Sunday 27 April 2014

Do your shoes fit? -The Falling Lady-.

I help out at a remedial exercise class - Access Parkour -  where we work on restoring natural movement patterns using Parkour teaching techniques. This involves a lot of squats and hip work as well as stretches, quadripedal movement and balance.
One of our clients, a lovely middle aged lady, lets call her Silvie, kept falling off to the right whenever she stood up from her squat. I wondered if her glut medius was hypertonic, perhaps abductors or somehow her tensor fasciae latae was inactive and not supporting her. This continued for a few classes without improvement  - and then I noticed that her foot was supinating, falling over the lateral edge of her shoe as if it was trying to get to the floor. I asked her to take off her shoes and try the move again. Hey presto! perfect squat.

Feet need the floor. My belief is that Silvie's foot wasn't getting proprioceptive feedback because the sole was so cushioned and because the sole of the shoe is narrower than her foot is when it was working.

So my advice, make sure that the sole of your shoe is bigger than your foot and work off the floor whenever possible rather than off a cushioned sole. Alternatively buy thin soled or minimalist shoes for gym work and make sure that they are big enough!

Friday 4 April 2014

Barefoot Transition Period


The transition to minimalist shoes, takes time. Not just weeks but many months and for some a year or two.

Once you take the heelstrike out of your gait, straighten up your posture, learn to move softly absorbing the load with your feet ankles and knees, and you have built up the strength in all these structures, you will never want to go back. Once you have tuned the soles of your feet in and they start feeling the world below you, you will feel a certain joy of movement that you have not experienced before.  But be aware that once you have made those changes in strength and flexibility you will no longer be comfortable in the old shoes. Your big straight feet will not be going into pointy shoes any more! You will not want to suffer a shoe that dulls your senses.  This is a commitment.

I warn my clients of this all the time. You do need to change to minimalist shoes because you just can't re-learn to walk in your old shoes - all that support, strapping, heels and engineering makes it impossible to get the feel for the new gait and posture - and the transition models don't give the feedback that you need to make the changes.

You will need protection from the cold, and from the threat of damage and you will want protection from the dirt. So in the meantime minimalist shoes are the best bet. I've played around with a few shoes and the starting point for me is Vivo. Beginners can't do socks and they don't offer the protection you need in the early stages. Fingered varieties I found gave too much weird feedback and I've seen a lot of people still heelstrike in them, also I found that I personally supinated in them - an old habit - and I also found them cold, perhaps the large surface area contributes to this. However some very experienced runners seem to have gotten the hang of all of these and love them. If all of that is too much of a commitment or expense get some old fashioned gutties (like those some of us wore to gym classes). Make sure the sole of the shoe is larger than your foot and is completely flat and you are off to a good start.

I'm not sure if an older individual - sorry to be ageist - can make all the muscle tendon and flexibility changes that are required to go all the way minimalist all the time. But it is the only way to make the postural and biomechanical changes that are required for better posture, ease of movement and dynamic efficiency.

Read all the stuff you can. It's worth paying for a session with a professional. This is your health, it's worth the price of one dinner out to get it right. Then take your time, do the exercises and ramp up the walking and the running over time. Your back and your knees will thank you, your calves and your ankles will complain for a while. You can't undo a lifetime's poor habit but slow and steady really does win this race.