The cover of BioMechanics – The Magazine of Body Movement and Medicine caught my eye. The February 2007 issue / Volume XIV Number 2 had a barefoot runner on the front and the tag-line, “New barefoot designs challenge footwear conventions.” Since the subject of happy feet and improved posture is near to my heart, I was curious to learn more…
Research into the differences between running with shoes and running barefoot has been going on since the mid 80’s. Findings seem to indicate that peak joint loads may be reduced at the knee & hip when barefoot. But shoes do decrease shock transmission for the spine. The increase support we gain from our shoes means that some of the intrinsic muscles of the feet and lower legs no longer need to do the work they would normally be responsible for. So what you gain in a more supportive shoe, you might actually be losing in your body’s ability to maintain the fine-tuning motor control for balance and stability at the feet. (Stronger shoe = weaker feet.)
Shoe companies Nike and MBT are beginning to take a look at this, and have started to design shoes with less support (so the feet have a chance to work harder.) While they’re not sure yet how this might translate into athletic performance, there are indications that a stronger more flexible foot might perform better with a lower risk of injury. That last sentence put a wide smile on my face. With the great amount of emphasis we place on your feet with Pilates, it seems evident that the more correctly things work from the ground up, your whole body will be aligned for free and easy movement. Irene Davis, PT, PhD, professor of physical therapy and director of the Running Injury Clinic at the University of Delaware, said, she has been motivated to incorporate more barefoot walking in her own life. Ms. Davis also said, “I think perhaps the widespread plantar fasciitis in this country is partly due to the fact that we really don’t allow the muscles in our feet to do what they are designed to do.” Affirmation for me that the focus we place on your footwork at Centerworks is helping to be sure that your feet know how to do what they are supposed to be doing as you walk, run, skip, hop, and jump for joy that you have healthy feet!
Three cheers for all of you who have learned the Fantastic Feet! exercises during your private lessons, in mat class, or have attended one of my foot workshops. Or maybe you’ve been inspired to purchase the book Fantastic Feet! and the Centerworks Pilates – Foot Fitness Kit so you can practice fine-tuning your footwork at home. If you are doing Pilates, yoga, running on the beach, belly-dancing or maybe just running around the house barefoot celebrate your wisdom in actively developing strong, fit, and flexible feet.
Aliesa George has been teaching movement techniques for over 25 years. Author of Fantastic Feet! and other educational resources, she is committed to helping students & teachers develop their belief in unlimited potential and positive change. For details visit www.CenterworksPilates.com
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