Posts Tagged ‘tendinitis in runners’

I think there comes a time in every runner’s training when they wonder, “Am I even doing this right?!”  There are a lot of things to think about as you’re developing your running stride, and it’s extremely useful to look at your gait as a biomechanical process that can be improved over time.   Learning more about the way your body moves can help you run faster, further, and with fewer injuries.

I recently had the opportunity to have my gait professionally analyzed by Brian Pahlman, from Quincy’s NuFit facility.  Brian is a coach, trainer and Physical Therapy Assistant, and is now offering Gait Analysis through NuFit.

The analysis begins with a simple questionnaire that establishes what type of runner/athlete you are, where you might be experiencing injury or pain, and what your goals are in your sports.   After the questionnaire, Brian had me perform a few flexibility and strength tests.  Tests included simple movements like hopping on one foot, doing squats, or touching toes.

Through my strength and flexibility tests, I was somewhat surprised to learn that I have some weakness in my hips.  This was demonstrated by the way that my hips dropped when standing on one foot or doing squats.  Brian explained that though we’d discovered this as an area target for improvement, it wasn’t a bad thing.  His motto is, “Train smarter, not harder,” and by focusing some attention on increasing muscle in my hips, I’ll improve my running overall.

I also have had some reoccurring pain in the ligaments in my feet and ankle, particularly on my left foot.  Brian walked me through some stretches and confirmed what I already suspected: I need to slow down and focus on doing some stretches in my calves before and after running.  He explained that many times runners have pains manifest low in the leg from problems higher up.  For me, weakness in my hips and tight muscles in my calves can pull on those foot and ankle connective tissues.  Other runners have problems like shin splints, IT band issues or tendonitis, and these can have any number of causes that aren’t necessarily in the same location as the pain itself.

After the strength and flexibility tests, we moved on to the treadmill.   Brian had me walk barefoot for a while to see exactly how my foot moved.  It was a good time to check on my arches (mine are normal to a little on the low side) and if I would have had a particular problem there, he might have recommended supports or other corrective orthopedics.  Since mine looked okay, I put my shoes back on, and Brian set up a camera to record me running.  30 second clips were taken both from the back and the side while I did a medium speed run.

We took the clips of recording back to his laptop and he played them in slow motion to begin the analysis.  In slow motion, we could see that there are lots of good things going on in my stride, and a few things that I can work on.  In the good column, my foot strike seems to be working for me.  I’m a mid-foot striker, and in general, mid-foot strikers have less force applied to their legs than heel strikers, and this can help avoid certain types of injury. (There are many different schools of thought regarding which foot strike is best, but that’s for another blog.)  He also didn’t see problems with the way my knees are moving, which is nice to hear since I have an old MCL injury that I worry about on occasion.

Areas that need improvement were easy to see when we went to slow motion.  The tape revealed that my foot strike is falling slightly ahead of my body rather

Here you can see my foot land slightly ahead of my center of gravity (white arrow). The green arrow shows where the stride should land.

than right under my center of gravity.  This motion actually ‘puts the breaks on’ slightly each time I step.  Brian suggested that I increase my cadence (frequency of step, not overall speed) by about 5% to help get my foot right under my center of gravity.   After this discovery, we went back to the treadmill to test the theory.  He set a metronome to help me find a cadence of 168 (up from my earlier average of 160), and it really did help me change where my foot was falling in relation to my center.  It was proof positive that I could take what I learned and increase my efficiency.

Another thing Brian was looking for on the tape was pronation.  Pronation is an inward rotation of the foot that is a normal part of a runner’s stride and provides shock absorption for the feet.  A 15 degree rotation of your foot during running is considered optimal.   Runners with more than 15 degrees of movement are said to be over-pronators and runners with less are considered under-pronators. (Click these links for some great video explanations of over pronation, under pronation and normal pronation.)  The wear pattern on my shoes combined with the video evidence didn’t indicate that my pronation was a major problem, but I did have some was some eversion of

Here you can see the bend (highlighted by the white lines) as my foot strikes.

my subtalar joint (read: ankle to foot joint bending slightly inward) as I run.  It’s very likely that will improve on its own as I improve my hip strength.  Both pronation and eversion can be addressed by the exercises he suggested for me and/or running shoes that are optimized for stability.

Working with Brian to analyze my stride and to come up with a plan to address problem areas before they led to injury was an enlightening experience.  I now have a focused plan on how to improve my running that I can really work with.

I’d highly recommend visiting Brian for a gait analysis.  For an hour of your time and $40, you can focus your training, learn how to work with the mechanics of your body, address problem areas and even find out which running shoe is best for you.  Gait analysis is an effective tool for new runners like me to learn the right way to run and avoid creating bad habits.  It’s equally effective for people who have been running a long time and are trying to see new improvement or prevent injury.  To schedule a session, call NuFit at 217-779-5053 or visit Nufitforyou.com.

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