restore: the legs program

running shoes and dating (not really)


Pick up any running or triathlon magazine and you won’t read too many pages before a bold advertisement displays the shoes you really need if you truly want to be your best.

Some claim to make you faster or prevent injury, others tout the benefits of “running more naturally.”

One thing’s for sure, they all look cool. And they come in the flashiest colors. And there’s some (paid) uber-athlete sporting said (complimentary) footgear. You know the one.

She just posted a new course record at Ironman Antarctica. She is sweaty and sexy …and appears to have been chiseled from a solid block of marble. Not some cheap, domestic marble, mind you, the expensive Italian kind.

You, too, could look like this, race like this and maybe even get a date on Friday night if you wore these shoes!

But you don’t.

Your shoes have a [chuckle] fat heel. They’re not minimalist or even “zero-drop.” 🙁

Your palms get clammy and your pulse quickens as you suddenly remember you’ve got an Olympic distance tri on the calendar this weekend. You start to panic. Whoa! [Deep breath.]

How in the halibut are you going to show your face in T2 with those nasty shoes?

[Breathe, damn it, breathe!] They’ll laugh you back to the pre-race porta- johns. You’ll never get another date!

Okay, think fast. What to do, what to do… Ah! The internet! You race to your computer… come on, come on, stupid internet!

You peck away at the keyboard as fast as 2 fingers will take you… w-w-w-.-b-i-t-c-h-e-n-s-h-o-e-s-4-u-.-c-o-m. Where are they… the green, orange, yellow and black ones with the quick-entry laces and the break-through GR8-NRG RunFast technology (stolen from NASA!) and guaranteed to make you 3.7 seconds faster over 10k?? There they are! Size 8 ½ triple E? Got ‘em. Overnight shipping for an extra $47.95? Check. Buy now! Buy now!! Phew. That was close.  🙂

Feeling quite pleased with your resourcefulness and having averted a catastrophe of epic proportions, you flop on the couch and treat yourself to a tall, frosty recovery drink.

“Oh yeah, these are gonna be great.”

You wonder if they’ll be comfortable. Doesn’t matter, they’ll look awesome. And they have that space-aged thingy. So you’ve got that going for you.

You wonder about that calf injury you’ve been nursing. No worries, these babies are designed for natural running. That fixes everything… right? Cheetahs don’t wear shoes and they seem to do just fine. On the other hand, horses do, and that reduces their injuries, doesn’t it? Even racehorses wear shoes … and they’re pretty doggone fast.

Hmm… you think to yourself, “maybe I should get some advice from an expert.”

Nah, the ad was in a very reputable triathlon magazine, and they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true.

Ah well, never mind. This whole affair has been quite exhausting. Better get some shut-eye.  After all, it is almost 7:45 PM, and you do want to be an Ironman, don’t you?

The Foot: Pretty Cool Stuff (If You’re a Geek)

Once we’ve mastered the art of crawling and started to walk erect, the foot becomes our base of support. It is the first link in the kinetic chain, except after really good parties. 🙂 There are 26 bones (plus 2 pebble-like sesamoids), 33 joints, 20 muscles, and more than 100 ligaments in each foot.

In fact, about a quarter of all the bones in the human body are found below the ankle. Most runners know a little something about the plantar fascia, and there’s a thick, fibrous fat pad under the heel to protect it.


The muscles that control the foot can be classified in two broad categories.

  • Intrinsic muscles are located entirely within the foot itself.
  • Extrinsic muscles have a muscle belly in the lower leg and a tendon that courses down into the foot.

The functionality of the intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles is extremely important if you want to run injury-free and perform your best. In fact, I feel it is SO important, EVERY athlete we work with gets to do the “small (or short) foot” exercise.  (If you’ve done RESTORE: The Foundation, you know this exercise well! 🙂

This exercise was developed, or at least made famous, by Czechoslovakian physician, Vladamir Janda.

I believe his aim, originally, was to improve proprioception, a.k.a. the body’s awareness of where it is in time and space, by increasing the volume of signals going from the foot to the brain. Additionally, it helps to wake up and strengthen the intrinsic foot muscles.

Foot Function:

This is something we HAVE the ability to impact positively or negatively.  It is neuromuscular in nature. In the Western World, we typically wear shoes from the time we are teeny-tiny people. Both shoes and orthotics decrease intrinsic foot muscle activity.

Think of the body as a union shop. Each worker has a very specific job description. If one doesn’t do his job, another has to take up the slack. Proper activation and adequate strength of the intrinsic and extrinsic foot muscles is crucial for preventing plantar fasciitis, preventing bunions, and creating an effective spring to attenuate forces and provide propulsion.

Foot Form:

Short of surgery or overt trauma, this is something we HAVE NO CONTROL over. 

The shape of the foot and ankle bones, the curve of the shin—we got what we got.  And in my experience, only about 20% of us have what we’d consider to be “neutral” (or normal?) foot mechanics.

A forefoot varus (see figure 1 below), for example, is a condition where the bones on the big toe side of the foot don’t quite want to get to the ground when the back of the foot is in a neutral position. The problem here is that it can overload the middle or little toe side of the foot and cause too much internal rotation of the leg during the gait cycle. The role of the orthotic, in this case, is simply to bring the ground up to the foot in the places needed and to disperse the loads properly. You can make the foot muscles as strong as you like, but because of the shape of the foot, you’ve still got pronounced asymmetrical loading.

While it is true that stronger feet will likely last longer than weaker feet, it is easy to see that the owner of these rides is going to have more problems than someone with more neutral mechanics.

In the case of a forefoot varus, as you can see demonstrated in the image to the left, a properly made orthotic will distribute load and help normalize biomechanics.

The forefoot varus is just one example of a problem with foot mechanics. It’s easy to see that the shape and function of the foot has a significant impact on what happens to the lower leg.

Similarly, the shape and function of the hips and core have a powerful impact on the thigh. If either one is deficient, the knees take a beating. If it’s not the knees, something else in the kinetic chain will suffer. The weakest link will break. 

Check out this graphic to the left, demonstrating the importance of every part of the body needing to do its job in order for everything to remain healthy and functioning well!

* Instability in the core and weakness in the hips allow the lower thigh to collapse toward the midline.

* Too much pronation at the foot leads to similar motion of the upper shin. The net result is a badly abused knee. (Not to mention the piriformis, ITB, low back…)

Truth be told, orthotics or even the “perfect” or most appropriate shoes for you, are never the entire solution.

But they are an important part of it.

If the shape of YOUR bones – in other words, the biomechanics of your feet- is such that specialized footwear is appropriate, then the formula is mobility, stability and strength + the correct footwear. 

If you’d like help with your shoes or feet (no promises on dating!), please contact me directly! 🙂

The Right Tool For The Job:

Imagine you’re preparing for a ski vacation. The forecast is for snow, snow and more snow. You decide to give the ol’ family SUV a quick once over before the long drive into the mountains. You change the oil, fill the gas tank and install fresh wiper blades. Better check the tires, too. You’ve got four brand new snow tires mounted and balanced just waiting for you in the garage, but the flashy 20 inch wheels with the low profile tires look way cooler.

Do you leave the heavy treads in the garage and head off to the slopes with the slicks on? Of course not, you’re smarter than that! 

Choosing your running shoes is not much different.

If you have short calves, a long history of Achilles trouble or limited ankle dorsiflexion (ability to move the foot toward the shin), then you probably want a shoe with a taller heel. The words “minimalist, zero-drop, and barefoot
running” should be stricken from your vocabulary. For you, those are more likely to cause injury than solve a problem.

On the other hand, if you have long calves, neutral feet, heaps of ankle mobility and a penchant for the latest trends, knock yourself out. Go grab a pair of whatever you’d like.

Not so many years ago, running shoes with thick, cushioned heels were the norm. The shoe companies extolled their virtues and everybody wore them. Now all the adverts push toward minimalism.

The point is:

There is an appropriate running shoe (or running shoe/orthotic configuration) for every person.

The most important question to ask when buying your next pair is, “What kind of shoe is appropriate for me?”

If you don’t know, find out. The one you want may not be the one best suited to you.

If you would like to print all of the written information on this page for off-line reading, CLICK HERE!

What about the NIKE Vaporfly?

Many runners inquire about the latest shoes from Nike and others, all based on the carbon sole technology made famous by the Nike Vaporfly%/Next% running shoes.

As you may know, more than a few elites are wearing these kinds of shoes on their way to ridiculously fast marathons over the past few weeks/months.

I want to point you toward an article recently published on BartoldMechanics (a very reliable source of information on running shoe technology) which goes into some detail about this new technology.

In the middle of the article, is this sentence: “Might the effect not be due to “energy return”, but rather by fatigue reduction? And, if that were the case, could the shoes’ primary function be to attenuate input vibration, because vibration is mostly attenuated by muscle contraction, which increases fatigue?”

My point is simply that the barefoot work I’m prescribing for you in this program is expressly intended, in part, to help our body attenuate this vibration (impact).

I couldn’t say if any of it is as valuable as a running shoe though… 🙂

If you’ve watched the “Born To Run” movement or gotten caught up in the minimalist advertising and messaging, you may have heard the message: shoe ORTHOTICS are a bad idea. 

What’s the real truth? 

In the video below, I’ll give you the scoop!