#128 – Irene Davis, Ph.D.: The evolution of the foot, running injuries, and minimalist shoes


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By Peter Attia, MD, Peter Attia, and MD. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Irene Davis is the founding Director of the Spaulding National Running Center at the Harvard Medical School. In this episode, Irene describes how her research of biomechanics and clinical work with running injuries, as well as research by others, has shaped her views on maintaining body alignment and foot health. Irene discusses her argument for the role of modern footwear in running-related injuries and how minimalist footwear helps resolve the subsequent biomechanical issues.

We discuss:

  • Irene’s path to her Ph.D., her entry into physical therapy, and her interest in biomechanics [3:20];
  • How Irene’s thinking about the use of orthotics has changed [7:15];
  • The evolution of the human foot and the transition from walking to running [10:30];
  • The evolution of shoes and its impact on running injuries [17:30];
  • An overview of running injuries [26:00];
  • Cushioned running shoes, heel striking and impact forces [29:30];
  • Shin splints [33:45];
  • How heel strike patterns promotes knee stress through rate of loading [35:30];
  • The critical importance of exercise [42:15];
  • Impact forces and injury potential [45:45];
  • How shoe cushioning alters impact forces despite forefoot striking [49:00];
  • An overview of minimalist shoes [52:30];
  • Irene’s protocol for transitioning people out of orthotics [58:45];
  • Transitioning to minimalist shoes and a forefoot strike [1:05:30];
  • Foot muscle volume, minimalist shoes, and orthotics [1:07:00];
  • The recognition of the importance of foot strength in podiatry [1:09:45];
  • Minimalist shoes across the lifespan—from children to adults [1:12:30];
  • Why learning to forefoot strike on soft surfaces is not the best approach [1:20:00];
  • Knee valgus and factors related to knee injury [1:21:45];
  • IT band syndrome [1:28:30];
  • Physics and ground reaction forces [1:33:15];
  • Irene’s approach to retraining a runner’s gait [1:36:00];
  • Case study—How the transition to minimalist shoes decreased injury and improved performance [1:42:15];
  • Importance of proper movement patterns and the negative influence of our modern environment [1:45:30]; and
  • More.

Learn more: https://peterattiamd.com/ Show notes page for this episode: https://peterattiamd.com/irenedavis Subscribe to receive exclusive subscriber-only content: https://peterattiamd.com/subscribe/ Sign up to receive Peter's email newsletter: https://peterattiamd.com/newsletter/ Connect with Peter on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

193 episodes