Does anyone out there know someone, perhaps even a husband, child, or co-worker, that you would consider to be a “loud walker” or a “stomper”? Everyone has been there before, whether it was on your hardwood floors at home, doing a box jump at the gym, or going for a run on the Monon Trail, some people are louder than others. I’ll work with a 140-pound high school soccer player who makes more noise walking than a 200-pound football player does when he lands after a max effort vertical jump test. How the hell can this be? It defies all logic, but sometimes physics can be that way. Think of someone standing tall with their feet together on thin ice, what should be the person’s first move? I would recommend he or she gently lie flat on the ice, spreading his or her weight over as big a surface area as possible. Herein lies the essence of the “loud walker”, a majority of the force is exerted through one spot on the human body, the heel, sending the above structure “crashing through the ice”. Please, for the love of the floor boards, tell them it doesn’t have to be that way. Explore with me the reasons and remedies behind why the fancy term “kinesthetic awareness” is so darn important, and how training on the right surfaces can help you “turn your volume down”.
It Starts With the Feet
When you think about relative importance to overall movement quality, and quantity for that matter, nothing goes more unnoticed than the feet. It kind of makes sense given that from when you hop out of bed in the morning to when you hit the sack late at night, your feet are covered up from view. Seeing someone barefoot in a gym is a lot like seeing someone naked out in public. Okay, maybe not quite so extreme, but you get the point. Not taking care of your feet as part of your workout regimen is a lot like letting the treads on those radials run bald while you pour more money into the stereo and appearance of your Mercedes. Note I didn’t compare it to the cigarette lighter in that car (those still exist?), because a nice stereo and appearance is still something that matters to most of us, just like having a lean mid-section or toned arms. I’m not proclaiming that everyone should ditch their shoes (please no flip-flops), but spending a little more time on foot health could go a long way towards preventing several debilitating conditions; plantar fasciitis, bunion formation, and Achilles tendonitis to name a few.
Like a Ninja
A phrase I’ll use with my clients when jumping (landing, more importantly) is “land softly, like a ninja”. The comparison may be a little abstract, but the point resonates. If someone is loud when they strike the ground, whether it be walking, landing from a jump, or running, they are loud because of vibrations. Not to get too much into the physics behind why vibrations make noise, but it is important to note that the surface you’re landing on also makes a huge difference. If someone is loud on a treadmill, chances are nothing will change when the same person hits the pavement, except the noise that is produced. The same ground reaction forces are entering the body through that lone spot on the foot but the runner isn’t as cognizant because of the lack of noise. This is a great spot to add that no matter how much cushioning you put in a shoe, the same impact forces are entering your body, you just lose context as to how much. It’s Not a “Shoe” Problem, It’s a “You” Problem contains plenty more on that matter.
All that force entering your body through the foot can be felt in a different way given you have the body awareness and strength in your lower extremities to do so. By landing with your foot in a proper “unloaded” position and gently lowering the rest of your foot to the ground (this happens very quickly), the same force is disseminated throughout the entire surface area of the foot. This leads to a lower “peak” of ground reaction forces, which is much better for the bones and cartilaginous structures in your body.
Training Surface Matters, Big Time
The best starting point to increase your own awareness of proper landing techniques is through the feet. One of my biggest mentors on the matter is Dr. Emily Splichal, a world renowned Podiatrist in New York City. She has taught me, through extensive research, about the positive effects that small-nerve stimulation have on the body’s movement quality and relative position in space. One comparatively simple technique that I have adopted from Dr. Splichal is rolling the feet on a lacrosse ball. Most of my clients do this on a regular basis. Not only does it alleviate pain from several disorders in the feet, but it dramatically increases single-leg balance and creates a sense of hyper-connectivity with the rest of the muscles in legs and hips.
Fast Car, With Good Brakes
To create a kind of one-two punch for small-nerve stimulation, Dr. Splichal also created a highly researched and one-of-a-kind surface to actually train on, barefoot. As a huge proponent of barefoot training, this was a huge development for the progress of not only my own movement quality, but for my clients. Given the right surface and exercises on that surface, one could expect better landing techniques because of the enhanced feeling up the lower extremities.
If you’re interested in learning more about this revolutionary training surface, in the form of a yoga mat, check out the following link-
Until you get the experience of training on a specific nerve-stimulating surface, continue to roll your feet before exercise. Another great use for the lacrosse ball on the bottom of the feet is before you get up from bed in the morning and before you lie down again at night. Being proactive with the conditioning of your feet can go a long way towards preventing the sometimes debilitating pains associated with plantar fasciitis. Walk, run, and land like a ninja, and prolong the longevity of your home flooring, and your bones.
Yours in Wellness,
Prevention over Treatment