It would seem that the “STEP Ahead” Award that I got last week, along with 129 other amazing women, would have something to do with making shoes. Well, it does, but not in the way that you think. STEP stands for “Science, Technology, Engineering and Production” and last week, we were each awarded the 2016 STEP Ahead Award from the Manufacturing Institute in Washington DC. Over a two day celebration we were wined, dined, congratulated and thanked for all the science, technology, engineering, and production awesomeness that we do on a daily basis. Congress people told us how essential we are to the U.S. economy, creating wealth and community and serving as role models for young women and girls to pursue STEM and manufacturing careers. Many of us mentor young women in one way or another. In fact, it was a former mentee of mine, Grace Lefebure who nominated me for the award. Grace was the only woman in her mechanical engineering capstone class with me at OESH a number of years ago. She is now a hotshot engineer making airplane parts for Boeing in Seattle, who won the STEP Ahead Award last year. Thank you Grace!
While I was the only honoree from the shoe industry, there were women from just about every other industry sector, all manufacturing one thing or another right here in the United States. We had much fun talking about injection molding and how to get grease off your clothes (you can’t, which is why you have to wear mostly black). We also talked a lot about coding and 3D printing. Everyone loved my hot pink 3D printed Athena Sandals!
Before we parted, we each had to make a personal commitment as to how we would encourage more girls and women to pursue STEM and manufacturing careers. I promised that I will continue to host factory tours for students. The girls who come through the OESH factory are especially excited to see how we can make shoes using coding and 3D printing. There are very few shoe designers who are women and there are even fewer women who actually manufacture shoes. When girls see what we do here at OESH they can’t help but be inspired to role up their sleeves and learn some code!
What a nice piece in the Charlottesville Daily Progress Business Journal this morning. Thank you so much Allison Wrabel for telling our story!
You can read the full article online here:
So proud. That’s my Jayme protesting for women’s rights with fellow Oxonians at Yarl’s Wood Detention Center in England.
To a Happy and Healthy New Year! Our friend, Mark Cucuzzella, over at Natural Running Center, offers 10 simple things that apply not just to runners, for a healthy 2016.
Last night I dreamt my mom was at our front door, smiling. It’s not unusual that I dream of my mom, who passed away last year. What was unusual about the dream was that she was at the front door. She would have come in through any other door in the house; not the front door. Perhaps she thought that this particular visit was unexpected.
This is the first year that I almost forgot about Mother’s Day. Ever since I can remember, I would begin thinking about what I’d get my mom for Mother’s Day back on Saint Patrick’s Day, my mom’s birthday. But this year, I didn’t give Mother’s Day much if any thought and in fact, didn’t even know when it was going to occur, until yesterday.
Contributing to my lack of memory is the fact that it hardly seems like it’s been a full year since I wrote my last year’s “Happy Mother’s Day” post. It’s been a busy year at OESH and we’ve been working hard on a new project that we hope to launch and talk about soon; a project that I know my mom would be especially proud of, but which I never had a chance to tell her about. Except for in my dreams.
Here is what I wrote:
“Unconditional love,” my mom used to say, “is the most important thing a mother can give to her child.”
That she gave and more and taught me to give the same to my own daughters. She was successful in making me strong and independent and to never feel like I couldn’t do something just because I was a girl.
I could talk to my mom about anything. And well after I achieved adulthood, I still relied upon her for advice. Should I be a doctor? What kind of a doctor? Should I leave academic medicine to build a shoe factory? Although super smart in ways that I am not (she was a brilliant school teacher and had an amazing understanding of the English language), my mother did not have much scientific experience, other than being married to my scientific genius father and typing his Chemistry PhD thesis. Nonetheless, she so very clearly understood my research and would often help me articulate its impact.
I remember my mom being much dismayed by the poor footwear choices for women. She would tell me about her own mother being physically disabled from wearing high-heeled shoes. And when I was five-years old, and my grandmother, who lived in New York, came to visit us in San Diego, I was struck with the fact that it was painful for her to walk.
Years later, when I discovered the biomechanical link between high-heeled shoes and knee osteoarthritis, I could hardly wait to come home to tell my mom about it. By that time, she was living with us, caring for our first daughter, Jayme, while I worked. My mom must have read to her nearly every minute of the day. She continued to live with us and did the same with our second and third daughters, Kellyn and Zoe. In so doing, my mom successfully passed on her love for books to our daughters.
My mom was always well ahead of her times and, all along, the sweetest person you could ever meet. She passed away seventy-two days ago on February 28, 2014, shortly after Jayme was accepted to Oxford to “read” English, and seventeen days before what would have been her 91st birthday. One of our dear friends said to me, “I know this time of reflection must be hard. A mother’s bond is the most elemental bond.” Indeed it is hard. Even though my mother had fairly severe dementia (such that we no longer could enjoy the conversations we used to have) for several years, she always knew who I was. And although she had difficulty recognizing objects, she always lit up when I showed her my latest OESH design. I loved giving her the very first pair of any new style we made just as much as she loved wearing them.
Happy Mother’s Day Mom. Mother’s Day or not, I love you always and forever.
In recognition of “pushing the boundaries of design and innovating in the industry,” I’m featured today in an article in Inventor Connections entitled “Fusion 360 Enables OESH to Take a Fresh Approach to Shoe Design.”
To access it, you need to register to become a member of InventorConnections.com here. However, if you are not into all things CAD (computer aided-design), know that it’s a nicely written article describing in detail what you already know by simply putting on a pair of OESH.
Here’s a screenshot of the intro:
Now, on an unrelated note but in follow up to Bob’s last post on our oldest, Jayme, winning the Oxford vs. Cambridge Varsity Lacrosse Match, here’s a picture of Kellyn (our second oldest), firing a shot into the goal in last week’s Charlottesville High School vs. Culpeper High School game. In her beloved Deep Wisterias.
And here’s another shot from today, of Kellyn and Jayme (who’s home for Spring Break) taking a lacrosse practice break with Marcia.
Their La Vidas are more than a year old and as much as I’d like to wash them, I appreciate that the dirt, which was not one of my intended design features, could be good luck.
We’re in Arlington, Virginia, presenting to the National Science Foundation who recently funded our work to track gait parameters inside of shoes. Below is our presenting team; Bill Hill, Brad Bennett, and me.
Our first Power Point slide was that of our research team (or at least a portion of our team) in the OESH Factory. Left to right: Jackey Gong, Shannon Wheeler, me, Brad Bennett, Shawn Russell and John Lach.
As is typical, everyone is wowed — with our science and with OESH. I’ve been alternating between wearing my Saguaro’s and the Rococco’s. Like at many of these events, I often find myself without shoes because someone asks if I can take them off to show them and before I know it, my La Vidas are being passed around the room. In the past, I’d bring an extra pair of OESH – one to wear and one to show. But I’ve learned that by only sharing the OESH that I’m wearing, I have a much better chance of getting them back.
As we age, we lose a certain amount of hip extension range during walking. By hip extension range, I mean the amount that our hip extends backward during walking. That may not sound too surprising. Don’t we lose, as we get older, a certain amount of range in ALL of our joints during walking?
Well, actually, no.
Through a series of gait laboratory studies (see below) we found, surprisingly, that only hip extension range during walking decreases with aging. When elderly subjects are asked to walk at a faster than normal speed, their joint range of motion matches or exceeds that of a young adult subject for every lower extremity joint in every direction. Except for the hip joint, in extension. We found peak hip extension to be on average 10 degrees less in an elderly subject (age 65-85) compared to a young adult subject (age 20-40).
Simultaneous with this age related reduction in hip extension, we find not only a shortened stride, but an increase in pelvic or low back motion. Presumably, the concurrent age-related increase in pelvic / low back motion is a compensation for the reduced hip extension range.
Walking and running are the only regular activities we do in a day that can stretch the hip into full extension. Standing or lying down, for example, require that the hip only gets to a neutral position. Only during walking or running, can the hip be stretched into full extension. Being bedridden or sedentary results in a loss in hip extension flexibility.
Gait form and footwear can affect hip extension range during walking. A gait that allows the trailing limb to fully extend before weight is borne on the lead foot provides maximum hip extension.
Outside of walking and running, there aren’t a lot of ways you can actively stretch your hip into extension. This led us to researching and studying specific exercise stretches that DO stretch the hip into extension. We found that most Western exercise regimens do not include stretching the hip into extension. On the other hand, we found that every form of Yoga we investigated, included at least one stretch that stretched the hip into full extension.
The next question was, could a two-minute stretch to the hip flexors reverse our age-related changes in gait? To answer this, we studied the isolated effect of stretching the hip into extension and in fact did find a modest improvement in age-related changes in gait.
Ways to stretch the hip into extension (besides regularly walking) include the Sun Salutation and Warrior Pose. Different yogis might call the pose I am doing above different things but you can see how my trailing hip is fully extended beyond neutral.
What I do is take a step forward and extend my trailing leg back as shown, with the knee extended and my weight slightly forward, and I slowly lift my arms up overhead. Then I hold it there for 20 seconds. I do the same thing on the other side and then repeat. You should only do it after you’re warmed up, after a hot shower or a workout (and of course there’s no need to do it if your workout IS Yoga). I usually do the stretch / pose after I run. All in all, it takes less than 2 minutes.
Kerrigan DC, Todd MK, Della Croce, Lipsitz LA, Collins JJ. Biomechanical gait alterations independent of speed in the healthy elderly: evidence for specific limiting impairments. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 1998;79:317-22.
Kerrigan DC, Lee LW, Collins JJ, Riley PO, Lipsitz LA. Reduced hip extension during walking in healthy elderly and fallers versus young adults. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2001;82:26-30.
Kerrigan DC, Xenopoulos-Oddsson A, Sullivan MJ, Lelas JL, Riley PO. Effect of a hip flexor-stretching program on gait in the elderly. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2003;84:1-6.
Laughton CA, Slavin M, Katdare K, Nolan L, Bean JF, Kerrigan DC, Phillips E, Lipsitz LA, Collins JJ. Aging, muscle activity, and balance control: physiologic changes associated with balance impairment. Gait and Posture 2003;18:101-108.
DiBenedetto M, Innes KE, Rodeheaver PF, Taylor AG, Boxer JA, Wright HJ, Kerrigan DC. Effect of a gentle Iyengar yoga program on gait in the elderly: an exploratory study. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2005;86:1830-1837.
Lee LW, Evans J, Zavarei K, Lelas JL, Riley PO, Kerrigan DC. Reduced hip extension in the elderly: dynamic or postural? Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2005;86:1851-1854.
Franz JR, Paylo KW, Dicharry J, Riley PO, Kerrigan DC. Changes in the coordination of hip and pelvis kinematics with mode of locomotion. Gait and Posture 2009;29(3):494-498.
Riley PO, Franz J, Dicharry J, Kerrigan DC. Changes in hip joint muscle-tendon lengths with mode of locomotion. Gait and Posture 2010;31(2):279-283.
Watt JR, Jackson K, Franz JR, Dicharry J, Evans J, Kerrigan DC. Effect of a supervised hip flexor stretching program on gait in elderly individuals. PM&R 2011;3(4) 324-329.
Watt JR,Jackson K, Franz JR, Dicharry J. Evans J, Kerrigan DC. Effect of a supervised hip flexor stretching program on gait in frail elderly patients. PM&R 2011;3(4):330-335.
…and make OESH Shoes even more awesome (if that were even possible)
What makes OESH unique is that everything we do is driven by medical and biomechanical research. Not just research that we know about; research that my colleagues and I DO. Yes, I know. That makes us the most awesome shoe company there is.
Currently we use high tech gait (walking and running) laboratories with force plates and 3-D motion cameras to measure all sorts of parameters relevant to injuries and performance. These million dollar laboratories have been essential to our discovering, for example, the link between traditional types of shoes and knee osteoarthritis and finding the footwear characteristics that reduce loads on the joints, improve foot and ankle stability, improve posture, and optimize efficiency.
Now imagine if we could extend our study of gait beyond a hospital or university laboratory. That is the idea behind a research grant my colleagues and I were just awarded from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Basically, what we will do over the next several years is develop new technology to miniaturize that million-dollar gait laboratory into… shoes.
The technology is pretty neat in that it will rely upon specialized Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) rather than the typical GPS currently being used to estimate movement. Our developing and integrating this specialized (and patented) IMU technology into shoes will allow for truly accurate gait data over long periods of time, hence the title of the grant, “Gait Tracker Shoe for long term accurate measurement of walking and running.”
Using new mathematical algorithms developed by my colleagues John Lach, Ph.D., Brad Bennett, Ph.D., and Shawn Russell, Ph.D., the data from the IMU sensors will be able to accurately determine gait, running or walking, parameters. We’ll be able to determine not only the number of steps one takes and how large each step is, but detailed information on what activities someone performs, such as walking up or down stairs; walking up or down slopes, walking versus running, etc.
This will allow us to collect oodles upon oodles of data that we will constantly be comparing to the oodles of data that we are already collecting in the laboratory. More importantly, we’ll be analyzing all that data; something in which our research team is especially adept.
And just like all of our research, we will be using it to keep making the best shoes on Earth.
Years ago a reporter asked me if I’d be willing to do an interview alongside the high heel shoe designer, Manolo Blahnik. According to the reporter, Manolo Blahnik agreed to do the interview as long as I would accept a pair of his shoes. I wouldn’t, and the interview never happened. Oh well. Later I found that the typical women’s “casual” or “comfort” shoe is even worse than Manolo Blahnik’s.
My expertise in footwear all started back in 1998 when I published what became a landmark research article demonstrating a link between stiletto high-heeled shoes and knee arthritis. Specifically, I showed that stiletto’s significantly increase the loads on the knee joint relevant to the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis).
Knee osteoarthritis, or cartilage breakdown, is a major health problem. We all get it to some degree as we get older but we women get it twice as often and more severely. It’s so prevalent that it causes more disability with respect to mobility than any other singular disease in the elderly. I often describe it as a silent epidemic.
I believe one of the main reasons women get knee osteoarthritis more than men is because of differences in footwear. But I don’t think it’s the classic stiletto heel that’s the problem. Why? Because even though they increase the loads on the knees, they are so uncomfortable in the foot that it’s hard to wear them for any extended period of time. The much bigger problem is the traditional women’s dress, “comfort,” or “casual” shoe, with a modestly elevated heel that feels comfortable enough that you wear it much of the day, every day.
It’s this “casual” or “comfort” shoe, that you think because it’s more comfortable than a high heeled shoe, that it must be good for your knees. But it’s really not. My research team and others have shown that wide-based heels and moderately heeled shoes, like what’s in a “sensible” women’s dress shoe or “comfort” women’s shoe, e.g., a Dansko, abnormally increase the loads on the knees to nearly the same extent as a Manolo Blahnik. Those abnormally increased loads occur with each and every step and even just while standing.
In fact, ANY heel elevation abnormally increases the loads on the knee. We’ve shown that even the small heel of a traditional athletic shoe abnormally increases loads on the knee.
Which is why the very best shoe you can wear is one that is absolutely flat, with no heel elevation whatsoever.
Back to high heels and specifically those 2”, 3” and 4” stilettoes. Are they bad? Yes of course they are. But as long as you find them so uncomfortable that you never ever wear them, well then, they’re really not THAT bad.
1. Kerrigan DC, Todd MK, Riley PO. Knee osteoarthritis and high-heeled shoes. The Lancet 1998;351:1399-1402.
2. Kerrigan DC, Lelas JL, Karvosky ME. Women’s shoes and knee osteoarthritis. The Lancet 2001;357:1097-1098.
3. Kerrigan DC, Lelas JL, Bryant M, Boxer J, Della Croce U, Riley PO. Moderate heeled shoes and knee joint torques relevant to the development and progression of knee osteoarthritis. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2005;86:871-875.
4. Kerrigan DC, Franz JR, Keenan GS, Dicharry J, Della Croce U, Wilder RP. The effect of running shoes on lower extremity joint torques. PM&R 2009;1:1058-1063.