The magic behind the fix

The sock doc at work on my feet

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.

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  1. says

    Thanks for sharing the conversation with us. I have not ventured into the minimalistic side of running, and who knows, I probably wont to be honest, but even with shoes, the same principle can apply. I just go with what has been working for me since I started. Sometimes I venture out though and buy shoes that have a lot less cushioning (asics sky) and I can definitely feel the difference in my feet, in a good way.
    Kenley recently posted..2012 Spring Marathon Campaign BeginsMy Profile

  2. C2Iowa says

    Thanks for posting this info. There is so much to understand ~ not that I ever will able to understand it all. Its too bad that there are not more people like the Doc that are accessable.

  3. says

    Now we just need to clone him and send him personally around to each of us! Great info on minimalism. And I thought it was funny how he was chastising your vegan ways. You know you doc is a good friend when he can do that!
    Jen recently posted..Why do we keep running?My Profile

  4. says

    This is great!! Now if he could just suggest a good person to see in Kansas City. I would love to get my gait analyzed and make sure my shoes are right for me. I am trying the barefoot thing a little bit….well just did yesterday and adding in my first ever minimalist shoe. I’m on the right track, I think!
    Michael recently posted..Barefoot by Nature??My Profile

  5. Pat says

    I have a great visual of the sock doc and Jess pelting you with eggs and beef. Priceless! Very cool work, though, and I’m sooooo gla you are running again!

  6. says

    THANKS . This is such a great post. I recommitted my self this morning to start bf running again. I am taking it slow and easy. I did the treadmill for .7 miles at 4.3 and worked on my form. I refuse to give up on bf running. Thanks so much for this post MZippy.

  7. says

    I guess given that I am still 40-50 lbs overweight, I need me some platform running shoes with lots of drop? LOL Just kidding. I am terrified of getting injured as I fear that if I ever stop, I won’t go back. But so far I’ve danced through the raindrops in the Asics my local running store pointed me towards. Thanks for sharing – this was an interesting read. Wish we had someone like that around here.
    Christina recently posted..Downtown Loop = 5k(ish)My Profile

  8. Char says

    This was such an interesting read. Most doctors just treat the pain. I love that the source of the problem has been looked for.

  9. says

    OK so here is a question: I do a bit of running in my 5 fingers and I love them, but because I run a lot in the forest I can’t run in them all the time (the forest is to ruff under foot for me to keep up with the guys when in 5F) now I’m running a marathon this weekend, should I warm up in my 5F before the race? (I can’t as yet run a marathon in 5F) I’m still trying to decide what shoes to race in.
    Coach Dion recently posted..ANOTHER HALFMy Profile

  10. says

    Hey guys – a few comments & responses (and thanks to all your very nice comments):
    Michael – sorry I don’t know anyone in KC.
    Pam – nobody is hating vegans, just the diet. I’ve never seen a healthy person eating vegan. They often eat too many inflammatory vegetable fats and lack protein. Too many beans and other carbs thinking they are proteins. And too many soy products too. Eggs and whey help but of course vegans stay away from those too. See this on the effects on your joints:
    Coach Dion – I’d warm up in the same shoes I’m running the race in.
    TheAlmostRunner – there was no sticking with needles. You misunderstood.
    Sock Doc recently posted..Preventing and Healing Stress Fractures & Stress ReactionsMy Profile

  11. says

    I like everything the Sock Doc has to say about running, but completely disagree with those generalizations about vegans. If he needs to find a healthy vegan runner, how about taking a look at Scott Jurek? And myself. And many others I know. That is such a ridiculous, and offensive, statement. There are healthy vegans everywhere I look — maybe he just needs to open his eyes and mind.
    Kate @ Run with Kate recently posted..Kickin’ GrassMy Profile

    • says

      Kate, I am sorry you take that personally. It is a generalization because that is what I see come into my office. Sure, there are probably exceptions out there – there is for everything. But I have to ask since you called my statement “offensive” – aren’t you injured with “hellish tendinitis”? – and your blog states you’ve had your “fair share of running related injuries.” If so, isn’t this supporting my point that vegans are not healthy (as shown by the amount of injuries they have, and are typically always dealing with)? BTW – by healthy I mean a person who is without any signs and symptoms of injury and illness; has great energy, moves well, sleeps well, clear mind, etc… – not just someone who doesn’t have some disease.