How a new pair of shoes fixed my IT band issues and got me back on the road!

Personally I find the following a bit hard to believe, but since it’s my own experience I’m talking about I vouch for it to be 100% correct in terms of my own recollection and situation.

Last year near the end of November I was pushing myself pretty hard in terms of distance and speed. I was on a mission, since I had set out to clear the half marathon click count before the end of the year, and was doing about 13-15 kilometres at most at the time.

It was a Sunday, which meant my slow and long run across the nearby island in the Stockholm archipelago. I had just passed the 11k mark when I noticed my body suddenly changing my stride and step on its own. I had felt a bit of fatigue just before, but suddenly it was as if my legs found a new ‘angle’ and it was like flying forward again.

That is, until about a kilometer later when a sudden sharp pain in my right knee ground me to a halt.

I tried walking for a bit and then running again, and somehow I cleared 15k that day. Truth be told though, rather than my usual gazelle-like self (right?), the last 3k were more like a slow Limp of Fail.

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The 15k that broke me… You can clearly see where the pain started around 1h10m…

The following days my right knee hurt so bad that I could hardly walk, until I managed to get a time with a physician who via massages and some kind of muscle curing apparatus that involved lasers got me back limping again.

Running, for the time being, was off the table.

So, how did I end up there and what did I do about it?

First we need to back up about 6 months to the beginning of last summer. I was headed to Japan with the rest of the family to spend some time with relatives and work out of the Tokyo office for a while. As part of the trip I had packed my old running shoes since I had decided to give the road another chance after a very long (years…) hiatus.

First ever 10k race!

As I went for the first few runs I remembered how much I used to love running, and decided to make it a regular part of my routines again. One thing lead to another and though I was trying to hold back and not stress my untrained body, before long I was pushing both distance and pace northwards.

Things were going really well, and around late September I felt like I had reached a plateau at around 20 (5+5+10) kilometers per week, which seemed both healthy and sustainable.

Until I got the bad idea of gunning for the 21k mark before the end of the year.

In hindsight it is clear I pushed myself to hard. Most likely I fell victim to the effect of my cardio developing faster than my muscles, which in turn had me thinking I could add ‘just a few k’s’ on every run.

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Average HR decreasing, distance increasing. Cardio tricking you into thinking you’re stronger than you really are…
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Increasing both speed and duration faster than the body can keep up…

After the ‘crash’ I went to a physician a couple of times, and tried to rest and do some rehab exercises, but no matter what I tried I could never run more than 2 kilometers before the pain would overtake me.

I did a ton of research on the net, trying to figure out if it was Runner’s knee, IT Band Syndrome, or some other more esoteric injury. Unfortunately all the results told me was that it would take several months, if not years to get back on the road…

I had all but given up until one day in early March when I decided to go to the nearest running store and simply beg for help.

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The store I went to in Stockholm. Highly recommend it!

I took a couple of hours off from work and went down to a local store, well known for taking the customers seriously. There I simply grabbed the first person I saw and told her ‘I will do anything to run again, so please help me!’. She laughed but then introduced me to the store owner, who kindly listened to my story and then exclaimed ‘You don’t have to tell me any more. You have been running in the wrong shoes all this time. Let me show you.’

With that he put me on the treadmill in a pair of expensive Asics, asked me to run for a minute and then showed me the video. He pointed out exactly where my step was bad and how the shoe did nothing to help. In fact it rather made it worse.

He then gave me a pair of New Balance Vongo and said to repeat the exercise. And lo and behold, the weird angles in my knee and step were gone.

Apparently I have a small pronation problem which is exaggerated by weak leg muscles. The Vongo shoe helps correct this and also ‘forces’ my step to fall in a way which helps build up muscles over time (instead of destroying my knees).

The Vongos! (Worst name for a shoe ever…)

There is one caveat though. To quote the doctors (and the store owner): Running does not build leg muscles. So for this to work out I also need to properly exercise my legs and build strength. Once I have the muscled properly built up I will also be able to run in my old shoes again.

With the new Vongos I noticed the difference on my first run. I had not been able to go for more than 2k since November until the knee pain set in and stopped me short, but suddenly I could run 3k without any pain.

Since then I’ve done several 5k runs, and yesterday went all the way to 6k without any problems.

Hard to tell if its all thanks to the shoes, but since nothing else has changed I’m inclined to give them the credit.

If you are experiencing diffuse pain around the knee, consider taking a long hard look at your step and your shoes, perhaps the key to solving your issue lies there…

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Miraculous 6k after over 4 months of pain…

2 thoughts on “How a new pair of shoes fixed my IT band issues and got me back on the road!

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