Even as physical therapists, we have our own set of physical struggles and fitness setbacks. After all, we’re human. When something feels off, the most important part is how we react, and which steps we take to get our bodies back on track. Something that seems minor, such as switching running shoes, could have a big impact on our body mechanics. Our own Megan Starr, DPT, experienced this firsthand recently. Read her personal story below.

The Story

I have recently had to take some time off of running due to a flare up of my low back and hip. This is super frustrating, as any runner would tell you, because it is typically a setback in mileage and time. It also happened due to, what seemed like an inconsequential decision, of changing my footwear.

You see, I have always been an ASICS girl. I have been running for years in them, but after hearing the hype about another brand, I felt I should give them a try. Within one week of running in my new shoes, my back and hip were extremely flared up and I was unable to walk without pain, let alone run. My mechanical PT brain needed to figure this out, because I knew this brand is good and their shoes normally work well for a lot of runners.

The Mechanical Part

I have had chronic low back pain that I have managed well for years, but I need to maintain extension (a little sway in the low back) in my spine when I do pretty much anything. This is essentially the “happy place” for my low back. The conclusion I made was the position this new shoe was putting my back into was too far into extension, which was created from the heel being higher than the forefoot. The combination of my back already in extension (from me naturally doing it) and the addition of the footwear also causing this position created poor mechanics in my back, leading to pain.

The Solution

If it ain’t broke, then don’t try to fix it. I had been successful in my previous running shoes for years and did not need to change anything.

Just to be clear: this does not mean you shouldn’t try new things in fear of injury, but if you have chronic pain that you are managing well, it is not always helpful to change. My PT mind always goes to function and body mechanics, which is what eventually led me to my gear, as that is the only thing I had changed. It is also important to recognize when your gear is wearing out and it is time to buy.

I think, overall, this experience is a good reminder that sometimes it is an external source/gear that could be leading to poor mechanics and not just muscle weakness, joint stiffness, or the mechanics of the runner.