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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Five Finger Toe Shoes by Vibram: Part II

So, one of the reasons why I like the Vibram Five Finger Shoes so much is that they help solve a very frustrating problem with many people who are avid bipedalists (you know, people who spend a lot of time on their feet or using their feet while performing various acts of locomotion over various terrain all over the world).  However, many of these people don't quite know it yet.  Over the past two months, the theory and principles that I've applied in treating plantar fasciitis, involve the use of a minimalist shoe.  Vibram realized the need for a good minimalist shoe, and I was able to stop telling people to go out and find a pair of sandals that they can tolerate.  Sandals were the closest thing to minimal that was available and affordable. 

This shoe, and I've stated it before, lets all of the muscles in the leg and foot work the way they are intended to work.  The dilemma that running shoes with all of their cushion and support cause, is that we as avid bipedalists, take for granted how hard we can be on our bodies.  Running shoes allow us to land hard on our heels.  This allows a tremendous amount of force through our feet and legs.  The trade off is that running shoes allow us to not use muscles in our legs and feet the way they are intended for a faster run time.  Yes, when competing against yourself or others, we do need all the edge we can get.  However, over time, if we don't condition our feet and leg muscles the way they need to be while performing specific sports, the repetition of these activities allow nuances like plantar fasciitis to creep in.  When plantar fasciitis sets in, the first thing we do is run out and get a more supportive and more cushioned pair of shoes just so we can pound our heels harder into the ground.  When the new more supportive and cushioned shoes stop working, well, we go and buy a cushioned in-step for our cushioned shoes.  The trend here is that instead of properly conditioning the foot, leg, heel cord, etc, we continue to soften it and shorten it.  Without knowing, the usual prescription for treating plantar fasciitis is just making plantar fasciitis worse.

The Vibram minimalist shoe, when used in a proper manner over a course of time, does condition our feet the way they need to be.  They also allow the muscles attached to the achilles tendon or heel cord to elongate in a more functional and natural manner.  You know those big night splints that many people use at night to passively stretch out the plantar fascia and achilles tendon, well, why not quit propping your heel up in those fancy supported cushioned shoes during the day.  Spend a couple of hours out of the day wearing a minimalist shoe like the Vibram.  Several things will happen.  The leg muscles will begin to work again like they should.  You'll find yourself stepping or walking with purpose.  Your heel strike won't be nearly as forceful or severe.  And you'll find that you're toe off during walking or running will become more purposeful and powerful. 

One last thought here.  Let's say that after about 4 or 6 weeks of trading off wearing the minimalist shoe with your regular day shoes or running shoes, you notice that your plantar fascia, or arch of your foot, or your heel cord is no longer bothering you!  I believe that the carry over or transference of what you;ve accomplished in the minimalist shoe to your running shoe is going to improve your gait mechanics.  It will make you more efficient with running, and you'll most likely notice an improvement in your running times.

Using a minimalist shoe like the Vibram Five Finger Shoe is one of the main principles when I am treating and resolving plantar fasciitis.

Happy Bipeding!

Brad Senska, PT, DPT, BS, ASTYM.

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