The Science

Is your footwear hindering your performance and increasing your risk of injury?

How we use our bodies on a daily basis determines our bodies’ functional capabilities.

Dr. Sam Dubé

Physician and sports training expert

Proper Technique Training

Elite athletes, their coaches, and trainers understand this concept. Training with “proper technique” is the overriding principle in all advanced training, conditioning, and rehabilitative programs. 

Proper technique training requires both “Right Stimulus” and “Right Movement.” Right Stimulus is the sensory input needed by the brain to trigger Right Movement muscle activity. Right Movement is the uninhibited dynamic musculoskeletal movement that is required to safely and efficiently manage the forces created during a particular activity. 

Every moment you wear shoes, the functional environment created by the shoe either positively or negatively conditions (“trains”) lower limb, hip, and back neuromuscular function.

That means the shoes you are wearing, whether or not you are training or competing, significantly affect your performance capabilities and your propensity to injury.

Myths:

  1. Tight fitting athletic footwear helps improve your performance – WRONG 
  2. Cushioning footwear and insoles reduce the shock that causes injury – WRONG
  3. Supportive footwear and insoles help improve performance – WRONG
  4. Supportive footwear and insoles help reduce the risk of injury – WRONG

Fact:

Tight fitting, supportive, and cushioning footwear train “poor technique” maladaptive neuromuscular function throughout the feet, legs, hips, and back.

Virtually all conventional footwear fails to provide Right Stimulus while most inhibit Right Movement.

Have you been told that your foot-related problems are caused by over-pronation or over-supination? In most instances, these are symptoms of footwear-conditioned maladaptive neuromuscular function.

Regular use of footwear, insoles, or orthotics that cushion, restrict, and/or support the feet causes the following: 

  • Tactile variable stimuli to the sole of the foot are attenuated and proprioceptive sensory input is inhibited. As a result, the brain receives necessary sensory input required to activate the efficient muscle activity in the lower limb, hip, and back that is required for healthy function.
  • The natural, dynamic “Right Movement” muscle activity and alignment throughout the feet, ankles, legs, hips, and lower back is restricted or encumbered.
  • “Safe” lower limb, hip, and back force management capabilities are impaired throughout the demands of three-dimensional activities.
  • Compensatory imbalances in muscle strength and flexibility throughout the lower limb, hip, and back is conditioned.
  • A loss of functional robustness, strength, and agility is conditioned.
  • A lower limb, hip, and back predisposition to injury is conditioned.

Do you have to re-tighten your athletic footwear after a few minutes of activity?  

If your laces feel like they “loosen up” after the first few minutes of rigorous activity, that loosening sensation arises from foot instability that is caused by your collapsing arches rather the laces themselves. 

Healthy foot mobility

Requires the dynamic raising of the toes and arches.

Your arches should naturally rise and fall dynamically in response to activity intensities. 

When you tighten you shoes to the point where your arch systems can’t rise in response to the higher intensity activities, the increased loads cause your arch systems to collapse. This creates poor alignment and imbalanced and inefficient muscle function throughout the ankles, knees, and hips predisposing those areas to damaging stresses and injury.

Re-tightening your shoes may make your feet feel more secure; however, it compounds inefficient function and poor alignment and increases risk of injury.

The following predominantly athletic-related pathologies are caused by footwear related maladaptive neuromuscular function:

  • Shin Splints
  • Turf Toe
  • Knee problems
  • IT Band problems
  • SI joint / hip problems
  • Ankle instability / sprains
  • Sore, tired feet

Ideal running mechanics: What are the Proper Technique requirements? 

When the supporting musculature of the foot aligns and stabilizes the foot’s interlocking bones into a functionally dynamic dome shape before weight bearing, the structure is inherently strong and resilient. This dynamic dome shape provides the most stable and stress-free foundation for the rest of the body, requiring the lowest degree of muscular effort during the weight bearing and propulsion phases of gait. This alignment and stabilization process is exhibited in barefoot gait and is easily achieved during the swing phase as the foot moves from the muscle firing sequences of propulsion at toe-off to those of dorsiflexion in preparation for ground contact. 

Healthy Gait Dynamics

Requires Right Stimulus and Right Movement

With each ground contact during barefoot gait on natural terrain, the soles of the feet receive a subtly different sensory experience. The subtly varied stimulus (Right Stimulus) keeps the brain alert, 

The body’s neuromuscular systems must have the proper level of function available to meet the challenges to those systems. Critical to this restoration process, the body must receive an adequate “healthy” stimulus to initiate an appropriate reflex response, and there must be no impediment to the associated reflex active movement. If either of these requirements is absent, or if there has been severe physical damage to the neuromuscular system, there may be a limit to how fully protective reflex responses can return to full function.

Modern proper technique training activities condition healthy reflex function.

Physical repair of the neuromuscular systems is a common focus of modern body therapy modalities. It is standard practice to employ “proper technique” physical therapy treatments or sports training programs to rehabilitate inefficient or injured neuromuscular function.