By Dr. Tim Maggs
Everytime a shoe company comes out with a new concept, I hold my breath wondering if it’s only to sell more shoes, or is there some semblance of logic involved.
Last year at the Boston Marathon expo, I visited the Nike booth, and watched closely as they had treadmills set up with video cameras filming the gait of runners who wanted to be “analyzed”. Once the video was completed, the Nike rep would play it back, showing the runner how their foot hit the ground, and then recommended the appropriate pair of shoes. For the average onlooker, Nike appeared to be using cutting edge technology. However, when you look at some of the facts, you realize how far short of the mark they actually are.
Do You Know Your Structural Fingerprint®?
What Nike, as well as the most of the sportsmed world, fails to identify is the fact that biomechanics exists above the ankles. Simply put, humans are a “bag of biomechanical sins”, and unless you examine each person biomechanically, you’ll never know the many specifics of that individual. The end result of these “sins” is the foot strike during the gait cycle. The strike is just an overall compensation for all of the undetected and uncorrected biomechanical flaws that are the result of many contributing factors, such as hereditary weaknesses, prior injuries, using the wrong shoe type, poor conditioning, height, weight, job, etc.
So, until you actually get a biomechanical exam, no one knows your specifics, such as your center of gravity, structural balance, joint restrictions, muscular imbalances, foot type, etc. And, these factors will determine what your life will be about.
The Structural Fingerprint® Exam
This exam first looks at foot type. The shoe industry has done a tremendous job of developing shoes for the different foot types, but most Dr.’s and the general public have no idea what their foot type is or how to test for it. Learning your foot type is critical, and it must be done in the standing, static position. Evaluating gaits during the running cycle should never be done until many of the biomechanical defects in the body have been improved, and that usually takes at least 6-12 months.
The Q angle of the knee, as well as leg length, range of motion of all joints and muscle balance, should all be tested. 75% of the information needed for a comprehensive biomechanical exam comes from standing x-rays of the low back and neck. And, you can’t ask most Dr.’s to read them, as most Dr.’s are only schooled in looking for pathology on x-rays, not biomechanics. This is why most x-rays come back “negative”. They are negative for pathology.
Once all these tests are performed, then a rehabilitative program is designed to allow time to re-educate and mobilize muscles and joints, improve habits, and perform the necessary rehab exercises. Our goal is threefold; to improve overall posture and balance, to increase joint mobility and to increase muscle flexibility. Much like the orthodontist who requires 2-3 years to alter the alignment of kids teeth, structural balancing is a process, and a tremendously worthwhile one.
Who needs this exam and correction? Everyone interested in getting the most out of their physical life while reducing the frequency and degree of breaking down. If getting a joint replacement isn’t on your “to do” list just yet, you may have in interest in learning how to preserve the joints you have, just in case you’ll want to use them later in life.
Final question; When can you stop working on this balance, joint mobility and muscle flexibility? Never. Just like any other mechanical machine you own, management and maintenance is required to keep it running well. The very thought that we should just let our bodies and joints degenerate and rot out until we can’t take it anymore borders on lunacy. Then, the very thought that drugs or joint replacements are the obvious answer is nothing more than modern medicine doing a great marketing job and keeping the masses ignorant.
So, Nike now comes out with the Nike Free shoe that “gets the hell out of your foot’s way”. They tell how studies have shown barefoot running allowed runners to get faster and have fewer injuries. “Add to that, research showed that runners in unshod populations like Africa or the Caribbean often have lower incidences of running injuries like Achilles tendonitis and plantar fascitis”, the marketing literature states.
So, is it worth a try? Hard to say. But what I can say is this; until these biomechanics labs at the running shoe companies begin examining biomechanics above the ankles, like the sacral base angle or Ferguson’s center of gravity line, they will always be too uninformed to make the statements they make. Until they recognize the importance of a balanced knee and mobility in the spine at all levels, the relationship between foot type and full body biomechanics, and the importance of educating the masses on foot type and appropriate shoe type, with custom orthotics when needed, that’s when it’ll be time to then congratulate a new shoe and explore new concepts.
The downside of the current state is that most runners will wear the wrong shoes, end their running careers prematurely on the disabled list and use their primary Dr.’s as their fitness/injury guru’s. Oh my, what a shame.
Have a great month.