Many runners have been to a running store and had a running analysis done. Following that analysis, the runner was provided with a shoe type based on what was found in the analysis. On a surface level, that is great! When looking deeper, these analyses fall short in a number of ways.
I will fully admit, I worked at a running store when in physical therapy school and did exactly what I described. It actually wasn’t until I was working as a therapist for several years that l realized and understood how much was being missed when assessing runners in the manner that most running stores do.
When thinking back to what I did then and what I do now, there are four major areas that stick out on where the running store running analyses fall short.
Knees Down vs Full Body
The analyses I did in the running store and what I hear from most people who have had them done in a running store is they only film from the knees (or mid thigh) down. This does a great job at looking closely to see if the knee is collapsing in and how much the foot is pronating, which are both important elements to assess. his method is missing a lot, though.
When looking at how someone runs and what the legs are doing, it is best to see what the entire body is doing. What is happening in the trunk and hips can play a significant roll in what happens down the chain into the feet. If the hip, pelvis, and trunk are not looked it, many contributing factors may be overlooked.
Treadmill vs Over The Ground
Your body moves completely different on a treadmill compared to on the ground. With a treadmill, since the treadmill moves, all you need to do is keep your legs moving as the belt moves under you. On the ground, you are required to propel yourself over the ground in order to move.
If you are only running on a treadmill when you go for a run, than an assessment on a treadmill is likely OK. But most likely you are doing most of your training and all of your racing outside. If you haven’t been assessed when running over the ground, it is possible that something important could have been missed due to the difference of technique and muscle recruitment that occurs.
Back Only vs Front, Back, and Side
Our bodies are three dimensional, so doing an analysis from just one view is very limiting when it comes to seeing what the body is doing when it is moving. If you have been only analyzed from the back, it is possible that something could have been missed.
Ideally, a running analysis is done with a back view, front view, and side view. This allows a full picture of what your body is doing as it moves in space. There are things I pick up from a front view that I don’t pick up from a back view and completely different things are found when looking at the side compared to front and back.
Shoes “Fixing” The Faults vs The Body Correcting The Faults
There is definitely a time and a place for shoes that control your foot motion. Early on when the issue is detected, these shoes may be necessary. Similar to orthotics, though, I don’t believe that these shoes are the ultimate, lifelong answer.
Getting shoes that control your foot motion AND working with a physical therapist or coach who specializes in runners and knows how to strengthen runners properly is the key! Our bodies are meant to control themselves, they have just forgotten how in some ways. If you take time to strengthen your body properly and train your body how to move better, you will gradually be able to transition out of shoes that control your foot because you will have taught your body how to do that for you.
Are stability and motion control shoes bad? Not necessarily. But if you are relying on that as the only way to correct an overpronation issue, you may not be addressing the full spectrum of what is contributing to injury issues you are experiencing.