor…hopefully with a basic understanding of feet and biomechanics.


Jul 15, 2014

I was trail running this last week and scared the #@*! out of a hiker.  It was not intentional or an effort to be mean…it was because I do not make enough noise for many people to hear me coming.  The gentleman had no ears covered with MP3 player. He was hiking alone. He did not know I was there until I came into his immediate peripheral vision. A few minutes earlier, I “heard” a runner coming down while I was going up. He was about my age and was running like a Clydesdale horse with a limp…LOUDLY! Ever single step was a loud and inefficient THUD. I felt sorry for his body knowing he was beating it to death…he might have very well been enjoying the run immensely, but physics and biomechanics knows no emotion. His stride was harsh, and there is a price to pay for violent movement.

On running quiet, I often times will intentionally scuff my feet or raise my voice slightly and say, “Behind you” or something to this affect in order to make people hear me, but this day I was really focused on using the restorative and healing arts that I have been learning to focus on my movement quality, breath, the specifics of foot contact and quality gait…and of course…I was reflecting upon my many run teachers, coaches, training partners, and the book above written way back in 1930 entitled, “Growing Straight: The Secret of the American Indian” by Maud Smith Williams. I have had many run teachers in my life…Stan Ingram, Robbie Bray, Tom Tyack, Eddie Lujan, Norm Hoffman, Bob Covey, Charlie Wallace, Steve Mackel plus those so knowledgable about foot fitness like podiatrist Dr. William Rossi, Michael Sandler, and more…but this book really got into my soul as a human being, runner, and a “mover” who puts his body into exercise motion daily 365 days per year some seven years plus without missing a single day.

History. What did they know? Plenty especially when you talk about quality movement. Before the white man infiltrated Native American culture–they were masters of efficient movement and spiritual life. I’m associated with some amazing research folks looking over the history of fitness and movement. This is the only book we know of that teaches about native American “fitness” specifics. While a “fitness book,” don’t be fooled. It is quite heavy on philosophy–not of movement–but philosophy of life itself. The more we understand that “exercise” (movement) should be and has been a spiritual experience of enlightenment for so many of our elders, the better we will become too.

Native American fitness was based on flexibility. Think about the image of a warrior brave–perfect balance of strength to weight, agile, quick, fast, stealth quiet, spiritual endurance, fierce in battle when needed…all built on being flexible and learning to move soft–walk soft, run soft, live soft–until the perfect time and place to be hard for battle.

By putting all the above into my running–I am running softer than ever. While I am not as fast as I was in college XC and track–I am running better, cleaner, softer, and wiser.

"How Indians Run" (Page 60)

“How Indians Run” (Page 60)

So run soft…just try not to scare anyone in the process.

Finding the book? Good luck finding an original 1st edition from 1930, but sometimes you can find one of the paperback reprints from the early 1980s. Try Abe Books as they usually have a few. Good luck hunting.

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