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Barefoot shoes for running, walking, working and exploring

Dr. Casey Kerrigan

Dr. Casey Kerrigan, a Harvard Medical School graduate known by her academic peers for her groundbreaking peer-reviewed published research on gait (walking and running) and the effects of footwear, left her perfectly good job at the University of Virginia (UVa), where she was tenured professor and chair of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R), professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and professor of sports medicine, to make OESH footwear.

OESH is the first and only footwear with a midsole that provides compression and release, when and only when it should. Despite what many have been led to believe, no foam, plastic, air, gel, or metal ever achieved this. What it took was a major shift in understanding true human physiology, along with a bit of space age material. A series of carbon fiber cantilevers are oriented in the midsole in such a way that they compress and release in perfect physiologic tune with how the human body works.

For over 20 years she studied gait, beginning at the University of California, Los Angeles where she did her post-graduate residency (and simultaneously received a M.S. in Kinesiology). She returned to Harvard Medical School where she created one of the first sophisticated 3-D gait and motion laboratories in the United States. Later, she was recruited to UVa where she developed an even more sophisticated laboratory that could especially break down the biomechanics of both running and walking. Both the Harvard Motion Analysis Laboratory and the UVa Gait Laboratory, also known as the Speed Clinic are still going strong today.

Casey is well known for dramatically changing the way how researchers think about gait and footwear–ripping apart old, sometimes disastrous concepts and rigorously testing new ones–that have now become standards of normal understanding. She received the highest honors and level of support from numerous national and international entities including the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Throughout her career, the NIH repeatedly honored Casey’s work through its highly competitive peer-review process, with continuous funding for her research and subsequent breakthroughs.

Casey’s research, along with her years of clinical experience treating the wide variety of problems linked to a dim understanding of footwear associated with walking and running, led her to develop and rigorously test OESH. Additional motivation derives in part from Casey’s experience as a distance runner at the University of Chicago, where she set several school records in the early 1980’s and from her devotion to her three daughters who all run… fast.

Dr. Casey Kerrigan is a Science Advisor to the Natural Running Center.

Over these last 30-plus years, nothing has really changed in the design of the typical athletic shoe. It has been mostly about cushioning impact combined with varying amounts of trying to control foot pronation (controlling pronation, just like trying to cushion impact, has little biomechanical basis, but that’s another story). So it is no surprise that the current running shoe design has been shown, if anything, to increase the risk for injury. From a biomechanical standpoint we know that attempting to cushion impact reduces feedback to the body, resulting in altered muscle activity and foot position at contact. It has been shown that making impact with a soft surface can actually increase injury. And most recently we showed that a typical cushioned running shoe increases peak knee joint torques associated with knee osteoarthritis. Not good.

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The Oesh’s carbon fiber cantilevers are oriented in the midsole in such a way that they compress and release in perfect physiologic tune with how the human body works.


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