Barefoot running, walking, etc. Position of Mechanical Advantage

I am not a fan of barefoot running. Actually I am not not a fan of barefoot running either. I am a fan of getting rid of the heel strike, in running, walking, and all activities. The heel strike as demonstrated in this video by Daniel Lieberman is as he describes an abrupt stop in the forward progress in running and from my perspective more importantly also in walking. Each and every step we slam our heel into the ground, halting our forward progress. When you start to think about it and feel it the compression can be felt all the way up to the top of the neck where the spine meets our head.

Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman the Barefoot Professor

It is a bit like we were using a pole to pole vault over our every step we take. It wastes energy. It is painful. It harms our body and drains energy. It has us tilting backward at our pelvis so that our feet can land out in front of us. We don’t do this when we walk up stairs. Going upstairs we lean slightly forward (a position of mechanical advantage), and we land on the front of our feet. Incidentally and in contrast, going down stairs we often revert to leaning backward (position of mechanical disadvantage), and probably may be why most people fall going down stairs and not going upstairs.

The video of barefoot running offers us many great images and ways of watching how all of this mechanical use of ourselves affects our bodies.

The natural stance of most people is tipping slightly backward at the pelvis, and we take that into walking, sadly to our detriment. Perhaps a better more effective way to walk would be tilted slightly forward at the pelvis (position of mechanical advantage) somewhat toward the way most athletes are encouraged to stand and move during sports.

By standing on two legs we as humans already live at the end our range of motion of our hips. The disadvantage of living at the end of any joint range is multifold and should be obvious. At the end of range of any of the three planes of joint movement we have less movement available at the joint in the other two planes, and there is a concomitant stress on the joint structures and ligaments in the joint area. In addition, end of range joint activity also means end of range of muscles, and muscles are at their strongest in the middle of their range not at the end.

Walking so that we land more on the front areas of our feet, and avoiding a heel strike, is likely to cause more effective a walk. Our feet then land underneath us not out in front of us. Every action propels us forward toward our goal. It has the advantage of not stopping the forward movement caused by the heel strike. It allows all the joints in the kinetic bone chain to work effectively more in mid range of all the joints causing less joint damage and pain. It has the muscles operating more in the middle of their range, thus putting us in the area of muscular strength not weakness at end of range, either long or short. In this way of walking, running, and most athletic endeavors we place our bodies in a position of mechanical advantage for all the joints; the foot, leg, thigh, hip, torso, neck, and all the way up to the head. The whole body undulates, is springy and alive and not rigid. We play to our strengths and power.

For business leaders and presenters standing in a position of mechanical advantage offers the position of most ease and incidentally we look the most relaxed, credible, and trustworthy.

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