Interoception: The Emotional Side of the Human Myofascial System

As movement specialists we have grown to build a deep appreciation for the proprioceptive network in the human body.    From the perception of vibration and texture to the integrated tension along fascial lines, proprioception is truly the sixth sense in human movement.

As important as proprioception is, what if I told you there is an even more powerful side to this myofascial web?

What if I told you that the myofascial system actually plays a much larger role in emotion – rather than motion?

Introducing Interoception

interoceptionAccording to Dunn et al. interoception is a sense of the physiological condition of the oneself.   It is an ubiquitous information network used to represent one’s body from within.

It is the ability to detect subtle changes in bodily systems, including muscles, skin, joints, and viscera.  It includes a range of sensations including warmth, coolness, pain, tickle, hunger, thirst, sexual arousal, muscular activity, heartbeat, distension of bladder, distension of stomach and sensual touch (Schleip et al.)

So how does interoception compare to proprioception?

Interoception        vs.           Proprioception

        Free nerve endings                      Myelinated small nerves

     Activates insular cortex                  Somotosensory pathway

  ½ – 1 second delay                           30 -90 m/s

Body mind system                    Dance / Pilates

Reiki /Energy Worker             Dance / Pilates

If we look above we can see that there are quite a few differences between interoceptors and proprioceptors.   One of the biggest differences is that interoceptors are free nerve endings and transmit information with a delay, whereas proprioceptors quickly process information within milliseconds.  This supports the proprioceptive role in the accuracy of human movement.

According to a recent article by Schleip et al. our myofascial web actually has a much higher concentration of interceptors vs. proprioceptors.    80% of the peripheral nerves found in fascia are actually free nerve endings – with 90% of these being interoceptive!

This puts the fascial innervation at 1:7 ratio or proprioceptors to interoceptors.

The Power of Human Touch

QJg9ht3ITESymX-KcCtb35KNzs4Often referred to as the primitive skin, this interoceptive network is what drives our need for social touch and the release of oxytocin.    Many massage techniques especially those which are lighter in nature are thought to affect the interoceptive system.

The human viscera fascia is one of the most concentrated areas of the interoceptive network with shifts in the viscera often being confused for irritable bowel syndrome or indigestion when it is really an emotion such as stage fright or excitement of a upcoming exam.

In Schleip’s recent article he states that an ‘interoceptive moron’ is unable to differentiate visceral sensations from signs of an empty stomach, ‘butterflies’ or empathy driven ‘gut feelings’ about another person’s dilemma

Putting Interoception into Practice

The concept of interoception in general is a new topic but one that I believe is going to start showing up more and more in the movement industry.   As our appreciation for mind body connection and fascial fitness programs expands this is an inevitable side of our fascia that will continue to be explored.

Want to learn more about interoception please join Dr Emily for a FREE educational webinar on Thursday July 6 at 9pm EST

Register for this webinar HERE

Barefoot Biomechanics, General

Biomechanics of the Stiletto Strut

stilettoAnyone who has followed by work since before 2012 knows that I love shoes!

I may be barefoot strong but come Friday night, I, like most women across the world, am strapping on my sexiest stilettos for a night out on the town.   Blame it on fashion and living in NYC for over a decade, but I can’t deny that my knees get weak as I walk through the Shoe Department at Bergdorfs!

Associated with power, confidence and sex appeal nothing ruins a perfect pair of pumps like a young fashionista stumbling around in her 5 inch platforms.   If you are looking to improve your stiletto strut, understanding the biomechanics of the foot & ankle may be the ticket to the perfect stride.

In today’s blog I’m going to combine two of my passions – stilettos & biomechanics – to give you a scientific approach the catwalk and why biomechanics play a bigger role than we realize when achieving the perfect stiletto strut!

The Case of the Stiletto Duck Walk

I’m sure we’ve all seen the woman walking in heels with her feet turned out – or every time she takes a step the foot drops down into pronation.   The cause for this “stiletto duck walk” is related to the biomechanics of the great toe joint and the extreme heights of today’s heels.  Big toe

Normal walking on flat ground requires at least 30 degrees of great toe dorsiflexion.  Slide into stilettos and the demands on great toe dorsiflexion increases – often requiring up to 90 degrees dorsiflexion!

If you have limited great toe mobility (whether it be in flats or heels) and you are trying to enter the propulsive phase of gait but do not have the joint mobility – you will compensate!

Two of the most common compensations for limited great toe mobility is to turn your feet or pronate during push-off – leading to the stiletto duck walk.

So what can be done to avoid the stiletto duck walk?

1.  Lower the height of your heels.

photo-2Heels that exceed 3 inches start to defy natural foot biomechanics which is why the higher height of heels must have platforms and a forefoot rocker built into the shoe (see picture to the left)

For women with flat feet I often recommend keeping the heel height lower as this foot type is inherently unstable which compromises great toe mobility.

2.  Shorten your stride

Another great tip for decreasing the demands on great toe mobility when in high heels is to keep your stiletto stride short.   The longer the stride, the greater the demands on great toe mobility.

Learn more about wearing high heels with flat feet –

The Forward Lean

The next common mistake I often see in the stiletto strut is the forward lean.  This dropping of the chest is often associated with the stiletto strutter trying to walk faster than the heels are biomechanically allowing.    Biomechanical studies have shown that when walking in heels the woman is forced to shorten her stride length and increase stride frequency.

Increased stride length not only requires great toe flexibility (see above) but also hip extension flexibility.   As soon as we slide into our heels the ankle assumes a plantar flexed position forcing the pelvis into an anterior tilt.   This anterior tilt shortens the hip flexors thereby limiting hip extension.

What can be done to avoid the forward lean when walking in heels?

1.  Minimize the heel height 

The higher the heels the greater the shift in the pelvis.   Each additional inch in heel height is further shortening the hip flexors and reducing hip extension flexibility.   If your pelvis already naturally gravitates towards an anterior tilt then keeping the heel height 3 inches will not only save your stiletto strut but it will also dramatically decrease the load to your lower back.

2.  Keep the hip flexors flexible 

If you are going to wear heels often then make sure to keep the hip flexors flexible.   Repeated stiletto wear will overtime shorten the muscles on the front of the hip making successive high heel wear more difficult.    I encourage women to do at least 5 minutes of hip mobility exercises (stretching) before and after wearing their heels.

To learn more stiletto recovery tips –

To experience my Stiletto Recovery Workout DVD please visit –

3.  Own the shorter stride 

This final tip is often difficult for me sometimes as I’m always moving and walking super fast, however if the heels force you to shorten your stride you might as well own it.    The shorter stride gives you time to spice up your walk and add a little sex appeal or personality to the walk!

 The Weafalls-off-high-heels-2k Ankles

The final common mistake seen in the stiletto strut are the weak or wobbly ankles.   Again blame it on biomechanics and foot type as the extreme plantar flexed and inverted foot position can be difficult for certain foot types to control.

If you find yourself weak in the ankles and pitter pattering around in your heels out of fear of falling then the below tips should help you build some ankle strength and confidence in your strut!

1.  Minimize heel height

Just like the previous two stiletto strut errors, decreasing heel height is probably one of the best ways to correct all stiletto strut errors and compensations.   Remember that for every inch you increase heel height you drastically change the demands placed on the foot and body.

For the novice stiletto lover I suggest not going above 3 inches.   In addition, the thickness in the heel can greatly help build confidence in your walk with many women stating the greatest stability in wedges / espadrilles.

2.  Barefoot training

Another tip that I love and have built my Catwalk Confidence Workout around is barefoot training for foot, ankle and core strength – all necessary components to walking confidently in your heels.

Studies have shown that our feet and core and deeply integrated and that the stronger the feet are the faster the core / hips can stabilize when walking.   This translates to a more graceful walk (think tango dancer)!

To learn more barefoot training tips for improving your stiletto strut please check out my DVD – Catwalk Confidence.

In closing a few final tips for keeping your feet and body stiletto strong :

1.  Recover your feet daily by standing on a golf ball

2.  Keep your hips flexible by do hip flexor stretches or foam rolling your quads

3.  Weekly barefoot training keeps the small muscles of your feet and core working together

4.  Never compromise in shoe fit as the damage it can do the feet is not worth the fashion

To learn more about feet and stilettos please check out my recent segment on The Meredith Viera Show!



EBFA Year in Review 2014

Very special Happy New Year to all the health and fitness professionals and affiliates who have attended an EBFA workshop, supported our barefoot education and/or integrated our from the ground up programming into their practice!    We would not be where we are at today without YOU!

As we say goodbye to yet another year I like to reflect on all the past year’s accomplishments and celebrate the highlights in EBFA’s continued mission to spread the power of barefoot science and from the ground up training!

Below are some of my proudest moments for EBFA throughout 2014:

EBFA Launches Education Partnerships throughout SE Asia 

FITMalaysia1In March 2014 EBFA conducted it’s first Master Instructor Training in Bangkok, Thailand.  This MI Training and the subsequent partnership with Fitness Innovations Thailand (FIT) and it’s affiliates throughout SE Asia has allowed EBFA to rapidly spread the science, guidelines and programming for safe and effective barefoot training.

EBFA and FIT proudly partner in barefoot education throughout China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand

EBFA also has Education Partners throughout India, Japan and Korea


EBFA Welcomes Over 30 Master Instructors in Barefoot EducationMI Collage

In 2014 EBFA conducted three Master Instructor Training workshops both in Asia and the USA with attendees representing nine countries throughout Asia, Europe and North America.    After successful completion of the MI Training and examination process EBFA was able to recognize over 30 professionals as EBFA Master Instructors in Barefoot Education.

EBFA Master Instructors include Chiropractors, Physical Therapists, Pilates Instructors, Running Coaches, Strength Coaches and Fitness Professionals.

You can find MI conducted Barefoot Training Specialist courses throughout Asia, Canada and the USA.


EBFA Introduces Barefoot Education in the University Setting

As an advocate of higher education the introductiUWAon of EBFA’s Barefoot Education into a University setting is one of my proudest accomplishments for EBFA in 2014.   Being able to influence the next generation of health & fitness professionals is a powerful step towards changing the way the health & fitness industry looks at the foot & ankle, barefoot science and integrated movement.   In 2014 EBFA introduced it’s education at Bryan College in San Francisco, Georgia College, University of Massachusetts Boston and University of Western Australia in Perth.

EBFA continues to pursue the integration of barefoot education in a University setting in 2015!


BarefootGeorgiaEBFA Initiates Toe Spread Research Study

To hold true to our name “Evidence-Based” Fitness Academy, being able to conduct research is one of my visions for EBFA and for the advancement of barefoot science in health & fitness.  After finally achieving IRB approval EBFA was able to initiate our first official research study looking at the benefit of abductor strengthening on great toe alignment (hallux abduction angle) and sesamoid position after 8 weeks and 12 weeks.

This study is done through the collaboration of ToeSox and is 4 weeks underway.  Updates will be made in early 2015 so please stay tuned.

In addition, EBFA is collaborating on research conducted through Georgia College and their Performance Degree Program to evaluate the immediate effect of barefoot movement prep on vertical change, agility, change of direction.   We look forward to future research projects and collaborations in 2015!


Thank you again for all your continued support through 2014.   We are looking forward to a whirlwind 2015 as we continue to spread the power of barefoot science, host our first ever Barefoot Training Summit, launch our first book Barefoot Strong and introduce our first product!

Happy New Year – and remember to STAY BAREFOOT STRONG! 

Dr Emily Splichal & the EBFA Team

Barefoot Science, General

What does it mean to be BAREFOOT STRONG?

As a Doctor one of my favorite aspects of my job is educating and empowering patients to take their health and well-being into their own hands.

Most patient complaints could have been prevented if they had a little deeper understanding of the way the body moves, how forces are transferred through the body and the importance of soft tissue recovery.

As a means to further spread the message of foot health and my approach to patient rehab I have decided to compile all my blog posts, webinars and workshop content into a book designed with the wellness professional and patient in mind.

I have decided to write a book that shares the power of natural movement and innate loading responses through barefoot science.   Through this book and through my teachings it is my goal to teach the world how to become BAREFOOT STRONG.

feetAs I began outlining the underlying message of the book, I started to question the meaning of “barefoot strong”?   As I looked down at the myriad of research articles, notes and sample chapters I began to see the deeper meaning of BAREFOOT STRONG and what these words meant to me.

I began to see that BAREFOOT STRONG means so much more than simply working out sans footwear.

To truly become BAREFOOT STRONG, I believe that one must:

  • Accept that the neuromuscular system is a deeply integrated network of joints, fascia, muscles and nerves which work together like a symphony providing the beauty we call human movement
  • Respect the foot as a kinematic structure serving as the foundation to all closed chain movements
  • Appreciate the sensitivity of the plantar proprioceptors and their role in maintaining balance, perceiving impact forces and stabilizing the lumbopelvic hip complex for human locomotion
  • Refuse to allow the continuous damping of neuromuscular input due to footwear and unnecessary orthotics but rather welcome the proprioceptive input from the ground on which we stand.

So what does BAREFOOT STRONG mean to you?

I’m curious to hear your perspective and look forward to sharing my book with the world in early 2015!

Stay barefoot strong!

Dr Emily