Saturday, June 7, 2008
If the Foundation is Off?
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is unstable and tilted. Why? It's foundation wasn't solid. Engineers have put in all sorts of support so it won't tip over and can remain standing for many more years. What happens to a runner when his foundation is unstable? I am looking again at my feet. My left foot does not function correctly, so as I run, walk, and even stand it pronates and seems to push my foot over on the arch side, then the ankle rolls in as the foot twists out, then knee goes knock-kneed, and so the leg is unstable causing the hip to not support and drive the leg correctly. I get hip and back problems and things have been this way for years!
I can't tell if it is a hip problem forcing the chain of events down the leg, or a foot problem forcing the imbalances up the leg. No doctor or specialist has ever given me a solution or even addressed my questions.
Last year I attempted to do something about it and today I decided to go back and try it again. I started playing around with old insoles from all the retired running shoes I had lying around. I cut sections off under the left foot's little toe's metatarsal bone. There is a point there that stays grounded on the ground and doesn't flex or roll the foot like the bone on my right foot. In fact as I walk or run and start rolling forward on the foot it pushes my foot over to the arch and does not allow a proper foot function. I am unstable even as I stand and walk. My wife tells me often to stop bumping into her as we walk as I tend to walk over to my right side or self correct and bump over to the other side.
I cut the insole under that bone last year so that it did not come into contact with the shoe. I then had one of my best track workouts of the year. It was a very hot humid night and I did 3 X 2 miles all at 12:00 flat. My teammate Jerry and I just ran shoulder to shoulder for each of them. Battling the heat, the elevated heart rate and pure "give it your all" on each interval made for a very satisfying workout. The best part was the "cut out" insoles let me feet roll so much better than normal. My hips and stride felt great and I remember feeling that I had solved the "problem". I was seeing a physical therapist for my hip problems and I showed her what I did and how I felt good for a few days (my hips no longer were hurting like they had) that she marveled a bit and sent me on my way canceling the rest of my appointments.
I remember training runs feeling better and having a better stride, but I could never get the cutout just right. I went through all my old insoles. Some the cutout was too big, some too small. The right foot didn't feel correct so I cut out a small piece on those insoles too. Somewhere down the line, I can't remember when and why, I stopped using them. Did I run out of insoles? Was my foot working a little better without them? Was a knee or something starting to hurt? I can't remember exactly why but I went back to running without them and forgot about the experiment.
Today I went back to a box of old insoles and found one pair. It must have been my best cut outs because they were the only ones left and so I wore them on my run. I felt the return of a more stable run and stide. The left leg and hip seemed to be working better. My left hip wasn't jamming up and instead I could feel the muscle under the sit-bone working. It was a good (and hot humid run). I also felt, like I remembered last fall how the bottom of the left foot was rolling forward. Without that bone, sticking and pushing my foot off to the side, I could feel the foot land properly but then it rolled forward to the big toe side and I could push off at the toe (instead of from the side of my foot). I think I will keep up with the experiment and with all the flexibility and mobility work I am doing maybe the transition will be smoother.
Here are some really unglamorous photos of my feet to try to explain their function. The first photo shows me trying to hold my knee and leg straight. All my weight is on the outside of my left foot and the inside of that foot is rotated up and off the ground.
The next photo tries to show how that looks closer up. Not a comfortable way to stand and I definitely can't run on the foot like that!
The next photo shows what happens when I put the left foot flat down on the ground. The left knee then rotates in (creating instability throughout that leg, hip, and back). This is how my knee tends to turn as I run, but the foot does not stay straight like this!
The last photo (haven't you seen enough!) shows what the leg and foot tends to do as I run. The knee goes in a bit but I try to keep it straight so the foot rolls in on the arch and everts out to the side, putting my foot, leg, knee, hip, and back through all sorts of rotations and compensations so that I get into the mess that I am always in as a runner but also in my daily life.
I will say that with all the work I have been trying that I am doing so much better in my daily life then I was 20 years ago or even five years ago. I was so tight and twisted that I found it hard to sit and move throughout the day. I have learned to strengthen and relax the right muscles so that I can sit and move more freely. However the running part continues to fall apart (aging, habits, or years of misalignments?).
Maybe someone reading this has more experience and can comment on this. I have yet to find a doctor or therapist who can give me the information to figure out the root cause of my alignment issues, but I am sure there is someone out there who can. Are there chiropractors for the feet?
You can go to these entries to see how my leg looks as I run:
Anyhow talking about the feet here are some drills I am going to try now that barefoot weather is here. They are explained a little more here. Finally, this one is called, Yoga for the Feet.