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Adaptive Shortening and the Shoe | Boddicker Performance

Filed under: Article Summaries, Running

Adaptive Shortening and the Shoe

by on Jul 25th, 2010

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The high heeled shoe has led to much debate, and as I’ve written about plenty of times, has very little to offer for the avid runner or fitness enthusiast.  One argument commonly made concerning shoes with an elevated heel is that over time, the plantar flexors held in a shortened position for long periods of time lead to adaptive shortening.  Finally, the claims have been supported specifically with relation to high heel and adaptive shortening of the plantar flexors in this month’s Journal of Experimental Biology.

Csapo and colleagues in their paper “On muscle, tendon and high heels” studied 11 subjects who reported frequent wearing of high heels and a control group of 9 females who do not wear high heeled shoes and looked into fasicle length, pennation angle, and medial gastroc CSA, as well as torque production and the length and stiffness of the Achilles tendon.

The authors found that, in fact, chronic high heel wearing resulted in 13% shorter fasicles in the medial gastronemius and 7% thicker and more stiff Achilles tendon compared to those who wore flat shoes which may have inhibited active ankle ROM.

Aside from the obvious suggestion to your clients to take a “step down” from the elevated heel as frequently as possible, it may be helpful to include some heel drop exercises that I reference in Alleviating Ailing Ankles.  Duclay and colleagues demonstrated in “Behavior of fascicles and the myotendinous junction of human medial gastronemius following eccentric strength training” some progressive heel drops over the course of 18 sessions resulted in increased resting fascicle length and altered muscular architecture that can help improve mobility without necessarily improving the compliance of the tendon itself, which has benefits in and of itself from a performance aspect.

Carson Boddicker

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Leave a Comment »4 Comments
  • Mark Young July 25, 2010

    I’ve been saying this for years. I’m glad that there is finally some research to back me up.

    And I just read the Alleviating Ailing Ankles article too. Great exercises! Eccentrics add sarcomeres in series??? So applicable in many areas.

    You’re a smart dude Carson! Where’s my guest blog?

  • Zach August 17, 2010

    nice article man. im surprised i hadnt heard about this study until now, it looks pretty interesting. thank god i only train in vibrams

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