KATY: Hey, guys! This is Katy, and I am hijacking my own show. Just kidding. Dani’s going to be here in a few minutes, but I thought that I would start this All About the Feet podcast with a 5 minute talk that Dani gave a couple years ago. It was in 2013 in her local ignite Talk series, which is kind of like a TED talk. And I was so impressed – this was even before I really knew Dani, when she was going through the certification process. And this talk – this talk was one of the reasons that I asked her to be the host of this show, because she is not only smart, she’s also funny. She’s an excellent writer and an excellent communicator, and if you don’t want to take off your shoes at the end of what she’s about to say, then you have strong will. So, let’s roll it.
DANI: Adaption: are we doing it wrong? We know more than ever about our health. You can’t look at your home page or turn on the TV without a health or fitness tidbit waving its hand frantically in front of your face like a 2nd grade know-it-all, hoping you’ll listen and give credence to what it has to say. But perhaps we’re overlooking something, because we seem to be in an awful lot of pain, and we are deteriorating a little too quickly. Over 1,000,000 Americans a year replace their hips and knee joints with artificial joints. Over 43 million have been told by a doctor that they have arthritis, and another 23 million have undiagnosed chronic joint symptoms. On back and neck pain alone, we spend $83 billion a year. $83 billion. We pop pills, wear back braces, and use medieval torture type instruments to relieve that pain. Some of us visit chiropractors more times in one month than we visit our moms in a year. It’s true: our backs hurt, our necks hurt, our hips hurt, our knees hurt, our shoulders hurt. Our wrists, elbows, and hands hurt. Our feet hurt. What the hell?
DANI: We’re in pain. Veganism pundits blame our high meat and dairy consumption. The dairy industry tells us we just need to drink more milk. Crossfit assures us that if we could just do more Burpees, we’d surely be better off. But some of us are drinking our milk, and some of us are vegan. Forks Over Knives is like Gideon’s Bible in a hotel nightstand. Everybody’s glanced at it at least once, and it can change some people’s lives. We cleanse. We are gluten-free. There are 330 Paleo cookbooks on Amazon.com. 330. And kombucha is the latest magical elixir sliding down our throats, replacing Acai berries, remember those? Goji berries and mangosteen: what happened to those? We’re working out. Since the ‘80s we’ve been obsessed with fitness, but now we crave fads that push our limits. P-90X and Crossfit. There are enough anecdotal reports to suggest that the high rate of joint injuries suffered by Crossfit followers is not due to the fact that they’ve slacked off on their calcium consumption. Even more reasonable endeavors such as yoga and Pilates can trouble our bodies: fists for wrists, anybody? Oh, I strained my hamstring! Bad downward dog! Bad dog!
DANI: So let’s ask ourselves: are our joints so defective that these machines that we’ve been given are bound to fail before our life force has left them? Well, perhaps we are the dysfunction and not our bodies. Perhaps it is faulty design – not faulty design but operator error. Perhaps we’ve strayed too far from natural, biological movement and this is the price. Our daily movements are damaging. We’re hunching over smartphones, computer use, texting. Sitting 8-16 hours a day, driving too much and not walking at all. I know it can overwhelm to think about changing those every day, all-day long habits that we have. Our adaptation to modern convenience can limit our biological function in the long term, but there’s one thing that would make a tremendous difference in your overall, immediate and long-term wellness and it rhymes with booze. Shoes! You could change your shoes. Whether men’s or women’s, high heels or running shoes, any shoe with a positive heel, even 1-2” causes your joint alignment to be displaced 20-40 degrees. That causes your body to pitch forward, and in order to remain upright with your eyes on the horizon; you have to deform the natural alignment of your ankles, knees, pelvic tilt, and spinal curvature. Now, what other machines that we expect long-term use from, could function at a 20 degree displacement off its normal axis? A car? Washing machine? How long would they last? It’s too much to expect from a machine, and that’s what your body is. It’s designed to be used, but not abused. Think about it: you misalign your joints and then you move that way, you run, you walk that way. It’s like driving a car on 2 flat tires. Things are going to wear down, and that’s not rocket science: it’s 10th grade geometry. From orthotics to fitness shoes, our solutions are getting sillier. Footwear was conceived pre-penicillin to save us from punctures and infection, but this Pandora’s box of our own creation is tearing us apart one joint at a time. If you make this change, please nurture your shortened and weakened muscles, and give them time to function properly. We are adapting toward our demise, but you can begin to reverse these troubles, and all you have to do is remove your soles. Thank you for your time and attention. (Applause.)
DANI: Why, thank you. That was nice! I kind of like when you take over the show.
KATY: Yeah, taking over seems to be a theme in my life. But I promise, I promise – the show is much better with you opening it and running it.
DANI: Well, gracias. You’re probably as excited as I am, because –
KATY: I am, but, but, hold on. Before we go into this, I just wanted to say that that talk was amazing.
DANI: Thank you. Thank you.
KATY: And my favorite part is that you used the word booze in it.
DANI: Because it rhymes with shoes!
KATY: Your use of booze was genius! It was so – it was like the perfect segue, so anyway. I just wanted to, before we go into Katy Says, I just wanted to do a little bow of honor to what Dani says, because it was amazing.
DANI: Well, that means quite a bit to me. Thank you much. All right, okay. When this episode comes out, we are right in the middle of Foot Health Awareness month.
KATY: I know! It’s crazy!
DANI: Crazy. But it is so exciting, because you have something going on every day this month. This is April when the show’s going to come out, so if you’re listening and we’re in April and we’re in the middle of Foot Health Awareness month, we’re going to actually be splitting into two, because there’s too much to talk about.
KATY: Yeah, and we’re going to be answering all of the questions that came up on the board after Whole Body Barefoot came out and so this is kind of like the episode for the people.
DANI: It is for the people, by the people, for the people. And it’s all about the base of your body.
KATY: The base. Mm-hmm.
DANI: The base. So feet are the foundation, and most folks that have found their way to your work found it looking for solutions to foot pain. And others who were looking for Restorative Exercise® to help with other health issues soon learned that they need to start with the feet, too.
DANI: It’s all about the base. So you have written two books on foot health, and your latest, which I just – it’s awesome! Whole Body Barefoot.
KATY: Thank you.
DANI: It’s out in stores, and online, and focuses on transitioning to minimal footwear and going barefoot.
DANI: And a lot more I mean, it’s just – it makes your feet feel better! So I’ve already gotten a response from the people that I lent my copy to, and it’s good. So this episode of the show we will be providing solutions and answers to barefoot and transitioning foot questions that, like you said, came up as soon as the presale copies were released.
DANI: And there were, like, 9 gajillion questions so we’ll have to make this long, like I said.
KATY: That’s a lot of questions.
DANI: It is a lot of questions! And it took me forever to count! It took me like 10 gajillion minutes to count it. So we’ll just have to make it one really long one and we’ll split it in half. Can you digit?
DANI: There’s so many! Aw, there’s so many!
KATY: There’s a lot of foot puns. There’s a lot of foot puns. All right.
DANI: There’s so many. And for all the – just to kind of pre-empt those of you that have – there’s a lot of questions about what footwear for what situation. I will tell you right now: Whole Body Barefoot the book has an extensive list – not exhaustive – but extensive list of minimal footwear recommendations for men, women, and children in all seasons. So if you find something after reading that list that is not there, let us know, and we’ll put it in the 2nd printing, right? Is that what your plan is?
KATY: That’s actually going to be a call on the Facebook and Twitter feeds for – you know, there is a list for people listening, if you’re like, I’m ready for minimal shoes, you can go to my blog, KatySays.com and just search “shoes the list” and there’s also “shoes the winter list” and that includes men, women, and children’s shoes. That list has been kind of updated and organized a little bit differently. It’s in the back of Whole Body Barefoot but we’re also going to be doing a call this month for – there’s so many new shoe companies coming out all of the time. And so we want to, in our next print, which is going to be soon, because we almost sold out of our first two prints –
KATY: of Whole Body Barefoot we’ll be adding even more updated, exhaustive list. Because I only – I don’t – let’s answer the questions, because I think that, you know, I don’t even have that many shoes left. But everyone is looking for this perfect-for-whatever-your-scenario-is and it’s out there. I think you can find the minimal shoe that you’re looking for, once you know how to sort through shoes for which characteristics you might need right now.
DANI: All right. So let’s shoe it out of the gate.
KATY: 9 Gajillion. Let’s go.
DANI: Okay. And firstly, just so we all start off on the same foot: please briefly define, if you wouldn’t mind, what we’re going to consider minimal footwear for reference for this talk.
KATY: Okay. So minimal footwear in the way that I use it, means footwear that disrupts your whole body movement as little as possible. That your gait as little as possible, so a big point that I went out of my way to make in Whole Body Barefoot is that flip-flops are often kind of deemed “minimal” shoes because there’s very little mass to the shoe, and because you’re exposed very much to the air. So that’s one way of defining a minimal shoe, you could say that it’s – you’re surrounded by material in a very little manner when you’re wearing a flip-flop. But the thing with the flip-flop is because it doesn’t attach fully to your foot, you end up having to alter different muscle use and joint actions to keep it on your foot. Because it’s not attached, you have to do work to keep it on, and that work is not limited to just the toes. It’s how you use the shin muscles, and how you hold the front of the foot very tense, and how tension that you have to do in your quadriceps and your hips. So it will – it changes the entire way that you walk, the rate that you walk, if you shuffle or not, etcetera. So it really is a whole body effect wearing something that you kind of have to grip your toes to keep on. So that would not be a minimal shoe. That’s just the one example. We can get into other characteristics, but that’s the easy – that’s the way that I am defining the term. So Vibram, on the other hand, fully covers your foot. So that’s what makes it different from being “barefoot,” so there is a disruption in loads to skin and nerves, however, you’re more biomechanical – your gross biomechanical variances and how you use your toes and your knees and your hips are not as disrupted, so that’s what I’m talking about today.
DANI: All right. So we’re all clear on that. Off on the same foot, let’s go.
KATY: Oh, my god. You can’t help yourself!
DANI: You know what? I’ve been just dying – dying! - for today because the puns with feet: huge. Like, one of the best body parts for puns.
KATY: I know. I know. I think that – I’m not going to be able to stop and give a nod of respect to every pun –
DANI: You don’t have to.
KATY: -- but maybe we should have a little audio ding every time there’s a pun. Just in case it slipped by.
DANI: Ding, ding! All right. A punster gets their wings every time it happens. First question: most of us live around concrete. What about walking on concrete with minimal footwear? Are some shoes better than others, or what should be taken into consideration?
KATY: Well, what should be taken into consideration is if you’re wearing – if you’re going to minimal shoes, to use your whole body in a more natural way. Terrain is just as important as the shoe. So the terrain is a cast of sorts, so if you’re always walking on hard, flat, and level, then shoes have been providing a particular surface. So you have to 1) either include more natural terrain in what you’re walking on, even if you’re living in Manhattan, if you can find some not overly dog-crap-filled small pockets of grass along the sidewalk. If you can walk on something a little softer, a little more textured, a little bit more body-geometry altering, if you will. If you can’t do that too much, then you might want to consider a shoe that gives you a little bit of padding, you know, if you will. Something to dampen that repetitive, high-level of force. So I’m always just talking about walking; I’m never talking about athletic pursuits. I’m just talking about walking around for this discussion as mentioned in the book as well. So you have to consider your terrain just as much as you have to consider what you put on your feet, what you put your feet on. You have to think about both sides of the discussion.
DANI: Excellent answer. Good job. This came up a lot for the second question: fat pads.
DANI: So –
KATY: What’d you call me?
DANI: Oh, come on, now. Don’t sound so arch. (ding!) So what, could you describe fat pads, and then – well, what are fat pads, first of all?
KATY: I mean – the quest – so I’ll sum up the question because I get the question a lot. So you have fat pads in your feet in different areas of your feet. You have lots of different padding mechanisms in your body. Things like bursae and fat pads are one of these tissues that you have that create a particular – they help create particular loads to different areas. You’re obviously, in nature you’d be on your feet quite a bit, and so you have a structure that helps you deal with that. Now what happens for a lot of people is when they go to walk barefoot as they’re older, keeping in mind that being older is also synonymous with, in this case, or could be said to be the same variable or as affected by the variable, spending many, many decades in shoes. So it’s hard to separate those two, meaning it doesn’t necessarily – we’re not necessarily talking about an age-related phenomenon as much as a movement history phenomenon, perhaps? And so you go to take off shoes and then you’re walking around your neighborhood on the cement, and then you’ll have metatarsal pain, or some sort of pain in your foot, and then you go to the doctor or you go to someone and they say, well, your fat pad is gone. And so you’ve broken it down, you’ve worn you and your shoes your whole entire life have worn through your fat pad. So there are fat pads – there’s not very much information out on fat pads as it relates to foot health. There’s very little information on foot health meaning in their natural – like, what is the natural state of the foot? There’s very little information about that. But the really only piece they have to talk about fat pads would be that the geometry of a fat pad, the size – like, the shape, the thickness and the location of the fat pad – is affected by things like neuropathy and hammer toes and clawed toes. So in exactly the same way like we talk about everything else: you are how you move, the state of your health now is also affecting the health of your fat pad. So you could have a fat pad missing in a particular area, but you also have muscle and bone and nerve health missing in those areas as well. And so in the larger message it doesn’t really change: we want you to change the shape and the location and the heath of your fat pad by doing all the same things that we’re doing for the health and the shape and the fitness for your other feet parts: your bones and your nerves. That being said, if you are missing a fat pad, if you’ve displaced it or smooshed it down or whatever through the way that you’ve moved, you would want to not be exposing your foot to high load, repetitious use, especially on something hard. You know, your fat pad – the forces created between your foot and the surface will be greater depending on the stiffness of the surface and also the geometry your foot assumes while you’re walking over it. So as you change your geometry and the strength of your foot, you will be changing where you press through your feet when you’re walking. Like, none of those things are actually fixed. If you don’t have a fat pad in the area where you need it right now for comfort, then the shoe is what you’re using it for. That’s why minimal shoes come in so many different categories, and maybe for you the variable that you would focus on is eliminating the heel, not necessarily eliminating the cushion. So you could go through – for something that has a bit of squish to it as you are doing all these other things to strengthen your feet. Because this is not a discussion about – this is not a discussion only about what shoes should I put on in the morning? It’s also about how well you tend to your feet. The shoe is a small part: your gait pattern and the strength and the function of your foot is a much larger piece. They’re certainly related, but rather than going, “Oh, Katy says wear minimal shoes,” and then just putting them on, I would rather you walk around in your old shoes while doing your foot exercises.
KATY: So – so that’s all I have to say about fat pads. Love ‘em! Fat pads, love ‘em!
DANI: It would be cool if there was more information and studies about feet in their natural habitat.
KATY: Yeah, but where are you supposed to go? Where do you go to find those?
DANI: I know. I don’t know. Hey, will you do me a favor before we move on to the next question?
DANI: I need you to.
KATY: Ok, yes.
DANI: Would you say, ‘fat pads’ one more time?
KATY: Fat pads.
DANI: Thank you.
KATY: (echo effect) Fat pads. Thank you to our new audio tech, Brock, for that echo. That was just amazing.
DANI: You goofball. Okay. Orthotics.
DANI: I have kind of a specific question, because that’s like a huge category. If –
DANI: Well, I’m just going to read this person’s question, is that all right? I won’t say their name.
KATY: Do it. Is it your husband?
KATY: Okay. Okay, good.
DANI: No. Ohh. This person: I have really stiff ankles and plantar fasciitis, bow legged and pronate a lot. So my chiro – that’s chiropractor – had me order orthotics to correct my pronation. The physical therapist, who I am now seeing, suggested I ditch the orthotics, because they treat the symptom and fail to correct the problem. That’s a pretty advanced PT. That’s cool. And he has me doing some exercises instead. I always wondered if orthotics were just a crutch that I would become dependent on, and I think my foot problems have only worsened since wearing them. Can you comment on the role of orthotics, please? That’s a real person’s question. I didn’t make it up. It’s real. It’s a good question, too, that’s why I put it in there.
KATY: It is.
DANI: Because a lot – that person is not alone in their situation. I wanted to read it.
KATY: Well, I mean – I think that – I think I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: orthotics, orthotics are a – they’re a solution to a very narrow portion of the problem. And there’s a section of orthotics, really in both books, in the old foot book I had, like, why does someone wear orthotics or need orthotics and the second book actually our favorite podiatrist commented – she’s like, here’s what I’m giving orthotics for. I’m giving orthotics to change the load to your ankles and your knees and your hips that without the orthotics will damage your ankles and your knees and your hips. It’s to make you more comfortable. However, the reason you need orthotics is because of weakness in your ankles and your knees and your hips, and so I can only do so much. I can give you the exercises, you need to do them. You need to think about all of these other things. So if you’re wearing orthotics, orthotics are supporting a portion of the problem. But they’re also supporting – as in promoting – a portion of the problem, which is the weakness. Like, they don’t make you stronger, they just kind of shove your bones into a particular place and so we know enough in physiology that passive positioning is not the same thing as active positioning. So if – like I always use the bicep. If you’re holding on to a weight and you do a bicep curl, if you move your arm from dropped down by your side and flex it and pull it up, you will see the muscle bulge, right? So your bicep is getting shorter, but it’s also because it’s generating force, getting thicker. It’s pushing out to the sides. So there’s this motion of the bicep due to its activity, its muscular force-generating activity. Now put that same arm down, and now lift the arm up with your opposite hand. The joint action is the same in both cases, but in one case you use muscle, and in the other case you didn’t use the muscle of that arm. Musculo-skeletal rearrangement can be active or passive. Passive musculo-skeletal rearrangement does not do a body good in the long term, in that it does not bring about strength or the situation in the tissues that is brought about by you using the muscles to do it. So that’s all we’re saying. You can slap on an orthotic and get a particular joint configuration, but that joint configuration is passive, and it’s still collapsing, although it’s collapsing in a new geometry. Or you can get the same effect as you can get with an orthotic from your own muscles, which is what you want. Because then you have the better loading of your ankles, knees, and hips and you are using your own muscle to do it, so it’s stable. It comes with all the things that come with more muscle use: better metabolism, better bone density, more stability. And so this is just not looking for a muscle or body enhancement pill, this is you just doing the work that is inevitable, because these things don’t tend to – like, things like orthotics and support, they don’t tend to do their job over a long period of time, or they’ll kind of push the problem outside of the local area to another area above or below. So that’s – that’s what I have to say about orthotics, but also: if you are wearing orthotics, you clearly need some structural support, which is why it’s so important to transition. Do you just take them off? Do you just take the orthotics off and start doing the exercises, or do you do the exercises over time until the orthotic becomes noticeable and slightly uncomfortable because now it’s interfering with your muscles doing the work? So it’s all about this gradual transition. So. Final answer.
DANI: Well, I hope that person’s listening. Great answer. Next question: good ol’ plantar fasciitis.
KATY: Good ol’ plantar fasciitis.
DANI: Good ol’ P.F. And that’s, by the way, how I first fell in love with your work, is I suffered from plantar fasciitis for two years. Two years! And after 3 weeks of starting a foot program with you, gone! So. A lot of people have it, and it’s kind of – a lot of people don’t talk about it, either. It’s just one of those weird things.
KATY: Really? Because I hear people talk about it all the time.
DANI: Yeah, but you wait – like, people come into my class for something else, and then they’ll tell me, oh, yeah, I get this real sharp pain in my heel when I get out of bed in the morning and it stays there for a few hours. It’s like, oh my gosh, you know? That’s not – that’s not something you want to live with! That’s, yeah. It’s not like a wrinkle. Okay. What differences are there when one is transitioning to minimal footwear if they have plantar fasciitis?
KATY: Well, I don’t know if I understand questions like that. The whole – like, everything –
DANI: Or, is there? I mean, if I have plantar fasciitis, and I get Whole Body Barefoot, I start doing the foot program and I’m thinking, okay, I’m ready. I mean, is there – I guess I’d like to know, is there anything – it wasn’t my question, actually – but is there anything that I would need to be more careful with if I had plantar fasciitis? Is that a better question?
KATY: No, it’s not, really. It’s the same question.
DANI: Just say fat pads again.
KATY: Fat pads. It’s – this is why I wrote that section in the beginning of Whole Body Barefoot about water. Do you remember that section about water?
KATY: Okay, so I’ll just explain it. So you guys don’t even have to buy the book, you can just listen to this podcast. I’m just going to read the book, how about I just – just do the book and we’ll call this podcasted audio version of Whole Body Barefoot? When the analogy that I’m using is writing a book on water. So I’m just writing this book on water, and I say that everyone needs, you know, 8 glasses of water a day. Or it would be better to say, we need this much water per this mass of your body, so that everyone can adjust the quantity just so to their particular body. Because if you don’t get your water, here’s a list of 87 ailments that are correlated to a lack of water. And then, so you read this whole book and you get this understanding, then you’re like, but I didn’t see my issue X or my issue Y or my issue Z. It’s like, well, the way that I’m writing, the argument that I’m presenting is: this is the, this is the requirement to figure out what you need exactly. Just subtract how much water you’re actually drinking from the baseline of water that a human needs. So you have to do a little bit of legwork (ding!) to figure out – thank you – you have to do a little bit of your own legwork to figure out what it is that you need specifically. How you need to modify – I mean, the exercises are all – the exercises are all there. These are all movements to restore the strength. If you have plantar fasciitis, what you have is a situation of inflammation due to using one structure too much in your body and not using other structures. So I assume that everyone who is starting to transition has a problem with their foot. I assume that, because why else would you? That’s most people’s motivation is discomfort somewhere.
KATY: I assume an injured population for what I’m writing, which is why I go through so many pains to explain the need to transition slowly. So if someone has plantar fasciitis and says, “I tried to wear Vibrams and it hurts,” or, “I have orthotics and I tried to wear, you know, a flat shoe but it hurts my Achilles tendon,” it’s like, yes, I know all of those things, which is why I do not recommend that you start your transition to minimal shoes by actually wearing them. That the transition to minimal shoes is changing your whole body alignment and the corrective exercises and how much you sit and whatnot because the shoes themselves – the ones that you are used to wearing right now – while they have created the issues or the ailments or the symptoms of wearing them, they also support that level of symptoms and ailments. So, like, that’s – you’ve adapted. Your ailment, your plantar fasciitis is the result of using your body in a particular way. But you have to, like, slowly retreat out of that way, rather than jump away from the way that you’ve used them. So I don’t think that having plantar fasciitis – what tends to happen is, like, people, they don’t understand step-wise very well. They’ll hear me say it and they’re like, yeah, I know, I took baby steps. But they didn’t really take baby steps. They put on a new shoe and then they went and hiked for 4 miles in that new shoe without – because they don’t think about loads all the time, it’s like, you – say if you do 5 miles a day in your old hiking boots. What would be an appropriate step to start transitioning to minimal footwear? Well, it would not be wearing minimal shoe for one mile of that 5 mile hike, or if you wanted to do it that way, after wearing minimal shoes for that 1 mile hike and experiencing the pain, that was a signal that that was too large of a loop, and maybe it would have been better to just start with some corrective exercises, and then go on to your old 5 mile hike in your old shoes. And then maybe it’s go on your 5 mile hike in your old shoes but then think about your alignment while you’re walking; are you always toes and knees and chest and body forward where the pressure on your forefoot, the front of your foot, is so high that you’ve walked 5 miles on the front of your foot? How about you practice just wearing your old shoes but walking 5 miles where you’re stacked more on the back of the foot and giving the tissues in the front of the foot a break? So I think that you have all of the information in the books to be able to break down your progression into small enough steps for you and whatever ailment you are experiencing right now. Does that make sense at all?
DANI: It does. It does. You’ve done a toe-riffic job (ding!) of explaining it.
KATY: Aw, toe-riffic.
DANI: Nailed it! (ding!) Um, that was good. In fact, we just – you just got rid of the follow up. You got rid of the follow up question. You answered it. You’re ahead of me! That was really good.
KATY: I just clipped it (ding!) I just clipped it – we just trimmed it off (ding!)