You all know I made the trip to North Carolina last week to see Dr. Stephen Gangemi, aka the sock doc. Because I can’t completely (or at all) articulate how he worked his magic with my feet, I thought I’d let him take over. It’s fascinating stuff, but most importantly, it works! Here it is in his words:
Hey there Zippy Gang. Amanda asked if I’d write a bit about her treatment with me last week so here it is. The exact transcript of our conversation has been permanently erased because I was cussing too much about her recent implementation of a vegan diet and how it’s very unhealthy for a person to eat that way, especially an athlete, (and especially an injured athlete). I was happy to have her acupuncturist friend Jess there hanging out with us as we threw eggs and slabs of beef at her. Anyway…
I’ll get right to it and also address the footwear issue that Amanda alluded to. First, as many of you know from when I helped her resolve her ITB pain last March as well as some of the “Ask the Sock Doc” Q&A we did on this blog, it is always my goal to figure out why a person is injured rather than just correct the injury. Of course I still correct the injury, but if you never know why you’re injured then you’re just going to get injured again either in the same area or someplace else in your body. I figure out the ‘why’ and the ‘where’ by watching a person move (walk/run) and by using a lot of manual muscle therapy techniques. Very rarely do I actually treat where the person is feeling the current injury. I didn’t directly treat her ITB pain last time and this time I didn’t directly treat where her foot pain was.
As Amanda mentioned, she was already wearing minimalist type shoes. Unfortunately, they were not working well for her because when she ran in them they fatigued several muscles in her body – some in her feet, (two of the three peroneus muscles that support the outside of the lower leg and foot), some in her hips/back, and even perhaps the most important muscle in the body other than the heart – her diaphragm. It wasn’t as easy as just ditching the shoes and having the injures go away on their own because she had worn the shoes for a very long time so her body had compensated. We still had to correct the muscle imbalances which were a result of the gait dysfunction, but it was relatively easy to do once the shoe problem was known. The majority of the muscle imbalances were corrected using very specific trigger point therapy. I enjoyed it, she didn’t. I think Jess enjoyed watching too but she also likes sticking needles in people.
So once the muscle imbalances were corrected and she was wearing a different pair of minimalist shoes, she was good to go. Even though she hadn’t run in months without some discomfort or pain she was able to run three separate times in <24 hours for a total of 70 minutes. Ten minutes of that was a barefoot run with me. I was barefoot too, of course. Barefoot is always best when it’s practical.
So the question I get a lot and some of you will ask is, “How do I know if my running shoes are correct for me and not causing a problem?” Unfortunately that is sometimes hard to figure out on your own. I’m able to test each person individually for their footwear so we know immediately if their shoes are okay, or not. But if you’re getting injured or if your injury is not healing, you may want to consider a different type of footwear.
There’s a strong correlation between your feet and your health. The healthier you are, the stronger your feet will be, and the more minimalist shoe you should wear. The less healthy you are, the weaker your feet, and the more support you will need. If you “just can’t find the right shoe” for you, you’ve probably got several imbalances in your body (structural and nutritional) and those should be addressed first before trying to find a shoe that is perfect for you. (I discuss this concept a lot on the SD site.) Go barefoot as much as possible and even do a barefoot warm-up of walking or running for several minutes before your run if you are able to. If you can’t walk or run barefoot, slowly build up a little at a time per your comfort level, even if that means just being barefoot at home. You’ll see as you get more and more minimalistic in your footwear, you’ll have fewer injuries and you’ll be running faster, smoother, and happier.