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Friday, October 28, 2011

part 1 of 2

VIBRAM sole running shoes are the newest craze and they are selling like hot cakes!!...Why? because they are touted as increasing the forefoot strike and improving the intrinsic muscles in the foot. For those of you just crawling out from under a rock, this running shoe is designed to give 'little piggy' its own home!;The toes are separated. The sole of the shoe is made of a durable rubber making the shoe flexible. Again the idea is to keep you running on your forefoot.

Running mechanics are complex and shoe companies for years have tried to make a shoe that provides the  greatest economy of energy return when the foot hits the ground; ground reaction is generated back through the foot up the leg providing greater propulsion. When the stride frequency increases, along with reduced stride length, you begin to move faster. As you do this the energy that is absorbed at the heel now gets transferred to the front or forefoot. There are many runners who have difficulty engaging this positon, thus the Vibram does this for you: 'trains'  you to land on the forefoot when you accelerate. Before I go on, I must emphasize that the running mechanic as described here in laymans terms. The study of biomechanics and the influences on muscle and return economy during running is way beyond the scope of this blog. It is described here in very basic terms to make a point on the Vibram.

Several years ago just as I was starting my business , there was talk of a Nike shoe called the 'Barefoot trainer' that was to get the runner close to running 'natural'(barefoot) as possible by reducing the amount of shoe sole. The thought is that this would increase the strength of the muscles/ligaments throughout the foot. Researchers for years have investigated ways to 'replicate' or 'duplicate' the efficiency of Kenyan runners. The Kenyans are known for their dominance in long distance events especially at Boston marathons where they always impress (with shoes on!)  The shoes were popular until people realized they did not have the 'right' type of foot for this shoe when there were reports of increased foot and lower leg discomfort. These people happily resorted back to the 'bulky' running shoe. In fact, Podiatry(foot and ankle doctors) Association spoke against such shoes due to the fact that shoe companies are preying on the ignorance of the public to not know whether they should be in a shoe like a barefoot trainer. Also, was the fact I mentioned earlier about  the lack of support at the arch and plantar fascia.

The arch of the foot is maintained by the plantar fascia and an arch that is created my several bones. One of the key bones is the navicular bone. Think about the center stone in the center of an arched bridge. If this center stone falls then runners fall into the brink. Anyhow, there are common foot formations that make this bone 'drop'  or what you call 'flat footed'. The technical term for this is pes planus and this makes for a very pliable foot, especially at toe-off during the propulsive stage of the run. The foot is supposed be rigid at this stage. When it isn't then there is increased tension on the ligaments of the foot especially at the plantar fascia, arch,  and as far up as the knee! Enter the Vibram shoe that does NOT account for this. Simply, a foot like I described SHOULD NOT be in this shoe!

PART 2: "That was a stupid question!"

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