Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Running stride analysis to find the right pair of shoes

In 2011, when I moved to Sweden, I'd never run 10 km before. Now, three years later, a 10 km run is a relatively normal training session, and in 2014 I ran over 600 km, according to my Movescount. Running has all kinds of health benefits (here are 6 of them), but it also can result in wear-and-tear on your body. Two years ago, I lost a toenail during the peak running season. (According to at least one article in the NY Daily News, this is common.) But last year, I started to develop a nagging pain in my left foot after runs. This pain was especially prominent the next morning after I got out of bed, and after a bit of research on the internet I started to think that I was developing plantar fasciitis.

After hoping that this problem would go away for several months, I finally made an appointment at a local foot specialist, Korrectio. These guys are not just foot specialists, they're more like foot enthusiasts. My appointment took about 30 minutes and consisted of first a discussion about my situation (why was I there) and my interests (what do I do). We then took a look at the construction of my feet using a special device which looks like a footstool with a glass top and a mirrored bottom. When standing on the glass, one can see in the mirror exactly what part of your foot contacts the ground when you are standing. For me, it was apparent that my left foot (the one that had been bothering me) had a slightly collapsed arch. (That is to say that my arch was in contact with the glass, rather than being raised.) Then, we looked at my foot stride, both while walking and running, using a treadmill and a video camera. The video camera was placed at ground level with the treadmill, and using the film we were able to look at the type of pronation in both my left and right legs. (If you want to learn more about pronation, read this excellent guide from Asics.)

Overpronation. Notice how my ankle is inboard of my knee,
forcing the weight to the inside of my foot.
From the video, it was clear that I have a tendency to overpronate with my right foot, while my left foot has a more neutral pronation. (This is probably due to the fact that I had knee surgery seven years ago on my right knee, which causes me to shift my body weight away from that joint.) The analysis also showed that I have a much more prominent heel strike on my left foot than my right, which may have aggravated the plantar fasciitis.

As a final check, we measured my legs, which revealed that my right leg is a bit shorter (almost 1 cm) than my left leg.

Using all of this information, we built a shoe insert using some standard parts to provide better support for my heel and arch. The plan is to build a custom insert that is made to fit my foot, but first I need to go see Niki at Form  to see if the difference in my leg length is real, or if it something that is caused by a crook in my back.

I also purchased a new pair of shoes that are better for my foot and stride type, a pair of Asics Gel Cumulus 15. These have been fantastic so far, so much so that I also purchased a similar pair of Gel Craze TR shoes as well for indoor use. The combination of these shoes, the inserts and a taping technique have helped a lot. The pain isn't gone after my runs, but it's improved to some extent and most importantly it hasn't gotten worse. Hopefully the custom insert will make the final difference, and I'll be posting some new PRs in 2015. 


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