Warning About Transitioning Towards Minimalism By Jesse James Retherford














“The heel cushions and arch supports within modern shoes have made our feet weaker, the foot has so much support in these shoes that the muscles don’t need to work as much as they would otherwise and have grown weaker … If you transition to barefoot running slowly and run correctly, so you build up to it, you could decrease the risk of injury over the long term.” Science News


I want to return to the discussion of minimalist or barefoot walking and running to stress a point that I may not have made strongly enough about the transition to minimalist or barefoot shoes and the process of changing one’s walking and/or running form.

Please be aware that changing your walking/running mechanics will place new demands upon muscles, joints, and tendons that are weak and unstable due to under use. If you are a habitual barefoot runner or walker, then your body is more prepared to make this transition. For everyone else, plan for the transition away from shod running/walking into minimalist or barefoot running/walking to be very slow.

I definitely do not recommend that you throw your shoes away and go run the same way you have been up until now. Until you develop strength and stabilization in the foot and leg, even half a mile of barefoot running can cause a serious injury which can take months of recovery.

My suggestion is to plan to take between six months up to three years to fully transition into barefoot/minimalist running/walking safely. A very small few can make the transition quicker, but they are taking a very big risk. Far too many people who attempt a quick transition end up injured. Spend the extra time now; it will pay off the rest of your life.

Good indicators that you are doing too much too fast: extreme soreness in the calves, achilles tendon(s), and/or arches; pain on top or beneath the foot; and/or knee and hip pain after you run.

No Pain = Your Gain

My number one goal with my clients is pain-free movement. The feeling of pain is an indicator of a problem; it is the body’s way of communicating that something is wrong. It is important to listen to this 911 call. Stop what you are doing and utilize the appropriate treatment for the issue before returning to the activity in which you were participating.

By not doing this, you are placing yourself at an increased risk of significant pain and injury. I cannot stress this enough; I consistently see it each week with new clients. Ignoring pain leads to even greater pain.


Flexible Spending Accounts: A great way to finance massage By Greg Haggard, LCMT

View original post here.

Natick Massage | Wayland Massage | Turtle Dance Bodywork

In these difficult financial times, when stress levels are high and every dollar counts, massage is more necessary than ever. I am frequently asked if I can bill insurance for the services I provide. Many people don’t understand why it is not covered in most instances, considering other treatments like acupuncture and chiropractic often are. My best answer is to suggest they look into flexible spending accounts, or FSA’s, as a reasonable alternative.

FSA’s are available through many health plans, most large employers, and any company that offers benefits under a “cafeteria plan”. Once the account is set up, the employee determines a set amount to be set aside pre-tax from their regular paycheck. These accounts are typically used to cover qualified medical related costs not covered by insurance. The primary advantage of a FSA is that the money goes in before payroll taxes, which means roughly 30% more value on every dollar.

Because expenses covered have to be “qualified”, it means your doctor has to prescribe massage for a specific health issue. The commonly accepted definition of what is qualified is as follows:
Section 213(d) of the Federal tax code stipulates that a qualified expense must be “to alleviate or prevent a physical or mental defect or illness.”
Since therapeutic massage is frequently used for stress related issues, like high blood pressure and anxiety, as well as chronic pain and musculo-skeletal issues, a physician would most likely write a prescription for these types of conditions.

A recent study, published July 5, 2011 (article) has shown that massage is clearly effective in reducing low back pain. This is a huge step forward in establishing the therapeutic value of massage in a resistant medical culture. Citing studies of this nature can be helpful in persuading a doctor who might be hesitant to prescribe.

The two common methods of using the FSA account are with a debit card and with reimbursement. Many companies are using the debit card option, as it cuts down on processing and paperwork. Otherwise, the client pays for the session, gets a receipt from the therapist, and submits that receipt for reimbursement. Receipts need to include the medical reason for the visit in order for the FSA to process it. Not all therapists are able to accept debit cards, so the reimbursement method may be the only option.

One thing to be aware of with the Flexible Spending Account is that it is “use it or lose it”. These plans are annually renewed, typically at the beginning of the year, which means the full benefit is available January 1. However, anything left in the account after December 31 gets absorbed, leaving the employee with a loss.

Many therapists offer bulk purchase discounts, allowing additional savings. When purchasing these bulk plans early in the year, the employee can potentially get a discounted rate for the package prior to actually paying for it, on top of the 30% pre-tax savings! A little advance planning is a worthwhile thing.

While most people believe in the therapeutic benefit of massage, the financial concern is the most often sited reason for visiting less frequently. With the Flexible Spending Account, you can think of your massage visit as being automatically discounted 30%. A conversation with your HR person or health insurance provider is strongly recommended to find out the specifics about the plan you have access to.

I hope this information is helpful to those who are hesitant to visit their massage therapist because of the expense. I’d love to hear feedback from people who have used, or are currently using a FSA for massage. Have your experiences been positive, negative or neutral?


Ask the Experts: How Much “Time” Do I Need to Safely Transition to Minimalist Footwear? By Jay Dicharry

Q: In the transition to minimalist footwear, am I going to get hurt? And how long does this transition take?

Jay Dicharry responds:

There has been a lot of interest lately in the transition to minimal footwear. Am I going to get hurt? How long does this transition take? Is this really better for me? Will my old shoes take it personally? Last year at this time, there were 6 minimalists shoes on the market. This year there are 64. It’s a hot market, and folks are taking notice. While shoes are nice to talk about, let’s not forget that it’s the runner in the shoe that plays an active role in this equation. Shoes don’t run by themselves.

The recent article by Giuliani et. al. ( Giuliani J, Masini B, Alitz C, Owens BD. “Barefoot-simulating Footwear Associated With Metatarsal Stress Injury in 2 Runners,” Orthopedics. 2011 July) has raised some concerns.They highlight two cases of stress fractures in two different runners who transition to minimal footwear. The switch to minimal footwear can be dramatic. You get more “feel” since the squishy midsole is reduced or gone. You get a lower differential from your rear foot to your forefoot. These two factors change: a) the position of the foot (heel isn’t higher than the forefoot in full contact) and; b) the demand of the runner to stabilize the foot inside the shoe. In short, with less “stuff” in between you and the ground, you need your body to do a bit more, and will be forced to accommodate to a bit more as well.

Ever hear about the experiment with pre-school kids with the marshmallow? Researchers put a kid in a room with one marshmallow on the table and tell him/her that they can eat it and they’ll get another one.  But, if they don’t eat it, they’ll get two marshmallows later. The tester walks out of the room and the kids go into panic mode when sitting in front of this stellar, delicious marshmallow. Most eat the single marshmallow for instant gratification.  They fail to see the merits of waiting patiently for a better result.

What in the world do toddlers and marshmallows have to do with running shoes? A lot. The switch to minimal footwear can pay off in the long run, but you need ensure you’ve got what it takes for a successful transition. Obviously any time you make a change to your body, there is an adaptation period that needs to occur.  A lot of “experts” say that it will take six months to a year to fully transition to a minimal shoe. I’d like to think that this is overly cautious, and like to discuss why using the anatomy.  Here at our Lab, we’ve found great success using the following three criteria for runners looking to run with “less”.

1. Mobility: Traditional running shoes have about a 10-13mm drop from the heel to the forefoot. This creates a “rocker” effect in the shoe. Take a look at a shoe from the side and you’ll see that the curve from the ball of the foot to the tip of the toe rises up. Since your foot is flat, you need to ensure that you have enough mobility (called dorsiflexion) of the big toe to allow the foot to roll over. Additionally, since the heel is higher in a traditional running shoe (think a small high heel) the heel chords are used to operating in a shortened position. You need to ensure that you’ve got the mobility needed to allow the heel chords to operate form their slightly lengthened position. So what to you test?
◦    Ankle mobility (heel chords) – you need to be able to dorsiflex (cock the foot up towards the shin) about 25 degrees. Lack of mobility here means you’ll need to stretch the calf and Achilles.
◦    Plantar facsia mobility – with the ankle in about 5 degrees of dorsiflexion, you need to have 30 degrees of dorsiflexion at the big toe. If you don’t have this, you can’t roll over the toes, and will be forced to spin off of the forefoot.

2. Single-leg Standing Balance: normal balance has been identified as standing on single leg for 30 seconds with a still upper body and full foot contact. Since the midstance phase of running is essentially a single leg squat, it is essential that the runner is able to maintain the foot in contact. A triangle between the inside ball of the foot (1st MTP), end of the big toe (distal phalanx of the 1st ray), and outside ball of the foot (5th MTP) should be seen. When in single leg stance, the muscles in the foot need to be “pro-active” not “re-active”. If you are wobbling your foot back and forth when standing on one foot, you’ve got some room to improve your “proprioception” – or sense of where and what you’re your foot is doing during contact. The most successful way to improve single leg balance is to perform it frequently (15-20 times a day) for small doses (30 seconds each).

3. Ability to Isolate the Flexor Hallucis Brevis: a key factor that distinguishes humans from primates is our medial longitudinal arch. This arch is actively stabilized by the flexor hallicus brevius (FHB). While standing, try to drive the big toe (1st MTP) into the ground (plantar flexion) while slightly elevating (dorsiflexing) the lesser toes. Make sure not to roll the ankle in or out. This test enables screening of muscles inside the foot that stabilize the arch. The FHB can be easily distinguished from the longus (FHL), as the FHL crosses another joint in your big toe (1st IP joint), resulting in your big toe curling. Spend some time getting to know your foot. Aim to drive the big toe down while lifting the little toes (without curling the big toe!), and lift the big toe up while driving the little toes down. It’s the best way to work on coordination of muscles that actively stabilize the foot in stance. It’s your foot – control it! If you can do this, it’s a sign that you can keep the rear foot stable on the forefoot when the body sees the greatest amount of pronation (which is just slightly after midstance and AFTER the heel is off of the ground by the way.)1 Midstance is when forces are highest throughout the body- about 2.5 times your body weight. You need the internal strength to be able to respond to these forces to keep things in alignment.


When your foot “works” it can actively stabilize the transfer of forces through the foot. If you don’t pass these three tests, no worry  -simply get to work on improving your limitations. Pay a visit to your local PT if you need help with specific exercises and stretches to improve.

If you lack mobility, research shows it takes 10 to 12 weeks to gain significant improvements. So stretching for two weeks likely won’t be enough for most folks. Improving tissue length can take some time. If your limitations are in the balance aspect, you’ll be amazed how quickly this improves if you simply “practice practice practice. “Typically, about two weeks yields a significant improvement. Finally, strength gains take about 6-8 weeks to achieve. So if you really have trouble isolating your foot muscles, this could take a bit to get them stronger – but you can always improve the strength of your muscles!

Passing these three tests doesn’t mean that you should go run a marathon in your new minimal shoes on day one, but we’ve seen that folks who master these have little to no problem making the transition. I’ll note here that these tests are not new in my mind. I’d like all runners  – even those who run in traditional shoes – to pass these tests. Its that when the “stuff” under your foot is less, these traits are that much more important.

So invest some time to improve your foot. Because it’s always better to be able to eat two marshmallows instead of one!  Shoes make a difference, but it’s the runner in the shoe that you’ve got control over.

This essay originally appeared on Jay’s blog. Go here.


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Pain Is Not Just Physical BY ROBERT_VIGNOLI

The Emotional Effects Of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Can Be More Harmful!

Carpal Tunnel Syndrom

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition caused by compression of a key nerve in the wrist. It is an especially painful condition that affects approximately three percent of all adults in the United States.

People who work with their hands are the most at risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This includes artists, musicians, some construction workers, and those who use a computer for extended periods of time.

How does Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Affect Someone Emotionally?

Though not part of a normal description of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, this crippling disorder has many emotional effects as well. Because of this disorder, many strong emotions may come up that one is not prepared to deal with. It is important to familiarize yourself with the common emotional upheavals so you can be prepared to deal with them.

Emotions associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome may include:

  1. Feelings of uselessness. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can make it too painful to do anything, including cooking and normal household chores. This leads to feelings of uselessness, and the belief that one cannot make it on their own with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, especially if they live alone. To overcome this feeling, focus on the many things you still can do and learn to make adaptations to complete normal tasks that are painful.
  2. Anxiety and fear of the future. Similar to feelings of uselessness, anxiety stems from not being able to perform everyday tasks. People with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are worried about the future, and what is going to happen to them if they are unable to take care of themselves. To get over these fears, it is important to stay in the present moment. The anxiety will pass, but it will also never come up if you are not projecting.
  3. Loss of enjoyment in fun activities. When you have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, you may no longer enjoy activities that are fun to you because of your pain. Your future may seem bleak. It is important to concentrate on the fact that you can still have fun and look for activities that will not make your Carpal Tunnel Syndrome worse.
  4. Serious depression. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be so debilitating that one loses interest in life entirely. It is important to focus on the good things in life. If you are severely depressed, contact a psychiatrist for help.

What are the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome are varied. They can be felt not only when the hand is in use, but also when it is resting. The pain associated with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome increases gradually over time, and usually must occur for a minimum of 10 weeks. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain in the wrist and hand
  • Numbness in the fingers
  • Tingling of the fingers
  • A sense of weakness
  • The tendency to drop things
  • Loss of feeling coolness or heat in the hand or wrist
  • Feeling of swollen hands even though there is no visible swelling

So, as you can see, there are several emotional side effects to this disease. Don’t let it get you down. Get help, and don’t forget that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome doesn’t always last forever. Early recognition and proper treatment is important to treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella’s Reply to Jeff Galloway’s Views on Minimalist Running Shoes and Injuries: Thoughts From a Minimalist Shoe Store Owner

With all his books, coaching experience, training methods, racing achievements, and Ironman-like durability with just over a half-century of miles on his legs, Jeff Galloway is a respected fixture in the running community. And along with many other runners, I’m a subscriber to his email newsletter.

But his take on minimalist running shoes in his most recent newsletter is not one that I share. Here’s what he wrote:

“Many runners who own one of the minimal and exotic shoes that have popped up on today’s market will tell you that these shoes have solved their running problems. I hear the other side of this issue, about every day, from those who have been injured (often severely) by using these products or by running barefooted. Many have to stop running for 4 to 6 months. Thousands have reported significant problems.

I’ve seen this fad come and go 5 times during my 52 years of running. Something will come out in the media about minimal support/barefooted running, and thousands will try it. About a third of those who try it run for short distances and like the tingle of the feet so they run more. Without support, the distance or the surface of the run will often cause an injury–including a number of serious ones such as stress fractures. Each fad cycle ends when those injured tell other runners about their experience–so that very few want to put themselves at risk.

Minimal shoe/barefooted running has its place if the foot can handle it: Short runs when running on a safe surface can give the foot a bit more strength and develop a lighter touch. Unfortunately, there are lots of risks on most running surfaces: pieces of glass, medal or rock–hidden below even the most groomed grass surfaces. There are also lots of surface irregularities that can produce serious trauma injuries in one step.

Today’s shoes have decades of orthopedic research behind them and can protect the foot from most of the problems due to running surface. Go to a store with trained and experienced staff members, like my Phidippides stores in Atlanta, and get the best advice.”

Here’s my reply to Jeff:

I am curious about the runners who are showing up everyday claiming to have been injured as a result of minimalist shoes. Over a year ago in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, I opened the first footwear store in the nation purely devoted to minimalism and sold no shoes with traditional elevated heels. Two Rivers Treadswas only the first store of its kind. There are now six new stores in the country who have embraced minimalism – and all are partners with the Natural Running Center (http://naturalrunningcenter.com/), where I am also its executive director. All of these stores are completely aligned with the education message of teaching good form, prescribing more functional footwear, and the progressive adaptation to more natural running.

At Two Rivers Treads, we just don’t sell shoes; we have a discussion with each and every customer regarding their running, injuries, goals, and some simple and clear instruction on how to reduce impact loads on their joints. We have sold over 3,000 pairs of shoes in a year and only five customers at most have returned with an injury and blamed the shoe. This is far less than Galloway’s daily experience. Are the injured runners just going to the doctor instead of back to us? I doubt it as we would be the first place they would return to if they felt it were the shoes. Do I have scientific data for all this….no, we are a small business.

Maybe we are doing something different when we sell minimal shoes. So just what are we doing? The following educational information is included on our store walls and handouts.

Let’s first define how we interpret minimalisma minimalist shoe, the risks, and the gradual progress.

What is Minimalism?

— Free the foot to develop naturally

— Look for the least amount of shoe you can safely wear now

— Work toward reducing the amount of shoe necessary through strengthening the foot and improving your stride

— Running is a natural movement of the body, rather than an unnatural act that requires artificial support to perform safely

— Embraces the notion that the beefier the shoe, the more a runner’s natural stride is inhibited

What is a Minimalist Shoe?

— Complements natural foot function

— Heel to toe drop is very low

— Material under the foot is thin….allowing maximum ground feel

— Upper is Soft and Flexible

— Light Weight and Flexible

Effects of a Modern Running Shoe?

— Impairs your natural bounce

— Promotes heel striking

— Alters your natural lever (heel lift)

— Creates unstable base

— Causes loss of sensory input

— Causes skin atrophy

— Creates unhelpful movement memory

What are the Risks of Minimalism?

— Foot is NOT guided into running stride

— Feet need to do some of the work and need to get strong

— If form is incorrect and you are not strong in the right places you may develop soreness….so listen to your body and progress gradually

How to go Minimal?

— Take it slow at first

— Add distance gradually

— The more minimal the shoe the more adaptation it will take

— Progress through the stages of Shoes from Neutral/Transition to Minimalist to Barefoot Style

— Do some barefoot running and walking

For early adapters who are weak in their foot and hip stabilizers a minimal shoe may be what we call a “neutral –transition shoe”, such as a Newton Isaac or Altra Intuition.

Now how do we define shoes? This too is on our store walls, and the shoes are displayed this way in the Natural Running Center Shoe review sectionhttp://naturalrunningcenter.com/naturalrunningcenter-shoereviews/

Barefoot-Style Shoe

— Your feet “feel” the ground

— Thinnest layer of protection between foot and ground

— Heel and toes are level

— Land on the midfoot/forefoot

— Lightweight

Minimalist Running

— Some cushiony comfort

— Little to no heel-to-toe drop

— Enhanced ground feel

— Soft, flexible shoe moves with feet

— Ideal for all surfaces– road, trail, track


— Similar protection to most running shoes but without elevated heel

— Little to no heel-to-toe area drop

— Foot is in natural position

— Encourages midfoot/forefoot landing

— Ideal “starter” shoe for transitioning runners to minimalist/barefoot-style

The real folks making this happen in a small community such as Shepherdstown are my lead employees, aka the Shoe Guys, Tom Shantz and James Munnis. Tom and James lend some practical and philosophical advice on the topic.

Here’s Tom: “We give verbal warnings to all minimalist shoe buyers. I have been adapting for a little over a year now. It’s a slow process. What I have found that works best is to have two pair of shoes. One that is ‘flat’, zero drop, and one that has a drop of 5mm. One should transition into the 5mm shoe first. It should take approximately 2 weeks. The zero-drop shoe should take you approximately three months to transition into. Once you have transitioned into both shoes you should continue to slowly increase your distance in the zero-drop shoe. The 10% week rule is out the window. Try 1% increase in the zero-drop shoe. For a younger runner who has been in racing flats the transition is much shorter.”

Now here’s James: “It’s still funny to me how three million years of evolution is still considered a fad by some folks. Nobody who has ever followed our advice on gradual transition has ever been injured from the act of running completely barefoot, or in minimalist shoes. Many do have the usual fatigue and discomfort over a period of up to a year or so trying to undo the weakness and atrophy of the most excellent foot that has been caused by horrible traditional footwear for everyday wear and for running. Mother Nature has given us a foot that is very endurable and survivable, despite our very recent efforts to screw it up with the many ridiculous features of a traditional running shoe. Would anyone please tell me one single reason to elevate a human heel above the forefoot for anything, or to interfere with our natural suspension system with arch support, and especially for running?”

So there you have it: Two Rivers Treads’ Shoe Guys have spoken. And as their informal comments reflect, it is not about the shoe, but the education. An example of one of the fun educational sessions hosted by our store is the recentNatural Running Roundup with Chris McDougall on the home page of the Natural Running Center.

Here’s to healthier running,

Dr. Mark Cucuzzella


Plantar Fasciitis By Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

Barefoot running, plantar fasciitis, pain managementPlantar Fasciitis
By Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

Plantar Fasciitis is the common term for what should be more accurately termed Plantar Fasciosis. itits is an acute inflammation caused by a trauma or infection. osis is chronic degenerative condition.

No evidence exists for an ideal treatment of this condition without identifying and treating the causes, which can be many. Since we have no literature to guide us, this advice comes from seeing hundreds of runners and guiding them in self corrections.

Plantar Fascia

What is the Plantar Fascia?

The plantar fascia (PF) is a strong ligament that runs from the heel to the metatarsal heads in the front of your foot. This ligament helps absorb the shock that occurs when your foot contacts the ground. It has function in the windlass mechanism recreating the arch on takeoff.

What is the Cause of Plantar Fasciitis?

The PF is designed to manage a relatively small amount of stress. The intrinsic and extrinsic muscles of the foot are designed to receive signals from the fascia and in turn manage the majority of the load. When those muscles are dysfunctional the load gets transferred to the PF which is unable to handle it hence causing tears or plantar fasciitis. You can repair these tears by using palliative methods but as soon as you hit it again you will have to go through the same process. The only way that you can actually fix plantar fasciitis is to address the root cause… weak foot muscles. (Thank you Lance from Barefoot Science for the insight).

Several Structural Causes can Contribute to the Problem

  • Weak intrinsic muscles of the foot
  • A misaligned and weak first toe
  • Tight shortened calf muscles
  • Tight plantar fascia

Other Important Contributors

  • Increased mechanical stress from the amount of running or activity
  • Obesity
  • Adapting too fast from supportive footwear which inhibits intrinsic muscles to flat shoes or barefoot (i.e. summer if going quickly into flip flops or barefoot)
  • Poor walking and running mechanics
  • Overly supportive footwear leading to instability. This is a paradox as shoes that over support will weaken the foot which in turn leads to the foot’s instability.

What Can You Do to Correct Plantar Fasciitis?

There are a few basic principles but they will vary depending on the cause:

  • Any support from an orthotic, arch support, or taping should be a temporary modality while you strengthen and lengthen the tissues. Using one of these forever is akin to breaking your arm and leaving the cast on forever (in one week muscles begin to atrophy from disuse).
  • Doing eccentric drop down exercises from a stair can help. Place your foot on stair and drop your heels down. It is OK to have a little pain doing this as long as it is getting progressively better.
  • Dorsiflex the big toe to lengthen PF if it is tight
  • Get out of heels – gradually – in ALL activities
  • Work on foot intrinsics… pick things up with your foot. Walk barefoot.
  • Practice a technique of running encouraging more natural form, ligher ground contact and loading rates, and more proprioceptive cueing. For more info, check out Chi Running by Danny Dreyer, Natural Running by Danny Abshire, Evolution Running by Ken Mierke, and the excellent teaching of Lee Saxby of Terra Plana VIVOBAREFOOT (see video).
  • Strengthen your big toe by pushing it into the ground as often as you can whenever you are standing throughout the day. This will wake up the foot muscles and help recreate the arch.
  • If you first toe is bent in consider a product to straighten it like Correct toes from Dr. Ray McClanahan.
  • Use the principle of gradual progression and body sensing when making any changes
  • Avoid NSAIDS (Motrin, Ibuprofen, etc). These drugs interfere with natural healthy healing processes.
  • See a good health provider who understands natural running and walking

Photo: Markusram

What About Orthotics?

Read this excerpt from Barefoot Science Canada (I am completely aligned with their opinion):

Source: http://www.barefoot-science.ca/plantarfasciitis.html

Custom orthotics and similar products attempt to stabilize the subtalar joint by supporting the arch, claiming to correct the poor biomechanics of the foot. This claim of correction is quite misleading. Orthotics only mask the symptoms by artificially supporting a dysfunctional structure along with its inherent muscle imbalances, while introducing a new angle of ground interface to the foot.

The artificial support provided by orthotics has little or no effect on the alignment or structural integrity of the interlocking bones that are still loose and unstable. The foot remains functionally unstable and will become increasingly weaker and dependent on the support. These bracing and supporting characteristics can actually prevent proper alignment in the foot and ankle as they manage multi-directional activities, contributing to increased stresses at the ankle and knee. And the chance of injury increases when misalignment and increased stress combines with an unlocked structure.

From a biomechanical perspective, by introducing a new angle of ground interface, orthotics cause a shift in the dynamics of the repetitive movement. The symptoms resulting from the old dynamic disappear and the problem seems to be corrected. Unfortunately, over time or with increased activity levels at the new ground interface angle, the repetitive movement often results in new symptoms at different locations. This creates a recurring cycle where new orthotics are prescribed to compensate for the ever-migrating symptoms and pathologies. The current practice is to recommend new orthotics at least every couple of years.

Heel-that-pain has some great exercises and videos including a nice demo on taping. The heel seat can also be a useful non supportive tool to give some short term relief while you strengthen the foot.

And finally do not wear shoes that shorten your PF or place your foot in all-day-dysfunctionwear minimalist footwear!

About the Author

Mark Cucuzella is a Family Physician at Harpers Ferry Family Medicine and Associate Professor at West Virginia University School of Medicine. As a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserves, he is coach and captain of their marathon team and designing programs to reduce running injuries in military personnel. His passion for health extends beyond the walls of the clinic into the medical home’s “backyard”- the trails and open space that create the arena for optimum wellness.

You can read more about Mark on his website: http://www.trtreads.org


Plantar Fasciitis Treatment for Pain Relief

Image of plantar fasciitis pain on the bottom of the foot. Plantar fasciitis treatment

I originally wrote this article in 2011.

Since then, I have grown in knowledge and understanding of the human body, the underlying movement dysfunctions that cause plantar fasciitis, as well as therapeutic movement interventions that can help relieve and prevent plantar fasciitis.

What is Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a commonly  Living in Austin, with such an active outdoors culture, plantar fasciitis is one of the more common issues I treat. It is also one of the most common foot injuries in the United States.
As reported by Pubmed, two million Americans are seeking plantar fasciitis treatment each year and 10% of the population over a lifetime. Plantar fasciitis involves pain of the plantar fascia. The plantar fascia is a thick fibrous band of connective tissue located on the bottom of the foot. The plantar fascia attaches to the heel bone and extends along the sole of the foot towards the five toes. Its function is to help maintain the arch of the foot, and it acts as a powerful spring with a fundamental role in shock absorption and forward propulsion.
The three arches of the foot. Self treatment for plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms of Plantar Fasciitis?

Plantar fasciitis develops gradually and commonly starts as a dull, intermittent pain in the heel, mid-sole, or near the toes. The pain is worse early in the morning and tends to ease up once you move around a bit. When untreated plantar fasciitis can progress to a sharp or stabbing pain. It may hurt when climbing stairs or after standing for long periods of time.   It is common for someone with plantar fasciitis to also suffer from knee pain. Plantar fasciitis can become a chronic condition that plagues people for years, with millions of dollars spent on plantar fasciitis treatment. Plantar fasciitis is caused by stress to the soft tissue that supports the arch of the foot. It is possible to develop plantar fasciitis from an acute injury, although it is far more commonly a result of repetitive trauma to the foot from walking or running with poor gait mechanics.Austin Barefoot Running, Austin deep tissue massage therapy, Austin running barefoot, barefoot running austin, barefoot runner The arch of the foot acts like a shock-absorbing spring. With proper walking or running mechanics, the arch absorbs and releases the impact of each step, preventing damage to the knees and hips. The problem that most people have is that they heel strike, a dysfunctional gait pattern developed due to previous injury or poor shoe selection.  When you heel strike, you bypass the natural spring of the arch, and the impact of each step is driven through your heel. This causes an ongoing series of micro traumas directly to the heel — where the plantar fascia attaches — and through the soft tissue of the knee and hip. The repeated stress and strain from each step you take can cause tiny tears in the ligaments and tendons and build restriction in the calf muscles.

Overweight individuals are more at risk of developing plantar fasciitis due to the excess weight impacting on the foot.

Plantar Fasciitis Treatment

The Grid Foam Roller by Trigger Point Therapy

There is no one single plantar fasciitis treatment that works for everybody. I have had great success using a few different treatments together. I see the best results — by far — with the combination of a NeuroKinetic Therapy movement assessment and deep tissue massage therapy followed with a personalized exercise program. On average it takes three or four sessions for a client to be pain free.  When my clients do self massage using a foam roller, flexibility and corrective exercise, and buy different shoes, they generally are able to get back into the activities they love within a matter of weeks. If you do not have access to a skilled Movement Therapist or deep tissue massage therapist, you can utilize the following self help tools for plantar fasciitis treatment, although it may take a few weeks longer to get to 100%.

Following the directions in the pictures below, place your body weight on the foam roller or ball over taut bands of muscle tissue that need to be released. For the best results, begin near the center of the body and slowly work away from the center of the body.Relax your body, breathe, and slowly roll through the length of the muscle. Your muscles will naturally tense up, especially when you hit a trigger point.  Ease into it and allow yourself to relax.If you find a painful spot, stop and visualize the soft tissue as melting butter and the foam roller as a hot knife. Allow pressure into the tissue and within 30-60 seconds you will notice a significant reduction in pain. Once the pain reduces (20-30%), move on to the next painful spot and repeat.Spend between 3-5 minutes on each side. It is very important that you spend an equal amount of time on both sides and that you work through each of the areas listed to gain the most out of self-myofascial release.Arch

Use a small ball, such as a golf ball to massage the plantar fascia of the foot. For plantar fasciitis treatment.


Place foam roller beneath calves. Slowly roll from the ankles to the knees. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Turn your body to work the inside and outside of the calves. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Use a soft ball to perform self-trigger point therapy. For plantar fasciitis treatment.


Place foam roller lengthwise to your body. Bend your knee to 90 degrees with your inner thigh on the foam roller. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Place foam roller beneath the top of the hip bone. Lie with one hip on the roller. Opposite hip is off the foam roller. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Sit on the foam roller. Turn your body to one side. Massage through the entire gluteal area from the crack of your butt to the outside of your hip, top of the pelvis to the top of the thigh. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Stretch calves using a foam wedge

Using a foam wedge, press heel into the ground and actively straighten your knee. Stretch to slight discomfort, NOT pain. Hold for 1-3 minutes each stretch. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Using a foam wedge, press heel into the ground and bend knee down and forward. Stretch to slight discomfort, NOT pain. Hold for 1-3 minutes each stretch. For plantar fasciitis treatment.

Because the way you walk or run is a large contributing factor, changing your shoe selection and changing the way you walk and run are huge keys to fixing the problems that caused plantar fasciitis.Read What Happens to Our Foot When We Wear Traditional Running Shoes by Dr. Nicholas Campitelli to learn more about how shoes change your gait.

The Grid foam roller by Trigger Point Therapy. Self treatment for plantar fasciitis.

This is the foam roller I recommend: The Grid by Trigger Point Therapy. This is an affiliate link. If you click it and make a purchase, The Art of Fitness will receive a small commission. These commissions help support TAO-Fit to continue producing life-changing content. Thank you for your support.

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Jesse James

Is barefoot best for kids? By David Tensen

Me and my 6 year old and 3 year old kids. On a Barefoot Walkhttp://www.davidtensen.com/is-barefoot-best-for-kids/ Me and my 6 year old and 3 year old kids. On a Barefoot Walk

Is barefoot best for kids?  6 months ago I would have said No.  Now I encourage my family to go barefoot as much as possible.

5 months ago I happened across a series of books and studies on barefoot running and living. I made the switch,  ditched my arch supports and decided to go barefoot as much as possible. My feet and posture have never been better.  I’m running an average of 20km per week barefoot on pavement, road and a little grass.

“So what about kids? Why encourage your three kids to go barefoot as much as possible? ”

The clincher for me was reading of foot health studies done across children and teens in developing countries and those in developed countries.  Basically looking at the affect of shoes on kids.  No one could argue the results.  Kids in places like India,  Africa and Haiti who didn’t wear shoes showed nearly no signs of bad foot health like fallen arches, fungal infection, ingrown toenails etc.

Contrast that against children in countries where shoes are encouraged and often mandatory and you find cases like me. Before age 14 I had three ingrown toenails surgically operated on, several pairs of orthodics (custom arch supports) and the inability to run without pain in my legs or lower back as a result of fallen arches (due to weak feet.) In my adult years I’ve suffered with much back and leg pain not to mention all the fungal stuff that breeds in warm moist socks wrapped in shoes 12 hours per day.

Without going into to much detail, I had a innate feeling that I wanted to go running. I stumbled across a book called Born to Run and just read the glowing Amazon reviews. A few weeks and barefoot running books later and I was running (slowly) albeit 1km a few days per week. Slowly and surely I improved on this, working on my posture and spending as much time barefoot as possible. I can’t tell you how much enjoyment and physical good it’s brought me already.

Back to the kids.  Anyone I share my story with that’s over 30 or 40 and grew up outside the city say “Yeah, I remember spending years without shoes and loving it. I hated shoes!”  Yet, they insist on their kids wearing clunky rubber shoes that seriously affects their gait and ability to walk with good proprioception.

My advice? Do the study for yourself.  Keep in mind that kids footwear is a multi-billion-dollar per year industry so you’re not going to hear Nike or Adidas tell you otherwise but…

Save yourself HOURS of TIME.

Save yourself HUNDREDS of DOLLARS on shoes.

Save yourself HEADACHES and STRESS of choosing and remembering shoes and…


My kids go to the shops, church, park, everywhere  – barefoot. Yes, there are school uniform criteria and places like a job site or hot cement that require footware, but outside of this, allowing them to go barefoot has so many benefits and their feet will thank you for it.

Published with the kind permission of David Tensen.

Pain Changes The Way We Move BY ROBERT VIGNOLI

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Massage therapy can help with poor movement patterns and painPain is part of the evaluation process when you are presented with it in your daily life and activities. Your movements will be complicated, dysfunctional and any sustainable activity that requires strength, endurance or flexibility will not be possible. Pain changes motor control function, it does this by increasing or decreasing muscle activation.

Because of these changes in muscle activation, we alter movement patterns as a way to work around the muscle pain or injury. Even after the recovering from the initial injury and with no current pain present this altered movement pattern may be ingrained or learned in our CNS (central nervous system).

Our body has adopted a new (dysfunctional) movement pattern with no current pain present. This helps to explain why previous injuries are the most common reason for future injury. And this cannot be resolved without retraining proper movement patterns. I see this often in our massage practice when I am stretching hamstrings on clients who reported injuring their low back but with no current pain in that area; as I passively stretch their hamstrings their hips or upper body will jerk. These clients are doing so because their bodies have learned to avoid that movement even with no current pain reported.

“What is it about pain that changes the way people move? What is it about the way people move that causes pain?” Gray Cook

Pain in Society Today

Try massage not meds for muscle painHave you ever injured a body part? Do you remember how well or not-so-well you moved with that injury? Modern technology has so many different creams, pain-killers, prescription drugs, braces, wraps and athletic tape for you to cover up or mask the pain so that, you can go about your daily lives. In the short term these therapeutic aides may help you; many athletes use them so that they can continue to play their sport. But the problem that I see is that you routinely go to these methods without any thought or consideration to what is causing, your pain to begin with.

I find it very amusing that, you will react to a computer virus, bug or alert faster than, you will with your own alert system. Pain is a warning sign just like the one flashing on your computer. It is an indicator to a problem before it becomes a chronic issue. So if you are experiencing pain, be thankful that your nerves are still firing.

Fight pain with proper movement and functional exercises

Have you been to the gym lately?. These “so-called” fitness machines have us sit, lay or get buckled in without fully utilizing our musculature or even our core stabilizers muscles.

This is not healthy; it is not fitness and it is not functional. Imagine your mom trying to carry a bag of groceries up a flight of stairs. This is truly when she will need her legs, feet and low back muscles to judge load balance and stabilize. Or try to imagine yourself boarding a plane and putting your carry-on in the over-head compartment are you buckled in or sitting on a machine now? No! This is when you need your core, without it you will injure yourself.

Tell me if this makes sense, what good is it to have an aesthetically pleasing body when this person cannot touch their toes in forward flexon? Or to have someone who competes in triathlons and yet cannot do a full squat without their heels staying flat on the ground or watching their knees go into valgus collapse?

Massage Therapy and its role for me

I am 43 years young and recently someone asked me if, I was going through a mid-life crisis because I have shaved my head and have become a fanatic about running, going to yoga, working out and getting massages.

If I am going through a mid-life crisis, I am going to re-define what that means and what that should look and feel like. I have a beautiful 17 month young baby girl and a 2 month old baby boy. I have found myself with a new role; living for my kids. And I want to live well for them, be able to play outside with them as well as be a GREAT role model for them.

So the role that massage therapy plays for me is it takes my body out of the equation. And what this means to me is training without pain. Massage therapy or bodywork as I like to call it has effectively allowed me NOT to worry about my physical limitations due to pain and simply allow me to concentrate just on my mental game. And you cannot do that if you have pain present anywhere.

Your body will avoid a movement when there is something wrong. When your body is affected by limited range of motion and other dysfunctional patterns of movement, pain will develop every time.  As my business partner would say, “take the excuse out!” Let massage therapy and bodywork take the excuse out for you, so that you can train, move and live pain-free.

Reposted with permission of Robert Vignoli of Roman Paradigm Massage & Therapy

The Role of Fascia on Muscle Stiffness and Pain BY ROBERT VIGNOLI

Did you wake up this morning with a stiff back? If so, the “Fuzz” could be the reason why.

Fascia a.k.a. “The Fuzz” is  a tough connective tissue that spreads throughout the entire body in a three-dimensional web from head to foot without interruption. The fascia surrounds every muscle, bone, nerve, blood vessel and organ in the body, all the way down to the cellular level.

Therefore, malfunction of the fascial system due to trauma, poor posture, repetitive activities, sitting for prolonged periods of time or inflammation can create a “binding” of the fascia. This binding of the fascia makes movement difficult and painful.

What is the role of Fascia:

  • It covers everything from head to toe (bone, organs, veins and muscle tissue)
  • It is needed for muscle contraction and relaxation
  • It creates an attachment surface for tendons and ligaments
  • It holds the body’s organs in place
  • It is vital for movements and helps transmit tension from muscle to tendon to bone and from ligament to bone
  • It is conduit for nerves, blood and lymph vessels as they pass through and between muscle

This short speech given by Dr. Gil Hedley, Ph.D (and really animated guy), discusses the accumulation of fascial fibrosis, or ‘fuzz’, which accumulates both within, and between fascial planes as a result of injury, lack of movement or postural patterns.

Gil Hedley: Fascia and stretching: The Fuzz Speech

Reposted with permission of Robert Vignoli of Roman Paradigm Massage & Therapy

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