Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Good Posture is More than Standing Up Straight

There is a lot more to good posture than standing up straight. Your default posture (how you stand, sit and move without thinking) is your basic posture. People think you're born with posture or somehow inherit it. The truth about posture is that it is a learned skill.

Our stone age ancestors had to rely on instant athletic movement to save their lives. In order to cover long distances, hunt or avoid being hunted, an athletic body was a necessity. As human kind became more civilized, ideas about movement and culture got in the way of natural movement. For example in the modern United States, fashion models and store manikins are often posed purposely in awkward positions that many young girls emulate.

Also in the U.S. many people do not move their hips while walking. I'm not exactly sure why that is. I've been observing gait for decades and find that many Americans use their hips as a hinge joint rather than the ball-and-socket joint it is, a cultural habit that I think is linked to hip damage in middle-aged adults, particularly athletes that have put many miles on their bodies.

Correct or "good" posture isn't a ramrod straight spine. Good posture is when you can move freely and easily to do anything you need to do instantly. Bad posture is when you lock your joints to brace your skeleton against itself to stay up. This locks out movement and makes any new movement a process of awkward adjustments.

Locking your knees, jutting your neck forwards or slumping your shoulders forwards are all common things people do to "rest" themselves while standing or sitting. Here are some posture tips to get you on the road to healthy posture.
  • The first step to better posture is to develop body awareness through dance, exercise, yoga, martial arts, tai chi, sports -- anything that requires you to learn new movements (therefore becoming conscious of how you move).
  • Now, take that new body knowledge and as much as possible stop yourself during the day and note how you are doing.
  • Most importantly, bend your knees whenever you stand or walk. Never lock your knees no matter how fast you are walking.
  • Keep your abs or core toned and engaged. Think about this when walking and sitting.

There is much more to say about gait and posture, but this is a good start. For personal gait and stance and posture training, contact my office for a half-hour appointment.
Footform Performance Orthotics Center, 345 SW Century Drive, Ste.1, Bend, Oregon

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Barefoot" Running Shoes - Go Retro Instead and Wear Moccasins

There are a number of shoe brands and some start-up shoe companies that are now offering a "new" nearly barefoot athletic shoe to the public, touting that their minimalist qualities are "natural" for the human body because the athletic or running shoe designs are similar to being barefoot.

Because these companies have a vested interest in their shoe, they'll make great claims and sponsor studies and athletes to support their product marketing. In reality, the trend towards minimalist footwear is a step backwards in shoe design.

Here's why some people like the minimalist shoe:
  • Weight: very light and compact
  • Perception: shoe buyers perceive the shoe is good for their feet and has high cool factor.
  • Direct Foot Power: there is no influence of the shoe in the push off portion of the stride.
Here's the problem with minimalist shoes:
  • Ancient Ancestry: For the tens of thousands of years humans have been walking, we've been barefoot or wearing minimal footwear. Most of those ancient steps were on natural earth, not concrete, asphalt, tile or other types of uniform hard surfaces. Historically most humans didn't live long enough to reap the results of wear and tear on their bodies. Modern middle-age until just the past hundred years or so was old-age for most of human kind.
  • Excellent Biomechanics: Only athletes with both excellent gait technique AND bio-mechanics can excel with minimalist running shoes. Young athletes may feel fine with barefoot style shoes not realizing that they are running out of their personal biomechanical "grace period" that everybody has. When that grace period is up, wear and damage to the body sets up conditions that may lead to chronic injury and joint conditions.

If you really want to experiment with minimalist footwear shoe technology, here are my suggestions:
  • Gradual Break In: Depending on the mileage you are doing, the break-in time from standard supportive athletic running shoes to barefoot style shoes could be as long as 3 to 6 months.
  • Running Surfaces: Avoid ANY hard unyielding surfaces. This includes natural surfaces such as rock paths.
  • Age Related Option: If you're middle age and older and want to experiment with barefoot running shoes, only run on soft beach or desert sand.

So, if you want to authentically go retro when buying running shoes, buy some good, North American made moccasins. North American Indians are still making moccasins like they have for thousands of years, with a few minor alterations to their technology. Though you can buy very expensive, handmade custom moccasins, my favorite moccasin company is Laurentian Chief. The Laurentian Chief moccasin company, based in Quebec, Canada still employs some workers of indigenous ancestry to make their ancient style of minimalist footwear.

Remember, if you do get biomechanical strain, see me at www.Footform.com. I've experimented with making my own moccasins and used them with and without orthotics.

NOTE:Laurentian Chief does not sell direct to the public. One company I found on the web that is very invested in the Laurentian moccasin line is Get Outside Shoes in Toronto, Canada. They ship to the U.S.

If there are any other moccasin shoe companies that manufacture their moccasins in North America, let us know and we will add you to this blog entry.