Barefoot running has got a lot of press since Christopher McDougall released his book Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.
(click the above picture for details)
A great book and amazing story that is worth the read even if you’re not a runner. This book has lead to a paradigm shift in the running shoe world and is slowly creeping it’s way into the normal shoe world. If you are not familiar with my stance on shoes, have a look at my articles:
Shoes: Good support or coffins for your feet
Why Feet Hurt
Movement in general is a set of skills that you acquire through trial, error and practice throughout your life. Walking and running are fundamental movement skills that we develop from a young age, but the thing that most people don’t understand is that just because you can walk and run, doesn’t mean you are doing it very well. The most important tools our bodies have, that gives us the unique ability to walk and run upright, is our feet; covering them up with heavy, clunky, confining shoes most of your life will almost guarantee that you walk and run poorly and inevitably develop pain and deformity.
Although I think the barefoot running movement is great, what really needs to happen is a barefoot lifestyle movement. You need to walk before you can run and stand before you can walk. What you choose to put on your feet will affect all three of these skills. You spend far more time in a day standing and walking than you do running so the best cross training you can do for running is to keep your feet active and in tune with the ground when ever you are vertical.
I will preface this post by saying the best thing I ever did for my feet, my posture and my pain was to stop wearing traditional shoes. I am very hypermobile and have very high arches in my feet and throughout my athletic life I have been slowed down by foot pain and blood blisters on the balls of my feet and big toes (sorry for the details). I had tried all different types of shoes, orthotics and tapes, so in 2008 I decided to start working in only socks most of the day and never turned back. Going barefoot taught me a lot about my own body and how I was creating my own hip and back pain. The feedback I was getting from my feet helped me become aware that I was standing entirely on the outsides of my feet and how that related to the tightness and aching in my hips. From the ground up, I progressively became aware of how one part of my body was affecting the other and I have been able to successfully strengthen my feet, loosen my hips and eliminate almost all of the chronic issues I was having.
You will find the Why Feet Hurt video at the bottom of this post.
Being a physical therapist, seeing 14 people a day with different body and foot types, has allowed me to test my posture and movement principles within myself and on my clients. I have helped a lot of people discover how their feet affect their bodies and their bodies affect their feet. I have learned that how you hold your upper body can be the root cause of your bunions and how you use your hips can dictate if you pronate or supinate in your feet. There is very much a trickle up and a trickle down effect on posture, alignment and movement. Read More
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The goal of standing is to vertically stack your spine with a gentle S-curve from your tail bone up to the base your skull. If you look at your side profile, you should be able to draw a straight line down from your earlobe, through your shoulder, the mid line of your torso, your hip, knee and ankle.
This is my Pulp Fiction video/post (the video captures the movements you need to learn). I am showing you the ending first, so you know what you are working towards. You may find yourself coming back to this frequently and will progressively find it easier and easier to accomplish. To start with, standing the way I am describing may feel weird and be really hard, but will look a lot more normal than it feels. It will challenge everything you are bad at and your brain’s perception of what is vertical. A mirror to look at your side profile can be an important tool to help you see what I am showing you, but you need to learn to progressively feel it instead of having to see it.
Step 1 is to learn to use your diaphragm to support your torso upward and stop leaning backwards. Imagine there are two half balloons inside the lower part of your ribcage that you can inflate by taking a deep breath into your lower back ribs. This should lengthen and stretch the lower part of your thoracic spine. It may also feel like it tips you forward. This is the part of your back that was accommodating your neck, but we are going to try and stop that. If you look in the mirror, you will likely see that it is your head that is forward and that your trunk is now actually quite vertical instead of tipped backward. Read More