Polly : You can dance in flip flops?
Me: Doesn't everybody?
I took biomechanics in college, and I got to use a bit of it while working here for about two years after finishing school. At the time, I was recently recovered from tendonitis in both of my achilles, and was starting to get tendonitis in my patella (kneecap) tendon, as well.
The most important things I learned from this job (and still use today):
- Over-pronation can cause debilitating injuries from your feet up to your lower back! As the arch of your foot collapses when transferring your weight from heel to toe with each step you take, your tibia (lower leg) rotates inward, also causing your femur (upper leg) to rotate in, as well. Those who run regularly have a higher chance of developing issues such as Iliotibial band pain (IT band for short). In layman's terms, the IT band connects from the outer edge of your rear end to the outside of the knee.
- Another common issue to arise from over-pronation is plantar fasciitis, where the pain centers at the bottom of the heel, close to the arch of the foot. Over-pronation (along with tight calf muscles) pull and strain on the plantar fascia (connective tissue running along the bottom of the foot), causing the overuse injury to occur. Check this link for an illustration.
A couple things you can do prevent future issues:
- Get your gait checked to see how severe your pronation is. Everyone's feet pronates to some degree, as it is the body's natural shock absorber when we walk or run. You don't want to "stop" your pronation; you merely want to control it. From this point, you'll want to use shoes that best support the arches of your feet. Admittedly, this can be tricky, as each individual is different and needs varying degrees of support. The best test you can give to any shoe in question is to hold it securely by the heel in one hand, and the toebox in the other. Twist the toebox inward as hard as you can, while twisting the heel outward as hard as you can; the harder it is to twist the shoe, the more supportive it is. This is basically what this test does. The heavier you are, the firmer you want the heel of your shoe to be (much like shocks on a car).
- Stretch! Here's a video on some IT band stretches. For those who like to endure a little pain, the video also goes with some movements with the foam roller, too. Here's another IT Band stretch that's a bit more intricate. Here's a video for some calf stretches, as well (Maria... you'll recognize these).
- Ladies- when you can, lay off of wearing heels! Wearing heels eventually shortens the calf muscles, which in turn can lead to strain on the plantar fascia. Choose a shorter length heel, as well.
- Orthotics (custom or otherwise) are only as good as the shoes you put them in. Start with a good pair of shoes first; then go to supportive, over-the-counter orthotics (go with these, not that Dr. Scholl's crap. If my memory serves me well, the green ones are meant for the most active people); then consult your podiatrist to see if custom ones will work for you.