I have mixed feelings on orthotics. I mentioned mine very fleetingly in my post last Friday, and I wanted to really get a feel for them before I said any more.
Since my switch to the Nike Frees last winter, I’ve fallen fairly soundly into the camp of “less is more.” I’ve found myself unable to buy completely into the barefoot trend for city running, but I felt a noticeable improvement in the efficiency of my stride and in my strength after making the switch to a more minimal shoe.
When Ned suggested orthotics to prevent me from a repeat ankle injury, I was dubious, but willing to play along. He quizzed my recollection of any other, seemingly unrelated, injuries or running pains I may have experienced, and described some symptoms that sounded vaguely familiar.
After that session, I came home and looked through the KateRuns archives – and rediscovered the arch tweakiness from my last Boston training cycle, and just how much time I had spent icing my arches and ankles after long runs. This fit Ned’s description exactly – I had been strong enough and careful enough not to injure myself, but the stress on my joints from my arches falling mid-stride was manifesting itself nonetheless.
“If you want to get back to competitive marathoning–”
“I don’t know about competitive, that’s overstating it.”
“But I can see your whole face light up when I mention it – if you want to get back to regular marathoning, I would really recommend we try some orthotics.”
This is the closest anyone has ever come to calling me an Athlete, which basically made my whole month. That aside, back to the orthotics – Ned was right; the allusion to “competitive marathoning” was enough to convince me to give it a shot.
Friday was my first date with the orthotics, and it was a struggle. The sudden uptick in rigidity was an even greater leap than the move from, say, my Gel Landreths to orthotics would have been. My balance was suddenly terrible again; I was incapable of tightening my arch to regain balance on the foam pad with the firm support of the orthotic beneath me. I was dubious. (I still am, a little.)
Obviously, any adjustment takes time to…adjust to. Obviously, I’m not going to be able to run in the orthotics exclusively right off the bat without hurting myself. I’m not entirely sold just yet – but I will note that, standing still, on solid ground, I feel the tension taken off my knees and ankles when I’m wearing the orthotics. Maybe there’s something to this?
This morning, I headed out for three miles, and ended up turning back for just two. My left ankle (the injured one) felt terrific; my right ankle was hating the change. I imagine this is still part of the adjustment – my left ankle is grateful for the additional support, and my right has been managing just fine without it, thankyouverymuch. Post-run, I have no soreness at all, which is a huge improvement.
Tomorrow, PT to air my concerns again, be sure all is well, and hopefully later this week I can bang out a few more miles. Right now it seems likely that I’ll opt to work into using the orthotics for longer distances, and keep a pair of plain old Frees around for shorter runs to continue to challenge my legs. I don’t want things getting weak again, after all; best to keep my toes on their toes.