Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Taking it all in Stride

In the past several months I have talked briefly here about how I have worked hard on changing my stride.  At the risk of jumping on the "minimalist" bandwagon I'd like to explain why I made this change.  After my first attempt to run across the state of NH in 2008 I ended up with a stress fracture.  On that day the pain started with a tightness in my shin that felt like the classic shin splint.  The thing that didn't make sense to me at the time was that the pain started about 60 miles into the run.  By the time I got to mile 65 the pain was almost unbearable.  I made it another 5 miles and called it quits.

I spent the next several months running a reduced mileage mostly on the treadmill.  It seemed that the softness of the TM didn't aggravate it and by the start of the 2009 season I was ready to go.  Several times throughout the season I would have shin/ankle pain, but with icing and a reduction in mileage I was able to keep it at bay.  At the end of the year I tried again to run across the state.  Again, by the time I got to 65 miles the pain was back, although not as severe.  I ended my attempt to run across NH in the exact place I did the previous year.  Although my ankle was in pain, I was able to nurse myself back to health using the same techniques.  It was at this time that I was formally diagnosed with "Anterior Tibialis Tendinitis"

At the beginning of the year I decided to figure out why this was happening.  I went to see a podiatrist who specializes in helping runners.  After gait analysis they came to the same diagnosis that so many of us have heard.  I was an over pronator and needed orthotics.  To make a long story short, I spent a LOT of money to get hard plastic wedges that hurt and didn't help my problem one bit.

About this time I had been experimenting with less of a shoe, rather than an overbuilt stability shoe.  It seemed to help.  My shin/ankle hurt less and I really enjoyed the feeling of my foot not being cradled so tightly.   Everything was fine until the week I was out at Leadville in the days before the race.  I noticed that after I ran down Hope pass in training that the ankle pain was creeping back. 

It didn't affect my race, and later in the year I decided to try to run a fast(er) marathon to qualify for Boston.  Coach Jack changed my training to do much more speed work and the more I did the more my ankle/shin flared up.  Most of my road running was being done in Nike Free's.  After running the marathon in October and setting a PR on a hilly course my ankle was really talking to me.  One of my employees who is a professional triathlete mentioned that my tendinitis was most likely caused by heel striking and I should try shoes with a smaller heel differential.  Although the Nike frees are very flexible and light, they have a HUGE difference in the height of the heel vs. the forefoot.

Here is a video of my running downhill at that marathon at about mile 20.

Courtesy of Pete Larson of Runblogger
I have spent the last 6 months working on eliminating my heel strike. I am only using shoes that have a 4mm or less differential and most of my time is being spent in my Altra Instincts which have zero difference.  This change has enabled me to increase my efficiency and all but eliminate my Anterior Tibialus Tendinitis.  Here is what my stride looks like now.  This video was shot last week.

Courtesy of Pete Larson of Runblogger

Barefoot, Minimalist, Zero Drop....whatever you call the current fad, my personal experience is that it is enabling me to continue with my love of running and decreasing my injuries.  That's called a win win in my book.


Anonymous said...

You just wanted to show the world your abs. ;)

Indi said...

Love it!! This is so very timely as I'm making similar changes. Of course. I'm no where near the runner you are :), bit chronic shin pain has been such a huge issue for me. This gives me even more hope that things can change!! Good Luck and Thank you!

Nathan Sanel said...

Yes, the entire reason I made the post was to show my abs. Thanks for noticing!!

Bobby Kennedy said...

I'd worn orthotics for close to 30 years until last summer when I switched to minimal shoes and dumped them. My feet, ankles, legs, knees, hips, and back have never felt better. I used to only be able to run every 3rd day. Now i can easily run everyday. Even some swelling in my right ankle that is leftover from a long ago blood clot has subsided. I can't say enough about the difference it has made.

Bobby Kennedy said...

I too was diagnosed by podiatrists and shoe salespeople as an over-pronator. As such, I had worn orthotics for close to 30 years. I switched to minimal shoes about a year ago and dumped my orthotics at the same time. My feet, ankles, shins, knees, hips, and back have never felt better. All of the aches & pains have disappeared. I used to only be able to run every 3rd day. Now I can run everyday. Even some swelling in my right ankle that was left over from a blood clot has subsided. I can't say enough about the difference minimal shoes have made for me.

Unknown said...

I do changed to midfoot gait and now can run without knee pain. It was an easy switch for me as I was not yet a "runner" but trying to become one so I didn't have a pattern established.