Find a good physio. I spent about £300 on a local £30 a time physio for about a year, see my old post moaning about my injury here. They couldn’t get to the bottom of my problem and I wasn’t seeing any progress. After repeating this a few more times with local physios, I finally cracked and went straight to the top. I contacted Ali Rose, director of Coach House Physio and a major part of the rehab team to none other than Olympic Gold Medallist Jess Ennis-Hill and the Gold and Bronze Olympic Triathlon stars (and fell runners) Alistair and Jonny Brownlee. Her sessions are £75 a time, but boy does she know what she’s doing. A former elite level marathon runner herself and working closely with top athletes, Ali’s experience and determined approach is quite literally breath-taking. She puts your body through so many different positions and wraps herself round you stretching various bits out (a bit like a hug from a wrestler) – it’s a real workout for her too!
So Ali Rose is sorting me out – there’s a lot to do! She specialises in releasing the fascia which surrounds the muscles too, and I have a lot of very tight, very deep areas that she has to ease out with her thumbs of steel, and on Monday, a new implement – what looked like a metal shoe horn with a pointy bit at one end to get in between the ribs on my right hand upper back. It’s painful, but the release afterwards is brilliant, I feel like I am free down my right side in a way I haven’t felt for years.
Ali is keen to assess her clients from all angles, so on her advice I also booked a consultation with podiatrist Karen Duff (£50). She watched me walking, manipulated my toes and feet about, measured me, and stood me on various orthotic insoles to correct my ever-rolling-inwards left foot (I’ve gone over on my left ankle a few times and the ligament has irrevocably stretched).
I’ve always felt a bit wonky as a runner, and it turns out my right leg is about 1cm longer than my left. Now Karen has told that, I think it’s psychosomatic but I feel like I can sense this even more! She prescribed me a pair of orthotics (£150) and I was telling her about how trail runners in particular tend to shun these corrective insoles in favour of letting the foot flex freely in unsupportive shoes to do the job it was naturally intended for.
Karen’s answer was very interesting, and makes a lot of sense. She said yes, the human foot is naturally designed to run unshod, however even if we walk about barefoot a lot at home or in the summer, we walk mainly on even surfaces, and have worn shoes ever since we could walk. So suddenly asking the foot to work as if it were a sturdy Kenyan powerhouse brought up barefoot on the uneven paths and tracks of Africa, is a bit of a tall order.
I’ve asked Karen to go into more detail on this for an article in Trail Running magazine as I think it needs further clarification for many off-road runners. She also said orthotics are like wearing glasses – without them your feet revert back to type, so it’s a long term thing. I’m going to give them a go and see what happens. If my longer right leg and pronating left foot are contributing factors to my ongoing injury then I’m keen to try everything. I will let you know how I get on with them.
Thanks very much to Ali and Karen for the treatments, I highly recommend both – invest in your body and get it serviced regularly as you would a well-loved vintage car. It’s the only one you will ever get, and it can do the most amazing things.