Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fighter Quick Training Technique: Strengthen your feet in one easy step!

Fighter Quick Training Technique: Strengthen your feet in one easy step!
My Experience with the Vibram Five Finger Shoe

Aside from the awful stride pun, it’s actually very easy to strengthen your feet without adding an extra set to your training regiment.

Go Barefoot!

Fewer shoes, will actually increase the strength of the foot. For most of us, we have been raised on the preconceived notion that we need cushion for the heel, support for the arch and all the toes need to be wedged into a spade like form, which orthopedists now are saying can actually be inhibiting strength AND causing damage (Click here for study abstract). The summary is that walking barefoot will strengthen the heel, the arch and not inhibit the toes from their natural position. Please read on for details.

A resurgence of barefoot walking and running clubs like Running Barefoot have come out of the woodwork because people are becoming more aware of the benefits of running/walking/being shoeless.

Increased Strength: To be used for kicking and squatting
The first overall benefit of going bare is the strengthening of the more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments in your feet. By walking barefoot you allow the individual toes and muscles to move, grip and propel the rest of the body in the natural motion that it was intended to. Imagine how weak your hands would be if they were constantly in leather mittens and couldn’t grip anything with your fingers.

Unbind Those Feet
This might seem obvious but I’ll say it anyway, walking barefoot, is non-foot binding. We have all seen examples of bunions (Click to see image of bunion), which is essentially the foot forming into a spade, taking the form of some awesome-o Italian leather shoe, and I must admit I’m a bit guilty of this too. Not wearing shoes prevents this human-created foot deformation.

Reduced back pain
The raised heel at the back of both work shoes and sneakers increases the amount your body tends to lean forward, to counteract this; your lower back contracts to make sure that you are standing upright. This is not a form of exercise. This constant pressure can really hurt people’s lower back. Remove the added heel and remove the back pain and improve your posture. Take a hard cover book, stand it up, then wedge something underneath one end, that’s sort of how it works.

What supports the arch?
The dang arch will support the arch. That question is the equivalent of putting on a glove and asking what supports the thumb. The arch supports the arch. Know what else, those instep soles you stuff in all of your shoes to support the arch, useless in my non-professional opinion. Utterly useless. The arch needs to develop the strength to develop itself so that it can learn to become strong enough to support itself, that’s what it does. This is the point in the conversation where about 20% of Americans will ask what about flat-footed people what should we do? Well I have heard from many flat-footed people all over the internet that this is not a problem for them and may actually help with this. I know that this is a bit shady and light on the support, but I can’t say for certain for two reasons. I am not flat-footed and will only post things that I can test or find adequate scientific evidence supporting. Secondly, I could not find enough rigorous studies that prove this to be true. My feeling is that no one has really taken the time to study it. I’ve also heard many times but can not verify that there is some crazy possibly urban myth that goes something like this, “Something like 60% of Olympic athletes are flat footed and that number increases drastically when you look at medal winners.” I have looked far and wide through Google, but can’t seem to find any data to back this. If you know any information that can verify this please let me know and I will update this post.

I will attest to the improved balance, stability and posture from the barefoot stuff, the problem arises when you live and work in the concrete jungle. Obstacles like cement floors, broken glass, dirty puddles of liquid trash and dog poop will all prevent you from enjoying a nice barefoot stroll to work, the gym or just about anywhere. So where do you go from here? You want to increase the strength in your feet, reduce your back pain, improve your balance and you need to shield if from all the elements of your domain.

Let’s narrow down the choices in footwear:
1. Sneakers: they are better that the leather binding designer shoe, but they still come to a spade-like point at the and have a raised heel.
2. Flip-flops, This one is a bit better: The front of the shoe is a quadrangle, the toes can breath, but there is a bit of heel. Some of them have an even flat surface for walking and others have groves for the heel, arch and indentations for the toes, avoid these. What flip flops don’t do, is allow your toes to grip the ground fully, sprint or go for a jog. Still a better choice than the sneakers.
3. Tabi Boots/ Ninja shoes: If you don’t know what they look like please google. I have been wearing these for years. On a trip to Japan I found that rickshaw runners, and construction workers were wearing them while doing some pretty rugged stuff and decided to start wearing them too. They improve the stability of the ankle and the heel. They weigh nothing, are machine washable and were about 30 bucks in Japan. They are also wicked cool. They do however come to a bit of a point and don’t let each toe grip the ground.
4. Vibram Five Finger Shoes: You guessed it; these shoes give you all the benefits of walking barefoot, all while keeping your soles protected. If Batman was gonna go fight crime barefoot but couldn’t because of the possibility of stepping in dog poo, he would wear Vibram’s five finger shoes. They have a thin layer of rubber reminiscent of super hero suits that protects your soles from the elements, although they still won’t repel bullets. A little background info on Vibram. They are the company usually behind the scenes that creates the soles for a bunch of different hiking boots and mountain climbing type shoes. I believe this is their first fully designed shoe, and it is cool as hell. They have three models, one that is like a sock shoe that leaves the top of the foot open and is pretty bare bones called the classic. The second is the same with a strap and the third looks like an ankle sock but with a strap. My personal favorite is the classic. Sizing is a bit tricky so I ordered three pairs in different sizes and models and just kept the one that fit best. Best thing to do is ease you into the shoe. Don’t wear it everyday all at once. This could injure your feet. For the first few days wear the shoes to the commute to work, some thing like a 30-minute walk or less. This is to get your feet used to supporting themselves. I was pretty used to using tabi boots, which are pretty minimal and still, ran into some foot pains initially. Watch your heel. Just like it takes time to get your shins used to hitting a heavy bag before you can break bats with kicks, it takes time for your heels to get used to the constant hammering of everyday walking. They also look really cool, constantly getting inquiries into wear to get them, why I wear them and this is actually why I’m blogging this up. By the way the classic runs about $80 bucks. Have had them for about a month and wear them to and from work and all is well, no real wear or tear yet.

This is just one of those cases where less is more. I find it incredible that million and billion dollar companies have spent so much money developing footwear and marketing these technological advantages that may actually be disadvantageous to the wearer.

So this is my real first post. Hope you like it. If you plan on coming to the site daily to see what new posts have been posted you will be pleasantly disappointed. I will only post when I have something to say and will only say it if I have done at least some research in the area. Hopefully what I have to say benefits someone somewhere. Please post comments that will help me be accurate and not sloppy. This is the only way I actually know someone is reading this.

No comments:

Post a Comment