Dr Stoxen, How Did You Discover the Human Spring Model and Why Do You Run Barefoot?
When I first opened my practice, I wanted to be able to heal people and, at the same time, train sports champions.
I went on a personal and professional mission not to only build a complete knowledge of the human body – the way we move and why – but to uncover the secrets of elite performance.
My first decade in practice, I volunteered to treat athletes at every possible sports event, including 50 national and international championships. I traveled to the former Soviet Union to study plyometrics and plyometric training (high impact training drills that enhance the effects of traditional resistance exercises). I also observed elite track and road training as well as competitions around the world. The athletes benefited from the on – site treatments and at the same time I was learning the secrets of how to achieve elite level performance from the best doctors, coaches and athletes in the world.
There is a large gap between what coaches require for athletes to perform at the elite level and what most doctors are recommending.
Many doctors tell us that high impacts are bad for us
When you ask a top coach what to do to achieve in sports they recommend plyometrics.
Plyometrics involves high impact drills.
Who is Correct?
This misunderstanding is easily cleared up with this statement.
If your body can resist the impacts then impacts are good for the body. The whole complex design of the human body that allows you to absorb impacts is somewhat complex so I just call this an intact impact resistance or “spring mechanism”
When we discuss this impact resistance or “spring mechanism” (or Human Spring model) Looking at the body as a spring rather than the lever it makes it easy to understand better why in some cases impacts are bad and in other cases why impacts improve health and human performance.
Here are the important questions that needed answers:
- If high impact training like running, plyometrics or spring training develops a stronger spring, giving athletes more speed, quickness, balance, coordination, agility and efficiency then – are reduced performance levels, loss of balance, poor coordination, less agility and an overall weakened performance the result of weakened human spring strength?
- If the spring mechanism serves as a buffer between joints, protecting the body from injuries and allowing for stress – and strain – free motion, then could it be that the reason some patients have injuries that won’t heal is because they have a locked spring mechanism?
- If spring strength is the secret to optimum performance then is the loss of human spring the secret to the decline of health?
- If spring defines our youth then does a loss of spring in the step define aging?
The impact resistance or “spring mechanism” (or Human Spring model) can perhaps help to better understand or explain many mysteries about human suffering for us.
If we look at the body is like a giant spring composed of millions of springs which are muscles, ligaments, tendons and even spring mechanisms (the feet) that absorb shock and recycle energy through the elastic recoil mechanism. This elastic recoil spring mechanism allows sports to be more efficient in movement. If we think of walking or running as a spring off the ground rather than banging into the ground then we can see how come plyometrics work for some and others it causes injuries. For that matter we can see how even simple walking can cause joint pain as well. The mechanism can’t even handle these light impacts.
These studies, my observations and my hands-on work have led me to develop a new way of looking at the human body that I feel could help us understand why it breaks down, doesn’t heal and degenerates.
Simply put, every movement we make has assisted by elastic recoil mechanisms. If two objects collide millions of times like the human body and the earth they should damage each other. The ground is damaged. We call that a path. The body should be damaged but it somehow stays in tact even after 100 million impacts. This is common to have this many impacts by your 30th birthday.
(The American Podiatry Association says the average person takes 5000 – 15000 steps a day x 365 days a year x 30 years is 54M – 150M impacts in 30 years)
How does it do that? The footwear industry says we need a cushion or a shock absorber between us and the ground to absorb the impacts however there are people in third world countries that live their entire life barefoot or with no shock absorption. So how do we absorb so many millions of impacts safely?
I theorized that one of the most logical explanations is that the entire body is engineered as a giant spring mechanism. A human spring mechanism that runs from toe (the master spring is in the arch of the foot) to head.
How do you explain why we cannot run barefoot as easy as an adult as we can as a child. When the supportive mechanism weakens it stiffens. The stiffened spring mechanism is not so springy. We need it to be springy so it can flex with forces of the landings. If it cannot flex with the landings it makes sense that stress and strain free running is impossible. Also a stiff abrupt landing causes a shock to the skeleton and stress and strain can interfere with the healing process.
By releasing this stiffness, and by strengthening and plyometrically training the impact resistance (spring) mechanism of the body, we may be able to restore the ability to take impacts better.
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What do I feel makes our body weak at resisting impacts. I feel that there are many causes but I feel the main culprit is unnatural movement while we are walking and running. What causes unnatural movement? One cause could be ill fitting footwear which act as binding or restrictive devices on the body.
If you understand that the body is a giant spring like I suggest you do, you will now see the cause of some very common unexplained conditions and afflictions in a different light
- When we look at the body as a impact resistant (spring) mechanism rather than a (push) lever mechanism it allows us to understand why I recommend barefoot running vs shod or restricted spring running (shod running).
- What is even more exciting is it allows us to have a rationale explanation for why many have unexplained chronic pain as it relates to a break down of the spring protective mechanism that protects us from the landings not allowing our bodies to heal. The abnormal foot landing with the different arrays of footwear styles start to take their toll on the muscles and joints leading to stress and strain, wear and tear, the release of inflammation and pain. Lets face it, we seldom select shoes based on their ability to provide us with a precise foot plant to maintain stress free walking. In my opinion so many people have misdiagnosed fibromyalgia because the doctors don’t do gait studies on you while you barefoot walk. I recommend you get a second opinion on conditions that do not heal after 2-3 weeks of progressive therapy and especially on a quick diagnosis of fibromyalgia.
- The human spring model could provide a rational for why so many have chronic fatigue. If it is true that we are a giant spring then we know springs recycle energy when the impact force is loaded. The spring deforms its shape, stores energy then reforms back to its exact original shape releasing the energy. That storing and releasing recycling of energy with every step happens with some allowing them to have energy and with those who have a stiff, weak or locked spring they don’t recycle energy.
If your blood work and all other tests are normal and the doctor cannot find a reason for your chronic pain go to an expert on gait and have them do a gait study on you. Your doctors have to watch you walk to see if you bounce off the ground or bang into the ground. This is an oversimplified explanation. This is called a gait analysis. Not all doctors have expertise in this area so maybe it is best to seek out a specialist for this study.
The elite level sports training world changed their protocols back in the 70′s with the advent of plyometric training. This involves training with high impacts to bolster the ability to spring off the ground better.
Plyometrics, in my opinion, is training the human body as a spring mechanism. This method of training invented by famed Russian sports scientist, Yuri Verkhoshansky involves high impacts into the human spring to bolster human performance by creating a positive adaptation of the spring mechanisms in the joints, ligaments and tendons. I met and studied his ideology directly with him during with several trips to Moscow back in 1987-89. This human spring training is currently the most widely accepted approach to high level training in the world.
The founder of this approach to training Verkhoshansky talk about Hookes Law of physics when referencing the training approach. This is a law of physics related to the function of a spring.
In 1988 I was invited to work at the fifth All African Track and Field Championships in Annaba, Algeria. The most extreme difference between the African athletes and my patients back home, I found was the spring in their feet and legs.
Their tibialis posterior, tibialis anterior and peroneal muscles (I call the landing or spring suspension system muscles) I noticed were highly developed. What I discovered was that some of these athletes trained at high speeds in shoes that were more like slippers with no cushion and many trained barefoot.
That fueled my desire to change my approach to care for patients suffering from a wide variety of ailments. I believe the reason for why my patients were not performing at optimum potential and why their bodies were not injury resistant was attributable to a weakness in these musles. Lets face it, how many training programs involve specific training of the tibialis posterior, tibialis anterior and peroneal muscles without shoes on? You cannot even go to a fitness center and take off your shoes without getting kicked out.
After reading every piece of relevant scientific literature I could find and years of clinical studies with thousands of patients, I hypothesized that walking and running with footwear without balanced training the tibialis posterior, tibialis anterior and peroneal muscles without shoes on was one of the main causes of the acceleration of the aging process in the musculoskeletal system. It is the foundation of the body from which all movement is determined as it is interconnected.
Invitations to lecture
I was invited to address the Tenth International Congress on Anti-Aging &. Biomedical Technologies, in Las Vegas entitled Faulty Biomechanics of the Lower Extremities, A Presentation of how Simple Biomechanics Dysfunction Accelerates the Aging Process. This same lecture went through an evolutionary process through my clinical experiences and scientific studies, while preparing for lectures such as “walking biomechanics, how abnormal movement patterns accelerate the aging process” at the Royal College of Physicians in London England, medical conferences in Bali Indonesia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,Tokyo Japan, Hangzhou, China, Cape Town, South Africa, Monte Carlo, Principality of Monaco, and Guang Zhou, China.
This evolution of my theory and approach compelled me to submit an abstract for a lecture entitled Elastic Recoil Mechanisms – How Footwear Accelerates Aging Process. In August 2007, the medical commission of the 15th Annual World Congress of Anti-Aging Medicine and Regenerative Biomedical Technologies in Chicago approved the abstract.
Close to 2000 doctors and scientists heard the scientific rational argument for why walking and other forms of exercise, including running, should be performed barefoot. To my knowledge, this was the first time the concept of ‘shoe-less’ exercise including barefoot running had been presented to an international audience of physicians. (Pre-dating Born To Run and the Harvard Barefoot study published in Nature).
If you could run barefoot as a child but cannot do it now, is this the first sign of aging?
Some doctors advise against striving for a barefoot lifestyle. Why do they hold you back from striving to do the activities you could easily do as a youth?
That lecture evolved through preparations in 2007 for lectures in Florida, Columbia, Germany and Japan. Certainly, at the time, it seemed as though I was the only one telling the medical establishment that footwear should not be worn during walking or running and the body should be trained while barefoot.
In 2008-2009, it gained speed when I switched the focus of the biomechanics from walking to running speeds with the lecture series Run For Life! New Innovative Examining Procedures to Determine the Effects on the HUMAN SPRING from Variable Forces on Lower Extremities during Multiple Speed Ambulation for lectures in Beijing, Dubai, Seoul, Sao Paulo, Cambridge (SENS), Frankfurt and in Mexico City (2010)
In spring of 2010 I took the next logical step in developing my theory – I prepared my body for the cardio workout that was optimal for my health, barefoot running.
I released, strengthened and trained my body like a spring mechanism in preparation for the experience. My first run was a route on concrete pavement on the Chicago lake front – and because I had prepared my body for the impacts, studied and practiced the proper form and technique, I eased into running 5 – 7 miles, 3 days a week with no complications whatsoever.
I finished off 2010 barefoot running in the AIDS Walk Run 10K and the Susan G. Komen Run for the Cure in honor of my mother, Lydia Stoxen, who died of breast cancer in 1995.
By the end of the year I had run 350 miles and experienced all the predicted improvements in my health. . My goal is to compete in a half marathon and possibly a marathon for 2012.
In September, 2010, I launched my next lecture series around the world, Run for Life, Barefoot at the 2nd annual Bangkok Congress on Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.
The following day I ran barefoot in the 14th Annual Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s Minimarathon (10K) held on the streets of the Ministry of Health in the Thai capital.
This lecture was also presented in Mexico City in February and in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
I have been invited to discuss the Human Spring Approach to preventive medicine in Shanghai, China in 2012.
I am honored to have been able to spread the word regarding the benefits of barefoot running to medical physicians and scientists at ACME medical conferences as part of detailing my theories and practices.
How I Got My Wiggle Back
In February 2012, Anthony Field from the famed ‘Wiggles’ children’s group released the book, ‘How I Got My Wiggle Back’, A Memoir of Healing. Chapter Seven is entitled Barefoot and Lovin’ It. In the book Anthony discusses the barefoot lifestyle that I recommended for him in 2007.
Shoe companies say we need an artificial spring between these two colliding objects, our human spring bodies and the earth.
In reality, all we really need to do is find a way to absorb the impact into our human spring that the cushion represents and we can do away with these artificial supports and protective devices and run barefoot for life.
Thank God I found a way to do this for myself at age 50. I don’t want to be on the path from barefoot to bedridden by constantly adding additional supports to my body to help it to function.
There is no challenge to that!
Challenge your doctor and trainer to help you reestablish the human spring you had in your youth.
Raising Awareness Of Barefoot Training and Running
I plan on giving away all my knowledge, advice and self – help tips here in this blog site. I look forward to addressing visitors questions to the best of my ability. If I cannot provide the appropriate answer I will find the leading experts in the world who can.
I know some people live to run. We all should be running, barefoot – to live a long healthy, active and fulfilling life.
Dr James Stoxen DC