Vibrating insoles, bare feet, and balance

Posted by | Posted in Barefoot Shoes, Barefoot Walking | Posted on 03-07-2012

The Wall Street Journal online published an article describing the research of James Collins from Harvard. James wondered why people get less steady on their feet as they get older.

His conclusion: They get less feedback from the ground and lose the ability to balance.

So far so good.

His solution: An insole that provides random vibration to stimulate the nerves in the feet.

Can anyone here think of another way of doing the same thing, but without all the electronic bells and whistles? Anyone? Beuler? Beuler?

If you said, “Take off your shoes!” you win any prize on the second row!

If you said “Take off your shoes! And if you don’t want to step on unpleasant things, wear Invisible Shoes!” you get a prize from the TOP row! ;-)

I discussed this idea with Dr. Michael Merzinich last year. He, too, thinks that the continued lack of sensation that comes from wearing shoes — especially the big orthopedic shoes they put on elderly people who can’t balance! — results in the brain map of your feet “de-differentiating.” In other words, your brain thinks you have a big paddle at the end of your foot, rather than a highly flexible and strong appendage.

And it’s hard to balance a paddle.

If you think about this, it sheds light on another bit of research on balance and the elderly: Studies have shown that Tai Chi can help elderly people regain their balance. But it’s probably not the Tai Chi that’s causing the effect (BTW, I have nothing against Tai Chi… I did it and taught it for years). It’s the time spent barefoot, FEELING the ground.

I hope that someone does a study with Invisible Shoes and balance sometime. I’d place a bet on the outcome.