Did you ever go to a running store in which an employee looks at your shoes, watches your feet as you run(some even video your feet), then immediately suggests a certain type of shoe whether it be neutral, stability, well cushioned etc…? I did!
That process is what so many runners, especially new ones, believe to be what’s called a gait analysis. We walk out the door excitedly thinking our new kicks are the solution to our mechanical issues and injury problems only to return disappointed soon after because the issues persist or even worsened.
Don’t get me wrong, most running stores do a great job with recommending the right types of shoes. However when you are suffering from aches, pains, injuries, or you have biomechanical issues, it may take more than a visit to the running store to find a solution. It may be time to consider a true gait analysis conducted by an expert. I’ll expand on that in a moment.
During 2013 Chicago Marathon training I developed a horrendous case of shin splints just weeks before the race. I’m still convinced it was a stress fracture but didn’t want to pay for the MRI. Needless to say it hindered my performance on race day as I was forced to do a walk/run. I had to take 6 weeks off after the marathon to heal. Then in 2014 while training for the Marine Corps Marathon I developed peroneal tendonitis which cost me on race day as well. Throughout those 2 years there were also various knee issues, blisters, etc…
I was convinced that I was in the wrong shoes. During that stretch I paid a visit to the running store several times and went through the process described above. The funny thing is I would get different people each time I went and each would tell me something different. One said I need stability because of overpronation. The next rep, who didn’t look old enough to have a job, told me I don’t need stability and neutral was the way to go. That should have been the red flag telling me to go to a different store (which I gladly do now thanks to knowledgeable folks at Dick Pond Athletics). I went through 4 different types of shoes in a 16 month span. The minute I thought I finally found the right shoe an injury would flare up.
After running Marine Corps Marathon I was pretty fed up with always being hurt and lost faith in my running store so decided to try something different. A simple Google search for sports medicine led me to Lisa Klein, the Athletic Trainer and Sports Medicine Coordinator for Barrington Orthopedic Specialists. Their website showed they have what is called the “Runners Program”. Participants get a one on one assessment and learn how to prevent injury using a focused strength and balance exercise program.
I spoke with Lisa on the phone and felt very comfortable that she knew her stuff after she explained the program. I was still injured so Lisa advised I make sure I’m healed before starting the program. That made sense as injury often makes us over compensate giving a false impression of our true running form. In December 2014 and after the injury healed I paid $95 for the hour-long assessment which turned out to be the best investment I made in a long time. As part of the assessment I was promised:
- One on One Musculoskeletal Assessment
- Individualized Home Exercise Program
- Evaluation of Current Running Program
- Video Gait Analysis of Running Mechanics
- Education on Proper Running Footwear
Lisa, a 20 year veteran at her craft, and former track athlete understands running and all that goes into it as that is her specialty. She works with many area runners and groups. We sat down and she listened to me as I talked about my various issues and concerns. She put me through the various steps of the assessment including:
- Filming me from several angles during a barefoot walk
- Stretching exercises on the table
- Asked questions about my marathon training program
- More filming from several angles of my run/jog on the treadmill
As soon as I was done with those steps she was very quick to assess. Between video playback and discussion Lisa pointed out the following observations.
- My posture was poor with shoulders rounded and neck leaning forward.
- I was too tight on my upper body
- My left leg stride was longer than my right
- My foot strike showed increased supination throughout-pressure on the outside of my foot
- I’m in the wrong type of shoe
She then put me back on the treadmill and asked me to focus on correcting those items that she highlighted during my assessment. At first it was a lot to focus on but I knew with repetition during off-season it would pay off. This was all a part of an expert conducted true gait analysis.
Most importantly she instructed me on a home exercise program that has improved my flexibility, posture, and core strength. Although she will not recommend a specific brand of shoe her assessment indicated I am best suited for a neutral to light stability shoe. I received all that I was promised and then some.
Although I’m not quite ready to run with the Kenyans yet (never gonna happen) I am coming off what was by far my best year in running. Granted I’ve only been running for 4 years but 2015 was the first year I have run completely injury free. I gained core strength, improved posture, and can bend a little bit more these days. I’ve also finally found the right shoe which I’ve been comfortably wearing for 13 months now. I PR’d in every race category.
There’s no doubt in my mind that 1 hour visit with Lisa and the Barrington Orthopedic Runners Program played a huge role in last year’s success. Whether you want to improve form/mechanics or avoid injury I highly recommend calling the Barrington Orthopedic Specialists 847-885-0078 and ask for Lisa Klein (Ext. 5511) or Brian Koselke (Ext. 8822). You can visit them online at http://www.barringtonortho.com/services/runners-program