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In February I ran a half marathon, after having trained for the distance with no pain or issues at all. Suddenly, during the race, I had pain on the outside and below my right knee, as well as an occasional spasm-like feeling (not a muscle cramp, exactly). The first 5 miles were on crowned road, where my right leg was on the uphill side. The pain started a few miles after that. I had to stop running for 6 or 7 weeks, and did a lot of research. There were no swelling or joint mobility problems (i.e., nothing torn) and I concluded it was most likely tendinitis. The pain would come and go, just like tennis elbow or other types of tendinitis. Four months later it's still there, but manageable.
All along, I've had a vague sense that I was "uneven" or off-kilter somehow when running, causing my right leg to complain. Recently I tried a new lightweight, flexible shoe (Saucony Kinvara) on the treadmill. The soles are so soft, I couldn't believe how quiet they were. Then I noticed each foot had a different sound on the treadmill belt, giving me that vague sense of unevenness again. By concentrating on the sound, I was able to adjust my stride just a bit until both feet sounded the same. Problem was I didn't really know what I was adjusting.
Then a few days ago, I read a post on the ChiRunning discussion boards in which the moderator suggested that a poster's leg pain could be caused by a longer stride on one side, due to a leg length discrepancy or simply because it's the dominant leg. Aha! I realized that might be my problem. I went out for a 7-mile run yesterday and shifted my focus to my left leg (without actually lengthening its stride; just a mental image of my left leg being "in charge" and my right leg being slightly weak). That felt unnatural, but boy, it helped! For the first time in 4 months, there was no nagging pain outside my right knee during the run, and my left leg still felt great as usual.
I realize now too that track workouts were probably making my problem worse, and I'll want to run the wrong way around the track sometimes. It's going to take some time to groove a new stride where my right leg doesn't work harder than the left, but I think it's the key. Have any of you ever noticed an uneven stride or dominant-leg problems? Am I on the right path in resolving it?
I think you are on the right path. It makes sense that many runners have uneven strides, one leg dominant over the other, or other natural asymmetries. However, many of us subconsciously compensate for these asymmetries and so they don't cause problems with running. An alternative is to consciously compensate, as long as the cause is determined or at least diagnosed (as you have done in your case).
I know I have several asymmetries for which I evidently compensate without realizing it. My left leg is dominant and stronger than the right leg. The right knee is weaker and the right kneecap sits in an even shallower groove than the left, so it is even more prone to misalignment. Consistent with that, the right foot overpronates more than the left. However, my right foot is more of a midfoot strike, whereas the left is more of a heel strike. I do fit my shoes to accommodate the weaker and more overpronating (right) side. The left is then slightly overcorrected but it doesn't seem to mind.
I'm also conscious of "virtual" leg length discrepancies caused by crowned roads and similar uneven surfaces; whenever possible will run out-and-back routes in order to alternate sides.
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With one leg shorter (hip offset) I didnt have a problem until the 10miler and Half. I always had to run on a berm on the right foot and the shoe just wasn't a good fit. So finally I put an extra sock liner that came from my old shoes. I've done a 10K, 2- 5K's, and a sprint tri and I'm happy with the results. I do wear two diff socks (thin and thick) and its OUT of my head. EDIT we'll see at the next Half
For the longest time since high school, I had to wear orthodics in my shoes because my right leg was a few mm shorter than my left causing pain in my pelvis or hips. Then I came upon Chirunning and barefoot running recently and realized that maybe my whole running form was out of whack. Apparently it was because I needed to straighten my back more or basically correct my posture. I'm still working on it! I hope that I can get a hand on all of this before I start focusing in July to train for my half!
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**Oct. 10, 2009** Baltimore Running Fest. Half Marathon - 2:06:00 (First ever Half Marathon!!)
**May 8, 2010** 5K Preakness Run - 26:30 (PR is 21:11 in 2003 during College)
**Oct 16, 2010** Baltimore's 10th Annual Running Festival. Half Marathon - 2:03:49 (Second Half Marathon!!)
Thank you guys. I should have mentioned that a chiropractor once told me one leg was noticeably longer, and when I said, "Oh, really?" he was surprised that I wasn't aware of it. I know many people have some discrepancy so I didn't worry about it, and I haven't been to a chiro in at 12 or 13 years. I couldn't even remember which leg he said was longer - until now! This morning I continued focusing on an even stride on a treadmill, and for the first time I could readily tell that my left leg is the shorter one. I've probably been taking a slightly longer stride with my right leg all my life, walking and running, to even things out. I think the sloped road in my half-marathon made this adjustment all the more fatiguing. Thanks mostly to 2 years of ChiRunning practice, I don't heel-strike with either leg, so my already-short running stride just needs to stay nice and even. Maybe an extra liner in my left shoe would help! Thanks everyone.