For those who don’t know, I have been dealing with terrible shin pain for quite some time. The pain was so intense that I was convinced I had compartment syndrome, a stress fracture, or both. The chiropractor had even told me that it was likely I was on the verge of developing one or both of those issues. I tried months of resting to no avail. I finally was able to get to the doctor to have my shins looked at. The doctor had both of them x-rayed and the results were unremarkable. There were no soft tissue injuries, and no stress fractures. While I was happy I wasn’t dealing with something serious, I left more frustrated than ever because I didn’t have any answers. However, I did leave with a referral to a physical therapist that had a “Run Smart” program.
Today was my first appointment and it was eye-opening. We started out by testing my stability and strength. She had me stand on one leg and do some one-leg squats. She said my balance was pretty good. She checked the strength of my hamstrings and quads which was also good. She then had me lay on my side on the table, had me raise my leg up and slightly back, and then let go and told me to hold it there. I was able to hold for a minimal amount of time on the left side, but it was very quickly dropping. As soon as she let go on the right side, my leg fell. She was testing the strength of my glutes, which was basically non-existent and noticeably worse on my right side (which incidentally is the side I have been having the most issues with.) She then tested my hip flexors as seen in this video. Normally the leg that is down should be able to fully extend, and fall flat on the edge of the table. Mine didn’t even come close!! She also tested the flexibility/range of motion of both my big toes. Our big toe is our leverage when running, it is what we use to push-off. She said they normally look for the toe to be able to bend back about 60 degrees, and mine were only 35-40. Before even testing this she said she was able to tell that mine wouldn’t be that great by the wear pattern in my insoles. There was a distinct indentation where my big toe was. She said because I didn’t the full flexibility in my toe to push-off I had to find another way. So I kind of grind my toe, and turn my foot a bit to push-off. This was all fascinating information to me, that was all starting to come together.
After testing my stability and strength, it was time to watch me run. I started off walking barefoot on the treadmill, and she took a video of this from directly behind me, from the knees down. Then I put on my Kinvara’s, since those were the shoes causing me the pain, and I started running. She videotaped me from the back and the side. All in all, I was running for about five to six minutes. Watching these videos was so informative, and it was so much better to actually see how I was running, rather than just being told how I was running. I have so many issues I can’t believe I was running at all.
The first thing we looked at was my barefoot walking. We were looking at how my foot was placed when it came up off the ground. So when you are looking at a runner from directly behind them, when the foot comes off the ground it should basically be straight up and down, When that foot lands you shouldn’t really be able to see anything but maybe their pinky toe (so the foot should land almost completely straight.) My left foot was really good. My right was another story. I have a heel whip, a really bad heel whip. A heel whip is also known as “toeing out” when running. Basically, my right foot is rotating while it is still on the ground causing it to go from straight or slightly rotated in, to pointing out. This is causing a lot of extra stress on my joints. My right foot was nearly sideways instead of being straight! When my right foot landed it didn’t land straight either…I could see all of my toes. Very, very interesting and explains a lot. This is most likely occurring because of my weak glutes.
Those weak glutes were also causing both of my hips to drop with every step I took. This is not the most appealing picture, but it accurately depicts a hip drop. While running your hips/pelvis should remain level as shown in (A). A weak core and weak glutes will cause your hips to drop with every step as shown in (B). So basically the hip/glute on the side you are landing on isn’t strong enough to hold up the other side, so it drops.
The last thing we looked at was how much I was bouncing as I was running (was I wasting too much energy going up and down rather than forward); and my shoulder placement/arm movement. I had a minimal amount of bouncing which she said was normal on a treadmill. Whew, at least I am doing one thing right!! My shoulders were too high, and my arms were moving way too far forward and backward. She said this occurs because of a weak core. Shoulders and arms should be low with the arms not going too far forward or back.
Last but not least, even with my minimalist shoes, I was heel striking!! So now in addition to the problems I already discussed I was exacerbating the problem (10x) with every step. Additionally, the heel of my back foot was leaving the ground before my lead leg had fully extended. My front foot hadn’t even touched the ground, and the heel of my back foot was lifting. This is happening because my calves are too tight.
This was an invaluable tool. I highly recommend everyone have a video analysis completed. If you are dealing with an injury, you will be able to see what it is that is likely causing the problem. If you aren’t injured, this is a fantastic way to make sure your form is great so you can stay injury free. My issues didn’t develop overnight, and I wish this was something I would have had done before I ever started running.
My injuries: hip flexor strain and shin splints. My prescription: rest, ice, stretch, and clams. My shins are very inflamed and angry! The biggest thing I need to focus on right now is getting my glutes to fire, which the clams are going to help with. I also need to work on strengthening my core, and loosening up the calves. I’m going to take at least three weeks off from cardio to give my shins some rest, and to work on strengthening my glutes and core.
I have decided I will no longer wear minimalist shoes. I have far too many bio-mechanical issues going on right now that I need to worry about before worrying about figuring out how to change my gait (which I thought the minimalist shoes would help with.) I haven’t given up on them completely, but it will be a long while before I ever try running in them again!
For the time being I will be: