Can Running, Can Movement, Make us better Humans ?

This will be the last blog post you read from us …  for 2012. It is a rehash of our Dec 31st, 2011 blog post but we felt it was worthy of a year-end repeat.  It seemed to bring together many good points and thoughts. We hope you agree.

It has been an amazing year for both of us here at The Gait Guys. Through this year, we have bridged many chasms. We restarted our podcasts, put out the National Shoe Fit Certification Program, blogged most days of the week, added many new videos and made many new friends while learning much on our own end in our relentless research and readings. We appreciate every one of you who has followed us, and we thank you for your friendship.

Today, we would like you all to watch this video and then more importantly read what we have paraphrased below. As we find ourselves here at the end of another year, it is normal to look back and see our path to growth but to look forward to plan for ways to further develop our growth.  Many of you who read our blog are runners, but many of you are also extensions of running. What we mean by that is many of you are coaches or trainers who develop those who run in one way or another in various sports, but many of you are also in the medical field helping those to run and move to get out of pain or improve performance.  And still yet we have discovered that some of you are in the fields of bodywork such as yoga, pilates, dance and movement therapies.  It is perhaps these fields that we at The Gait Guys are least experienced at (but are learning) and like many others we find ourselves drawn to that which we are unaware and wish to know more in the hope that it will expand and improve that which we do regularly.  For many of you that is also likely the case.  For example, since a number of you are runners we would bet to say that you have taken up yoga or pilates or cross training to improve your running and to reduce or manage injuries or limitations in your body. But why stop there ? So, here today, we will try to slowly bring you full circle into other fields of advanced movement. As you can see in this modern dance video above the grace, skill, endurance, strength, flexibility and awareness are amazing and beautiful.  Wouldn’t you like to see them in a sporting event ? Wouldn’t you like to see them run ? Aren’t you at least curious ? Their movements are so effortless. Are yours in your chosen sport ? How would they be at soccer? How would they be at gymnastics ? Martial arts ? Do you know that some of the greatest martial artists were first dancers ? Did you know that Bruce Lee was the Cha Cha Dance Champion of Hong Kong ? He is only one of many. Dance, martial arts, gymnastics …  all some of the most complex body movements that exist. And none of them simple, taking years to master, but most of which none of us can do. In 2012 we will continue to expand your horizons of these advanced movement practices as our horizons expand. From 3 years of personal study, we already have been experimenting with some of the advanced foot and body movements of dance, incorporating many aspects into our treatment and exercise regimens for our patients, runners and multi-sport athletes. Using things like the latin dance (primarily rumba and salsa) movements to strengthen the hips, core and feet and borrowing from the Cha Cha to improve foot side and cross over step speed and accuracy in some of our NCAA basketball and European soccer players. Even using some of the smooth footwork in the waltz and foxtrot to increase awareness of rear, mid and forefoot strike patterns and the development of rigid and mobile foot positions in our speed athletes.  Why not use this knowledge?  Many of our athletes do not even know their exercises homework are from basic dance principles, until we tell them at the end of a session.  There is a reason why some of the best athletes in the NBA, NFL and other sports have turned to almost secret study of dance and martial arts because there is huge value in it.  Look at any gymnast, martial artist or dancer. Look at their body, their posture, their grace.  It is as if their bodies know something that ours do not.  And so, The Gait Guys will dive even deeper into these professions to learn principles and bring them back to you. After all, everything we do is about movement. Movement is after all what keeps the brain alive. 

Below are excerpts from a great article from Kimerer Lamothe, PhD. She wrote a wonderful article in Psychology Today (link is at the top) on her experience with McDougall’s book “Born to Run” and how she translated it into something more.  Below you will find some exerpts from her work. But at some point, take the time to read the whole article.  But do not cut yourself short now, you only have a little more reading below, take the next 2 minutes, it might change your life, or at least your next run.

We will leave you hear now for 2012 with our gratitude for this great growing brethren and community that is unfolding at The Gait Guys. We have great plans for 2013 so stay with us, grow with us, and continue to learn and improve your own body and those that you work with.  Again, read Kimerer’s excerpts below, for now, and watch the amazing body demonstrations in the video above. It will be worth it.


Can Running Make us Better Humans ?….. excerpts from the artcle by Kimerer LaMothe.

The Tarahumara are not only Running People, they are also Dancing People. Like other people who practice endurance running, such as the Kalahari Kung, dancing occupies a central place in Tarahumara culture. Or at least, it has. The Tarahumara dance to pray, to celebrate life passages, to mark seasonal and religious events. They dance outside where Father God and Mother Moon can see, in patterns consisting of steps and shuffles, taps and hops, performed in a line or a circle with others. And they dance the night before a long running race, while the native corn beer, or tesguino flows.

While McDougall notes the irony of “partying” the night before a race, he doesn’t ask the question: might the dancing actually serve the running? Might it be that the Tarahumara dance in order to run—to ensure the success of their run—for themselves and for the community?

At the very least, the fact that the Tarahumara dance when and how they do is evidence that they live in a world where bodily movement matters. They believe that how they move their bodies matters to who they are and to how life happens. They have survived as a people by adapting their traditional method of endurance hunting (running animals to exhaustion) to the challenges of fleeing Spanish invaders, accessing inaccessible wilderness, and staying in touch with one another while scattered throughout its canyons. As McDougall notes, they have kept alive an ancient genetic human heritage: to love running is to love life, for running enables life.

Yet McDougall is also clear: even the Tarahumara are not born knowing how to run. Like all humans, they must learn. Even though human bodies are designed to flourish when subject to the stresses of long distance loping, we still need to learn how to coordinate our limbs to allow that growth to happen. We must learn to run with head up, carriage straight, and toes reaching for the ground. We must land softly and roll inwardly, before snapping our heels behind us. We must learn to glide—easy, light, smooth—uphill and down, breathing through it all. How do we learn?

How do we learn to run? We learn by paying attention to other people, and taking note of the movements they are making. We learn by cultivating a sensory awareness of our own movements, noting the pain and pleasure they produce, and finding ways to adjust. We learn by creating and becoming patterns of movement that release our energy boldly and efficiently across space. We learn, in a word, by dancing.

While dancing, people open up their sensory selves and play with movement possibilities. The rhythm marks a time and space of exploration. Moving with another heightens the energy available for it. Learning and repeating sequences of steps exercises a human’s most fundamental creativity, operating at a sensory level, that enables us to learn to make any movement in any realm of endeavor with precision and grace. Even the movements of love. Dancing, people affirm for themselves and with each other that movement matters.

In this sense, dancing before the night of a running race makes perfect sense. Moving in time with one another, stepping and stretching in proximity to one another, the Tarahumara would affirm what is true for them: they learn from one another how to run.  They learn to run for one another. They run with one another. And when they race, they give each other the chance to learn how to be the best that they each can be, for the good of all.

It may be that the dancing is what gives the running its meaning, and makes it matter.

Yet the link with dance suggests another response as well. In order for running to emerge in human practice as something we are born to do, we need a culture that values movement—that is, we need a general appreciation that and how the bodily movements we make matter. It is an appreciation that our modern western culture lacks. 

Those of us raised in the modern west grow up in human-built worlds. We wake up in static boxes, packed with still, stale air, largely impervious to wind and rain and light. We pride ourselves at being able to sit while others move food, fuel, clothing, and other goods for us. We train ourselves not to move, not to notice movement, and not to want to move. We are so good at recreating the movement patterns we perceive that we grow as stationary as the walls around us (or take drugs to help us).

Yet we are desperate for movement, and seek to calm our agitated senses by turning on the TV, checking email, or twisting the radio dial to get movement in a frame, on demand. It isn’t enough. Without the sensory stimulation provided by the experiences of moving with other people in the infinite motility of the natural world, we lose touch with the movement of our own bodily selves. We forget that we are born to dance and run and run and dance.

The movements that we make make us. We feel the results. Riddled with injury and illness, paralyzed by fears, and dizzy with exhaustion, our bodily selves call us to remember that where, how, and with whom we move matters. We need to remember that how we move our bodies matters to the thoughts we think, the feelings we feel, the futures we can imagine, and the relationships we can create with ourselves, one another, and the earth.

Without this consciousness, we won’t be able to appreciate what the Tarahumara know: that the dancing and the running go hand in hand as mutually enabling expressions of a worldview in which movement matters.

Thanks for a great article Kimerer. (entire article here)

Wishing a Happy New Year to you all, from our hearts……. Shawn and Ivo

The Gait Guys

Neurocognitive Control in Movement Perception and Control

You have read our blog posts on how much we respect and admire those that engage in complex motor tasks like gymnastics, martial arts, parqour, dance and others.  The more complex the task the greater the rewards on several levels.
We found yet another article supporting multiple levels of sensory-motor advancement, in this article’s case, dance however it applies broadly across all complex motor tasks.  We have also included another video with dub dancer Marquese Scott with this blog post. You may recall our prior writing with him, link here where we talked briefly about “foot edge work”. The above video is another demo of Marquese doing what he does best, making complex motor tasks look simple.

Neurocognitive control in dance perception and performance.

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2012 Feb;139(2):300-8. Epub 2012 Jan 9.

Department of Sport Science, Bielefeld University, Germany.

Abstract: Dance is a rich source of material for researchers interested in the integration of movement and cognition. The multiple aspects of embodied cognition involved in performing and perceiving dance have inspired scientists to use dance as a means for studying motor control, expertise, and action-perception links. The aim of this review is to present basic research on cognitive and neural processes implicated in the execution, expression, and observation of dance, and to bring into relief contemporary issues and open research questions.


What The Gait Guys have to say:

The abstract review above addresses six issues they discovered and investigated in dancers:

1) dancers’ exemplary motor control, in terms of postural control, equilibrium maintenance, and stabilization;

2) how dancers’ timing and on-line synchronization are influenced by attention demands and motor experience;

3) the critical roles played by sequence learning and memory;

4) how dancers make strategic use of visual and motor imagery;

5) the insights into the neural coupling between action and perception yielded through exploration of the brain architecture mediating dance observation; and

6) a neuroesthetics perspective that sheds new light on the way audiences perceive and evaluate dance expression.

As you have read from some of our previous blog articles, we have some experience in dance. We do this to make sure we are always pressing the edge of human sensorymotor development and learning.  Dance has been one of the most complex body movement endeavors we have undertaken, more difficult than many of the complex movements in various sports.  This is why we never have a problem recommending dance, gymnastics and pilates to our young patient’s parents who want their children to excel in any given sport.  Fast, precise, assured and efficient foot work will take one far in athletics.  It is why in basketball they talk so much about the importance of the first step off a dribble when confronting an opponent. The first step, when fast, precise, assured and efficient, will leave one’s opponent stunned and motionless as their savvy opponent effortlessly passes them by. Nothing teaches these foot skills better than dance in our experience. Just as Marquese displays above, mastering complex footwork leads to advanced body movement possibilities.  And possibilities in sport are what separate the great from the good.  The 6 points discussed above namely exemplary motor control, in terms of postural control, equilibrium maintenance, and stabilization, timing, on-line synchronization, sequencing of learning and memory, the advantages of strategic use of visual and motor imagery, the insights into the neural coupling between action and perception are all major advantages to the athlete who can put them into play at a higher level.  And the more complex cross training of tasks that occurs, the greater likelihood that these issues are what will allow the cream to rise to the top in sport.

The Gait Guys

Foot Edge work. 

Dancer: Marquese Scott

This may be one of the most amazing displays of body movement and body awareness we have ever seen, let alone, the amazing foot work. Look at the ankle and lower limb control not to mention the inside and outside edge foot work especially at the 1:40 mark

(You will hear more about edge work in some blog posts down the road. For over 2 years now Dr. Allen has been quietly working with, studying, and taking lessons from some of the best dancers. He has been a student, learning from these professionals. The goal is to bring what he has learned about these and other kinds of foot skills and body movements, in combination with what we already know, to The Gait Guys. It has been a mentally and physically challenging, not to mention humbling, experience to say the least. A new friendship with a world champion latin dance pro brings more promise to deeper insights, these people have amazing feet and body awareness). Edgework will blow your mind.  More on it soon !

Without skill and strength of edge work you will never be able to do this kind of stuff.  Can you magine an NBA or NFL player with these kinds of edgework skills ! There is a reason that some of the best have dabbled in dance, and Dr. Allen is on a journey to find out why. With these foot skills, can you say “unstoppable” !? 

You will not be able to watch this just once. You will be mesmerized. 

Some people are truly amazing, not a drop of wasted body use, awareness or function here.

… .And there are people higher up in the fields of biomechanics who do not think the the feet are important in body movement and gait ! Gee wizz !

How many shoe companies, doctors and foot specialists can you say are going this far to understand feet and gait and the intricate biomechanics, neurology and orthopedics behind the movement ?  only Shawn and Ivo.

The Gait Guys ……. two guys who understand that just stopping at gait and running is only half the story. The next dimension of The Gait Guys, coming soon.

Today, something a little different.  I worked for the world famous Joffrey Ballet Dance company on an off for a few years treating the dancers before shows and productions.  These folks always had the most amazing strength (try this one ! bet you cannot do it……in fact, don’t try it… will probably dislocate your MTP (metatarsophalangeal joint; the big knuckle joint) of the big toe.)

These folks also had many problems with their hips, knees and spine mechanics from the demands of turn out, jumping, overuse and the demands of things like en pointe.  This is an example of what is referred to as “en pointe” which means “on the tip”.  There is “demi pointe” which means on the ball of the foot which is much safer and we will do another video on that another time to explain some critical components to it right, there is more to it than just getting up on the ball of your foot.

En Pointe is a  terrible challenge in our opinion. So if you are thinking of putting your darling children in ballet…… just beware of the facts and do some logical thinking on your own.

En pointe or classical point ballet it typically done in point shoes or slippers which have a reinforced toe box that allows a more squared off stable surface to stand in pointe position.  It does not however allow a reduction in the axial loading that you see in this video and it certainly does not help with proper angulation of the big toe, if anything the slipper will gently corral the toes together rendering abductor hallucis muscle function nearly obsolete.   The box will also not stop the valgus loading that typically occurs at the joint as you see occurring here in her right foot if your joint line has a more aggressive angulation (genetics).  You can already see the deforming force that is creating a valgus toe position here. Despite what the studies say, this is one we would watch carefully.  Now, there are studies out there that do not support hallux valgus and bunion formation in dancers (see ** at end of this post).  However, we are just asking you to use common sense.  If you see a bunion forming, if the toe is getting chronically swollen, if the toe is drifting off line then one must use common sense and assume that the load is exceeding joint integrity.  Prolonged and excessive loading of any joint cartilage is likely to create a risky environment to crack, fissure, wear down or damage the cartilage or the bony surface underneath (subchondral bone).  So, if you think that loading your entire body mass axially on the small joint surface of the big toe is a great idea, that is fine, just do not bring your kids to our office and expect to get a happy face sticker at the check out counter.  We are going to read you the risks that are born from logical thinking.  This is not meant in any way to take away from the amazing feat that this is for dancers, but it just is not a smart thing to do if you want a healthy first joint (MPJ – metatarsophalangeal joint) and foot for that matter. After all, if you screw up this joint, toe off will be impaired and thus the windlass effect at the joint will be impaired thus leading to a multitude of other dysfunctional foot issues.

Now, back to the “en pointe” position.  Did you try it yet ? Heed our warning ! Just trust us, this is bloody hard.  Since serious foot deformities can result from starting pointe too early, pre-professional students do not usually begin dancing en pointe until after the age of 10 or so , remember, the adolescent foot has not completed its bone ossification and the bone growth plates have not closed.  Thus, damage and deformity are to be expected if done at too young an age.  If you asked our opinion on this, we would say to wait until at least the mid-teenage years……. but by that point in the dance world a prodigy would miss her or his opportunity.  Thus, we see the problems from going “en pointe” too early in many. In the dance world, there are other qualifications for dancers before En Pointe is begun, things like holding turnout, combining center combinations, secure and stable releve etc. 


Achieving en pointe is a process.  There is a progression to get to it.  Every teacher has their own methods but it is not a “just get up on your toes” kind of thing. 

Shawn & Ivo……. Dreaming of Sugar Plum fairies…….. (ok, maybe not)  but knowing your biomechanics of the foot and gait are an integral part of dance as well.

* and after watching this video, if your next thought was……” I wonder what the incidence of posterior ankle impingement injures occur in dancers” or if you said under your breath……. “hey, extreme plantarflexion at the ankle loads the Lisfranc joint pathomechanically ….. I wonder if that joint is ever an issue in dancers……. ?”   then you will clearly be on the route to becoming one of……… The Gait Guys


** Hallux Valgus in Dancers. A Myth ? 

Abstract: Among dancers it is widely believed that ballet dancing induces hallux valgus. Revision of radiographs of 63 active and 38 retired dancers of both sexes showed no increase in the valgus angulation of the hallux compared with that of nondancers.

Listening to music while you run. Research shows there is something to it.

J Sci Med Sport. 2011 Jul 29. [Epub ahead of print]

Effects of synchronous music on treadmill running among elite triathletes.

Terry PC, Karageorghis CI, Saha AM, D’Auria S.


Department of Psychology, University of Southern Queensland, Australia; Centre of Excellence for Applied Sport Science Research, Queensland Academy of Sport, Australia.


Music can provide ergogenic, psychological and psychophysical benefits during physical activity, especially when movements are performed synchronously with music. The present study developed the train of research on synchronous music and extended it to elite athletes using a repeated-measures laboratory experiment. Elite triathletes (n=11) ran in time to self-selected motivational music, a neutral equivalent and a no-music control during submaximal and exhaustive treadmill running. Measured variables were time-to-exhaustion, mood responses, feeling states, RPE, blood lactate concentration, oxygen consumption and running economy. Time-to-exhaustion was 18.1% and 19.7% longer, respectively, when running in time to motivational and neutral music, compared to no music. Mood responses and feeling states were more positive with motivational music compared to either neutral music or no music. RPE was the lowest for neutral music and highest for the no-music control. Blood lactate concentrations were lowest for motivational music. Oxygen consumption was lower with music by 1.0-2.7%. Both music conditions were associated with better running economy than the no-music control. Although neutral music did not produce the same level of psychological benefits as motivational music, it proved equally beneficial in terms of time-to-exhaustion and oxygen consumption. In functional terms, the motivational qualities of music may be less important than the prominence of its beat and the degree to which participants are able to synchronise their movements to its tempo. Music provided ergogenic, psychological and physiological benefits in a laboratory study and its judicious use during triathlon training should be considered.