Monday, May 18, 2009
The sports foot au naturelle?
The idea for greater freedom for the foot originated from the training techniques of Australian coach Percy Cerutty who trained Herb Elliot. Cerutty trained his athletes running barefoot over sand dunes and grass with a diet of fruits and vegetables. Now the major move in sport shoe design there is to have the foot free to move in an unrestricted and natural way but at the same time be protect within a casing to prevent serendipitous injury. One of the new shoes styles which purports to achieve this is the Nike Free with a waffle fill sole which allows greater flexibility in any direction. No longer restricted to sagittal plane propulsion sports shoes are designed to include greater frontal plane motion too. Over the last four decades sport shoes have gone through several developments determined mainly by biomechanics and gait analysis. In the 70s and 80s designers embraced the theory that sub talar joint pronation and supination was harmful, and sport shoes were designed with features to prevent the inward or outward rolling of the foot. Later with the availability of new polymers in the 80s and 90s shock absorption (aka cushioning) became the major focus and sport shoes etc., became sleeker and more comfortable. More recently acceptance feet were not standard shapes led to incorporation of straight lasted shoes which would accommodate more feet comfortably. The combination of these ideas has neither resulted in improved times in competition at the elite level nor seen significant reduction in sport related injuries and quite the opposite in fact. Something which has always been rather an enigma in modern sport has been the barefoot competitor; indeed in the sport shoe dominated arena barefoot competitors have been an anathema. Now it appears there has been a complete circle in thinking and researchers and designers are now attempting to facilitate optimal foot function with shoes which merely encase the foot. It is unlikely this is anything more than a fad but like the phenomena for ‘wellness shoes’ likely to prevail.