Core-Tex Master Trainer Seth Ronland from Sweden shows one of the many creative ways the Core-Tex platform can be biased and off weighted to positively stress muscle fibers often difficult to load.
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Derrick Price, MS, CPT, CES, PES
In Part I, we explored the pros and cons of the FiveFinger’s foot support. It can be great for some people to regain the dynamic mobility that the foot is designed to have, but may be overwhelming for those who are accustomed to highly supportive footwear. In Part II, we’ll examine how well FiveFingers protect the feet and how comfortable they really are – compared to traditional footwear.
Whether it’s braving the weather or the ability to walk on rough surfaces such as asphalt, protecting the soles of the feet is a must for many of us who were born with shoes on. It’s important to compare the traditional shoes to the Fivefingers in terms of thickness and levelness of soles from heel to toe – as each have their pros and cons.
Fivefingers have a very thin and flexible sole (roughly 4 mm) that is leveled evenly from heel to toe. This characteristic awakens receptors in the foot and can result in changes in normal walking/running patterns – which, due to the thick soles and heel lifts, you will not find in traditional shoes. When running in Fivefingers, you’ll quickly learn that landing on your bony heels can be uncomfortable. This discovery may cause your foot to switch its landing to the area where the midfoot and heel meet. This switch may help you take advantage of the spring-like nature of the foot; which was designed to allow for minimal energy expenditure and improve gait efficiency. However, your foot is most likely not conditioned to walk or run on pebbles, rock, glass, hard dirt, concrete, etc. Be prepared to feel EVERY single step you take. Also, one must be cautious of stepping on sharp surfaces that may penetrate the shoe. Our friends, over at the American Council on Exercise, recently published an article that discussed how most people actually need to re-learn how to walk/run in Fivefingers. Simply putting a pair on will not automatically cause you to move better – it must be a conscious change.
In comparison, traditional athletic shoes come with heavily padded heels. So much so, that the heel rests about 1-2 inches above the toes. This has a dramatic influence on how we move and carry our posture. Try this: Stand up, lift your heels up off the floor just 1-2 inches, and balance there. What did you notice? What did your knees, hips, and/or torso do? More than likely, you had to flex your knees, shift or tilt your pelvis forward, and/or lean your torso forward to maintain your center of gravity. Even a slight heel lift in your shoe, changes your center of gravity resulting in a change in postural alignment. Over time, these changes can be disadvantageous because it is energy expensive to maintain the unnatural posture. It also stresses numerous tissues and joints that are commonly painful or sore in many people; such as, the knees, low back, upper back, shoulders, and neck.
To sum up, the Fivefingers may not protect the soles of the feet as well as traditional shoes, but they may do a better job of protecting one’s posture from deteriorating. If you choose to wear Fivefingers, it may be best to start with walking and strength-training – and then gradually progressing to running and more athletic movement. If you enjoy running in Fivefingers, I would recommend sticking to “real” surfaces only (e.g., grass, dirt, sand), as opposed to concrete. This helps avoid, not only the hard impact, but also the repetitiveness of a flat surface.
Let me be completely honest here. Putting on FiveFingers for the first time was a big pain in my gluteus maximus! It took me over 20 minutes to put my first pair on and I was sweating bullets. Putting on, what is essentially a glove for your foot, and trying to wiggle your toes into the correct holes is no easy task – especially considering what poor control most of us have over moving our toes and feet. But with more practice, I can now slip them on and off in seconds.
So a common question I get is, “Are they comfortable?” ABSOLUTELY! If you can find the right size and you don’t have a funky shaped foot, there’s a good chance you’ll be calling these your most comfortable pair of shoes in your closet and wearing them around town every chance you get. Plus, they come in many styles, although some styles may be more comfortable than others (which I’ll talk more about in part III). Heck, they even have a casual FiveFingers that is soon to be released. But beyond the physical comfort, they may actually be mentally uncomfortable for some. Again, these shoes are not the most attractive on the market and they definitely make you stand out. Beware of people staring, pointing, talking behind your back, or stopping you in your tracks to discuss your footwear. On the other hand, this may be a great way to help you become more social!
A last note on the comfort level of the FiveFingers, I must address the “stank” factor. Yes, your feet and FiveFingers will stink up the joint after a few wears. The nice thing is you can throw them in with your laundry every week (and then air dried). Baby powder and wearing special toe socks can also help keep the stank factor down. Ultimately, I just wanted to give you a quick heads up of what’s to come.
In Part 3, we’ll look at the many styles of the FiveFingers, along with some other Minimalist Shoes that have recently hit the market to give you a better idea of what may best suit your needs and desires.
Derrick Price MS, CPT, PES, CES has been active on many levels in the fitness industry for over 8 years. He holds a MS in Exercise Science and Health Promotion with an emphasis on injury prevention and performance enhancement from the California University of Pennsylvania where he has also spent time as an Adjunct Faculty member teaching courses in Exercise Program Design. Aside from personal training 20 hours a week, Derrick also is a Master Trainer for ViPR and PowerPlate. He began his educational career as a Master Instructor for the National Academy of Sports Medicine and has since moved on to become a Faculty Member for the Personal Training Academy Global. To inquire about personal training, Derrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I first went, it was to find out about getting help for an acute problem I was having with my hand. Anthony, in his calm, professional, convincing way, told me they didn’t work on specific body parts, but worked in a holistic manner from a postural approach. Interesting, I thought. In fact, pain in my lower back had been keeping me from exercising, yoga, strength training for the better part of a year, and had become a much more negative factor than my hand–bothersome, but not as compromising as my back problem.
An Aleve regime, as well as Arnica (a homeopathic), had managed the pain, but did not give me the peace of mind I’d needed to resume the physical challenges I was used to enjoying, backpacking, for instance and exercising at the YMCA five days/week.
Our conversation (as well as some impressive articles and awards on the wall) made me as curious as hopeful about being in the body I had become used to taking care of, so I took a leap and signed up for the 3-month
program of weekly visits. After an interview and being closely inspected in a multitude of ways, (grid on the wall, gait assessment, etc) my a two-hour evaluation with Anthony and his second in command, Wendy, was over and I walked out with photos and descriptions of my the program that had been developed for my daily use.
Next week, I came in for a half hour appointment with Wendy. At that time I did the exercises with her for fine tuning, and always learned something to improve my technique. The following week, my appointment was with them both, an hour in which I was interviewed to check for progress (or lack thereof), given a
new exercise program to go through, and left with my new handout and its great descriptions and photos.
So on it went, every week, alternating a half-hour appointment with one that lasted an hour. Every hour visit included an interview, postural assessment, and exercises.
By the end of my three months, Anthony had me pain free, and had begun to insert some physically challenging exercises into my program, not only corrective ones.
To tell the truth, the exercises he taught were different from anything I had ever imagined, were to be done at about a 70% level of effort, and should not cause any pain. It is truly unique and I cannot say how it worked, other than to say that it was amazingly effective and now that I am two weeks into the Y again, running and getting back into shape, I am feeling confident that the problems are in my past, and if I have others in the future, I have a place to go for corrections via exercise, my preferred course of therapy.
Anthony also offers small group workouts–sometimes two-week trial sessions for free!–and I look forward to trying them when I think I’m ready. My buff neighbor took some, and she said they were demanding, different, and just what she wanted.
My hand? Well, it’s damage from a nerve root injury and is slowly getting better and better. Obviously, it’s going to take some time, but compared to my long-term, now-in-the-past back problem, it’s minor indeed.
The office is organized, everyone is friendly and professional, and I give this small, dynamic business a grade of 100%!
What was your last fitness conference experience like? Did you fire up brain cells, burn calories or both? In the month of April, I presented in the UK, Chicago and Ocean City, Maryland. There was lots of time in airplanes to contemplate my experiences at the shows.
This is a rant and rave that I’ve been thinking about for a few months. And after an incredibly busy first quarter of conferences, I’m putting it to paper.
I love fitness conferences for the energy, enthusiasm and comradery I get from so many good friends I see at the shows. But recently, I’ve started to struggle a lit bit with some of what seems to be a theme throughout all the conferences-sweating takes priority over thinking.
Do you go to a fitness conference just to take a workout class that is led by one of your favorite instructors? At a recent show I witnessed two women talking as they were toweling the sweat from their foreheads in sweat soaked clothes. You could hear them discussing the workout they just went through. This would have been inspiring had it not been there third one THAT day!
Is this a case of addictive behavior toward exercise? If it was additive behavior, they were in great company because lots of folks were doing the same. I believe it is more a case of the huge number of people who spend their conference hours working their bodies and not their minds.
I realize that we are an industry that teaches and practices movement as part of what we do. But our conferences often look like labs that never had the lecture. The movement part of what we do is to experience what we have intellectually learned.
If we used the college or university model as an example, a student would never graduate if the only classes he ever took were activity classes. Why is that? Because you can’t possibly learn the scientific foundations and fundamental principles that are prerequisite to teaching others skills properly.
I know some amazingly smart presenters with great science behind what they do finding themselves only doing presentations in the huge rooms where bodies are flailing about. Why do they (and admittedly me at times) do this? Because we feel obligated to get people up and running around or else they won’t stick around for the nuggets of science we sneak in there. That’s sad.
This is certainly not a knock on group exercise presenters or participants. Because the top group exercise instructors I know would love to have their conference attendees sit through an hour of instruction before they started a workout. But would those attendees do it?
The next educational event that I have anxiously anticipated for a couple of years now is finally coming back to Southern California. The Interdisciplinary Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain will be in Los Angeles. I attended the very first event they ever had at the University of California San Diego back in 1995. Guess what? There will be no presentations to music or sweat towels required. But there will be massive lecture halls filled with chairs and tables so that detailed note taking can occur. And I’ll be soaking up every minute of it.
What can be done about this trend in fitness conferences? I understand that for those organizations that put on the shows that it is a business venture. And they are in many ways just giving the people what they want. However, they are marketed as educational events. So I’d like to see the scheduling of the sessions to be such that people did not have a workout option available in every single time slot. Then they mind find themselves wandering in to some lectures to kill time and might just enjoy the listening and learning. Don’t just give the attendees what they want, give them some direction toward what they need.
And wouldn’t it be great if they did not schedule presenters with similar subject matter in the same time slots? It seems any of the presenters that I want to see at a conference are inevitably presenting during the same time slots as me. Not only is that a bummer for me, but it also means that the attendees are forced to choose between great presenters on topics that interest them instead of giving them the chance to see two or more at non-conflicting time. I think this hurts everyone.
Fitness conferences are a blast and are so great for our industry in many ways. As we mature as an industry and seek to become part of the health care continuum, our educational events should reflect as much. Yes, we need to move and yes it is OK to sweat. I’d just really like to see us exercising our brains as much as we are exercising our bodies.
What do you think?
We are looking forward to communicating regularly with the Function First community on a consistent basis. We will be posting information for our consumer clients and for the health professional community that seeks to learn more about the Function First Approach.