Clients from as far away as India travel to Encinitas seeking pain relief from Jim Rice who has earned the moniker, “The Guru of Feet.” Followers include first responders, Navy Seals, delivery personnel, weekend warriors, movie stars, equestrians, runners, cyclists, professional and amateur athletes, youth athletes and ordinary people.
“One of my most memorable customers was a 90-plus-year-old woman who was a volunteer at a nursing home where she experienced discomfort whenever she pushed residents in wheelchairs outdoors,” he recalled. “Her biggest concern was that no one else would do this if she were unable to. She is one of my all-time heroes.”
Rice draws upon his knowledge of applied biomechanics, applied physiology and pedorthics to provide relief to customers whose barking dogs can cause related problems.
“The simplest description of what I do is to help people change the alignment of the bone structure of the foot and body through the use of foot beds (arch supports),” he said. “A few are helped by the addition of shoe modifications we perform for them.”
Rice added that the most common foot problems he treats are: plantar faciatitus, bunion pain, neuromas, metasargalia and pain in the lateral side of the foot. Not surprisingly, he’s seen a rise in new conditions caused by footwear.
“Marketing has evolved to where I see people making footwear choices based entirely on what the perception of the benefit may be, not on what the footwear can, and cannot, provide them,” he explained. “Footwear can be a useful tool but inherent characteristics may be detrimental to the goal.”
An example is the surge in popularity of barefoot running/walking following publication of the bestselling book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. Author Christopher McDougall studied the Tarahumara Indian tribe in the Mexican Copper Canyons to learn why they can run 100 miles at high speed without getting injuries common to most American runners.
“Most people are missing the point,” Rice explained. “The goal is not to run/walk without footwear, but to run/walk more efficiently. Efficiency can increase performance and reduce the incidence of injury.
“Barefoot minimalist footwear are tools to aid in the achievement of efficient running/walking. These tools promote a posture from which to run/walk that, when mastered, achieves an increase in efficient movement. Used irresponsibly, and out of context, these tools can promote injury.”
Rice is quick to add that he is not an expert, a label he reserves exclusively for physicians and medical professionals.
“I try to explain the diagnosis provided by the physician in easy-to-understand terms and offer suggestions as to how and what their physician wants them to do,” he said.
His abilities, he explains, are a combination of being a passionate problem solver along with the culmination of formal education in pre-med, anatomy and exercise physiology; occupations in the sporting goods and athletic shoe industries; and informal learning and personal experience as an athlete himself.
Tapping into this knowledge, he also provides coaching in these areas:
- Medical specialists qualified to provide proper diagnosis and treatment;
- Shoe characteristics, and how the fit can either enhance or detract from useful function and alignment;
- Selection of existing footwear from the closet, and how to purchase new footwear to provide maximum benefit;
- Professional massage and self techniques; and
- Theory and practice of taping/strapping and ice therapy.
The best way people can protect their feet, he advises, is to see a physician at the first sign of pain or discomfort.
“Many factors can affect the feet,” he said. “Some common ones are the alignment and support structure you inherited, age, activity level, footwear choices, trauma and, for women, pregnancy.
“Do not put up with pain. Change your footwear, change your support after an activity and seek advice from a physician.”
Rice says that more than half of his customers are referrals from physicians who are clients, including Rancho Santa Fe internist, Dr. George William Groth IV, M.D. and his family.
“In our community, Jim is one of the greatest assets with respect to people and their foot problems,” Groth said. “My mother is 82 and just got back from hiking in Mammoth Lakes and it’s because of Jim. He adjusts her orthotics and inserts until he gets it perfect.
“If your foot is planted properly, your knee can behave like it’s supposed to—basically like a hinge. There should be no lateral motion.” Groth added that such adjustments might prolong the need for knee replacement.
Sole Performance & Foot Depot is located at 165 S. El Camino Real. Phone: (760) 944-7433. Rice also has an online business resoling motocross boots at http://factoryresole.com.