Thursday, December 10, 2009

shoe selection, tight ankles and poor performance

Recently I have been noticing the type of shoes that most kids are wearing while they train. They usually fall into three categories:
1) running shoes - high and narrow soles, fine for linear running;
2) training shoes - but still high soles (think Nike Shox);
3) whatever is available when they walk out the door!

While not a scientific study in the making, the problem that I see with all of the above is that the ankle joint suffers. The ankle is a mobile joint, capable of inversion, eversion, flexion, extension and circumduction. However, when certain type of shoes are worn, it forces the ankle to become less mobile than it should. The heel cord (achilles tendon) can actually shorten over time with a shoe that elevates the heel from the ground (similar to high heels on women). This can cascade up the body; believe it or not, tight ankles may even be a culprit in low back pain!
For athletes, it can lead to poor ankle range of motion and affect movement skills, from linear speed to lateral changes of direction to planting and cutting.
The second thing that poor footwear can lead to is poor lateral deceleration ability. In any sport that involves changing of direction, lateral forces are placed on the foot and ankle. If a shoe with a high heel elevates the foot and has a narrow sole, the athlete may run the risk of rolling his/her ankle. If mechanics are poor to begin with, the problem is exacerbated.
The ground reaction forces have to travel through the shoe to reach the foot and consequently the rest of the kinetic chain. If a shoe is high and thick, some of the forces are dissipated within the shoe and not the tissues of the body; while this may seem trivial, forces must be predominantly absorbed by the body not footwear.

What is the solution? I have two suggestions:
1) train more barefoot and/or
2) wear shoes that have a low AND wide profile. I have found that Nike Free is the best for lateral changing of direction as it satisfies the criteria of a low profile and a wide base.
I have worn them for several years and also feel that they strengthen the bottom of my foot at the same time they provide lateral stability. I believe Under Armour also has a similar shoe. The Nike Free is marketed as the "closest thing to training barefoot" so there are some additional benefits as well that barefoot training offers.
BTW, I have no financial interest in selling these shoes...they just seem to work the best for me. If you have not tried them out, I encourage you to wear them for a while, and also try some barefoot training to strengthen your foot and ankle.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. I see it too - even with older kids and some adults on things like dynamic lunges in multiple directions.
Feeling the foot, feeling your toes and your connection is very importnt.
I ask kids all the time where they feel an exercise and they don't have a clue - their feet are so comfy that they can't feel a thing!