Nonergonomic! The Mechanics of the Bare Foot
Running-Related Injury Prevention through Innate Impact-Moderating Behavior
These data provide insight into how, when barefoot, the plantar surface resists perforation yet provides protection to local bony structures. These data further support the notion that plantar sensory feedback plays a central role in safe and effective locomotion.
A relation has been reported between barefoot activity and raising of the main longitudinal arch, presumably by increased intrinsic foot muscle tone. The subjects with the greatest reduction in arch span performed barefoot activity outdoors. This suggests that surface irregularities causing local deformations on the plantar surface contributed to intrinsic foot muscular activation.
When compared to locomotion with existing footwear, these mechanics of the bare foot may offer improved balance during locomotion. This is compatible with the preference of many gymnasts and dancers for being barefoot to wearing footwear. (emphasis added)
Could it be that "ergonomic" shoe design has taken a disastrous turn somewhere along the way? Could it be that instead of piling on the padding willy-nilly, "ergonomic" shoe designers should be doing the exact opposite? Could it be that they should be thinning down and paring away the conventional shoe until it comes as close as possible to the bare human foot, while providing protection from the elements?
Ergonomic athletic shoes, we are solemnly assured, provide "improved balance and added stability for the human foot."
If so, why don't Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Kui Yuanyuan and her competitors wear "ergonomic" footwear while competing on the balance beam? Anything that offers a winning edge is going to find its way into an aspiring Olympian's kit of tools after all. So why do these fiercely competitive young athletes whose careers are made or broken by their sense of balance compete in bare feet? Do they know something the "ergonomic" shoe designers don't?
-- Bevin Chu
Explanation: Running-Related Injury Prevention through Innate Impact-Moderating Behavior
Illustration(s): Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast Kui Yuanyuan
Author(s): Steven E. Robbins, Gerard J. Gouw, and Adel M. Hanna
Affiliation: "Running-related injury prevention through innate impact-moderating behavior," Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 21(2), 1987, pp. 130-139.
Publication Date: December 27, 1996
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect