I decided that it was time to really look at my running form to see if I could find some efficiencies and also figure out whether how I ran was the cause of my shin and ankle troubles.
I’ve been running for seven years now but I never paid much attention to how I run. I’ve always just gone out and run the way I felt comfortable. That worked fine for a long time, but as I’ve added more speed, I’ve had a few more issues with injury than before. It was time to see what I could do about it.
Slow-motion video reveals all
I started out by shooting some video from the side and back (in slow motion) so I could see exactly what was happening with my feet and legs. That video revealed that I was heel striking a bit, and rolling and twisting in through the stride. No wonder I have shin and ankle pain on the inside!
It surprised me just how much I was rolling in, and also how high my toe was at the front of my stride. I knew what I was doing wasn’t great, but I also didn’t really know what to do about it.
I ended up watching a ton of videos on YouTube that I found out about on Reddit, of all places. Along with the videos, I did some reading about how I could improve my running and make my stride more efficient. For me it came down to a few things:
- Increase my cadence: running with a higher turnover would keep my feet under me vs. reaching forward and heel-striking.
- Activate the glutes: I’ve always run with my lower legs which hurts me in marathons as they fatigue more quickly. Getting my glutes firing properly would help a ton.
- Slow down and train smarter: I’m a bit of a “one pace” runner sometimes and that reduces the quality of my training. Running in the proper heart rate zones and slowing down on Sundays would improve the quality of my runs.
Getting to work
I’m a data nut, so one of the first things I did was to get the foot-pod for my Garmin to make my treadmill runs better. Without the foot pod, I tended to run at a 5:00/km pace on the treadmill because that’s pretty much the only pace that the Garmin was accurate at indoors. Getting the foot pod meant that I could accurately track my runs at a range of speeds and put in higher quality miles.
I also picked up a Mio Link wristband optical heart rate monitor. I hate the chest strap monitor that came with my Garmin and, as a result, I rarely wore it. Having a comfortable and accurate HRM on my wrist that still integrated with my watch meant I could run in the proper heart rate zones for each run.
The Garmin foot pod also provides good cadence data, and accurate real-time pace. The cadence data enabled me to figure out how to run at a higher cadence with instant feedback.
It took a few runs, but it really started clicking. The proof is in the data, of course. My average cadence over a run is up from 178-180 to 188-190. Running with the shorter, quicker turnover feels quite natural now to the point where I need to really think about it to fall back into my old stride.
My shin pain is gone, and I can feel the difference in impact through my ankles and lower legs. I can also feel muscle soreness in the back of my calves, and also up through my butt. The former is a sure sign that I’m bringing the glutes into the picture now. I still have some work to do, but I’m on the right track here, for sure.
With higher quality training, a better stride, and less pressure on my shins and ankles, I’ve gone from being apprehensive about training for Ottawa to being excited. It’s going to be an interesting few months and I’m hoping the net result is a good day in Ottawa in May.
Here’s what my foot strike looks like now: