Run Analysis – when Gill met Colin…. (at last!)
As an Osteopath, at college we were all taught that we were meant to strike the ground with our heels and roll through and forwards onto the big toe to push off, running or walking. Certain foot types found this easy and other found it less so which is where we were encouraged to think about helping patients with orthotics (insoles) to encourage “correct” movement of the foot and therefore influence the use of the rest of the limb. This could help runners with their gait, knee pain, back pain and hip pain.
However, when I left college and started my own clinic I began to sponsor Gill Fullen, local IronMan triathlete, at the time with shin splints. The running world had begun to think about barefoot running which was throwing my heel strike theory into oblivion.
The more runners I saw the more I questioned what I had been taught. The more I read about barefoot running the more I liked the theory. However, I still felt strongly that if someone had been running in very supportive trainers for the past 10 years plus, chucking them out for minimalist shoes seemed like a mad idea!
Thankfully I met Colin Papworth, (podiatrist), 4 years ago, when he was in the area for gait analysis at the Senior Masters (Golf) over in Woburn. I got chatting to him as I was intrigued to find out what he thought about barefoot vs orthotics.
I was relieved to find his views were similar to mine – IT DEPENDS ON THE ATHLETE! Their foot type, running style (and willing to change and train), but what I liked most of all was his view that you can run in a “natural style” without needing the minimalist shoes. Doh!
Colin rarely prescribes orthotics now, only when they’re really needed. He works more with getting the correct trainer, which more often than not is less supportive than people think they need, (thanks to running shops “analysing” runners as over or under pronators – theres just so much more to it than that!!). He then helps to tweak your running style to be more efficient – saving you energy, making you faster and preventing injury!
Being Gill’s Sponsor, I’ve seen her suffer with a number of problems over the last 5 years. Since meeting Colin I’ve tried to get her to see him to help us to find out what she was doing wrong but she has been very reluctant to change… until now!!! I finally convinced her! Have a read below to see what she said:
What Gill has to say:
“The Peak District is such a great place for cycling that it seemed a waste to drive up to Sheffield and not take the bike. So after 3 hours of hitting the hills hard I shuffled over to Accelerate to meet Colin Papworth.
I had heard that the running workshops held by Colin at Colmworth Golf Club had been really well received, but having had so many problems with my legs and feet in the past and just about got through them to a stable place, I had been reluctant to go along and risk any further changes to my running style. I now realise my mistake and if I had gone, maybe I would have been in a much better place now.
I was finally prompted to go and see Colin, when I bought a brand new pair of trainers and instantly developed Achilles problems, which I couldn’t explain. Tilly offered to ask Colin what he thought and he in turn kindly offered to see me to try and get to the bottom of it.
Colin already knew what kind of racing I was doing and the times I was running, so the first thing we did, once I’d emptied out a bag of my old comfy trainers, was to put on my normal race trainers, in which I use orthotics, and run on the treadmill. Colin videoed from every angle, so we could get an all-round view of my style and he made sure I was running fast enough to replicate effort, but still comfortable. He was happy to hear that I had worked hard on the bike and had also run a 14 mile threshold session the day before, so I was unlikely to be fresh!
The first thing we saw on the video was that my upper body was moving too much from side to side, with my arms crossing in front of me, so I was unstable and wasting energy. My upper body was also very upright, allowing me to over-stride and effectively put the brakes on every time my feet hit the ground.
Moving on down to my legs, apart from my knees twisting inwards, I was bringing my heel up too quickly behind me and so not allowing hamstrings to reach a full stretch, which would allow them to contract properly and aid the leg coming forward again. My foot remained low on the recovery and the knee was drawn forward by my quads to my favourite over-striding point.
As far as the foot went, I was landing on the outside edge of both feet and so not allowing the foot to roll through and the big toe to push off as it should. This led to a rotation of the heel and twisting of the foot on the recovery, putting rotational pressure on various parts of the lower leg.
I was also initially landing very heavily on the treadmill, and the long stride meant that my feet were in contact with the ground for a long time. Colin talked about increasing stride cadence as I stopped over-reaching and trying for a shorter, quicker stride. The minute I thought about this, my footfall on the treadmill became distinctly lighter and I literally felt more spring in my step.
I’m sure there was more said, but amongst the huge amount of info coming my way, I have only retained the salient points (hopefully).
It took quite a while for Colin to point all this out to me and explain how it worked. It took even longer for me to grasp the changes it would be good for me to make. So then I got back on the treadmill and Colin tried to show me how to effect the changes.
He stressed that it was very difficult to change running style from the feet up, the best way being to start with the upper body and let the rest come into line after that. So making my arms move only forward and backwards, rather than inwards across my body, I tried to straighten up. My right arm is way more crooked than my left and I had to really concentrate on keeping it in line.
From there I leaned slightly forward, allowing gravity to pull me forwards and shortened my stride, so that the contact point of my foot was as near directly under my body as I could get it. The forward lean, however, had to include bringing my hips forward too, so I wasn’t bent over.
I practiced this until Colin was happy that I knew what I was aiming for, even if I hadn’t perfected the technique. We also talked about exercises which would help me achieve a better running style. We ran through the drills and stretches which would help me most and corrected the common faults which we all make when doing the drills.
Then we moved on to looking at trainers. The pair which were giving me Achilles problems were very solid and lacked flexibility. They had lots of cushioning, which I had been looking for to reduce concussion damage on long training runs, but stabilised the foot almost too much, so that the natural movement for me as a more forefoot runner, was compromised. My comfiest trainers are pretty minimal, with little to no support.
From the vast range of trainers in the shop, Colin suggested I try the Hokas he had just got in. They look a little odd and very large, but on the treadmill I could instantly feel that they promoted the running style Colin wanted from me – the quick turnover, the high heel recovery, the stride length, all these things were made easier in the Hokas.
I tried other brands too, to compare and it was amazing how different I suddenly found them. Some shoes I simply could not run in and knew immediately that they would give me problems, others I felt neither helped nor hindered. We eventually settled on the Hokas to try to help me improve my running style, but also a pair of more conventional trainers for long training runs and racing so I had another option.
Since seeing Colin I have really tried to put what he taught me into practice. There are people I run with whose running styles have different aspects of the technique and so I tend to visualise them running and try to emulate them. I can feel when I’ve got it right, but it’s really hard to keep concentrating on technique when racing or pushing hard in training. I definitely need a follow up session, to see what (if any) improvement I have made and to give me direction to keep on improving.
Colin is incredibly knowledgeable and very clear in his explanations. There is such a huge amount of information that it is hard to take it all in in a short space of time. We are very lucky to have Colin visit this area on 27th June 2015 to lead a running workshop at Colmworth Golf Club. Over the 6 hours there will ample opportunity to identify problems, establish good practices and build a basis for improving technique to reduce injury and finally to increase speed!”