I’ve been a runner for the last 30 years and have always enjoyed competing. I’ve done long distance running, cross country, fell running, orienteering, triathlon and marathon running. In fact, I completed my first half marathon at 12 (at Thirsk, in 2 hours and 4 minutes, in case you’re wondering). When running – and training – over long distances I stay hydrated, use carbohydrate gels and wear orthotics, because I know from experience that they can have a dramatically positive effect on performance.
However, while in training for, and running, my last couple of marathons, I’ve experienced problems. These have included IT band syndrome in both knees, patellofemoral pain (Runner’s Knee), and an ache in my lower back. So I decided that rather than go to a running shop for my orthotics as I usually would, I’d go to a specialist. This is where Gillian Brown, osteopath and sports injury practitioner enters the story.
Gillian is a practitioner for TOG, a company that manufactures a machine that scans your gait (GaitScan) and provides bespoke orthotics based on the exact measurements. Usually, I have a static scan on a plate in a sports shop and buy my orthotics off the shelf.
Before I even had time to take off my trainers, Gillian was asking me questions about current issues, previous injuries, and details about my training programme. Then she gave me a clinical exam, which honestly came as a surprise because I had expected just to walk across the GaitScan and order my orthotics.
Gillian asked me to stand and did a visual exam, noting details such as the pronation on both feet, and that my achilles tendon was not completely straight. She then asked me to squat, keeping heels on the ground to measure tension on my calves. Then I had to squat on one foot at a time so that she could see how strong my abductors and glutes are.
I was quite relieved that the rest of the exam involved me lying on the treatment table while Gillian examined my feet and measured my range of movement. Luckily, nothing major was revealed, but she observed small issues such as my stiff ankles and really tight tendons in my toes.
With the clinical exam complete it was time for the GaitScan. First I had a static scan, which involved standing on the GaitScan (which is literally a small mat) and then a dynamic scan was taken as I walked across the mat a couple of times.
The results were available on the laptop immediately. The top line of the static scan was that I am pretty well balanced, but the fact that not all of my toes were visible indicated tension in my calf and soleus muscle. It also revealed my terrible secret: I don’t stretch often enough, but I really need to.
The dynamic scan revealed an amazing amount of detailed information. This included some instability that potentially was putting stress on my body, and slight pronation that was putting stress on my knees, hip and back. My personal GaitScan was displayed alongside an ‘ideal’ scan, so that it was easy to make comparisons, and Gillian took me through a thorough interpretation. I then elected to have the scan emailed to me so that I can keep a record.
Following the consultation, I ordered my new orthotics and showed Gillian my old ones, which had been lurking in my trainers all along. She concluded that, as my feet are quite flexible and so were my existing orthotics, I simply wasn’t getting the stability or shock absorption from them that I needed.
I am currently awaiting the arrival of my orthotics with eager anticipation. They are custom made in Canada and so take a few weeks to ship. In the meantime, I am doing all of the stretches that Gillian advised me to because I know that if I don’t, she will be able to tell when I go to get the orthotics fitted.
Watch this space.