Moving Forward: Running Gait Analysis

I am on month 3 during my recovery journey. It is actually difficult to say whether I am back to full health again or not, and if I am, how long this state is sustainable without relapsing. It is going to be a period of experimenting and careful testing to see how my foot copes with running and higher impact moves.

I have started to very gradually re-introduce these elements into my workout routine this week. Walking is not an issue any more, I can even walk on consecutive days, well over an hour, on any surface. I was able to complete a half an hour high intensity UGI Ball workout (with some jumps) and a 1.5km running drill this week. Running felt completely different – I felt I was running more from my glutes than from my quads, so much stronger – and this is how it should be! And one of the UGI Ball glute exercises that I could never do well in the past and ended up in really bad pain the next day, went miles better this time!

I am feeling quite positive and encouraged by these small things at the moment but of course I know I need to be careful and take it easy as the next day or week may look very different.

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I have had lots of ups and downs in the past few months. In the end, as a last resort, I did ask a few friends to pray for me and that seems to have helped more mentally speaking than any stupid generic counselling programmes. I also found myself looking at things through the spiritual lense and having a dialog with God, being more receptive to His voice and what He is trying to tell me through this difficult time. And boy, does He have a lot to say!!!I have to admit, I have some hard messages to digest and act on in relation to my identity, priorities, marriage, idols, what my strength in rooted in etc.

Perhaps as a result of all of the above, I am now finding myself in a better place where the possibility of not being able to run again is steering me towards exploring other alternative outdoor activities such as cycling, rather than perceiving it as the end of the world.

I have already started studying what different bikes there are, what they are for and how to choose a good one. Basically, deciding on what to buy is a minefield in itself, there are gazillions of models priced between £200 – £10,000, and half of the terminology I read in bike magazines sound Chinese to me!!! I also found at least two local cycling groups that look friendly enough to join. So this weekend I am going to pay a visit to the local bike shop to see what they can offer. The only thing that is a slight concern for me is road safety – let’s face it, car drivers have never liked cyclists on the road and there is still a lot of ice. But at the end of the day, if I sit on my bum all day long, that could kill me, too…

Another milestone in my journey was a visit to a local running clinic called Drummond Clinic to get a biomechanical assessment done which my own physiotherapist endorsed.

So what happens during a biomechanical assessment?

  • Treadmill video analysis – I was recorded at walking and at running speed, first wearing shoes and then bare feet. The analysis was meant to show what is occurring at my hip, pelvis, knee and foot during motion, a great way to examine my overall running style. This method helped to observe the impact my foot biomechanics have on my walking and running and to the rest of my body.
  • Foot gait scan on pressure plate – I first walked and then ran over it. This tool helped to determine in more detail how my foot functions (pronation) and which parts of my foot  are either restricted, misaligned, moving too much or too little, or collapsed. This method is also good for determining whether or not orthotics will be useful in controlling or correcting foot alignment.
  • Physical examination – The therapist examined my joints’ range of movement at the ankle, knee and hip; tested the flexibility of my hamstring, calf, quads which all may affect movement, and the strength of my glutes etc., to rule out any other causes and underlying issues.

The whole thing lasted about one hour and resulted in the following outcomes and recommendations for me:

  • My hip is rocking side to side quite noticeably whilst I run, this is to the detriment of running economy and efficiency – so I need to find exercises that target pelvic stability. The correct move should be back and forth not so much side to side.
  • Continue with the glute strengthening exercises I have been doing but also add some more functional moves as well e.g. instead of focusing on lying exercises, try some standing exercises as well. For example, crab walks, lunge based moves etc.
  • My feet have a relatively good arch and the landing pattern was also not too bad on the treadmill video analysis and the pressure plate. Therefore the therapist could not see any strong reasons to prescribe custom made orthotics at this stage, nothing is substantially wrong biomechanically speaking and by changing anything we may cause more harm than good or I may just develop other issues. (I suspect my foot has benefited a lot from doing those strengthening/corrective exercises since November). I have to admit I was actually quite glad that this came out of it as I would rather not artificially force my body into alignment by using orthotics but would be more prepared to continue with my corrective/maintenance exercises to work on my weaknesses.
  • I do have some stiffness so the therapist showed me some myofascial release techniques for the lower calf, quads and piriformis muscles; using a foam roller and a massage ball. The benefits of doing this once a day are manifold, such as improving flexibility, relieving soreness and joint stress, correcting muscular imbalances etc.
  • Following these myofascial release exercises, I went over the pressure plate again a few times and we found that the scan picture improved even further!
  • Finally, the therapist recommended some running shoes to improve my comfort and performance (Asics Cumulus or Brooks Defiance). Both are neutral cushioned rather than stability shoes which I have been using in the past few years. I will look into trying these and will also make sure to replace them in due course rather than waiting for them to fall apart, as per my physio’s advice! (I think I once used a pair of Nike’s for about 2 years with high mileage). I guess one way to look at it is if I do not spend money on new shoes, it can become a very costly thing as I may end up spending lots more money on physiotherapy etc. instead, not to mention the mentally taxing effect of not being able to pursue my passion!

I left the clinic feeling very happy with the service – namely that their recommendations were not driven by commercial interests i.e. trying to sell as many custom made orthotics as possible/increasing their sales but they were based on what they thought were in my best interests, i.e. in this case no orthotics(!) I had a similar biomechanical assessment at a posh London clinic which every magazine and forum was raving about, about 1.5 years ago, and I remember that even before the assessment began, they were banging on about making me custom orthotics, as the ultimate solution for every problem. Needless to say, I did not take up that option.

I also liked the succinct explanations that followed the assessments so that I understood their significance. The therapist also made himself available to have a chat with my treating physiotherapist about my results if he wanted to. I found that approach very professional, i.e. wanting to work together with another specialist rather than wanting to take over completely.

In addition, my regular physiotherapist agreed to help me arrange an MRI scan to rule out any other issues with my foot. Even though he does not think it is necessary and we both know I am a self-confessed hypochondriac, he will support me with this so that I can have peace of mind to start training and living normally again, or face some though truths to help me move on. He has been a great help, too and on my last visit he said how noticeably I had improved and that I had come a long way since he saw me the first time 🙂

I think when/if I see the truth, it will truly set me free.

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