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Older Yet Faster Publications Pty Ltd

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Book update

(07 Aug 2018)

The book is back from the copy edit and we will spend the next week dealing with the comments and suggestions. It is looking great though and we are almost there - after 4 years of refinement!

Author - Heidi Jones

Competitor and podiatrist (Dip. Pod., MA. Pod. A)

Heidi Jones

Heidi developed a passion for running at a very early age. Her father was a PE teacher and as a family they all participated in a wide range of sports. Heidi found that running came easily to her. With the running boom in the 1980s her family ended up travelling all over the state to compete in fun runs every couple of weekends. Before long Heidi was keeping up with the big boys and what started off as spending time with her Dad developed into a high level of achievement by the age of seventeen.

In 1991, Heidi achieved a number of notable results. In that year, she won many races in both Under 20s and Open competitions. She was Combined Schools State champion over 3,000 metres on the track and All Schools State champion over 4 kilometres in the cross-country. She even came 3rd in the Australian Cross-country Championships (U20s) but she was also performing well over longer distances and her times were extremely competitive. For example, she won the Parramatta Open in a record time of 58:13 for 10 miles and set a very fast time and personal best of 33:40 for 10 kilometres in a Sydney road race. As a result of these achievements Heidi was awarded the 1991 New South Wales Open Female Runner of The Year.

However, towards the end of that year, tragedy struck. She got out of bed one morning and couldn’t put any weight on her left forefoot. It took twelve months before she was correctly diagnosed as having a genetic bone disorder in the ball of her foot (Freiberg’s disease). She was then told by three orthopaedic surgeons that she would never run again, and that there was no operation for it. However, she managed to finally find the one and only surgeon in the Southern Hemisphere who could fix this, Dr. Kim Slater. Heidi was delighted that his surgery allowed her to walk again but what she desperately wanted to do was to run.

For the first year or so she used an orthotic with a metatarsal dome to take the pressure off the second toe area. This was very successful and she started walking long distances to get back into condition and after three long years, at the age of 21, she could finally resume running. She continued to use orthotics for several years but after sustaining seven tibial stress fractures in a row she threw them out in exasperation. Amazingly, the stress fractures stopped. This experience led her to question whether the orthotics really were the answer to fast, injury-free running. Definitely not in her case. Something wasn’t adding up and Heidi wanted to find out why.

She decided to train as a podiatrist and learn how to treat injuries so that other teenagers didn’t have to go through what she went through. Heidi started her own clinic in 2000 and continued to work her way up to senior podiatrist at St Vincent’s Hospital’s high-risk foot clinic in Sydney and stayed there for 19 years until 2016.

Meanwhile, she was still running in thick chunky shoes ‘for support’, and although she didn’t sustain any more stress fractures, she continued to suffer many injuries from over-striding. For example, ITB syndrome (which plagued her for years), bursitis of the hip (nine months off), and Runner’s Knee (eight months off). She was determined to find a way out of this nightmare and she took herself off to yoga, pilates and the gym to strengthen her body and core stability and to improve her posture. Heidi also found that roller therapy (Self Myofascial Release Therapy), which ‘irons out’ the fascia, was great for smoothing out tight ITBs. Unfortunately, although these things were very beneficial, much of the time she was treating her symptoms and getting short term relief without addressing the cause.

Her future looked bleak. She was in a world of pain and if she continued down this track she would have done irreparable damage and sunk further into depression. She just couldn’t get off the ground. Fortunately, her luck changed in one of those chance meetings that transforms your life. Heidi joined Sean Williams’ running group and she met Keith Bateman. Watching him run and eventually learning his methods would lead to her salvation.

Keith was lapping her in training and it didn’t sit well. Heidi used to race men as a teenager; it was such fun beating them, but she knew she would never beat this one. He trained barefoot on the grass and in the thinnest shoes on the road. Heidi marvelled at how a (then) fifty-five-year-old man kept getting faster and faster! He wasn’t just a good club runner, he was blowing her own personal best times out of the water!

She had to find out what his secret was and so she enrolled in one of his group technique sessions. At the outset he suggested they remove their shoes and do the session barefoot. He took them through a series of very specific drills which seemed easy at the time but for the next two weeks the muscles in her feet and her calves were so sore she could hardly walk. Heidi wasn’t too sure about this barefoot running and decided to have a one-on-one session with him.

Keith filmed her from the side and she asked him why. He smiled and said, “I wanted to see where your foot lands in relation to your hips.” He drew a line through her image and she could see her foot was landing way in front of her hips. This simple observation was very powerful. As podiatrists, in our biomechanics classes, she was taught to view and assess the patient from the anterior/posterior (front/back) view. There was no mention in her studies about the foot needing to land under the hips. Equally important, there was no mention of how damaging over-striding (landing with the foot too far in front of the hips) really is.

She was taught to control excessive pronation and other ailments by placing a hard thermoplastic device, known as an orthotic, in the running shoe. However, Keith’s approach is radically different. It is so simple yet so effective. It gets to the core of most runners’ problems. He was treating the cause of almost all running-related injuries. He teaches that by landing with your foot under your hips, you reduce excessive pronation and the multitude of injuries related to excessive pronation. Most of the measurements taken in biomechanical assessments then become irrelevant.

Using the running technique that Heidi was taught in podiatry school, it was always a mystery to her why she got injured. However, she could now see that her massive over-stride meant she was hitting the ground hard. As her fitness improved she went faster and so she hit the ground even harder, causing her body to break down. Not being able to walk properly for two weeks after just one barefoot session shocked her into realising how weak her calf and feet muscles were. She had been running for 30 years. How could this be? Heidi blamed her weak feet on supportive running shoes and orthotics which she wore from her mid-teens. At last a life-long mystery was solved.

All her adult running life she had been told that she over-pronated and she needed support. The irony is, wearing thick chunky supportive shoes actually made her pronate even more. Raising the heel of the shoe forced her foot to hit the ground early, with a force equivalent to several times her body weight. Her whole body was pushed out of alignment: she was bent at the waist, and this in turn caused her to hunch her shoulders. She had tight neck muscles for 25 years. We show how this happens in the book.

Originally, Heidi thought that she could find a solution to her injury problems by studying podiatry, but it was only now that she was in a position to do this. With the insights that she gained from Keith, combined with the knowledge she gained from trying to deal with her own injuries, she knew what she needed to do. She went right back to basics. It was time to strengthen her feet and to take a more holistic approach.

Not only did her feet feel amazing, she could see the arches in her feet developing nicely. She started offering her foot program as an alternative to orthotics and received amazing feedback. No runner has opted for orthotics since. She works closely with Keith, stressing the importance of technique-change sessions and is up front with her patients, telling them that they must drastically cut down mileage while their feet and calf muscles adapt. Footwear is also important, especially the shoes that are worn during the day. Heidi gets her patients into thin, flat flexible shoes with no heel so that their spine is vertical and their postural muscles are engaged. As well as fixing foot problems she is also a devoted runner and her experience in Podiatry puts her in the perfect position to help her running patients by teaching them her unique foot-strengthening program. She wears thin, flat, flexible shoes all the time and since wearing a thinner shoe, together with technique change, she has not experienced knee, ITB, hip or back pain.

She did have some pain and stiffness in her calf muscles and foot arches while she adapted but she carefully managed this and now she feels strong and confident. Her running is fluid and she is finding it difficult to run slowly. For the first time in her life, she is not worried about getting injured. Heidi went from 4 minutes 10 seconds per kilometre average training pace down to 3 minutes 40 seconds within a few weeks. She had found the ‘sweet spot’ by landing balanced.

Heidi now works full time at her Bondi podiatry practice - ‘Feet on the Move’ which she founded in 2000.

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