Full disclosure, I hate to run. There, I said it and now I feel much better. I actually have more of a love/hate relationship with running. I love the science and technique of running mechanics. I’m actually fascinated by how you can squeeze more speed and efficiency out of someone that just assumes they are a bad runner.
When it comes to my personal desire to go for a run, it’s just not there. I blame the Army. They kind of ruined it for me with the whole wake up early and do a forced run almost every morning. Because everyone in the Army is technically a runner, we would see a TON of running injuries. I would guess that 50-60% of what I typically saw was running related. That’s literally thousands of running related injuries that rolled through my office during my time on active duty.
Now that I’m out of the Army and have a private physical therapy practice in Atlanta, I’m still seeing runners. I’ve actually developed some good relationships with a few of the bigger running groups here in Atlanta and it’s been a blast to help these athletes get better fast. Healing from an injury is great but do you know what’s cooler than that? Winning!
As a runner you are competing against others when you run but for most of us we are constantly competing against yourself to get a personal record (PR) on a race. I recently had a runner come to see me for some plantar fasciitis. If you are reading this and have actually put some decent volume in training you probably cringe when you hear the words plantar fasciitis. It’s basically the kiss of death for a runner and will take you out of your sport for a long time, if not fixed.
This individual had seen everyone under the sun for this issue including, podiatry, chiropractic, massage therapy and a different physical therapy group. This problem had been going on for about a year at this point and he was obviously frustrated when he came in to see me. He was also very surprised when I told him that we had to watch him run. Can you believe that? This guy had been to multiple other medical professionals and not a single one took the time or even thought it was important to watch him run. This is crazy! What if you went to a mechanic and he didn’t actually drive your car around to see what the problem sounded like or how the car acted when it was running? That's basically what had happened to this athlete.
After watching him run it was pretty obvious he ran like crap. I won’t get into all the specifics of the running mechanics in the blog but just remember my professional diagnosis was not plantar fasciitis, it was you run like crap. My prognosis was good. It was forget about your foot pain, we are going to make you faster! He was also had really bad hip mobility and tons of hip weakness. We spent the first two visits working on run form and getting some of the pain down in the calf/foot with soft tissue techniques to include Hawk Grips work and Performance Dry Needling.
Over the next two visits we re-tooled his running form even more and added in strength/mobility work for his hips. Think of your hips as the engine of movement for running. If you have poor hip strength/mobility it’s like riding your bike around on flat tires. Sure, you can still ride a bike this way but it's a hell of a lot easier to ride with with some air in the tires. Running is hard enough, don’t make it harder than it has to be.
Below are the exact 3 exercises we nailed down for this athlete to do to help fix this chronic foot pain and none of them have anything to do with the foot directly. The order of completion was this.
Pre-run (videos below)
-Anterior Hip Mobility Opener 2 minutes per side
-Band Hip Pull Throughs 2 sets just to muscle fatigue not failure
-Band Hip Side Steps 2 sets just to muscle fatigue not failure
This athlete typically ran 3 days per week so that’s all the strength work we added in for him. He did complete the anterior hip mobility opener 2 minutes per day regardless of if he ran or not that day.
So what was the result? 4 visits over 6 weeks. 5 minute PR on his 10K time. Oh and no foot pain. If you’re having running-related problems, fix the cause of the problem not just treat the symptoms.
If you’re in the Atlanta area and are a runner that has been dealing with injuries we can help. We’d love to chat for a few minutes and see if you are a good fit for what we do. Fill in the contact request below and we’ll set up a free 10-minute phone consultation with one of our Performance Physical Therapists.
Dr. Danny Matta DPT, is a Physical Therapist and Strength Coach based out of Atlanta, Ga. He teaches on the topics of movement efficiency, mobility and injury prevention internationally. He is also the Director of the Tactical division of the renowned MobilityWOD group started by Dr. Kelly Starrett DPT.
Full bio here.
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention and sometimes other random thoughts.