OESH & plantar fasciitis–common sense is not so common

It is amazing how quickly the OESH name is gaining prominence in both the key-word and blogosphere orbits. I say this because we often take our own tour of the same searches you might to see the influence OESH is developing. Today I jumped aboard the “plantar fasciitis and OESH” phrase to learn what a curious–and usually, in pain–surfer will find.

Scrolling through several of these entries (many of which are the magnificent OESH blogs, especially relevant for women dealing with pf at rates 2x of guys), leaping out is the compelling work of Paul Ingraham and his dense, readable, and one-of-a-kind site, PainScience.com. Paul connects the dots between OESH and plantar fasciitis like few other scientists–and his validation-of-concept is a beautiful support piece to the many wonderful stories of OESH helping you hurdle pf, some dramatically. Paul is irreverent and totally unafraid to speak his mind–consequently there is always an undercurrent from the status quo eager to diminish his piercing analyses. In fact, of course, Paul is remarkably honest. And intelligent. Casey especially enjoys her relationship with Paul, and we feel great that they have traded guest posts (Paul’s OESH blog on the virtues of exercise later became one of our most-read posts).

Once my search brought Paul’s site up (www.PainScience.com), I quickly found two noteworthy mentions of OESH on the Pain Science platform. In one, Paul’s easy-to-read tutorial on plantar fasciitis (which is a bargain for twenty bucks, by the way) notes a New section #5.21 “Now officially endorsing Oesh shoes. This is a huge leap for PainScience.com, which almost NEVER endorses anything beyond rigorous common sense (hence the above homage to Voltaire, the dude with the most-awesome quote in Candide, “common sense is not so common”).


In the other entry, Paul pushes the envelope on the question of “Can orthotics prevent injuries?” and answers it with the reason he endorses OESH:

Perhaps some high-tech shoes…The idea of most…mass-produced running and walking shoes [is] simple shock absorption. The benefit of this mostly boils down to injury prevention — if they can’t reduce painful problems, what’s the point? The hope has produced mostly gimmicky, expensive shoes that have had little or no significant benefit for consumers. I’ll provide one good example and one poor one.

The most promising example I know of is OESH Shoes, the creation of Dr. Casey Kerrigan, who left a promising career in biomechanics research to found a shoe company. It turns out that the goal isn’t so much to “absorb shock” as to change your gait by simulating a springier surface:

We all bought into the idea that foam, gel, air filled bladders, and the latest “shock absorbers” cushioned our joints and reduced pressures on them. But now you know why that doesn’t work. Impact is not when injury occurs, so cushioning it doesn’t do us any good. In fact, cushioning impact seems to do more harm than good — one of the reasons why I found that cushioning ends up increasing the peak pressures on joints.

So rather than “absorbing shock” at heel strike, Dr. Kerrigan designed a shoe that literally puts a spring in your step — little carbon-fiber springboards — and more spring in the shoe means less spring and bending in the joints. The benefits are far from proven, but it is a sound and science-inspired principle (and interesting). There’s a respectable chance that Dr. Kerrigan’s shoes actually do reduce injury-causing forces more than other shoes, since that was the whole point of a design inspired by years of research. That’s more than we can say of any other shoe that I know of.

These are interesting shoes that Dr. Kerrigan’s company makes. Following from some of the science described above, they are based on quite a different principle than other shoes: they are “the first and only footwear with a midsole that provides compression and release, when and only when it should. Despite what we’ve been led to believe, no foam, plastic, air, gel, or metal ever achieved this.” 

Paul concludes with a left hook, befitting his provocative style:

For an example of a much less promising shoe idea, I submit exhibit B: minimalist running shoes, the ones that look like feet, like Vibram FiveFingers. This is a fad, based on speculation about our “natural” ability to run shoeless. It is unlikely to prove to be a big injury preventer. For detailed (and quite snarky) analysis of that hot topic, see my article, Does barefoot running prevent injuries? A dive into the science so far of barefoot or minimalist “natural” running.

OESH & plantar fasciitis–the connection takes us on a journey of which Voltaire would be proud!

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