Is It All About the Feet?

By Jon McDowell, Strength and Speed Coach - Co-Founder VIVE

Is It All About the Feet?
By Jon McDowell, Strength and Speed Coach - Co-Founder VIVE

Being a strength coach and track coach provides constant feedback on how our
clients' programming is working. For example, when we sprint we time all runs with
laser timing systems. You are improving or you are not. A plateauing will occur at
every new level of speed until the physical or technical constraint is addressed.
Applying big forces into the ground is the key to achieving faster speeds. When
sprinting loads on the gastrocs can exceed 3x BW, & soleus can exceed 7x
BW.(dole.et.al.2012). I found it quite challenging to complete ten standardized
repetitions on calf raise with most athletes we assessed.

Interestingly, one study found that foot muscle size and strength were found to
increase 60% after 6 months of walking in a minimalist shoe. These results
happened because removing the cushioned heel and arch support made the foot's muscle work harder.


THE BIOMECHANICS OF STRONG FEET

I've spent the past six months in the @vivobarefoot minimalist shoes. If the feet are stronger, everything up the chain improves from a biomechanics standpoint. For myself, my deadlift improved, kbox squat max concentric & eccentric watts
improved. Standing long jump, triple hop, & RSI have all improved. GCT- ground
contact times are almost identical to what they are in track spikes.

GETTING STARTED

Most will need to spend a significant time walking minimal shoes before exercising!! Spending some time barefoot is powerful because when the foot is flat at 0mm, the tendons & muscles are elongated. Studies have shown that longer achilles tendon length may enhance the potential for SSCP (stretch-shortening cycle potentiation).

Enhanced SSCP leads to improving running economy physiological effort while
running. In fact the arch/ plantar fascia & achilles alone can return up to 51% of
elastic energy (ker.et.al 1987).

Most people have been in a shoe with 8mm or higher heel lifts most of their lives.

Changing the structure & length-tension relationship on tissues. How many athletes on day 1 can full squat without the heels raising?

In a sport where .01 or .005 per ground contact is the difference, everything
matters. One of the most advantageous traits we have can often go overlooked & undertrained. Incorporating barefoot strengthening exercises or minimal shoes into your toolbox can amplify improvements.

We have already started integrating these concepts with our youth scholastic
athletes. So stay tuned as we will take a deep dive into the foot & cover all things running!

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References:
Muscle fiber type, Achilles tendon length, potentiation, and running economy
Gary R Hunter et al. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 May Walking in Minimalist Shoes Is Effective for Strengthening Foot Muscles Sarah T Ridge et al. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019 Jan

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