Sunday, September 09, 2007

They're Almost Getting It

Pedestrians Beware
Many athletic shoes now have too much cushion, gels or air soles that can weaken the foot muscles, especially when worn all day long for fashion as well as exercise, Stoxen said.

"A shoe needs to be supportive to allow for athletic performance, but it needs to allow the foot to move the way it was designed to move," he said. "The modern day 'foot binding' is the shoe. We have all kinds of shoes that alter the natural movement of the foot."

Stoxen cites interviews with African runners, who often practice barefoot and frequently perform exceedingly well in marathons. He recounts the story of Ethiopia's Abebe Bikila, who set a new world record and won the gold medal in the 1960 Olympic marathon while running barefoot over cobblestones in Rome. Bikila won gold again four years later in Tokyo, despite recovering from an appendectomy he underwent a little more than five weeks earlier.

The new "barefoot" shoe will strengthen rather than weaken the natural spring mechanism of the foot, said Dan Weiss, director of marketing and product planning for the Converse Performance Team in Japan.

"Basically the foot has all the parts needed to perform," Weiss said. "A barefoot athletic shoe will allow the foot to continue to strengthen this performance mechanism and thus improve the overall endurance and strength of the foot, which is where most movement begins. -- By aligning the foot correctly and giving the support only where needed, this shoe will allow the foot to strengthen those muscles and ligaments that support the arch and give you the spring to react. With this stronger framework and correctly functioning spring mechanism, players will have quicker reactions and be able to avoid those common roll-over sprains."

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