My client, R, spent last winter making tremendous improvements in her health. She lost 45lbs and gained a wonderfully healthy respect for her body. Now spring was around the corner and she had a goal to start running again. She had run track in high school and now her teenage son was on the track team as well. We spent the last few weeks of cold weather balancing out the alignment in her feet and ankles (and by default knees and hips) with lots of inversion, eversion, flexion and extension exercises for the extrinsic muscles of the foot (see related blog). By St. Patrick’s Day she was logging miles.

Her first run or two went well, but then she developed shin splints intermittently. She tried ice, ibuprofen, and stretches for her Tibialis Anterior. All provided some relief, but over time the pain returned with greater frequency and intensity. By Easter she wasn’t running at all.

I asked if when she bought new running shoes for her son, she had bought new ones for herself. Um, no. How old are your shoes? I have no idea.

Herein lay R’s problem. She had done so much work balancing out her gait over the winter, that running in her old shoes was like getting the alignment fixed on her car, but not changing the tires. The old wear pattern on her shoes forced her body right back into her old (mis)alignment, much the way uneven tire treads pull a car out of alignment.

Conventional wisdom suggests changing your running shoes every 300 miles, but if you have changed your gait, don’t wait!

Read about self massage for pain.

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Learn about our Self Massage Therapy Ball Programs.

Christine Jablonski

I believe most people who end up in the fitness profession are trying to heal themselves. Fifteen years ago I sought out SPIN to rehabilitate a full knee reconstruction. Ten years ago I started Pilates to help me recover from a horseback riding accident. More recently, as still-young age and old injuries caught up with me, I began a restorative and Kripalu yoga practice. In every instance, with every discipline, I've experienced a moment of “ahhh....I want to make everyone feel this good.” And so began my path toward fitness studio ownership where I could keep my classes small and focused on my client's journeys from injury, through healing, and on to strength. In addition to figuring out how my clients and I could feel even better (as well as look better in our jeans), curiosity about human biomechanics led me to study with Helena Collins of Life in Synergy, Sadie Nardini of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, and of course, Jill Miller. Combing the knowledge from these tremendous teachers with my strong Pilates background has enabled me to create exceptionally effective programs for my clients, who range from joint replacement patients needing post-physical therapy help to the “uninjured” wanting stronger, better aligned bodies so they can experience life to the fullest.

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Queen Sheba

This is rather clever advice, it makes sense that after so much time, her shoes might have been fine for nonexercise use, but with the impact from running they could not provide the support needed. Also great to ask what the lifespan for any shoes are, I’m sure we could all use a new daily wear shoe with the amount of time we spend on our feet.

Agata Wojno

I can relate so much with this subject. I am a runner and this year for the first time I had a hip pain after running and I started to think that this is because I am getting older and… I won’t be able to run anymore… I started to talk to people and received one common feed back: “buy new, good shoes”. I would do everything to eliminate hip pain, so I got 2 new pairs of running shoes and my running never was better. Hip pain doesn’t exist anymore and I am speechless and very happy. I didn’t… Read more »

Alison Miller

Excellent point – I am an avid runner and often lose track of when I need to change my shoes,usually because I finally found a pair that fit perfectly and they don’t make them anymore and they still feel like there is more run left in them. However I have learned that my sign for needing new shoes is shin splints. Now at the first inclinging of shin pain, I know it is time for new shoes!

Kate H

I think shoes are underrated, but it also depends on the type of shoe. There have been studies that demonstrate wearing shoes for pronators or supinators are not perfect. Also, that older shoes can be better in some cases than newer shoes with all the cushioning we have. She may have gone out farther than her body was ready to. With all the structural changes, her body may need to relearn how to run without her old form.

I like Alicia’s concept of breath first then working from the ground up.

Erin

Sage advice! As a yoga instructor I like to spend a little time focusing on the feet in our practice. I remind participants to be kind to their feet because they hold you up all day long. Pay attention to what position they are in when you are standing and how they are carrying the weight of your body – share the load and then give them some attention in your relaxation too. I am also reminded of watching my teenage son walk away from me the other day, with his shoe untied and feet seriously supinated so much so… Read more »

R.E.

So many factors can come into the play of shin splints due to the skill of running. Where as I walking both feet are on the ground, in running only one foot is on the ground at a time. The impact forces massively increase, ensuring the foot lands under the general center of mass with a soft knee helps alleviate the tension on the anterior tib. Often when the foot lands in front of your center of mass, the need to heel strike and then the rapid plantar flexion and deceleration of the foot loads the anterior tibialis over and… Read more »

Elizabeth W.

As a CrossFit coach I usually recommend a low profile shoe with lots of room for the toes to do their thing. The movements we do require our athletes to have a little better feel for where they are in relation to the ground, the equipment etc. When I teach beginners the shoe recommendation is a soft sell, ” Hey, you may notice that people wear low profile shoes. That might be a good choice for you.” Most people pick up on that and get themselves something appropriate. But then there are those with some nasty old–uneven-rundown nikes who I… Read more »

Terry Littlefield

I think this is a reminder to all of us that we need to take care of ourselves as much as we take care of those around us. So great that R was able to do all of these wonderful things for her gait and take her body back to running. Now she can take that through her life and hopefully take care of the tibialis anterior. I can’t wait to learn more about the inversion and eversion therapy done for the ankles.

Alicia Wang

I love this, but I think we can take it even one step further. I am a firm believer in beginning with the foundation of our body. Breath then, feet first, ankles second, knees, hips, shoulders, neck….then the shoes can go on and they better be some darn good ones. As a runner it has become a necessity to “get ready” to run. Stretching and rolling my feet and ankles, circling my knees and hips, rolling my shoulders forward and back, and circling my neck. Some days I never make it to those running shoes. The feed back from all… Read more »

Krista

Dear Christine
This is a very nice essay. I have been a runner in the past and found myself not chancing my shoes simply because I did not want to break in a new pair and/or adjust my gate to the new sensation (perhaps I should be less attached).
Runners’ magazines often address this issue of swapping out shoes but do not always point out the reason; that mis-alighment occurs because of the desire to correct for incomplete treads.
I have been wearing the same running shoes for over 300 miles…this is a great wake-up call!

Carly

This is actually really interesting to me. I’m not a runner, but have run/jog in the past for cardio purposes. I have been practicing yoga solely for the past year without anything else in my routine. Two weeks ago I went running 3 miles in my vibram 5 finger shoes for the first time in over a year. I took it easy and thought that I would be fine since my body has never felt more aligned and pain free. After running, I could hardly walk for a week. The fascia on the underside of my feet were a wreck… Read more »

Alexa

Christine, thank you so much for this series on feet. I’ve been deconstructing walking and running for some students who are avid runners/marathoners and who have suffered for it. Explaining the architecture of the knees, shins and feet (as well as the hips and core) seems to help them digest and implement the benefits of regular YTU Therapy Ball sessions for the feet and legs. Also, while they initially yowled a little during Sitting Seza and cocked an eyebrow at Namaste Feet, they were amazed at the difference afterwards – no more pain, faster recovery and easier strides.

Amy

This was a gentle reminder for myself as well. I love an old pair of running shoes but that was before I was doing yoga regularly…I think its time to let them go.