Monday, 20 June 2011

Running Woman - Part 3 - FFF

Where were we? Oh yes, here’s where I left off. So basically I was under orders not to run anymore until I’d been seen by a physiotherapist.

My appointment was booked in and I was driving myself up the wall not being able to do the thing that I’d only just discovered I really wanted to do.

Whilst I was waiting for my appointment I summoned up the expertise of a friend who just so happens to be a podiatrist and just so happens to know quite a bit about biomechanics. I asked him if he was brave enough to take a look at my feet and see if he could see anything wrong with him.

The diagnosis came within a few seconds.

I have flat feet. Very flat feet. It’s one of those things that I’d never noticed before but once it was pointed out to me it was obvious. Poor feet, the more I looked, the more deformed they seemed to be. Whereas most people have a lovely arch in their foot, meaning the inside of their foot doesn’t quite touch the ground, every square inch of mine is hugging the ground as if it’s afraid to let go.

Why is this a problem?

I’d love to be able to tell you but I had trouble grasping all the technical terms. A nice way of saying I’m a flat footed freak (FFF) is to say that I over-pronate. Much nicer.

Basically, when my foot strikes the ground, it rolls excessively inwards. To add to my flat feet I apparently have hyper-flexibility in my feet. Apparently this is the one time when having a flexible body isn’t a good thing. When I’m running, because I am an FFF, my hip, thigh, basically the whole leg, rotate too far inwards. Add to this the fact that I’ve got pretty strong calf muscles (which I hate but can do nothing about, I was born with the legs of a rugby player) which are over-powering my “anterior compartment” – that’s the front of my leg to you and me – has basically led to shin splints.

The remedy? Orthotics. Or insoles/inserts for my shoes which should put my feet in the right position and put me back in alignment.

I thanked my friend and went on my merry little way. Feeling slightly self-conscious about the way I was walking but trying to wear my new FFF badge with pride.

The very next day I went to see my physiotherapist. (Note to self – when going to see physiotherapist bear in mind that you might want to shave your legs. Especially if it turns out he’s pretty hot. Damn.) He asked me to do a variety of things, one of which was to stand on one leg and bend my knee.

When normal people do this the knee should bend directly over their foot – so when it’s bent you shouldn’t be able to see your foot really because your knee is in the way. Your hips should also stay aligned. When I did it I elicited this response from my physiotherapist...


Which is never normally a good sign.

When I stand on one leg and bend my knee, my knee and thigh go shooting off inwards and one hip rises higher than the other. Basically I’m all wonky. He gave me a set of exercises to do to practice getting my muscles working in the right way – believe me this is hard, trying to correct the way that you’ve been walking for 28 years is no mean feat.

I asked about insoles/inserts and the physiotherapist seemed reluctant, saying he’d rather my muscles worked in the right way then “fixing” me with an insert.

Being the geek that I am I took on my exercises with relish and diligently did my homework and going back a week later was praised for my efforts. The shin pain was now totally gone and I was given the official release to go back to running. But to build up very very slowly. First up I was allowed to run for 2 minutes. No more. He also strapped up my left foot to try and simulate an arch. This felt weird but I have to wonder the use of it because after a couple of days it didn’t seem to be doing anything and was pretty skanky so I had to remove it.

I decided to go back to my podiatrist friend and ask about inserts. To me the physiotherapist advice didn’t make sense. I understand that it’s good to get my muscles working in the right way, but surely as long as I remain flat footed then the problem of excessively rolling inwards is never really going to go away. I can try and be aware when I’m running but being too aware is most likely going to result in me falling over.

My friend got me some inserts and I tried them out. It was a little like walking on the moon. I couldn’t believe that this is how most people walk normally, my goodness how do you all do it?!

I went out for a 1km run the next day to see how I went. I was determined to build up slowly, as advised by the physiotherapist and every other website I’ve consulted about shin splints and see how I went.

So how did it go?

Until next time....


  1. Oh you TEASE! I want to know, immediately. Don't keep me in suspenders.

  2. I'm with Alex on this. No fair! (If it helps any, when I went to the podiatrist (after the chiropodist had given me exercises that didn't help at all), she said 'Oh, your feet are just like your dad's - without the polio')! Some types of shoes might help, too.


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