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Heal Pain

Answered By Jeff Arbogast

Question

My daughter is 10 and was born an athlete. She has been playing club soccer for 3+ years now, and now wants to participate in (all) sports her school offers. After many of the practices or games she suffers from heal, foot, and/or leg pain. I’ve noticed early on that she has a tendency to run on her heals. I have tried to teach her, and make her aware, of getting more on her toes when sprinting (but that’s taking advice from your mom!). I am neither coach nor runner, so my expertise is limited to help her. If she could learn the proper technique for running and sprinting, I know it would improve her skill, performance, and speed. She is smaller for her age, and can run quickly with some surprising sprinting spurts. One of your other questions talked about ‘track shoes’ and using them with younger children. Is this one of those instances where a limited amount of track shoe sprint training might help her with her running technique? She will be one of those people who will always be doing some sort of competitive sport, so I want to make sure that she doesn’t ruin her body at a young age so she can’t enjoy her sports in the upcoming and later years. Any advice would be appreciated.

Answer

Several options here . . . First, it is always advisable to look at heel lifts (cheap and available at any shoe store) as an option. In many cases, a heel lift cures a lot of the rearfoot/calf/achilles problems, quite quickly. Secondly, heel striking can usually be traced back to upper body carriage. Arms held close to the body (especially in women) and a short/close armswing helps to promote heel striking. Try to carry the arms lower and with a downstroke that places the hand near the 'pocket' of pants and an upstroke that stops just shy of the chin. Keep the arms out in front and that will help balance the body forward, placing the footplant in the midfoot instead of the rear. Bottom line . . . look at the ARMS for help in placing the feet. The short levers (arms) will drive the long levers (legs). 'Track shoes' or spikes are not that relevant to youth athletics. If you apply enough force to a track (or XC course) to require spikes, you are usually a lot bigger and stronger. It is more protective to run a youth in trainers as long as possible (although planting on the midfoot) and limit the impact to a young runner. I encourage all youth athletes in our clubs to stay with trainers unless they can demonstrate speed and force necessary to require spikes to nail them to the ground in footplant. Have fun . . train hard . . Arb

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