Thursday, January 14, 2010

Do your Shoes Pass the Twist Test? How to tell if your Shoes are Good for you (not just your feet)

With all the debate about footwear of late, one may wonder what's healthy for shodding one's feet when shod they must be? Allow me to (re)present the Twist Test: does the shoe in question twist laterally, a la ringing out a towel? Alternatively or complementarily, does it bend at all places OTHER than just at the ball of the foot? Simple check: but the better they twist and bend, the better they're following the mechanics of our feet, and hence the movements of our body.

I'm not sure if it originated with him, but Eric Cobb at the Z-Health (what's that?) R-phase certifications presents the twist test as a way to check the responsiveness of footwear to our feet's actual mechanics.

Consider the joints of the feet - and a reminder that a full one quarter of the joints in the body are in the feet. These joints do allow all kinds of movement in the foot. Do our shoes support or impede this?

More recently i've also been giving shoes a squish. Are the super padded? or just sufficientlty to protect the foot from the ground? Even the largely twisty Nike Free's are still pretty squishy shoes (the 7's - or cross trainers being the least squishy of the bunch). What's the role of the squish? Does that impair signal or provide a good transition platform to more environmentally true conditions? What's the least amount of padding one can get away with?

I've written before about the relationship of speed and position information sent from joints to the brain to process where we are and how we are moving in space, and what happens when those information points are compromised or cut off. Suffice it to say here, that more accurate information from more joints is better. Imagine if we're moving but because of the stiffness of the shoe our joints are saying in our feet well, we're not really moving, what kind of information the brain is getting? Ankle spraining information or just poor function for maybe setting up a back ache information? Is that cuff in that hiking boot really helping or hindering good body movement?

So, next time you're with someone you love and they're contemplating shoes, you might want to subtley give the shoe a twist - and maybe a squish.

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