#839 Why variety makes you stronger as a runner - DOC

#839 Why variety makes you stronger as a runner

Why variety makes you stronger as a runner. That’s what we’re talking about today on the Doc On The Run Podcast.



I got an interesting question from someone in the Injured Runners Aid Station and the question was, “Should I run without my custom orthotics to strengthen my feet?”

This brings up an interesting point. So, one thing is that don’t ever ignore your doctor’s advice. I make all of these things to try to teach you what I think about specifics of running injury treatment, running injury strategies, and all those things but those are my strategies. They don’t necessarily constitute medical advice, like you see your doctor and your doctor says you have to wear your custom orthotics all the time.

If your doctor says you have to wear your custom orthotics all the time, well then you should do that. However, it does bring up an interesting point. So, if you have custom orthotics, they are actually inserts that are custom molded to your feet that provide a very specific fit and the ability to actually control certain motions within your feet that may actually reduce your risk of getting another overtraining injury or perhaps actually healing a current overtraining injury.

Everybody doesn’t need orthotics, first of all, so I make orthotics for a very, very small percentage of people who have injuries and only make them when I’m sure they’re going to work. So, having said that, you have to understand that an orthotic is a type of brace. It’s a type of thing that holds your foot in a position to control motion, reduce stress and strain and all that.

The fact that it reduces motion or controls motion can actually cause sometimes sort of like the way many runners described to me as they said they feel like they have a reliance on the orthotics. Well, I had a knee injury. I had surgery. I had a custom molded brace for my knee. And it was helpful. I was running with it. I was training with it. I was doing workouts with it. I was skiing with it.

Then when I saw the orthopedic surgeon about a year after I had the surgery, I mentioned this to him, and he seemed kind of shocked and horrified. And he was like, “No, no, you can’t wear the brace all the time because you’ll become dependent upon it and you’ll get weaknesses specifically because you use it all the time.”

There is some truth to that because if the brace is holding your knees stable in a way that actually forces you or allows you to use other muscles less they will atrophy or weaken. And in a similar way I can understand how somebody would think that if they’re using custom orthotics their foot can basically get weaker, or those muscles on the inside of the foot that stabilize your foot and do subtle things with your feet, well, they can atrophy and that is possible.

So, if you use the orthotics all the time, then that might happen. And so the idea here is that if you run without orthotics and your doctor will allow you to run with orthotics, you’re using different muscles differently and you might develop more strength as a consequence of doing that. Sort of like cross training.

Another simple way to do it, if you don’t use orthotics is to run on sand or walk on sand barefoot. All of that motion where your feet are sliding and moving and skating and slipping and you’re trying to control that motion by holding your feet stable underneath you, that works the muscles in your feet and can cause a lot of strength.

All that variety makes you stronger as a runner. So, you’ve got to think about the things that you can do to have subtle improvements that will constitute big improvements in your running speed. And variety is one of the ways to do that.

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