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achilles tendinopathy

foot pain, Health, running

Heel pain running? Check your shoes and hips…

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Plantar fasciitis treatment and exercisesHeel pain running is one of the most common running injuries and can really put the brakes on living an active life. Today we will sort out some hidden causes behind heel pain!

Heel pain running is most often caused by Plantar Fasciitis and this is what I will be writing about today. The pain will be on the base on your heel – if it is on the back of your heel where your Achilles tendon attaches to the bone, that is another matter and I see to this in a future post.

Plantar Fasciitis is the 3rd most common running injury behind “shin splints” and Achilles tendinopathy(Lopes et al, 2012), yet is something than can be improved quickly if the right things are done to help it. Earlier in the week I wrote a post explaining Plantar Fasciitis and how re rehabilitate it at home. Have a quick read of that as it gives you a good base knowledge for what we will talk about next and also shows you the exercises you should be doing if you have heel pain.

 

Why check your running (or walking) shoes?

Windlass mechanism, heel pain - self treatment and exercisesThis is very important, especially with the new craze at the moment being lightweight, flexible footwear. Giving the foot move movement is fantastic if you have great foot mobility, flexible, strong calves and fascia. But if you don’t have that then these can really increase your chances of getting heel pain OR worsen it. This is because when you are running, as the heel comes up off the ground, your big toe is pushed up, putting the fascia on the bottom of your foot on stretch. This is a natural spring-like mechanism called the windlass mechanism, which when you have heel pain, can really tug, pull and stretch at your heel – Causing you more pain and inflammation.

So what is the best footwear to wear if you have heel pain?

It doesn’t matter if you have Plantar fasciitis, achilles pain or shin splints, this applies to them all. You should wear running shoes with a supportive arch (some padding under the arch), heel support (not zero-drop shoes) and with reaonably inflexible sole. Over all it is very important to get your shoe matched for you as every persons foot is different and moves in a different way, there is no perfect or “normal” way for a foot to move.

If you are trying to venture into minimalist running shoes or even barefoot running, it is very important to do this progressively as your muscles work very differently in different foot wear or lack there of.

A recent study by Shih, Y et al 2013 showed what affects load and stress on the muscles and tendons most is your running technique and not shoes. So it is important to get you technique right (form before footwear) before heading into minimalist shoes or making any big change. The study also showed that forefoot running (which a lot of people start doing when they go into minimal or no shoes) increased the work of your calf muscles – leading to increased risk of shin pain, achilles pain and heel pain.

Hips:

Often with lower limb injuries there is glute weakness that is contributing to this. Having string hips that can control your foot and knee, absorb force and power you forward is so important and if you are not already regularly strengthening your hips, you should add this to your routine.

First of all it is good to test you hips to see if you do have a problem: Have a go at this quick balance and stability test to see how you stack up.

And HERE is the glut strengthening for you that I prepared earlier – This can really decrease your injury risk and improve not just your running but everyday function.

End note: Minimalist and flexible shoes are not a bad thing if you go about it the right way but for heel, calf or shin pain they should not be your first choice.

 

Please like, share and let me know how you get on ūüôā


Core strengthening, running, Spine

The importance of Core Stability on injury

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core strength minimizes lower limb injuryHaving a stable core and pelvis has huge benefits through-out the body, including laying a stable base for your legs to work off. This means more bio-mechanical efficiency, less injury AND less pain.

In order to do any lower limb exercise well, including running, squat, weight lifting, tennis etc, you need to be in control of your core. If you don’t have a stable base, everything working off it is going to struggle and compensate. This can lead to tight hip flexors, ITB syndrome, patellofemoral pain, ankle sprains, niggles and more.

Imagine a tennis shot, for example. Your are stepping forward and driving off your back foot while at the same time swinging your raquet forward to strike the ball. If you core isn’t in control then you are losing force between your legs and arms – losing that strength of the drive from your legs.

Core strength makes your body stronger, not just your abs, by conserving and transmitting energy.

Just for clarification, as “core” can mean different things to different people. Core for me is your Lumbo-Pelvic stability. The combined control and strength of your spine and pelvic muscles.

Quick self test: A great way to test and see how good your Lumbo-pelvic stability is yourself is to do the Single Leg Squat Test. If you see your hip dropping or knee tracking inwards, then you are at risk or injury and need to get started strengthening ASAP.

 

Poor core stability can also lead to and contribute to all sorts of injuries and pain, including in your:

  • Low back
  • Shoulder and neck
  • Knee and hip

 

So how do we sort this problem you ask?

Below is an exercise program to get started on that will really make a difference if you stick to it. I also fully recommend finding a good Physio in your area to have your specific deficits assessed to get some manual therapy to speed things up.

Exercises to improve Core stability:


1. Single leg Bridge:Bridge 1 leg - glute activation, leg strength and core stability. the best exercise for hip stabiltiy, great for runners

Position: lying on your back, bend one knee so that your heel is close to your backside and straighten the other leg as above so that your thighs are horizontal. Your arms can be crossed over your chest or down by your side to make it easier.

Action: Pushing through your grounded heel, lift your bum off the ground as above, straighten your back and hold for 30 seconds then lower and repeat on both sides.

 

2. Clam Plus: (Do them right and they are surprisingly hard!)Clam exercise plus - gluteus medius strengthening, pelvic stability, leg strength

Position: Side lying  with top elbow on the ground, knees bent, ankles together and importantly the top knee sticking out 1-2 inches further that the bottom knee.

Action: Making sure not to let your pelvis rotate backwards and keeping your ankles together Рlift your top knee up roughly 20cm and lower down in control. Reps: Build up to 50 reps on each side.

If you have found in the past that normal clams don’t do much for you, try it this way with your hip s rolled forward more to isolate Glute Med better and get less Tensor Fasciae latae activation.

 

3. Double or single leg squatSingle leg Squat, Glut Med activation - hip stability and strength:DL squat
Try performing the Single leg squat, but if you are too unstable (cannot stop your knee going inwards) then start with the double leg squats.

Single leg: 2 sets of 12 reps

Double leg: 3 sets of 12 reps

Tips: stick your bottom out like you are going to sit down and keep your knees out!

 

4. Front Plank: 
plank

Hold this for 60  seconds (if you can, otherwise build up to this).

Tip: do not hang on your hip flexors, tuck your bottom in and bring your hip bones up towards your head.

 

 

 

 

5. Side plank: side plank

Again aim for 60 seconds here, keeping your body straight!

 

Too easy? Add in leg raises to this – Raising the top leg straight up and down, building up to 50.

 

 

Do this short program  DAILY and stick to it for at least 6 weeks -Let me know how you go!

 

You may also be interested in:

Iron out your running – What you never got taught

Get your spine moving

Smash your Glutes


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