Barefoot Science

Are you barefoot with a purpose? The science behind intentional foot activation

The dust has settled.

Gone are the days of viral debates and forums on the benefits vs. risks of barefoot running.  Newspapers such as the New York Times have shifted their focus away from ripping into minimalist shoes and Vibram’s lawsuit is “old news”.

With no more talk about barefoot running – does this mean that benefits of “barefoot” cease to exist?

Far from so!

squatIt is finally time to shift the direct association made between the words “barefoot” and “barefoot running”.   To much of my surprise people STILL think that EBFA’s Education is centered on “barefoot running” despite our Certifications being called Barefoot TRAINING Specialist® and BarefootRx®.

It is time to expand our minds – set aside pre-conceptions and images of people running on concrete without shoes – and take a moment to understand and EXPERIENCE the power of training barefoot.

For those who are yet to experience the power of the plantar foot – I warn you – your life and your movements will forever be changed.

I’m not kidding.

The Evolution of Barefoot Strong

B-barefoot-strong-yellowBack in 2009 when I first started lecturing on barefoot training my focus was primarily on the direct stimulation of the skin on the bottom of the feet and it’s role in balance.  It’s funny when I look back at my old presentations.   I have to laugh at how LIMITED my perspective was back then.  Sure I saw the proprioceptors in the plantar skin – but I wasn’t even scraping the surface of how powerful the foot is in movement and performance!

The pivotal point in the Evolution of Barefoot Strong was when I actually stepped away from (meaning quit) my surgical residency training to go back to graduate school and get my Master’s in Human Movement.   To leave a medical residency in the middle of training was a decision that could have potentially cost me the ability to ever practice medicine – but in my heart I knew I needed to do this.   In my journey I knew I had to connect some of the dots in my knowledge and perspective on human movement.  (For those who are curious I later when back to complete my residency training and practice medicine in NYC)

These next 2 years were dedicated to the exploration of human movement as it relates to foot, barefoot science and fascial integration.  The research I uncovered took my Podiatric Medical Degree to a level I never dreamed possible.  With this new in-depth knowledge of foot fascial integration, neurology and neuromuscular coordination I knew I was onto something powerful.  What I discovered was that the biggest secret to being barefoot – is that you have to be barefoot WITH A PURPOSE.

What does this mean?

Science of Intentional Foot Activation

footyogaThere is a powerful interconnection between the deep foot stabilizers (intrinsics) and the deep core stabilizers (pelvic floor, deep rotators etc) – I refer to this as our local stabilization pathway.  What fascinating is that in yoga they refer this as Pada Bandha (foot) and Mula Bandha (pelvic floor).

In dynamic movement such as walking the only contact point between the body and the ground is our foot – therefore foot stability is crucial to proper transfer of impact forces.   When it comes to quickly and efficiently transferring these impact forces during walking – the faster our feet and core can “talk” to each other the better our walk, the decreased the risk of injury and the more efficient our gait (less energy).

The exercise for integration our feet and core is called short foot.   I know I speak about short foot A LOT – but it is THAT important of an exercise.    Check out the video below on how to integration foot to core sequencing via short foot.

Want to take it beyond walking?

Every exercise or injury rehab program – regardless of region of the body – will benefit from foot to core sequencing.   Be it shoulder stability or s/p ACL surgery – all joints in the body require fast pre-activation of the deep core stabilizers.   Since our feet are the only contact with the ground the feet actually play a critical role in how quickly we can stabilize the core when standing or moving closed chain.   (Think pitcher throwing a ball or a tennis player swinging a racket)

So the next time you go to the gym or have you weekly rehab session if you are already training barefoot – I challenge you to ask yourself.   Are you barefoot with a purpose?   Are you integrating an intentional foot contraction during your exercise?

I recommend start your session by integrating 5 minutes of foot to core exercises (see video above) or integrate it throughout the exercises (think kettle bell swings).

Want to take it EVEN further?   Learn the science of foot assessments, foot-typing and reflexive stabilization by attending a Barefoot Training Specialist® or BarefootRx® Rehab Specialist Certification!

Find a workshop near you! 

Stay #barefootstrong!

Dr Emily Splichal

Founder EBFA

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Barefoot Biomechanics, Barefoot Science

From Primal to Bipedal : Why we must lock in our rolling and crawling with foot to core sequencing

Rolling and crawling are currently some of the hottest trends in fitness and corrective exercise programming.   From Animal Flow to Original, health and fitness professionals are exploring the power of primal movement patterning for correcting movement dysfunction and achieving optimal function.

We actually happened to just do a webinar on this exact topic with Stop Chasing Pain’s Dr Perry Nickelston which we encourage you to catch the archived version on the EBFA YouTube Channel HERE!

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Babies Sitting, Crawling, and Walking

Why rolling and crawling are such powerful stabilization techniques is that they bring us back to our neurodevelopmental origins.   Back when we were first introducing our nervous system to the demands of movement – millions of neuromuscular pathways were being developed.

These neurological pathways soon become the joint stability and coordination needed to sit upright, resist gravity and ultimately put one foot in front of the other.

What movement specialists are starting to realize is that by bringing it back down to the ground and reducing the demands of gravity, clients and patients are better able to restore stabilization patterns.

Test Your Primal Stability 

One example of crawling stability is the quadruped position.  In Animal Flow they call this position The Beast.

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Begin on your hands and knees with your shoulders directly over your wrists, hips over knees, neutral spine and feet flexed.

After creating proper alignment on these 6 points of contacts, engage the deep abdominals and lift the knees 1 cm off of the ground.   Immediately you should start to feel all your stabilizers engage.

Richard Scrivener of Animal Flow recommends holding this 4 point Beast for 45 seconds to test stability.

From Primal to Bipedal 

Despite the current popularity in rolling and crawling I think that it is important for movement specialists to remember that we are still bipedal animals and that simply training primal patterns is not enough to restore the demands of bipedal locomotion.

One of the biggest differences between primal movements and bipedal movements is the degree of impact forces encountered with every step that we take.   When walking each time our foot contacts the ground we are encountering 1 -1.5 x our body weight in impact forces that are entered at a rate of < 50 milliseconds.

To effectively and efficiently load these impacts forces over and over (sometimes over 10,000 times a day!) requires fast and accurate stability.

Now although we were training stability in our primal patterning that stability was not at the rate nor was it specific to the demands of bipedal foot contact.

Foot to Core Sequencing 

This is where foot to core sequencing comes into our programming.

walking-barefoot-298x232I refer the foot to core sequencing we use in the Barefoot Training Specialist® Certification as the critical step in locking in stability.

Why do we want to lock in our stability with foot to core sequencing?

Here are a couple powerful reasons:

  1.  The foot is the only contact point between the body and the ground which means this complex structure is the neurological gateway between impact forces and stabilization.
  2. Fascial sequencing exists via the Deep Front Line connecting the plantar foot with the deep hip and pelvic floor.   Studies have shown that by training the foot to core sequencing you can begin to establish feed forward, pre-activation sequences to enable faster foot to core stability
  3. Thousands of small nerve proprioceptors on the bottom of the foot detect the vibrations of impact forces making the bare foot the gateway to understanding how hard we are striking the ground and how quickly our foot to core sequencing needs to occur

Training Foot to Core Sequencing

The simplest exercise to train foot to core sequencing is via an exercise called short foot.  For those who follow my work probably new I was going to say this!

A few tips with cueing and integrating short foot.

  1.  Start with pelvic floor activation and identification if the client or patient is unfamiliar with how to engage these muscles.   Video on pelvic floor activation is HERE
  2. Stand up and find short foot.  In those clients familiar with short foot immediately begin to cue that they start with the pelvic floor engagement then add in short foot The video on how to do short foot is HERE
  3. Begin to coordinate the breathe with short foot / pelvic floor sequencing ensuring that the engagement happens on the exhalation.   I prefer the breathe to be relaxed and not forced exhalation but natural deep breathing that involves the entire thoracic cavity with lateral ribcage expansion.
  4. Begin to integrate foot to core sequencing in single leg exercises such as those listed HERE

Want to learn more about the benefits of foot to core sequencing and the Barefoot Training Specialist Certification please visit http://www.ebfafitness.com

Finally – as always – stay barefoot strong!

Dr Emily

 

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