A vast array of after-market insoles has been merchandised through the years. Most of these consist of a bed of cushioning foam with only hints of accommodation for foot anatomy. Other than extremely expensive orthotic insoles, commercial varieties do little to solve the far-reaching problems of feet restricted in a quite unnatural device, the shoe.
A new ergonomically designed insole, based upon "foot-in-the-sand" technology©, has been developed. It is the result of several years of research in comparative anatomy, kinesiology (mechanics and anatomy of movement), ergonomics (human engineering for efficient and safe use) and testing in the most rigorous and demanding of sports and vocations.
A Personal Note
My interest in functional footwear was forced upon me by many years of training in competitive badminton (not the recreational type played in backyards), an exceptionally rigorous sport including much jumping and rapid lateral and back and forth movements resulting in tremendous concussive and shear forces on the feet. I did the majority of my training on cement and over the years I discovered I was not made of steel. The first thing to suffer was my feet. The pain after a workout was so bad I had to lie in bed at night with my legs elevated on pillows so my heels were suspended and did not touch anything. Not willing to give up the sport, I set about looking for shoes and orthotics that would help. That process was unfruitful and in most cases exacerbated the problem. For example, the common solution to heel pain is to provide cushioning under the heel. That was my first impulse as well, but cushions there simply guaranteed more heel contact, the very thing my feet were crying out to avoid.
Frustrated with commercial products, I and the research staff at Wysong set about developing something that would work not only for me, but for anyone in sports and anyone wanting relief from the incredible pounding the feet receive. This is the story of the results of over five years of research and development.
The Foot Is A Dynamic Structure
The foot is an exceedingly complex mechanical structure. It is comprised of 26 bones (25% of all the body's bones!) as well as muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, sesamoids, nerves, lubricating fluids, pads, nails, veins, arteries and lymphatics, all comprising hundreds of interconnecting intricate parts. Modern shoes entomb the foot into a virtually immobile state - as if it were comprised of one piece - denying its important underlying functional and dynamic design. The foot has no rectangular or perpendicular edges and was not meant to be strapped to a platform. Conventional shoes are created for adornment (pointed shoes even have a sexual history) with only token considerations made for the critical needs of a living foot crying out for freedom from bondage and solitary confinement. In fact, 80% of all foot problems occur in women because of the distorting shoes they wear. Overweight individuals are even more prone to foot problems due to the compounded gravitational forces funneled down to the foot.
Conventional shoes (better termed coffins) lead to a broad host of ailments. Similar to the binding used to create diminutive feet in Japanese women, modern shoes bind and misshape feet. The misshapen feet of modern adventurers who travel to primitive regions amaze barefooted natives who have naturally wide, toughened, prehensile, toe-spread feet.
The true potential of liberated toes becomes apparent in the disabled who have no hand function, yet learn to write and use eating utensils with their toes. In contrast, toes that have spent a lifetime in shoes can barely move. Feet are best thought of as analogues to the prehensile hands, not mere shock absorbing bumpers at the end of our legs.
The Foot's Relationship To Health
The average adult walks five miles in the course of daily activities, and our feet absorb about 1,000 tons of force a day - much of it on hard surfaces. Improper footwear sends "dis-ease" up through the legs and spine, all the way to the cranium. Feet forced out of balance and inhibited from proper movement can result in corns, calluses, ingrown toenails, heel spurs, fascitis, sesamoiditis, tarsal tunnel, calconeal apophysitis, shin splints, torn Achilles tendons, sprains, broken ankles, joint pain and arthritis. Pelvic and hip problems as well as lower back and cervical (neck) disc problems can also result. Improper foot mobility interferes with blood and lymphatic circulation leading to edema, varicose veins, phlebitis, and claudication. Resultant clots can migrate to critical blood vessels in the brain and other areas potentially causing stroke, heart attacks and degeneration of the kidneys and other organs with critical microcirculation. This is not to mention fatigue, headaches, and even depression that can have an ultimate cause linked to body imbalance and organic malfunction beginning in the feet. Foot pain can lead to decreased exercise and with that increased susceptibility to unhealthy weight gain and a host of other mental, physical and physiological weaknesses.
The feet are much too important to simply bind, adorn and hide. The foot is designed to be our connection to Earth. The sensations received by the foot on the ground create body awareness not unlike the input received by the senses.
For athletes, the demands on the feet are greatly amplified. Many have their careers cut short by foot injury and degenerative foot diseases. The causes are many, but not the least of which is improper shoe and insole design. All athletes sooner or later have foot problems. Given a natural surface to play a sport on (like sand, if that were possible), and using conditioned bare feet, these problems would rarely occur.
Health should be the primary consideration in footwear, not a little cushioning here and there and a lot of fashion and style. A product that needs to primarily address function should not become simply an opportunity for marketing.
How Feet Are Designed To Work
The proper position of the foot is up on the ball. Propulsion and landing should only incidentally (if at all) employ heel contact. The heel is to movement what the buttocks are to standing. You're on your heels while standing but not moving, and on your buttocks if you're sitting and not moving.
Unfortunately, the platformed box design of shoes encourages heel contact with motion, thus decreasing reaction time and speed and setting the stage for injury.
The natural movement of the foot is a complex, resilient, flexing and rolling motion - not the two dimensional heel-foot thumping forced upon it by modern footwear. The natural foot roll employs the same principle used by a parachutist when landing. By folding and rolling the chance of injury is dramatically decreased. So too should the foot roll at each landing. That is, in fact, what it is anatomically designed to do. The motion I speak of is the natural rolling from light heel contact or no heel contact, to the lateral (outer) arch, to the ball, then to the toes.
What are the toes supposed to do trapped in modern shoes? What can they do? They're forced into a crunched together pointed shape dictated by improper shoe design (whose foot is shaped like a shoe?) and rendered basically useless. Toes should have room to spread out and be free to dig in and grip to help drive the body forward at the end of the foot roll.
If one compares the feel and function of the bare foot in sand to that within a modern shoe, it becomes apparent why problems arise. The solution is to return the foot to the sand. The design we have created allows the foot to experience the support and movement possible in sand and thus restore the foot to its living functional role in movement and health. If you walk barefoot in sand and look behind at the impression left, that is the contour created by this new insole. The feel of the foot in sand and on the insole is also strikingly (and refreshingly) similar.
In the sand, the foot is primarily supported by the arch, not the heel. Most shoes and insoles only hint at arch support. A proper ergonomic design lifts the foot with comfortable support of both the transverse and longitudinal arches. This takes pressure off the heel by properly distributing the weight over the largest surface area of the foot, the arch and ball. In a run, a heel strike concentrates 5,120 foot pounds of force directly to a point on the calcaneus (heel bone). With a well-designed insole, this force is spread over approximately 15 square inches of resilient ligamentous tissue under-girded by the long metatarsal bones in the arch and ball area.
Tendon and Bone Reliefs
Carefully designed depressions in the insole Wysong developed accommodate major tendons (plantar aponeurosis) running from the great and 5th toes to the heel, as well as the metatarsal tuberosity on the lateral side of the foot. If one were to examine the impression of a foot in sand, the ergonomic design (ED) insole Wysong is patenting is an exact replica in all detail, accommodating the precise anatomy of the foot undersurface and encouraging proper foot dynamics.
Heel pain is perhaps the most common of all foot problems. It would seem at first glance that the way to relieve it would be to place soft shock absorbing materials under the heel. But when this is done, the foot is lifted off the arch and even more pressure is concentrated on the heel. What is needed is to get weight off the heel by transferring it to the arch and ball of the foot. The significant arch supports in the ED lift the foot off the heel, and the absence of underlying insole under the heel effectively relieves pressure and pain in the heel and permits healing. This is precisely how physicians provide relief for body pressure points, suspending them in air by creating cushioning foam "donuts" around such parts.
As the foot naturally rolls forward from the arch, the ball of the foot (metatarsal heads) then receives the majority of the weight. When running, this area receives it all if the "on-the-toes" stride is correct. The heel is not supposed to have significant impact but rather merely be a point of contact to create balance for the human upright position in the standing and slow walk modes. Virtually no other creature allows the heel to strike the ground in movement. Rather, they are lifted to the ball of the foot or even onto the ends of the toes as in horses.
The ED encourages the foot to roll onto the ball as it is designed. To help attenuate shock, a special absorbing visco-elastic material underlies this area.
The toe grips in the ED permit the toes to become active in movement thus increasing balance and athletic capability. As the foot lifts off in forward motion, or moves laterally, the toes can grip the ED as they would in sand to increase speed, power and agility. The sensation is one of digging in with the toes and new-found power and control over movement results. The feet feel like they come alive and a sense of strength and spring return to movement. The sensation is quite remarkably like "ready to go!" (No liability assumed for breaking speed limits.)
Materials And Fit
Only the highest quality medical-grade foams and shock-attenuating materials are used in the ED. Unlike shoe insoles or aftermarket products, EDs are substantial and create an almost miraculous feel of the bare foot in sand. ED microporous materials breathe to permit the escape of moisture and to decrease bacterial growth. Air channels are designed to pump air to the feet with each stride. EDs also retain their memory rather than set to a non-elastic and ineffective board-like state.
EDs may be placed on top of existing insoles (if there is room without constricting the feet), or the shoe insoles may be removed. Using wide width shoes or open-toed sandals is another option to properly accommodate EDs. If the shoe does not accommodate all aspects of the insole, they may be trimmed with scissors as necessary. Once properly placed, the feel of the insole seems to disappear and the foot feels immediate relief. Once used for a time, it is almost impossible to tolerate shoes without them.
One user wrote, "I wish I had known of your insoles before I spent $500 on orthotics. Yours are the first solution I have found and my orthotics are now in the closet unused."
Not the Ordinary
The new ergonomic insoles are not the usual fare by any means. They look unusual and are unusual. No insole under the toes? No insole under the heel? It would seem that a mistake has been made. But sometimes the mold has to be broken in order for advance to occur. The modern foot has been forced into an immobile, injury prone position for too long.
The wisdom of nature is the answer to most of modern man's health problems. By using nature as the principle in its design - returning the foot to the sand - the ED brings a new era of foot comfort, and with that a new opportunity for better overall health as well.
Dr. Wysong is a former veterinary clinician and surgeon, college instructor in human anatomy, physiology and the origin of life, inventor of numerous medical, surgical, nutritional, athletic and fitness products and devices, research director for the present company by his name and founder of the philanthropic Wysong Institute.