What do Barefoot Science insoles mean to a runner? An article written by David Lemke

ByStuart Gordon | 24 January, 2020

Barefoot Science Progressive Foot Strengthening Insoles: An sEMG Perspective

“As punishment for my contempt for authority, Fate has made me an authority myself.”
– Albert Einstein

Introduction

Highly qualified biomechanics experts are working around the clock to find new ways to resolve physiological problems and improve athletic performance. My training in Canada was in hands-on exploration of muscle and connective tissues – aimed at reducing dysfunctional communication between someone in pain and their troubled muscles. Biomechanics was certainly part of this training – but it was secondary to learned psycho/neuro/motor behavior believed to be driving muscle dysfunction. When I needed more detailed information about muscle function I turned to kinesiological surface electromyography which had its origins in motor learning science and biofeedback. Consequently, biomechanics experts consult me because I think “outside the box”.

Trainers, coaches, therapists and other experts frequently refer to the human body as a machine – albeit a complex one. This is helpful to athletes from a psychological standpoint i.e. keep it simple and don’t overthink. However, we are the scientists looking to improve function – and I’m afraid the “human machine” model ignores who is driving this machine – along with when and how they learned to drive it. The point I want to make here is that tissues grow and adapt in response to force (Wolff’s Law) but we choose where we put our force and have done so since before birth. We forget that when we attempt to “overwrite” the human machine with functional movement, people will only use what they know how to use and can feel. This is especially true when attempting new movement, even if its more functional movement.

My goal here is to share observations from sEMG. But first, what makes me believe these observations are important to biomechanics?

My background

I began training and practicing as a kinesiological surface electromyography technician while working at Southland Physiotherapy in Calgary in 1996. I was a trigger point specialist at the time having practiced and taught bodywork for more than a decade in Canada. Following relocation to the U.S., my sEMG based sequenced trigger point treatment for the shoulder was the subject of a series of studies at Idaho State University until 2000. From 2000 to 2004 I benefitted from the investment of a company that was developing a (PT/OT/DC/MT) clinic network using a central lab for data analysis. This project was built on a kinesiological surface electromyography testing protocol unique to my research. I was the sole sEMG technician responsible for developing the testing protocol and was the data analyst for the network once it was established.

Why sEMG?

Kinesiological sEMG monitors and records what’s going on electrically in several muscles without impairing movement in any way. sEMG tracings show which muscles are firing in what order, how active or inactive a muscle is at any time, exactly when a muscle begins showing fatigue – and of course which muscle or muscles kick in to compensate. The equipment I use measures down to the thousandth of a volt and thousandth of a second. This means what is observed is considerably more detailed than range of motion and / or strength tests. The information is so detailed that clinicians first coming into contact with sEMG based observations have difficulty believing what they are seeing. We literally see what is happening electrically at the cell level.

A curious historical fact: When Carlo DeLuca demonstrated his sEMG based back pain testing system at the Neuromuscular Research Center at Boston University, not only could he determine with 100% accuracy which varsity rowers had back pain; he could tell which side of the boat they rowed on.

Our Network

The clinicians in our network used 8 channel sEMG and needed the most meaningful data to help develop therapy and exercise programs. My protocol was developed by identifying which muscles and movements could combine to meet this need.

There was no limit or restriction to the conditions our clinicians might use the protocol to assess. When they submitted their data I was not aware of the patient’s complaint or diagnosis in most cases. This was by design so that clinicians using our protocol could obtain a fresh perspective on what might be a difficult or unusual case. What I observed while analyzing everyone’s data surprised me. That surprise is now the primary focus of my work.

What I observed

To my surprise the data seemed to indicate a whole body pattern or in the motor system unassociated with the area of injury or pathology. Yes, there was evidence that the body was compensating and adjusting around injuries or weaknesses, etc., but there was another pattern showing up in every case. This pattern was also evident when I tested totally “normal” individuals so you can see why this observation was surprising. At first it looked like just a hand dominance issue but, as it turns out, even hand dominance is evidence (actually a consequence) of this bias.

“Motor Pattern Dysfunction” is the name I gave to what I observed. As opposed to a pathology or disorder, I was naming a pattern that appeared to operate beneath (or in the background of) issues we typically evaluate. Though I termed it a dysfunction in the beginning, I now understand the pattern to be normal. Actually, it is a normal self- defensive central nervous system bias steering muscle use at the deepest level. And this bias is so consistent that resulting overuse or underuse of various muscles always produces the same list of predictable dysfunctions.

What then?

I am a muscle guy. I have been treating the body by hand since 1985. I developed a manual treatment focused on countering the sEMG observed bias in the motor system and achieved remarkable results. However, my greatest frustration has been, since the pattern is subtle, the homework activities needed to cross train out of it often go undone because they don’t appear to have a logical connection to the athlete’s performance or the patient’s painful condition. This slows progress – but those who do the homework enjoy remarkable benefits.

Enter Barefoot Science

I was presenting my observations and demonstrating my methods at a biomechanics conference this spring. Following my presentation, another presenter, Lance Todd from Barefoot Science, opened his talk by stating “After what I’ve just seen, I’m sure David Lemke could do a better job than I can describing what’s so remarkable about our product!” Lance then introduced the progressive strengthening insoles and shared sEMG measurements taken over a __ week period from lower leg muscles as the insoles did their work. He also shared force plate testing results along with many wonderful stories of lives changed through use of their products.

Seeing (testing) for myself

Having sEMG equipment means I’m never limited to what’s in the literature or taking any ones word for anything. I can test things for myself. So I took the Barefoot Science insoles back to Austin and began measuring what changes were taking place with people whose bodies I already knew (and some I didn’t). I used my reliable old protocol to identify areas of interest then drilled down to observe exactly what the insoles were changing.

1. What sEMG is showing immediately pre and post barefoot science (Mogen, Elzey, Thompson) Fig 1

In every case where no BFS insoles had been used prior to testing, hamstring and gluteal function showed increases in amplitude after as little as 5 minutes of use.

2. What sEMG shows after using Barefoot Science for 6 weeks

The following sEMG data was taken from a young healthy athlete before and after using Barefoot Science insoles.

The subject was a healthy 15 year old female distance runner with occasional shin splint symptoms. She complained of hip pain so was fitted with custom orthotics a few months prior to this recording. The following two screens are tracings from a sustained bilateral hip extension. The first screen is Pre Barefoot Science, the second screen is following regular use for six weeks.

Describes the pre Barefoot Science insoles

Pre Barefoot Science

 

Shows the eSMG results after wearing Barefoot Science

After 6 weeks using Barefoot Science insoles (and increasing running mileage)

As you can see in the tracings, before BFS the left gluteus maximus was not even firing and the left biceps femoris (hamstring) was firing intermittently. Also the lumbar paraspinals were contracting asymmetrically. After six weeks there is a much more robust contraction pattern across all monitored muscles – with symmetrical contraction of hamstring and paraspinals. Honestly, if I could bring about this kind of change with manual therapy and exercises folks would flock to my seminars!

3. Postural changes (All subjects)

In every case there was a leveling and posterior shift of the pelvis presumably related to increased hamstring tone. Reduced forward head was observed as well.

4. Changes reported re: pain, strength gains, return to previous activities, etc.

McBee testimonial (this report is typical of everyone using BFS):

“While being treated by David, he told me about Barefoot Science. I was very skeptical, having tried numerous inserts and finally the doctor-prescribed inserts. But David’s enthusiasm for your product convinced me to try them. After my session with David, I hurried home to try the product. I put them in my running shoes, starting with Level 1 because of my flat feet, and the moment my feet touched the ground, I knew I had something different. For the first time in years, my feet felt planted. Planted! What a great feeling! It was like going barefoot with shoes on! I no longer had to walk gingerly. In fact, I literally jumped up and down, and my feet did not hurt or protest! I could not believe it!
I am now at Level 4 and my feet feel great. They feel strengthened. I can put my full weight on my feet with no pain. And, I have begun to run short distances. I feel confident that I can once again run greater distances, perhaps not the 40 miles per week I ran in my 40s, but perhaps a mile or two per day. But, who knows, when I reach Levels 6 and 7, perhaps I can indeed run longer distances!

I highly recommend this product. It has made a world of difference to my feet, to my posture (without even trying!), to my ability to withstand strenuous workouts. Now, at the gym and elsewhere, I happily recommend the Barefoot Science System to my fellow workout partners and to my friends. One fellow even asked me if I was a salesman for the product! I replied that in one sense I was, because I believe in the product. I recently purchased the Barefoot Science feet strengthening system for my brother, who has great things to say about them. I’m now encouraging my other brother to try them.”

What does this mean to a runner?

The hamstrings and gluteals are the big guns in running – and running is integral to nearly all sports. My observations indicate:

  • Improved muscle load distribution (evidence of improved participation of all necessary muscles)
  • Decreased asymmetrical inefficiency (evidence of shift toward L/R balance in amplitude)
  • Reduced fatigue (evidence of delayed onset)
  • Decreased pelvic torsion + improved pelvic level = Core Stability
  • Increased Performance (reported in all cases)

Conclusion

The Barefoot Science people know their insoles work – they’ve done extensive trials that show dramatic pain relief and improved energy. But I honestly don’t think they realize how truly remarkable a product they’ve invented. These insoles help so many people with such a variety of complaints – not just because they align posture or provide cushioning and support for feet (like orthotics) – but because they activate the plantar musculature and foot bed proprioception which I believe cross trains the body out of the core bias that underlies a multitude of inefficiencies and subtle imbalances. I believe it literally completes the upright posture circuit and brings about posture without effort!

 

Submitted by David M. Lemke, NMT, sEMG Tech

Anyone that puts Barefoot Science insoles in their shoes will have an increase in performance and a greatly reduced chance of injury. I now wear my Barefoot Science every day and recommend them to all of my clients.

Richard Pady, Canada
Triathlon Coach, Trainer and Competitor

I have used Barefoot orthotics on some of my toughest casesof plantar fasciitis, tibialis posterior tendinosis and metatarsal- gia and have had excellent results. These are people who have tried and failed traditional orthotics, stretches and various other devices. Barefoot orthotics are easy to sell as people can see the logic in the approach. Thoroughly happy with the product and service

Mark Gillham
Physiotherapist, Cowra NSW, Australia

Immediately from stepping onto my insoles with level one insert I felt a subtle but reassuring change in posture and balance. 8 weeks later I am up to level 6 and two weeks ago I was able to start running again pain-free for the first time in 14 months since a back injury. By way of an update; "Thank you Barefoot Science:- I am completely stoked as I just ran a personal best for a 10k trail over mixed terrain, pain-free!" ...........This afternoon's time was 57:28 - pretty ordinary for many but great for me as my goal has been to get 10k covered in under an hour......... and, after all, I am 186cm, 108kgs and 49 1/2 yrs old! I first 'ran' again in May and took 11 mins to cover 1.6km / 1 mile!

Tim in Alton, Hampshire
A member of EDC Crossfit

In our office, Barefoot Science (BFS) has been effectively used to help improve this proprioceptive deficit. Barefoot Science is a non-orthotic mid-arch stimulator. Due to its ability to create mid-arch activation, BFS mimics barefoot walking in sand and over time can dramatically help to reduce a proprioceptive deficit and improve foot strength. We highly recommend that all take a look at this wonderful product.

Dr. Peter Gorman and Dr. Chelsea Keesler
Chiropractors New York

I wanted to let you know how I’m getting on with the Barefoot Science insoles as I just moved up to insert no.5 after almost 6 months, which I am finding very comfortable. I can feel them, but in a comforting sort of way. I have to report that I have had hardly any instances of dizziness since about a week from starting to wear them. I am so IMPRESSED! I am trying to do a few balance exercises every day as you recommended, and as a near 70 year old with seven small grand-children, four of them only two so they need floor level attention, I am conscious of the need to keep my balance while getting down and back up! The knee bending is okay up to a point and I’m hopeful it will improve as I use it more. But, as far as the balance side of things go I am thrilled. I think it is positively miraculous and am very grateful to you for suggesting them.

Veronica Barratt
A Guildford lady with balance issues

Hi There, My name is Andrew Coltart. I was a golf professional on the European Tour for 19 years and a former Ryder Cup player. I now walk the fairways of the world commentating for a Major Satellite TV Company. My problem came to the fore when I was 47 years old. I had developed Plantar Fasciitis and it was becoming unbearable and debilitating with pretty much constant pain out on the course and in spite of various types of treatment no signs of improvement. I was starting to wonder if I’d be able to carry on working in my current role. Then I met Stuart Gordon of All About Balance and he explained The Barefoot Science Foot Strengthening System. Basically, because of these simple little nerve stimulating plugs that you insert into the underside of the insole, walking has become pain free and enjoyable again. These are no ordinary insoles. Don’t be fooled by expensive orthotics. The Barefoot Science Foot Strengthening System worked wonders for me, not only helping me continue in my work without any pain, they have also improved my balance…an essential factor in general life and massively important to achieving a consistent golf swing! I highly recommend investing in some.

Andrew Coltard UK
Former European Tour and Ryder Cup Golf Pro., Satellite TV on course Golf analyst.

I have been using Barefoot Science insoles consistently since the beginning of the year. They took me a while to use regularly but with the addition of extra pairs, I am able to ensure that I am using them on almost all occasions. This includes walking, CrossFit WOD's, running and every day wear. As you know, my flat feet caused me terrible pain with shin splints and tight calves every time I did any high impact training including running, even just the shortest distance. I haven't rushed through the stages and have only just moved onto level 3. Tonight I completed a 5km run with zero pain. This is the furthest I have run since 2011 and I even shaved 1 minute off my best 1 mile time!! I've found something comfortable that offers me a solution to pain free training, and I'm only half way through the 6 level programme. Thank you so much for introducing me to the Barefoot Science insoles. ☺

Claire Chivers
Crossfit athlete EDC Alton, Hants.

Personal, Barefoot Science testimonial 26 April, 2013 To my fellow Pod people and persons that have foot related problems, I've found a product called Barefoot Science. I like this product and I use it daily, both for myself, and my Podiatric patients, I personally have had foot related injuries and deficits that caused daily foot pain for years as a result of my military service, not any longer though with my Barefoot Science inserts. I would not go without these inserts in my shoes. I was introduced to this product at a foot healthcare symposium, by Mr. Derek Denton of Alamo Medical services... As an employee of a Podiatry Service of a VA hospital in Texas, I perform highly technical work involved in the design, development, fabrication, alteration, assembly, fitting and repair of orthotic foot braces and orthotic shoes for Veterans as related to their post military service, i.e.: disease ,injury and overuse of the feet and ankle(s). I interpret Podiatrist' prescriptions and perform all steps required in the fabrication and fitting of the several types of orthotic braces, for many of which there are no models or precedents, including but not limited to ankle, foot and lower limb, as related to Podiatric disabilities and advise physicians concerning all types of corrective devices available and modification necessary; to help heal or ameliorate these conditions. *Presently now with the Barefoot Science product(s) I personally have noticed over the years the Pedorthic/Podiatric appliances and more complex appliances in the Pedorthic /Podiatry labs were more accommodating to the “functional foot conditions” that kept the foot aligned and rigid, yet never strengthened the foot, although there is a myriad of devices that claim they do so. I have tried most and until now none of them worked for this purpose of strengthening the intrinsic muscles. I started working with Barefoot Science a few years ago, and it has really turned our practice into a healing clinic. Helping ameliorate painful Podiatric conditions such as plantar fasciitis, metatarsalgia, claw toes, hammertoes, corns, plantar fasciitis, patellar misalignments, chrodromalacia patella, ITB syndrome. I have been working in this field of Podiatry since the mid 1980’s, both with U.S. Navy and Marine Corps personnel, now with Veterans of all armed services as a triple Board Certified Pedorthist and Podiatric clinic manager. I wished we would have had this Barefoot Science product while I was on active duty as a Navy Corpsman, this may have prevented a lot of future/past foot related conditions that we see now. I have also noticed currently within our Podiatric practice a remarkable shift for continuity of care while using these barefoot science rehabilitative foot inserts. The patients get better and stronger while walking not sitting with their feet elevated and hoping the Nsaids do the job. I’ve noticed a reduction of fatigue from all our patients now that they can walk and repair themselves; we have reduced the need for pharmaceuticals (pain meds), orthotics, foot-braces, or surgical interventions, finally solutions ,for these chronic and painful foot problems! *I agree with the following statement of use, and I could not have said it better! Each Barefoot Science Arch Activation SystemTM comes with a pair of insoles to fit into your existing footwear and a series of progressive arch activation inserts. To start, just pop Level 1 into the underside of the insole, slide them in your shoes and get on with your day! It feels like a mini foot massage, sending waves of comfort throughout your body. That sensation is actually your foot muscles waking up and getting stronger. When the sensation fades, usually within a week, your feet are ready to move up to the next level. It’s that easy! With each step, your feet become stronger and more efficient. I recommend this product, and I am not just a practice of one, I work with Dr Karen Brooks, a Podiatrist, we tag team on every Veteran that enters our offices for Podiatric services, she too has over 25 years’ experience in Podiatry Practice and is also very happy with the results of this innovative design and the multiple uses of this barefoot Science rehabilitative and preventative shoe insert to help our Podiatric patients/Veterans. Sincerely, Mike Olden... P.S. Please note: We have a Zebris gait lab pressure measuring platform onsite in our clinic’s Pedorthic lab, that is used to measure our results on every patient pre and post usage of the Barefoot Science rehabilitative inserts. Both static and dynamic is monitored, along with postural sway, including the shoes that they are worn in. The proof is in the pudding, try it for yourself! Michael P.Olden, H.t; Ost; C-Ped; Pmac. Department of Veterans Affairs American Board for Certifications in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics. *Board Certified Pedorthist cert no: Cped0724. KD DIV.HERT Team Decon Coordinator /Instructor KD DIV.Podiatry PAVE TEAM Coordinator/Trainer KD DIV.Local AFGE 2281 Steward+SGT-AT-ARMS KD-Disaster Emergency Medical Personnel System-Team Coordinator Advanced Disaster Life Support Instructor-Cert. Advanced Disaster Medical Response for Providers-Cert. AHA-Basic Cardiac Life Support Instructor-VA-Cert. ECU2 Containment Unit- Staff Trainer-KD-Div. Surgical Service, Code 11C Podiatry / Pedorthic Clinics KD -Div. South Texas Veterans Health Care Systems 3600 Memorial Blvd., Kerrville, Texas. 78028-5768 Wk: (830)-792-2660 Fax :( 830)-792-2532 VA Cell (830)370-2887 Twitter – DEMPS17 Email: Michael.Olden@med.va.gov

Michael P.Olden, H.t; Ost; C-Ped; Pmac.
Department of Veterans Affairs American Board for Certifications in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics. *Board Certified Pedorthist cert no: Cped0724

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