The natural foot is wide (fan shaped), flexible (with three dynamic arches) and sensory (with thousands of nerve endings)
The part of the brain that gets information from the feet is the same size as the part of the brain that gets information from the hands. Take away this feedback and the brain gets confused, resulting in unskilful movement and pain.
The foot is the body’s base of support. The arches act like springs and when ‘unloaded’ the intrinsic muscles and ligaments provide arch support. When ‘loaded’ the arch collapses and the ligaments, muscles and tendons provide elastic recoil.
The flexibility and strength of the big toe is crucial for healthy, natural locomotion, the human foot is designed to push off from the ball and big toe (the axis of leverage).
It’s all about the big toe!
The natural foot is wide, flexible and sensory
The human foot has evolved from a specialisation in endurance walking and running for hundreds of generations.
The 1st and 2nd toe bones are the same length. The Big Toe Bone is straight and used as the body’s anchor and pivot (it is 4 x the thickness and density of the other toes). A flexible, strong Talus that ‘unlocks’ the foot for compliance (shock absorption) and ‘locks’ the foot for stiffness (rigid lever).
Vivobarefoot aims to make the perfect shoe… perfect for feet
Thin puncture-resistant soles allow the 200,000 nerves in each foot to provide your brain with the sensory feedback you need to move with skill. Thick cushioned soles reduce sensory feedback to your brain and don’t allow your feet to feel the ground.
Wide shoes allow your toes—crucially, your big toes—to provide a stable base of support. Tapered narrow shoes give you shoe-shaped feet reducing stability and restricting the natural splay and recoil of toes weakening the muscles and function.
A flexible, wide foot-shaped shoe allows your muscles and tendons to load, splay and recoil putting a natural spring in your step. Supportive shoes cramp your feet and restrict the natural range of movement weakening the muscles and fascia.
Re-learning natural movement: walk before you can run
Humans, like other animals, create different shapes (kinematics) as the speeds and hence the forces (kinetics) change. Humans naturally display three forms of locomotion: walking, running and sprinting. Each form has a distinct biomechanical characteristic in terms of posture and the loading of the bodies structure.
Take away this feedback (by wearing padded ‘normal-shaped’ shoes) and the brain finds it harder to make appropriate shapes (which is why so many people move so awkwardly - walking or running). This disconnect created by padded shoes will lead to a person striking the ground harder (brain in search of information) and with an over-stride, whether walking or running.
The foundation of movement skill is proprioception. Take away that and unskilful injurious movements result. Running (and walking) is a macro skill made up of a series of micro skills (the motor skill milestones). A baby needs to learn how to sit before they can crawl, stand walk and ultimately run. It is the same with re-learning natural movement. Skilful running as Vivobarefoot guides is fundamentally based on 3 things:
- Posture (upright)
- Rhythm (very quick leg cadence, around 170 to 185 steps per minute)
- Relaxation (movement is a subconscious skill that should be in your animal brain - relax and enjoy!)
In practice: Running barefoot and only changing your foot strike will only make you an over-striding forefoot runner.
Start slow with lots of small steps, uptight posture (head over hips and feet) and relax (there's no rush!). Running technique (like every other sports technique) becomes a deeply embedded habit which is virtually impossible to change without coaching.
Pain (running without shoes on a hard surface) will modify movement (heel strike to forefoot strike) but rarely creates skilful movements.
In practice: The effectiveness of running technique on reducing chronic injuries is directly influenced by the structural stability of the foot. The forces encountered whilst running do not magically "disappear" when you change your technique.
Skilful, forefront running reducing joint torques at the knee, hip and lower back but increases them at the foot and ankle joints. If you are going to run like a natural/ habitual barefoot runner you need to possess feet like a natural/ habitual barefoot runner - strong, flexible and stable. Practice toe-ga and squatting to accelerate your foot and ankle health.
In practice: Changing technique is never a 'quick fix' in any sport. Initially you will be running outside your comfort zone, mentally and physically which normally translates to a greater perceived effort, higher heart rates, shorter distances and slower times until you have fully adapted to a new technique.
'Economy' and 'Efficiency' are often used interchangeably in the media and in academic literature but they mean very different things. 'Economy' refers to the metabolic cost (energy) of getting from A to B. Efficiency refers to how much of the metabolic cost was productive- for example, speed/ time of getting from A to B. Changing your running technique will influence both Economy and Efficiency (but not necessarily for the better at first!).
From an evolutionary perspective, we know that humans have been running long distances for over 2 million years and the adaptations to our anatomy and physiology stimulated by endurance running are what separate us from our closest primate cousins.
Humans are the only upright, bipedal, running primates. Humans are particularly suited (evolved) as endurance runners with a unique ability to sweat (stay cool), have large hip muscles, short parallel toes, straight legs and long tendons compared to other primates. Early humans were persistent hunters, running down animals by tracking them over long distances, most of that running was done barefoot on hard, rough surfaces before modern humans invented footwear such as sandals or moccasins in the Upper Palaeolithicperiod about 40,000 years ago.
Present day human beings have evolved from 6,666 generations of hunter gatherers, 366 generations of farmers, 7 generations of industrialised city dwellers and 4 generations of sedentary modern humans.
“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution” (Dobzhansky, 1972).
We can use the application of evolutionary biology to understand health and disease: humans evolved to live as simple hunter-gatherers in small tribal bands, natural light and food, bacteria and movement.
A very different way of life and environment to that faced by contemporary humans. This change makes present humans vulnerable to a number of health problems, termed ‘diseases of civilisation’.
Human beings are born with a typical primate spine which is ‘C’ shaped. As humans learn to sit, stand and walk, (software) under gravity, the spine begins to straighten and eventually become ’S’ shaped (hardware). With unusually big heads balancing on uniquely long spines, humans are susceptible to bad posture (lumbar flexion moments) and skeletal misalignment.
Modern human beings spend a large proportion of the day in a seated posture and, instead of regular healthy movement, do short bursts of high intensity, unnatural ‘exercise’. Regular, low intensity movement on two feet (under gravity) is the best anti-aging programme known to humans.