Running Has Been Placed on Hold

by - April 16, 2011

RUNNING! Why is it that when I want to do something "good for me" it turns against me? Last Saturday I ran eight two minute runs, with single minute walks in between.  --My right knee began to hurt a week ago along with my left ankle.  I believe that these aches and pains are related. I think one is compensating for the other, but not quite sure which came first...the ankle or the knee.  My knee is something I need to pay attention to.  I've had knee issues in the past, but thought that I could just work through this.

I purchased serious running shoes and was fitted by a serious local running shoe company.  They actually watch you run in shoes before selling them to you. --They seem to know their stuff. I'd been sort of fitted for shoes in the past but they've never watched me run.  Once I was fitted (can't remember if the first fitting was New Balance or Brooks), I just purchased similar shoes from then on. This new store I went to also want you to bring in your existing shoes so they can get clues about your walking/running patterns by the soles of your shoes. --I took in two pairs (two different brands, but similar in how they fit).  They could tell absolutely nothing from the soles of these shoes. I've worn them of course!  Just not run in them. And really the walking in them was minimal so that there was no wearing pattern. 

The second thing this store does after looking at your existing shoes is have you take off your shoes and socks! Then they have you sit down with your feet on the floor and look at how your feet plant themselves.  Then they have you stand up to see how your feet change with the weight of standing. My shoe person told me I have "fairly" flat feet.  And he took out a felt tip pen and made marks on the instep (arch).  He said he was measuring how the instep changes between sitting, standing and walking. He found it interesting that although I have fairly flat feet that the arch does not collapse when I stand or walk. He also said that the shoes I currently used are "stability" shoes, usually recommended for people with over-pronation.  He said that it is interesting that even though I have a flat foot it does not appear that I actually over-pronate and he felt that I should not wear stability shoes.

Stability shoes have extra support along the instep of the shoe to help stabilize your ankle and keep it from rolling too far inward.  He advised that I get a shoe for "normal" pronation with no additional stability built in.  The reason it is not good for someone with a "normal" gait/pronation to wear a shoe with stability added is that it can force your foot to move away from "normal" and roll your foot to the outside, which would cause different problems.  Confusing? Yes? 

Image by Bob Gavin
From the August 2004 issue of Runner's World
I just did additional research to confirm that I understood pronation correctly in the explanation above. So what have I learned?  I've learned, that my feet are flat.  Typically flat feet leads to over-pronation in running. This would mean needing a stabilizing running shoe. I was previously fitted with  stabilizing running shoes. I learned that it is odd that although I have flat feet I don't over pronate. The shoe person recommended that I run in non stabilizing shoes.  --Which I bought...and they are beautiful.

On the third day that I wore my new shoes, my ankle and knee began to hurt noticeably.  However, that was also the day that we increased our running from 1 minute per run to 1.5 minutes per run.  In addition, I am not in the best physical shape and I am not at my "optimal" weight.  So, it is hard to say what caused the pain.  The shoes? The additional running time? The fact that my muscles are weak? The fact that we are running on a trail in the woods with hills and non level ground? What could it be?

Some pain is expected with a new exercise.  So I ran again 3 times after noticing the pain.  I ran on Monday with my new shoes and still hurt.  On Wednesday I ran with my "old" shoes.  Still hurt...but maybe not so much? Hard to tell. But Wednesday was my best run to date. And I will tell you, I missed the arch support I got with my "old" shoes.  Saturday run was increasing the run to 2 full minutes. I ran in my old shoes.  It was absolutely my best run yet. I almost liked it. I didn't believe the Pacers when they yelled out "Walk" to indicate that the first run was complete. I felt two minutes could not have possibly passed.  I ran each two minute interval without stopping. It was the first run I was able to complete without resorting to some walking during the running portion. I was elated.  But, after it was over, my knee and ankle hurt.

Sunday I went back to the shoe store to have my shoes re-evaluated. The manager took over from the initial shoe person.  My symptoms were something that needed more expertise.  So I had to run and walk and have him watch.  As I returned to the manager (after an embarrassing limpy walk/run), he said, "Well, I can tell you that these are the right shoes. But you also should not be running".  He suggested I see a physical therapist as soon as possible.  Tears actually came to my eyes. "No! You can't say that!" I wanted to shout. Not now that I decided I was going to enjoy it! I want to be fit. I want to lose weight.

I went home to research running gaits.  Perhaps it's not the shoe.  Perhaps it is the way I run.  I told the first shoe person that my natural tendency is to run sort of on my toes.  He watched me run my natural way (sort of on my toes) and the way I thought my Personal Trainer taught me to run: "Heel Toe, Heel Toe".  He said either way was fine, but that when I ran on my toes it was actually similar to the new movement barefoot running.

My running gait research told me that Heel Toe is not correct.  Landing on your heel (according to two of the articles and videos by running experts) means your foot is in front of you. This leads to your forward momentum being stopped like a brake, and all of your weight with that forward momentum lands on your heel which shoots pain straight up you leg and joints.  This sounds right to me.  I felt my leg pain in my knee.  The articles said you aren't supposed to land on your toes, per se, but on the balls of your feet and you are supposed to land softly.

I know for sure that the day I hurt myself I was not landing softly.  Even though I was somewhat enjoying my run, I was aware that I could hear and feel a heavy landing with each stride. Perhaps the landing was heavier on my right leg.

Armed with this new information regarding gait, I ran one more time in my new shoes. Saying to myself with each step "BALLs of your foot, not heel".  But with each step my left ankle and right knee were yelling at me to stop.  Undaunted, I would not stop, though I ran so slowly I might as well been standing still.  I finished the run/walk. I had to, there's no other way out of the woods.  I went home, took Advil and put ice packs on my ankle and knee.  Knee is swollen.  It hurts now to walk even around the house. I feel stupid for trying again.

Have Dr. Appt scheduled.  Will most likely get physical therapy to strengthen the legs. I should have stopped sooner...I know that now. I can't sacrifice my knees. I need them. My husband says I should try biking.  Or swimming or walking... You know, there is probably a point to be made.  Perhaps I should have gotten my legs stronger before just jumping in.  Will have to re-evaluate.


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3 comments

  1. Some people are lucky; they can run forever without joint problems. Others have to struggle to find the right shoe, the right gait, even the right running surface. It's likely that taking up running has made you use muscles and tendony-thingies in and around your knee that weren't quite strong enough yet, or you're overcompensating for some of these weaker muscles; that's a problem I struggled with last year, and it's come back to bite me again. PT WILL help you correct these issues. If you come back out to Duke, talk to Justin; he's made huge progress through PT.

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  2. And don't give up hope!

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  3. Thank you so much for the comment! I am absolutely planning on PT and hope to build up to do the Running Start again! It's funny, after finding that I had to "pause" my efforts it just made me want to do it more! It's probably the best thing that could have happened to make me more driven!

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