A student working with me this summer asked me, “It all seems so obvious when you look at the graphs. Why haven’t any of the big athletic shoe companies ever noticed this before?”

Here’s the answer… The graphs are the result of comprehensive human biomechanics research. And meaningful, comprehensive biomechanics research requires you to combine force plate data with motion data. Otherwise, it’s kind of like salt without pepper, bacon without eggs, or Lennon without McCartney… only far worse, if you can imagine. But to my knowledge, no athletic shoe company had ever done this type of research. Or if they did, they certainly never published it or incorporated it into their marketing formulas. For me, it took not just building two fancy gait laboratories (first and second) and spitting out dazzling graphic images, but actually digging into all the data, for many years, while being simultaneously equipped with a medical understanding of the meaning of it all.

Then after discovering how a shoe really needs to work, there’s the not so small matter of a big athletic shoe company being able to admit, “oops, we’ve been completely wrong about how to make a shoe.”

But even the athletic shoe company giants can’t run from the fact that most injury causing forces–not just joint torques–peak when the foot is fully planted. It’s becoming increasingly recognized that cushioning impact is the wrong time to protect the body — unless you are in a car accident and happen to have your shoes duct taped around your head.

So what does this mean with respect to footwear? Simply, in order to reduce stresses and strains in the body, the midsole of a shoe must provide compliance (compress and release) when the foot is fully planted. A simple concept but one that requires true innovation and a whole new way of making shoes. Far easier for big shoe companies to respond with a new marketing spin of “less of our flawed technology is more.”

In the graphs from the study below, compare the dotted line (representing a standard neutral running shoe) with the solid line (a barefoot control). There is an approximate 50% increase in the knee varus torque, which is a well known variable for knee osteoarthritis between the femur and the tibia. For brevity, we included data on a neutral running shoe but observed the same effect across just about every non-OESH shoe.

I say this again because the above graphs are the basis of the design of OESH Shoes: peak stresses and strains associated with injury do not occur at impact but rather, much later when the foot is fully planted.

And now you know the rest of the story.

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