The man performing my gait analysis (we'll call him Mr. Gait Analyzer) asked if I was dealing with any injuries. I told him about my bout with IT band syndrome, which has thankfully been under control these days. I also mentioned my stubborn piriformis syndrome.
Mr. Gait Analyzer showed me a video of my stride. He pointed out that my lower leg exhibits a noticeable angle when my foot hits the ground (he gave me the actual angle measurement in degrees, but I forget the exact number). Additionally, my footstrike exhibits a distinctive outward roll.
The technical term is that I underpronate. I believe it's also called supination.
|I am the poster child for the underpronation diagram on the left.|
I have actually been keenly aware of my janky footstrike for quite some time. The outer soles of my running shoes wear down much more quickly than everywhere else. Plus, the underpronation is visible in some of my race photos. Here is an example from the 2013 Prairie State Half Marathon:
I always cringe when I see the jankiness caught on camera. I think it looks horrifically awkward. But when I am running, my footstrike doesn't feel awkward or painful to me. It's just my natural stride.
Mr. Gait Analyzer explained that the underpronation puts added pressure on the piriformis. This is because the foot's outward rotation forces the piriformis (and the entire lower body, really) to compensate for the uneven motion and unequal distribution of weight. He advised that I try to work on changing my stride to a more centralized footstrike.
The diagnosis and Rx both make perfect sense. However, it is much easier said than done to change your pronation.
I've given it a couple of tries. During my short runs, I've been focusing on trying to land more on my inner foot. However, it feels incredibly stiff and awkward. I feel like I lose all fluidity in my stride and that my feet are slapping the pavement. Plus, my feet hurt afterwards. In short, I feel like a fish out of water. Or maybe a fish trying to learn how to run.
On a side note, this is actually the second time I'm working on changing my stride. I used to be a heel striker, but several years ago I turned myself into a midfoot striker. That transition was not very difficult. It felt like a much more natural change than altering my pronation.
Honestly, I'm surprised that I am still being diagnosed to wear neutral running shoes. My footstrike looks anything but "neutral" to me! But, I will leave this to the experts. It probably says something that different experts have all given me consistent shoe diagnoses over the years, too.
To be continued.