The American College of Sports Medicine’s New Guidelines for Selecting Running Shoes

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, just completely overhauled its recommendations for selecting running shoes. The new guidelines, which you can read here, are very different than what they’ve previously been for many, many years.

The impetus for the change has come from numerous studies, including a number of my own research studies, on the effects of footwear and various footwear attributes on human movement, biomechanics, and health. In the past, the ACSM recommended that running shoes be heavily cushioned in the heel and have arch support.

Here is what the ACSM now says about the characteristics of a good, safe running shoe:

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Does this sound like our OESH La Vida v2.0? You bet! 

Most non-OESH running shoes available today do not have the above characteristics. The current heel-toe drop on most running shoes is 12 mm or more (about a half-inch). This may not seem like a big deal but my research has shown that any heel-toe drop (from the heel all the way to the very tip of the toe) increases the pressures and forces in joints that are susceptible to injury. Which is why the La Vida has no heel-toe drop whatsoever. In addition to failing on the heel-toe drop characteristic, virtually every non-OESH running shoe available today has some motion control or stability component built-in to the shoe. The new guidelines read “pronation is normal…stopping pronation with materials in the shoes may actually cause foot or knee problems to develop.” Again, my research has shown that any motion control or stability component in a shoe abnormally increases forces upward beyond the foot, into the knee. Which is why I went to the trouble to make the sole of the La Vida perfectly flat with absolutely no built-in motion control or stability features or gimmicks.

It will take a good while for the major shoe companies to catch up in making shoes that fulfill the ACSM’s New Guidelines as that will require re-vamping their entire manufacturing processes as I discuss here in the article “The Race to Build a Better Shoe,” published in the IEEE engineering journal.

I applaud the ACSM for making these changes and specifically the authors, Kevin and Heather Vincent who are former students of mine. Kevin, who has an M.D. and also a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology, did his residency with me when I was professor and chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Virginia, and his wife, Heather, who has a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology, also worked in our department. They now run a Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Florida that is modeled after the one I directed at the University of Virginia. I had no idea that they were working on these specific guidelines and am looking forward to catching up with them in person soon.

But I won’t interview them specifically about the new ACSM guidelines. I’m leaving that to my friend Dr. Mark Cucuzzella from the Natural Running Center who will be interviewing them and putting together a full article sometime soon. Mark gave a nice little preview for that interview on the Natural Running Center website here.

In the meantime…

Viva La Vida!

Exercising Your Foot Core

One of many nice things about human movement research is that you get to work with some truly brilliant people, like Dr. Patrick McKeon who just published an article, “The foot core system: a new paradigm for understanding intrinsic foot muscle function,” in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. I had the pleasure of mentoring Patrick back when he received his Ph.D. in Athletic Training at the University of Virginia. What’s kind of “small world-ish” is that he happens to be the cousin of another brilliant research colleague I’ve worked, Dr. J. J. Collins, who is a professor at Boston University and, I like to say, a certified genius, having received at one point in his career, the MacArthur Genius Award.

Patrick is now an assistant professor in Exercise and Sport Science in the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance at Ithaca College, along with his wife, Dr. Jennifer McKeon. When I saw his article, which he co-authored with a couple other colleague friends of mine (Dr. Jay Hertel and Dr. Irene Davis), I was excited to catch up with him.

Through his research, Patrick has always understood certain aspects of foot function that are often not well appreciated by most. In his foot core article, Patrick and his co-authors call attention to what they describe “the foot core.” Pulling together a number of articles and drawing parallels to the well-known “trunk core” in relationship to trunk-hip stability, they describe an essential core specific to the foot that is vital for stability and overall lower extremity health.

Athletic and fitness training professionals already appreciate that in the trunk and hip, small muscles known as the “core” muscles play a critical role in stabilizing bones and joints, accommodating to changing demands that occur with different activities. When the core muscles are weak from disuse, large muscles and bodyweight forces transmit abnormal stresses and strains that lead to injury. To counteract this effect, core strengthening exercises are performed.

While the concept of the trunk “core” and the need to maintain good “core strength” in these small muscles has been broadly accepted in the athletic and fitness community (just google “core strengthening” to see a myriad of exercise programs aimed at improving core strength), the small muscles in the foot have been largely ignored. In fact, there has been a long persistence of an old “truth” that the small foot muscles are not only unimportant, but fragile and in need of constant external support via arch supports.

Patrick commissioned a skilled medical illustrator to draw the four layers of muscles in the arch of the foot along with the deepest layer of muscles on the top of the foot. These are the only anatomy drawings I know of that display just the muscles and bones in each of the layers.

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In another post, The Little Arch Muscles That Could, I reviewed a recent study demonstrating that various of these arch muscles play an active role in absorbing forces to the body that occur when standing, walking and running. In their article here, Patrick and his co-authors review a bunch more studies supporting the significance that these muscles have in controlling load distribution under the foot.

While there are four separate layers of muscles in the bottom of the foot, there are also four separate arches in the foot (the medial and lateral longitudinal arch and the anterior and posterior transverse metatarsal arches). Patrick illustrates with the help of his medical illustrator, Tom Dolan, how these arches effectively coalesce into a half dome as shown below. They credit the idea to J. McKenzie who wrote a little known article back in 1955, entitled “The foot as a half-dome” which Patrick found buried in a university library.

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Patrick reviews how the muscles in these four layers work synergistically to control this functional half-dome. Moreover, he and his co-authors explain how these small muscles “set the table” so to speak, for the larger structures in the foot and lower leg to work effectively and normally. Specifically, they describe how they provide the core foundation for maintaining and achieving health in commonly unhealthy structures such as the plantar fascia. They also point out that to date, these muscles have been very much under appreciated in the treatment of plantar fasciitis.

While foot and toe exercises such as “picking up marbles” and “rolling a towel under the foot” certainly activate some of the muscles in the foot, they don’t fully activate the small muscles in the way that they’re activated during walking and running. How these small muscles work during standing, walking, and running to achieve optimal healthy function upward from the ground, is actually rather complex.

So, Patrick suggests a much more functional exercise, a “short foot maneuver,” pictured below, that is done with weight being borne through the foot. With the foot on the ground, the foot is actively “shortened” by using the arch muscles to pull the ball of the foot near the great toe toward the heel as the arch is lifted upward. The exercise is done with increasing weight being applied through the foot.

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You can start doing the exercise just while sitting, then when standing on two legs, and ultimately while just standing on one leg. Jay has done a number of studies showing that doing these short foot exercises for just four weeks, significantly improves muscle strength, reduces arch collapse and improves balance ability.

Ideally, you do the exercise while barefoot. As I was talking with Patrick, I found that I was quite able to do the exercise while standing in my OESH La Vidas. I then tried the same exercise in various traditional, non-OESH shoes and was unsuccessful. Just about every non-OESH shoe out there has a built-in arch support which makes it virtually impossible to activate those small muscles. The fact that the typical built-in arch support in a shoe suppresses small muscle activity in the arch of the foot has been confirmed with fine-wire electromyographic studies.

Imagine how the typical shoe suppresses this small muscle activity not just during a short foot exercise, but all day long when those small muscles otherwise would be naturally exercised. Over time, those muscles become weak and compromise the normal function of structures in the foot and the lower leg such as the plantar fascia.

Conversely, it’s been shown that switching to a shoe like OESH that has absolutely no built-in arch support, can re-engage those muscles, essentially exercising and strengthening those small muscles just with regular daily activities.

Patrick and his co-authors state “Clearly, a stronger foot is a healthier foot. To this end, we are suggesting a paradigm shift in the way we think about treating the foot….Unfortunately adding permanent support to the foot, as opposed to strengthening the foot core, is the current standard of care. We would like to suggest that perhaps it is time for the Decade of the Foot. This type of attention to a largely ignored, but critical part of our body might help raise awareness of the amazing function of our feet and their under appreciated potential for improvement.”

I’m looking forward to seeing Patrick and Jen in a couple months when Jen will be speaking at the 42nd annual University of Virginia Sports Medicine Conference. I expect we’ll end up at the OESH factory…where on special occasions we’ve been known to allow a drink or two…to celebrate the publication of this wonderful article.

OESH La Vida v2.0 Winning On and Off the Field

DSC_0311The Charlottesville High School (CHS) Girls’ Varsity Lacrosse Team hasn’t won a district championship, in maybe ever. But this year could be different because they might just have a fighting chance. One, they have some outstanding players including two of Dr. Casey Kerrigan and Bob Kusyk’s daughters – Jayme (senior who has been captain since her sophomore year) and Kellyn (up and coming sophomore). Two, they have some tremendous coaches, including me, who, besides being the chief designer and factory foreman at OESH, is the assistant coach for CHS.

One of the things I’m working on is “winning the draw.” After each goal, two opposing players face off, projecting the ball into the air. Whichever team gets the ball at that point has the advantage of possession and treks down the field to score. Specifically, if one of the players in the face-off is able to manipulate where to send the ball, she herself can actually acquire the ball, which is a huge advantage. One of the girls I’m working with on the draw is Kellyn, who is becoming quite proficient! Notice the charcoal La Vida v2.0 Kellyn is wearing below as she is about to take the draw. The OESH logo is painted orange since their school colors are black and orange!

DSC_0029-1024x680Although we did not design the La Vida’s specifically as “Turf Shoes,” Dr. Kerrigan knew with the special combination of materials in which we are using, that the sole would provide the perfect amount of traction to grip the turf when running and cutting while simultaneously allowing the foot to be able to twist on the ground when needed. Having a completely flat and responsive sole allows for perfect v-cuts and transitions from attack to defense. Furthermore, they are incredibly light so don’t weigh you down when jumping for the draw or sprinting down the field passing all opponents. Even the ref liked Kellyn’s shoes when she wore her deep wisteria OESH La Vida v2.0. The ref approached her at the draw and commented “Cool shoes bro.”

DSC_0126-1024x680See Kellyn run. Viva La Vida!

The science of walking

As promised, here is our composite analysis of walking. (I recently posted a similar analysis of running here.)

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This isn’t just a fancy animation but in fact is a computerized robotic model that is driven from data collected in my human motion laboratory, first at Harvard Medical School and then at the University of Virginia. Supported by the National Institutes of Health, we spent years studying the forces and motions that occur during walking. From this work, we made numerous discoveries about the natural physiology of walking, resulting in a number of research publications, as well as in the birth of OESH.

The data that are fed into this robotic model come from 3-D motion measurements of joint and limb segment motions that are taken simultaneously with ground reaction force measurements.

The size of the green arrowed line represents the magnitude and direction of the ground reaction force (which is equal and opposite to what the body imparts to the ground). The red lines are the muscles.

If you study the video, you can appreciate that at the moment of “impact,” when the foot makes its first contact with the ground, the green arrowed line is very small. Only later when the foot is fully planted, and then again, at “push-off,” when most of the weight is on the forefoot, is the force imparted to the ground at its maximum. Similarly, the forces through the joints, muscles, tendons, fascia, and ligaments are at their maximum not at impact but later, when the foot is fully planted. It has long been assumed that the greatest forces occur at impact. With the exception of OESH, shoes are still being designed around this erroneous assumption.

OESH Wins the Race to Build a Better Shoe

On the heels (ha!) of all our research showing that shoes, especially women’s shoes, need to be completely re-designed, the most prestigious engineering journal in the world, the IEEE, decided to publish an article entitled, “The Race to Build a Better Shoe.” With all the recent questioning of current so-called “better” footwear designs, the editors determined that it was high time this article be written and that it be geared toward the lay public through their new and highly popular venue, IEEE Pulse:Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.57.01 AM

To write the piece, they considered all the would-be experts from each of the major shoe companies. They examined numerous technologies in footwear, each purported by their respective companies to be the best engineering breakthrough in footwear design. Their search was exhaustive as was the list of footwear company representatives wanting to write the piece. An article published in the IEEE is a big deal. Especially in the new IEEE Pulse that is widely distributed. Apparently, there was much lobbying. Ultimately, the IEEE settled on me and OESH.

I said I was flattered. But honestly, who else were they going to find who (1) knows more about the effects of different shoe technologies on health and (2), knows how to make research-driven shoes for women that truly, for the first time in…well…maybe ever…that actually are healthy? The only way they wouldn’t have chosen me is if they decided to accept bribes. But they’re a good, honest bunch. So we won.

The abstract, published just last week (and still fresh with formatting typos), is available through the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, which I cut and pasted below, as well as through IEEE’s website. 

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Ordinarily, the IEEE requires a subscription to have access to the full article. But I just learned that IEEE Pulse is making available our full article for free here, which will stay available for free until mid April at which time a paid subscription will be required.

Meanwhile, we received from China, a new shipment of the fabric parts required to make more Charcoal La Vida’s. We had no idea that many of the sizes would sell out so fast – it’s been so crazy I wonder if there’s another article out there somewhere with a link to our Charcoal La Vida BUY page, entitled, “The Race to BUY a Better Shoe”?!!

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 3.38.25 PMGanamos La Vida!

 

How running and walking give you that “good” sore

Have you ever noticed how running gives you a certain type of soreness in your muscles that activities like swimming and bicycling don’t? I sure did and I always wondered why. Through our research, I’ve come to learn that the reason is not what many people think.

It’s not the “impact” that occurs when our foot hits the ground, but rather, just a difference in how our muscles naturally work when we run (and also walk) compared to when we swim or bike.

When we think of a muscle contracting we typically picture it shortening in length. But a muscle doesn’t always have to shorten as it works – it can also lengthen. When you pick up a weight, your biceps (the muscle that bends your elbow) shortens as it works to bend your elbow. But when you put the weight back down, your biceps muscle continues to work as it lengthens, preventing the weight from crashing back down with the force of gravity.

When a muscle shortens as it works, we say that it is concentrically contracting. When a muscle lengthens as it works, we say that it is eccentrically contracting. (When the overall length of the muscle stays the same while it is active…say if you were to just hold the weight in one position…we say that the muscle is isometrically contracting.)

Back to running. In a modern-day 3-D human motion laboratory that can generate an image such as the one below, it is possible to study the position and motion of the joints in the body, along with the gravitational forces applied about the joints, simultaneously with the electrical activity emitted from the muscles (called electromyographic activity). Analyzing that data all together, and using a 3-D robotic muscle-modeling software that can quantify muscle lengths throughout a stride, it is possible to see when a muscle is concentrically contracting (shortening) versus when it’s eccentrically contracting (lengthening).

Sag_Cor_Run

It was our ability to do this type of comprehensive study which led to a number of discoveries with respect to walking and running and the effects of different types of footwear that had never before been appreciated. Those same studies also could tell us why running and also walking makes us sore.

We found that during both walking and running, most of the muscle activity that occurs isn’t concentric, but rather is eccentric. That is, most of the work done by each of the muscles in the leg and the foot is used to resist the weight of gravity as the muscle gradually lengthens. Only at the very end of a muscle contraction does any particular muscle in the foot or leg actually shorten. This implies that most of the muscle work in walking and running comes not from propelling ourselves forward but rather from controlling ourselves from falling, or more specifically, controlling ourselves from collapsing at each joint when our weight is borne on each foot. This is the case whether we run or walk on flat ground or on an incline or on a decline (with slightly more eccentric activity on a decline and slightly less eccentric activity on an incline).

In comparison, during swimming or bicycling, there is essentially no eccentric activity; the entire time that any particular muscle is working, it is concentrically contracting.

At a microscopic level, each muscle fiber is enveloped by a membrane or lining, called the endomysium. A family of muscle fibers, each enveloped by endomysium, are further enveloped by another larger and thicker membrane or lining, called the perimysium. Finally, a group of muscle families are further enveloped by an even larger and thicker membrane or lining called the ectromysium. The endomysium, perimysium and ectomysium together form what’s called the muscle “fascia.”

When a muscle is concentrically contracting, the muscle fibers actively shorten and all those layers of fascia surrounding the muscle fibers slacken. In contrast, when a muscle is eccentrically contracting, as the muscle fibers lengthen, so do all the fascia surrounding the muscle fibers. During walking and running both the fascia and the muscles are working together to resist the outside forces that come from our body weight. The fascial structures don’t really do any active work like the muscles do. Rather, they are just being passively stretched by the body weight force.

It’s the stretching of the fascia that makes our muscles feel sore. There are nine to ten times more sensory nerve cell endings in the fascia than there are in the muscle fibers themselves. As the muscle is being stretched (eccentric activity), the stretch in the fascia triggers the nerve cell endings, telling the brain, “I’m sore.” In contrast, in swimming or bicycling, the fascia doesn’t stretch but rather just slackens (concentric activity) such that those same nerve endings aren’t being stretched and triggered.

When you run, recognize that it’s not “impact” that makes you sore. Rather, soreness comes from the fascia in and around your muscles being stretched.

Think about how that stretching is helping you achieve and maintain flexibility in and around your muscles, which optimizes your biomechanics and posture, and ultimately helps protect your body from injury. It is important to also recognize that too much muscle soreness, i.e., soreness that you still feel 24 hours after a run, is a warning you’ve overworked your muscles and fascial structures.

That “good” sore is unique to running and walking–actions that lengthen your muscles. Understand that the soreness you get with running and walking essentially just means you’re stretching as you run or walk. You can even think about running, on a microscopic muscle level, as being a little bit like yoga on the go!

The Ultimate Gait Analysis

The below GIF isn’t your typical animation, although if it were, it certainly would be a pretty neat one.

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Instead these are images from a data-driven 3-D robotic model of someone running.

The data that are fed into this robotic model come from 3-D motion measurements of joint and limb segment motions that are taken simultaneously with ground reaction force measurements. My research team and I helped pioneer this type of integrative analysis, which we used to study a variety of movements, including walking and running. As we were the first to do this complete, in-depth analysis, we made many discoveries about the natural muscle and joint mechanics of walking and running, and the effects of different types of footwear, resulting in numerous peer-reviewed research publications, as well as in the birth of OESH.

To do a study, typically it would take pouring through oodles of graphs and plots of things like pressures through the knee joint. But when all was said and published, I’d use a handy-dandy robot like this one to explain.

The size of the green arrowed line represents the magnitude and direction of the ground reaction force (which is equal and opposite to what the body imparts to the ground). The red lines are the muscles.

If you study the video, you can appreciate that at the moment of “impact,” when the foot makes its first contact with the ground, the green arrowed line is small. Only later when the foot is fully planted, when most of the weight is on the forefoot, is the force imparted to the ground at its maximum. Similarly, the forces through the joints, muscles, tendons, fascia, and ligaments are at their maximum not at impact but later, when the foot is fully planted. It has long been assumed that the greatest forces occur at impact. With the exception of OESH, shoes are still being designed around this erroneous assumption.

We just uploaded these images to our OESH Concept Page as well as to our OESH Research Page. Stay tuned to those pages as we will shortly launch a similar image of someone walking.

Enjoy!

Mixing It Up In the Factory, Literally

It’s kind of funny to think that with all the high tech computer-controlled machines in the factory, we’ve been hand mixing the critical ingredients of the OESH® Responsive Sole. Our mixer was originally built by UVa Engineering Students with a handle that turned the wheels; therefore to properly mix a bucket of ingredients we’d manually turn the handle for a certain amount of time (I had gotten it down to a great mixture with a solid 240 turns). [Sidenote: I beg to differ that JMU Industrial Design Students would have thought of a motorized mixer from the beginning, but that might be the bias in me talking.]

So while our mixer certainly works well, with all the La Vida 2.0 orders pouring in, the continuous arm workouts have been getting a little too ridiculous. At first we thought of attaching an old bicycle to the handle, but then when we were cleaning an area to make our new shelves (DIY Utility Shelves) we found the old feeder from our injection molding machine that was connected to its own motor. You thinking what we were thinking? YUP, we decided to figure out how to attach this motor to the handle so we would have our own motorized mixer.

First challenge was to figure out how we could connect the motor to the handle since each had a rod of a different diameter. After much brainstorming, we came up with a design of two different aluminum pieces cut from the waterjet that would then bolt the two rods together. The result was a perfect fit and when everything was attached, the motor moved the wheels perfectly. From there we built a custom wooden stand to keep the motor balanced and attached the control box as the finishing touch. Now we can have a bucket mixing while we still get plenty of exercise (believe me) running from one machine to another fixing code, prepping molds, and getting the next bucket ready.

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The Little Arch Muscles That Could

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 7.52.58 PMFor one reason or another — as a scientific advisor, peer-reviewer, or just to stay current — I read a lot of scientific articles. And every so often, I might say out loud, “Now THAT was a really nice study.” Myself having published many scientific studies, I’m adept in appreciating those that are especially meaningful.

Let me begin by saying that there’s been this long-held belief that the muscles in the arch of our foot are inconsequential to supporting the arch when we stand, walk, and run. Going along with this belief, for the last hundred years, virtually all shoes – from dress and comfort shoes to athletic shoes – have been constructed with a built-in arch support. In fact most shoe companies and shoe stores thrive on marketing this arch support. Just go to a typical shoe-selling website and see how shoes are often rated on the basis of how much arch support they provide.

Well, last month, Glen Lichtwark and his research team at the University of Queensland published a study of the muscles in the arch of our feet using a technique known as fine-wire dynamic electromyography. Before I give away the results of their study, let me explain the technique they used.

Fine-wire dynamic electromyography, in conjunction with kinematic and kinetic measurements, although time-intensive, provides the most comprehensive method for determining the functions of any particular muscle in the body. In fact, knowing how useful fine-wire electrode studies are for determining muscle function, I once published a method for preparing fine-wire electrodes. Like many physicians specializing in this type of study, I’ve measured electrical activity of muscles and electrically stimulated muscles in thousands of patients and research subjects so as to diagnose problems as well as to define normal muscle functions.

Basically, a pair of thin, flexible, fine-wire electrodes (an active and a reference electrode), is used to both record muscle electrical activity as well as stimulate a muscle while the subject performs a specific task. In a sterile setting, the wire electrodes are pre-threaded into a hollow needle, the needle is inserted into the muscle, and then the needle is pulled out, leaving just the two fine wires in the muscle. Simultaneous with the muscle being recorded or stimulated, motion and forces are measured typically in a sophisticated motion laboratory with a 3-D motion analysis system in conjunction with force plates. When the study is complete, the wires are pulled out.

Using this technique, Lichtwark and his team studied the three largest muscles that are intrinsic to the foot: the abductor hallicus, the flexor digitorum brevis and the quadratus planae. “Intrinsic” refers to muscles that start and end in the foot.

They placed electrodes into each of these muscles and first had the subjects sitting with their feet gently touching the ground. They then placed an increasing amount of weight at the end of one thigh so as to simulate the forces that occur when we stand, walk, and run. As the weights were increased, the arch of the foot gradually flattened out toward the ground. Along with this gradual flattening they observed increasing amounts of muscle activity from each of the three muscles. Next, with weights still applied to the end of the thigh, they electrically stimulated the muscles. The stimulation of each muscle significantly raised the arch of the foot from the ground.

What this says is that without any interference from, say, cushioning under our foot arch, our arch muscles play a substantial role in supporting our arches when we put weight through them, as in when we stand, walk, or run. The type of active resistive response they provide is consistent with most every other muscle in the lower extremity. For example, during walking and running, our quadriceps muscles actively resist our knee collapsing into flexion.

The results indubitably dispel the belief that the muscles in the arch of our feet are inconsequential. Even when the arch of the foot completely collapses under the weight of the body, (such as occurs in people with “flat feet”), there is increasing and substantial active resistive muscle activity that is simultaneously occurring. Given what we know about the importance of small muscles in controlling proper postural alignment throughout the body; for example, the role the small rotator cuff muscles play at the shoulder, it’s unfathomable to think that these foot arch muscles aren’t important in properly aligning our posture. Or to believe that a cushioned arch support could ever, in a million years, substitute for the complex combination of forces that these small muscles apply.

One more thing that Lichtwark and his team did in this study is measure the center of pressure under the foot. The center of pressure is basically the point under the foot where our bodyweight is centralized. They found that electrically stimulating the abductor hallicus while weight was applied to the end of the thigh, caused the position of the center of pressure under the foot to shift laterally, to the outside part of the foot.

Given the work I’ve done in measuring forces across joints during walking and running, I’m especially appreciative of the meaning of this latter finding. The center of pressure is a significant determinant of the forces occurring through the joints. Such that even a slight shift in the center of pressure will significantly affect the forces through all the joints, but most importantly in areas where we are prone to osteoarthritis.

I’ve shown that virtually every type of non-OESH, traditional shoe (from dress to athletic) shifts the center of pressure medially compared to barefoot, thereby increasing forces through the joints, including through the inside part of the knee where we are prone to osteoarthritis. (Not a small matter especially for us women who get it nearly twice as often as men and in whom it causes more physical disability than any other singular disease). There are many facets of a shoe that work in combination to substantially affect this shift in center of pressure and subsequent joint torques and forces, with a cushioned arch support being one of them, as we showed here.

Lichtwark’s study might help explain some of the mechanism behind our center of pressure and joint force findings. If the abductor hallicus is inhibited by a shoe’s arch support, then the abductor hallicus can’t actively help shift that center of pressure, ever so slightly, laterally, which would help minimize the forces through the joints.

Old beliefs die hard especially when they’re supported by a multi-billion dollar shoe industry that thrives on manufacturing and marketing built-in arch supports. Some time ago I gave up trying to convince the industry with research. It’s been far more rewarding to just build my own factory, make shoes that have, among other things, absolutely no built-in arch support, and share in the joy that occurs when an OESHer learns for herself what her little arch muscles actually CAN…and DO, when given a chance.

Metal Scrap Ready for Recycling

I can’t put it off any longer. As much as I’ve been admiring the scrap from our last OESH La Vida v2.0 sole forms (notice the beautiful outlines of some of the various size soles), it’s taking up premium space in the corridor next to the CNC waterjet saw. So after cutting off all the bigger pieces, we’ll run it over to the local foundry where it will be recycled.

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Basically, I’ve realized that what I’ve really been admiring is not so much the scrap but the sustainable and green manufacturing process we’ve built that it reminds me of.

Every other shoe company in the U.S. has their tooling and molds made in China (even if they make some of the actual product here in the U.S.). Initially we had our molds made there too, because that was all we knew. But fairly quickly, I became frustrated with my inability to fully convey my ideas in footwear design. Making molds in China, we were beholden to a number of traditions in athletic footwear design and manufacturing that have been going on for the last 30-40 years. The problem was that my years of research on the effects of footwear on joint biomechanics during walking and running dictated that we needed to break many of those traditions in manufacturing.

So, we invested in and programmed our own computer controlled machinery — essentially trading in my multi-million dollar laboratory analysis equipment for the most sophisticated robotically controlled machinery to actually MAKE better shoes. This route certainly wasn’t anything that our business school professor friends advised. Most U.S. companies don’t buy their own manufacturing equipment — instead they rely upon equipment already owned by overseas companies. But I knew this was the only way we could make the superior shoes that I envisioned. Of course I also knew that with all my research and engineering experience, we would be able to build a superior and truly sustainable manufacturing process.

For the last 18 months now, we’ve been making all of our tooling and molds with our own robotically controlled cutting and milling machines. From computer-aided-design to computer-aided-manufacturing, we do everything except cut and sew the upper fabric material here in the factory. We have hardly any waste as the metal we cut has already been recycled and is eventually recycled again either in our own foundry or in one nearby. Instead of waiting weeks or months to receive a new prototype sole, we can design and make prototypes in a matter of days.

Not only does our efficiency in manufacturing allow us to make the shoes I’ve always envisioned, it allows us to do a number of things that are beyond the norm in shoe manufacturing. One example is that we make and test far more prototypes than any other shoe company would ever dream of making. We also make many more molds for production. The standard in the shoe industry is to use just one shoe sole mold for two different sizes of shoes as well as for different styles. Of course that means a less than perfect fit for each size shoe as well as a less than optimal sole for each style. Having our own machinery and equipment has allowed us to abandon those standards and make sole molds for each and every size of shoe and for each and every style, ensuring that the fit and design are always exactly as I intend it to be.

Enough admiring…it’s time to get this scrap out of here!