I train a 400m runner who runs and walks with her feet pointing outwards. I think there is a substantial amount of power leakage here. I know through educators Michol Dalcourt and Ian O'Dwyer the importance of ankle joint, hip and lumbar spine function. She is very flexible in the hips and hamstrings, and she can perform a full squat well without lower back curvature or heels turning in (which would indicate tight calves). What am I missing? Is this an indication of pronating feet?
Thank you for the question. Energy leaks are a key determinant in both power and endurance sports. Energy leak refers to a body’s inability to decelerate or stabilize against unwanted motion. The motion that is essential for this athlete is a proper “load” sequence through the body. Loading her system will ensure that she is taking advantage of stored elastic potential in both her muscles and fascia. If there is not enough load, she will not benefit from elastic energy. Too much load, and she will not be able to decelerate her moment of inertia. Perform these visual checks with your athlete:
- Standing on one leg (pointing straight ahead), can she perform a lateral leg reach?
- While standing on one leg, knee bent, slide your unsupported leg out to the side (in the lateral direction).
- If she has no movement in her ankle and/or loses her balance, this is a negative test.
- Single Leg Touchdown:
- If she loses her balance, cannot maintain a lengthened spine or is unable to load in all three planes at the hip (i.e., flexion, adduction, internal rotation), this is a negative test.
- Staggered Stance Posterior Sway:
- When performing this mobilizer, if she extends from the lumbar segments as opposed to the thoracic segments (i.e., arches the back to get this movement accomplished), it is a negative test.
If she exhibits any negative test, then you must address ankle strength, hip strength and core strength. (The above three exercises are examples you can use. For a more complete list, please refer to the PTN Exercise & Flexibility Library).
These visual presentations will allow you to determine if your athlete can move while being stable and move from the proper joints to allow for optimum relative timing. This will eliminate energy leaks and optimize efficiency of motion.
You will want to use these three mobilizers to strengthen her body so that she can move through a range of motion, which will also address her toed out posture. It would seem that she has the flexibility. However, she may very well be toed out because of the sagittal plane dominance in her running (i.e., the repeated pattern of stress has “locked” her body in that position). Good luck!