Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Eric Tuttle's Dojo Shoes

Too bad the current financial crisis cannot be fixed as easily as my left ankle.
Not that the foot is totally all right again, but, as alluded to in Post 41, I went from 0 to 60 about as quickly as it can be done, and carried on for two more days of ten miles each. That should take care of a pound of tummy lard, although the results won't really show until the cell exchanges are complete and my body stops retaining water. I've found it quite amazing, how much fluid the system holds for repair work. Just in an ordinary day, or even a day without much physical activity, the average difference between the scale before bed and the scale before breakfast - actually before juice and coffee, as I'm at that much too early for Cook to expected to wrassle the bacon and tomatoes - is two whole pounds. These statistics were learned over and over again in the jogging summer of 2006. And given certain conditions like a very heavy workout, or successive days of heavy workout, especially if one has laid in a lot of animal protein, the difference can be much greater. Just recently I registered an evening-morning difference of six pounds. That's one of a kind, but four pounds or so is not that difficult to come by.
So what brought on the sore foot?
High heels.
You thought this was just a female problem? Or, if male, happened only to cowboys who got separated from their horses a long way from the ranch?
Uh uh. It happened to your friendly neighbourhood common walker. Not spikes, of course, nor those cuban things my mother-in-law looked so good in, but good old-fashioned rear ends of a very nice pair of walking shoes. I had just been thinking how much I appreciated my Dunhams on the return of wet weather and the putting away of my sports sandals. My Dunhams are full of support, a kind of little truck disguised as a Toyota Camri, just the thing for ambling along at a moderate speed.
But legging it out for the best part of 20 miles at four knots? Maybe not, unless, as I learned yesterday morning while taking on the 5.5 mile lake shore route, you redesign your running style.
The thing is, we were not born with shoes on. And there's a very good chance that Adam would never have worn the things. Moreover, after the Garden of Eden, mankind went barefoot. I've just read that blacks have a higher incidence of high blood pressure. Does their recent introduction to footwear have something to do with this? They haven't had the millenniums of genetic adaptation? This is only speculation, of course, but no one can deny that nothing drops a sense of stress at the end of the day like taking off a pair of shoes.
And shoes have heels. Especially modern jogging shoes, built for the miles of pavement that most joggers pound in their workouts. Of course if you just jog on those springy heels, and don't walk as I do in order to stick to my nasal breathing regime, you don't put the foot through all those complicated moves it takes to walk. Any dumb foot can run, because it's a kind of just putting one slab in front of another. That's an oversimplification, of course, but it makes the point that if you really want to make your feet think, take them for a walk, especially a long one, in a pair of shoes that are actually built the same way your foot is, with a heels of the shoe not only the same thickness as the soles, but rounded at the back like the natural heel of the foot.
Ah, you say, but that's basically the old fashioned running shoe, those things we all had to wear before they copied basketball shoes and gave everybody arch supports and a fair amount of cushioning. Nobody even makes those any more, do they?
Yes, they do. In China, for the Tai Chi people, who, you are no doubt aware, can be very extraordinary athletes, and much too clever to chose the wrong kind of foot wear.
I first met these humble little shoes in 2002, when MT and I joined Eric Tuttle's seven a.m. chi gong and tai chi sessions. Chen style. Demanding stuff, and away out of any practical hopes of my attainment, but I was fascinated by Eric's stillness doing Wu Chi in the Summit Gym, actually disturbed by not knowing what he meant when he talked about paying attention to the deeper muscles, and further impressed by the commitment of the Traditional Chinese Medicine students turning up five mornings a week for an extra hour of class. I began the class in jogging shoes. Pretty funny, when you look back, but the best I had at the moment. Eric quite quickly took pity on me and offered to sell me his spare set. And it was a bargain price. You could buy four pairs of Feiwues for the price of my road shoes.
I had to put my Birkenstock arch insets in the Feiwues, of course. The narrow heel took a little time to get used to, but the body can learn to re-balance and I started using the dojo shoes in the gym as well, both for tossing weights and running on the treadmill. Anyone who really understands the musculo-skeletal system will realize that I made a brilliant choice.
Unfortunately, as I see it now, I did not make the same brilliant choice when I returned to the "track", as it were, in 2006. Now, I'm not suggesting that everyone go to dojo shoes exclusively and throw away their high-tech joggers. As Ecclesiastes says, there is a time and place for everything. But walking and jogging in old-fashioned running shoes is an education in how our feet, designed by God Himself, actually were meant to work.
This is how it was.
On the Sunday evening, with 20 miles behind me, and my Personal Trainer obviously cranking me into orbit, with an early supper and the dishes therefore early done behind me, I decided to hit the road once again, to pile on some extra mileage. I had an hour before the weather report - to be followed by Chief Inspector Morse - and that should be good for another four miles. So I zipped out to the porch and climbed into my Dunhams. Hah. As soon as my foot hit the floor, my ankle screamed in agony. I recalled the times I had sprained it, it was that bad.
You could say I'd had my warning. Recall that I said I squatted down to study Coyote. He was indeed a message from First Nations wisdom. They wore moccasins, remember? Low Heels.
As Coyote moved on and I started straightening up, my ankle hurt like hell. But I was able to sort it out by walking on the side of my foot and extensive use of the Chicken Walk that Eric Tuttle demonstrated for MT and me one afternoon in the gym.
The Chicken Walk is a Shing Ye thing, where you stroll across the room with your butt as close to the ground as you can set it, and still actually walk. (Keep your spine straight and as vertical as possible.) It was not part of any course we were doing with Eric, but I think he was hit with a bolt of at least Buddhist lightning and inspired to put on an impromptu demonstration for our unique benefit. Eric did not stroll, actually. He shot across the room like a rooster putting the run on Brer Fox. Man, just think of his quads. Also, think of how it eased my pain by stretching my Achilles and the calf muscles.
Now, about a week or ten days before the dilemma of the painful ankle, the Lord had done two things. For about half-an-hour, he took away any and all mystical burdens, leaving his merely human servant with so much natural energy that the servant thought he must go mad if he could not find some way to spend it. And within 48 hours He also provoked a memory of the dojo shoes, which had been used a couple of months earlier to ease lower back pain brought on by, believe it or not, the not especially high heels of the sports sandals. Still, they were high enough, after my sledge hammer assault on the stump, to give me an awful cramp in the glutes, which also went into the good old always vulnerable sacrum, but which also could be nicely dealt with by going about in bare feet. I did this around the house, back in the summer, and out on the street wore the Feiwues. Everything settled down very nicely, and with my growing knowledge of physiology I began to realize that man-made heels, for all their good intentions, interfered with the normal stretching design of the muscles in the back of the leg, from the Achilles tendon to the gluteus maximus, and now that I come to think of it, probably with the plantar tendons and muscles as well.
What a difference an inch makes, but I actually forgot this rule of thumb, or, more precisely, the heel as its Original Designer intended it to function, and had to once again learn the hard way. I really do hope this is the final lesson of this problem.


Aradia said...

Hi Ken-Great Blog!
I remember those shoes!I also remember your diligence and how hard you worked to get it righ- an inspiration. Hope to see you when I return in April-Aradia

the kootenay ranger said...

Nice to hear from you. That particular post, because of Eric's name and the dojo shoe mention, gets more hits than any other, by my calculation.

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