Retail/Coach/Trainer Focus: When a stability shoe does not stop gait or running pronation.

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This is a higher end stability shoe. We know what shoe it is and you can see the significant amount of dual density mid sole foam in the shoe, represented by the darker grey foam in the medial mid sole.  The point here is not to pick on the shoe or the brand. The point here is to:

1. not prescribe a shoe entirely on the appearance of the foot architecture

2. not to prescribe a shoe merely because a person is a pronator

3. not to assume that a stability shoe will prevent pronation

4. not to assume that technique does not play a part in shoe prescription

5. not to assume that all pronation occurs at the mid foot (which is the traditional thinking by the majority of the population, including shoe store sales people)

There you go, plenty of negatives. But there are positives here. Knowing the answers and responses to the above 5 detractors will make you a better athlete, better coach, better shoe sales person, a safer runner, a more educated doctor or therapist and a  wiser person when it comes to human locomotion. 

A shoe prescription does not always make things better. You have heard it here and we will say it again. What you see is not necessarily what you get.  This case is a classic example of how everything done for the right reasons when so very wrong for this young runner.

What do you see ?

Pronation can occur at:

  1. the rear foot (we refer to this as excessive rear foot eversion or calcaneal eversion driven sometimes by rearfoot valgus). This can be structural (congenital) in the bone (calcaneus or talus) or functional from weaknesses in one or several rear foot eversion controlling muscles.
  2. the mid foot as is traditionally assumed (this is often referred to as “arch collapse” ).
  3. the fore foot. (possibly many causes, such as a Rothbart Foot variant, short first metatarsal, a bunion , forefoot varus, hallux valgus, weakness of the hallux controlling muscles etc)

So, in this case you might assume that the stability shoe that is designed to prevent rear and midfoot pronation is:

  1. not doing its job sufficiently OR
  2. the pronation is occuring at the forefoot OR
  3. there is a myriad of of issues (yes, this is the answer)

However, the keen eye can clearly see that this is a case of heavy forefoot pronation but there are also mechanical flaws in technique (driven by weaknesses, hence just working on her running form will not solve her issues, it will merely force her to adopt a new set of strategies around those weaknesses !). The problems must be resolved before a new technique is forced.  This is perhaps the number one mistake runners make that drives new injuries.  They tend to blame the injury on new shoes, old shoes, increased miles, the fartlek they did the other day, the weather, their mom, there spouse, their kids…….runners come up with some great theories. Heck, all of our athletes do ! It keeps things amusing for us and we get to joke around with our athletes and throw out funny responses like, “I disagree, it was more likely the coming precession of the equinox that caused this injury !”. 

Although his individual does not have a fore foot varus deformity (because we have examined  her) it needs to be ruled out because it is  big driver of what you see in many folks.  In FF varus the forefoot is inverted with respect to the rear foot. This can be rigid (cannot descend the 1st ray and medial side of the tripod) or plastic (has the range of motion, but it hasn’t been developed).

We, as clinicians, like to assume that MOST FEET have a range of motion that folks are not using, which may be due to muscle weakness, ligamentous tightness, pathomechanics, joint fixation, etc. Our 1st job is to examine test the feet and make sure they are competent. Then and only then, after a trial of therapy and exercise, would you consider any type of more permanent “shoe prescription”.

If the individual has a rigid deformity, then you MAY consider a shoe that “brings the ground up” to the foot. Often time we find, with diligent effort on your and the individuals part, that a shoe with motion control features is not needed.

Sometimes the individual is not willing to do their homework and put in the work necessary to make things happen. This would also be a case where an orthotic or shoe can assist in giving the person mechanics that they do not have.

We have not seen many (or any) shoes that correct specifically for a fore foot varus (ie a shoe with fore foot motion control ONLY). The Altra Provision/Provisioness has a full length varus post which may help, but may over correct the mid foot as well. Be careful of what you prescribe.

Yes, we have been studying, blogging, videoing and talking about this stuff for a long time. Yes, much of it is often subtle and takes a trained eye to see. It is also the stuff that goes the “extra mile” and separates good results from great ones.

We are The Gait Guys. Watch for some seminars on some of our analysis and treatment techniques this fall and winter, and some pretty cool video, soon to be released.

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