Thursday, October 28, 2010

Foot Anatomy 101-The Arches

“The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” Leonardo da Vinci

The human foot is one of the most masterfully-designed parts of the body. It is often ignored and mistreated, but it is literally the foundation of the body, the base upon which we stand. It is also the only part of the body (when bare) that is in constant contact with our environment. In honor of this humble organ called the foot, I will embark on a series of blog posts on foot form and function. In this first post of the series, I’d like to take a look at the foot arches.

The Human Foot ArchesThe foot arches are the centerpieces of the foot. There are three arches as defined by the skeleton of the foot: the medial longitudinal arch, the lateral longitudinal arch and the transverse arch. Each arch is defined by a curvature of bones secured in position by a “keystone” bone. Many people think of the arches as rigid structures, but they are actually quite flexible and change shape considerably when unrestricted.

When standing and walking the arches are crucial for proper distribution of body weight. As you walk, the bones of the arches guide your weight from your heel along the outer edge of your foot and then across the ball of your foot to the base of your big toe. (From there, your big toe is used to propel you into your next step). During this process the arches “collapse,” especially the medial longitudinal arch. This collapsing is a normal and natural process for shock absorption. Also, the elastic soft-tissue structures of the arch stretch and retain some of the load energy they experience (up to 20%) and then snap back when you lift off, helping to propel you forward.

Of course, none the above really works that well in a shoe, which immobilizes the natural flexing, twisting and stretching movements of the arch.

Arch “supports” are detrimental to foot arches. Consider this: What other part of the body needs support? We don’t wear neck supports for our neck, or arm supports for our arms. For a time, some factory and construction workers wore back supports, but it was quickly discovered that those supports actually weakened the back and increased injuries. The same logic holds true for arch supports. When a supporting structure is placed under the arch it can no longer stretch, flex, collapse or spring the way it’s supposed to. The result is weakened arches… and flat foot. As discussed in The Barefoot Book, several studies have been done now comparing the feet of barefooters to shoe-wearers. Guess what? The shoe-wearing people have 3x higher incidence of fallen arches and flat foot.

I hope you enjoyed this quick summary of your foot arches. Give your arches a break today; kick off your shoes and walk barefoot!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Barefoot Running Book (2e) by Jason Robillard

The second edition of The Barefoot Running Book by Jason Robillard is now available. The greatly expanded seconded edition is sure to be the manual for barefoot running. The first edition, at just 68 pages, seemed a bit rushed, but the 188-page second edition is the complete package. Not only does Jason dive more deeply into the science of barefoot running, he added contributions from numerous experts in the field, including Barefoot Ted McDonald and Barefoot Rick Roeber.

Although Jason touches on the biomechanics and science of running, I think the real strength of his book lies in the practical training plans he provides. From the 5k Cheetah plan to the 26-mile Marathon Hyena plan, he’s got one for every runner. Varied-terrain and debris drills will keep your eye-foot coordination at peak performance while you work your way to barefoot running proficiency. Jason’s diary-style race report of the Hallucination 100 Mile Run seasons the book with a personal touch that will inspire you to keep running.

If you’re at all interested in barefoot running, you owe it to yourself to read The Barefoot Running Book. Jason’s book truly is A Practical Guide to the Art and Science of Barefoot & Minimalist Shoe Running.

Oh yeah, you should also check out Jason's website, Barefoot Running University. I like it, but then I'm a Barefoot Professor!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Moving Naturally... MovNat!

I had never heard of Erwan Le Corre until I met him at the 1st Annual NYC Barefoot Run. However, I was fascinated by the man from the moment I met him and my fascination has only increased since I’ve cyber-stalked him in the past two weeks!

Erwan is the founder of MovNat, a revolutionary new way to exercise, move and live in your world. Erwan told me that for healthier bodies adults need to move like children move. After thinking about this, I am absolutely convinced that Erwan is on to something.

Have you ever watched children playing on a playground? They climb ladders, slide down slopes, crawl under and over obstacles, jump from place to place. They are constantly on the move and their motions are anything but repetitve. Contrast this to a typical adult trying to get some exercise; for example, a woman at the gym watching the news while she runs 5 miles on a treadmill. She’s burning calories, but her motions are extremely repetitive. She’s using some muscles over-and-over again while other muscles are hardly working at all. Even the muscles that are working are not working well, using the same motor units and the same muscle fascicles and producing the same amount of tension in the same direction. This is not the best way for our bodies to move. Even when we “change it up” by moving from the treadmill to a cycle machine, we’re primarily using the same muscles and our motions are still repetitive.

Check out this amazing video by Erwan. Yeah, I’m definitely going to incorporate some of this into my exercise “routine.” He's working a book right now... I can't wait for it!

BTW, children instinctively pull off their shoes every chance they get, too. We grown-ups can learn a lot from children!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Welcome to Oz

My favorite theatrical production is WICKED – The untold story of the Witches of Oz. I've seen it three times! (Chicago, San Francisco and Richmond). As you know, in the land of Oz there’s an Emerald City. It’s the one place where Elphaba – the green wicked witch of the West – feels at home (at least for a while).

Now imagine that you live in the Emerald City. In this place everyone dyes their hair green. Parents dye the hair of their newborns as soon as it begins to grow. Children and adults are expected to regularly dye their hair to keep it presentable. You yourself have dyed your hair all your life. Maybe you’re a student at Emerald U., or a professor.

Suppose you discover that the green dye used to color your hair is mildly toxic to your scalp, and you just don’t like the color green for hair. You decide to let your hair grow out in its natural color. As your brown roots begin to show, people take notice. They stare at you. They laugh at you and call you names. Businesses refuse to serve you. Reporters and cameramen from far-off lands follow you around and local newspapers do stories on you. All because you want your own, natural hair color. How messed up is that?

Welcome to Oz.