>General Running>Vastly Different L/R Footstrikes: How To Fix?
Background: I had a fairly serious Achilles injury in my left leg back in FEB2011. It's been some 20 months now, and it's totally fine. But it seems to have left a lingering effect in my gait. Without trying really hard, I can't seem to get up on my toes on that leg, even when doing strides; best I get is midfoot. No injury issues or gait oddities on the right side. I don't have any obvious L/R strength or flexibility imbalances.
I've noticed in recent race pics that I have significantly different lower-leg action and footstrike in my left v. right. Specifically, I seem to dorsiflex a LOT on my left side, which has much more of a rearfoot touchdown. My right leg, though, tends to be more neutral, and the footstrike is more midfoot in normal running and forefoot when sprinting. (Exemplary pics HERE from a 15k in mid-OCT2012. Disclaimer: I'm sprinting slightly downhill, but tying up only slightly.)
I'm aware of "if it ain't broke" ... but I'd like to smooth this out, as I still tend to see stress accumulate (soreness, etc.) more on my left side v. my right post-workouts. Any thoughts/drills/ridicule would be appreciated.
"I want you to pray as if everything depends on it, but I want you to prepare yourself as if everything depends on you."
-- Dick LeBeau
Are you the guy in the first two pictures? Or second two? Sorry, a bit unclear from your description as they both hit with a different foot in each picture. I'm only recently getting back into running but used to compete in college, and footstrike was an issue for me as it seemed to lead to injuries.
Honestly, I think it's likely that you're somehow favoring your left leg, and it could certainly be psychological (I do the same thing with chewing even though all the cavities on the right side of my mouth have been filled hah). I'd look up strengthening exercises and drills that would get your gait back to "normal." Here's a few that seem to be geared to that end (I think the first two are aimed at the "barefoot" crowd but the general idea is the same):
I'm the anguished-looking guy in the green calf sleeves.
i may well be favoring that leg -- it took months before I could train again, and months more before it was no longer a constant post-run management issue.
I remember a couple races in Colorado several years ago running with a guy that broke his femur in the late 90s. He had a very altered gait but seemed to move right along just fine. I think it goes one of two ways: you develop efficiency with your new stride and over time everything is fine; or, you have chronic injuries and might need to consider orthotics or some other remedy. Sounds like you are well on your way to the former.
Letting off steam
I've had a serious achilles injury in the past. Like you, a long time to get back running, then more than a year before I was willing to push off on that side. I'm not sure how much of a different footstrike I had, though. With time, and strengthening and balance exercises, it did go away. Keep working at it, with the strides, and drills that you can focus on the toe-off for a short time.
Let's see: what specifics...
If I remember some more, I'll add.
My left leg was the weaker leg so I pushed off on it going uphill. Now the imbalance is gone.
A good sports doctor will do an evaluation of strength and flexibility (range of motion), which may well be the underlying problem. Knowing the underlying cause will help define the right course of action.
I did this last week and the Dr found that my right abductor was horribly weak. A little massage and it's mostly back to full strength.
That looks like me when I am tired. No injury, but one leg feels stiff and awkward, even now as I am sitting. I am worried that it might lead to injury in the future.
Thanks for asking this question.