If you've seen us in the gym or on some of our videos, you may have noticed the funny looking shoes we wear.
We're not trying to set fashion statements & we're certainly not trying to persuade anyone to join a new cult. We wear them because they're what's best for preventing injuries.
They're called Vibram Five Fingers & here's why we wear them...
They don't support the arch in your foot
Most sports & running trainers have a nice cushioned support for the arches in your feet. What this does is stop the need for the muscles in your feet to give any support when your foot hits the ground.
This is a problem.
In architecture, the arch is an extremely strong structure. A well built arch can take a weight you wouldn't believe.
If you put a support structure in the middle of that arch, it completely loses its strength.
This is exactly what happens in the foot.
The arch in your foot is key in dissipating force when your foot strikes the floor.
Without the arch taking the impact, the force with which we land on each leg (2-5x body weight when running, 4-11x body weight when sprinting) goes straight up into our knees, hips, low backs & even necks.
This isn't good for any of those joints.
Multiply the impact of running by the number of steps in a mile, multiplied by the number of miles people run every week & you've just figured out why it's so common for runners to have ankle, knee and hip injuries.
At a conservative step-per-mile number, a 70kg person who runs 5 miles every week has over 1.8 metric tonnes to deal with in each leg.
It may be 10 years before an injury shows, it may be 6 months. Eventually, this cumulation of steps becomes the straw that breaks the camels back.
When the muscles in your feet don't have to work because they're being supported, you lose the arch.
You end up with flat feet that look like this.
Instead of this
It's assumed that having flat feet is hereditary & if you've got flat feet you're stuck with them for life. You're not. You just need to re-teach your feet how to work and strengthen them.
Again, we're going to vilify running shoes. This time, the cushioned heel is the target.
Your heel isn't designed to take impact. It's designed for weight bearing when standing still (which is why it's such a thick, strong bone).
When you heel strike, your arch can't do its job. This makes the arch redundant & again you have the issue of the impact forces going up in to the knee.
A cushioned heel teaches us to land on the heel because it's a nice, soft landing. The advantage of this is a longer stride, the disadvantage is the impact, which we talked about earlier.
This is aimed at all shoes.
The shape of the average shoe gets thinner as it gets longer & has its apex usually in line with your second or third toe.
The problem with this is that most people's feet, don't look like this. Most people's feet are widest (should be widest) where your toes are.
The consequence of having shoes that aren't shaped like our feet is that your little & big toes get squashed in.
When your big toe isn't where it should be to support the rest of your body (because it's being squashed inside), your first Metatarsal (bone below the big toe) has to take more of your weight.
When there is too much weight for the first Metatarsal to take on its own, your body adapts by adding more tissue.
Over time this creates bunions.
We're designed to run
Our feet have adapted to our surroundings over hundreds of thousands of years.
Along with a ligament in the neck called the Nuchal ligament (which keeps our head & eyes still while our body moves) & our ability to sweat, we're designed for long distance running.
Long distance running is how we used to hunt our prey.
We literally chased after animals until they got tired and stopped. Then took it home & ate it.
(If you're interested in reading more about this, check out Christopher MacDougals' book 'Born To Run')
The take away message is to let your feet function as they should. They've survived & thrived whilst running for thousands of years without Nike Airs, I think they'll be fine without them now.
We're not designed faulty. A human getting injured whilst running is comparable to a fish getting injured whilst swimming.
It shouldn't happen.
We're designed to walk, we're designed to run & we're designed to sprint without ever getting injured.
In an ideal world, going barefoot would be the best solution. Unfortunately, that's not possible due to possible health reasons (standing on stuff, hygiene etc.) and social reasons (unless you're on the beach, people actively avoid other people who aren't wearing shoes).
The best option is to buy yourself some Vibram Five Fingers.
Transitioning to barefoot running
If you're considering getting a pair of Vibram Five Fingers, please don't run in them straight away.
You have to train yourself in to it, regardless of how much running you currently do.
Start by walking round the house in them. Then go for a small walk in them & see how they are the next day.
Walk a bit further, rest again.
Build up to 5km walking, then start a slow jog. Rest again.
Build the distance, then the speed, very slowly until you're at your normal pace & distance whilst wearing the Five Fingers.
When Buying A Pair Of Vibrams
As with everything else in the world, there's a decent selection on Amazon. Here's their selection right now.
You can also get Five Fingers from this site feetus.co.uk (use the code PTHEALTH10 for a 10% discount.
If you do get a pair, prepare yourself for all the jealous looks of passers by as they stare with envy at your feet :)
If you have any questions about going barefoot and transitioning to Vibram Five Fingers, feel free to email me on firstname.lastname@example.org