Friday 20 September 2013

No Sore Feet on Holiday...

Why is it that my husband and son don't complain about sore feet on holiday but moan all the time at home? She asked.

Further investigation told me that these guys suffer from , flat feet. At home they wear traditional gents shoes with expensive orthotics inside that require regular expensive refreshing. On holiday they wear flip flops all day.

There are 2 possible answers.
1 They don't feel pain in Finland ( where they spent their vacation)
2 The shoes they wear at home with the orthotics hurt their feet.

I am not having a go at podiatrists who can do an amazing job helping people, but sometimes a weakness needs strengthened and not supported and orthotics are not the answer .

To simplify the biomechanics:
The bones of the foot make an arch, this arch allows the force of your bodyweight to be split along the flat joint surfaces just like in a bridge. But the foot isn't planted into the ground the way a bridge is so in time that force pushes the arch down flattening the foot. The body compensates for this naturally because tendons are attached to the bones in the foot and as the muscles contract when you walk those tendons pull the arch back up in a sort of windlass mechanism. This balances the structure perfectly....assuming you walk correctly.

For many, a walk is a heel strike, a foot fall and then the bodyweight falls forward and the foot is lifted by the leg for the next step. In flip flops you can't heel strike, they'd fly off. You can't just fall forward and lift the foot you have to grip and use the toes or you'd lose the shoe.

In short, in flip flops you have to work the foot, the movement pattern although not exactly the same as barefoot, is much closer and involves some positive muscle action, within the foot and ankle and calf.

Son and husband only have flat feet because they have weak feet. These guys need some barefoot movement in their lives.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Can I really climb the Pyrenees?

There I was 4500 feet up in the French Pyrenees, an 8 hour day of walking and climbing, was it really me?

I have not walked this far for over 20 years. So managing the climb is an immense achievement.

I damaged my sacroiliac joints giving birth. They had become so lax that my back would swell when any pressure was applied. I’d given up on conventional medicine having been tossed between specialists and offered only painkillers.

I’d tried to strengthen myself and even became a gym instructor, albeit one who had to lie down between classes! I got into alternative therapies and now run my own successful clinic treating people who have structural problems with a combination of massage, Dorn method, Spinal touch, Kinesiology…you name it I’d given it a go, still really looking for the answer for myself.

One of my sons is a traceur, a parkour coach. (One of those guys that jumps off stuff… I usually have to give this explanation).  He has been into barefoot movement most of his life to be honest and the recent revelations have only proved him right.  Anyway, he bought me a pair of Vivo’s for my birthday, my 51st birthday! Taking the challenge and seeing another opportunity to add to my clinical skills I enrolled for the coaching qualification. The information was immediately applicable and lots of happy clients are improving as a result.

Personally I have found the barefoot journey has been a painful one. My feet ached as they became more supple and spread, my Achilles still ache but they are becoming stronger and more flexible. Every single day has felt like a gym day as I adapted.   But here I am; I climbed a mountain with a backpack, my knees and my feet did the work, they absorbed the shock and I don’t hurt.

Recently I have had to throw away most of my shoes (my feet have spread as they strengthened), they no longer fit. Or rather they were not fit for walking.

Vive le vivo!

Monday 2 September 2013

Why do our bodies breakdown so often? it self harm?

As a therapist I deal with injuries every day. Some are the manifestation of the stress and tension of everyday living, some are due to unfortunate accidents, some are overuse injuries or unbalanced/unintelligent training programmes but the majority of injuries are actually self harm!

What I want to address is...if we are really evolved or designed intelligently to function as moving beings, then why does it all so often go wrong? Why do we see the same patterns of tension and strain over and over?

We therapists identify the overused, the tight and the weak structures, then attempt to restore balance through massage techniques, kinesiology, manipulation and exercise. People seem happy to accept things like, "I have a weak ankle", "dodgy knees","my hamstrings have always been tight - it's me!" A huge industry has grown around addressing the problem that nature didn't get right.  

I find it naive and patronising to assume that nature or God (whatever is your belief) didn't get it quite right. So that simply running like we are designed to will naturally result in tight calves, shinsplints, hamstring injuries, low back pain, hip flexor tension, over pronation or supination.

So why do we breakdown so often?
After all the years I have spent in the body industry I reckon we are just not moving like we are designed to. The natural gait gets messed up when we trap the feet and stop them from working by putting them into 'supportive' (more like restrictive) shoes, where they can no longer flex and bend. The feet lose strength, we stop using the natural elasticity of a healthy footstrike pattern and adopt a new one fit for these bindings. In time the achilles tendon shortens, it stiffens and loses strength - the feet get narrower and less active. Eventually they stop feeding back. Feet are a sensory organ and cushioning dims this sense just as ear plugs do to our hearing. Without feedback the body does the best it can, compensating with hips and knees which of course results in tight calves, shinsplints, hamstring injuries, low back pain and hip flexor tension, over pronation or supination.

Undoing this takes time and work and training - but it is possible. We are capable of great adaptation.

I find that teaching people the basics of  movement, getting them to be barefoot whenever possible, come out of restrictive shoes and choose minimalist barefoot options makes a huge difference.

So if we are going to make a real difference to everyone, regular people, athletes and "wanna be" athletes who keep breaking - we have to start by undoing their changed gait and unravelling their restricted bodies.

Let your feet be free - start with the minimalist barefoot shoe. My favourite are Vivos - not only for runners - they have great casual shoes and are a really healthy option for kids feet.