No matter what your sport is, your athletic shoes are one of the most important pieces of equipment. From tennis to running, basketball to soccer, choosing the right athletic shoes for the right reasons can make a huge difference in keeping your feet and body healthy. Below you will find some of the things you need to consider when choosing shoes for your sport.
Style Is Not Everything Just about every day, someone asks me about their shoes. Questions vary from sport to sport, but the fact remains that the majority of people choose athletic shoes based on brand names and styles, rather than what is best for their own feet. I know that it can be hard to pass up those awesome looking shoes that match your uniform perfectly, but in the long run, the most important thing is that the athletic shoe serves its function...to support and protect your feet. So, lets take a closer look at what makes a good athletic shoe.
The Heel Box When I explain shoes to my patients, I always start with the heel box. This is where most people are similar in their needs. A sturdy heel box is essential to help control your rear-foot during athletic activities. The heel box is essentially the back third of the shoe, that surrounds your heel. Most athletic shoes have a heel box made up of leather, and some type of plastic or rubber reinforcement. However, not all athletic shoes are created equal. To test the heel box, try bending it over, or squeezing it in, and see how much resistance you encounter. If you can easily fold over the heel box, then chances are you will not get much support.
The Upper This is the area where most people make the mistake that causes injury. The "Upper" is the portion of the shoe that surrounds the foot. It is the upper portion of the shoe, from the heel box to the toe box. Uppers can be fashioned from all kinds of different materials, from mesh to leather, and other types of fabrics. Depending on your foot type, you may need more or less support from the upper. This portion of the shoe helps to control the mid and forefoot. Too much motion in these areas will allow for excessive stress through the meta-tarsals and tarsals, and can result in stress fractures, tendonitis, and other problems. To determine what type of foot you have, grab ahold of your foot with both hands, and move it around. Try moving individual bones around...do you find lots of motion, with little resistance, or is your foot very rigid, with little movement. You do not have to be an expert to tell if you have a flexible or rigid foot. Your athletic shoe should be opposite of your foot type. For rigid feet, you can get by with mesh or other light materials for the upper, as you need less support for your foot. For a flexible foot, you should lean more toward a rigid upper, that will control excessive motion and reduce stress.
The Arch Arch support is essential for good athletic shoes. Even people with good arches, or great feet mechanics should have sufficient arch support. But, arch support is more than just the arch. It is the way that the sole of the athletic shoe is created and constructed that determines the overall characteristics of the arch. And as far as those cushy insoles that they try to upsell you at the shoe store - pass on those as they just add comfort, not support. When choosing shoes, look closely at the sole of the shoe. A good arch support will be evident by the shape of the shoe. Notice the outline of the sole. There should be a minimal amount of change in width between the toe and the heel. The wider the athletic shoe is at the middle (where your arch is), the more surface area there is to support your foot. So, avoid shoes that start out wide at the toe, narrow way down in the middle, and then flare out again at the heel.
Change is Good Even the perfect athletic shoe will wear out over time. I have seen quite a few injuries due to old or worn out shoes. Just like any other equipment, you should monitor your shoes, and replace them when they wear out. If you are a runner, monitor your mileage, and replace them as appropriate. How do you know when to buy new shoes? Well, holes, or pieces falling off are generally good indicators...But if it is not that obvious, look for all of the qualities that you used to choose the athletic shoe in the first place. Is the heel box still sturdy? Is the upper as rigid as it needs to be to control your foot? Is the arch still in good shape, or have you worn down one side of the sole? Answer these questions, and inspect your shoes often to keep them protecting your feet.
Summary Good athletic shoes do not have to be flashy, or expensive to serve their intended purpose. There are lots of shoes out there that will fit both your needs and your budget. Look for all of the right qualities to fit your foot, and you are sure to make a wise decision. And when in doubt? Discuss shoe wear with other athletes, and the sales person at the shoe store. Chances are they have some good insight.
Kava Kava: this wonder plant from the South Pacific is nature's very own stress reliever. Read about the origin of the plant and its other uses.
Kava-kava, also known as just kava, a perennial shrub from the South Pacific [piper methysticum] grows in such romantic islands as Hawaii, Fiji, Tahiti, Vanuatu and Samoa. Images of this string of islands include palm trees, brilliant tropical sunsets, white sandy beaches, and a paradise far, far away from bustling North American and European cities. That a remedy for our stressful lives hails from a part of the world where life is lived at a slower pace makes perfect sense. To further enhance its appeal, the verdant leaves of the plant are heart-shaped.
The Origins of Kava-kava: The name of the plant translates as "sharp" or "bitter." In the South Pacific the kava root is either chewed or drunk as a tea, not taken in capsule form. The Samoans tell of how kava came to earth. The gods in heaven were the only ones who drank this precious drink. The god Tagaloa and his two attendants descended from heaven to go fishing. When the fish were caught, Tagaloa wanted to drink some kava with his meal. As there was none available, the attendants had to return to heaven to get a kava root. They uprooted a plant and Tagaloa scattered its parts all over the earth where it flourished, aided by a divine rainfall that infused the kava root. The Latin name assigned to kava back in 1777 translates as "intoxicating pepper," reflecting the effect on the body and the herb's relationship to the pepper family. When not being used to cure stress, the friendly kava plant is most definitely a natural aphrodisiac. In Fiji, spiritual healers are able to perform divinations after consuming kava. The kava plant has thrived in these islands for thousands of years, but upon the arrival of missionaries, any type of kava drinking, [especially ceremonial drinking] was forbidden. Outlawed Kava: On the island of Tanna in the Vanuatu [formerly the New Hebrides] archipelago northwest of the Fiji Islands, kava was banned. People were not allowed to consume kava according to their age-old custom until after 1950. People suspected of kava drinking were unable to attend church and were thereby ostracized by the mission members and oftentimes were arrested. The return to kava drinking ceremonies was initiated in the 1930s by John Frum, a multi-lingual man able to speak many dialects as well as English, who attended evening kava drinking gatherings and encouraged people to drink it in public and reject the ways of the white missionaries. Those who pledged an allegiance to John Frum were imprisoned, but only temporarily as it was in the midst of the Second World War. Today kava is freely able to be drunk at ceremonies on Tanna, thanks in part to the efforts of a man who lives on in legend ? John Frum. Harvesting Kava-kava: When the plant is approximately eight feet in height, it is ready to be harvested. Ideally, the plants should be at least five years old for that's when the roots reach their full potency. In Vanuatu, kava isn't seasonal; it grows year-round. Germans are the biggest purchasers of kava, buying up to 50 tons of kava for various herbal medicines that later are sold in the form of extracts, liquids, capsules and pills.
Cultivated by individual kava growers and in villages, Vanuatu kava contains no pesticides and the exceedingly rich and fertile soil makes for perfect growing conditions. For export purposes, the root must be cut and dried in the sun. During the summertime, this process takes a week per ton of kava. In the rainy season, the time is lengthened to about one month. On the island of Santo, the largest island of the Vanuatu archipelago, kava doesn't grow in neat, long rows. Mixed in with the abundantly bushy kava plants are other local delicacies such as mango, coconut, ginger, sugar cane and papaya. The bulbous kava roots resemble much larger versions of the ginger plant. The method of obtaining kava is age-old ? hand cut by machete.
Preparing Kava-kava: For natives of the South Pacific, the daily ritual of preparing kava is considered important. Kava is always consumed fresh, there are never any leftovers used. As always, it's drunk at sunset. This is done according to custom and to ensure that a person sleeps well at night. The factors that contribute to drinking the finest kava-kava always means that the root is at its peak of potency, and that it is prepared according to tradition. Many missionaries and foreigners had a difficult time accepting the custom of pulverizing the root of the plant as it was prepared by mastication. Approximately 300 years ago young maidens did the kava mastication, but that also varied from island to island. As the root is very tough and fibrous, only very thorough chewing would soften it to a pulp. Saliva was mixed in with the root, further speeding up the process. To the explorer Captain Cook, the process was seen as revolting. In the 1800s, missionaries banned drinking of kava, partially due to the way in which it was processed. In the book "Kava Medicine Hunting in Paradise" by Chris Kilham, he describes the mastication process: "Researchers believe that the reason for this difference is that mastication liberates more kavalactones, because saliva contains an enzyme which breaks down the starchy components of the pulp." Other methods of preparing the root include smashing it with a solid stick of wood in a device that resembles a butter churn. Pounding kava root with a stone or grating it with coral are methods employed in some Fijian communities. More up to date methods consist of putting the root into a meat grinder or power mulcher. The next stage of making that kava drink consists of placing the ground up root onto a wooden board or a large wide bowl. Cold water is poured over it. In some parts of the South Pacific a small plastic washtub is used; the tub almost filled to the top with water. The yellowish-brown kava root is mixed with the water and stirred well, then strained through nylon, or in more traditional villages, palm fiber. In true South Pacific fashion, the refreshing non-alcoholic kava beverage is served in a coconut shell. Kava-kava and Magic: Before Christian missionaries tried to convert the native people of the South Pacific, they had their beliefs rooted in a form of magic or sorcery. The use of kava by a shaman became a spiritual event in which he partook of the kava root for the purpose of communicating with the spirits of the deceased. Some sorcerers used the discarded chewed kava remains to perform spells on those who had chewed the root. To avoid those sorcerers with malicious leanings, the remains were spit into a river or ocean. Kava-kava as Medicine: Hawaiian kava is used to treat asthma, arthritis, depression, insomnia, muscles spasms, rheumatism, seizures and wounds. The usage of herbs in Europe always has been more prevalent than in the United States. 100 tons of kava is shipped to laboratories each year. A Swiss company makes capsules containing kava claiming it will help bladder disorders. A German company mixes kava with valerian, another calming herb, to cure sleep and nervous disorders. A large company in France makes a kava-containing product that is good for eliminating urinary tract infections. A Testimonial: While many people take the kava herb in an extract, powder or pill, a case study reveals just how effective kava can be: "A 39-year-old lab technician who was suffering as a result of severe daily job pressures, decided to participate in a four-week clinical study on stress sponsored by Natrol, Inc, the makers of Kavatrol. After four weeks of taking Kavatrol as recommended, she experienced dramatic improvement: ?I love this stuff,' she said. ?I'm less stressed-out, I'm a lot calmer, I have more fun, and I'm not worried about things. I works wonders for PMS, too.' She added that she takes kava for better sleep, for headaches and gastric problems. Nor did the herb affect her manual dexterity ? a necessary skill for her occupation" from the book "Kava" by Maggie Greenwood-Robinson, Ph.D.
Warnings: Overuse of any substance, even a natural herb, can lead to serious side effects. Kava-kava is no exception, and if used in large amounts on a daily basis, intoxication will follow, as will weight loss, skin disorders, weaken the immune system, and cause pulmonary hypertension.
Pregnant women and those suffering from severe depression should refrain from using kava. Not recommended for children under the age of 10. Refrain from mixing kava with alcohol. If using prescription drugs, please check with your doctor. Taking too much kava can cause nausea. Always read the label to learn what the recommended dosage is and go by that. Better to take too little. If you should overindulge, ginger root capsules will be of great help as ginger is a known remedy for nausea and dizziness. A Kava Recipe: The buzz from kava can be felt by some, but not by others. It's described as being similar to Novocain. Others report that their limbs feel weaker. If taken before bedtime it often induces a full night's sleep?wonderful news for the stressed. Here's a recipe for using Kava to help you get some sleep. Kava-Kava Coconut Drink
1 ounce chopped kava root
2 tablespoons olive or canola oil
1 tablespoon lecithin flakes
1/2 cup milk [whole or skim, your choice]
1/2 cup coconut milk
4 or 5 ice cubes or about 1/2 cup crushed ice
1 teaspoon coconut extract
Add ingredients to blender and mix until the drink is a creamy white color. Strain and drink. Where Is Kava-Kava Sold? Kava can be found in capsule, powdered or tincture form at any health food store.
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