Jun 5, 2016


The “Long Second Toe” or what is sometimes called a Classic Greek Foot or Morton’s Toe is not discussed much by today’s foot fitness people; however, once again, history has a lot to say about fitness, movement, and even “foot” fitness. Here’s a nice look back at this foot condition and what to do about it with Enid Whittaker who is the Managing Director of Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy, Inc. Enid worked with Bonnie for over 40 years. Bonnie Prudden was one of America’s top fitness experts for decades and was VERY focused on foot fitness–especially the “bare” foot during exercises.

If you have callouses, bunions, corms and an occasional sprained ankle you probably also have a long second toe which has also been called “Classic Greek Foot” or referred to as “Morton’s Toe.” Learn how to find out, what to do about it and ways to strengthen the muscles on the bottom of your feet. Special thanks to Enid Whittaker, BS, veteran PE teacher and Managing Director of Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy, Inc. for helping us with this interview. For more info, visit: www.BonniePrudden.com

Dec 28, 2015

After 40 plus years of running, I’m still very much IN stride after most people my age quite years ago due to chronic pain and injuries. Why? Because I have a grasp of the fundamentals and have for a very long time. I have been fortunate to have had great coaches and teammates and friends through running; I paid attention and learned lessons of great value about running and life itself.

If you want to run and keep doing it for health, here are the basic fundamentals which have helped me stay IN stride…for going on 40 years now…

  • Keep Learning:  While running is simple; it’s a complex movement “skill.”  Skills can be improved over time with mindful practice.  At age 56, I am still getting better.  I’m better individually, and I’m a better teacher and coach of running too.
  • Run Light:  My studies of classical PE led me to the history of Swedish gymnastics and their ability to move with “anti-gravity” grace and style as well as the study of Native American fitness which was based on flexibility and a softness of movement that was also light in touch.  I have taken this lightness into my running as I have gotten older and wiser.  Running heavy is the death of a runner, so run light.
  • Form:  I know how to line things up and run clean.  Mechanics matter and especially with running.  The basic running form drills I learned in the 1970s still apply today, and I still use them, teach them, and coach them to others.
  • Nature:  Concrete and asphalt are unnatural; dirt is not.  I get out on the trail most of the time.  It’s better for balance, agility, quickness, overall whole body fitness, and far more stimulating to the brain plus has far less impact forces like harder surfaces.
  • Run Spiritually:  As mechanical as running can be, it’s about me improving as a human being at a spiritual level when I run…it’s that simple.  People that learn to run spiritually get more out of their running (life).

Here’s a recent video I shot on my favorite trail run.  This is what I do–some 40+ years after I began running for sport conditioning and health, I’m still IN stride.  See ya on the trail…

May 14, 2015

Here are my supporting materials for the “History of Foot Fitness” presentations at the 2015 Barefoot Training Summit in Denver, CO.  For the feet!

Summit Presentations: (PDF)

Summit Presentations: (Narrated Movie PPTs)

  • Pending

Historic Films:

Bonnie Prudden Information:

Dr. William A. Rossi Handouts:

Weblinks:

Ron Jones:

Dec 1, 2014

It finally rained in Southern California today. Instead of hiding away from the elements, I chose a different path–to run in the cool rain and mud. While it might appear to be “dangerous” to run while wet, let’s take a more rational view on this topic.

What would be the “danger” in running while wet to some? Obviously, slipping and falling. But wait! Balance training IS fall prevention; therefore, how about doing some “real world” balance training out of the gym and away from climate control?

Running is not just running to me. I don’t just run to get fit. I don’t just run to get my heart rate up. I don’t just run to cover mileage. I run to improve my running skills, and more specifically, I run because history teaches us running IS an important survival skill. In a true survival situation, don’t expect climate control, nice visibility with plenty of high-contrast daylight, safety cones, safety signage, security guards, and nice dry perfectly level pavement. So, on a cool and rainy day in SoCal, it provided me with a great opportunity to train for real running.

As a life-long runner, we run. I don’t wait for ideal conditions. I run in winter, spring, summer, and fall. I run when it is 100+ degrees and dry as stale toast. I run when it rains. I run when it’s cold and windy. I run. I’m a real runner. Have been for decades. It’s what I do. What has changed? My perspective on running as a survival “skill.” The idea of improving my running “skills” every single time I run is not common. Most just run. They cover mileage. They want to manage weight. They check off the box. Not me. I run to become a better runner because I am training for the moment of truth even if it never arrives…the moment when I MUST run to save my life or the life of someone else.

Running. It’s important. In all conditions especially when it is not ideal or comfortable. One of the best running experiences I ever had was running while living in Atlanta. It rains there–a lot! Because of the heavy rains, the dirt washes away from the tree roots leaving huge crevices between root branches. During the winter, the fallen leaves would fill these root gaps creating a sort of snare trap or deep pit just waiting to break or sprain an ankle. I was forced to learn a different technique while running in Georgia vs. my dry running on flat ground out in California. I had to learn to run very light with “feather-touch feet” so I would not totally commit all my body weight down onto one foot. Every time I ran in Georgia, I turned an ankle. Why could I continue running there? Because I learned to run with a feather touch and react very quickly. When I felt one foot starting to be swallowed into a root crevice, I learned to quickly shift my weight and unload the other ankle before I broke my ankle or severely sprained it. Even though I “turned” my ankle, it was never enough to do damage. I developed and improved my running skills because I ran outside in the real world with rain. Today, while California is no Georgia, I worked and enjoyed maintaining some of those wet-weather running skills. I look for surface angles. I look for different running surfaces like sandy dirt, dirt with clay that is slippery, rocks, wood, slope angles, etc. I quickly analyze all this data “on the fly” in real time to make my running safer. I work to improve my skills because the real world is NOT the gym.

In closing, if you want to move and run safer–challenge yourself within your threshold of control to get out of the gym and the artificially created “safe” environments where the real world is in total control. Hint? OUTSIDE. Pick a level you can control. If you cannot walk on dry pavement–don’t try to run outside in the rain. Take a rational approach. Get rid of the ego. What can you do with control? Work from there and progress forward slowly and consistently over time.

Hopefully at some point, I’ll see you outside on the trail…upright and smiling.

To learn more about Survival Skill Movements,” check out our handout on The Lean Berets.

Nov 2, 2014

Feet. They are critical for fall prevention yet often overlooked.

A recent article in the New York Times entitled, Bracing for the Falls of an Aging Nation pointed out or increasing problems in America with falls and injuries related to falls–even deaths from falling. While the root causes of falls are multifactorial, there are some definite PREVENTION tips that are worth mentioning especially with feet and ankles.  The article did a nice job discussing some visual upgrades to help people see walking surfaces better like marking stairs, colored toilet seats, etc. but very little was mentioned about the fitness side of fall prevention whether it be from feet, joint mobility, or vestibular training of the inner ears which are critical to maintaining balance. Dr. Christian Thompson of University of San Francisco has been teaching fall prevention classes for seniors with great success for many years with multiple factors addressed as above including gait assessment and improvement. Fall prevention…it can be done. For now, here are a few tips to get you started at home.

Here are a few Foot Fitness tips for fall prevention:

  • Wake up the nerves in your feet.  Feet are like computers on the ground gathering information. When you wear stiff shoes with thick soles, the sensory information is very blunted decreasing the information the brain needs to prevent a fall.
  • Wear flexible shoes. Unless you have a true orthopedic clinical issue, flexible shoes allow the smaller nerves in feet to start working more efficiently. Since all shoes get in the way of the smaller nerves in feet, consider the next point.
  • Walk barefoot. Many of the small nerves in feet are in skin of feet. The best way to activate these small nerves is to put the skin of you feet right on the ground. If you are afraid to “walk” barefoot as an elderly person, you can start waking up nerves in your feet while sitting with a great foot therapy called The FootLog. While the FootLog is a tool I often reference for Plantar Fasciitis, it’s also a great overall foot health tool for stimulating nerves in feet.
  • Get limber. Walking barefoot without stiff shoes or even walking with more flexible shoes is a way to start allowing the joints in your feet to start moving–or “limber up” as they mobilize through ranges of motion.

Here are a few Ankle Tips for fall prevention:

  • Get limber again–in multiple planes of motion with rotation. “Stiff” ankles are a fall waiting to happen. Ankles are mobility joints meaning they need to be able to move in order to make up for uneven ground below. If you step in a hole with a stiff ankle–the body above has to move off center increasing your chances for falling if you cannot correct the imbalance efficiently. Ankles should flex both ways meaning pointing toes down and pulling toes back up towards shins. Ankles should tilt left and right, and also very important–ankles should be able to roll in large circles. You can do all of these movements while sitting in a chair. Do them enough–your ankles will likely get more mobile and thus be able to make up for uneven ground more efficiently. One of the best ways to prevent falls with elderly populations? Improve ankle mobility.

In closing, I used to teach an exercise class at a community college. My students were up to 92 years old. Most of the class was retired. NONE of my elderly students used a cane or walker to come to class daily. In five years, I never had one of them fall. We worked on balance and fall prevention DAILY. Think about it.

Oct 24, 2014

Chopine-Europe

Interestingly, as pointed out by Podiatrist and shoe history expert Dr. William Rossi decades ago, “All footwear fashion stems from only seven basic shoe styles: the pump, boot, oxford, sandal, clog, mule and moccasin.”  In fact, there has not been a new shoe type invented in about 400 years!

For a fascinating and fun look back at the true history of the only seven shoe styles ever made, read the article All Shoe Fashions From 7 Basic Styles by William A. Rossi, DPM.  This article was originally published in “The Selling Floor” in September of 1998 and is part of the William Rossi Archive Collection at Stonehill College.  Dr. Rossi was one of America’s top podiatrists and shoe experts for decades who truly understood the function of feet and how they interact with shoe dynamics.

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.

http://www.drnicksrunningblog.com/foot-x-rays-revealing-structural-changes-from-transitioning-to-a-minimalist-shoe

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.

May 5, 2014

The more educated or “foot literate” I become, the closer to the ground force reactions my feet want to be. I prefer thin sole shoes over thick sole shoes. I have even noticed that my feet hate thick socks now! I have been buying very nice socks hoping they will last longer plus be better for my feet. After numerous pairs of “expensive” socks failing after just a few outings by holes developing in the toe section, I decided to try socks that cost less. The problem is that cheaper socks do not ride properly in my shoes–they crinkle, roll, and basically don’t feel good. I recently found and tried some of the new Under Armour “Resistor Training” socks and absolutely love them! They are very thin, made of tech fibers, stay put on my feet while running on the trails or just casually walking, and even better, they come in a six-pack at an economical price. You can find them retail for around $22.00 or as low as $15.00 on line.

The thinner the socks–the happier my feet generally. If I am doing extended hiking, then yes, I will layer my socks for more friction control. If I am in colder weather, I will opt for a thicker and warmer sock like the SmartWool brand, but for everyday wear from casual to running in good weather, I really love the new UA Resistor Training socks. They come in both white or black and also have low-cut options too.

Apr 9, 2014

We recently did a nice podcast with Stephen Jepson for our Lean Berets website. He’s really into foot fitness for all the right neurological and fall prevention reasons. This testimonial video offers some simple foot exercise ideas with very simple household objects. Educate your feet and hands. It makes a difference.

http://neverleavetheplayground.com/2014/04/04/speaking-testimonials

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