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Episode 3 : Q & A with @Maddiec.footnerd

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

My name is Maddie and I live in Southern California, about 45 minutes from Los Angeles. I am a Professor at Azusa Pacific University in the Department of Kinesiology and I am a Corrective Exercise Specialist. I see a handful of clients and help them to manage their injuries and pain through corrective exercise. I have a BS in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Athletic Training, an MS in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Biomechanics, and am currently working on my PhD in Health and Human Performance.

Instagram: @maddiec.footnerd 

Good Morning Maddie, Thanks for being on board

Hi there! Thanks for including me. 

How’ve things been, and whats a normal day like for you?

Things are busy in my life but that is the way I prefer it. I have a 15 month old son who keeps me on my toes and is usually my wake up call each morning. I teach at the University Monday through Friday in the mornings. I teach my classes, work on some research studies, and try to get some work and PhD work done while I am there in the mornings. I do intermittent fasting so that helps free up my mornings a little since I only make some coffee for myself! In the afternoons a couple days each week I see a few clients and have video chats with others. If I do not have clients then I generally either go to the gym once the Kids Club opens or we go to the barn to visit my horse. The weekends are typically the same activities.

Was there anything in particular that inspired you to follow your career path?

I have always been interested in the human body since I was young. I was a lifelong athlete and in high school became involved in Athletic Training. I never thought I would teach, in fact I specifically said aloud that I would never teach, but life had different plans and I am so glad. I realized that I thought against the grain a little bit during one of my biomechanics classes in graduate school. We had a conversation in class and it just kind of dawned on me how messed up our medical and rehabilitation systems are. Everything is taught and treated like a protocol, and people are far from protocol. I do not blame the professionals for this because it is simply how they are taught. Some have been able to take that with a grain of salt, think outside the box, and become amazing practitioners. Those are the ones that inspire me. I blame the education system. That we do not update the information quickly enough or well enough. Education waits on research, which takes a long time. I understand it is necessary so we can teach evidence-based science and not opinions, but it loses something in the process.

It was then that I decided I wanted to treat people and their injuries as individuals through movement analysis and corrective exercise. I wanted to fill in the gaps between rehab and performance while also assessing people in a manner that mainstream physical therapy didn't tend to do. I fell into teaching in a really roundabout way but I absolutely love it. I realized I can have a greater effect on improving the system by influencing students to be better professionals. Of course I teach them the content they need to know in the classroom, but I also challenge them to critically think about the information and to have an open mind about it. I try to teach them to challenge the information being taught and to use common sense. 

How did you find out about the barefoot movement, and what are your thoughts?

It is hard to remember but I actually think it was on social media. I first learned about how much poor ankle mobility affects the entire body and when I started focusing more on my clients' ankles I realized I also had to address their feet. I knew I needed to learn more about the topic so I dove back into some textbooks but I clearly remember having some epiphanies when I started following trusty professionals on social media. I followed The Foot Collective as soon as they were organized and so when they started their Foot Nerd Program (now the Health Nerd Program) I jumped at the opportunity.

What shoes do you usually wear?

Primarily Vivobarefoot shoes. I have a pair of the primus lites which I love. I have a couple other pairs as well. My favorite pair of shoes is actually a super cheap pair of water shoes I bought on Amazon. They aren't the best looking but in terms of barefoot shoes they are the best and most comfortable I own. I also love my Earth Runners when it is warm out. But I also have a life that makes dysfunctional shoes a necessary part of my life. I have a horse and so it is necessary for my safety to wear cowboy boots when I am at the barn. If she were to step on my foot without boots on then the damage done would be far greater than any temporary dysfunction done by wearing boots. I also have Crocs for quick trips outside! But my barefoot time and time in barefoot shoes far outweighs the time I spend in boots or Crocs, so I am not concerned about it.

Do you have any mentors that inspire you?

I have had different mentors during different parts of my life. The head Athletic Trainer that I worked with/for all throughout high school and my college years was my greatest mentor. She taught me everything I was willing to learn but also trusted me to take the lead and handle athletes on my own. That really instilled confidence in me to trust me knowledge and skills. 

Have you suffered from any injuries, and can you offer any advice for people suffering from one?

I have been fortunate enough to only suffer from minor injuries. I think that is impressive considering I was a competitive soccer player for most of my life. I suffered from the typical soccer player ankle sprains throughout the years and I often strained the hip flexor in my right leg. Looking back with what I know know I could have fixed that pretty easily. During my senior year of high school I was told during pre-participation physicals that both of my ACLs were laxed and that I was at high risk for a tear. That hit me pretty seriously so I decided to finish playing through high school but forego playing in college. I knew that long term my health was more important. I have a torn meniscus in my left knee. It interefered with a lot before I really dedicated time and effort to restoring mobility in my hips and ankles. Once I worked on that I rarely noticed any issues with my knee. I have been trying to keep that going for as long as possible because I know that even torn cartilage in there is better than the cartilage being removed. I may have to address that soon since it is starting to interfere with my life again, but I am pushing it off as long as possible. I have learned how to manage it by avoiding certain movements and continuing to work on my ankles and hips. I have also had 2 concussions, the second of which was pretty serious. I ended up with post concussion syndrome and was on bed rest for about a week. That injury definitely taught me that I have to listen to my body and take the necessary time to heal. 

I think my advice to others with injuries would be to simply take care of yourself by seeking out help from someone who is willing to treat you like an individual. No two injuries or people are alike, so your rehab protocol should reflect that. Also, do not underestimate the power of your body to heal when given the opportunity. Opportunity means rest, variety of movement, nutrition, hydration, and sleep. Our bodies are amazingly resilient but we have to remember they have evolved to survive, not thrive. So if you are not active and intentional in taking care of your body then it will take the necessary steps to simply survive. I think many people get caught in this state as a way of life and that is when things start to break down long term. Finally, look AWAY from the sight of pain for the source of the problem. The sight of pain is rarely the source of the problem. Although it is necessary to pay attention to the pain, it is important to not dwell on that and start to look elsewhere for why that pain is occurring. Even in many acute injuries, there were likely preexisting issues that helped contribute to that injury occurring. 

What are your goals/plans for the future?

My plans for the next few years are to just keep doing what I am doing. I want to finish my PhD, keep working by teaching and helping others, and continuing to grow our family. Beyond those few years I hope to teach full time and be able to execute some research that supports our barefoot philosophy. I know that we as professionals understand the concepts and can apply them, but they are not being taught in the formal education of health professions and that is because the lack of research. It's a double-edged sword, but I think if we "play the game" and provide the information through formal research like higher education wants and needs, then we can be graduating thousands of doctors and physical therapists who understand the barefoot movement, rather than just fighting them after the fact because they were taught outdated information. In the end that will have a greater impact then just hoping they figure it out after they graduate like all of us did. 

Thanks for giving us your time Maddie, and all the best in your future endeavours!

Thanks for including me in this! I hope it was helpful and that I have provided a unique perspective!

- Alex, Thebarefootshoereview


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