Turkana boy

The most complete human fossil of our ancient ancestors ever discovered is a skeleton of a young boy, about eight years old at time of death and whose bones were preserved in the sediments of lake Turkana in northern Kenya for 1.5 million years, from where it was found in 1984. A Homo erectus, the human species we are believed to have directly evolved from, Turkana boy is the first human fossil to reveal that his species walked and ran just like us today, centering his weight over his pelvis.

I wrote in an earlier post ‘Is running for everyone‘ about pronation related knee injuries and how I attempted to use shoe solutions to correct it.

Since after writing that post, I have been running with a shoe that was recommended to me by the shoe store after a gait analysis. I noticed that, even though the  pain was much less, there still would be some degree of pain after the 8km mark. Therefore, the longer I ran, the more the pain became intense mostly around my knee cap. With this new information, I decided to take my investigation into the problem a step further by visiting a physiotherapist.

After a thorough evaluation and assessment of my gait, lower extremity strength (including hip strength), and range of motion by the physical therapist, it was found that the cause of the pain was weakness in my hip muscles like the gluteus medius. Mainly the hip abductor and external rotators. This weakness allows your thighs to rotate and pull inwards abnormally which puts excessive strain and stress around your knee joint and kneecap. And apparently, after the 8km mark, when I begin getting tired, i tend not to keep a good running posture and hence unable to level my pelvis. A function controlled by the gluteus medius with the help of other hip muscles.

I was asked to perform some hip muscle strengthening exercises, to be conscious about my running posture when running and to stretch after every run (this was already part of my routine). I followed these and I haven’t experienced any pain in my knee when I run since then. Just like our ancestor, the ‘Turkana boy’, a leveled pelvis is key to our walking and running. Actually, research has found that, weakness in hip muscles is the cause of many running injuries.

If you are suffering from knee injuries when you run like athlete’s knee, you should consider seeing a physical therapist. But you could start working on your hip muscle strength today by doing these three common hip muscle exercises. They are the side leg lift, the “clam” leg lift, and the back bridge. A daily dose of 3 sets of 15 – 30 reps should do.

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Is running for everyone?

I have been running for years now and I frequently suffer knee injuries and pain after long runs. I have always attributed the pain to a bad knee which meant I would naturally look up to knee support technologies to help and a solution for my knees. Sometimes these solutions worked but for a little while and I’ll go back to knee aches after a run.

Recently, I needed to buy a pair of new running shoes so I decided to look into shoe sole technologies to help with my knee woes. That’s how I landed on a medical article on pronation and supination. Obviously, this was the first time to come across such terms and I was instantly intrigued.

But before we get into the intricate bits of pronation and supination, it’s important to note that there are two natural motions of the foot when you walk or run and in fact they exist to help you balance and absorb the pressure on landing.

What is pronation? You ask.  Pronation is the inward roll of the foot during motion when the outer edge of the heel touches down. Some amount of pronation is required for the foot to function properly. Generally, people with flat-feet are more prone to be over-pronated.

Supination on the other hand is under-pronation – the outward roll of the foot during normal motion. Some amount of supination is also required for natural movement as the heel lifts off the ground (the push-off phase).


However, if any of these motions occur in excess, it puts strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. You would see this in symptoms like ankle sprain, knee and/or hip pain. Sometimes it’s manifested in lower back pain.

The picture below demonstrates the motions.

gait

Another term I would like to define is gait. Gait is how we walk and/or run; also defined as the locomotion achieved from the movement of our limbs.
People have different gait – some are neutral, some are over-pronated while others are under-pronated.

The good news is there are different types of running shoes for the different gait types. The two main categories are:

  1. Neutral suited for normal and underpronated feet and
  2. Stability suited for the overpronated feet.

But if you fall under a rare category like I do; flat footed, which means naturally I should be over-pronated, but I am also bow-legged which has an interesting effect to my pronation, causing me to be just a little over-pronated.

Some sports shoe brands like Brooks make shoes for this third rare category. They  call them  Guidance running shoes and they work best in my case because I don’t need that much stability for my ankle nor am I neutral.

So there it is. Running is for everyone but before you take off, please ensure you get the right shoes for your gait. If in doubt, you can get a gait analysis done by your local running shoe store.