Women who rock

We are taking a family vacation in Cleveland, Ohio, birthplace of Bob (huge Cleveland Browns fan) and home to the Sheffler-Megerians of Shaker Heights, who we are visiting. Lynne Sheffler, a physiatrist at Case Western Reserve University (see What is a physiatrist), and I worked together at Harvard a number of years ago.

We went to the famous Cleveland Museum of Art. Among the phenomenal paintings there, this Monet, called the The Red Kerchief, especially caught my attention.

This painting represents one of the first occasions that an artist ventured out from the then-standard to paint still and posed subjects. Claude Monet had initially planned to paint two seated subjects in front of these windows. That was what was expected. But instead he painted this woman walking by, casting a quick glance in through the windows. In this instance of movement, all is communicated. The caption reads “a radical departure from convention.” Indeed, just like OESH.

Then we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is currently celebrating Women who Rock. (At first I thought it said Women who Walk, ha!). The museum, with video clips and paraphernalia from Elvis, the Beatles, and Madonna, is a must see. We watched a clip of the all-women band, the GoGo’s, read about Tina Tuner’s story, and saw Lady Gaga’s meat dress.

But Lynne is the real woman who rocks. A physician, researcher, mother, and wife to renowned surgeon Cliff Megerian, Lynne is a good buddy. Our children are about the same ages, meaning that Lynne and I were pregnant at the same time. At lunchtime, we would often bring into our sanctuary (my office), four trays of cafeteria food, from which we would pick off the few items that wouldn’t make us nauseous. Lynne’s responsible for, among other things, the spelling of all our daughters’ names. “It is important that the formation of letters allows for the creation of a distinct signature.” Which undoubtedly led to our spending way too much time today admiring the signatures of the inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Which somehow led (with Michael Jackson’s Beat It in the background) to my doing the moonwalk…

P.S. Did you notice my version of the moonwalk was facilitated by the prototype OESH-ogs that I was testing? Never mind that all the children started walking away.

May all your Christmas dreams come true

For Marcia, they certainly did (inside our compost bin).

Thank-you so much for a wonderful first year…and we cannot wait to get started on year number two for you next week. Onward!


Could this be Rudolph?

When asked at school this week to recall a memorable moment, our middle daughter Kellyn wrote about this one. In hindsight, I think it was more magical than memorable. A couple years ago, as Kellyn and I were running through the woods behind our house, a deer came right up to us and ran alongside. We’ve always recognized what an extraordinary connection to animals Kellyn has, but this was ridiculous. I got this picture on my cell phone at the end of the run, as we emerged into our yard. Yes, Kellyn is actually petting it. Deer aren’t supposed to let you do this…Unless? Could this have been a summer Rudolph sighting?

Flat feet and OESH

More than likely, if you have flat feet, you’ve been told more than once that you need shoes with arch or motion control support. You’ve also probably been told you need to wear arch inserts or orthotics, either custom-made or off-the-shelf.

This advice, like many long held myths and assumptions about footwear, is, according to my published research, very wrong.

Going back to when I was first at Harvard, I found that any arch support or build-up on the instep of a shoe detrimentally increases joint torques that are linked to a number of injuries. The more shoe build-up there is under the foot arch or instep, the greater these detrimental torques. I’ve shown that even a tiny arch support, in the way of an off-the-shelf arch cushioned insole, significantly increases knee joint torques linked to the development of knee osteoarthritis. (Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008)

Now granted, being flat footed is biomechanically disadvantageous. I’ve shown that the normal foot arch flexes down and releases with the weight of the body about 3/8 of an inch on average. (J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009) If you are flat-footed (or, alternatively, have a high, rigid arch) you probably lack a certain amount of compliance (bendiness) through your foot when you walk. And if you lack compliance through your foot, biomechanics dictates that compliance has to come from somewhere else between the ground and your body’s center of mass when you walk. That extra compliance typically occurs through your knees, hips and spine.

A certain amount of compliance through your foot is good, but excessive compliance or bendiness above your foot is bad.

Here’s why: It’s not your actual body weight but rather your body weight applied at a distance from your joints, (measured as joint torques), that determines the amount of force and pressure traversing through your joints. Essentially, greater bendiness through your joints pulls your joints further away from the line of your body weight force, which imparts greater joint torques and overall joint forces and pressures.

The solution is to provide a compliant or flexing foot-ground interface that works in tandem with the foot. For example, the Harvard Indoor Track reduces the incidence of injuries (in all people, not just people with flat feet) by providing a compliant, flexing interface between the foot and the ground. It’s all simple biomechanics, but alas, biomechanics that has never been understood by the shoe industry.

A shoe’s sole should provide a compliant interface between the foot and the ground. But until OESH, there hasn’t ever been a shoe sole that could be demonstrated in a gait laboratory to provide true measurable compliance. Foam cushioning, arch supports and orthotics only take away whatever little natural compliance your foot may have, which just increases the need for compliance upward from the foot.

The OESH sole, with its unique carbon fiber cantilevers, is the only thing in footwear that provides compliance when your weight is fully planted (the instant of maximum vulnerability to injury). And unlike the typical shoe, OESH does not deny the opportunity for your foot to provide whatever compliance it can. The compliance that comes from OESH and what your foot can provide, effectively minimizes the need for compliance in your knees, hips and spine.

Of course, you won’t truly appreciate this until you try on a pair of OESH. You will instantly recognize the absence of anything pushing up under your instep. Instead, you will feel the sole of your OESH flexing downward in tune with the shifting of your body weight…something you’ve never before felt in a shoe.

Quite different from built-in arch supports or orthotics, OESH works holistically. The carbon fiber cantilevered sole assists rather than inhibits what little compliance your foot may (or may not) intrinsically provide, even if you’re the most flat-footed person on Earth.

Finally, what if you are so used to wearing arch support inserts or orthotics that you just cannot tolerate going without them? No problem. You can still wear them with your OESH. The carbon fiber cantilevers will still flex and release in perfect harmony with the instant of maximum vulnerability to injury, giving you the same great benefit of OESH. But after a few weeks you should try going without your inserts or orthotics for an hour or two at a time. Go slowly over a period of weeks or even months if you need to (as those muscles in your foot gradually awaken), increasing the time without the inserts or orthotics until you are no longer wearing them at all… that will be the very best.

UVa Engineering at OESH

This academic year, a class of fourth year undergraduate mechanical engineering students from the University of Virginia (UVa) that I have been mentoring, has been studying and implementing ways to increase the production of the OESH cantilevers. They have been designing and building lots of good things for the OESH factory, like hydraulic lifts and resin catchers. It is a blast working with this talented group and I’m pretty sure I’m learning as much from them as they are from me.

They ended this first semester by re-arranging some of the equipment to streamline production flow. The moving was a two-day project that involved a little braun, as well as, brains.

They started by moving the post-cure oven, on the far right, into its new position. The press ovens, which they also moved, are still in their original positions on the left. The resin tanks, in the foreground, were moved as well.

They moved the filament winder so that it is in line with the press ovens. This will allow for smoother movement of the carbon fiber from the winder to the ovens. (Kind of like optimizing the work triangle between the kitchen sink, the refrigerator and the stove). All the meanwhile, we were still assembling OESH shoes (note the open boxes on the right).

Marcia (as in Marcia, Marcia, Marcia of the Brady Bunch), our three-year-old Newfoundland dog, who has become the regular factory mascot, wasn’t much help. The students dressed her up in a couple pairs of OESH Lizards.

Almost done! Some of the students pose in front of the newly moved and bolted down, press ovens. Note that Grace, second from the right, has the biggest smile… she’s been living in her OESH 24/7. The others are doing their darnedest to get the factory ready to make all the bigger men’s sizes of OESH, which should happen within the next calendar year.

Runner’s World reviews OESH…”they’re crazy comfortable”

Lisa Jhung of Boulder, Colorado writes a crisp and pithy blog for Runner’s World entitled SHOES & GEAR. If you enjoy an on-point and candid analysis of footwear, Lisa’s blog is the one you should read. Given her years of experience as a respected analyst, her thoughts carry great influence–she doesn’t beat around the bush and she lets you know what she thinks.

We feel as though she nailed it again, as RUNNER’S WORLD LOVES OESH!

Lisa’s post follows below:

Introducing: OESH

December 1, 2011 4:32 pm

Last December, Dr. Casey Kerrigan introduced OESH footwear—which feature a Zero drop, like many shoes we’ve talked about lately, and carbon fiber cantilevers in lieu of a traditional foam midsole—out of a factory in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Traditional running shoes are on the left,” says Kerrigan, “barefoot is in the middle, and OESH is on the right.” Kerrigan comes from a background of physical medicine and rehabilitation. She attended Harvard Medical School where she earned her degree in kinesiology. She’s a professor in mechanical engineering at UVA, and has 20 years of research studying walking and running gait and biomechanics.

OESH shoes, which look more like walking or nursing shoes than running shoes and are intended to be worn as “All-day Shoes”— with that day including running, or other activities — have been sold primarily online, and out of the factory a few hours a day, three days a week. “That’s been really fun,” says Kerrigan. “It kind of turns into my office hours, talking to people about injuries and seeing people talk to each other.”

I was skeptical when I received my sample pair. I thought I’d wear them a few times, write about them, and shove them away in the closet. But I have to say, they’re crazy comfortable. I ditched my orthotics and wore them on short walks, then long walks, then short runs. (At close to a pound per pair, I feel like they’re too heavy for long runs.) I’m intrigued by how the midsole seems to adjust to my individual foot strike, which is different on each foot. My standard ailments—from a bunion to a tight hip to low-back pain—don’t bother me so much when I wear these shoes. The shoes seem to parallel the natural, and even barefoot, running trend, but with a totally different approach.

Here’s what Kerrigan has to say about the shoes.

Runner’s World: Tell me the theory behind OESH.

Casey Kerrigan: The intrinsic design of these shoes is different. There’s this idea that impact causes injury. Yes, when you get in a car accident, that’s true. But with walking and running, it’s really when your weight is fully planted and your weight is fully over your foot that your body weight is at its maximum. That’s where we develop every stress on our bodies. The compliant surface of the Harvard Indoor Track minimized injuries by 50% the first year it was in use. The foam used in traditional running shoes doesn’t achieve the compliant surface, or reduce forces when our bodies really need it. The goal is to provide relief in perfect tune when the body weight is at its highest.

RW: I read that you recommend ditching orthotics…

CK: You put on an orthotic, and you look like you’re more anatomically correct as it’s altering the forces you can’t see. You’ve shifted the forces to the inside of the foot, and increased the forces on the knee and the hip. It basically ices the foot…Freezes the foot out from what it’s supposed to do. The pronation and supination of the foot is key, even if you’re an overpronator or oversupinator, and an orthotic interferes with that motion.

RW: Tell me about the differences between the carbon fiber and traditional foam.

CK: Foam bottoms out, plastic, spring…all bottoms out before you get to that magic point where forces are the greatest. The carbon fiber works with the foot. It’s helping it get to the measurable compliance of the track.

Foam used for cushioning or pronation control increases forces on the body, and as it packs out, it changes daily with how it affects your gait. When my daughters ran in middle school, I didn’t let them wear traditional shoes. I had them in racing flats, because I thought traditional shoes would cause them damage.

RW: Your website says that these are “All-day Shoes.” Tell me a little about that.

CK: The design is such that you can get away wearing it all day. And injuries happen all day, not just on a run.

RW: Speaking of running, the shoes are heavier than other shoes out there. Are you working to make a more lightweight option?

CK: The carbon fiber is light. My big thing right now is getting the soles made in the U.S., and working on making a simpler design for the upper.