This week’s spotlight is on Rachel. She is a superstar runner who has battled medial upper calf pain. Here is video of her running initially.
The first thing that jumps out to me is that she demonstrates what I would describe as a shuffling gait. This is characterized by decreased knee drive and a pendulum motion of her hips and legs during swing. Ideally more knee drive would be present giving an appearance similar to her feet being on a bike. With looking at her feet more closely, the biggest issue is a lag time between when the loading phase of gait ends and the push-off phase takes over. With running, that transition should be nearly instantaneous. A huge component of running efficiency and injury prevention is how quickly can you make the transition from landing to pushing off. With Rachel, there is a lag time causing increased time with her feet on the ground, which means the muscles that are responsible for that transition are not firing adequately. This can be caused by a number of different issues throughout the feet, lower legs, hips, and/or core. But her biggest areas of weakness were in the lower legs. So this is where we focused for this session.
First, a calf stretch with inversion bias to more closely mimic not only the dorsiflexion needed at the transition point, but also the ankle inversion that is needed. For this video, we’re focusing on her right foot. It’s okay for the heel to pop up off the ground slightly for this one!
Next, an exercise for push-off through the hips and foot. It’s also okay in this one for the heel to come off the ground.
Lastly, a pure foot strengthening activity. You may have seen this one on here before. I like to call it penguin running. The idea with this one is to keep your knees and hips locked to force your feet to quickly load and push-off without any help upstairs.
We also did myofascial work for her calves to help alleviate the cranky areas before doing the exercises. This was focused primarily on her medial upper calves.
After all this, here is what she looked like running.
The improvements will definitely take time to become more obvious, but there is definite improvement with her knee drive and quickness to push off through her feet in these last videos. With continued work in these areas, she will become more efficient and get rid of the nagging pain. Great job Rachel!