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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Podiatrist's Secret to Giving Your Child The Competitive Edge in Sports.

Podiatrist's Secret to Giving Your Child 
the Competitive Edge in Sports.



My name is Dr. Cathleen McCarthy and I am a doctor of podiatric medicine and I've been in private practice since October 2, 2000. I treat patients of all ages and I have the privilege of treating many pediatric patients with a wide variety of biomechanical foot types and sports-related injuries. 

You can give your child a major competitive advantage by making smart choices when shopping for athletic shoes. And the good news is you don't have to spend a fortune! All you have to do is know what you are looking for when shopping for athletic shoes. 


To simplify matters, I will be referring to the child as a 'he', but, of course, this method also works for girls.  

What makes a superior athletic shoe? 
The answer is surprisingly counter-intuitive. To give your child a competitive advantage in sports using better shoegear, we have to refer back to the 3rd century when Archimedes mathematically discovered the 'lever principle'. The lever is the most simple and perfect of human-made machines. Archimedes stated, "Give me a place to stand and I shall move the Earth with the lever."


Imagine the sole of the shoe as the rigid board in the above picture. If you put your child in a running shoe with a thick, rigid and non-flexible sole, then when he runs, the sole of the shoe will provide more snap, which translates into:

1. Mechanical Advantage.  With a rigid-soled shoe, when your child runs, he will be placing less mechanical strain through his foot structures such as joints and tendons, which gives him a mechanical advantage. Instead of the child forcing his tendons and muscles to do all the work, the rigid-soled shoe is now doing more of the work, which translates into more...

2. Efficiency! Once the rigid-soled running shoe makes your child a more efficient runner, now he can put the previously lost energy (while wearing a flexible-soled running shoe) into speed and performance. Not to mention a decreased chance of injury! 

3. Energy Conservation. If your child is running in a flexible-soled running shoe, then he is forcing the foot joints, tendons, and muscles to work harder, which means he is now expending more energy trying to stabilize his foot as well as putting more energy into compensating for an underlying foot-issue (such as flat-feet). This will make him slower, more prone to injury and can cause tired-leg syndrome. Running in a flexible-soled running shoe, your child could be wasting 15-20% of his energy in trying to stabilize his foot because he is dealing with an underlying foot issue (injury, flat feet, ect) or an old injury. 

The secret is to get your child into an athletic shoe that has a thick, rigid and non-flexible shoeIf you add arch support (orthotics or a good over-the-counter insert such as Powersteps) then that translates into superior biomechanical control of the foot and now your child can put the previously lost 15-20% of energy into speed and performance and decreased chance of injury.  

Try an experiment: Buy a pair of rigid-soled running shoes and add the Powerstep inserts and then time your child running a certain distance. Now place him into flexible-soled running shoe with no arch support and then time him running the same distance. As I always say, the proof is in the pudding. 

An intriguing study showed that children with flat feet have a higher chance of going to college. Why? When a child has flat feet (pes planus), he has to expend more energy to keep up with the other kids. The child with flat feet often feels slow, clumsy and gets 'tired-legs' that makes running an unpleasant experience. The study shows that children with flat feet tend to drop out of sports in the 6th grade. Kids do not say things like, "Mom, I don't want to play soccer because I'm slower than the other kids and my legs ache." They are more likely to say something like, "I don't want to" or simply refuse to play the sport and will not offer a logical explanation, which leaves the parents confused and frustrated. 
Once kids drop out of sports, they will get more into sedentary pursuits such as computers, the chess club or books, which is fine, but we also want to keep them having fun in sports and staying active. 

So, if your child is trying to drop out of sports when they are in the 6th grade, I recommend that you try placing them in a rigid, non-flexible-soled shoe with the Powerstep inserts. If that is not helping, then take the child to your local podiatrist for a biomechanical foot evaluation. 

Avoid surgery! Your child probably does not need surgery. Your child needs to be wearing excellent shoes with arch support. If the underlying biomechanical foot issue is severe or if they are hypermobile and have something called 'ligament laxity', I place those pediatric patients in a tri-lock brace for additional biomechanical control and support, which significantly enhances their game. I have the pediatric patient run up and down the halls of the office (or around the parking lot!) while wearing rigid-soled running shoes, arch support and a tri-lock brace. I love watching their eyes light up with happiness as they realize that they are now able to run faster! 


Recommendations for Running Shoes:

Brooks Beast
For boys - once they are in adult-sized shoes
"Brooks Men's Beast '12 Running Shoe,Deep Royal/Silver/Black,9.5 D US"


New Balance 1540 V2
Boys and girls - once they wear adult-sized shoes
New Balance Women's W1540V2 Running Shoe Running Shoe,Silver/Grey,10 B US



Nike Boys and Girls Air Max 90 Running Sneakers



Stride-Rite Shoes (for younger kids)



Powerstep Kid's Arch Support


Arch Angels Comfort Inserts for Kids


Not all Brooks, New Balance, Nike or Stride-Rite shoes are good enough for your child's feet.  When shopping, remember that you are looking for the athletic shoe with a thick, rigid sole that has the least amount of flexibility that you can find. This can be challenging as 80-90% of all shoes are too flexible and do not meet the criteria required to make a shoe good for your feet. The reason for this is that shoe companies are selling people what the want and not what they need. 


I hope that this was helpful!

Dr. Cathleen A. McCarthy 

:)


21 comments:

Michele said...

I'm assuming that the suggested running shoes are good choices for those with hallux limitus. Am I correct?

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Hi Michele,
As my father would say, "Is Big Bird yellow?"
You bet!
Cathy
:)

Barking Dog Shoes said...

Hi Cathy! It's Kirsten at Barking Dog Shoes! I can't tell you how much this post resonated with me. I have a son with flat feet. He got cut from the team last year because he was, you guessed it, the slowest kid on the team. Soccer shoes are the worst. You should see him walk--his knees knock together and one foot seems to point in. There are other reasons that he has slowed down--he's a big kid and genes are starting to take over! But I'm going to take your advice and get him a pair of Brooks Beast--my hubs wears them for his flat feet. So you're saying replace the Brooks insert with a Powerstep? Thank you so much for this advice,
Kirsten

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Hi Kirsten,
I'm so happy that you liked the article! It's been one I've been wanting to do for a long time. How old is your son? If he is past the 6th grade and if he tends to be hypermobile (lots of motion in his joints or 'double-jointed') you should also have him try a tri-lock brace with the Brooks Beast and the Powerstep inserts. Definitely replace the insert that comes with the Brooks Beast and put in the Powerstep insert. The full-length Powersteps replaces the insole that comes with the shoe while the 3/4 length Powersteps for small kids sits on top of the insert that comes with the shoe.
Thanks for reading and I love your blog!
Cathy
:)

Barking Dog Shoes said...

Golly--I just saw that picture that goes with my comment. I was 39 in that and now 47--time to change out the photo, I think. Anyway, I'd love for him to come see you. Maybe we can come out west again with him. He's 14 now. ..

Kristina said...

I'm wondering how effective inserts would be for my son who now wears a 9 4E. He is also flat footed and plays lacrosse. When I see him run, he looks stiff and uncomfortable and finding cleats to fit his extremely wide feet has been a challenge. We ended up ordering directly from New Balance. Do any of the inserts come in extra wide sizes? Thanks so much for your informative article! -Kristina

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Hi Kirsten,
Sorry for the delay in writing! I'd love to see you again and if you are coming to Phoenix you are welcome to stay with us. We have a guest bedroom and we are within minutes from downtown Phoenix. I'd love to see your son as a patient if he is in town, but in the meantime, why don't you send me some pictures of him standing barefoot (from the front, side and back) as well as a short video of him walking barefoot and running/jogging in sneakers. I should be able to give you some basic information and may have some specific recommendation that would work for him. Do you have my phone number?? You can text the videos to my phone or you can email them to my private email, which I think you have.
I hope all is well and look forward to seeing you again!
Cathy
:)

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Hi Kristina,
I would try the adult sized Powersteps for your son. This particular one comes in wide sizes 3E to 6E -- copy and paste this link to take you to the site:
https://www.powersteps.com/product-pages/widefit

Make sure that ALL of his shoes have a thick, rigid and non-flexible sole so that he benefits from the support and protection. For the summer, have him try these sandals: Birkenstock sandals, Keen's Newport H2 or the Chaco Z1.
For casual wear, have him try wearing a Nike Basketball shoe with a thick, rigid and non-flexible sole to see if he likes the extra ankle control.
Hope that was helpful and thanks for reading the blog!
Let me know how it works,
Cathy
:)

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Laraib Malik said...

hey there are some
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Anonymous said...

Could you do a review of shoes for seniors at some point? Bought the Crocs and
New Balance recommended and wondered if there were others?

Sheri in Colorado

varun mishra said...

hey there are some
Formal shoes for men

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr McCarthy,

So you would also recommend airmax 90s for adults as alternative to New Balance?

Thanks!

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Hi Sheri,
What a great idea! I will add that to my list of future articles.
Thank you for reading the blog and thanks for the great suggestion!
Cathy
:)

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Unknown said...

Hi, love all the info esp. for when my boys are older. Right now they are almost 10 & 7. They both have flat feet, severe over pronation, and seem to be developing the knock knees (-from foot issues??) They look like they are walking in their inner ankles. They have complained of foot, leg, back, & neck pain for as long as I can remember. I have taken my older son to a orthopedic doctor a few times over a three year span when he was younger & discussed these issues. I thought that if we dealt with it when he was 3/4 yrs old -we could correct it over time. He said get him good shoes & offered no other advice. They both are constantly tripping over their own feet. This has led to a broken leg, a broken thumb, various bumps, bruises, constant headaches, & a defeated feeling when it comes to any sport that involved running. I do take the to the chiropractor, this helps relieve some of the pain. He adjusts their hips almost every time. Once it's out, they begin a limping type walk. We live in northern Michigan. We do not have a lot of options for places to actually try on/test out shoes, esp. for their issues. I usually have to order them online. I am having a real struggle getting information & suggestions for the grade school aged kid. The recommendations & general info is for adult/adult sizing and shoe type. What are your recommendations for a quality athletic type shoe for school/ active play. The whole wear the keens brand in sandals and shoes. Definitely notice a nice difference. They are however, difficult to find because the sizing seems larger than the standard sizes. What are your thoughts on Bogs and Muck brand boots? We love the lightness & warmth/dryness esp. in the heavy snow and sometimes Arctic temps., but they are flat inside-are there certain types of supports that can be worn in boots? Are they different than the ones used in shoes?
Thank you for all your advice.
Jessie

Doctor of Podiatry Discusses and Recommends Shoes. said...

Hello Unknown,
Sorry for the delayed response!
It sounds like your two boys are hypermobile (ligament laxity), which means that they have far too much motion through their joints. It is a genetic issue and kids with hypermobility really struggle with physical activities.

I would recommend that you keep them in only shoes that have:
1. thick, rigid and absolutely no motion through the sole (very important!)
2. wide toebox
3. rearfoot control
4. arch support (either custom-molded or at least over-the-counter Powerstep inserts.
**They may also need to wear ankle bracing for more ankle support and biomechanical control. Your podiatrist should have some in the office which they can be properly fitted for. Or, you can purchase over-the-counter bracing such as Futura or a BIoskin Tri-lock brace. Once they are in adult size shoes, I would recommend (for running shoes) either the Brooks Beast or the New Balance 1540. For sandals, they can wear the Keen's Newport H2 or a Birkenstock sandals with the straps to the back.

I do not know if the Bog or Muck brand boots have a proper sole...? Only purchase boots that have a sole that is thick, rigid and non-flexible with a wide base. If you put them in flexible soled shoes, they will have more issues with their feet and their joints!

I would also recommend genetic testing to see if they have certain genetic disorders that are associated with ligament laxity and hypermobility. You can discuss this with your PCP and, if they do have one of these conditions (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Marfan', Hypermobility Syndrome, ect) then it is important that you know this so that they can get proper treatment and avoid issues associated with these syndromes.

Best wishes!
Cathy
:)