Harvard Doctors and Supermodels

One of my closest friends, Hilary Siebens, a fellow Harvard M.D., and avid OESHer, forwarded me this post which I cut and pasted below, about supermodel Gisele refusing to wear high-heeled shoes. (Click here to see the original post.)

Gisele refuses to wear high heels

Chris Moore / Getty Images file
By Alexander Smith

Sorry, Carrie Bradshaw. Even fashion professionals are giving high heels the boot.

Balenciaga’s creative director, Nicolas Ghesquière, sent his models out wearing mannish flats for his spring/summer 2011 collection. But he revealed that the shoes — reminiscent of the go-to footwear of your average teenage goth — were actually the result of a certain supermodel’s podiatric plea.

Ghesquière confessed to WWD that when he initially presented a catwalk concept for the collection featuring absurdly-arch-elevating heels to his models, Gisele Bündchen trampled the idea underfoot. “Gisele was worried,” said the influential designer. “She would not work with my heels.”

So when the Brazilian bombshell glided down the catwalk for this summer’s campaign, her comely feet came clad in the kind of bulky, black shoes normally reserved for men.

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Gisele’s shoes actually do look a lot like the OESH Black Classics.

What do you think?

Years ago, when I discovered a link between high heeled shoes and knee osteoarthritis, reporters asked me if I thought my research would ever keep women from wearing high heeled shoes. Fortunately, an older physician-reporter working with Ralph Nader who was taken with the gravity of my findings (knee osteoarthritis causes more physical disability than any other singular disease, including heart disease) called me and said…

“Your research is just like the first research showing that smoking is bad for your health. It took a generation for that research to change the notion of what is considered fashionable. Nowadays, most of us really don’t find smoking to be fashionable. Hopefully it won’t take a full generation to change the notion of what footwear is fashionable.”

That was back in 1998. Since then we’ve done more research showing that even a small heel elevation increases joint torques and pressures (which is why OESH, unlike most every current athletic or casual shoe, has absolutely no heel).

Can health dictate fashion? Yes. Can you wear OESH to a formal event? Yes. Here is a picture of me and another one of my closest friends, Ellen Fox, M.D., also a Harvard M.D. and avid OESHer, at her wedding a few weeks ago.

From Harvard doctors and supermodels…we don’t have to wait until 2023 to wear shoes that are healthy for us.

Greetings from South Korea on my 50th Birthday!

I agreed to be a keynote speaker at the 2011 International Sport Science Congress for both the assembled Societies of Biomechanics and Pedorthics in conjunction with the Pre-Olympic IAAF (World Track & Field) Championships in Daegu, Korea. Our middle daughter, Kellyn, who is accompanying me on the trip, took this picture while perched on another rock (on a mountain somewhere in Korea).

Full Print Article in the Charlottesville Daily Progress

The Charlottesville Daily Progress staff was kind enough to send us the digital version of the article written by David Maurer with photographs taken by Andrew Shurtleff. Thank you David and Andrew for putting together such a magnificent article.

Note: If you click anywhere on the article, the full, readable jpeg file of that page opens up.

OESH on summer vacation, two miles high


The spectacular North American Continental Divide at Loveland Pass, Colorado. And OESH Classic. Featuring the big right foot of remarkable OESHer Will Cooke. Any questions on whether OESH can handle altitude? Or look great on a guy?

The Story of OESH in the Charlottesville Daily Progress

Things have been crazy busy since Sunday when this article on OESH was published in our local newspaper, the Charlottesville Daily Progress. Dave Maurer, who composed the article, is an amazing writer. After spending a bit of time with me and Bob, he whipped up what I believe to be the best story of OESH ever told.

With the flood of local orders from the article, we decided on the spur of the moment to give the option for picking up shoes right at the factory. That gave me the opportunity to see that smile when you put on OESH for the first time. And as of today we now even have a real shoe horn! (When someone asked for one yesterday, Bob was afraid I was going to offer up my crow bar).

Impact is good!

I recently wrote an article entitled “When exactly do injuries occur in walking and running?” that Paul Ingraham published Friday on his highly informative website on pain related issues. (Recall Paul recently wrote a guest post for OESH here). The article got some really nice attention over in the world of pain science this weekend. That spurred getting a phone call from an old colleague, Geoff Bove, Ph.D., a researcher who studies the neurophysiology of pain, who is also a practicing chiropractor. It was fun to catch up with Geoff, who has never been afraid to question dogma. We talked about how in the world, impact, that first little blip in force when the foot makes contact with the ground, could have been wrongly accused of causing harm for so many years. Unfortunately, dogma doesn’t always come from science. If you’re interested, I talk about this issue in full detail here on the post “The Rest of the Story” (which meanwhile has been getting a lot of excitement over in the running community). Go science!

All the time that impact has been wrongly accused in causing injuries, impact has not been given its due credit for (1) activating and exercising muscles and (2) stimulating healthy bone formation.

The impact force, which you can think of as a sharp tap, sends a neurological signal that triggers muscle activity throughout the foot and up the entire leg. The impact force also triggers modest vibrations in the foot and leg that further stimulate muscle activity. This muscle activity helps prepare the body to withstand the larger forces that can hurt bones and joints later when the foot is fully planted.

The impact force has a much higher frequency content than the force that occurs later when the foot is fully planted. (That’s just a fancier way of saying that the impact force is like a sharp tap.) That high frequency force, and the associated modest vibrations in bone that occur along with it, have been shown to uniquely stimulate and maintain healthy bone structure. For example, astronauts who are prone to weakened bones during prolonged weightlessness, are able to maintain bone health with regular sharp taps to their heels.

The bone thing is important in terms of helping prevent osteoporosis which all us women are at risk for getting when we’re older. But even in the short term, having strong bones is important for preventing stress fractures. I shared my thoughts here about how we’re prone to stress fractures at the time in the gait cycle when the foot is fully planted, when the forces through the stress fracture sites are at their greatest. So while the repetitive force that occurs when our foot is fully planted is what actually causes stress fractures, the repetitive force that occurs at impact builds bone to help prevent stress fractures.

Now back to what impact does for muscles. Ideally, we want to walk and run in a way that maximizes exercising our muscles, heart and lungs, while minimizing injury causing stresses to our joints and other injury prone areas. Impact does that for us. The nature of the force is such that it does not place damaging forces to the cartilage (which causes osteoarthritis) and actually helps bone health. Meanwhile, impact exercises muscle… which is what strengthens muscles, builds our cardiovascular health, and burns calories. What else could we ever want out of a little blip in impact force?

OESH is unique in that it is designed to not cushion impact. Rather, the sole is designed to compress and release much later in the gait cycle when your foot is fully planted, and all the stresses and strains in muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, and bones are at their greatest.