Do You Need an Expensive Padded, Cushioned, Air Bubbled, Gelled Running Shoe?
Nike Free does not think so; and neither should you. Read on to find out why this concerns every one of us, our health and a good deal of wasted money. This is not a story of the Nike Free shoe; it's about our freedom and growth.
It has been a really long time since a major shoemaker has stepped forward and acknowledged that the human foot is the perfect running, walking machine.
Hence, a good shoe should be simple and that allows this perfect machine to execute flawlessly, rather than attempt to take over Nature's function.
This is the core concept of the Nike Free line of shoes. Shoes that both mimic and allow the foot its freedom to get things done - in this case, walking, jogging and running.
Nonetheless, detractors argue that the lack of structural support and cushioning undermines the shoe's ability to be a serious running shoe. The experts are spewing out terms like - Stress Fracture, Calf Injury, Knee Injuries, Plantar Fasciitis.
The Footwear Market & You
In the footwear industry, structural support and cushioning are considered the benchmarks of shoe superiority. The more features a shoe has; the more acclaim it will receive and, coincidentally, the more expensive it will cost.
Do we, as consumers, really need all that expensive support and cushioning?
Is it really better for us?
For centuries across civilizations, shoes were only worn as status symbols by aristocrats; while the common folk went about barefooted.
The very people, who walked the most and ran the most, went about their daily lives barefooted!
Obviously, shoes did not come about as an invention because our feet failed; it came as an invention of luxury and ego.
In the centuries that have gone by, our feet still maintain this same powerful ability. Today, we have barefoot marathon runners across the world and complete communities of tribal people who live barefooted.
Our God given machine of motion still explodes power in this day and age!
Yet, weekend runners who barely run a tenth of a marathon are spending hundreds of dollars to buy advanced technology for their feet!
Why is the man on the street spending so much on high - tech shoes when marathon runners and hunters happily thrive without them?
The answer is advertising and product branding.
Shoemakers astutely noticed that city folks are mostly overpronators or underpronators. Hence, in an effort to capitalise on this underlying dysfunction, they design shoes that support and cushion shock. Consequently, detaching and depriving the foot from its primary role as locomotion point guard.
Overpronation, Underpronation and Neutral Feet
More than 75% of city dwellers are either overpronators or underpronators. Essentially, it means that your feet lose their ability to accommodate ground unevenness and absorption of daily walking stress. Your foot has curved in one direction and cannot return to neutral state - think of it as a jammed window that cannot close.
In its functional state, our feet are made to pronate; curve to suit the contours of the ground. This is how we can run side ways on slopes and edges without tumbling over. Hence, feet with full range of pronation can walk, run, jog barefooted and not injure themselves (assuming you are not silly enough to go running on broken glass).
Since the foot has lost its ability to fully pronate, shoemakers generally believe that a shoe has to be padded, cushioned, gelled and reinforced. The reason being that it will make up for the feet's loss of pronation range. Hence, the natural progression towards spending millions on technology research and charging you hundreds of dollars more per pair.
On the other hand, I look at all these structured shoes like crutches. Yes, we may need it for a while. But, when we consistently wear them and use them, we can never regain our natural ability to move the way we were originally made to - Pain free, explosive and flexible.
A plain simple running shoe that allows your feet to spread out is sufficient and good for any weekend jogger. It also happens to be much easier on the wallet! If you do want a fancier shoe, the Nike Free series would be a good buy because it goes beyond un-restriction of the feet; it mimics the shape of the feet and offers the feet much more control.
Ultimately, the injury and pain does not come from the lack of a jazzed up shoe, but rather dysfunctional feet.
My Feet / Knee / Shin / Calf hurts because of my Pronation. What do I do now?
I would first make a wild guess that the sole of your shoe is eaten up excessively on one side of the shoe. This could occur on one or both shoes. Do not assume that both feet equally underpronate or overpronate.
The first thing to do is to throw away all your shoes that reflect this unevenness. Go buy new pairs of shoes; neutral shoes that do not have excessive support. Have fun shopping, do it with a friend, a spouse or alone!
After a while, if you do not buy new pairs of shoes, your recovery will be impeded because you never throw away the "crutch".
The next step is to slowly walk barefooted and as often as possible. You can start with your house, followed by the beach or park. The aim is to re-introduce your 26 foot bones and muscles to the sensation of the natural foot movement. They have been trapped in the shoe for all these years.
Finally, you have to move into active rehabilitation to help your body recover its neutral state. It is not some costly procedure, but rather a series of simple movement patterns that specifically unlock your frozen foot muscles and reintroduce your body to its natural alignment.
Some familiar exercises like yoga and pilates do help in this process. Nonetheless, if you want it quicker, faster and simpler, drop by phenogy.com">http://phenogy.com to find out how you can be free of knee pains, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, flat foot, raised arch and other musculoskeletal injuries that are by-products of feet pronation.
Even if you think that you are not suffering from any of this at the moment. Take 5 seconds to stand straight up, feet shoulder width apart?. Now look down? Are your feet parallel to each other? Both pointing forward?
It is a disservice to yourself to cheat by correcting them. You have to look at your feet when they are at a relaxed state. Take a look when you go to work, or go shopping.
If your feet flare out or curve in or are not parallel pointing to the front. It is a very strong hint of future musculoskeletal injuries, that includes the above conditions coupled with back, shoulder and neck dysfunction.
Nonetheless, you may be that rare 1 out of 4 who have neutral feet. Congratulations and keep up whatever good motion that you already have!
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The author, Winston Ng, is an avid peak performance coach and CEO of Phenogy Health Advisors Pte Ltd, based in Singapore. His Health Consultancy programmes are renowned worldwide for their efficiency, simplicity and independent unbiased advice. The Phenogy Health Concierge? is unparalleled internationally in providing cutting edge Natural Health Alternatives to the busy individual who needs viable options to invasive surgery, dangerous synthetic pills and overpriced ineffective therapies!
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