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Older Yet Faster Publications Pty Ltd

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Author profile - Heidi

Competitor and podiatrist

Heidi Jones

Heidi runs her own Bondi practice(feetonthemove.com)

Growing up in a very sporty household (my father was a PE teacher) meant I participated in a wide range of sports. Running came easy to me and before long I was keeping up with the ‘big boys’. There was a running boom in the 1980s and my family travelled all over the State competing in fun runs every couple of weekends.


What started off as spending time with my dad developed into a high level of achievement.

At age 17, I was


  • CHS (Combined High Schools) State 3000m champion
  • CHS and All Schools State Cross-country champion
  • 2nd in Australian All Schools Cross-country Championships
  • 3rd U20 Australian Cross-country Championships.
  • 1st in U20s in Sydney’s City to Surf (49:17, 14km), 7th lady
  • 1st in the Paramatta Open 10mile (16km) in a record time of 58:13
  • Outright winner of the 10km Randwick Charity Fun Run in 33:40


I was also awarded the New South Wales Open Female Runner of The Year award.


However towards the end of 1991 tragedy struck! I got out of bed and I couldn’t put any weight on my left forefoot. It was very painful and swollen and incredibly tender to touch. I was misdiagnosed for a year being told I had gout, it was just bruising, arthritis, a stress fracture and I was even told it was psychosomatic (I was making it up!). It was an incredibly emotionally traumatic time for a girl who just wanted to run.


It took another 12 months before I was correctly diagnosed as having a genetic bone disorder in my 2nd metatarso-phalangeal joint (Freiburg’s disease). But I was also told by three orthopaedic surgeons that I would never run again, and that there was no operation for it.


I managed to find a surgeon in North Sydney (Dr Kim Slater) who at that time was the only one in the Southern Hemisphere to successfully operate on my condition. I had the operation and it was successful and I desperately wanted to run again. I also wanted to prevent anyone going through what I went through. I decided to train as a podiatrist and once I got into podiatry school, I walked the 15km to college and home again every day. I thought if I could walk long distances I’d eventually be able to run.


At the age of 21, I could finally resume running and I was keen to get my times back down. I had been wearing orthotics for several years and initially they were great in taking the pressure off the 2nd toe area but after sustaining seven tibial stress fractures in a row I threw them out in exasperation. Amazingly, the stress fractures stopped. It led me to question; whether the orthotics really were the answer to fast, injury free running? Definitely not in my case. Something wasn’t adding up and I wanted to find out why.


I was still running in thick chunky shoes ‘for support’, and although I didn’t sustain any more stress fractures I did experience ITB syndrome (inflammation of the iliotibial band, the ligament that runs down the outside of the thigh), bursitis of the hip (nine months' off), chondromalacia patellae, commonly referred to as runner’s knee (eight months' off). I became an expert on knee rehabilitation and VMO exercises! (The (VMO) Vastus Medialis Obliquus is a muscle just above and to the inside of the kneecap) I took myself off to yoga, pilates and the gym to strengthen my body, improve my posture and core stability. I learnt about roller therapy (Self Myofascial Release Therapy) and ‘ironing’ out the fascia in the body, which were great for tight ITBs. Like the knee exercises these were all treating the symptoms but not addressing the cause.


I met Keith through the same coach, Sean Williams. I regularly saw Keith training barefoot on the grass and in the thinnest shoes on the road. I marvelled at how a (then) 55 year old man kept getting faster and faster! Not just at a good club runner level but blowing my own personal best times out of the water! I used to race men as a teenager; it was such fun beating most of them but I knew I would never beat this one.


The first technique session I had with Keith was in a group session. We did a bit of barefoot running which he said was to ‘remove the influence of the shoes’, and lots of specific drills. The muscles in my feet and my calf muscles were so sore I could hardly walk for the next two weeks. The barefoot running was in conflict with what I was taught and I struggled with the concept for several months. I then decided to have a one-on-one session.


I noticed Keith filmed me from the side and I asked him why. “I wanted to see where your foot lands in relation to your hips”. He drew a line through my image and I could see my foot was landing way in front of my hips. This simple thing was very powerful stuff. As podiatrists, in our biomechanics classes, we were taught to view and assess the patient from the anterior/posterior (front/back) view. There has been no literature or mention in all my studies about the foot needing to land under the hips.


We were taught to control excessive pronation and other ailments with the use of a hard thermoplastic device known as an orthotic, placed in the running shoe. However, Keith teaches something so simple yet so effective. It gets to the core of most runner’s problems. By landing with your foot under your hips you reduce excessive pronation and the whole multitude of injuries related to excessive pronation. He is treating the cause of almost all running-related injuries.


Keith is living proof of what he teaches, having cured all his own ailments, such as shin splints and runner's knee while at the same time becoming serious competition for those less than half his age. His run of high-quality age-group world records and lifetime best times after the age of 50 are remarkable achievements.

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