March 14th, 2012

running, shoes

RunSafe: The Longer Version

So, I thought I'd write up a slightly longer post about the running evaluation that I had done over at the UCSF RunSafe clinic.

The clinic runs in the evenings up at UCSF's Mission Bay campus. I was told to wear dark-colored form-fitting running gear. Runners are evaluated in groups of 4. I was, unsurprisingly, the least experienced runner in the group. I was joined by two experienced marathoners/triathletes and a guy who was getting back into running after having fairly serious leg surgery.

There are four stations involved in the assessment: a physical therapist, a podiatrist, body composition analysis and treadmill assessment, and a nutritionist. Each runner starts at a different station and they rotate everybody through all four.
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Then they sent all of us runners to hang out in the lobby with the nutritionist, and swap marathon stories and eat trail mix while they analyzed our treadmill videos. Then they brought us back in and we watched all the videos and got to hear everyone's analysis.

My own treadmill analysis (which they've sent me on DVD so I can review it) really illustrated the performance consequences of the strength and flexibility deficits the physical therapist found. You can very clearly see on the video that my right hip drops downward every time I pick my right foot up off the ground, because my weaker left gluteus medius isn't doing enough to stabilize my pelvis. I'm also slightly knock-kneed when I run - again because the gluteus medius isn't doing enough to pull my thigh outward. And I have a short stride, probably because of the lack of quadriceps and hamstring flexiblilty, although that's not an unmixed curse - the short stride slows me down, but it also keeps my feet under my center of gravity and protects against some kinds of injury.

I was a bit surprised to see from the video that I'm definitely a heel striker. Surprised only because I don't feel the impact in my heels when I run - I feel my midfoot hit the ground. I kind of wish I'd thought to ask more questions about foot strike patterns, but we'd been going for two hours at that point, and my brain was kind of tired.

Seeing the other videos was quite interesting. There were commonalities (I think three of the four of us had visible hip drop on at least one side) and some differences (one runner was very distinctively an overpronator). We were also wearing all sorts of different shoes, and one guy had himself filmed both in shoes and running in bare feet.

The day after the assessment, they emailed me a PDF with all the analysis results, plus a boatload of corrective exercises for the various problems they identified. I'm currently working on regularly incorporating one of the gluteus medius exercises (the clam shell) and some of the stretches they gave me, and I'll see how things go from there.