06 Oct The story of Mick Wilkinson, PhD – nimble scientist
I am Dr Mick Wilkinson, a senior lecturer in sport, exercise and rehabilitation science at Northumbria University in north-east England. I am passionate about science and how scientific laws can be applied to human movement and health. I try to pass on that passion and pattern of critical thinking to my students in my teaching.
‘Being Nimble’ pretty much sums up my research encompassing foot structure and function and the impact of footwear on these, as well as the influence of physical activity and nutrition on metabolic health. My work over the past five years, and recent studies from my lab confirm the importance of natural foot form and function for skilled and effective movement, particularly our species-specific movement pattern of running. It also confirms the detrimental effect of poor footwear choices on movement control. I now apply this knowledge to my coaching to help other runners.
My own path to this point began, like many I now help, as an injured runner. Having explored every potential solution from shoe technology, to orthotics, yoga, physiotherapy and the Alexander technique, all unsuccessfully, I began experimenting with running barefoot in 2004, long before the ‘barefoot boom’ in 2010. This personal experiment highlighted for me the importance of running technique and the control to be gained by freely-functioning feet. I continued the experiment and was soon able to run regularly up to half-marathon distances without a recurrence of my old injuries. The possible mechanisms intrigued me, and I began searching related research for an explanation of my ‘cure’. The research was equivocal at best and I struggled to put the pieces together into a coherent whole. This ended in 2013 when I attended a coaching course with Lee Saxby.
The first day on fundamental physics and evolutionary biology was an epiphany to my understanding of injured runners and the conflicting research findings. I now had undisputed and fundamental scientific principles through which I could unravel the problem and understand the solutions not only to running, but also to health. I also realised that it was ok, and in fact beneficial in most circumstances, to wear shoes to run, as long as they respected and did not interfere with natural foot structure and function. This has been my research focus ever since. By applying what I have learned, I have rehabilitated my feet, my movement and my health, allowing me to run daily along my beloved north-east coastline comfortably and injury free.
Fundamental principles of nature and my own research confirm that skilled movement requires footwear to respect the shape and function, while also protecting the human foot. Joe Nimble footwear are unique in this respect, which is why I use and recommend them.