[00:00] MVMT Watches/ Four Sigmatic Mushrooms/ Kion Lean
[04:19] About Dr. Emily Splichal
[09:46] What is Movement Longevity?
[12:24] Different Feet Types & Their Significance
[20:51] On Feet Nerves
[27:57] Gratitude Journal
[29:48] On Nerve Endings
[36:40] On Foot-to-Core Cascades
[48:06] Supplements Damaging to Nerve Endings
[52:48] Kegels & Their Disadvantages
[58:54] Myofascial Releasing the Hips
[1:05:48] End of the Podcast
Ben: Hey, if you want to get strong feet, not just strong feet, but a strong everything, a strong you, this is a good podcast. Emily Splichal, if I can spit that one out, is a doctor who specializes in feet, and she has a new book. We talk about it on today's show. It's a really good book, a really short book but a good book. One of those books that's jam-packed with information that we dive into on today's show. Whenever I get an author on today's show, I like to kind of go outside of what you discover if you were to just read their book and kind of get some of the backgrounds or the inside story and some little tips that might not be in there. So we had fun on today's show, you're going to dig it.
Speaking of feet, feet are what help you to move, and I want to tell you about something else that moves, MVMT, pronounced movement. MVMT Watches, this a watch company that makes beautiful, not what I would call fashion-forward. Yeah, that's in my vernacular now, watches. So what MVMT watches are, it's this company, and their goal was to give you a really high quality minimalist watch at what they describe as a revolutionary price. The way that they do that is they cut out the middleman, they make these beautiful watches that just look great on anybody's wrist. My wife has one, I have three. They've sold over million watches in a hundred and sixty plus countries 'cause people love them. They've actually solidified themselves as a world's fastest growing watch company, and there's a reason for that 'cause the watches look great on you, and you get 15% off with free shipping and free returns from movement. Very simple, all you do is you go to mvmt.com/ben, but Movement is spelled M-V-M-T. It's M-V-M-T.com/ben. Again, M-V-M-T.com/ben, and you can go join the movement. See what I did there?
This podcast is also brought to you by Four Sigmatic mushrooms I have been making myself in the afternoon, I've thought of a little toxic lifestyle, but I've been making myself this black, detox tea. Same stuff you'd pay 16 bucks for at the local juicery you can make in the comfort of your own home. I get out a glass mason jar, I take two teaspoons of this mushroom-lemonade mix detox drink with charcoal and chaga, I put the black powder inside of that canister into the glass mason jar, fill that with icy cold water and then just shake it up and drink it down, and it's like a refreshing lemonade but it’s also a lemonade that makes you feel really good about yourself because you're detoxing. It's just activated charcoal from coconut shells and chaga extract and acerola which is a fruit chockful of Vitamin-C, so you're essentially getting the effects of a chaga-charcoal lemonade with just about close to zero calories. So you can get a 15% discount on this or anything else from Four Sigmatic if you go to www.foursigmatic.com. That's F-O-U-R sigmatic.com/bengreenfield.
I also want to tell you about one other thing that I take every single night to strip fat off my body, to stabilize my blood glucose levels, to clean out my liver. Can you tell I like to take care of my body? It's this stuff called Kion Lean. Kion Lean is two very simple ingredients. It's rock lotus extract, which is a fantastic liver cleanse, and then bitter melon extract, which for me stabilizes my post-meal blood glucose better than freaking Metformin. It is one of the most potent blood glucose stabilizers, and what that means is you don't have much sugar turning on your bloodstream, causing inflammation and getting converted into fat after you eat. Considering I like to eat a lot of carbohydrates in the evening, I kind of do this cycling ketogenic diet type of thing where I save all my carbs for the evening. I just pop two of these, and it upregulates the transporters that help those carbohydrates get into muscle and into liver. It's called Kion Lean, you can check that out over getkion.com. You get a 10% discount over there, Get Kion, K-I-O-N, and the one you want to look for is Lean.
Ben: Hey folks, it's Ben Greenfield, and you know I'm into longevity, and that’s a very fast growing area of medicine, this whole anti-aging business. It's a 122-plus billion dollar industry right now, and there's researchers all over the globe dedicating their careers to finding the Fountain of Youth and bored, rich people all over the globe injecting themselves with fringe substances that promise to make them live longer, whether that be copper peptides or acai supplements. A lot of the anti-aging industry focuses on these aspects of so called “eternal youth” and vitality, but my guest on today's podcast has a different approach. She actually thinks that we should be applying much of our research and our efforts into an area of anti-aging medicine that she refers to as movement longevity, and she actually is a human movement specialist, along with being a doctor of podiatry. I've had the pleasure to meet her in New York City when I spoke over there at an event at the fabulous Alchemist in New York City, and her name is Dr. Emily Splichal. Am I pronouncing that right, Dr Emily? Splichal?
Dr. Emily: It is not, it is Splichal, but it still sounds good how you say it.
Ben: I was close but far, that's okay. I'm just going to call you Emily from here on out anyways, if that's cool, so we're just going to avoid that whole awkwardness of me not knowing how to pronounce your last name. Anyways though, you have this book, and for those of you listening in, this book is amazing. It explores the science behind barefoot training, but it's not just one of those books that says, “kick your shoes off and wear some Vibrams and do some single-leg squats.” There's a lot more in there when it comes to unlocking the secrets to what Dr. Emily calls “movement longevity”, and she travels around the world teaching this stuff. She teaches what's called fascial fitness and neuromuscular conditioning, she teaches how to survive the unnatural conditions of today's shawed society. For those of you living under a rock, that means people who wear shoes, I don't know why they just don't call it shoed, but they call it shawed, and how to optimize your movement patterns from barefoot activation exercises to vitamins and supplements that protect the peripheral nerves to a whole host of kind of outside the box thoughts when it comes to building your body and building your longevity from the ground up, literally.
So Dr. Emily practices out of New York, like I mentioned, and she's written a book on all of this. It's called “Barefoot Strong”. Simple little book, I believe it's right around a hundred pages long. It's not a long read, but it's called “Barefoot Strong: Unlock the Secrets to Movement Longevity”, and despite it being only about a hundred pages long, I've got like 25 pages folded over in it, so we have plenty to talk about today. I'll put a link to everything that we discuss over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/barefootben. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/barefootben. So Dr. Emily, welcome to the show.
Dr. Emily: Thank you very much, it is an honor to be on the show and to share this concept of movement in longevity with your listeners.
Ben: Yeah, have you gone back to The Alchemist in New York City since I met you there?
Dr. Emily: I haven't, I need to. They have so many great lectures, and with the products they sell, they're great.
Ben: It's an interesting place. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, you go to New York City. It's called The Alchemist. I'll put a link to their website in the show notes for this episode, but the whole upper floor of The Alchemist, it's actually called The Alchemist's Kitchen is the full name of it. It's like a bunch of herbalists and plants and extracts. They have like a tonic bar and a smoothie bar, and this wonderful, it's almost like a mad science laboratory of everything that you can do to make your body better from like tonics to smoothies to topicals, and then you go downstairs and it's like a biohacking lab with infrared and cold thermogenesis and cryotherapy and vitamin IVs and sound therapy, so a very cool place to visit. If you happen to be in New York City, look them up, The Alchemist's Kitchen is what that place is called, and I was speaking there on brain biohacking and met Dr. Emily there. I had already read her book, so it was a pleasure to meet you there, Dr. Emily, and if you're ready, I want to delve into some of the things that you talk about in the book?
Dr. Emily: Yeah, I'm ready, let's do it.
Ben: Okay, movement longevity. Obviously people talk about longevity, not a lot of people talk about movement longevity. Fill me in on what it is and how you can coin that term.
Dr. Emily: Yeah, so I actually have a passion for anti-aging medicine. When I first started medical school, I was going to conferences through the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. I used to get vitamins for Christmas when I was growing up. Like it was just something that was always part of my lifestyle, I guess, or just infiltrated into my interest. So I started going to these anti-aging conferences, carried through out and been in fitness and movement. I would learn these concepts of anti-aging medicine, on collagen, and of thinking much more external. You know, do the botox so you look young, you want to have your brain young so that you can be sharp, but a lot of people weren't really taking that science and applying it to movement. That was my specialty, that's my passion. So it's like how could I combine these two passions of what I understand in human movement and movement dysfunction with what I understand in my passion with anti-aging medicine to be then this movement longevity, and that's how I look at my patients. It's not just okay, I want to take care of your pain or your Achilles tendinitis, but I want to help you move better, keep your connective tissue young. So even though you're doing the botox then the crossword puzzles and you're doing the nootropics and whatever it is for every other aspect of the anti-aging longevity, but you can also move well because it's not going to serve you any good. If you look young and you can think young, but all of your joints are completely over-baked and your connective tissue is old…
Ben: Or even you can't throw a football with your grandkids or swing a tennis racket?
Dr. Emily: Yeah, exactly. Do the things that you love to do for many years onward, knowing that your musculoskeletal system ages as well very similar to the way that your skin on the external environment or your blood vessels age. So does your fascial system, so does your ligament and your tendons, and how can we use that science to then do exactly what you're saying. Stay young, feel young, move with your grandchildren, et cetera.
Ben: Now there are in the book, to kind of delve straight into brass tax here and talk about optimizing movement longevity from the ground, several different foot types that people tend to have. Can you explain, how somebody listening in right now could figure out what their foot type is and even why they should even care, why is it important to know your foot type?
Dr. Emily: Yeah, so our feet, from a neuromuscular perspective, from a fascial perspective and then, of course, from a biomechanical perspective, is our body's foundation, and this means that if our foundation is not stable, again fascially, neuromuscularly, biomechanically, the rest of your body cannot be stable. So if you have, let's say for example, a flat foot, an overpronated foot, if those who are listening understand that. Your foot is collapsing in. That, theoretically, would be associated with an unstable, unlocked, hyper-mobile foot which means the rest of your body up into your pelvis and your hip and your abs and your glutes are going to be unstable, unlocked and unable to support really the rest of the body during dynamic movement.
Ben: If you have a flat foot?
Dr. Emily: A flat foot, I teach people that flat foot actually doesn't mean anything. It's such a generic term that unfortunately media tells you and shoe companies what you to think that you either have a flat foot, a high arch or a neutral foot, and that's it. You have three foot types, where do you fall into? And that's not really how the foot should be classified. There's a lot of subtle discrepancies in flat feet, but for the sake of this, it's probably easier to say okay, if you have a flat foot, which means your foot is pronating. That's kind of synonymous for a lay person.
Ben: Okay, so flat foot means that you're pronating?
Dr. Emily: Yeah, I will say for this that's what that means.
Ben: Alright, now let me be devil's advocate here. I've noticed since I've started going barefoot, and I see this a lot when I go to Hawaii and I look at the feet of the natives there, when I've played around a lot with sand volleyball players and looked at their feet, and again this happened to me as well. Wide feet what would appear to almost be like a flatter foot, maybe a stronger more springy arch, I suppose, but don't people's feet kind of become more flat as they walk barefoot more or toy around in the sand more or go unshot as they say more?
Dr. Emily: Boy, so that’s why I was saying that flat footed is really the best way. So when you look at, let's say, indigenous people, or I've traveled to 35 countries, have seen feet in India, to Africa, to Eastern Europe, to different gametes, and when I see older populations, let's say India and Africa and China and different places where it was the first humans started roaming around, you actually do see flatter feet because flat feet really is from an evolutionary perspective. The classical wider foot where the toes are spread and the foot has really good contact with the ground, that's kind of what you're describing right now. So I do see that pattern, now that's very different than if you look at an overpronated foot that's actually internally rotating at the knee.
Ben: Overpronated foot, internally rotated on the knee. So I'm standing on one foot now, maybe if people are listening in, they could do this too, and what you're saying is the knee, if I'm standing on my right foot, my knee would kind of be collapsing inward with my weight going towards the inside of the foot?
Dr. Emily: Yeah, and if you want, you can really go through this to understand how the foot moves is if all of the listeners stand up on both of their feet and roll from the inside of the foot to the outside of the foot. And then just keep going back and forth that way, you're going inside, outside, inside, outside. Essentially you're moving on what's called the subtalar joint of the foot. Every time that you roll into the inside of the foot, you should see or feel that your knees kind of knock in, right? So that's considered the internal rotation of the tibia or the leg, or when you go to outside of the foot, your knees rotate outward.
Anytime your foot collapses inward, which is the time your knees go knocked, that's considered pronated which is considered with an unlocked unstable foot. Why you go on the outside, your knees roll out. That's technically considered oversupinated, which is the opposite, and then that would be a more rigid foot type.
Ben: Got it, okay. So essentially, you would want neither of those foot types, neither the rigid nor kind of like the collapsible foot type?
Dr. Emily: Correct, but if your foot is a little bit flatter like a pancake foot, we'll just call it that. Pancake foot doesn't mean the same thing as overpronated. Overpronated, that's where you start to get these low back pains, you have underactive glutes, you have the things you start to see from a sedentary lifestyle, and that's where orthodics come to place. If you just have a pancake foot and your foot is wide and it looks very primal, and what you're seeing with these people who go more barefoot in sand and indigenous. That's awesome, a-okay. There's no effect biomechanically on the rest of the body.
Ben: Okay, got it. So we've got, and I've believed you referred to this as the inverted foot and then the everted foot in the actual book. Is that correct, is that we're referring to? Well you have three types, the neutral foot, the inverted foot, where we're curved towards the inside of the foot, and then the everted foot where we're curved towards the outside of the foot?
Dr. Emily: So when you sand and you roll inside and outside like I was just having you do, when you collapse inside, right? that it's pronated and your knees knock in. Technically that's an everted foot. And then when you roll on the outside and your knees roll out, your foot becomes a little bit more rigid, that would be an inverted foot type.
Ben: Now correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like a lot of people are the everted foot type. They roll into the inside of the foot, and the knees kind of collapse inward.
Dr. Emily: Yeah, you see that in a lot more people. It's easier for people to understand, so when you go to any lectures, especially within movement in fitness, people are quick to capture the overpronated or the everted or the collapsed running shoe stores and orthotic companies. Love that foot type because that's where they get to push the motion control and the orthotic and things like that.
Ben: What's the best way to figure out your foot type?
Dr. Emily: I would say to either set up a camera or have someone take a picture of your foot, directly from behind where you're standing with your feet shoulder width apart, have the camera exactly perpendicular. Have the camera exactly perpendicular to the ground, so that it's capturing your feet. Stand with both feet, shoulder width apart, take a picture, stand on one foot, take another picture. If your foot just became more stable as soon as you shifted to stand on one leg, that's awesome. That means that your glutes are engaging, and you have stability up your kinetic chain. Obviously do the same thing on the other side, and then if you become more stable on the other side, same thing. It becomes more of a concern when you stand two feet, say you have the eversion, stand on one foot, still everted. Then you start thinking do I get an assessment, do I need orthotics, et cetera.
Ben: Okay, got it, so that's number one, and I want to get into some of the things that you do to correct whichever foot type that you have later on the in the show, but before we do, I want to backpedal just a second and talk a little bit more about the importance of this because there are these small nerves. The body has small nerves and it has large nerves and the smaller nerves can send signals a lot faster to the central nervous system, so you get faster response times, but these small nerves, according to what you're saying, have a really important role in terms of stance and upright stability. Can you go into what those small nerves are and how they would become deactivated?
Dr. Emily: Sure, so the small nerves which are found on the skin on the bottom of the foot, the palm of the hand, here we're obviously talking about feet and posture, so we'll focus on the foot, but the skin on the bottom of the foot has these small nerves that are sensitive to different stimulation. Because the skin on the foot is the only contact point between the body and the ground, from an evolution perspective, from a neurodevelopmental perspective, it plays a critical role in how your body controls static posture, dynamic posture and then, of course, balance and coordination and movement accuracy. So some of the different stimulation that these nerves in the bottom of the foot are sensitive to, there's four things that you want to focus on. First one is called two-point discrimination. So two-point discrimination, a good analogy for those who are listening would be Braille. You know ETMs have Braille, so if you fill Braille and you look at it, it's essentially two points, and the distance in between two points is one millimeter. So I know that you're familiar with Naboso. Naboso is essentially targeting that nerve in the feet because it's a pyramid or a triangle, two points, and the distance between each of those pyramids in one millimeter.
Ben: Now some people might not be familiar with Naboso. I don't want to derail you, but can you highlight that for some people?
Dr. Emily: Sure, so Naboso technology is a textured in-sole and a textured mat that I helped developed. I mean I own the company. I helped developed and launched last year, January 2017. The target behind it and the research behind it is completely fascinating, there's tons of research around texture. What texture does to posture, dynamic control, and to date, this is the only commercially available in-sole mat that uses that research.
Ben: Actually, you know where I have it right now? I have it in my infrared sauna, and I stand in it when I'm in my sauna, and I did put your inserts into one of my pair of shoes, but yeah it's interesting. It looks like a yoga mat, but it actually stimulates these receptors on the feet and on the hands, whether I'm in down dog or whether I'm standing on the mat to do a squat or something like that?
Dr. Emily: Yeah, so the mat, the in-soles, is targeting this two-point discrimination which is one of the nerves in the bottom of the feet. The second nerve is for skin stretch. So when you're on something that's textured and it's rough, your foot, the skin gets stuck to it, right? So when you're shifting and doing dynamic movements, it's actually moving the skin underneath and the fascia underneath which stimulates nerves, feeds the nervous system, et cetera. The last two nerves in the bottom of the feet are both sensitive to vibration. Why vibration and the perception of the vibration is so important is because that's the stimulus of dynamic movement. So every time your foot hits the ground, impact forces, ground reaction forces, those are perceived by your feet and your nervous system as vibrations. So being able to perceive vibration critical to maintaining balance when you walk or you do dynamic movement. Christian shoes block all of that vibration and all of that information coming into your nervous system through your feet, and it is a huge contributor to delayed reaction time, a loss of stability, inaccurate perception of the joints, I could keep going on about how shoes are awful.
Ben: Yeah, I think we've kind of kicks to death, pun intended, the evils of shoes on previous podcasts and on shows before, and don't get me wrong. If I may go run on a super rocky, gnarly trail, honestly in some cases, give me ankle braces and a good pair of Hokas, right? Like sometimes, you need unnatural means to achieve an unnatural end. I'm a total minimalist guide, but I've also gotten stress fractures and ankle sprains from being dumb about the degree of minimalism that I'll use when, say I'm in a Spartan race that's putting me into a situation where I normally wouldn't sprint down a hill full of sharp rocks, right? So there are some cases where you do have to gird up your body and put on some armor, but what you get into in the book, Emily, is even this idea that as soon as you put on something as simple as socks, you can block these little sensitive small nerves. Is that even socks cause an issue?
Dr. Emily: Yes, they do. So think of if you put gloves on your hand and you're trying to do something, immediately, you might start to get or feel a little bit inaccurate. You keep wearing the gloves, you now create a new coordination around it. So you, of course, adapt to whatever that new environment is, but when I speak to people and professionals I try to tell them, especially if you're dealing with someone who has an injury or their post-concussion or they have an ankle sprain and now they're a little bit slow in the nervous system. You really have to optimize what's coming into the nervous system, so that you're giving it the best opportunity that you can. If I only give the nervous system 85% of the information that it needs to create a movement pattern, you know my goal is optimize people's movement patterns, so I want to give them as much information as possible. The other thing around why I look at barefoot from the movement longevity perspective is that sensory information precedes motor responses, so sensory has to go in before motor goes out. The way that your brain and your motor cortex sees movement is through sensory, so the critical aspect of movement longevity is making sure that the sufficient sensory information is coming in.
Ben: And this is where you could, for example, if you got to be at the office and not have your stinky hairy hobbit feet up on the desk, you would do something like put like a special proprioceptive enhancing in-sole inside the shoe to at least get some of those benefits?
Dr. Emily: Exactly, that's part of why I created the Naboso in-soles is so that maybe… you wear the hokas like you were saying? Hokas got a lot of cushion. There's zero drop which is awesome, but there's a time that you may need to use those, so let's work within the reality of your environment, the reality of those shoes, but can I somehow enhance the sensory stimulation in that reality? Yes, right. So I agree with what you're saying.
Ben: Hey, I want to interrupt today's show to tell you about gratitude. Every single morning for years, I woke up and I would do the whole writing of affirmations. I'm good, I'm great, I'm wonderful, and gosh darn it, people like me. I don't do that anymore. What I do is I instead write down every single day one person who I can help or who I can pray for or who I can serve. And in addition to that, I write down one thing, just one simple thing that I'm grateful for, and then whatever truth I discovered in that morning's reading, 'cause I like to start off my day with reading something spiritual or devotional or motivational, and when I read and I know that I need to read with intention because I'm going to be answering that question of what truth I discovered after I read makes a profound difference in the way that what I read affects me the rest of the day. So it's what am I grateful for, what truth did I discover in today's reading and who can I pray for or help or serve today.
So a couple of years ago, I systematized all of that into a journal, and I call it the “Christian Gratitude Journal”. No, you do not have to be a Christian to benefit from this journal, but I am so I named it that, darn it. So it's called the “Christian Gratitude Journal”. It's over at christiangratitude.com, christiangratitude.com. Beautiful little hardbound journal, fits easily into a bag. I use it every morning, my kids use it every morning, my wife uses it every morning. We gather around the dinner table at night, and we respond with our answers to each of the questions. It's a great bonding experience. It teaches my children the power of gratitude, the science of gratitude is staggering. So check it out, christiangratitude.com. Alright, let's jump back in with Emily.
Ben: So when it comes to these nerve endings and these needing to perceive in a large motor movement, is that related to the pre-activation response that you talk about in the book?
Dr. Emily: Hundred percent, so the pre-activation, all of that is that impact forces and really the force of dynamic movement is coming in faster than your muscles can respond which means that you have to be anticipating the impact forces or be pre-active to whatever impact force that's coming in.
Ben: Okay, talk to me about how this relates to the Cirque du Soleil 'cause this is a fascinating story that you tell in the book.
Dr. Emily: Yeah, so I actually forgot I told that in the book. So again the same thing, you have to be able to anticipate the impact forces before they come in, and then the loading response that you create to impact is based off of what you're anticipating. So after just two or three steps, your nervous system already starts to anticipate the surface that you're walking on, your body weight, the degree of vibration that's coming in, and then you fall into this pre-active date that we're speaking about. If you have a mismatch between what you anticipate and what's actually coming in, that's where you start to see these impact related injuries, so Cirque du Soleil. I'm sure all of the listeners know Cirque du Soleil, if they don't, work the bend, get out of the wrong, get out from under the rock that you're in, and look up Cirque du Soleil. They have a very low injury rate for a reason. The way that these athletes are tuned into their body, incredible. So the Cirque du Soleil in Los Angeles got this brand new training facility that's staged as new, and all of a sudden, their performers started getting shin splints, Achilles' tentonitis, plantar faciitis which are impact related injuries. They're like, “wait a minute, we do not get injuries in Cirque du Soleil, what's going on.”
So they brought Dr. Neeg who's one of the researchers on all of the stuff that I'm speaking about. It's called Muscle Tuning Theory. They brought him down to Los Angeles to look at the stage, and he saw that every so many feet under the stage, there was just the support beam. So many feet, support beam. Which means that if the performer was tumbling and expecting or anticipating to land on the stage not over the beam but actually landed on the beam, there would be a mismatch in what they anticipate in vibration and would actually enter the nervous system. So what they did is they got rid of all of the support beams, tested every inch of the stage and made sure that it was the exact same vibrational frequency. All of the injuries went away which, to me, is fascinating. Every time I tell that story, people are like, “oh my god, that's amazing.” But to support that, I tell this story everywhere I go, and I was in Australia last year whenever. And one of their football league's coaches with their whatnot, and he said, “oh we got this new field.” And as soon as we switched to the new field although the players were complaining about. It just didn't feel the same, they didn't have as much energy, it was starting to kind of affect their knees and their feet a little bit, and the difference between the old field and the new field is the new field had a parking garage under it. For a parking garage, they need massive amounts of concrete. Concrete does not vibrate which means that there was a subtle difference that their nervous system was able to pick up on, as far as a vibrational frequency from the ground, which is super cool.
Ben: Wow, that's really interesting, but shoes actually decrease this ability to pick up the vibration?
Dr. Emily: Yes.
Ben: Okay. So, and this is something that I thought was interesting. I think a lot of people might not be able to wrap their heads around because you think of a shoe. Even like the Hoka that I mentioned, which I would wear really more for protection and to reduce impact forces after reading your book. Because a shoe, even a high cushion shoe can increase impact forces. How exactly does that happen, like how does a shoe increase the amount of force that your foot's exposed to? You think you'd bubble and cushion the foot?
Dr. Emily: Right, so when we put cushion in shoes, because again, impact forces is vibration. To understand that, that's the step one here. So every time your foot hits the ground, vibrations are coming in. If you put cushion in shoes, the cushion actually damps or absorbs the vibration. Which means now, your nervous system doesn't have information, she knows how hard you're striking the ground. So the way that you respond is you strike the ground harder, which means now you have even more impact forces entering the body that you now have to compensate for and absorb through your neuromuscular system. So when people usually switch to a Vibram or a Vivobarefoot or any of the minimal shoes, per steps might be like, “oh whoa, I'm hitting the ground really hard,” and then they start to realize that, and they quickly auto-adjust and start to hit the ground much softer in minimal footwear, and that's because you have all of the information that you need to create a perception of how your foot is striking the ground or reacting with the ground.
Ben: Okay, got it. So basically what it comes down to is that these cushioned shoe with the high amount of drop being, I think it's like 12 to 14 millimeters is the average heel-toe drop. Those are actually going to increase risk of either foot injury or your hip injury because you're striking the ground harder?
Dr. Emily: Correct, and if I may add, when the shoe takes the cushion or takes all of the impact from the cushion and the shoe takes all of the vibration impact, now the muscles in the feet don't have to contract to absorb the vibration. So the intrinsics or the small muscles in your feet will actually atrophy with chronic, supportive footwear use, and when your intrinsic start to deactivate or atrophy, your foot becomes weaker and weaker, and you become almost pseudo-dependent on shoes that have cushion.
Ben: Okay, got it. Very interesting. Now when we look at how to actually get the foot to the point where it could be ready to go barefoot, to go in Vibrams, to go in minimalist shoes, to reduce impact, et cetera. It's obviously far more complex than simply getting a stress fracture by switching from a Hoka to a Vibram. You have in the book, this cascade. I think it's the one you called a foot-to-core activation cascade to actually teach you how to activate your feet and your core properly, and I've been standing on these Naboso mats when I'm in my sauna and actually doing this foot-to-core activation cascade that you have in the book. You know, from the short book activation all the way down to the deep hip activation, can you kind of take the time to walk through what it actually looks like to do a foot-to-core activation cascade, kind of describing that to listeners?
Dr. Emily: Sure, so my big thing on why I empathized from foot-to-core is that I don't want just the foot to be strong because the foot, even though it's our foundation, doesn't work in isolation from the rest of the body. We always want to think of the body from a global perspective, and from a global perspective, the center of where ball of our action and our power and our stability comes from is obviously our core, right? So our center of gravity which is where our core is needs to be in direct communication with our foundation, hence foot-to-core. Now when I focus on the core, the part of the core that I'm referencing is the deep core. So call it the intrinsic core if you want so then it matches the foot anatomy terms, we'll just go with it. So intrinsic core would be the pelvic floor, transverse abdominal, so it's kind of those deeper abs, Pilates muscles if you want to call that, and then those muscles actually connect to your diaphragm. So the way that you engage the deep-core pelvic floor with the diaphragm means that we have to be talking about breathing while we're doing this.
Now from a fascial line perspective, your intrinsic foot muscles actually connect through fascial lines to your pelvic floor, into your diaphragm, and then I'm going to add onto it, which was not in the book, and then it goes all the way up into your tongue. So when you're doing these activations, I'm going to cue the tongue as well. So the exercise that activates the foot is short foot, and short foot, from an easy way to describe it, would be pushing your toes down into the ground. Now listeners can go onto YouTube, there's tons of articles and videos around short foot, but you want to think of short foot as isometric contraction of your foot, specifically the intrinsic muscles in the foot. So you can do it by pushing your toes into the ground.
Ben: So you stand there, and you just push your toes into the ground?
Dr. Emily: Yes.
Ben: All five of them?
Dr. Emily: Yeah, all five of them down into the ground, and when you do that, you can also put energy or focus on listing your arch while you do that.
Ben: Okay, so I'm bending my toes and kind of forcing each of the toes into the ground and trying to lift up my arch simultaneously?
Dr. Emily: Yes, so the way that I take people through it is I would get them to just get that coordination. So push the tips of the toes down into the ground, lift the arch, and then release it. Push the tips of the toes down into the ground, lift the arch, release it. Just get that coordination for a little bit. Do it on both sides, do it only one foot at the time because this is a mind-muscle connection. So just to the right foot, and then do the left foot. And then what I want you to do is go back to your first foot, and now we're going to focus more on the core. So if you engage your transverse abdominals, when you lift your pelvic floor, if you know how to do that, they end up putting some sort of tension or isometrics back into your core. Hold that contraction, and now push your right toes down into the ground. You should feel some sort of connection between your feet and your core when you do it that way, and then you want to release both and then do it again. Engage your TVA, brace with the pelvic floor. Pull back, push your toes down into the ground. Hold that, feel a connection.
Ben: You're saying the transverse abdominals or the TVA, by the way?
Dr. Emily: Yes, exactly.
Ben: By the way, to activate my pelvic floor and my transverse when I do this, should I do like a kegel, squeezing my toes into the ground, lifting the arch, I do a kegel or just let the activation of the toes cause that muscle to contract?
Dr. Emily: I'm actually not a fan of kegel.
Ben: Okay, why not?
Dr. Emily: Because I don't want to open Pandora's Box.
Ben: Open Pandora's Box? Well you know what, finish this up, and then open Pandora's Box. I'd love to hear your thoughts on kegels.
Dr. Emily: Okay, so now say we did that on both sides, so now your third layer to this is that I would want you to exhale as you're doing that. So start exhaling, so exhale, engage your TVA, or for the sake of this right now, do your kegel. Keep exhaling, now push your right toes down into the ground. Keep exhaling, and you should feel like there's a deeper activation between that connection. Release it, on the next one now, exhale, engage your TVA, keep exhaling, push your toes into the ground. Now push your tongue into the roof of your mouth, into your palate, and then hold and see if anything happens between that connection. Feet, pelvic floor, tongue in the roof of the mouth and then release.
Ben: It's almost like I activate my deep-core more when I shove my tongue up against the roof of my mouth, why is that?
Dr. Emily: You do because it's fascially connected. It's called a hack, like I love biohacking, so these are biohacks to your body's posture, I don't know, but if you know that this is how your body stabilizes, this is what I get runners to do before they go running. Essentially just get these stabilization pathways online. It takes one minute to do it, now do whatever the heck you normally do. Go run, go lift, go snatch, climb a tree, I don't care.
Ben: Yeah, like I mentioned. I've been kind of practicing this in the sauna 'cause I'm in there anyways doing yoga and splits, all manner of different things, and this is an easy one to do. Obviously I did it right now 'cause I have a standing desk while you and I were talking, but that's interesting too, what you have to say about the fascia. So it goes from the foot all the way up to the skull, huh?
Dr. Emily: It does, yeah, and then it's influencing the tongue. The other thing that I think your listeners would appreciate is that when you push your tongue into the roof of the mouth, your tongue ligament actually link to your vestibular system which will link to verticular activating system, so you turn on your brain.
Ben: That's really interesting, so there's the book “Anatomy Trains” by Thomas Myers and he talks about these fascial lines, like there's the posterior fascial line and the lateral fascial line. Is this part of that fascial line, like one of the fasical lines that he refers to in that book?
Dr. Emily: Yes, this is the deep front line.
Ben: The deep front line is what we connect that when you press the tongue against the roof of the mouth to the activation of the foot proprioception?
Dr. Emily: Yes.
Ben: Fascinating, this is really cool. How often do you, when you're working with a patient or with a client, how often are they doing short foot? Is this a daily, is this like once a week you do a big short foot workout? How does it work exactly?
Dr. Emily: Yeah, so I recommend doing short foots, depends on your condition, but if you technically do it the way that I'm explaining it, it's also waking up your brain. So it's getting everything online, so I have patients or clients do it. First thing in the morning, you're brushing your teeth, you go through your little routine. I always start with releasing the feet as well, but morning, boom, do it. Whenever you work out, whether it's a run, it's a lift, whatever that workout may be, do five minutes of foot activation, foot-to-core activation before that workout, and then I recommend two to three times a week of 20 to 30 minutes of very focused barefoot foot-to-core activation. So barefoot to me is a lifestyle, that doesn't mean I walk barefoot on the street. That's not that life though, but to activate my feet is just a belief that I have that ties into my longevity and not just movement longevity, but brain longevity. And then when I do a workout, if I'm swinging a kettlebell, I'm using short foot in every repetition. When I do pull-ups and rings and things like that, I do aerials.
Ben: Wait, how are you doing short foot when you're doing kettle swing? How are you doing a swing and activating short foot simultaneously?
Dr. Emily: So picture a single-arm or double-arm kettlebell swing, let's say the bells back on the negative base of it, so it's kind of between the legs, swinging down, and you're about to initiate the positive phase of the swing. Push your toes down into the ground, lift your pelvic floor, exhale.
Ben: Okay, I get you. You got to get that pretty subconscious for that to occur that quickly.
Dr. Emily: Oh yeah, you know I'm a big believer in body weight training and when you do neural resets and kind of this stuff that we're speaking of, you have to do it several times a day. When you start pushing a little bit more, you cannot add resistance. I mean you're right, this has to be very subconsciously programmed in your nervous system, but it's super cool that when you understand these little hacks, try it next time you do pull-ups is engage your feet. So don't disregard the feet, but can you point your toes and get intrinsics, what does that do to your coveted floor, what does that do to your grip strength? And now you're pull-ups much easier.
Ben: Yeah, I like it. Speaking of hacks, by the way, I know a lot of people who are interested in hacks take supplements like nootropics and multivitamins and stuff, and you have, for example, a host of nutrients that actually help with things like epidermal nerve fiber density and the plantar cutaneous nerves. You've got a whole host of things like L-methylfolate is one that you recommend as being a substance you could take to enhance nerve health. Acetyl L-carnatine, you have a recommended dosage in there if taken 500 milligrams of that a couple of times a day. I know that's one that's been studied quite a bit for nerve pain. Alpha-lipoic acid, you have that one in there as well, so I like how you kind of move into some of the things that you can do, even from a nutrient standpoint for the nerves. Are there any things that people consume from either a supplement or a food standpoint that you would say are the most damaging to nerve endings, whether it be a perceived healthy food or maybe a supplement that could get overused that would cause nerve issues?
Dr. Emily: I mean the first thing that comes to mind is sugar.
Ben: Really, not vegetable oils, huh? I mean the reason I asked is just playing devil's advocate, you could metabolize sugar, right? You could go and do a bunch of kettlebell swings and burn it off?
Dr. Emily: True, but I mean I focus, and not just my experience of treating a lot of diabetics who have nerve issues because that's just on the forefront with sugar. But for sugar and what it does from the glycation perspective, that's just where I see so much of it, and the glycation and the inflammation what it does to the peripheral nerves is massive. And just a lack of stimulation. Like the neuroplasticity, you have to push those nerves, which does mean get out of your shoes, but think of the diet that you're eating from a peripheral nerve perspective, not just a brain perspective. A lot of those supplements that you're talking about, people probably think of from a brain central nervous system health perspective, but it also applies to the peripheral nervous system as well.
Ben: Right, yeah. Interestingly some of these nootropics like modafinil, for example, have been studied in higher doses. Long term, there does appear to be oxidative damage to specific brain regions and specific areas of the central nervous system. So that would be an example of where I would imagine some people who are popping adderall or modafinil or provigil or whatever, on a long term basis could potentially damage the nerves. I mean that's one that I could think of. That's where I get the most concerned is overuse of nootropics and psychadelic microdosing as potentially harmful to the nerves. I even myself, when I've used some of those substances, found disturbing like paresthesia and tingling and elements that make me wonder how healthy some of those things would be for the nerves. So that's interesting.
Dr. Emily: Yeah, those nootropics, the one that has probably the strongest research that is easiest to implement is choline. Do you take a choline derivative?
Ben: Yeah, I do. That's in the Qualia. I take something called Qualia about three or four times a week, and that has some pretty significant sources of choline in it.
Dr. Emily: Okay, that probably is great.
Ben: The other one that I use is Lion's Mane, and I'll occasionally just dump a packet of, for example, like the Four Sigmatic Lion's Mane into a cup of coffee, and I know that one stimulates nerve growth factor in the brain. I don't know if it's been studied when it comes to nerve ending such as in the foot, but there's some interesting data on Lion's Mane and it's ability to promote neuronal regrowth, and I think in rodent models who they induce nerve damage on, they sacrifice certain nerves. They were actually able to walk again after they got Lion's Mane extract in their water.
Dr. Emily: Well, you know if listeners are concerned of taking supplements and nootropics and things like that, totally valid of a concern. You can look at the whole body vibration, obviously that's not an invasive approach, and whole body vibration is great in the sense that it improves profusion, and it stimulates insulin-like growth factor to do see a great effect to the tendons and to the peripheral circulation. Or you can also do Ornithine and just stand barefoot on the ground, and there's great research around that it improved circulation, skin profusion, decreased blood viscosity by doing Ornithine. So those are other non-invasive techniques that I integrate with my patients and in my practice.
Ben: Yeah, and the other one that I like for that is simply bouncing up and down barefoot on a trampoline. I keep one outside the door of my office and step out into the sunshine sometimes, in between recording podcasts or when I'm doing consults with clients, et cetera, and just bounce up and down for a little while, and I feel as though I get, of course you get lymph fluid circulation but also a bit of proprioception on that. I do also have one of those power plates. In my living room, my kids like to stand on it and vibrate, but I also hop on there every once in a while and same thing. You get a huge amount of tingling and definitely enhanced proprioception when you stand on those things, so yeah. A lot of ways you can do this. Now before I let it slide and I let you get away with dropping that kegel bomb and not following up in it, why aren't you a fan of kegel exercises? Let's open that can of worms.
Dr. Emily: Okay, so the way that I view kegels and the way that I feel that it's often construed is that contracting the public floor through a kegel way, you're in one place kind of squeezing the muscles where the way that I try to get patients and professionals to think of the public floor is that it's an anti-gravity muscle and it's a fascial. So think of it as very fascial-based, so it's attention-based and it's anti-gravity so there has to be a list of elements to it. The pelvic floor also has an anterior and a posterior division. So when you do a classic kegel, like stop your pee, that's in very much focus on the anterior pelvic floor, and it doesn't create the sensation of a list. So instead of a kegel, I try to get patients and professionals to think of the pelvic floor like a clock. I'll just take you through the whole thing.
Your pubic symphysis is twelve o' clock, your tail bone is six o' clock, your right axis is three o' clock, your left axis is nine o' clock. You're picturing that clock on the base of your pelvis, and then you want to start to draw six o' clock to twelve o' clock. So they're drawing towards each other, and they're going to meet in the middle, and as you engage them, they're going to meet and kind of list as well. Then you're going to hold that, and you're going to start to draw three o' clock to nine o' clock, almost like two ends coming to each other, and then that's going to be more proper using the entire pelvic floor way of engaging the pelvic floor. The other reason why I emphasized this is that it's your posterior pelvic floor that's actually connected to your feet. So you want to make sure that if you're doing just a kegel way of engaging your pelvic floor and you forget the levator ani, which is the posterior, you might be missing this foot-core cascade that we were just talking about.
Ben: So could you say, to simplify things for people, don't do a kegel unless you're simultaneously activating your glutes?
Dr. Emily: When you engage a pelvic floor, you don't want to squeeze your butt because now you just went into a very strong dominant muscle. I try to teach people to engage the pelvic floor while exhaling. Hold it, you should feel nice and relaxed, and now let's say if you're doing a push-up or something. Now add in your glutes, boom, now you're even more stable, and let's execute that push-up. And then when you're on the top of the push-up, could you possibly let go of your glutes again, keep the pelvic floor, add them in again, do your next rep. So I'm trying to get mover and athletes or patients to feel the difference between deeper core and how you could add in these really strong superficial muscles, but they can only be part of the party if your deep stabilizers are engaged. It's more of like a coordination, I mean this is what I specialize in my office with the patients that I treat, they've lost the coordination of the way that their muscles are firing. Most of them have very dominant glutes and under-active pelvic floors. So now I have to retrain their whole nervous system to recoordinate.
Ben: Interesting, do you have any blog posts about retraining the nervous system for the pelvic floor 'cause I don't think you get into this and I don’t remember seeing it much in your book?
Dr. Emily: Yeah, I probably did not mention it in the book. My blog is barefootstrongblog.com, and I speak quite a bit because everything that I speak about is foot-to-core. That's why I would travel and speak at a conference or whatnot. It's just kind of my unique angle of looking at the human body, and then on my YouTube channel, I have many different videos, and I even go into different webinars that become more educational, that's just not an exercise. I go into the science behind why that exercise is done that way. I can send you that, it's youtube.com/ebfafitness.
Ben: Yeah, send me that. I mean it sounds to me like the ultimate take-away from the kegels is that not every muscle kind of works in a vacuum and it's supposed to work in tandem with other muscles such as the deep abdominal floor, the transverse abdominus, etcetera, and you shouldn't just kind of like squeeze to stop the flow of urine without being able to activate some of those other muscles.
Dr. Emily: Correct, I mean I've honestly, for the listeners who know your pudendal nerve, I mean I've had patients that kegeled their way in trapping and irritating their pudendal nerve which means now they cannot sit. Imagine not being able to sit because you have severe nerve pain in your paraneum, and you don't want to kegel your way into that.
Ben: Okay, got it. Maybe after the interview, yeah. Definitely shoot me the link, if you're got some good videos or resources or even if it's something that you didn't write or something from somebody else, and I will post that in the show notes for people over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/barefootben. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/barefootben. Now speaking of the hips, Emily, you also talk about why it's important to release the hips. On page 88, you talk about myofasically releasing the hips and how when doing myofascial release work, you like to do cross friction massage and what you recommend to the inverted foot type to do myofascial release to the pure formist and glute media.
Dr. Emily: So for releasing the hip, that kind of carries off of the pelvic floor that we were speaking about, so the kegel comments was actually a perfect segue. So when I have people release their hips, why it is is because they're probably globally dominant, globally means it's superficial muscles. So part of the hip that I typically focus on releasing is the TFL, the tensor fascia lata on the front outside into your lateral aspect of the pelvis, and the piriformis which is another instigator, very dominant muscle, and then going into anterior glute medias, kind of all the muscles that hug around the illiac crest. So why I want those released is if you're trying to do this reset of the foot-core which are intrinsic muscles, you have to first make sure that any of the superficial muscles that are very active get out of the way first. So once those are out of the way, now you can get the quieter intrinsic muscles to activate, and then you can get those globals, more superficial muscles to be part of the party. TFL is one of the most dominant instigators when it comes to movement, dysfunction, knee pain, hip pain, foot pain, ankle sprains, etcetera, etcetera. And if your TFL is very dominant, it's actually not going, not allow this so as to engage when it should, and then that creates a lot of instability.
Ben: Okay, gotcha. So when you're saying to do a myofascial release, if you tend to be like, and a lot of people are, including me, especially this type with the everted foot type. I'm sorry, is it the inverted or the everted foot type? I think it's the inverted foot type where your knee goes kind of towards the inside?
Dr. Emily: That's everted.
Ben: Okay, that's everted.
Dr. Emily: But when your knee goes towards the inside.
Ben: Okay, so which foot type is going to benefit most from doing this type of myofascial release?
Dr. Emily: So typically, you can assume this, that if your feet are rigid or you have tight ankles, you have tight hips. You can associate one with the other, so if there's a listener who has very high arches and feels like limited ankle dorsiflexion or tight ankles, right? when they squat and things like that? Then mobilizing the hip is also really important because they're so interconnected. Focusing on the hip, you would want to do all of these external rotators which means the pair of formists, the glutes and to glute medias. All of those guys which insert onto your IT bands, though I would then also include TFL.
Ben: Okay, and I see, by the way, on page 89 next to page 88 where you give instructions and a link to a video on how to do this myofascial release of the hip. This feels really good, by the way. I've just used a little yoga ball to do this. You've got the full instructions how to do that six o' clock, twelve o' clock, three o' clock, nine o' clock full pelvic floor muscle drawing in action. So I guess you do mention it in the book. I hadn't remembered seeing it in there, but I'm seeing it now. You actually do kind of have instructions for how to do a quasi kegel exercise properly, so it is in there. There we go, I just saw it.
Dr. Emily: Perfect, I'll send you additional links.
Ben: Okay, perfect, and I'll put those links, by the way, for everybody listening over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/barefootben. That's bengreenfieldfitness.com/barefootben, and like Emily mentioned, this Naboso mat which I became aware of after reading her book is also something that she developed as a way to stimulate the foot and the hand propriceptors. So I will put a link to that technology as well. I actually have their in-soles, and I have this mat. It's even something that you could take to a yoga class if you wanted to use that as your mat in yoga rather than a standard yoga mat, and I like it. It gets a little stinky. You got to clean it off once a week because I sweat on it so much 'cause it just sits on my sauna, but it's a really good surface I've found to do these short foot exercises and many of the other things that Emily's talked about as far as ways to activate the feet. And then the book, like I mentioned, it's like a hundred pages long, so you've got no excuse. Just get it because we scratched the surface. We didn't scratch the surface, we took a deep dive into some of the stuff, but ultimately, there is a lot in this book that we didn't get a chance to talk about, so I recommend picking it up.
And then if you have questions for Emily or I, you could just leave them over at bengreenfieldfitness.com/barefootben, and in many cases, myself or my guests or both. We do a pretty good job at getting in and replying to your questions, so I know you might have some. You could throw them in there if you would like, so Dr. Emily, thanks for coming on the show. We're going to have an alchemized juice sometime back at The Alchemist' Kitchen, New York City, next time I'm over there.
Dr. Emily: Yeah, are you coming back to New York soon?
Ben: I avoid New York City and L.A. until a whole bunch of appointments pile up and then I just pull the trigger and go, but I think I am going to speak at another one of Dr. David Boley's fantastic dinners at some point. I think we're looking at maybe like November, and I think we're looking at maybe like November for me to come over there, and of course, I'll put it on the calendar and put it out on the weekly rind up and my newsletter and everything for those of you listening in. But yeah, I would say November-ish and something like that.
Dr. Emily: Oh okay, I'll make sure I stop by when I do another lecture.
Ben: There we go, amazing. Well thanks for coming on the show.
Dr. Emily: Yeah, thank you very much. I hoped that this peaks some curiosity for the listeners, and again, it honestly is tip of the iceberg. It goes so much deeper, but it's very powerful and it's easy to implement into your lifestyle.
Ben: I love it. Alright, well folks again bengreenfieldfitness.com/barefootben for the show notes, and until next time. I'm Ben Greenfield along with Dr. Emily, I'm not going to try to pronounce her last name, signing out from bengreenfiedfitness.com. Have an amazing week.
As one of the fastest growing areas within medicine, the anti-aging business is now a $122 billion dollar industry with researchers dedicating their careers to finding the fountain of youth. Whether it be copper peptides or acai supplements, most of the anti-aging industry focuses on limited aspects of eternal youth and vitality.
But my guest on today's podcast believes it is time to apply the latest research into a new area of anti-aging medicine she calls “movement longevity”. In her new book Barefoot Strong: Unlock the Secrets to Movement Longevity, Podiatrist & Human Movement Specialist Dr. Emily Splichal explores the science behind barefoot training and how this often overlooked area of health and fitness is actually the secret to youthful movement.
As an internationally-renown educator on barefoot training, Dr. Emily has traveled the world exploring the concept of movement efficiency from the ground up. Through barefoot science, fascial fitness and neuromuscular conditioning, she will show you how to survive the unnatural conditions of today’s shod society and optimize your movement patterns. From barefoot activation exercises to vitamin supplements to protect your peripheral nerves, Barefoot Strong is a go-to guide to ensure years of efficient movement – one step at a time.
As a Podiatrist, Human Movement Specialist and Global Leader in Barefoot Science and Rehabilitation, Dr. Splichal has developed a keen eye for movement dysfunction and neuromuscular control during gait. Functional and Regenerative Medicine and the role of anti-aging science as it relates to movement longevity is where Dr. Splichal's passion is focused and has led to her notoriety within Podiatry.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-What Emily means by the term “movement longevity”…10:15
-How do you determine your foot type and why is that important…13:00
-What a plantar receptor is and why you should care about it…21:30
-What a pre-activation response is, and its fascinating relationship to injuries in Cirque de Soleil dancers…30:30
-How to set up your own foot core activation cascade…38:00
-The dangers of modafinil (Provigil), Adderal and microdosing…49:00
-Why Emily is not a fan of Kegel exercises…53:15
-How you can release the hips and why that is important for your feet…59:30
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
–The Naboso Mat and Insoles Code: BEN to save 15%
-Video: Short Foot Activation
-Video: Pelvic Floor / Core Activation
–Movement Watches “Minimalist Look, Revolutionary Price”
-Ben's Christian Gratitude Journal